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Making

December Whirlwind!

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Plans are in place for a whirlwind of events this month, and maybe I’ll fit some ski days in there somewhere too!  It’s the day before our Holiday Sale and Party at our little Community Center, and as always with all the events planned for the month of December, our Party overlaps with other happenings in our neighborhood.  This time it’s the Taos Festival of Trees a, great event benefiting a wealth of local charities.  We hope our friends find time to make it both events!

So for a little more shameless self promotion, we’ve brought in Chef Antoine to prepare a spread of complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments viagra super active.   Our friends at the Farm House Cafe will have a table of locally sourced treats available for sale.  Artist, Anee Ward, will have a lovely collection of paintings, prints, gift cards, and watercolors.  Claire Blanchard with the Tufted Chair has decorated the hall with oversized ornaments and put together a collection of great holiday gifts along with her exquisite home furnishings.  And guest artist Lilli Steinlicht will display her textured hanging planters and other ceramic pieces!

As for me?  I just unloaded a kiln of lovely pots that make great gifts and even a few new cowgirls too!  The new pots will be available at our party tomorrow, then again at Substance of Taos‘s annual Winter White Sale, and of course as soon as I get the listings together, on Etsy too!

Wishing you all a warm and wonderful holiday season as we look forward to a fun and successful Holiday Party!

Let the December Games Begin!

 

Holiday Pottery Gifts

By | Blog, Business, Gallery, Making, Sales, Studio, Taos | No Comments

MugsThe great thing about working in clay is that it is so versatile, you can transition from figurative sculptures to cups and bowls that make great holiday gifts!  While we are still experiencing our November Lull, I have been fortunate enough to grab some odd jobs to keep the bills paid, and to score some little sales here and there.  I just sent out a few mugs from my etsy shop and have posted some new pieces on there as well!

In the meantime, November has been my time to hover over my wheel and produce a kiln full of sweet mugs, cups, bowls, jars, and vases for the holiday gifting season.  The lower price point is a great way to make some sales and get people in the door.  So here I am building inventory for our December 5th Open Studio event complete with decorations, refreshments, and plenty of shopping!

I am lucky to have my studio in the cozy little village of Arroyo Seco, NM just outside of Taos.  The charming shops and businesses probably only cover a stretch of 100 yds or so, maybe even less?  and we feature two pottery galleries and of course now my little studio space here in this old elementary school classroom.

Both the Scott potters have great little businesses and produce tons of beautiful handmade pieces for all the guests that come through.  I simply can’t produce that much, but I’m lucky to have these guys as mentors and friends.  Rottenstone Pottery even features some of my pots and sculptures!

So if you’re in the neighborhood this December 5, come by from 5:30-8:30 and join in our little holiday celebration and sale!  If you can’t make it then, just get in touch and we’ll find a time to come by!

Just a little about me

By | A Little About Me, About Me, Blog, Making, Taos, The Southwest | No Comments

So I’m trying to put together a wedding website and it’s asking me to write a little about me, my partner, how we met, and how he proposed.   I am not really sure what to say, but when people ask me questions I tend to have a stock answer for them.

I waited tables for many years and with just a short amount of time to provide a satisfying answer here were my responses to the following questions…

Where are you from?

“I’m originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, you know, outlets, pretzels, and the railroad on the Monopoly board.”  If my audience seems receptive I sometimes add… “Lots of people think it’s pronounced Reeding, but they obviously can’t Red.”  Terrible joke I know but every now and again my crowd takes pity on me with a laugh.

How did you get to Taos?

“After graduating from Penn State with an art degree, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I traveled cross country for 2 months checking out grad schools, residencies, and working artists.  I met a woman from England at one of the hostels and she hoped to get to Taos.  Never having made it herself, I promised I would stop there in my travels… I just passed through but came back to be here for two months.  10 years later… ”  I’m pretty settled into my studio, little casita, and fantastic community of friends and peers.  It’s a struggle, but I love it here!

What do you do?

“I’m a ceramic artist, but a little ADD in the studio.  I also oil and watercolor paint, sew stuffed animals and the hems of my pants, screen print, batik, not to mention pottery and sculpture.”

Are you married?

My answer for this question has changed over time, and now I can say that “I am engaged to marry my dearest love and friend.  You might know him, Ned?  He’s a poet and the english teacher at one of the charter high schools here.”

I am working towards building a small business as an independent artist through the clay cowgirls, a novel and fun way to immortalize various specific and general ideas of women that I know and admire.  I have the most amazing mother, sister, and girlfriends and am lucky to have their example to inspire these sculptures!

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The November Lull

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The cold weather has been setting in, gardens have been put to bed as night temperatures reach below freezing, and clouds tease us with dustings of snow anticipating the upcoming ski season.  Excitement over Taos Ski Valley‘s new lift up to Kachina Peak peppers conversations with hopes of a snowy winter, but until our Thanksgiving opening day the month of November haunts this sleepy town with significantly less visitor traffic, the life blood of our economy.

Kachina Peak looms in the ski area just outside of Taos, NM.

Kachina Peak looms in the ski area just outside of Taos, NM.

I arrived in Taos 10 years ago in November desperately seeking work and being regularly turned away during that near screeching halt in business I have come to know all too well as that November lull.  It happens every year, and I still find myself surprised at how quiet it gets, never quite saving up enough to feel safe in that transition into the chaos of the holidays.

Now is the time to build inventory, prepare for a holiday sale, and brace ourselves for the onslaught of incoming travelers, skiers, and friends coming in from out of town.  I’ve been sitting the Rottenstone Pottery for the past three days, and thank goodness for a weekend shift, or I would have made almost no sales in this time.  At least I’ve been making pots and even sold a couple of my own in the meantime!

Looking forward to a great season of skiing and sculpting!

For the Love of Making

By | A Little About Me, Blog, Business, Making, Starving Artist, Taos, the grind | No Comments

On my first visit to Taos I pitched my tent on the grassy backyard of the Abominable Snowmansion Hostel.  Thanks to the recommendation from a new friend I had met traveling cross country over the course of 2 months trying to figure out what to do with my art degree, I made the detour into northern New Mexico on my way to the residency I had accepted in Lawrence, Kansas.  In less than a day I had made some friends, shared fireside beers and one liners with the potter across the street, and been offered a job at the hostel if I ever decided to return.

By November 2004 I was wondering what on earth had I been thinking moving into the freestanding six foot cube cabin I would be calling home for the next few months viagra deutsch.  Was I just hoping the potter next door would take me in?  Perhaps it was the appeal connecting to Hosteling International and making this a stepping stone to my grand plans of world travel?  Heck, maybe the mountain was calling me, for all I knew?

I proceeded to take jobs wherever I could, at the Taos Ski Valley teaching skiing to 3 and 4 year olds (not as charming as it sounds), cleaning up after the neighborhood potter (and helping create the mess), waiting tables next door (which I would do on and off for the next 8 years), and of course playing housekeeper and hostess to all the hosteling visitors from around the world.

Eventually I would start renting a studio space where I could make my own work.  In the meantime, I took odd jobs, started pet sitting, and when I finally stepped away from waiting tables, that long term life line to a steady paycheck, the pet sitting and catering gigs still help to keep my bills paid.  I’ve been away from the restaurant circuit for just over a year and with much of my savings dried up and the art market simply being what it is, I will be able to take advantage of people needing job coverage.   Lucky to have kept in the good graces of one of my service jobs enough to be welcomed in to cover those available shifts during a slower time, I can count on a little income to get me through to the holidays.  I’ll also be sitting galleries, dog-sitting, peddling my wares on Etsy, my shop page, and seeking further gallery representation.  I am lucky to have a few commissions coming my way and some tentative interest in some of the sculptures I have in stock that will hopefully bear fruit.

For the love of making, I have continually refused offers of steady work that would put me on someone else’s schedule requiring my time when it would serve me best to be in my studio.  Wish me luck friends! Holding out as long as I can, taking the odd jobs so I can, for the most part put my almost full time schedule (except when I have to go walk a dog, or sit a gallery, or cater a gig) in at my studio.

 

Wild West Show

By | Blog, Cowgirls, Gallery, Inspiration, Making, New Ideas, Studio | No Comments

The cowgirls are taking flight thanks to the welding stylings and skills of fellow craftsman and potter, Rene.  After firing up the little wood kiln, and watching the gang pull absolutely amazing pieces from their 10-day firing out in Tres Piedras, I finally got some decent pictures of my ‘flying cowgirl brigade.’  Born out of a little spectacle, a little Wild West free falling, and the vague memory of Big Top acrobatics.BaseJumpers6CowgirlRing2

Making on the Verge

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Starting off slow and steady, I wonder if I can run this race?

Summer is in full swing here in Taos, and businesses pick up this time of year with tourism and locals getting out to the shops for gifts and souvenirs.  With paperwork for our storefront signage still in limbo, foot traffic to my little studio and viewing space is mostly few and far between, but every now and again someone pops by to pick up a little something.

My online sales are mostly non-existent, but it’s a great way to share what you do with anyone you meet who is interested.

“Here’s my business card, take a look at my website,”I might say, “Oh and if you’re in town, you can see my sculptures in a few galleries here and in Park City, UT! Have a nice day!”

Work Table

 

 

 

So what does it take to make a living as a clay artist?

I rent a room in an old elementary school now community center in NM for my studio space

I rent a room in an old elementary school now community center in NM for my studio space

Honestly, I have no idea, because I’m not doing that yet, but I speculate and come up with theories every day.  I suppose there are many ways really, but being a potter and clay sculptor I rely quite a bit on the bread and butter sales of the very accessible functional objects; cups, mugs, bowls; affordable, portable, intimate.  As one who is easily intrigued by the allure of other mediums, I paint and print and sew and sculpt when the spirit moves me as well.  You could say I have multiple small bodies of work and sketches and watercolors could all be offered for sale at an accessible price too.

Many people I know and meet often want to support me in small doses and I am more than happy to oblige!  I love experimenting and exploring visually and feel gratitude and connection to those who respond positively to what I come up with.

For years I worked in a restaurant to support all my habits and desires to play with visual mediums.  I was always told to “up sell” our customers, try to get them to buy the more expensive steak, or wine, or add an appetizer or dessert.  Knowing my own budget and designs for eating out, I simply wanted the customer to have just what they wanted.  Nothing more, but also nothing less.  I was happy to let them know exactly what their options were, but I’m not pushy nor a great saleswoman perhaps to a fault.  I like think my guests appreciated that.

I worked at a lovely restaurant that accommodated everyone from the locals and regulars to the out of town guests, from visitors looking for a quick inexpensive meal to lavish 6 course dinners with multiple rounds of wine, cocktails, and aperitifs.  I met with warm and positive reception to my service and hope to carry that into the business of making and selling artwork.

But without people requiring a meal of handmade pottery multiple times a day relying on regulars or drop-ins can’t be the only way to make a buck.  So far I’ve placed my work in a few locations about town and online.  I price relative to my peers and with respect to my costs and time.  I gig as often as possible, trying not to have a committed schedule anywhere other than my studio, catering, housesitting, petsitting, and sitting a gallery.  I peddle my wares plugging my websites on social media, blogging here, and making donations to various causes.

Thanks to my donations of 12 bicycle bowls to the Empty Bowls event here in Taos, a guest sought me out at my studio just the other day to purchase some mugs as well!

Advice to aspiring clayers that don’t want to go the academic route, and simply want to make a living creating and share their craft: put yourself out there however you can.  I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way!

Production Sort Of

By | Blog, Cowgirls, Inspiration, Making, Marketing, Process | No Comments

So a friend has recommended blogging regularly to keep my site updated and optimize my visibility on search engines.  So here I am trying to come up with something to write about on a regular basis.  (If you have ideas, I’m all ears!)   In the meantime, he asked me about my process and how the cowgirls have evolved.

Two of the very first cowgirls dry for the wood firing.

Two of the very first cowgirls dry for the wood firing.

For most of my life I have made work from the ideas in my head allowing them to evolve and take shape from whatever material lends itself best to my imaginings.  Clay is a great material for nearly any form one can think of, it is so malleable and responsive and easily works as the simplest of cups to the most elaborate of sculptures.

I love the idea of people using work that I have made.  I am happy making cups, and mugs, and bowls, but they don’t keep my attention enough for me to try to make a living off of them.  I just can’t pump out the kind of production required to survive on those kinds of sales.  I can make a run of 4-20 of something but I quickly want to escape the rhythm of throwing pots to play with sculptural ideas.

Cowgirls sculptures drying in the studio.

Cowgirls sculptures drying in the studio.

The cowgirl sculptures are always a pleasure to create, to watch them take shape, and be surprised by the expressions in their faces and postures.  The first cowgirl was riding a sea creature hand to brim looking out in the distance.  From there I started thinking about the cowgirls as freestanding characters you might stumble upon anywhere, in a niche, sitting on a tuna can, playing the guitar dangling her feet off the end of a shelf… I started with two cowgirls ready for a fight, one with two pistols drawn snarling at her adversary, the other with her hands poised to draw.  I stood them in front of the relatively giant squid sculpture and laughed out loud.  They also worked when facing each other.  I kept making more cowgirls, some sitting, some standing.  The seated ones were charming as individuals but looked really strong as a gathering around a campfire.  The standing ones also grouped together nicely and I started to think of ideas for creating groupings, “The Shoot Out,” “The Cowgirl Washtub Band”, “The Card Game,” “Laughing.”

Campfire-girls-3Some of these groupings have already taken shape, but all the cowgirls are currently sold individually.  Right now my mind is imagining the cowgirls as building blocks for slightly abstracted sculptures.  I’m not sure where this idea will go or for how long it will keep my attention, but right now the possibilities seem endless… I also like the idea of other typical representations of strong women… maybe Roller Derby Girls?  Love those fishnets!

 

The Big Joke

Why Cowgirls?

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I had just built and fired my very own little wood-kiln when I had the idea to recreate a particular project I had developed while I was in college.  I was going to construct my second octopus punchbowl.  And instead of a salt/gas firing, it would be finished in the Adobe Moby, the little whale-shaped wood-kiln we built from adobe style bricks replacing the earth part of the recipe with fire clay to survive the 2000 degree temperatures.

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Attracted to the unique characteristics of cephalopods I had once designed a fairly functioning punchbowl after a cuttle fish.  The physics and visual appeal were so engaging that I had continued to build forms modeled after the liquid forms of various sea creatures.  Years after that first punchbowl, I decided to have another go at the form and function with some alterations.  I typically think through the physics and logistics of a sculpture before diving in with music or a book on tape.  This particular sculpture took shape to the tune of Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.  And when the body of the octopus was finished, complete with punchbowl, removable lid that flipped into a chip and dip, and its eight cups, I wasn’t quite finished.  With no serving function, I sculpted a rider for my party bowl monster.

octopunchcowgirl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepping for the May Wood Firing

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With schedules swirling around spring travel during our slower season in Taos, we took our usual team of 12-20 potters that fire the two large Tres Piedras kilns and split it up into 2 firings.  They just finished the April firing and for those of us firing in late May it’s go time for making work.

I just started making the first cowgirl sculptures.  It will be a little different type of wood firing than the last time I wood fired the cowgirls.  We will only be firing our ground hog kiln that we typically add baking soda to enhance certain effects.

Groundhog Soda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building the the cowgirl sculptures is a fairly straightforward process.  For standing cowgirls I start with a sturdy base and model the legs and boots.  I need to consider the final gesture I want to achieve from the placement of the feet to the balance and pose of the legs so they can set up in position long enough to support the rest of the sculpture.  The strong forward stance of the guitar player is planned from the first steps, and the angled bent pose of the protector is set up to curve the body off center facing left.  The entire sculpture is built solid from the bottom up with all the arm gestures, clothing details and facial expressions carefully worked into place.  Props, pets, and cowgirl hats are the finishing touches on each piece.

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