Thursday, February 26, 2015

Our snow day

I used to have this sweet little girl that loved going out in the snow. We would get our warm clothes on as soon as the snow started falling and wouldn't come in until we were frozen popsicles. We had inner tubes, sleds, snowboards. We lived near a golf course and had a neighborhood full of kids that were friends. We would stay out until midnight sledding on those hills with all those kids and parents.  What a time that was.

My little girl is in college now, enjoying the snow with others, Gerry has been out all day shooting news, and here I am with three chickens that are not having it. Check out that look on Sybil's face. She said to me, "Oh hell no, you are not taking me back out in that cold ass snow"!

So I came in and sat at the window with my Audubon bird book and discovered all the new birds that showed up today. I bought a new bird feed and somehow every bird in the area came on over for dinner. How do they know where to find this food? Do they tweet each other, haha?!  We had red bellied woodpecker, red headed woodpecker, thrasher, titmouse, song swallow, cardinal, bluejay, wren, a yellow finch and a few others I couldn't quite identify. I have never seen this variety of birds before. We have never had a red headed woodpecker, although we do get the ladder back ones and the red bellied ones. The red head was amazing. There were two of them.

As I sat there, I thought how lucky I was that all I had to do in the world was to sit at a window and watch beautiful birds eat and fly around. There's a lot to be said for being over fifty. Worries are different and priorities change. You slow things down.......

The girls came out of the coop just long enough to peck around under the bird feeder, but they are really not amused by all this snow. Poor things, we got about 6 inches, and its so light and fluffy they just sink up to their bellies.

I made a pot of vegetable soup for supper and a french baguette that might just be the best loaf of bread I have ever made. I love baking bread on snowy days. I made some banana bread this morning. I woke up to an empty house, so I thought I would just bake in the quiet of the morning.

 Gerry called me while he was out looking for utility crews to photograph and asked if I would make some eggs and grits and bacon if he came by the house. Well, how could I say no to that when he was out in the snowmageddon working?! So we had a late breakfast and then he went back out looking for more news photos. Although, now he competes for play with all of the fools that are tweeting in their own photos at the request of the local news stations.

I swear journalism in this country has gone straight to hell. Can we just let the pros make the beautiful photos so we don't  have to filter through all the crap!? We can save our own pretty pictures for Facebook and twitter and our blogs, but please on a news website I would like to know that professional and talented journalists are doing what they do best. If there even is such a thing anymore.......
gone to hell, I tell ya!

Stay warm if you are out there in it!
peace y'all

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I can see clearly now

I'm sitting here this morning having coffee with Gerry, the sun is out, the snow is still powdery and glistening in the sunlight, birds are all over the bird feeder and one little bird is chirping away. Gerry just commented that it sounds like its saying "stupid, stupid, stupid". He's right, it does, haha!  It must be talking to all of the fools that have left their cars half in the road up and down our street. People in the south, stay out of your cars when it snows!

We had a beautiful snowfall yesterday. The light fluffy powdery stuff that is so beautiful falling and nice to take a walk in. Not the usual southern snow that is mostly ice and creates havoc on the roads. Except this one caused its own havoc on the interstate, road crews didn't see it coming and when the south gets an inch of snow, it is apocalyptic according to the local news channels. I40 was a parking lot. You guys up north must get the biggest laugh watching us down here trying to deal with our tiny snows.  I went to work in my Subaru, not a problem. It was fun being in the store with my pals, watching the snow and talking with the few people that ventured out to shop. Carrboro is a walking town so its much easier to get out in snowy weather.

In other news, I got contact lenses on Monday. I have been thinking about it for awhile, and Gerry finally has decent vision care insurance that is available to spouses also, so I went for it.  I think I'm going to like wearing them once I get used to them and get the prescription right. I wore them to work yesterday, big mistake. I have multi focal lenses and I don't have the small print reading part adjusted quite right and I couldn't see the totals on the register or prices on items so thank God we only had a few customers, and those were used to me being inept at the register anyway, haha! (We have such a complicated computer system. At least its a Mac! ) I had them looking at the register telling me how much they owed, also thankful they are honest :-)

Its nice to have peripheral vision again and not be seeing the world through a frame. It was easy enough to figure out how to take the contacts in and out, although I got my right eye irritated on the first day, so it was just a bit uncomfortable. Here is the best part of it all though. The insurance covers eye exams and regular lenses or glasses. But I wanted the multi focal lenses and of course it didn't cover the evaluation and fitting for those. So I had to pay for that out of pocket. The cost? The exact number on the check I got for my barns on Saturday! I love when that happens. It happens a lot to me. Whenever I get a little extra cash for my work, something comes up that will be the exact same amount. Thank you Universe for looking out for artists!

We have more snow coming tonight, so there will be more mass hysteria to come. I'm probably not going to turn on the TV anymore. It just gets too ridiculous watching the news reporters out with their rulers measuring the snow on a busy highway and what is up with all of them now getting in their News Two Mobile Weather vehicles, riding around with a camera in their face and telling us to stay home, if we must go out make sure we clean off our windshields, (duh?! ).

Go get your bread and milk for those milk sandwiches tomorrow!!!!
Stay warm, think SPRING!!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Back home, but not for long

I picked up these three barns from the gallery I mentioned in my previous post. The one that has had these pieces for over a year, tucked away somewhere,  even I couldn't find them when I went in over the holidays, although I sent people there when they emailed asking to buy my work.....

Well, I had them here for a few days, set them out, loved them all over again. I forgot how great they are. I polished them and set them out to admire and decided I would just keep them for myself.

And then a dear sweet email came. Would I send photos, would I want to sell them? I have almost lost count now of how many of my pieces this person has, but she wants these three as well. There is a certain person that likes my work. I could always sense them when they came into my booth or my studio. I could tell who was going to buy and what piece they wanted.

This particular person came up to me in Saxapahaw at the summer music festival awhile back. She had contacted me earlier and I brought pieces for her to see. I had not met her, but when she walked up to my booth, her eyes were sparkling and I knew her. I knew she loved my work. These are the people that kept me making for so long. Not the galleries that don't even know my name, but the people that read my blog and email as soon as I put something up that I am selling. These are the people that breathe the very life into artists.  I feel very blessed to have them as wonderful customers and I am grateful to all of those people for their support of my work over the years. It makes me think that I might even be getting back into the studio in the spring. I have several requests for commissions, but they will have to wait until it is more than 7 degrees outside!

I have been asked at work to teach a kids gardening class. Of course there will have to be an art component, but I think it will be so fun and something new and different for the store. When I first took this job, I felt like maybe I was letting myself down in some way, not pursuing my art, my pottery. Like I had given up. But now I don't really see it that way.

My studio has not gone anywhere, its there for me, waiting. I'm not rushing for a deadline, rolling out slabs like a machine. I am still and calm and content, and if I feel like going out and making some new work, maybe I will. When its warmer, haha! But, the thing is, it's nice to get a steady paycheck. It's nice to work with really cool people. Its nice to do something and have someone truly appreciate my effort. I like not having to take the money I make for work I create and giving it to a show or a festival or a contest entry fee or dues or membership fees. I like not having people come into my studio asking me if I know Mark Hewitt. gaaaahhh.

I feel like I have been so ripped off and if I had it to do over, I don't think I would travel that road again. But getting accepted in shows and contests and galleries is such a lift to the fragile artist ego and it helped validate my work for awhile. But my true validation as an artist is when I get a sweet email like the one I got today, and I hand my work that I love to another person for their keeping and for them to love. That my dears is the real paycheck for an artist! It doesn't pay the bills, but I get the best of both worlds this way.  Go to work, get paid, make art, get immeasurable rewards.

peace y'all

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Well  my little part of North Carolina has survived the first snow  ice of 2015. I literally heard the governor on TV yesterday say that this was a storm unlike any NC has seen. Really? Where has this governor been living? We had a 1/4" of ice...... I seem to recall last year at this time having over a foot of snow on the ground. 

I watched the local news until I threw up in my mouth a little then turned it off and went out to see how the chickens would like to ice skate on our frozen ground. I had to chop a path to the coop with a hoe. The ground was frozen solid and I had the choice of either sliding down to the coop or I was going to have to chop up a path.  

 I opened the back coop door and encouraged them to come out. No thank you said the chickens! The first one hit the ice and jumped straight up in the air to land on top of the lower coop door.  The other two walked out, turned around and walked right back in.  Later in the day, Gerry tried again and they flew from the coop to the dry ground under our deck. They were having no part of this ice skating business!

I had to work later in the day. The roads were fine, people actually made it in to the store, although it was mostly a quiet day.  A good day to get things done that are normally difficult. I put together a little greenhouse that we sell. We are getting in lots of new plants and sprouting seedlings of vegetables. It has me longing for spring. I love going in to work with all the green in the store.

As many of you might know, the beloved coach Dean Smith of UNC basketball fame died recently. Someone put up a mural on the back of a store near my street. When I come out of my neighborhood and stop at the end of my road, this is what I see every day. Its really a great piece. So Banksy.

Its been mostly uneventful around here, with the exception of the little ice storm. Wesley came home for the weekend. I made her lots of nourishing food, like a good mom would. I baked a coconut banana cake from the recipe book my pal Barbara gave me. It was amazing.  I'm working, being a mom, keeping Gerry company. Thats about it. No making, no travel, no adventures. Just hibernation, waiting on spring to get here. We have seedlings started and hope to get them in the ground soon for one more round of winter greens.  It's an exciting life around here, ha!

I hear from our dear friends Tashi and Jamphel most weeks. Here is a photo I got yesterday from Jamphel. He is in Darmsala visiting a friend. His emails are always so wonderful I can't believe that last year this time, we had so much snow and two monks living with us. What a time that was!

I learned so much from those two in the short time they were with us. When I find myself having unkind thoughts or doing something I clearly know I shouldn't be doing, I think of them and how they would behave in the situation and then I try for better.  

Maybe if we all tried for better, things could change.....  it won't happen, but we can hope......

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Merchandising matters

I received a letter from a gallery last week asking me to come by and pick up my work. The letter stated that my work wasn't selling, they wished it had sold better, my houses "are lovely", but perhaps this gallery is not the place for them. "They will be removed from the sales floor this week". 

These are not the fun letters to get,  I like the letters saying please send more work, hi, come by for lunch one day, or even the best ones, the notes with a check enclosed.  But I didn't take it personally because I know better. I went into this gallery during Christmas holidays, the top selling season for any gallery. I looked all over this store and I never did find my work. Later a friend told me she had seen my houses in the back on a bottom shelf. Well, hell..... reckon that might be why my work didn't sell there? 

I suppose it isn't really this gallery's fault. I have been daydreaming this past year, and didn't really put in the time to go by, make myself known, and be the artist they wanted to merchandise properly. You gotta do some "me" selling to get that prime real estate in a gallery sometimes.  I went by yesterday to pick up my work. The fact that the person at the desk said, "who are you?" was a clear indication of why my work didn't sell, ha! I followed the desk person to the back room to find my work, another sales person was sitting and having a bite to eat. No one in the store. There sat my beautiful houses on a table. They even had 50% off red dot stickers on them. In the proper place, those houses would not have lasted a day with a fifty off sticker on them. While one lady sloooowly found a form for me to sign and the other continued her eating, I searched for a box and some wrapping, thanks for having those ready for me to take home........  

thus confirming why I am glad I have taken time off from this very frustrating journey with clay.....

In my other world, I am constantly  merchandising product for maximum sales. I watch our customers. How they shop, what they are looking for, what they are buying. I bring stock out on the floor, constantly keeping shelves full and I move things around to keep products fresh.  I noticed the other day that these really great stone garden statues had been sitting on the shelf for quite a while and every now and then we would sell one. They should be moving faster, they are very nice. Then I noticed a lady trying to reach one from the shelf. They were placed too high. The customer that would likely buy these tends to be a female and most times she can't reach this shelf. Also these statues are very heavy, hard to lift from that shelf. So I moved them to the window by the front door, did a nice little display, and in the past week, four of these have sold. And they aren't cheap.

Yesterday a young woman and her little girl came in. The woman was trying to decide on some items, daughter was impatient, so I took little girl back to see the fairy garden I just did. Mom came back to join us after gathering what she wanted without distraction from little girl, and they shopped around the fairy garden for awhile. She let her daughter pick an item. Add on sale! It's just that easy.....

If you sincerely help your customers and present your products in a thoughtful way, the sales come. You just have to think about how you would be shopping, how you want to be treated and flip it around to your customer. Every time I work in the store, I put myself in the customer's place and think about how I want to be treated in a retail store. I hate retail shopping because most stores do not think this way. They want your money but don't want to acknowledge that you are a human with feelings.

 And just because..... I was putting dishes away and thought my cupboards looked quite nice, thought I would show them off :) there are even a few pieces I made in there.

Potters out there are doing a fine job making some beautiful pottery and I for one am very glad for that. I love my cups and bowls and they get a bunch of use. Well worth the money spent!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In a year's time.......

This time last year there was snow on the ground and there were two monks living with us. Wesley had just begun her journey documenting the Sacred Arts of the Tibetan monks. I had no job and I was discouraged with art. The winter olympics were on TV. We watched the games with the monks. It was a quiet winter of new discovery.

Today Wesley and I met with a friend who recently visited the monastery in India to get some information for preparing to travel there in the coming year and continue this documentary of the monks. Wes is writing grants and preparing for crowd funding and learning and learning. I am so proud of her strength and determination. She has changed so much in just a year.

I have changed too. No longer am I scanning for shows to do and worrying about entry forms/fees for  contests and exhibitions and publications. I could give a rats ass about selling my work anymore. I am having so much fun at my new job and I too am learning. I am learning new things about myself, old things I forgot about myself, new skills, new everything. So fun!

This past weekend we got in a shipment of fairy garden stuff. On Friday I moaned and complained about the trivial nature of this shite,  stating that we needed to elevate the taste level of our store, not bring it down to kitsch.  Then I went home and thought about how negative I had been, and resigned myself to the fact that we did indeed have this stuff to sell and I could bloody well make the best of it. And there are a LOT of people out there that like making these fairy gardens, and who am I to judge them. Everybody has something they like, we don't all have to agree on what it is.

So, I went out in the yard and scavenged for logs and mossy rocks and old pottery shards and even brought in one of my old sculptures and an old raku bowl. I used the bowl for a miniature garden scape.

I came in to work on Saturday and made the best dang fairy garden you can imagine! I worked all morning on it, and I have to say, I'm pretty proud of it. And it was fun to do. Unpacking merchandise and putting it all out in the store reminds me of the days when I had a real career working for the furniture markets and setting up the showrooms. It was one of the best jobs I ever had, I loved every minute of it.

One of the guys I work with told me that the store's business was up 50% this January over last year. I would like to believe I had a small part in that. We have an amazing group and everyone contributes, but I do know that every time I set up a new display, things sell from it fast. I love when that happens. I love seeing things sell, ha!

Wesley was home this weekend and we made Apple Jacks. I watched an episode of A Chef's Life the other night and she was making them with the cutest little old lady and my mouth watered. I did it just like Miss Bartlett. I used "some flour" and "some crisco" and added water as I needed it and I made a flaky pie dough like none I have ever made. I dried apples three days ago and used them for the filling with a little sugar and a little cinnamon. The rule for this was, I wasn't going to get out a measuring tool of any sort. Just did it like a grandma would do it.

 They turned out just fine. There they are on one of my grandma's old McCoy plates that I ate off of as a little girl. Sitting in front of her TV, watching Captain Kangaroo and eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich. So long ago.....

I was proud of myself for this effort. My mom used to tell me not to learn to make biscuits or pie crusts because I would end up making them all the time. Jeeeezzzz. Isn't that THE POINT!?

Here is some chicken spoiling. I brought home a bunch of bags of oats and barley that the store was throwing out and I am sprouting them for my chickens. They love it. I take them the whole block of sprouts and they eat every bite. A little bit of spring in a dish!

We have more spring going on in the house. I got Gerry this nano dome for Christmas and he is on round two of winter greens. Tatsoi, kale, spinach and basil are coming up. I have a few violet clones coming up as well. I have begonias, violets and my Christmas cactus blooming indoors and little pink flowers popping out everywhere.

Spring is oh so close, isn't it!?  It comes around sooner and sooner every year.....