28 September 2005

Time Flies

Miss Mica is asleep in her swing giving mommy a much needed break from chasing her around the livingroom. My baby girl is walking. She still sits down and crawls if she wants to get somewhere but she takes 2-5 steps at a time unassisted and unsupported. My mother and I took her yesterday to get her bangs trimmed because her hair was always in her eyes. The haircut was not her favorite experience. She kept trying to fend off the comb, scissors and the hands of the women wielding them.

I can't believe that it has been a week and a half since the Louisville Show. I should probably post a quick recap before I move on to plans for the next show. We were located, as I said in my last entry, we were just inside the entrance to the show. This was great exposure but I'm afraid that it didn't do wonderful things for sales. Most people stopped and looked at the table on their way in, but didn't want to buy until they'd seen more of the show. By the time that they got back to us, most of them seemed to have exceeded their budgets. Everyone was very complimentary but our work was so different from anything else in the show and I'm not sure that anyone knew quite what they wanted to do with it.

I had one very interesting development. A while back I wrote about my feelings about funerary art and the idea that I could make vessels as reliquaries for crematory remains. During the Louisville show, a gentleman was looking at my vessels and commented to his wife that they would be good for ashes. The two of us ended up in a conversation about the possibilities of pendant vessels for pet cremains. He works for a pet cemetery and thinks that their clients might be very interested. It was just an interesting piece of coincidence.

I spent some time over the last week trying to figure out what I need to make in anticipation of the Dayton Show. One of the popular trends in bead arts right now is beaded art dolls. I saw very little in Louisville aimed at that market. Jane, from Jane's Fiber and Beads had a few ceramic faces by Keith O'Connor. (I don't really have anything against his beads, they're just a radically different style from my own. They tend a little toward the primitive or rustic.)

JJ's polymer and ceramic faces were a big hit and the mask pendants that I had were well received. People really want to see faces right now. So I'm spending some time focusing on making faces for the Dayton show. I plan on making the faces as both cabs (suitable for dolls, jewelry, or embellishments on other artforms) and as pendants with loops on the back.

So far, I have about 13 skull masks made. I have sketches of 18 styles of masks in my notebook as a springboard for ideas. Even if I spend my studio time replicating the faces in my sketchbook, I should be able to create quite a stock of finished pieces to put on the table at the show.

I'm debating now whether I want to try to get some doll bodies made (either buy them from someone who makes them, or maybe commission a friend of mine who sews to make them) to sell at the show with the faces. I want to display finished dolls or dolls in progress at the show to show off the faces in use.

20 September 2005

Show off

We couldn't have asked for a better location at the Louisville show, really. We were set up just inside the entrance to the show. I'll post more details about the actual event later in the week. For now, I just wanted to post some info about how we set up the table. Mostly, I'm happy. There's still work that could be done, but nothing is set in stone.

I got a chance on Sunday to take a couple of pictures of the table set-up so that I could post them here and have them for my records so that I would have a frame of reference for future improvements. Amongst other things, I'd like to add some levels to the tablescape so that the table has more drama. Eventually we'll get all the kinks worked out and have a pretty nice display. As it stood, we got quite a few comments on the "E boxes" and on the typesetter's tray.

Amongst other things, I'd like to replace the plastic compartmentalized trays that I have in the "E-Boxes." They're not really very attractive. I'd like to replace them with either wood or black plastic similar to the trays used elsewhere on the table.

We had an 8 foot table instead of the 6 foot table, so what was supposed to be a table covering and skirt set-up was adjusted to cover the end of the table. I'd have been much happier with something a bit more symmetrical.

We set the center box up on edge to add some height to the table. To take advantage of the frame-like quality of the upright box, we set one of the black plastic trays at an angle into the box. I would like, when we do the Dayton show, to add some of JJ's dolls as well as some of my own to showcase the faces that both JJ and I make. We got more comments on the faces, and they sold well for both of us.

The type tray, with the back painted a dark umber, created a classy display. The little compartments worked better with the goddesses and shell vessels than with some of the other forms, but all-in-all, I think the pieces were displayed well.

The show contract specifies that we'll have 6-foot tables. Everything looks really spread-out on an 8-foot table but I'm reluctant to make too many adjustments to the display on the off chance that we'll have the extra 2 feet next time around.

16 September 2005

Let's get this show on the road...

Well, if you happen to be in the Louisville area and have some time to kill this weekend, please consider stopping by the show. It would be interesting to meet people. I'm hoping for visits from family who live in the area but am trying to keep my expectations in check.

As I write this, JJ is probably on I-70 somewhere between Springfield and I-75. We're driving down to Louisville tonight and setting up tomorrow morning. The whole set-up shouldn't take long. We'll get the table set up and then start filling pieces into the little cubbies in the trays.

I have an antique wooden type drawer like those used by typesetters in the days of moveable type. I got it free from a woman who had storage space across from my old studio. Someone, in their infinite wisdom, had removed the paper backing that was originally used in the drawer and replaced it with felt. At some later date, someone (maybe the same someone, maybe someone else) removed the felt leaving behind a fuzzy glue crust. My old neighbor didn't think that she could make enough selling it to pay her for the time that she would have to invest in cleaning it. I've had it sitting in my basement for something like 4 years.

After a moderate investment of time and energy in cleaning the type drawer, I found myself in complete agreement with my former neighbor. There was no way that I could justify the effort that would be needed to get the glue and felt bits out. My solution, paint over them with a dark umber paint. Once the paint had dried, I went over the whole thing with some paste wax to remove the dust and grime and it is absolutely beautiful.

I'll be taking pictures of the table at the show this weekend. I look forward to posting them here. 'Til then, have a happy and safe weekend. We'll be doing our best to enjoy the show. Mica's daddy is coming with us to help with her while I'm busy at the table. JJ and I have been friends for almost 15 years so it's like traveling with my brother. Kim doesn't know what she's missing.

13 September 2005

Beastial Beadshows, Batman!!!!!!

Louisville is in just three days. Suddenly, the show is looking a lot different than it did even when I woke up this morning. Kim has backed out of the show. This means that JJ and I will be doing the show on our own.

I'm in the process of evaluating what I have to take with me. How much stock do I have? How much will I need? How much is JJ taking with him? As far as what I need to do to get ready for the show, not much has really changed. I still need to finish stringing the beads that I'm taking with me. I need to print and cut hang tags. I need to put price stickers on the hang tags. I need to organize my stock so that it is ready for quick replacement of sold items or for showing to customers who would like to see what else is available.

On a more mundane level, I need to do laundry and pack for myself and Mica for the weekend. I need to pack up the playpen and the portable swing from the studio. I need to pack baby food and juice, nipples, pacifiers and toys.

Most of the stuff that I took with me to the Cincinnati show is still in the boxes. I won't need to buy tissue paper or paper bags. I have a receipt book that I've prepped by writing my URL on the bottom of every page. I still have the table covering that Kate made for the show folded with the batik bedspread that I used over it.

I was hoping to pick up a couple of clothing items in preparation for the show. I'd really like to get one(or two) camisole type tops to wear since I'll have Mica with me. I need something reasonably discreet for nursing, especially since there will just be JJ and I at the table. It looks now, however, as though that is unlikely for several reasons.

What I'm realizing, as I write this, is that it's not the bead show that I find most daunting. Beads, I've got aplenty. What I find a little more daunting is the prospect of the show **WITH** Miss Mica. I've traveled with miss baby. It can be either a pleasure or a trial. I sincerely hope that we are able to get the sleep we need, the show will be pure hell if we don't.

I've alread emailed the folks at Bead Mercantile to let them know that we won't be able to do the Pittsburgh show. Traveling to Pittsburgh in mid-November with a baby is not something that I'm really up for, although I hate to back out after signing the contract. I don't know how much, if any, I'll get back. I still plan, however, on doing the Dayton show. In either case, this has been a learning experience for me.

I realized last night that the real reason that I wanted to do these shows with Kim was that I felt unequal to the task of preparing for and setting up a bead show on my own. I didn't know if I could make enough stock to make it worthwhile. I didn't know if I could come up with a display that would be suitable. I just didn't know if I could do it. I now know that, if circumstances were slightly different, I'd be fine. I can make as much stock as I need, and more. The display will evolve as needed.

When Mica's older, this might actually be a good course for me to persue. But until she's weaned and I'm ready to leave her for a weekend, I think it would be best if I stuck to wholesale and maybe one or two local(ish) shows.

12 September 2005

The process that I use to make these is written up on my website. I hadn't made any of them in over a year. I am glad to be back to them. Especially since I finally have some idea where I want to go with them. Posted by Picasa Photo by KJF

The whole pierced porcelain bead thing is a pretty labor-intensive process. Everyone that I've shown my earlier pierced porcelain beads to has loved them. I'm hoping to enter these into some juried competitions in the coming year. Posted by Picasa photo by KJF

In an effort to explore the things that make me love what I do, I've been working on some pierced porcelain beads since finishing the stock for the show. They haven't been fired yet but I couldn't wait to show them off. Posted by Picasa Photo by KJF

09 September 2005

Mystery stains

With less than a week to prepare for the Louisville Show, I have officially finished making beads for the show. The time has come to focus on show preparation rather than manufacturing stock. Over the next week, I will be temporarily stringing beads to sell as strands, creating and printing price labels, creating and printing signs (and laminating them?), and otherwise trying to get ready for the show. I would have liked to have been ready for the show weeks ago, but it's a bit late for that now, isn't it.

I decided at the beginning of this week that anything that wasn't ready to go in the kiln on Wednesday wasn't going to the show. Wednesday evening, after transferring the dry beads from the surface on which they were spread to dry, I began working on things for my own mental health. The stress of preparing for a show, and trying to produce enough stock to make the show worthwhile (not to mention the stress of an increasingly mobile toddler and migraines, etc) was beginning to get to me. From some perspectives, it would be much easier and more lucrative for me to get an office job than to make beads by hand in my home studio. From my perspective, there is too much that I would miss. I spend my days with my baby girl whose world expands every day as she discovers more and more about it. I am doing, mostly, something that I love, mostly, and set my own schedule while I'm doing it. Usually...

Right now, since I've been focusing on the show, I've been trying to get as much time in the studio and make the absolute most of that time. In an effort to create the widest variety possible, I've been working in colored porcelain. I mix small batches of 4-5 ounces which is enough to make 80-100 beads. From each batch, I make one kind of beads.

To add an element of mystery to the process, I've been using stains of dubious provenance acquired from a semi-local ceramics supplier. This supplier has, over the years, purchase large quantities of clay and glaze chemicals, including stains, from other suppliers when they've gone out of business. The stains that I've purchased are decanted into jars and labeled to the best ability of my semi-local supplier. A materials scientist would probably have a coronary at the site of these odd jars with their funky labels and uncertain contents. It is my goal to use all of my collected stains during my lifetime so that Mica is not forced to call in a Hazmat team to clean my studio when I'm gone.

The result of my acquisition of these alchemistic colorants is that I'm really not sure what I'm going to get when I add the stain to my clay. So far, my experiments have not been bad. The "I think it's blue" stain yielded a beautiful blue and the "Green" stain was very obviously green in the jar and in every stage of production. If you make leaves out of green clay, it doesn't really matter what shade of green you get. On the other hand, "It may be Orange" bisqued to a lovely white. I don't know if it will become orange when fired to a higher temperature. I may have made 2 batches of 100 off-white beads. The yellow stain, in high concentration, had previously given me a startling shade which made my eyes long for the soothing comfort of a 1000 watt incandescent bulb. I mixed the yellow clay with considerably less stain this time around, hoping for a milder result.

I look forward to posting pictures once the beads return from their high firing in Kim's kiln. If things go well in Louisville, I hope to hire an electrician to do the wiring for my large kiln so that I will no longer be kept in such unbearable suspense.

04 September 2005

Cherio Goddess

I seem to have a shortage of green goddesses right now, which is unusual. I've looked in all the usual places. I can't believe that I've sold them all. But I must have.
I currently have one green goddess, and several agateware goddesses. The image below is a close-up of the agateware goddess in the bottom row of the group pic, 2nd from the left.
Agateware is hand-colored clay with varigation. The green marbling that can be seen in the picture runs all the way through the goddess. The two goddesses on the ends of the top row, and the one closest to the ruler in the bottom row are also agateware.

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03 September 2005

Doing what I can

I redid the front page of my website in an effort to promote donations for hurricane relief. I need to add some more information, specifically a link to CERF, and a link to Coffee Cup Software's hurricane relief effort as well as The United Way.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get beads made for the bead show in Louisville in 2 weeks. I've gotten quite a few colored porcelain beads made. I'm trying to arrange a couple of barter deals. I've solicited collaborators on the Switchboards to make some pieces using some of my beads so that I can have some pictures for my website.

Tomorrow we're taking Mica to the butterfly house for the release of the butterflies.