Monday, July 11, 2016

Some Sad News

As some of you readers may know, my dear husband, Robert, was ill for a long time. Early this year, his health became even more precarious.

Sadly, he passed away on June 17.

I miss him more than I can say. We were companions for over 50 years, and that is a long time! But I intend to carry on with my pottery and my gardening, and to consider that his spirit is with me as I go about my daily life.
Robert with both dogs, Jake and Kip (hiding his face) looking out across the marsh from the rocky ridge behind our house. This is a favourite picture, and how I plan to remember him.
The blog will return...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Social Media Challenge

There is an enormous amount of pressure on craftspeople these days to advertise their work, and a large part of that involves having good photos of their work. Any show or sale you want to apply to asks for images, stores want posters with photos to put near your work, and a veritable chorus of marketing advice tells you over and over that you must have good pictures, you must do social media, you must... Trouble is, if you ignore the chorus, you risk being over-shadowed by all the ones who don't.

I am trying.

Here is what I went through yesterday, just trying to get one decent image for my Facebook page.

First, I decided to include a few pieces, not just one, and to choose my recent Bird pieces. Then I got the idea that Bird would look good among some twigs... which had to be black... so I searched the woods for suitable twigs, cut them, cleaned them up and painted them black. Turns out that frozen twigs are hard to paint black, they thaw out and the paint doesn't dry and doesn't stick. But eventually I had some.

Then I moved all the plants that have been in my Studio window all winter. It's my only real light source. I've got some photo floods and a flash, but none of them really work as well as the window. Mind you, I can only use the window for a few hours in the afternoon, after the sun moves to the front of the Studio and before it shines directly into the window. The plants didn't complain, but I could sense disapproval.

Then I put up the white background paper. Not quite enough room for it but by hanging one end of the roll at the window and supporting the other end on a tall tripod, it works.

I arranged the pots and twigs. Here is what I got:
Pretty bad.

Definitely a job for Photoshop. First, I cropped. Then I adjusted the colour balance, then lightened and increased the contrast and the overall colour saturation.
Better.

Then I started a new file and gave it a graduated pinkish/mauve background. Moved my photo in, then added my logo, then some words. It was still pretty dull so I added some loose birds. Now it wasn't too bad, but I didn't like the way the pottery disappeared under all the other gumpf. So I went back and re-cropped the pots photo to concentrate the attention on the pots a bit better. While I was at it I added a fine black line around the image.

Of course I moved everything around about six times and re-sized things at least as often, but eventually I figured it would do. Here is the final image, ready for Facebook and Google+:

Then of course I had to do the posts, write a covering 'comment' and post it. And I don't even do Twitter, Instagram or any of the other social media sites. What I did do took pretty much all afternoon and early evening, maybe a total of 4-5 hours.

It's a question - do I advertise, or do I make pots?

Friday, February 12, 2016

An Entertainment of a Different Colour

Sometimes you just need a break! So when I was invited by the organizer, who saw and liked my Bonsai pots, to participate in a new event called Seedy Saturday here in Almonte a week Saturday (ie, Feb. 20), I was interested but had to tell her I didn't have any Bonsai pots.

After some discussion, she agreed I could sell my notecards and promote Native Plants. In my other life, I'm a native plant nut, so my eyes lit up and the wheels began to turn and well, the rest of the week is now history.

 I've been making photo notecards every afternoon for a week now. My mousing hand has developed a squeak, my printer is overheated, my paper cutter is exhausted, and I quite forgot that today is Loyal Husband's birthday.

time out:
  Happy Birthday, Dear!  
time back in.

I figured it would be a piece of cake, how hard could it be, etc. etc. Turns out, not hard, but time-consuming! First I had to go shopping (in the world of making stuff, invention usually leads to necessity, ie., shopping), then I had to find the images I wanted among the 35,000+ on my computer, then I had to edit each one, print it, glue it on a card, stick the card plus its envelope into a plastic sleeve, then make a poster for my table... oy. Not to mention agonizing over every little detail. I still haven't decided what colour of tablecloth to use on my table... hmmm, could lead to more shopping.

Here are some cards in progress:
native plant images on notecards
Today I covered the salt dishes I've been making in the studio in plastic and devoted the entire day to making a sign for my table. Cut & paste, yep. And to think I once decided not to become a school teacher because the college told me to report for class with scissors and glue. My younger and not-yet-wiser self was horrified. I wanted to mold small minds, not glue things. Such youth!

But what the heck, it's February. Grab your boots

                                         and head on over to Seedy Saturday                          
 Make sure you come to my table to see my non-seeds and admire my gluing expertise!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Kiln Problems

Somebody once said that "farmin' is about 10% hard work, and 90% fixin' something what has got busted".

Running a pottery studio is pretty much like farming in that respect.

I've been struggling with my large kiln since the beginning of December. You can guess how good that timing was... several orders I had promised for then were late, and several in fact never did get done. Great marketing move... not.

At first I thought it had be one of the elements. I had replaced them the month before, after which I had three or four successful firings, but you never know. A careful visual check did not reveal any obvious bads.  Nothing broken, no coils hanging out into kiln space. No error message. Just the firing temperature, as reported on the little controller screen, bouncing around, up and down, and not seeming likely to ever reach cone 6.

Opened up the controller box. Peered closely at every connection. Nothing to see. So I replaced all the thermocouples.

Closed it back up, flipped the circuit breaker back on, started 'er up again. The little electronic message screen said 190F....191F....192F...187F...185F...

Opened it up again. Hey, one of the element connectors looked black and gnarly. I figured that had to be the problem and felt encouraged. I knew what it was! I cleaned up the connector and tried to re-attach it but the 'tail' of the element had burned through and was now too short. There is no way of lengthening that. I tried, but of course the element promptly broke at the other end of the 'tail'.  Luckily, I had kept one of the elements I had removed earlier because it hadn't broken, so I re-installed that. I was so happy to have found the problem...

220F...221F...223F....224F...191F...190F...187F...

So I replaced the relays. I had noticed one of them was making an odd sound, not going 'click, clack' like I was used to, more like 'click, scritch'. No telling which one so I replaced them all.

Nope.

Now I was getting frustrated, discouraged, depressed, not at all happy. Keep in mind that every trial meant waiting for the kiln to heat (or not), waiting for it to cool, then busting knuckles on anything I tried to do. Working on kilns is not done on a work bench at working height, no, you do it with your head down by your ankles, trying to look up into a maze of wires. In the semi-dark inside the cover box, wearing bifocals. Another great quote came to mind while I applied bandaids: 'working on one of these kilns is like working on a pre-war diesel engine'. I've never worked on a diesel and I hope I never have to, but I can imagine.

So yesterday I opened the box up again and carefully went over everything from the top down to the bottom. This time I carefully tugged on every wire, tapped every connector... and lo and behold, one of the wires on one of the thermocouple attachments was loose. Completely dis-connected. A tiny tiny wire!

Got it around it's little post and tightened up, and guess what - kiln fired properly for the first time in over a month! An empty kiln with basically new elements should fire like a rocket, and it did! Temp climbed over 400F in the first hour. I set it to fire to cone 08 and it did, no problems.

Whew.

Why no error message, I wonder?


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Drum Roll, Please!

It is with great excitement and enthusiasm and various other expressions of astonishment, that we announce that the (drum roll, please) Official 2016 SmartAss Calendar is (finally) ready!

annual Smartass calendar for 2016

SmartAss having reached the age of Wisdom and Maturity (3 years), she has taken the theme of Suggestions For Right-Living and leaves the reader much Wisdom on which to meditate during the coming months.

This Annual Calendar, besides enjoying many Capital Letters, is a unique, hand-made, original, limited edition Art Work only available to a select few, that is, anybody who cares to drop me a comment and pretend that they would like one.

SmartAss sends Happy 2016 Greetings to you all!

ps. anybody who wants one will have to send me their mailing address...

Monday, December 21, 2015

'Tis the Season...


To all of Pine Ridge Studio's friends, customers and neighbours, I would like to say:

pine and red christmas heart

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!  Talk soon!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stars

Well now, how's that for an ambiguous title? But I can't think of a better one... maybe after you read this you will have think of something better and if you do, please let me know!

Some weeks it doesn't seem like I get much done. Things started, things worked on, but things 'done' done, no. About the only achievement this week (and that was started last week) was to get the wooden house shapes I wanted to hang pottery stars on painted and 'done'.

red Christmas stars on wooden house shapes
It's hard to see in this small picture, but I tried to give the idea of house lights seen through the snow... next time I'm painting more snow but this is it for now. I like the middle one with the fence. Not too sure why there is a fence beside a door, but it sort of works for me. The whole idea of a gateway, an entry, maybe into an unknown space...

Now if I could just think of a better title for this post...