Yee-haw, Austin!

IMG_4255Walking down SoCo is like walking on the surface of the sun. A weird, colorful, super-hipster sun, but a sun just the same. I’m on my second shower of the day and it’s 4pm. Oh. And I just ordered a margarita. Is that wrong? Seems like the thing to do here to balance out the delicious salty/fatty ofIMG_4256ferings of food trucks parked on every corner: at gas stations, wedged between restaurants, or just hanging out by the side of the road. Thai. BBQ. Pulled Everything.

The light’s different here. I thought it’d be like the light in California, but it’s different altogether. It’s hard, unforgiving – the kind of light that angrily blasts off your husband’s watch, directly into your eyes, as you drive your car in the late afternoon. Aggressive light. The kind of light that keeps you honest. No shade to hide in here.South of Congress (SoCo) is full of vibrant, independent-minded shops, lampposts plastered with a lasagna of mIMG_4275usic posters, and fo

od, food, glorious food. I’m not sure I was cool enough to walk down the street, but one green-strawed sip
from my Tropic Thunder (lime, grapefruit, orange and ginger) and I didn’t care.

I’m here for the Agents and Editors Conference. Just checked in. Have my spiffy badge with its pale blue “Finalist” ribbon, hanging from a
decidedly un-hipsterlike lanyard, but I don’t care. I’m wearing it with pride. Folks from home have been so supportive with surprise flowers and notes and texts. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

IMG_4267IMG_4266I can’t wait until tomorrow to listen to all these smart folks talk on topics like “Dynamic Duos: The Author-Agent Relationship” and “Finding Your Creative Tribe”. I’m going to soak in every last word, take copious notes, and pray I don’t pass out during my consultation with an agent.

Stay tuned – Hope to give you the low-down on all the info that is gleaned from the non-stop panels/workshops/presentations tomorrow.

 

 

TWL Finalist! Isn’t It Romantic….

I’m creeping up on the end. I see you, The End…I can alllllmooooossssttt reach you…!! It has meant getting cramps in my fingers, angrily deleting as much as writing, and reading/writing/deleting so much this past year that I now need readers. (Which is fine, because I think librarians are hot. Smart girls in pencil skirts? Nuff said.) It has meant ignoring dust bunnies, packing bananas and goldfish crackers as ersatz lunches for the kids because I haven’t gotten to the store. It has meant banging my head against the wall more days than not. I am apparently able to write only 5 to 7 good pages a day. It does not sound like a lot because it is not a lot. But it’s like losing weight: a half pound isn’t much per week, but after a few months, you have to buy new jeans.

Happy to say the work seems to be paying off. Just got the word that I am a finalist in the Romance category for the Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest!images-2

I’m heading to Austin at the end of June, for their 21st Agents and Editors Conference. The line-up for faculty and workshops sounds amazing and I cannot WAIT to meet other writers and to learn more, more, more about writing craft and business. (Sidebar: why is EVERYTHING I do a hybrid of craft and business? Note to self to examine that sometime…)

All the winners and finalists will be announced at their keynote address and the biggest thing is that I will have the opportunity to meet with an agent. Gulp. Crafting the elevator pitch might be the toughest two sentences I’ve ever written.

I’ll take any kind of luck y’all can spare.

New Work

So glad to be healthy and back in the mud! I’m working on a series that I’ve had in my head for a long time – I call them ceramic quilts. They will be a framed combination of ceramic pieces and stitchery. Here’s a detail from my first go-around from today.IMG_3952IMG_3951

Hand-made? Factory-made? Etsy’s Policy Changes. Me on NPR.

handbuild2So…I’ve never claimed to be the voice for anything, but I’m glad I was able to chime in my two cents on “All Tech Considered” on NPR.  Many thanks to Ashley Milne-Tyte for including me, and for showing both sides of the Etsy policy changes.

Below is the article on NPR’s “All Tech Considered” program.  You can also read it and hear it on their website HERE.

Etsy’s New Policy Means Some Items are Handmade in Spirit

“Under online marketplace Etsy’s new policies, vendors can now use an outside manufacturer to help make their goods.

That is not going down well with some longtime sellers, who are calling the new policies a turnaround from the site’s original mission.

“Their moniker is, you know, a place to buy handmade. It doesn’t say a place to buy factory-made,” says Rae Padulo, a potter who began selling dishes and ornaments on Etsy in 2009.

“There’s nothing wrong with factory-made — it’s just, that’s not what Etsy started out to be,” she says. “It started out to be a place where you could get something special, something one-of-a-kind, something made by a human being.”

Padulo says Etsy is abandoning makers of handcrafted goods, who, like her, only have one pair of hands.

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson says the company is still behind lone artisans — they make up most of its one million sellers. Still, it wants to support those whose businesses are growing, and under the old rules, that was difficult. Successful vendors were frustrated that they couldn’t get enough help with their work.

“We heard from a wedding seller, for example, who said that when wedding season came around she was in a state of mild panic attack, because she just reached her limit and was working, you know, 18 hours a day,” Dickerson says.

Under the new policy, anyone who wants to work with an outside manufacturer has to apply and be vetted by Etsy, which makes sure the arrangement meets its ethical guidelines.

Alexandra Ferguson started her pillow business on Etsy several years ago working from home. She’s since expanded her line to makeup cases made out of organic cotton with recycled felt lettering.

Ferguson’s business has tripled in the last two years. She now works out of a small factory in Brooklyn with 11 employees.

Ferguson says she’s proud to be creating manufacturing jobs in New York City. “That Etsy is now encouraging and embracing that growth, to say it doesn’t matter how many employees you have — you can have 25, you can have 50, you can have 100 — just means we’ve now been given free rein to hire as much as we need to sustain our growth,” she says.

But not all vendors want to grow their businesses like Ferguson did, especially those who were attracted to the site’s small business ethos.

And some of its rivals are hovering, hoping to attract disappointed vendors. Padulo says she’s heard from the CEO of a site called Zibbet.

“He sent an email to every account and said, ‘I make a commitment: We will only sell handmade items on this site. We will never sell manufactured items,’ ” Padulo says. “It’s music to a lot of sellers’ ears, you know?”

Padulo says she’s enjoyed being part of Etsy but may close her shop after the holidays.

Dickerson says he hates to lose sellers because of the new policy. But in the eight years that Etsy has been online, the creative world has changed. For example, some sellers are creating jewelry using 3-D printing.

“Those are handmade, I think, in spirit, even though they’re designed on a computer and printed,” he says.

He says Etsy sellers can now turn their hands to whatever innovation comes next.”

Having Too Much Fun to Learn My Lesson

I’m making a crown. No, not because I think I’m Queen. (Though I do abide by tea time and a good hat.)

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It’s to be auctioned off at a fancy, fabulous fundraiser for the Arts Council of Princeton called Dining by Design. The theme this year is called Savage Beauty, inspired by the show at the 2011 Metropolitan Museum of Art show, featuring the incredible genius of fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

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photo-11I’ve never made a crown before, let alone one made of butterflies and horns. Beaded horns. With tiny, tiny beads. This headpiece needs to be worn by an actual person during the course of the evening. Thus, all these grand ideas are all theoretical, since I do not know what construction troubles I shall run into, before said construction is completed. And there WILL be troubles, as I have learned over the years: from my pair of nine-foot, silver-leafed hearts. And again from my eight-foot wide wings. And please, lest we forget, not one, but two failed attempts at lamps in the shape of a beehive. There are many more examples, but just I guess I just do not want to learn my lesson. Or rather, I am having too much fun even failing at my lesson.

My tiny pearl white Delica beads from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads are on their way. 100 grams. Which I think is about 10 million beads too few and will have to order more this weekend. Oh, the trouble’s just beginning…she says, alternately poised between pulling her hair out and rubbing her hands together with glee.ipledgehandmade_banner03-ae424ebe3073de27ca49bf633dfbcb27

Carson Woods

IMG_2737vole, rabbit, another rabbit,
skitter from the turning wheels.
dragonfly on wings of mica,
and monarchs, fly with me, next to me,
across the handlebars of my rusted red bike.
i watch the shadows grow longer, a little longer.

not a soul around –
save for the brown wrens,
who sing their complicated song
to the crown of blue overhead.

sturdy swirls of hay are ready to be spread in open fields
i am giddy at the barest hint of russet,
give thanks to my friends the oaks
for their cool respite from the dappled sun.

my tires turn and crunch over crushed brown stone
soon I must return to all kinds of obligations
but the tall grasses urge me on
not just yet
not just yet
the wrens titter, and agree.IMG_2742

A List in INGs

I love lists. They’re like an archeological dig of what’s going on in your life. (Especially old ones found in the bottom of handbags, or tucked between the pages of a forgotten book.) This happy list has been making its rounds on some lovely blogs I follow, like Kathryn Mitchell Ceramics and Pip Lincolne, and I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Drinking : Grumpy Monkey coffee (Holla, Small World.)

Making: Rectangular platters with inlay.

Reading: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

Wanting: More TIME.

Looking: Pinterest, you saucy minx.

Playing: Too much solitaire on my iPhone.

Wasting: Beautiful heirloom tomatoes from our CSA share, but a girl can only eat so many tomatoes.

Sewing: Nada.

Wishing: For the colors and cool of fall.

Enjoying: Middle of the summer day hugs from my boys.

Waiting: For lightning to strike never works.

Liking: The quiet of the house before everyone else wakes.

Wondering: If I will ever finish this manuscript.

Loving: My David.

Marvelling: That there’s always another idea in my head.

Needing: A good source for handmade, round wood boxes. Don’t ask.

Smelling: Aforementioned coffee.

Wearing: New ikat t-shirt, navy and white.

Following: My heart.

Noticing: Color combinations: gray and yellow, lilac and white.

Knowing: I just need to keep at it.

Thinking: All the time. Way too much. And somehow not enough.

Bookmarking: Indie bridal websites for work inspiration.

Opening: Happy thank you note from friend.

Giggling: Everyday, with these boys of mine.

Feeling: Blessed.

Take A Penny, Leave A Penny

th-1Today I decided to ask myself a question that I ask other people when I feel they’re struggling:

“What’s going on that you’re not telling me?”

That sentence is usually all that’s needed for a troubled friend to let go of what is causing her brow to knit together, or to “unclog” my teenaged son. (Okay, I might have to ask him MORE than once to get him to talk, but he’ll get there…)

They need a penny.

We all know and love that little dish full of pennies next to a cash register. It’s usually under a sign that reads something like: “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny.”  You go to buy a sandwich at Wawa and it comes to $4.99, so you leave a penny. Or it’s $5.01, and you take a penny. So when my friend or son or sometimes even the lady behind me in the grocery store checkout line, hesitates before they continue: I have said more than once: “You know, sometimes you leave a penny in the dish, and sometimes you need to take one out. Maybe right now you need one?”

It’s that permission to take what you need.  That’s all.  And for someone to recognize that you’re not being selfish by asking for what you need.

That furrow between my brow has dug in pretty well over this past year. I’ve been doling out a lot of pennies. Many people needed change, and I’ve been happy to empty my pockets, felt helpful. But for the past couple of months, I’ve only got big bills.

In other words, I’ve needed a penny.

This summer, I’ve mostly broken free from social media: from FB, from Blogger, from my website, Pinterest, Etsy. Hearing about all the doings by busy, vital, productive artists (and other nice folks) has, in the past, been uplifting to me, but of late, has been sort of bumming me out, so I unplugged. Email has been at a sort of minimum.  Haven’t taken on any new projects, signed up for any shows, written much, including this blog. I’ve kinda gone dark. Let it be. I’ve picnicked with my boys, gone on bike rides, watched them swim, made cakes, got beaten at Rummy, folded clean clothes with pride, cleaned out closets. I’ve been reading books, instead of trying to write one. I’ve been going to see pots in museums, not making them. I’ve been sketching ideas, not enacting them.

thBut that’s okay. Sometimes you need a penny.

Has any of you ever needed a penny? Or know someone who does? Time to check those pockets…I’m know I’m starting to hear a jingle in my jeans again. :)

Torn Between Two Lovers

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POTTERY VERSUS WRITING

My two boyfriends are tired of sharing. (No, not like that. My husband knows he’s my one and only. 23 years together should have ironed out any questions by now.)

Pottery. Writing. There is a duel on the horizon. Pistols are drawn. I’m not sure I have much to say about the outcome. Even as we speak, I am writing this blog, with the current issue Ceramics Monthly flipped open, right next to the computer. (BTW, there’s an article on Brian R. Jones in there. With an articulate, honest take on what life is like for a full-time potter. See? I can’t stop myself.)

In the past, I have been a sort of all-or-nothing sort of girl. Not a big problem until these two boyfriends came to woo me. Now what? What am I?

Am I a writer?

Am I potter?

This blog was a way to combine the two. So it was settled: I am a potter who writes.

Then I wrote a play. And started a novel. Now I’m halfway through writing a novel. So okay: I am a writer.

So I just got another ceramics commission – a large job. And there are these big framed pieces I want to make. Yep, you guessed it: I am a potter.

These loves of mine are both handsome. They are both good kissers. But I’m fickle. I can’t decide between the two. So, starting today, guess what? I’m not going to. I’m going to date both of them and I’m going to let them worry about it. They’ll have to fight it out.

I am going to wake up every morning and check to see who won my hand for the day. And I’ll be a very good, loyal girlfriend. For the day.

Noticing the Blessings

Being so busy over the last three weeks, getting ready for a couple of shows, my “noticer” went on hiatus. But I was grateful that it popped right back into action today when I had time to slow down. Here’s a list of a few of blessings that today brought.

  • My young son’s socked foot always finds another socked foot under the kitchen table. It’s an egalitarian foot; it doesn’t care whom it belongs to.
  • My husband brings me flowers on a pretty regular basis. Carries them all the way home on the train. (Yes. I know how lucky I am. Totally.) I love seeing what colors he picks for me and that they’re wrapped in crackle-y deli paper.
  • My older son cracking jokes and the whole family laughing.
  • My jeans fit okay. (Yes. This is a blessing. It doesn’t rank with like world peace or something, but it ranks.)
  • Reading for an hour in the green armchair, on this rainy day, with several rounds of tea in my favorite fat mug.
  • A fridge full of healthy food.
  • Walking with my friend.
  • Pink flowering cherry trees and bright yellow forsythia layering their colors in my front yard.
  • A new gold Sharpie.
  • Cracking a glazed kiln load, and seeing bright, shiny pieces staring back up at me.

What did YOU notice today? What made you feel lucky?