Feb 8 2011

The Devaluing Starving Artist Statement

“Your artist statement is the backbone of your marketing. “
~ Alyson Stanfield, author of I’d rather be in the studio! An Artist’s No-excuse Guide to Self-Promotion” and the ArtBiz blog

I was on facebook this morning and followed a link to someone’s website and this was the first thing I saw plastered across their home page:

Hello. My name is {omitted} and I am an artist. What is an artist? It is someone who instead of wearing a suit and going to an office everyday goes to a studio and produces art. Being an artist is kind of a divine calling – something one cannot ignore because the need to create is greater than the need for a 401K, proper health insurance, and reliable income. I know that I am doing what God created me to do and even though it is full of struggles, it is an incredible journey of faith and I am grateful He made me an artist.

(..rolling eyes)

Would this make you want to look at this person’s art or even the rest of their website? Would a collector? ..or would he/she have some concern that this person might not be around tomorrow (ie a poor investment)?

People like this who perpetuate the romance of ‘the starving artist’ are doing themselves (and all artists) a disservice: Artist: charity case, strain on society, dispensable, hobbyist, dreamer, etc., etc.. Hello..? However “Blessed” this person may feel, why would any working artist want to portray and devalue themselves like that?

As with any business, the most successful people I know, working artists included, put forward an image of themselves that is successful. I don’t think this should be any different for artists. Since most of us are self-representing, how we present ourselves can set the tone of and directly influence the perception of our work, possibly even before its seen.


Feb 6 2011

Moved the showroom today!

Today with the help of our neighbour and a John Deere tractor, we’ve moved our showroom :) Pulling the building

When we first got this little outbuilding a few years ago, the most accessible place to get a truck in to put the building, was up toward the front of the property. Its been really convenient up there for some things. It was an easy place to pull up the truck to load up for shows, and for customers so they didn’t have far to go up our driveway (which has been known to be somewhat treacherous at times). When we were not doing shows, I would sweep it out each spring and set up the show display in case a customer wanted to drop by. Prior to getting the building I would have to set up the display spur of the moment on the deck, for when I knew the customer would be arriving and then have to take everything down after they left. It was a bit of a crazy scramble. Having the building made all this a lot easier.

HelpersThe plan has always been to finish it, add lighting, a permanent display just for the showroom, and do some landscaping around it, all to give it a more enticing appearance. Its been about 4 years now and, for one reason or another, we haven’t made a great deal of progress, short of rudimentarily putting in a few windows. Running power the two or three hundred feet from the pole was going to cost a bit and it was just a bit too far to even run an extension cord to work on it. Sooo this spring we tossed around the idea of moving the building.

Now the building sits a lot closer to the studio, in the spot where I had my garden last year. It looks much happier there (if a building could look happy). There will be enough room around it to put a small porch and do some gardening. But before that, we need to level it, stake it into the ground (in prep for hurricane season), and then start fixing up the inside, of course. beforeAfterBuddy and Shino


Feb 5 2011

Bovine beauties

Another little aside from pots again.
Bovine Beauty He looks as though he could talk.

Caught a few shots of this beauty and his herd companions a couple of days ago on our way home from town. (I *think* he’s a Texas Longhorn. If you know different, please post a comment and tell me what these are). Like the pelicans I posted pics of previously, these guys were perfect models, seemingly unphased by my presence.

Sometime in October or November, my camera died (that’s why I had no sales listings posted online most of the fall). Then, just before Christmas, my dead camera was finally replaced (!). Its amazing that a mere 6 years can make such a difference in technology. You can get so much more camera now and for a fraction of the price of what they were a few years ago (super holiday sale deals sweeten the price well). Hoping this cam takes just as nice shots of pots.

Bull

Coco


Feb 1 2011

Presenters and Conferences on the coast

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What a nice way to start the day.. watching a pottery demo. This is North Carolina potter and glaze guy John Britt. He was one of the main presenters along with, PJC instructor, Bill Clover, at the Gulf Coast Clay Conference I took part in last February.

John Britt's Shino test tilesDo you get tired just looking at this? I took a glaze course with Ron Roy back in the mid 1990s, but seeing John’s impressive array of shino glaze tests spread out on the table at the clay conference like this, bowled me over and was a reminder (!) that we need to get back to testing regularly.

Shino first or be cursed!Here are Larry Manning (of Magic Kiln Pottery, and the conference coordinator) and Chris Greenman (Asst prof at Alabama State) hamming it up for the camera. Chris’ button bears the warning “Shino First or be Cursed!”

Regarding the 2011 Gulf Coast Clay Conference ..I learned this morning that this year’s conference will be taking part over in Mississippi this year on May 26-28th. I’ll post more on it later as I get it.

Speaking of clay conferences, the Alabama Clay Conference will be taking place in Mobile this year, February 17-20th, smack dab in the middle of Mardi Gras. The featured presenters are Christa Assad, Misty Gamble, and Chris Gustin. Other things associated with the conference are gallery exhibitions downtown (I’ve heard good things about the one at Space 301), and on Sunday, a demonstration at University of South Alabama’s new glass studio.


Jan 31 2011

Down by Billie’s

On particularly nice afternoons, its nice to take a break and do a little exploring. The other week, instead of going straight home, we took a little side road that took us down near Billie’s Seafood in Bon Secour. Luckily, I just so happened to have my camera in my bag with me. Here are a few of the pictures.

Brown Pelicans
Pelicans
Black Crested Night Heron on Shrimp Boat rigging
Brown Pelican closeup
closeup
Pair
Endeavor Shrimp Boat
In front of Swift House


Jan 30 2011

1970s Soldner wheel

As I’ve mentioned previously, the Soldner wheel we have is over 30 years old and was bought way back when Lowell was in art school. Over that period of time, very little has ever gone wrong with it: 15 yrs or so ago, the rectifier was replaced; 2 or 3 yrs ago the bearings on the motor went; and this past year, the Powerstat (transformer) went.

The year before the motor went on the Soldner, the motor went out on the Creative Industries wheel we had. (I think we sent the motor back to them to be tested.) Since there were no markings on that motor (of course) and because the company was not willing to share who the manufacturer was or any other details, we were pretty much forced to buy the motor from them (I hate proprietary parts on machinery. You always wonder if you can get the part cheaper elsewhere). Anyways, so when the motor went out on the Soldner, I was expecting the same kind of thing.

I called Bluebird (who have been manufacturing Soldner wheels and clay mixers for a while now) and while they helped me as much as they could, they couldn’t really tell me much about the wheels made before they took over. So, I called Paul Soldner. Based on the info I gave him, he said he probably built this wheel himself. He said he put them together so you could just buy the parts off the shelf making it easy for a potter to fix the wheel by him/herself. He thought he got those motors from Graingers. So, checked online to see if they still had that Dayton model, and sure enough, they did! Put the new motor on and I was back in business.

Then last year there was something funny with the power flow. I’d be in the middle of throwing and the power would fade in and out for a couple of seconds at a time, intermittently. This went on for about a month, then one day the wheel just stopped altogether.

Soldner PedalSo.. I bravely took the cover off the pedal housing and looked. I had no idea what I was looking at. LOL There was only one little spot I saw on one of the connections that looked a little burnt, where arcing may have occurred, on one of the prongs off of the direction switch. So we replaced the switch, and the connecting wire, ..nothing.

I drew up this wiring diagram (schematic) before I got started then had a few friends with similar wheels from the same time period, go through it with me over the phone to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I hadn’t. Wiring diagram for Soldner wheel

Next, I tested the circuit using a voltmeter and found out the problem was the Powerstat (variable transformer), the big round thing with the copper wire wrapped on it. Looking a little closer, I did notice that some of the copper was discolored black in one section. Replacing it wasn’t any big deal, just a matter of reconnecting all the wires as per my diagram. Put everything back in place, replaced the housing cover, plugged it in, held my breath, pressed the pedal, and … it worked! I am no electrician and I felt victorious that I’d fixed it!

I had heard that if you take a Soldner pedal and put it on any wheel, that you could make it, pretty much run like a Soldner. In fact, I think Paul Soldner even told me that in our phone call. Since I was feeling pretty confident, I thought I would buy all the parts and build a pedal myself (just because I could), optimistic that I could transform the Creative Industries wheel (which died again a year after I replaced the motor). I have most of the parts, but I haven’t quite gotten there though.. heheh

In case you’re looking for parts for your ‘vintage’ Soldner wheel, I found a virtually brand new (I think it was a floor model) Powerstat on eBay at a very good price, a spare rectifier (changes AC to DC) there as well (radio shack doesn’t have the right one), and then the rest of the parts (the 7 amp breaker, the switches, etc) at a marine supply place. None of the parts were very expensive and it is really easy to put them in yourself. There are some variations between wheels made in different years (eg one friend’s of mine I think has a capacitor that mine does not). And the new Bluebird Soldner wheels, while very nice themselves, have a completely different schematic. When I did up my wiring diagram I did send them a copy for their records.. just in case someone else called looking for help.

Thanks to you Paul, wherever you are. RIP Paul Soldner 1921 – 2011


Jan 26 2011

Potter at an Art Fair

I love this video posted by icsthrower on YouTube. With show season approaching, I thought this would be quite a propos. I know, this video may seem a little over the top but if you do shows for any length of time, you’ll hear comments just like these.
Enjoy! :)
.

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(from icsthrower’s channel: “ICSTHROWER videos are supported by Clay Times Magazine and are written and produced by Ivy Creek Stoneware.”)


Jan 26 2011

Throwing and the Wheel

Most of the pots I make are done on the wheel. I remember taking my first pottery class where we wheelexplored the different ways of working with clay. First we made pinch pots, then moved on to coil and slab construction, all over a period of three or four classes. Then, it was time to put us on the potters wheel. After we had been introduced to the wheel, he let us choose what we wanted to do. Some people preferred hand building and some throwing.

I know why he left the wheel for last. He knew there were people like me who would be hooked and obsessed with getting back on the wheel. I remember 3 hr classes just whizzing by, leaving me hungry for more. It wasn’t long before I was ready for my own wheel, but, unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great as I was living in an apartment in downtown Toronto. So.. I continued to sign up for sessions, just to get on the wheel. Luckily, John gave us quite a bit of freedom with what we made and his classes, and once you reached a certain point, it was more like an open studio time with guidance along the way.

Thomas Stewart kickwheel without motorOnce we moved out of the city, we insulated the garage, and I finally got my first wheel. It was a motorized Thomas Stewart and it had a huge concrete flywheel and a fixed seat. (Here’s a picture of a current Thomas Stewart/Scutt wheel, but mine had a big metal splashpan, which I didn’t much like, instead of the rectangular table pictured here). When the motor pedal was depressed and the rubber ring came in contact with the flywheel, the whole wheel vibrated like it was going to take off, as it built up speed. At first I really liked it, but over time I found myself avoiding throwing, which was totally unlike me. I came to the realization that the problem wasn’t me, but the wheel.

Now when I first got my wheel, I thought every wheel was about the same. I didn’t realize that each type/brand/kind had its own subtleties and that one should probably try a wheel out in advance to see if its the right one for you. Its like any tool: if you’re going to use it more than just occasionally, choose one that works well and makes using it a more pleasant experience. There’s not much point in investing a fair amount of money for a tool that is irritating to use.

Shimpo M400I soon realized that what suited me better, was not a kickwheel at all. I ended up getting a Shimpo Master Series because it had lots of torque, it worked smoothly at lower speeds and with no jerky movements, it was quiet, it had a pedal i could move around and place where I wanted it, and I could move my chair to a position that was most comfortable for me to throw. I don’t think they make that particular model anymore, but it sure served me well.

Now I use primarily an old Soldner wheel, one made back in the 70s by Paul Soldner himself. It has some of the same qualities as my first Shimpo, only moreso! heheh Its really nice to use but what’s really nice about it is when its time to repair it, the parts are ones from off the shelf and it was really simply assembled. In comparison, we had a problem with an old Creative Industries wheel we had and was a pain to fix. There was only so much we could do on our own before the company requested that we send all the parts in to them so they could test them.. what a hassle. I don’t know why equipment manufacturers can’t just keep things simple. Anyone knows, making something more complicated, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work any better. Its not like we’re talking about upgrading what a potter’s wheel will do..

(I’ll post some of the info I gathered about the Soldner in one of my next posts, including the schematic I drew up. Might be useful for someone with the same wheel to have on hand, just in case.)


Jan 22 2011

Back from the great beyond

new roadHere it is, 2011.  I didn’t realize, but (egad!) its been over a year (!) since I’ve posted on my blog or done any maintenance to my web site, short of renewing my domain and making sure the site would still be hosted.  That’s not much of a way to keep a blog alive or peek interest but.. it is what it is. With a fresh year ahead, I’m hoping to make good and have more regular new entries with photos of work and life around the studio.

As I remember saying in one of my previous posts, I discovered Facebook and Twitter 2 yrs ago and, I admit, its been responsible for a good bit of my negligence here.  (For those of you who are on Facebook already, our page is http://www.facebook.com/WebbPottery.)  Let’s face it, some days its a lot easier to microblog than come up with a full post. Despite some reservations, its been a great way to network and I’ve connected and reconnected with  so many people, old and new friends alike.  It seems the world has become an increasingly small place.

So what happened last year.. well, I demonstrated at the Gulf Coast Clay Conference in Pensacola in February, I made it back to Canada this summer for a rejuvenating visit, and started giving lessons again this fall. Those are kind of the highlights of the year.

Now for the not so high points. Last year was actually a particularly rough year for us.  I don’t usually mention much about our home life here, so you are probably not aware that we have a developmentally delayed daughter.  She’s 8 years old but functions more or less on the level of a one year old.  Last year she started to have some serious behavioural and social issues which really put a strain on life at home and school (she’s been in a special ed program since the age of 3).  It was essentially a whole year of her going ballistic, hurting herself (and others, including beating up on her sister, classmates, teachers, and whoever else came in her path), and breaking and destroying things in her tirades.  She could go off in an instant for no apparent reason and needed constant care for her own safety.. exponentially moreso than usual.  It was impossible to find a babysitter or caregiver who felt up to the challenge of dealing with her, and with no family support, the tension was constant and overwhelming. …sigh.. Let me just say, it was pretty rough time on all of us and it really took a tole. Many things were neglected and suffered as a result. Anyways last August there was finally a breakthrough and, with help of her wonderful teachers, doctor, and a consult to a neurologist, she is back on a more even keel again, restoring at least some quality of life for all of us, including her. ..phew! Its not “normal”, but its definitely better. Recently, she has been moved to a smaller class which seems to have helped enormously, as well.

Oily tidal pool at Orange Beach July 4th weekendSo on top of that, then came the BP oil spill last April, taking a further toll on an already waning Gulf Coast economy thanks to the recession.  (Here is a picture I took from the pier in Orange Beach AL on July 4th. As you can see the normally snow white sand is covered with tar balls and disgusting brown sea foam. While you can’t see in this shot, some of the tar still on the beach were about 3 to 4 feet across. I haven’t been to the beach not 20 miles away since.) Key industries this area relies upon are fishing, construction, real estate, and tourism, and everything just trickles down from there.  Most realtors in Baldwin County have had to seek properties elsewhere to deal in order to survive because nothing is moving here. Building had come to a standstill for months.  One land surveying company rep told me that things better turn around by spring, or there will be no surveying companies left in this county.   So here we are left in the aftermath, trying to regroup and figure out how to deal with the mess we’ve been left with… ecologically and economically. ..regardless..

It will be interesting to see how the year unfolds for those working in the arts down here as well..


Oct 16 2009

Blog, Facebook, and the Grand Festival

I have a confession to make. I think I was being fairly conscientious about keeping up with my blog up until the past few months, when I got sucked into  Twitter and Facebook.   Its all good though.  We have a new Webb Pottery Facebook Page there at http://www.facebook.com/WebbPottery/ . If you’re on Facebook, check it out. 

28th Grand Festival of Art, Fairhope ALThis weekend we’ll be at the 28th Annual Grand Festival of Art in Fairhope AL, from 10 am – 5pm both days. 

 The Eastern Shore Arts Center hosts 2 shows a year, one in the Spring, and this one, in the fall.  A few years ago the fall festival was moved from The Grand Hotel grounds in Point Clear, to the park by the Fairhope Pier. 

This year, however,  it will take place right in downtown Fairhope which will be a lot more convenient for both exhibitors and patrons.  For more info regarding the show, please contact the Eastern Shore Art Center at (251) 928-2228 or by email at esac@esartcenter.com.

Please look for us.  You can find us in Booth #50 located on Fairhope Ave., toward Church St. . 

The weather should be great (sunny both days with temps in the mid 60s), so be sure to drop by our booth and check out some of our pottery.   Look forward to seeing you there!

 

(Also while you’re in Fairhope, be sure to check out  the Alabama Coastal Birdfest  at Faulkner College across from the Fairhope Library)