A young wannabe potter in his last year of college just
"friended" me on Facebook and started asking me how it hard it
was to be a professional potter. I told him essentially there are
two hard parts--making thousands of pots every year, and then selling
thousands of pots every year. I know when I was in college, I
probably made less than two hundred pots in the four years, and only
tried selling them a couple times. I'm not sure what convinced me
I could be a professional potter. I guess it helped that I was
content to live on $5000 per year or less for quite a long time...
Through staying in the same sales location for 30 years, our sales have
gone well beyond the $5000 mark... Right now I'm still gearing up
for the art fair at the end of the week--firing two kilns per day and
throwing pots which will hopefully replace those sold at the fair...
Currently, with balmy days and nights and shelves getting emptied
regularly, it's easy to feel good about being a potter. When the
same pots are frozen to the shelves in the winter wonderland, it's
harder to be motivated...
August 3 Along
with the stress of getting ready for the big fair this weekend, the
garden is yielding serious amounts of raspberries, peas, green beans,
and broccoli. Today I froze 11 sandwich bags worth of broccoli
from some heads that were almost as big as my head. And we're
selling more raspberries than we've ever had before, as well as
freezing and giving some away. In the pottery, I
thought I was going to slow down production since I have to pack pots
tomorrow for the fair, but I ended up making around 70 mugs and
August 4 I
spent nearly all day getting ready for the art fair this weekend.
Beforehand I doubt if the stress and trouble are worth it...
We have to have the booth ready to go by noon tomorrow, starting
around 8 a.m. At least this year the weather is hot but not
stifling, and no change in the forecast for the next week, which is
good because rain/windstorms can be bad for displays as well as
August 5 It's
been 3 years since I last did Art on the Green, and it doesn't get any
easier with age. We spent all morning unpacking and setting up,
and were still getting the prices up when the noon startup arrived.
The first day's sales only covered the fees up front we payed to
be in the fair--the other two days are profit (minus the cost of
the pottery, of course)... Also this time I changed the prices on
the pottery upward to help cover the cost of the fair. Our prices
are still very competitive even when raised 25%. When we got home
it turned out my son had sold more from our Spirit Lake shop--which I
partly attribute to Art on the Green, since a lot of people come in the
area for this biggest festival of summer.
I've been waking up early, so I'm also doing gardening before the
fair... The last two days are a lot easier, since the booth is
already set up--I plan to bring my banjo today to help while away the
The fair went very well over all. The weather was such that I
could be comfortable in shorts and short sleeve shirt from 9 to 7, with
a pleasant breeze mostly. On Sunday our shop once again beat the
Art on the Green sales, but it's still nice to be able to add the
two together... I did think if I spent the $400 entry fee
on local advertising, such as the sign we've been renting at the corner
of the highway and Maine St., we might be well able to do without this
rather exhausting fair. But we'll see, down the road. Next
week I'm doing a similar 3 day event at the Bluewaters Bluegrass
Festival. At least there I'll be able to hear the music, whereas
here it was mostly the bass notes... That did allow me to play
banjo for several hours a day, very good practice for
jamming next weekend.
After a day to recover from the fair, mostly spent putting the pots
back out and repricing them, today it was back to unloading two kilns
and firing two kilns, and throwing pots all afternoon. When I
just finished, I counted, and made exactly 100 today. The way
pots are selling currently (apparently obliviously of the current
roller coaster economy) I feel like I can spin straw into gold,
so I'm working as hard as I ever do... I do take a few
moments to take my new camera out around the garden or go for a swim in
the evening, but otherwise I feel like the farmers trying to get the
In spite of the roller coaster stock market, customers here seem
oblivious, which (in my case) is all good... I have noticed a lot
more Canadian customers recently, enjoying that their dollar is worth
considerably more than it used to be against the US Dollar. It's
a weird world. The tsunami in Japan helped restart the timber
industry here in the West, from all the lumber they need for
rebuilding... Some American companies are investing in robot
manufacturing, figuring our robots can compete with Chinese robots...
And a John Henry potter thinks he can compete with Big Ceramic
It wasn't a brilliant career move, selling pottery at a bluegrass
festival, but the music was good. Most of the other vendors had
small cheap items and festival type foods... Still I did clear a
couple hundred dollars, so it wasn't a total loss... I enjoyed
bicycling around in the mornings (twice around the lake daily , then
later this morning visiting and walking along West Medical Lake which
is much less developed. I plan to post some photos later...
On the way home I did see a hawk fly over in front of me with a
squirming snake in its clutches--very cool...
got asked to fill an empty slot for our local blues festival Friday at
1, which is nice because blues was my first real musical interest, and
I do play a lot of them, mixed in with the folk and old time, so
hopefully there will be a few people in the hot afternoon sun to enjoy
them. Bassist Jonathan signed on for the project as well.
Maria Muldaur is the Saturday headliner, who originally sang with
Jim Kweskin's Jug Band and had one hit on her own, Midnight on the
Oasis. Our pay for playing is 2 free tickets to the rest of the
festival... I finished editing the photos from Bluewaters, available at this link: http://www.sondahl.com/BW2011/bw.html It's
all band photos except at the beginning and end, so I've brought those
photos into the blog for non musicians to enthuse over:
August 18 This
is probably the nicest August on record here--not too hot or cold, low
fire danger, and the burning of bluegrass that usually casts a pall
over our area for weeks was limited to one day this year.
Our orchard is packed with apples, just needing a couple months to size
up and ripen. Pottery sales seem better than the general economy
would suggest... Unfortunately this means I'm still working hard
on orders and refilling the shelves, making hay while the sun shines.
But it's pleasant while I'm doing it... It
will be a busy weekend musically--besides the blues concert on Friday,
I agreed to play for a pig roast on Saturday, provide kids music for a
day care associated with the blues festival, and I'm playing for church
on Sunday. I still have to pick the hymns...
August 20 The
last two days were packed with music. The kickoff for the
Bluzfest was a fizzle, as was the entire first day. We had about
4 people sitting in the shade off to the side listening, not counting
the 4 bar maids standing around await the masses that never
proliferated. I went back to the concert last evening and the
music was very good, but the crowd wasn't more than 50. Some
local promoter is missing a shirt... We had a fine professional
stage to play on, and a later group quoted the famous line, "Build it
and they will come," but I'm afraid that's only true in the movies...
Every spare lot in the town had been roped off to charge $5 for
parking, and I don't think any of them had any cars in it. This
was an attempt to turn a 3 bar blues festival into a larger park
based venue, and sadly the time was wrong...
However, getting back on topic, we enjoyed playing on the big stage for
the 4 people... Later I played an hour in the little park for a
related kids carnival, and invited some of our neighbor kids up to sing
into the mic, songs like Erie Canal, and Jesus Loves Me, and It's a
Grand Old Flag. That was more fun than entertaining 4 people in
the big park... Today I did another hour at the
carnival, teaming up with local yodeler and musician Rod Erickson (I
can never think of yodeling without fondly remembering the movie "Mars
Attacks," but I digress) Then Jonathan and I played two sets at a
local pig roast, and I'll soon be off to hear Maria Muldaur... As
comic hero Calvin says, the days are just packed.
August 22 The
steady heat in the 80's is drying everything up that's not watered.
Today, after glazing two bisque loads of pottery, I threw some
large bowls and platters, and they were ready to foot 4 hours later
from the dryness. I'll have to cover them tonight to keep the
foot ring from cracking... Still, this weather is the kind that
one keeps fantasizing about in February... Unless you are my skier son...
A faint low pressure cell came through, lowering temperatures by 5
degrees, but the cloudy night made the night warmer, so it still felt
hot at 83 degrees today. We had an old college friend over for
supper, with his ex mother in law, who's two years older than my own
mother. It would take too long to explain the connections, but it
was a nice time reconnecting, which only happens now with us every
couple years, even though we only live 30 miles from each other.
Even though I'm getting tired of making lots of pots, it's nice that
demand is staying ahead of supply, so I don't have to wonder too much
about what to make... With the stock market dancing the watusi
last week, one might expect sales to go down, but I think
the public is becoming a little jaded to alarmist economic news...
Another theory I came up with about the stock market stumble is
that the rich elite who run the economy went on vacation, and instead
of putting their usual minions in control, they put their evil henchmen
in by mistake, and the evil henchmen just did what they do best...
I was at the store yesterday when I saw a praying mantis perched on the
newspaper rack. I popped it in the front part of my pack and
zipped it up, intending to show it to my family. Then I forgot
about it until bedtime, so I called my son and asked him to release it.
At lunch today one of us was startled when the 3 inch long bug
crawled up her chair... (it turned out he couldn't get it to come out
of the pack, so he left the pack open in the porch... I carried
it out to the garden, where we saw it fly off a few minutes later.
I did regret getting some new pictures of it... But I found an
old one, now posted above, and it would have been hard to beat...
On a whim, in a 90 degree afternoon, I've added my long languishing
juvenile novel, Dorkelsons Tabloid Vacation, to Amazon Kindle.
There's still an excerpt on my website, here.
It will apparently take a couple days to get listed at Amazon. I
may also distribute my pottery instruction videos similarly.. We're making a blog for our little Lutheran church: http://lambofgodlutheran.blogspot.com/ So far it doesn't show up when Googling, but I'm hoping if I add a link here and there it will...
August 29 The sweet corn is finally getting ready in our garden. It
was over 90 degrees yesterday, so we swam in both Priest and Spirit
Lakes... It looks like summer is ending this week, so I guess we
have to enjoy the heat while it lasts... Here's the link to the Kindle version of my kids book. Not that I have a Kindle... And here's a link to an old time song from the recent bluzfest.
I set my new camera to record, and after about 7 minutes it shut
down for unknown reasons (perhaps the ghost of Rosemary Woods).
And it is the first HD Youtube video I made, but the blue sky
behind us, and the music stand in front of us, made the video a less
than perfect experience. Another month or two and I'll have some
of that copious free time I keep hearing tell of...
It was still shorts weather today, and even swimming weather. The
older kiln acted up again today--I'll have to tear it apart tomorrow
and see how much it's suffering this time. If I need parts, the
timing is good, since one of us will be going to Seattle to get clay
within a week. I'm hearing coyotes as I write
this, and it seems like we've been hearing them very frequently this
summer, sometimes pretty close. Our old hen roosts about 2 feet
off the ground, so if coyotes ever come through our yard, she'll be
right at mouth level. One of the six chicks we
got this spring has turned out to be a rooster. He's first in
the food bowl, and we aren't looking forward to crowing from 4 in the
We still went for a swim today, even when the high was around 60,
relying on the residual lake in the warmth to make it enjoyable.
There were several sprinkles that mostly evaporated on hitting
the dust. I worked on the kiln, but one part was
too damaged to rehabilitate, so I've ordered a replacement, hoping it
will come sooner than the date next week I can go there... I've
been firing one or two kilns per day, so it definitely crimps my style
to only have one in service... I saw in one of
the local papers that Canadians have been big in the local economy this
year. I've noticed quite a few shopping for pottery here as well,
and I got a wholesale inquiry from a nearby Canadian company the other
day also. For many years the Canadian dollar was only worth
around 95 cents, but currently it's valued slightly higher than our
dollar, and their oil exports are apparently bolstering their economy.
Good for them... Also, I'm feeling bad for
the people who suffered losses from Hurricane Irene, but I do think it
will be helpful to the local economies as people rebuild, replace,
Books read and other media of note
Agent of Vega by James Schmitz I
love classic SF (from in this case 1949-51) that doesn't feel dated.
It anticipated the James Bond era using galactic secret agents,
and had fun plots in a series of related short stories. MidFlinx by Alan Dean Foster
There are more human/dragon stories than you can shake a stick
at, but amongst them I do like this series of Pip and Flinx...