big sale is finally happening. Tonight was the Gala opening,
a fair number of well dressed people, including fur coats. I
probably reacted against that by playing more folksy styled music and
more banjo. But with the wine and all, it was so social that
mostly my playing couldn't be heard. One of my musician
who's coming tomorrow called me on the cell phone while I was
performing and no one noticed... But I enjoyed playing
and one half hours total. I switched off between instruments
keep my fingers from getting too sore. The tin whistle was
probably the best at being heard in the crowd, as it was an octave
above most of the voices. I know I also saw a number of my
headed for the checkout, but the nice thing about this sale is I don't
have to make the sales, just the music...
Dec. 2 The
big sale is over. Instead of selling pots, I mostly did
hours of performance over the two days total for me.
to my notes from the blog last December, I took about twice as much
pottery, and returned with half as much, so I'm guessing that sales
were better than last year. I'll try to forget the hours I
putting special price stickers on all the pots... In my
blog, I've been spinning a yarn about attending a folk festival, and
today I added a link to a video which I created as part of the story.
The story starts at this
Dec. 3 I've
always thought that realty developers should be forced to use truthful
descriptive names for their developments, such as "Stinking Flat Desert
Condos" or "Formerly Prime Agricultural Area Subdivision" or
Olde Landfille and Soon to be Swampe Mobile Home Parke." Some
them have done so, of course. There's one in Spokane called
Run, which is probably the advice the developers were giving the quail
for when the bulldozers arrived. I thought of this
walked down to the lake for the first time in a week or so.
nearly all frozen up now, and the ducks and geese have moved on. On the
way down you can nearly always encounter a large bevy of quail.
And they, upon realizing you're near, run or fly away.
spite of this I usually take a few photos of them, and they're
generally bad, due to lighting, movement etc. That's okay,
are entitled to their privacy... Until that land gets
developed... I added some pages of pictures from the big sale
when it comes down to it, skiing is a waste of time, when you don't get
injured or frozen it's a fun way to waste time. So I skied half the
day, then alternated reading, eating, and snoozing in the car waiting
for my son to come back to the car. He hiked up and down the
all day, working on the one jump that's been built in the terrain park.
Although hiking is tiring, it keeps you warmer than just
the lift and skiing groomed runs. And, of course, he gets
jumps in that way.
Dec. 7 Work
continued on the great potsicle display today. I used a shower
curtain to redirect the drips behind the display. I also shopped
for heat tape, but the local hardware was out. The postmaster was
complaining of ice dam troubles also today. A few days ago I got an
old time banjo CD in the mail. This wouldn't be too interesting,
except that I hadn't ordered it. So I listened to it a couple
times, and decided to write a review of it for an old-time music group
I belong to. One of the people there wrote back how Curt Bouterse
had done some of the music for a movie on the James gang. It took
me a while, but finally I made the connection--Northfield, Minnesota.
This was where the James Boys had their last bank hold up, and where my
sister and mother are active in the Historical Society, which runs a
shrine to the Defeat of Jesse James. So what I think is one of
them (my relatives, not the James Gang) sent me the CD for Christmas.
Since they are regular readers of the blog, I expect to hear back
from them sometime on this subject. The unidentified nature of
the gift made it more fun than just opening it with all the other
presents on Christmas (what other presents?--my pessimistic family
replied when I said this...)
Dec. 8 I've
worked hard to not make this a political blog, but a personal one, but
today I've read some news that's pushed me over the edge. It seems
Chelsea Clinton is engaged to the son of an Iowa former representative,
which in itself isn't newsworthy, but the father disgraced himself by
suckering head over heals for Nigerian Email scams. This still
wouldn't be blogworthy, except for the personal connection. I
don't know Ed Mezvinsky, but the last name caught my attention, so I
googled Ames and Mezvinsky, and indeed found he was born in Ames, Iowa,
where I graduated from high school. Mezvinsky
was a name my mother occasionally mentioned to me, in the guise of Abe
Mezvinsky, who ran the Fruit and Vegetable section of Ames Fruit and
Grocery, a grocery store of the old style. My mother would tell
how when she got fruit there, Abe would be on hand to put it in a bag
and weigh it. This, again, isn't blog worthy, except that he
would say, in a Russian accent, "You nice lady, I make these bananas 10
cents cheaper." He may well have done that for all the ladies,
but it worked well enough that my mother shopped there for years,
choosing it over the new Safeway store. I
couldn't find out if Ed was in the grocery business, but if he was from
that family, I sympathize with his credulous nature. The fact is
that I've been emulating Abe Mezvinsky for years, when I sell pottery.
I don't like it when people try to haggle me down on prices
(since my prices are already so low, although I usually give in
anyway), but I can't resist giving my own reductions, when people buy a
fair quantity, or I enjoy giving a minipot to their child, even though
I keep telling myself the prices are low enough already. This
attitude came about because I heard about Abe Mezvinsky when I grew up,
and it sounded like a better world to live in than Safeway's Shopper's
Club... I think it may explain why Ed Mezvinsky
suckered for someone offering to send him a lot of money from Nigeria.
Though I'm not sure exactly how...
Meanwhile, I got the new van today, and it's as clean as it ever will
be again. We may just park it in front for a while with a sign that
says, "See, all our cars aren't trashed out junkers..." I'd take
a picture, but I took my camera in for an estimate for cleaning.
$160 was the estimate. I'll continue with it dirty, and
then buy the new model that's cheaper and twice as good as my current
one for less money when things get bad. It must be hard on those
repair people, but I'm not currently in sympathy with them...
Dec. 9 So
my sister did some more digging, and Ed Mezvinsky is Abe's son.
He wasn't happy in the grocery business, so he went into
politics. I'm sure Abe had his doubts... Anyway, Abe wasn't
just the guy weighing the cabbage, he was the store owner, and went
from being a poor immigrant to owning several grocery stores. The
article in the Des Moines Register said that, although Jewish, he was
held up as a Christian role model by the local Catholic priest, for his
taking in hobos. In other national news,
with New York City banning transfats, I've been taking more of a look
at my own use of them. Well, I had, for a year or so anyway, been
feeling that "live by hydrogenated oils, die by hydrogenated oils" is
not a fitting epitaph. So if you don't use Crisco to fry (I use
Canola oil), and don't buy a lot of manufactured cookies, etc, I think
it boils down to margarine as a major source of them in one's diet.
So I've gone to soft tub "spread" and the only drawback with it,
besides the plastic tubs, is that it's easy to apply more since it's so
easy to dig it out of the tub. As a potter, I
have 3 butter dish designs, none of which is particularly good for soft
margarine. I once had a customer ask to make a bowl the right
shape for a tub of margarine, but I had to point out to her that
manufacturers make many shapes of tubs, to differentiate their product,
so a pottery tub holder is not on the "wedging board..."
Meanwhile I got an order today from a guy that wanted a canister that
would hold 10 lbs. of flour. Although making it will be a pain,
it hearkens back to the day when potters just wrote numbers on their
crocks for the number of gallons they would hold. And they got
filled with pickles to sell at Abe Mezvinsky styled stores...
I performed a banjo song for a local community Christmas concert
tonight. The only comment about the concert I'll make is I think
Karaoke should stay in bars--there's too much schmaltzy CD backup for
these things nowadays. Speaking of Karaoke, I'm surprised there
isn't a second screen facing the crowd to make singalongs easier.
Mitch Miller for bar crowds... Everything
is slushy here, with snow predicted again on and off through this week.
I walked to the lake--where there are tunnels or bridges through
the road which divides the lake from the mill pond, there are unmelted
patches in both directions, which is a bit puzzling. There have been
days where I've seen the water flowing towards the lake from the mill
pond, but most of the time water flows out of the lake into the pond.
When it comes out, it has enough current to keep ice at bay a
little longer, but that doesn't usually apply much on the uplake
side, where the water source is more diffuse. This is a fine
point of lake watching, only of interest to those of us who know Spirit
It was a ski day again today. The thing about down hill skiing is that
it's as close to flying as one can get without leaving the ground.
While zipping downhill, you're lighter, and it's like you have a couple
of rockets powering your feet... Add to that the great views, and
it's all a fun experience (assuming you don't fall down, which I didn't
today). On the other hand, in order for ski areas to be any good,
they have to get lots of snow, and be up where the clouds scrape.
So, about half of the hill was shrouded in fog. I took
several runs on foggy smooth familiar terrain, but the skiing fog is
like driving in fog--it's never really safe, and you have to go slow.
So I went to a lower elevation backside of the resort and whizzed
all morning, stopping as the snow started...
Then, having to wait 4 hours for my son to finish, I read a
unique German fantasy author named Walter Moers, who churns out
creativity at an astonishing pace, in his two books, The 13 and 1/2
lives of Captain Blue Bear, and Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures.
It's Rumo I'm reading currently, which could probably be rendered
into clever children's entertainment with editing, but reads like the
original Brothers Grimm without it...
Ends. Last night the fiddler that started associating with
Sondahl and Hawkins a couple months ago withdrew, saying he wanted to
focus on playing Celtic flute. So that was a brief collaboration.
I remain optimistic that another good musician or two may join
us, although we have fun as a duo.
Dec. 13 I
deleted a bunch of yesterday's post, since the Big Fish still seems to
be open. Never trust a hairdresser as a source of gossip.
However it's quite likely, if the restaurant were to close, it
would wait till the end of December, being a profitable month...
I'm still working on last orders to make before Christmas, Christmas
shopping, and stuff like that. Plus tonight my oldest son arrives
home for the holidays from Chicago. Some of us are
cleaning and moving around old computers, which my other son saves for
parts, to make room for number 1 son... The
weather is coming in wild and woolly from the coast--30-50 mph winds,
after rain and snow. They closed the ski mountain due to the
winds, so my son hiked it instead. Have I mentioned he skis
I'm not a good conversationalist. I usually think of witty
rejoinders a couple weeks late. So at the big show a couple weeks
ago, this relatively new potter comes up to me to discuss clay
suppliers. She'd had some trouble with the one I've used for 20
years, and wanted to discuss it with me. One batch of clay had
large particles (rocks) in it. Another one had white splotches that
looked like fine material that hadn't gotten mixed thoroughly.
They both caused trouble for her in the firing. So she switched
to another supplier. I'm not sure my response to her made sense,
but after a while we were interrupted and the conversation never really
concluded. My first response was that clay suppliers have
limited control over the raw materials, since they're dug out of the
ground mostly for uses other than pottery clay and so it's hard to
blame the clay supplier for those things, although how they respond
(replacement of bad clay) may decide whether you'll stick with
them. Then I went on to explain that the hardest thing in pottery
is to control the variables (yes, I think I've pontificated on this
before). If you switch clay suppliers, the clay you use will have
different properties, the glaze materials from there may have a
different source, so it may be more trouble than it's worth. (I
still get several glaze materials from Minnesota, since I had bad luck
with a more local source of the same material once...) Anyway I still don't have any witty rejoinders...
We had 18 hours without electricity, starting last night as a result of
the biggest windstorm since 1993. Fortunately that just meant
going without lights and a few other amenities, since we have wood
heat. The garden shed I built last summer was shifted off its
foundation. Across the street a neighbor's fence was blown down,
and a tree crunched a probably derelict van. We started moving
our refrigerator goods outside this morning, and our freezer items this
evening, but fortunately the main transmission line that had broken was
repaired. Then my skier son returned from being
the only one on the ski slopes, with reports that 5 of their
undetachable chairs had detached from one of their lifts, and other
cables had been pulled out of their pulleys. He hiked all day
with continuing 25-35 mph winds. The highest sustained winds
observed in the area were about 50 mph. The other
effect of the storm for me was to throw off my work schedule by a day,
which mostly affects a few pottery orders. The winds were also
high enough to knock off about $50 worth of pots from the outside
display--if I'd known which ones they'd be, I'd have moved them.
Most of them were actually damaged by the sheet of plastic I
added to deflect water dripping off the roof, as it flapped in the gale.
I guess I won't make it as a news photographer, as it only occurred to
me this evening I should have taken some photos of the wind storm, or
at least the fallen trees, etc. On the other hand, I looked at
some of the photos shown on the internet, and if you've seen one fallen
tree, you've seen most of them, except for the things they fall on
vary... Back growing up in Iowa there was at
least one morning I woke up and wandered around the nearby park to see
all the trees blown down, and the river overflowing the banks with
floodwaters. Then there was the time later when we were walking
with our kids and some nieces and nephews in the same park, and a large
wind came up and one of the old dead trees started to tip over, and
took out two more in a domino effect. That was special in that
how often does a tree fall in the woods with someone there to watch it
(a zen koan, no doubt). I didn't feel we were in imminent danger,
but our nephew (about 10 years old then) took off running back to the
grandparents in a bee line...
On the way to church today I noticed a tree down in the park. I'd
heard of this tree--it took out a late model SUV across the street from
where its top lay. Then at church they mentioned a tree fell down
between the church and the church house next door. I got
interested, since we don't have a Christmas tree yet this year.
The church tree wasn't too interesting, but I later went and got the
top off the car killer tree. We don't usually name our trees, but
this one would be called Car Killer, or Car Kong, or Carzilla.
It's a sort of poky blue spruce. The radio says the spruces
tended to be the trees to blow down, as they don't have deep root
systems. Its worth it for the "bragging rights." It needs
a bumper sticker--our Christmas tree can beat your SUV.
That tree is too tough for me. You can't touch it without getting
poked. So it's lurking out the back door and we're back in the
market for windfall trees. Meanwhile the shipping crunch hit
today--packing pots and presents to send off everywhere. It was
very stressful, but we made it with minutes to spare at the post
office. For the last kiln firing before
Christmas I put in a cone 10 minibar instead of a minicone. The
difference in shape means about a half a cone in temperature for the
kiln--in this case, just a bit too much for the best crystalline
glazes. One of my kilns prefers the minibar to fire correctly,
and the other one the minicones, so it was easy to make the mistake.
Nothing was totally wrecked by it--just less than optimal.
I did have some space in the day this morning to add 4 videos,
available by pushing on the video button at the top or bottom of this
page... 3 are seasonal...
As I write this the last batch of the 500 pffefferneusse is in the
oven. This is our only Christmas cookie (the recipe is on the cooking page)
My older son brought a mostly empty suitcase along when coming
home for the holidays, claiming he hoped I'd make another batch before
he leaves and give him a bunch... He and the
skier son and I all went skiing today. The runs are very
hardpacked, as there's been no new snow for over a week. There
were lots of trees down in the woods there from the windstorm, which
made me reflect on the hidden costs of the storm in lost and
wind-shattered trees for lumber. I suppose the upside is there
will be a short glut of firewood on the market...
had some fun today. I'd decided to try to see the eagles on Lake
Coeur D'Alene today, before clouds were predicted to enter the area
again. The area where they roost was mostly in shade from the
approaching solstice (even at noon), so I parked at Beauty Bay and
walked back that way, keeping the sun on my back. The eagles
weren't hunting, but I got a few pictures of them perching.
When I arrived there, I also got to see a kingfisher and a dipper on a
dock. Kingfishers are common, if shy, across the U.S. The
Dipper is more western, and known for plunging into mountain streams
after prey. So it surprised me to see it fishing in the calm
They are smaller than robins... After
the eagle stop, I went into Spokane. One of the stops there was
to get honey. The honey people weren't home, but the neighbor's house,
south of Valley Hospital on Vecler
the metal and brick facade is a modest, albeit covered with aluminum,
house. This place hasn't the height of Watts Towers, but it's
getting there on vision. For some reason my wife thought I'd like
it a lot (our own shop has its manic side when it comes to design).
She was right...
Then on the way home I saw a brightly lit patch of cloud in the sky
away from the sun, which I otherwise would have mistaken for a sun dog.
It turns out it was a shaft of light, caused by ice crystals
aligning as they fall in the high atmosphere, and reflecting light
brightly. I'd never seen that before... It may have been
caused by a jet contrail, which are often brighter than the lower
clouds, but nothing like this. I also stopped
along the highway and got a very nice windblown fir tree top for our
Christmas tree, which we'll put up on Friday.
It was a pretty boring day until Althea came home with two Christmas
kittens. Our old cat is meeting them in this picture.
One is for Birrion, and one for me.. They're part Siamese, and
so far have eaten their fill and waddled around and gone to sleep.
Sounds like some of the rest of us... We did get a couple
inches of snow this morning.
We have this tradition of not putting the Christmas tree up until
around Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, the commercial Christmas is
winding down, and will disappear totally on Dec. 26. I've even
heard several references on the radio to the 12 days of Christmas like
they're already happening. A few years ago we started tweaking
our tradition, which was always a bit much for a pastor's family
anyway, so today might have been the day we decorated our tree, a day
called little little Christmas Eve. Running against this
tradition today was a thing called a "rail jam" at the local ski
mountain, which drew our sons to watch a "grinch winch" pull
snowboarders and skiers onto a metal rail which they'd try to stay on
and do tricks exiting. The tree's still waiting in the porch.
I think the kittens are about 20% bigger today, although that's
impossible since they haven't eaten all that much. They're already
climbing up onto chairs that I thought would take them weeks to master.
Our old cat was the focus of attention today, as it began meowing
loudly and finally going into convulsions. A trip to the vet made
it clear she had gone into insulin shock, since for some reason she
quit eating yesterday, but I still kept giving her the shots. But
she's back home and doing well. Mostly she hasn't been much
trouble with her diabetes, but the routine must be tempered with
"reading the patient," as we used to say about EMT work.
We also got about 3 inches of snow today, making a white Christmas
quite likely. The tree is up, we're mostly ready for the
Christmas season to begin...
got a couple more inches of snow, turned to slush... Here's the
best new kitten picture yet... Merry Christmas to you!
Just before Christmas I got an inquiry to make 1000 small tumblers with
a stamped logo for a camp. I had made these for 4-5 years until
last year, when a potter on their staff decided to produce them.
When they told me they were going to do it, I was delighted--they
are a huge clump of boring repetitiveness. They originally wanted
them for less than a dollar, so I priced them at 90 cents each.
Of that, about 20 cents is material/firing costs. So if I were to
make them for the same price, I would be working at it full time for
over a month, and clear $700 or less. Actually the most tumblers
I've made for them was 800, and it took days just wrapping them to ship.
What I'm leading up to, is I'm thinking of saying no. I could
just charge them 4 times as much, which is what a tumbler like that
retails for here. But even at 4 times the price, making a 1000 of
anything is too tedious for me at this stage of life. If I wanted
to learn to make tumblers, it would be an excellent way to do it.
But I already know how to make them as well as I ever will.
This is part of the ongoing realization that a craft potter isn't
a machine, and can't compete with machines producing large orders. (I'd
prefer not to die with a hammer in my hand, John Henry style). It
also coincides with being able to sell most of what I produce without
wholesaling, which reduces any financial incentive. But I haven't made a final decision yet...
The white kitten got a sore eye last night, so we took it to the vet.
It got scratched on its lower eyelid from play fighting with his
brother. At least the trip was worth it--they got started with
their shots. Christmas eating continues.
Homemade turkey noodle soup and lefse for lunch, a gift ham with
fresh banana bread for supper. We've been getting a lot of snow lately but it all becomes slush.
Meanwhile in Spirit Lake news, I read in the local paper that the
Big Fish restaurant is indeed gone, but there's a chance another
restaurant will move in... Meanwhile, the new deli that opened up
this fall has been closed for several weeks. And two realty
offices are opening on Maine St. And the local leather and biker
store are extending into body piercing and tattoos. It kind of
goes with the bar motif...
I decided, as previously discussed, not to make the 1000 tumblers.
It was partly sane business sense, and partly because my
relationship with the camp is waning... One might give anything
"the old college try," assuming you like the "old college..."
Meanwhile it was another day of holiday baking-- pecan rolls and bread,
granola, and pffefferneusse (to send back with my son, who may or may
not leave tomorrow, as his flight is scheduled through blizzardy
Denver). It's leftovers from here on out...
I treated myself to getting the DVD of the 1st season of Rocky and
Bullwinkle for Christmas (I put it in my stocking). It was my
favorite show when I was 6, and clearly had a role in my life.
I'd even venture to say that the current episodic nature of my
fiction blog is based on them (as well as some of the humor).
Unfortunately the DVD doesn't make it easy to skip the repetitive
intros for the show segments, so the DVD has its weak points. A
lot of the humor went over my head at the time, and was rather wild,
such as the leader of the moon men having a sign saying Moon uber
alles, while the leader smoked a cigar and resembled Winston Churchill.
Since it was being done in the heart of the cold war, I'm sure
adding in moon men to the mix of east and west was a good defuser for
the US collective unconscious.
customer wanted to see the kittens, and seeing the white one, enquired
if it were deaf. It turns out (after some web research), that
white cats with blue eyes have a fair chance of being deaf. I
don't think ours is--it wakes up when I hiss at it... Still it's
a curious quirk of nature. The white one purrs readily--the
Siamese marked one only purrs when the white one is around. (They
still don't have names). They managed to disarm one strand of the
Christmas tree lights today by pulling a bulb...
I use some computer made graph paper to keep track of my firings for
the year. For the first time, I ran out of space at the end of the
page, meaning more firings than ever before. I think the main
cause of that was expanding the outside show area, so I now have to
keep more pots on hand than ever before, so that the shelves don't look
empty. The result was 237 total firings, or about 2 days
out of 3 on average. The final firing is going as I write.
Electric kilns are a great convenience, when they shut themselves