Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Going Wholesale and Learning to Cook

Once again, I have some catching up to do. Shortly after my last post, I started tattooing at a shop in Meriden, Connecticut, so that kept me a little busier than usual. Then, a friend introduced me to two sisters opening a store in downtown Torrington, Connecticut, called The Art's Desire. They now carry my pottery, earrings, hair sticks, and leather cord necklaces!

As tattooing slowed down, typical of September, my pottery production has picked up. But now my focus has turned to finally stepping into the wholesale market. It's a goal I've been working toward for a while now. Last year, I began standardizing my beads and zeroing in on my favorite glaze sets. Now, I'm working on rounding out my line and producing a catalog. With every catalog or brochure, there must be photos, right?


This is one of my glazes on a pie plate. For the catalog, I'd like to show it with a fresh baked pie. Which has raised another project for me...cooking. I have always cheekily admitted, I don't cook, I heat. Sure, I did some baking when I was a kid, but not much since. I have never made a pie from scratch. My mother and grandmother were not much into cooking and I was raised mostly on manufactured, often frozen food, like cheese ravioli and fish sticks. The seasonings currently in my mother's cabinet expired in 1967. And I am not exaggerating. For me, cooking was just a big fat time suck resulting in a pile of stuff I had to wash afterwards. Ech. No thank you. And generally, my lack of experience and knowledge was obvious in the results, so I didn't see the point. If I wanted an excellent meal, I'd go buy one. Leave it to the professionals! At home, it was mostly still frozen and boxed.  Until recently.

My stoneware pottery line is completely functional and now includes tagines, inspired by a fellow potter, Christopher Scherer. A tagine is a covered dish for slow cooking. My research brought me to middle eastern cooking, and I've started to experiment with all sorts of cuisines, using spices I've never even heard of before. Fenugreek? Garam Masala? I thought cardamom was only for tea. Even better, I have not one, but two stores in town that sell open stock exotic spices. Who knew? The other night I made Cardamon Butter Chicken and I bought all of the seasonings for less than two dollars - score! Of course, it's got me thinking of adding spice jars to my line now. I know I'm making myself a mortar and pestle today.

Soon, my line will be in more stores locally. Maybe not in time for this holiday season, but hopefully for Mother's Day, if not Valentine's Day. Here's another photo of my crocks that would be perfect for a sexy little chocolate souffle, don't you think?

In the meantime, everything will be available in my Etsy store, of course. And if you live in the area and would like to stop by to see my pottery in person, let me know and we can set something up. Just shoot me an email. michellelydon@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching up..

So, yes, I'm embarrassed that I haven't updated this blog in months. No excuses. I haven't thought of anything to say, so I've been working on other things. My priority, once spring arrives, is opening my gardens. And every year I expand them. Now that it's nearly August, I'm in cruise mode as far as that's concerned.

 And we have a new puppy! But puppies are work, especially in the first few weeks, so she's had my full attention. Her name is Ruby.

Not that I've been just sitting around..I've been hard at work in between housebreaking failure clean ups..One project was related to The Sketchbook Project. This time, I participated in The Self-Portrait Project. They mailed me a 4" x 4" canvas to handle any way I wanted. Before I started, two things happened. I discovered a tutorial about needle felting written by Sarah Trumpp on Art Trader Magazine. Then, my sister and I went to Brooklyn to see the opening of the 2012 Sketchbook Project at the Art House Co-op, and we met the founders of the Project live and in person! So I was able to ask if it mattered how far out from the canvas I worked - they said as long as I stayed within the edges so the art wouldn't interfere with the grid display, it was all good. As I like to say, Wahooooo!

I hit Etsy in search of wool roving and felting needles. Then once it arrived, I got busy. Here is the result:
I glued it to the canvas, then reinforced it with the aluminum tape and nails. Hopefully it survives, although it is pretty solid. There is even a broken needle or two stuck in there. My next needle felting project will be much larger. My sister and I will be returning to Brooklyn in a couple of weeks to see the show. I can't wait!

Another project just about completed is the first moleskine journal exchange. The last bit of work I have to do is on my own, which I received almost two weeks ago. Hopefully, once I'm done, I'll post the results. The most interesting thing was how the other artists interpreted my instructions.

One theme that passed through my studio was 'Beautiful Decay'. Here are the four pages I added to that one, an imagined representation of the current state of my former studio in Housatonic, MA.
It was a rocking studio, but heating it was killer. I moved out with the intention of moving to Virginia for a job designing stained glass windows. Plans changed, but I couldn't go back.

And the last moley, themed 'Fairy Tales', was the end of our rounds. My direction for that one was the house of candy from Hansel and Gretel. The hot pink ink I'm currently using does not scan well, for some reason. Therefore, this image isn't quite as bright as it is in actuality, but you get the idea, I hope..

Monday, April 9, 2012

Another Month, Another Moley!I

  If you read the post on the roof dragon, then you know about the Moleskine journal round robin. If you haven't read that post, well there it is, right below this one. Check it out. I'll wait. In the meantime, I'll upload the latest image...

The theme for the moley that arrived next is Around the World Under the Sea. It only just occurred to me as I'm writing this that I took the moley to the bottom of a river, not necessarily the sea. The East River in particular. When I mentioned my idea to the moley's owner, she didn't object, so I'm assuming it's okay that I deviated slightly.

Why the East River? Well, most people are familiar with the famous waterway, the divide between Brooklyn and Manhattan, as a place to make something disappear....forever. I have always wanted to take up scuba diving and go exploring this particularly dubious stretch.

But that's not only reason I went in this direction. I have my own little story of a contribution to the debris down there, somewhere slightly south of the Brooklyn Bridge, nearer to South Street Seaport than Brooklyn. While I was an art student, I worked many jobs. One of the most lucrative jobs I landed, a server for fine dining catering, was through a coworker of yet another job. He only asked me to fill in because I was the only female he knew who was available to work that weekend. Typically, they had an all male staff. That is, until the lawsuit claiming that was discriminatory. Therefore, they had to have at least one female per shift. I ran up to 37th St. and bought my first tuxedo, with both a black and a white jacket, and I was ready to go.

The company had a main function room above their restaurant, Gianni's, at the water's edge in South Street Seaport with a terrace overlooking the river. They also had two cruise ships that would swing around lower Manhattan while people had fundraisers, weddings, corporate parties, whatever. It was all quite lovely. And way out of my league. The guys I worked with knew that, but it was me or not working, so they didn't push me overboard or off the balcony first chance they had, fortunately. But I was so clueless - french service, really? For anyone who doesn't know what that is, it's a style of serving food where the food is on the server's tray and served onto the plate sitting in front of the guest. Over the shoulder and lap of their best suit. Or designer dress. So, for example, I had a heavy silver tray of 9 filet mignons, 9 salmon steaks, baby potatoes and asparagus with two sauces in silver gravy boats balanced on my left hand, while my right held a large serving spoon and fork like disconnected tongs, plus a small gravy spoon gripped with my pinky. Very tricky. Five courses this way, including SOUP! Tricky hardly covers it, now that I think about it.

One balmy summer evening, there was a wedding, white jackets required. The ceremony was taking place on the hurricane deck and we were all sent up with our silver trays of champagne flutes to standby and be ready for a toast immediately following 'you may kiss the bride'. There we were, lined up on either side, all straight-faced and formal when a speed boat passed nearby. The waves from the wake caused a stir of unsteadiness and the waiter next to me lost his genuine silver tray full of crystal flutes over the side. Just as the catering captain rounded the corner. He quickly dropped his hands while the rest of us tried not to laugh. The boss saw him, the lone server sans tray, and promptly asked why he hadn't gotten it, yet. He played dumb and promptly departed. It worked.

Overall, I think my total time spent there was all of maybe six weekends. Perhaps I was replaced by another woman taller and more experienced. It was enough to make the tuxedo pay for itself and not be bummed about having a relatively cheap tuxedo I'd probably never wear again.

But I bet that tray is still down there...

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Three-Headed Dragon Project

In a previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to build a three-headed dragon for the roof of my studio in the front of the house. Also, in a few posts, I hoped that I would have my pottery wheel out and going strong by this time - ha! Fortunately, I have a backstock of bisqueware to work with in the meantime to glaze and fire off, keeping my front display case and Etsy store stocked. Instead of making new things in clay, I have been super busy with tattoos and two brief trips out of town. Not that I'm complaining. February was a great month!

One of the projects I'm working on is my first Moleskine journal swap with fellow artists from www.IllustratedATCs.com. There are six of us in this group and we all bought the same journal, chose a theme, and were assigned a mailing partner by the host. On the February 15th, the journals were mailed. We had the option of starting our journal off with our own work, but I decided to decorate the cover and send it on its way, letting the artists interpret my theme of 'Waiting in Line' without my influence beyond my explanation. I will add my drawings to finish it up when in lands back home in July. The journals are accordian-style, and I plan on displaying it as one long panel in my studio - so exciting!

Then, I received a journal about a week later. This artist's chosen theme is the Leonardo daVinci sketchbooks. Part of her instructions were: "..how about any of his "studies" anatomy, inventions, human, animal, the whole works, but not his finished work, just the studies, I love sketches..." A few years ago, his sketchbooks were on tour and my sister and I went to see them when they were on display at the Mass MoCA in North Adams, so I had a pretty good idea what she was looking for as far as style. Subject matter was left completely open. While I am no daVinci, it presented the perfect opportunity to get the idea for my dragon down on paper for the first time, including a loose plan for the interior support structure, although not exactly as detailed as the armature. I will have to work that part out in the scale model.

Typically in the journal swaps, there are eight artists who create for four pages in the journal. In this case, we're short two artists. It was discussed on the thread whether people preferred to do extra pages, have extra pages done, etc. Fortunately with this daVinci journal, she let me do the extra page so I could then draw the main sketches as two-page spreads, versus two single panels and one two-page spread.

For my journal, I requested that my fellow participants do their panels throughout my book, instead of consecutively, unless that's really the way they wanted to go. According to the rules of iATCs, I must complete this first journal swap before I can participate in another. Once I've successfully done the round, I have a feeling that my journal collection will begin to grow. Hooray! It's so cool that people will be able to flip through books full of original drawings in addition to all the tattoo books and magazines while waiting for their friend to be finished getting inked...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Sketchbook is in the mail...

Okay..this was a bigger project than I expected, but not in the way I expected. When I disassembled the book for recovering, I assumed that putting it back together would be no big deal. At first, it wasn't. Then the staples ripped through the paper. Maybe this was because I glued in heavier paper using the existing paper as the base. Since I was on such a short deadline, I had to make it work, with what I had on hand. One of the many things I do is make and sell beaded leather cord necklaces. Fortunately, I had some leather cording on hand, ready to go. I wrapped it through the center of the book twice and made a knot on the inside. Now I know pretty much nothing when it comes to bookbinding, and I also realized that this wasn't the best time to learn. But as I added a stronger grade of paper, the book as a whole shifted, and led to trimming, fussing, and figuring it out, while keeping it durable enough to travel and be handled by anyone and everyone, not to mention keep as archival as possible. Once again, I had the right materials on hand already, thanks to my printmaking. All I can say is hooray for 3M and their photo tape, with which I edged the pages, bottoms and sides. Then center binding pushed out the pages, so I did a little repair, then coated it with black acrylic..
Here is Luther, my centerfold :)

  I'm pretty sure it will hold up. It is double reinforced with duct tape. Even better, I made the deadline. Here are a few more pages..

Okay...now I have to get back to designing tattoos...wahoo! Thanks, Cindy!! Sketchbooks are fun...

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Sketchbook Project!

Here it is - my very own contribution to the Sketchbook Project 2012 World Tour courtesy of my sister, who signed up last fall only to find she didn't have the time. We got together last weekend to see my brother perform in a play and she mentioned that the deadline was fast approaching and she hadn't even started, so probably wouldn't finish. She mailed it to me when she returned home, Priority Mail, and I received it Wednesday. It's 5.25" x 7.25", bound with two staples, and has 8 sheets of paper folded in half, 70# paper, very smooth. The paper feels like a decent quality copy paper, not quite thick enough to clog a machine, but better than the usual commercial grade.

The sketchbook cover is a simple brown card stock. Now if you are familiar with the project, you might already know that this book will be handled, possibly by many people. That means my first concern is durability so I pulled the staples and took it apart. Then I glued on sections of dog food bags made of woven recycled plastic, almost exactly like the grocery bags they sell in the store (the good ones, not the soft fabric style that rip easily if you put anything at all pokey in them.) 

When I was in grade school, we covered our textbooks with the brown paper grocery bags, and I loved having them for doodle space. They weren't glued on - I imagine that would've been frowned upon. On a side note, once when I was a kid, maybe eight, or so, I couldn't find tape to hang my posters and I thought glue was an even better idea - ha! My mom still tells that story. The people that own that house even today probably wonder why their wallpaper will never lay flat..

I added the duct tape for fun and extra durability. I contemplated changing out the paper, but decided to replace the original paper, trimmed slightly to compensate for the new reinforcement. We broke out the power stapler and reassembled. Ready to go! I will be drawing my dogs, most likely, and maybe a few of the plants they live with. Then off they go to be entered into the Brooklyn Art Library's permanent collection after the tour. 

Here are the first pages..

This is going to be fun, and in the mail by Tuesday...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The evolution of a fence...

My neighborhood is close to downtown Great Barrington and I've been told it's known as the 'Brooklyn' section, probably because it's just across the river from all the action and there are three bridges connecting at the north, middle, and south end. It is thickly settled with a high volume of foot traffic, especially in the summer as people like to walk the loop. A high percentage of my neighbors have dogs they walk by on the sidewalk, several times a day. Being a dog person, this makes me happy. So many cute pups! Plus, most people are really good about picking up after their dogs. There are even several biodegradable poop bag stations posted along the way - how wonderful is that? The first year we lived here, I had a problem with some dogs detouring off the sidewalk through my garden, however. When I mentioned 'most' people pick up after their dogs, certainly not all bother, unfortunately. Considering the sheer number of dogs in the daily parade, it amounted to plenty of dog crap in my front gardens. My solution was a low fence, made of curled rebar and grapevine. Simple and essentially at no expense. And it worked!

My gardens grew, and I realized I had another garden pest. People.
Here's what it looked like last July. I completely understand how very tempting it is to snag just a few daisies...why not? And I have a zillion daisies, so in a way, I really don't care. Daisies are perennials, so they pop for a few weeks, then they're gone for another year. My zinnias, tulips, cleome, and sunflowers are another story. They are just about all I have left to look at in the fall before everything is done for the season. But for some reason, passerby think it's okay to stock their vases with my zinnias. Or sunflowers, even. One girl in particular would show up with scissors in hand! She was nice enough to leave me a single bloom, and couldn't comprehend why I was angry - 'but they're soooo pretty!' as she went skipping off swinging her fresh bouquet...

 A friend advised, 'Don't get mad about it. You can't change people, so change how you react to people.' She was absolutely right. I do not want to spend my day opening my front door to ask people not to take any more flowers, like some crazy, life-size cuckoo clock. My fence had to evolve. This time, I made the fence a little higher and planted morning glories to climb and fill it. The picture below is the fence in the very early spring, last year. And it worked perfectly! No dog leavings, and no people taking. The expense was in the posts, but it was still minimal compared to the flowers I paid for and had stolen.

Now there's another glitch... The local DPW plows the sidewalks with a little machine, like one of those fun-looking bobcats. Last winter, this was not a problem and they navigated by my concocted fencing, no problem. This year I think they have a new machine, and even though this only the second time they have had to plow the sidewalk, the fence was on the losing end of the early morning battle.

Oh well, I will keep calm and carry on. First I will see if I can simply move it further away from the sidewalk for the rest of the winter. Then I will come up with a better solution..I have a friend who wants this fence redone in wrought iron for his front yard. Maybe I'll set up a forge behind the garage this summer and get my metalworking on. And then maybe I'll fill my front gardens with roses that flourish if the blooms are plucked by pedestrians, and are prickly enough in the winter to discourage canines...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flowers in January

It still surprises me how much I love tattooing. It's an entire experience, from the idea, to the drawing, then the stencil, to the ink. I've watched the tattoo shows and so much of the process is edited out. One thing I'm sure of, I could never bust out a piece, ready to go, in a half hour. And I truly admire people who can. In a traditional tattoo studio, there is a support network in place and tasks can overlap. While the paperwork is being filled out, the needles and ink are being set up as the drawing is being tweaked and the stencil made. If I have an appointment, I have the drawing done, but not necessarily scaled. Sometimes I luck out and it's perfect, as is. But I never count on that, so I don't get stencil-printing deep until after the client arrives. As it turns out, this makes it a much more personal experience, even though it takes a little longer.

Another note about the drawings...they are original. I use reference, of course, but the chrysanthemum above is the only one exactly like it. My friend, shown above, preferred a flower that was a little spinier, and is going for strong, yet earth-toned hues. And being a control-freak-perfectionist-type, all of the petals HAVE to make sense! That takes me longer than a half hour to draw up, but don't ask how long, I get completely lost in the details. Then again, if I worked in a busy shop, maybe after the 100th chrysanthemum, I'd be able to bust one out in five minutes, like I do with black and white caricatures. Who knows. No two flowers are alike.

'Flowers in January' also references another obsession I have...gardening. My seeds for this spring just arrived today, and my shade annuals are in the cloning phase. My house is overflowing with houseplants as it is, but that doesn't even come close to stopping me. I fantasize about a greenhouse the way a little girl wants a pony. The countdown to daffodils begins...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New! Floral Landscapes...think Spring..

So a whole week flew by in a total blur and I just returned from the post office after sending off 20 envelopes with 30 newly created artist trading cards- and they're going all over the place. Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, UK, and coast to coast in the US. One thing I noticed is that they were mostly places that are cold right now. So I was inspired to paint some garden pieces after I came across yet another helpful tutorial on ArtTrader Magazine.com. Then I just added them as gallery wrapped canvasses, 24" x 8", in my Zazzle store.

Now, while most people are taking down their holiday decorations, I'm taking down my holiday retail pottery display and setting up to tattoo again. Now that people can see their tax return on the horizon, they're thinking ink, and I have drawings stacking up - wahoo! And, I have to make room to photograph the pottery I have left, and set up my wheel to make even more. Then I'll be fully re-stocked for my tent sale in the Spring..