This year for Small Business Saturday, I will be demonstrating how to make the hanging succulent planters you see here.  Also demonstrating will be Anne Egitto, a skilled potter who adorns her work with beautiful brush decoration.  She is also known for her elegant application of underglaze decal designs.  Her work is stunning and continues to evolve and improve.  Of course I’m not nervous about sharing a demo stage (and by stage i mean the north section of the Bracker’s show room) at all…Because mostly I’m hoping that all of you who come in to join us for our Fun filled day of demos will mostly want to watch Anne and ask her questions.

OK, Confession time.  I was born into a family full of finely-skilled artists and craftspeople.  Not only that, I married and reproduced with one of those types.   I struggle to draw stick figures.  I’m a performing artist, an athlete and a bit of a nerd.  And somehow, I am the president of a ceramics supply company.  So in addition to my family, I’m constantly surrounded by these wonderfully talented creative craftspeople who have worked and studied for years to find their voice and create beautiful (sometimes functional, sometimes not) works of art.  I know a LOT about ceramics.  I  know a LOT about the materials, the processes and the potential pitfals.  Ican troubleshoot a variety of things, and I know “good” when i see it.  But i generally shy away from showing any of my own work (because as i said, i know “good” when i see it and i am incredibly self-critical).  I tried to learn how to throw after my dad died.  I was miserable at it…. I’m not very patient even now, and at 17 years old, i was even less so.  I struggled with centering and then i sort of gave up.  But life finds a way and mine kept me in the spheres of clay.  I am so thankful for that because I really like creative people, and I asbolutely love clay people.  About a decade ago or so, things changed some.  I discovered handbuilding and found my own connection to clay through my slabroller and my extruder.  Besides my obvious connection, I credit my music ed classes at KU, my time on the NCECA board and my cycling team for really making me a clay convert.

In my music classes, I was challenged to create a music lesson utilizing several of the 9 national standards for music.  Obviously, connection to other art forms was one of the standards i chose.  My fellow classmates learned to make clay whistles and ocarinas.  We also made windchimes and calculated the tone of each based on the length of the tube (less shrinkage), and then in the second part of that lesson, we improvised some layered ostinato patterns on our clay musical instruments.  It was a hoot and the first time I really felt successful working with clay.  I became more interested in clay musical instruments.  It’s still an area i hope to explore in the future.  I have ideas but lack time.

After I was elected to the NCECA board in 2010, the board was all encouraged to provide a piece or two to be sold at the 2011 conference (proceeds would benefit NCECA). I turned to windchimes and kinetic sculpture and enjoyed the exploration of some extruded and twisted ribbon chimes as well as one created multiple medalions strung together.  Neither were very good, but it was a good exercise for me,

Many years later, I joined Women’s Free State Racing and for whatever reason, in my first year on the team, I decided to make ceramic items as prizes for the winners of the cyclocross race our team hosts each year.  I made extruded shot glasses.  They also weren’t very good, but fortunately, cyclocross racers are not very critical of craftsmanship.  They were unique prizes and popular and it felt good to hear compliments.  The next year, I made some really cool little square plates.  They really weren’t bad and they, too, were well-liked.  Last year, I made some cups that had bike tread texture on them and some thrown (yes on the wheel!) and trimmed bowls with bike decals on them.  I could see that my skills and my understanding of the medium were both growing, despite only working in clay basically once a year prior to the bike race in October.  This year, I found something that I am really digging.  I will admit, the inspiration came from something I saw on pinterest, and it has been the biggest learning experience I have had yet in clay.  Yes, by “learning experience” you MAY infer that disasters happened and I learned from them and managed to improve, make better decisions, find more improvements and the project has evolved.

So now it’s time to take the next step….you know that phrase, see one, do one, teach one?  Well, I SAW one on Pinterest.  I did one (and another one, and then another and another after that, and then a few more, and then one again….) and i guess now it’s time to teach one.  And I’ll tell you quite honestly, I’m sort of nervous about it.  In my mind, the president of clay company should have a BFA at least, preferably an MFA, and/or many years of making work and experience in that and so on, because that’s what my parents had when they started this business.  Both of them would demonstrate wheel techniques in front of crowds of school kids or community audiences, or a customer who needed more than a verbal an explanation on how to do something.  I can’t do that, and it sort of bums me out.  The reality is that working at a clay supply business doesn’t mean you get to spend a lot of time touching clay or honing your skills.  I joke about the fact that I don’t make pots, i make spreadsheets, and i do so with great skill and even sometimes panache.  It isn’t really a joke.  Time is always a challenging master to please.

It occurred to me recently, that my life and time to devote to the craft of claywork is probably not unlike that of many of our customers.  And i’ve also grown to believe that my own struggles and successes help me to better help you all.  Many of you know that I am an amateur bike racer.  I recently heard the quote “When I race, i never lose, I win or I learn”   I really liked it and i think it’s applicable.  So on Saturday, I will demo.  And either I will finish the day with a wareboard or two full of greenware planters or I will have learned some great lessons.  But what i definitely know will happen is that we will all have some great conversations about process, product, living and learning.

I hope you will join us.

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