Friday, January 1, 2021

New Years Greetings from Crazy Green Studio

Hello, remember me? I used to write and send newsletters! Last year, I started out with a great intention to do just that - had it recorded in my calendar with deadlines and reminders, and even projected topics, based on my end of year vision-board of what 2020 would bring. And while things may not seem to have gone haywire until March, I had my share of delays and distractions in the first quarter, and so this started to become more of a casual/occasional journaling stop - never posted because I kept planning to update more and of course find images. 2020 gave me another curveball at the end of the year, and I've just now been able to come back to my stream of conscious rambles and try to turn it into a little series of snapshots of my year past. What a long, strange road it's been! I re-read earlier notes as I've been adding images, so you'll see some additional comments on my own comments. 

Ending a New Year's Eve of stylish parties with
a proper New Year's breakfast at Waffle House!

Jan 1, 2020: start a draft for a newsletter - it's been 'too long' again, but this year has big plans and promise! (I really wrote that on 1/1/2020... really, I did!)

<-- The year started SO busy - working on multiple production orders, starting and keeping new exercise habits, making arrangements and plans to help sell my mom's house in Florida after her move, and working up all the year end data for 2019 so I could start on my plans for 2020.

Jan 15, 2020: delay newsletter because you need to get some things done for family, and it's the first quarter, which is usually quieter anyway. However - last year was the best year for the studio yet, and this year we're making more pots, working with more great clients, and moving the studio into its own space to grow (I'll elaborate on that more as I get to work on it), so there will not be a quiet quarter at all! That being said, I just got back from Florida, and planning the next trip to continue emptying out my mom's house and get it ready to go on the market, so planning and scheduling will be my jam!  (Still so hopeful...)

February: An incredible meal at Jargon, & planning for a new order --->    of plates - little did I know it would be one of my last meals inside a restaurant, much less see so many clients and other small businesses in a constant struggle for survival, including my own. I am so grateful that I was able to make some more plates for Jargon, and can't wait to go back!

Feb 8, 2020: No, I haven't forgotten, but it looks like I'll need to make monthly trips down to Florida for a bit, so I just haven't had a minute to put all my thoughts together for this blog. Not to mention sort through and edit pictures! Also wrapping up year-end business admin so I can send off my taxes - very glam! Thanks to wonderful assistants, production work continues in the studio and orders are getting out, and I did manage to get in the first part of my annual physical, and have plans for an eye exam. (I did get my year-end stuff done on time at least...)

March 9, 2020: Just got back from my 4th trip to Florida in as many months, and thankfully we now have my mom's house cleaned out and on the market, because I don't think I'll be able to fly back down any time soon with the pandemic now moving quickly through the country. My mom is in a great community, and I do have that comfort in knowing she has great support where she lives, and we have a lovely realtor who I think will do very well for us, although I wonder how the impending spread of the pandemic will affect house sales, etc.  (Seriously, looking back, this feels SO long ago!!)

Nick oversaw the setting up of the dining room office/studio - it transformed from carving studio to production office when I was testing and writing content for my e-recipe books, which proved to be my own sort of kitchen therapy when there wasn't much else to be done.

March 17, 2020: We've closed the studio/gallery/teaching center. I'll be working from home in support of the studio, helping promote online sales and updating listings, and looking at what grant/loan options there may be to help keep my own business afloat - just like that I had to lay off my three assistants and all restaurant production stopped. I've brought some pots home for carving - that's pretty much the extent of what I can do at home, but at least it'll keep my hands in clay. Thinking also of working on some of the cooking/recipe ideas I've had in the back of my head.  (And I did! You can purchase them on my website:

The "Porch Pano" became and almost daily meditation - another silver lining was discovering the lovely sanctuary of my front porch (Nick also enjoyed the panoramic bird views), and watching the transition from late winter into Spring and summer - it is indeed now my fair-weather home office!

April 25, 2020: Sheesh time moves rather quickly whilst in quarantine! In truth, I have been busy pretty much every day - working on some e-recipe booklets both for a wee bit of income, but more for personal
sanity. But studio support work, video conference meetings, keeping up with the house sale in Florida, and planning sure do fill the weeks. Started catching up with some old friends and enjoying social zooms as much as professional meet ups, too!  (The Zoom/online catch-ups and Marco Polo with good friends has been the biggest silver lining to this year-long cloud, and something that will not end when we get on the other side of the virus.)

<--- Birthday ebelskiver that I made for myself, plus a lawn birthday party given by my fabulous studio mates made for a most lovely birthday!

May 25, 2020: It's sweet, but others seem to be more concerned with my "pandemic birthday" than I am - in reality, every birthday is a good milestone, and truthfully the introvert part of me that doesn't want to be the absolute center of attention is happy to stay in her jammies. Also, still no blog writing because we've been busy busy taking care of all the details for the house closing in Florida - lots of fun, long distance!  (But closing on the house just days after this entry was truly the best birthday gift!)

I also finished my third e-recipe booklet, because I didn't have enough else to keep me busy. In truth they were the best mental/emotional balance to all the other things keeping me busy, and yes, they're available for purchase at my website! --->

  <--- So much else has happened in this outrageous year outside of business challenges and pandemic worries - much needed attention and action following too many lives lost unnecessarily and as a result of decades of institutional racism. Brave souls out in the streets and a stirring of action that feels like it will go longer and deeper than the moment, and not a moment too soon. As we have been in an election year for the past several years, it also brings the conversation back to the importance of grass roots involvement in the legislative and judicial processes that make this country run, and how change may be made from the bottom up.

June 25, 2020: Fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy - I was afraid I'd go through half the year without writing the blog, and I was right! We're now allowed back into the studio to work, and we're working out how to open or partially open other parts of the business. Mom's house sold and the admin associated with that wrapped up just in time for me to start pondering studio life again. While my studio mate has been heading up a huge fundraising effort, and while it's been very well received, it's clear that we won't be 'out of the woods' anytime soon with the pandemic or with diminished work capability, and our fundraising will need to continue for the foreseeable future.

In March, Sarah Wells Rolland took on the daunting task of making 500 "Vessels of Hope", and her colossal effort sustained the studio during the months of closure, which in turn sustained my business, and I am deeply grateful for the sustenance of both! Pictured below is the Vessel of Hope that I purchased, a stunning representation of the tenacity and enduring faith you need to have as a small business owner and artist at any time, and even more so in these very strange times!

July and August:
We partially opened the studio, so even my feeble attempts at keeping up this thumbnail log have gone poorly- I can work again in my studio, and our gallery is allowing in two people at a time. We're requiring our advanced students to sign up for times to come in so we can moderate the number of people in the facility, and we're working on creating online classes while we re-vamp the classroom to accommodate in-person classes. First order of business is to finish the sessions that were
interrupted when we closed in March. The classes go well, and everyone seems really happy to be back, and everyone is following our safety guidelines well. At the end of August we re-designed the ISM studio, and now participants there will have their own work space, so the only shared areas are the sinks, slab roller, and glazing areas. Every day and every state announcement of mandates and guidelines ripples through as we continue to navigate how to sustain the business and maintain the health and safety of all involved. I am making work for the gallery, and have had some small commission inquiries, including finishing an order for one of my restaurant clients - each sale and each order is a sign of hope! (The energy and exhaustion associated with trying to establish a new normal are surprising - continuing to learn and adapt as we go, and keeping track of our own protocols and not dropping our guard around familiar places and people proves to be rather taxing!) 

: I taught my first online zoom workshop - I'm told it went well, but I haven't watched it back yet. It was fun to be in a teaching mode again, and while I was afraid of filling an hour, I had to start editing myself at 1:40 to make sure we finished in under two hours. Better to run out of time than not be able to fill it, I guess. I have another in early October - I've gone from a less frantic pace to "remember when you had to do it all at once?" pace - while preparing for the workshop, I was also beginning to make my pots for 'chapter two' of our Vessels of Hope fundraiser. Sarah finished and sold all 500 of her pots, and it did sustain us while we were closed, but we're not out of the woods, yet. Clay sales have helped, but are down as folks are slowly getting back to work. Gallery sales are a fraction of what they would be at this time of year. I am extremely grateful that they have been enough to pay my studio rent and materials/firing fees since we've been back, although it's not enough to actually pay myself, but thankfully I have a trickle of unemployment to keep gas in the car and feed the cat. My focus is still on the studio sustainability, as without my studio, I can't do much! I can see how we can and will be working to increase our online offerings, and I'm looking at ways to augment my own ability to create online offerings and better take part in the new developments at The Village.
<--- Got my early vote on with a lovely line of fellow citizens!

October/November: Well I did glance past this page several times in October, but never landed. And now here we are in early November, awaiting the election results, which will likely take us into next week. Faith, Patience, and Grace. Mantra words for the present. Our gallery is open and now allowing up to six people at a time, and lovely people are coming in and buying pots! We're still working on getting our online presence boosted, as well as dedicating pots for the online shop. Classes are going on in person, and we're still building the online. I'm subbing an in-person class later this month - not returning to teaching, but filling in, and looking to design a couple more online classes, hopefully. I am looking forward to teaching a fun workshop on Zoom for a group of high school art students in Canada later this month - made all the more fun by the fact that their teacher is one of my lovely cousins! (We had some unfortunate technical issues, but I was still able to tape a workshop for them, and their results were fabulous!) It's motivating me to up my hand-building game, too, which is always a good thing. 

I had a lovely zoom-Thanksgiving dinner and game night with my god-family in Atlanta - lots of fun and laughter, and loads of leftovers!! --->

Holidays are looming, but I'm staying put - we will get to the other side of this pandemic, and then there can be much merriment and sharing of food and laughter in the same room. I'm down for that future party, and until then, will continue to do my part to keep myself and my peoples healthy and safe. And while I'll greatly miss my usual end of year celebrations with friends, I admit freely that I'll be happy to snug in at home for an actual staycation when we close the studio at the end of the year. It'll be a good time for recharging, reflection, and planning.  (A great blessing at the end of November: I found out that I am a very grateful recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council Artist Support Grant. I'll use my grant to purchase and upgrade equipment for photographing work for online sales, and for live streaming and online teaching.)

<--- One of my favorite projects this year was a beautiful dinnerware commission that allowed me to revisit decorations used in a restaurant commission that was finished at the beginning of the year. It was a wonderful reminder of the work I love to do - design with talented chefs and create beautiful canvases for their work. 

: The year continues to end with more hope for things to come. The studios and gallery are ending with sales steady and classes filling for the new year, and  As it looks like we'll be continuing some social distancing well into the new year. I will finish the year having delivered and shipped orders for wonderful clients, and with a nice list of new commissions to plan for the new year. 
One of the things to come out of working from home: playing with designs and ideas that had before been just ideas and daydreams, like these carved spoons. Using the designs in my 'vincent series', I'm carving the backs and handles of various spoons and scoops. It's been the year-end art therapy project that will see a spot in the gallery next year!

While sad I won't be having what has been a wonderful tradition of a year end visit from dear friends, Christmas toasts with the neighbors, pilgrimages to Mr. K's for books and Green Tea Sushi for dinner, I am looking forward to having some time to just be at home, put work aside for a week or two, and process the year passing and start looking ahead to what may be planned for 2021. 

Nick loves playing Santa! 
So it turns out that I got to start my staycation almost a week early. I woke up coughing on Friday, December 18, and out of an abundance of caution, stayed home and made plans to get tested for Covid. My last gallery shift was scheduled for 12/23, and much year-end work to get pots photographed for the online shop and cleaning the studio was planned for the days ahead, but my caution proved prudent as my symptoms increased over the weekend and I got my positive diagnosis on the following Monday. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I seem to be having a mild case - it's been like a bad head cold for the most part, and as I close out the year and finally finish this year-long post, I am feeling almost on the other side, with just lingering symptoms and happily still some time for my staycation that won't be lost in a fog!

January 1, 2021:  So that's the year in review, and a brief snapshot at that. I've kept other journals, and it still amazes me everything that's happened in the last 12 months. We're not out of the pandemic woods yet, but there is much hope on the horizon, and while I'm not one for resolutions at the new year, I will be taking time today to set some intentions. Happy New Year!