Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market

Good morning!  I just got my acceptance email from the Des Moines Farmer's Market yesterday! Yay!

When I decided to give up my space at the state fair, I knew I'd need to find other outlets in the Des Moines area to sell my work.  In the past, consignment hasn't worked very well for me.  I live about an hour away from the city, and that makes it tricky to keep up on inventory at retail shops.  My next thought was shows... but what shows?  Choosing to do a show is like also tricky.  Does it have traffic flow?  Are sales good?  Is it expensive to be a vendor there?  Do my customers already know about it?  Will they come see me there?  Can I get a new customer base out of the show??  SO many questions.  Then, at the winter market this year, a friend suggested I do the regular market.  He said he does really well there, and that he thinks I would too.  So, I'm going to give it a try.

My market dates: May 28th, June 25th, July 23rd, August 20th, and September 17th.  You can also check on my FB page for any updates closer to the markets.  I'll be located in stall #407 for all five markets.  #407 is located right on Court Avenue, all the way to the west end, on the north side of the road.  I'll have a brown canopy that has "Willow Avenue Pottery" on the front of the tent.

I'll leave you with this Livestock Photo of the Day: Brownie, with a dirty nose. :)


Loading the Kiln & Fast Chickens

I'm a bit slow on fun technical stuff.. but eventually I figure it out.  My new iPhone has a "time lapse" option, so I carefully suspended my phone from the lid of the kiln while I was loading the bottom layer for the firing that is going right now.


Also, I gave my chickens a dead mouse this morning.  It's funny in real time, but extra silly when spend up with the Benny Hill theme song. :)


Ok.  Enough playing around. Time to work. :D


New Adventures on the Horizon

Hey there.  I've been away a long time.  It's nice to be back. :) 

So, times... they are a-changin'.  After a lot of thought, bouncing things off friends and family, and securing my wholesale gig for the foreseeable future, I've decided to give up my booth space at the Iowa State Fair.  I will no longer be in the atrium of the Cultural Center, and this makes me very sad, but also very optimistic about other opportunities.  I love the state fair, and I've always thought being a vendor there would be the cat's meow for my business, but I've felt really overwhelmed the last few years... like work has taken over all my waking moments and I'm ready for a change.  With the Blue Ribbon Foundation commission, harvest with my family, the fair, and the holiday season, time was just screaming by and I couldn't figure out how to slow it down.  Something had to go, and the fair was the least profitable from a business standpoint.  I will miss being there terribly, but not having to prep for that huge show will open up five months of my life.  Yes, five months is how long it takes for me to make enough work for the fair, physically do the fair, and regroup after the fair is over.  It was so much time.

As sad as it is to see that chapter closing, I'm excited for the new chapters.  I've applied to be an occasional vendor at the Des Moines Farmer's Market, Brian and I have a goal of getting the wood fire kiln built and fired by the end of the summer, and I'd like to have two substantial studio sales this year (one of them potentially including a kiln opening in late summer).  For a list of the shows I've applied to or will be applying to, see my SHOWS tab.  I'd also like to do more photographing of my work and have more items for sale online.  This is an aspect of my business that has always been troubling for me and I really need to spend some time reaching out to online customers.    

My website: I finally gave up and hired a professional to do my website.  My friend, John, is excellent at building websites and got me set up with a site on the Wix platform.  Click HERE to be taken to new site.  I still have a few things to work on, but it's coming together.  If you're in need of a web designer, contact me and I'll get you in touch with John. :) 

That's all I have for now.  I'll leave you with a photo collage of the Blue Ribbon Pots for this year, which are a mortar and pestle.  I threw all the pestles first in about five weeks and I'm now working on the mortars.  They should be delivered mid to late April and available for pre-order in June or July through the Blue Ribbon Foundation. 

Also... we got a goat.  His name is Buddy, and he's hilarious. ♥ & :)  


One big project done....

After a slightly malfunctioning kiln and a part shipped overnight from Bailey, I finally finished up the last firing of the Blue Ribbon Foundation Collector's piece for 2015 (this was in April, I'm a slow blogger).  They were delivered and I'm thankful that they all came out OK and survived the hour long drive down the fairgrounds.

If you're interested in purchasing one of the 2015 Blue Ribbon pieces, please contact the Blue Ribbon Foundation to get on their mailing list.  They send out an order form early in the summer for pre-orders of fair merchandise, or you can pick one up at most of the Blue Ribbon Foundation booths at the fair.  FYI - they sold out of the pieces about a week into the fair last year, so if you don't come to the fair until the second weekend and want a square canister, go for the pre-order option.  I heard from several people that were bummed that they were sold out, and as far as I know, they don't place any orders for additional pieces.

Contact info for the Blue Ribbon Foundation: Website, phone: 515-262-3111 (option 6, then 5).  You can also follow Blue Ribbon Foundation activity on Facebook - click HERE.

Almost done.... 


 So, now that those are all done, time to move onto the next project.  The Iowa State Fair!  It's only 83 days away.

 (insert panic here)

It'll be ok.  I've got a couple years under my belt, and this year I don't have to rebuild my shelf display, so I have plenty of time to make allll the pots.  I have a doable production schedule, and hopefully no more malfunctions with the clay, kiln, or anything in between. :)

I've done a lot of thinking and realized that cramming the major commercial job and the biggest show of the year together are not the best way of utilizing my time.  This coming fall, I'll be starting the Blue Ribbon pots after the fair instead of waiting until after harvest and the holiday show season.  I can at least get a jump on it that way and give myself more time to be creative in the winter and to prepare for the fair.  Sounds good in theory, right? ;)

Anywho..  I just wanted to update here on the blog.  I haven't posted for... too long.  I'll try better next time. ;)


Blue Ribbon Foundation, 2015

It's that time again... time to make several hundred of the same piece for the Blue Ribbon Foundation.  If you remember, last year was an oval pitcher with a blue interior.  This year is another altered form.. a square canister with a lid and a bit of blue.  I started on them around the first of December, and I hope to have them delivered the first of April, as I did last year.

It's a nice project to have for the winter.  Not a lot of creative energy goes into making them once I get my production system figured out, so I can spend my time thinking about pots I want to make for the rest of the year. :)

Here's a few production shots.  I think I'm up to about 140, and if I stay on track, I should be to about 200 by the end of the month.

Applying the blue slip. 

I did 24 in one day last week... oof. 

Looks like 72 can fit in a kiln load, plus a few little test cups.
So... that's it for excitement around here.  In a few weeks, I'm going to go up to Lanesboro to a wood firing with my friends, Sue and Kevin.  I'll be sure to post about that when I get home. :)


Blocks of Blocks

Kiln building continues, just a bit at a time.  At some point last week, 120 of the 150 concrete blocks arrived.  They didn't have them all in stock, so the rest should be delivered tomorrow.

Pallets of blocks, offloaded by hand.

A couple days ago, it was beautiful outside.  A perfect fall day.  I went outside with an armload of tools: t-square, level, mallet, hammer, chisel, measuring tape, and my blueprints.  I started off with the brick oven base, which I'm building just like the kiln base.  The concept is to bring the working area of the oven up off the ground so it can be stoked... and, it's easier to get the pizza in and out. :) 

Block of Blocks

Three courses of ten blocks each, with a cap block on the top.  This creates a solid flat surface to build on.  The next photo is about mid-way to how far I got on the kiln base before I ran out of blocks.  

A bigger Block of Blocks

This will be three courses as well, with cap blocks.  Then the real fun begins... fire brick!  I'm not sure how far I'll get on the actually kiln fire brick.  My intentions at this point are to get the brick oven done this fall.  Since I'm a beginner kiln builder, I'm going to work out the kinks of my building technique on the brick oven.  It'll have a similar arch layout, and that's the part I want to make sure I do correctly.  Plus... pizza! :D 

That's all for now.  Harvest should be starting up soon so I'm not sure how much I'll get to work on things.  If it would stop raining for just a couple days, I can at least start on the brick oven. :) 

Oh.. one more thing.  Before I moved the fence back the other day, Carlos took it upon himself to try out the kiln slab and make sure it was acceptable. 

Carlos Approves



Last Thursday, I borrowed my cousin's dump truck and brought home 15 tons of crushed rock.  Luckily, because of a slight mess up at the rock quarry, I was sold a load of 'the good rock' for the price of a load of 'the cheap rock'.  Don't worry.. they knew about it.  I wasn't swindling the rock quarry. ;) 

So today my good buddy, Nels, brought me his skid loader to borrow in trade for some harvest trucking.  A pretty sweet deal, if ya ask me.  Skid loaders are silly expensive to rent.  We didn't waste any time.  I worked on the grade around the building for a bit, then Brian came down from the shop and helped me get all the rock in around the slabs.

I keep saying that we don't need a skid loader, but they come in handy to move 15 tons of rock. 


Lookin' good!

Bam!  Ready to start building. Woo!

Next up: Cinder blocks!  Tim at Lake Lumber assures me that they have enough on hand for my order.  If you're reading this, Tim, I'll be in tomorrow morning. :)

Depending on the weather and how fast the beans dry, my kiln building adventure might come to a screeching halt if harvest starts soon.  I'm not sure if I'll get it done before the snow flies, but I'm certainly going to try. :)


Slab work.

It was a perfect day for pouring concrete!  I say that like I know what the perfect day for that is... ;)   No, really, it was nice.  A little on the cool side, but blue skies and a nice breeze.

The truck arrived at 10:30, and the driver (thank dog) had been doing this for a long time and could give us some pointers.  He backed right up to the kiln shed and got to pouring.

 Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of us actually pouring the concrete because we were... pouring the concrete. ;)

Two slabs... 2.25 yards of 4000lb concrete.  Hopefully it's enough to hold all that weight.

Brian did all the edge trimming.. he was way better at it than me.  He said next thing I know, I'll be asking him to come make pots in the studio.  Uhm... maybe. :)

Next up:  Tomorrow I'm making sample pieces for the Blue Ribbon commission next year (woohoo!) and then Thursday I'm headed down to the quarry in Earlham to get rock to go around the slabs.  Then, after a few days of curing, it'll be time to stack the cinder block base and get to building.  Harvest is about two weeks away.  I wonder how much I can get done before then. Wish me luck!


Still here!

Hey all!  No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth.. just the blog world for a while, but I'm back!  Here's a quick update on what's happened since I last wrote:

A successful state fair!  The state fair came and went.  I had the biggest inventory ever, and the best sales of the three years I've had a booth in the Cultural Center.  Fun times!

The full booth display. 

Brian built me new shelves.  :)

New signage.

Teeny bottle vases for demonstrations. 

The fair is always a good time, but it's nice to have it done with and move onto the next project.  I have a bit of time before harvest starts in a few weeks, so I'm jumping into kiln building.  Brian and I got the forms built and leveled a few days ago.  We were going to pour concrete yesterday (Saturday), but it rained quite a bit and the route down to the kiln shed is extra mucky.  With my experience as a truck driver, I think it's likely that the cement truck driver wouldn't like attempting to traverse down the hill in the mud (or back up it, for that matter), so I've rescheduled for next Tuesday morning.  Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can get it poured so it can start curing so I can start putting together this huge three dimensional jigsaw puzzle. :)

The big one is for the kiln, the little on is for the brick oven. :)

That's all I've got for now.  More updates on the kiln building later.  I'll try my best not to wait 3-4 months between posts.  ;)


Where do potters go on vacation?

We go to look and buy pottery, of course. :)

Last weekend, my friend Korey and I drove up to Minneapolis to join my friend, Sue, for the St. Croix Valley Potters Tour.  This was the 22nd year of the tour, and there was a lot to see - and buy.  I might have spent twice my pottery budget, but I rationalize that I won't likely see some of these potters again for many years and why not?  ;)

We started out at Continental Clay.  Korey wanted to get some glaze materials and I wanted to meet Tara, who is my knight in shining armor at Continental.  As a potter, you rely on a supplier for all the materials to make the pots happen.  Tara always gets my orders processed and shipped quickly and she's super helpful for general information about materials (smarter than I am!).  I always ask for her when I call to place an order. Thanks, Tara!

 We visited five of the seven locations.  We started at Guillermo Cuellar's and ended up at Robert Briscoe's.  Here's Sue and Korey at Robert's.

 I failed to take photos of the whole thing.  It was an overwhelming amount of pottery to choose from.  Here's the final haul at Sue's house after we were done.  I got pots from Guillermo Cuellar, Ellen Shankin, Sarah Jaeger, Mike Norman, Richard Hensley, and Suze Lindsay.

And... we all got pots from Steven Hill. :) 

And Monday morning Mugshot of chai in my new Guillermo Cuellar mug. 

And now that I've spent three days ogling beautiful pottery and slacking off... it's time to get back to work. 86 days to the Iowa State Fair! :)