Have you ever wondered what a typical day for a potter is like? No day is ever “typical” for me, rather each day is unique, but just to give you an idea I tracked two days of my activity.
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 – 6:30 a.m.
Alarm goes off. I immediately contemplate the value of 30 additional minutes of sleep. It’s very dark outside. I lay quietly for a few minutes and then get up at 6:40. I get dressed in several layers of clothing. The house is cold and my studio will be cold too.
The cat is on my office chair. She’s awake too. I guess she stayed in because it was too cold for her for an overnighter outside. I fill the kettle with water and put it on to boil. The running water makes me wish I had gone to the bathroom before filling the kettle. While I’m in the bathroom/laundry room I start a load of wash.
I get my homemade granola and vitamins from the pantry and yogurt from the fridge. I make lemon tea. I go over and pet the cat and turn on my computer. It’s now 7:00 a.m. and the cat wants out. I go turn the heat on in the studio.
I slowly eat breakfast while doing my morning computer ritual. I don’t have a lot of time today for computer stuff and we all know how we can get sucked right into it. After almost an hour of Facebook, Spark (health, weight loss website) and email, it’s 7:50 a.m. and my partner (who is on vacation this week) gets up and greets me with his usual sleepy kiss on his way to the bathroom.
The amount of email I have today overwhelms me. I remember that email isn’t important but my work is, so I go fold clothes left in the dryer from yesterday. I tell myself I’m not procrastinating, but that it is a task that has to be done regardless of what else is going on, because doing laundry is one of my jobs. I volunteered for it. I really did.
8:10 a.m. – back at the computer. I’m looking at the weather forecast and deciding when I will go for a walk. Later when it’s warmer outside – a predicted high of 13 degrees Celsius on Nov. 2. Pretty nice!
8:15 a.m. – the cat wants in. She eats 2nd breakfast. I pick her up and we cuddle for a long time (in cat time). She’s 10 years old now. I chat with JF who now has coffee and is also at his computer doing his morning ritual.
8:30 a.m. – I wander into the kitchen. I’m restless and know I need to work. I prepare for work by washing last night’s pots and pans. The kitchen sink and counter need to be clean and cleared off.
8:45 a.m. – I head into the studio with an arm load of freshly washed pots from the day before. They were all drying on the kitchen table. I survey what needs to be done. I look at the work I have produced from mid-September until now and wonder why I feel like a slacker. There are a lot of pots! I recall a conversation between me and JF about how my job is really a job for 5 people – a pot-maker, a labourer, an accountant, a marketer and a shop keeper. Because I am self-employed, I get to decide what I do every day and often times I am literally working all day long on one thing or another related to my art work but it’s not always about making pots. Sometimes it’s writing email to customers or advertising a sale or making my shop look pretty or cleaning up a big mess in the studio. And none of it really “feels” like work…well, except for cleaning the studio.
I have clay work in every stage imaginable – wet work that is drying, dry work ready for bisque firing, bisqueware that has been sanded and washed and now ready for waxing, bisqueware that is waxed and ready for glazing, glazed low fire work ready for firing and bisqued low fire work in the process of being glazed.
I go back into the house and collect more dried pots from the kitchen table and deliver them to the pottery. I count my steps. 60 steps round trip. Depending on what I’m doing in the pottery I can make 30 trips a day including going into the house for meals, snacks, pee breaks, tea breaks, water for me, buckets of water to throw pots, buckets of water to clean stuff and the general need for a sink with running water when I rinse dust off of freshly sanded pots. No, there is no water supply in my studio. There is an upside. Firstly my studio can be entered through the main house. It is not a detached building, it’s a converted attached garage. Secondly, there was a huge savings and a lot of work avoided with the decision to refrain from getting water and a sink in the studio.
8:59 a.m. – one more load of pots to deliver. Put wet clothes in the dryer first.
9:00 a.m. – the waxing of foot rings begins.
10:08 a.m. – I want chai tea with vanilla soy milk, so I go make tea.
10:10 a.m. – waiting for the water to boil, I fold the 2nd load of laundry and put it away.
10:20 a.m. – I’m aware that I have to go get groceries this week, probably Friday. I start a grocery list and decide to make applesauce with the 4 lonely looking apples on the kitchen table. Not now. Later. I make a note to collect all the trash cans from around the house and empty them into the kitchen trash bin. It stinks but the bag is only half full. I contemplate the benefits of having a smaller garbage can.
10:30 a.m. – back in the studio waxing foot rings.
10:50 a.m. – waxing is done for now. I start back at the glazing of Yule decorations I started yesterday. One more coat of blue.
11:00 a.m. – 11:28 a.m. – Got the idea to write this blog. It is written in longhand on paper.
11:30 a.m. – I’m hungry. I declare lunch time. I root in the fridge for something to eat while simultaneously taking stock of what’s in there already and what I can do with it. The last of the homemade squash, apple and pear soup goes into a bowl and into the microwave to warm. I pull out an almost meatless roasted chicken and get the last of the white meat off the carcass for a half sandwich. I fill a pot with water and put the bones on to simmer for chicken stock.
When I’m in the kitchen I seem to be able to work all four limbs with the precision of a professional jazz drummer, opening and closing cupboard doors, turning on the tap, the stove, toasting bread and stirring soup. I am woman. Watch me multi-task.
11:45 a.m. – in front of the computer with lunch to answer email, check my Etsy page, refresh the shameless self-promotion of my annual fall sale on Facebook and I’ll admit to several rounds of Scrabble too. I think I have about 10 games going on. I’m currently addicted to two things: Scrabble and the TV series “Mad Men.”
1:00 p.m. – I come out of my computer induced hypnosis and quickly load the dishes into the dishwasher. It’s full. Soap, rinse agent. Smart wash. Turn off heat. (Do not use heat to dry your pottery in your dishwasher.)
1:10 p.m. – on the front deck in the sunshine, writing.
1:20 p.m. – back in the studio. I’ve got to load the low fire glazed stuff into Little Blue. Yes, I think I can begin.
Close up shot of some of the 7 pointed stars
7 pointed stars, glazed but not fired
Inside there are small 5 pointed stars, large 7 pointed stars and Xmas trees.
Little Blue is the name of this old kiln. She was given to my by the Sunahara Family – my brother-in-law’s family – because it was no longer needed. It was Grace Sunahara’s kiln and she passed away a while back so I inherited her kiln, her wheel, tools and a lot of raw materials for making glazes. Little Blue was born in 1952. This is how she looks from the outside with the lid opened.
Obviously this kiln is a work horse. She works wonderfully well and has never failed me. I have to fix her lid which is falling apart, as you can see, and she’s pretty rusty, so I need a bit of patch work done too. There never seems to be enough time or a convenient time to do repairs. Sometimes it takes a crisis for it to happen. The lid falls in and you’ve GOT to fix it.
1:40 p.m. – I need to glaze more stuff so I can fill the kiln.
Finishing a terracotta wine jug.
- Holding the jug sideways with my hand inside, I paint the glaze on thickly while turning the piece.
The jug is not yet dry enough to load into the kiln, so I started painting Xmas trees.
2:05 p.m. – thinking of taking a walk/run @ 2:30.
Glazing terracotta Xmas trees.
These trees are very popular. They are fairly labour intensive. First I roll out a large slab of clay with my HUGE rolling pin. I don’t have the money or room for a slab roller in my studio and besides that I like to impress people with the size of my rolling pin. Then I use a paper pattern that I drew and cut out of an old file folder. This tree is reminiscent of the felt trees that my Grandmother Mary sewed onto our Christmas stockings that she made for each of us three kids. She was very handy with a needle and thread, a sewing machine, a crochet hook, glue, sequins and glitter. I inherited that same gene from her.
I have three paper trees and I lay them on the clay and I used to trace a line around them, then cut them. This year I omitted the tracing step and went straight to the cutting stage by cutting around the patterns and it seemed to work fine and saved me some time. After the trees “set up a bit” (my term for me walking away from them and letting them dry in the open air for awhile). When I can do so without distorting the shape, I move them onto a board to dry up some more. This time they are covered for slower drying. I get them out of the way and do something else in the meantime. After they have dried to leather hard I bevel the edges of each piece, sign them and then get my squeeze bottle of white slip (liquid clay) and dot each tree with “balls.” After the trees are bone dry they are bisque fired and then glazed. I chose terracotta for the tree part because I like the way the holly green glaze looks on that clay – deep and dark. I chose to use white slip balls because the Christmas balls needed to have a true red, blue and yellow and the only way to get that is on white clay. So first I paint around all those balls with holly green glaze. I have to paint on 3 coats for good coverage. That means this year I will have painted around 270 balls. That’s a lot of balls. After the green glaze is dry I put a dot of yellow, red or blue glaze on each ball and then it gets fired once again.
<will insert pic later when the kiln is cool enough to unload>
2:32 p.m. – exercise break. Clean paint brushes, put lids on glaze pots, get changed from work duds to workout duds, have a few sips of chocolate soy milk, strap on my HRM and get going.
3:00 p.m. – head out for my walk/run.
3:40 p.m. – 4K in 40 mins. Mostly walking. The running wasn’t in me today for long.
3:45 p.m. – changed out of sweaty workout clothes, cooling down and eating an apple while writing. Cardio is done, but today is strength training day too. Later.
3:52 p.m. – plan the rest of the day and supper.
4:00 p.m. – finish loading Little Blue and turn her on low.
5:00 p.m. – start glazing the stoneware pots.
6:00 p.m. – Quitting time and firing time. I need to fire Little Blue so I can no longer work in the studio. The fumes are nasty so, I open the window, put all lids back on the glaze buckets and I vacate the studio shutting the door firmly behind me, go wash my hands and change into workout clothes again.
6:30 p.m. – The 30 Day Shred with Jillian.
7:00 p.m. – go turn up the kiln. Start dinner. Broiled white fish, steamed broccoli and potatoes. Top fish with pesto. Yum!
7:30 p.m. – settle down to dinner and several episodes of Mad Men Season 3, back to back. 8:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
9:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
10:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
11:00 p.m. – turn up the kiln
11:30 p.m. – go to bed
…to be continued