Thursday, December 26, 2013

Old Friends

Christmas ran against the odds this year. Tina is traveling with friends, the kids are staying put in New York and Charlotte and Blondie and I are home ripping old tile out of the bathroom. No lights, no tree, no shiny wrappings and yet it was a very nice Christmas. We'll have to go back 60 years or so to start.

I cannot ever remember when I did not know my friend Ray. School, Church, Camp, Scouts, from the time we were both very small. I met his wife Linda much later. When we were 12 or 13 and her family moved back to town. We all became very close friends. They married and went off to college. We stayed close and I always had a place to sleep if I wanted to visit them or just visit High St. in Athens. The summer when I was between college and grad school I helped them build the house they still live in. Ray's Dad took time off work to help and we drove nails all day in the days before nail guns. Linda and Ray's mom would feed us well every day and keep the site tidy. I remember Ray's Mom shoveling gravel into the basement excavation while we were down below spreading it out. We could barely keep up. She had known a life of hard work and wasn't afraid of more. Still isn't.

Time marched on as it usually does. We visited often and remained best friends. They had kids. Their son was wearing the first diaper I ever changed and he thoroughly christened me. Tina and I married, we moved. Still within a drive but farther away. Ray started a business, I started a side business. We visited, we went fishing, we got busy being adults. Tina and I had kids. The visits we could fit in were more dedicated to Grandparents than friends. We drifted apart as life squeezed in more and more and months between turned into years between.

Jump ahead 30 years or so. Last fall we all had a class reunion. We got together. Talked a lot. Saw other folks who looked older than they used to and promised to stay in touch. Life marched on a little and I called them Tuesday morning to wish them a Merry Christmas. Linda said dinner is in an hour and a half you should come. I said lets do it when you don't have all the kids and grandkids there. She said come. I did. I had the best time.

Ray's Dad had a serious stroke a while back and in the fall it had sounded like he was in pretty bad shape. I guess he had started some new treatments recently and is doing much better. He was able to come to dinner, feed himself, and carry on some conversation. He is 91 and I had never expected to have another conversation with him. His wife is 89 and still his primary care giver. They have been married 68 years and lived in the same house for 64 of them.  She works as hard as she ever did and takes very good care of him. She reminds me a lot of my mother. She is a little younger than my Mom who would have been 100 this year but they both grew up in the depression , worked hard all their life, went to church on Sunday, and never complained or asked for help. Tougher than most of us will ever be. When you work shoulder to shoulder with people you form bonds that transcend time. It was a privilege to spend time with them again.

I sat next to Ray at dinner and had a great meal with plenty of time to compare our ailments and degradations. I didn't have as much time to talk to Linda but we don't have to. There is so much warmth that immediately felt at home and at least for a few hours 30 years younger.

Christmas day I went to my brother's for dinner. We had another great meal and talked about our other brother. His grandson's were there and were loving their Christmas. One boy who is 5 or 6 had wanted a grappling hook for 2 years. They are not really sure why but blame it on Spiderman. He got a grappling hook this year. A real steel one. My brother has a big pile of huge logs out back and all the boys wanted to do was go outside and climb with hook and rope.  Real boys having real fun.

I stopped at our niece's house after that and dropped off  the clay projects the Girl Scouts had made a while back. There were bunches of handmade thank you cards and positive feedback from the girls waiting for me. Tina's brother was there and took me to see the house they had just bought. It needs some work but it has 12 acres and will be a nice home for them.

"Neither do they sow nor do they reap" I didn't shop, I didn't decorate, I didn't give presents, I didn't get presents. It was a very nice Christmas that focused on love and friendship without any stress.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lessons Learned

Regular readers have probably noticed me posting some musical interludes this year. Most of you are kind enough not to comment. I post these not as a path to stardom but as a way of allowing some insight into things that I enjoy. I have been playing with a folk music club on Sunday nights for the last year or so. Some weeks we have 15 or 20 pickers. Some weeks there could be 40. Believe it or not, I have actually been practicing both my picking and singing. Posting them is really more a sharing of songs that I like that you may not have heard than anything else but I have learned a few things that I can apply in other areas.

If you can't sing, sing anyway.

If you REALLY can't sing, sing louder. You will sound better and may drown out some of your critics.

A good steady rhythm is more important than always picking the right string.

If you screw it up, keep going.

When it's your turn, stand up and play. Nobody wants to wait while you try to tune a banjo.

Every note in the scale is equally important. Some because you put them in, some because you leave them out.

You will never play like Lester, Earl, or Mississippi John. If you try you will be a poor imitation. Play it your own way. It's just a song .

You can't buy skill or talent. Get some reasonably good equipment then quit shopping and start practicing.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great holiday season, a super solstice, and a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Blondie knows what she is thankful for !!! Fifteen pounds is a lot of dog treats.

I know what I'm thankful for too. I have a ton of treats : A wife who has put up with me for 38 years in a row, 2 kids who are successful and not living in our attic, relatively good health, healthy relatives, that we worked hard and spent reasonably so we could retire early, that the cars start and the new furnace works, friends old and new. The list continues. I am also very happy that the internet has allowed me to visit with all of you and that you stop by to visit from time to time. I am very grateful to the people who stop by the shows I do and take a little Whistle Creek Pottery home with them. The Prior Buyers Club has grown this year and I appreciate every member. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Customer Experience.

The elixir in the picture is Apple Pie Moonshine. It is legally made and sold by C&S Artisan Distilling in Yellow Springs Ohio. It is basically pie in a glass. Very tasty. This version is 60 proof. They also have a 40 proof. Yesterday I drove 30 miles to get to the distillery to buy some to take to Thanksgiving dinner. It will be a hit.

Since I had time to think on the way home, I started to consider my experience. I could have gotten the 40 proof version or some other flavored rum at a state liquor store closer to home. Why didn't I ?
The place is owned and run by 2 couples who are shoestringing it into existence out of pocket. They have been around for 2 or 3 years, been through the license process, and been putting out "Apple Pie Moonshine" from the distillery and now in some local stores. If they called it "Apple Rum" they would not sell as much. There is an allure to the name. When you go to the distillery and talk to the people who make it, you can hear the passion they have for their product. You can taste very unique (Walnut and Herb Schnapps) products that they are not licensed to bottle yet. You can get an education about European Schnapps v/s American Schnapps. You feel the hospitality and share the enthusiasm. You also feel good about helping a small business succeed. Buying direct puts all the money in the hands of the makers. Pretty sweet idea. Not only can I share a drink with the family Thursday, I can share a story. I could have bought a $2 bottle of wine at Walmart but I would have missed so much. When people buy pottery from me, I hope they feel the same way.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Invaded !!!

Yesterday the studio was invaded by Girls Scouts. Not big Girls, 7 and 8 year old wiggly giggly bundles of energy. I had been cleaning all week and while I wouldn't eat off the floor ( unless it was a cookie) I thought things looked pretty good. I ended up with 7 girls and 2 moms. Given my available space, that was plenty. It was going to be an hour or so but they came early and we had so much fun they stayed late. We ended up with about a 2 1/2 hr. visit. The girls were mostly interested and had lots of questions which always makes it better. I explained a bit about materials and process, then demonstrated cylinders, baking dishes , trimming, and handles. The last job was to make some "Happy Clams" that I will fire and get back to them. It was a fun fun day for me and I think the girls had a ball too. Now for the part you all like best.....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Here We Go Again

Honest, I'm trying to post on a regular basis but there hasn't been a lot of excitement since Dillsboro. I did finish up a firing of plates and baking dishes that are headed to Birmingham. I was pleased that everything was up to snuff. I had made extra pieces just in case but everything is black, shiny, and flat on the bottom !

Tina has been showing  Stuart (one of our English Cocker Spaniels) in UKC shows and he took a reserve best in show among the altered dogs Saturday. He is always ready and loves to show. People just see his attitude when she walks him around town and ask if he is a show dog! She is always flattered and fills them in on his accomplishments.

Other than that, I've got a troop of Girl Scouts coming to visit the studio Saturday. I'll try to get some pictures to share. In the mean time I will continue to have no shame and show you what I've been playing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Quick Trip

Last Thursday morning, I loaded up the little motorhome and started my annual pilgrimage to the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival in Dillsboro N.C. My friends Mike and Karen Baum have done the show for years and claim it is the best clay show in the country. They should know. The last couple of years, I have gone down to help them with the heavy lifting and pottery wrapping. It is always a great show and we work 'til we can barely stand up.

One of the fun things about taking the camper is that I get to stop at the Raccoon Valley Campground on the way down. It is not what you would call a resort. It is a simple little place where the cable doesn't  work and the fees are reasonable but everyone is glad to see you. Oh yeah, I almost forgot Thursday night is the weekly bluegrass jam session. generally old men (and Carol) playing old songs. There are a lot of guys in their 70's and a couple in their 80's who play and sing like they have done it since before bluegrass was ever invented. They have spoiled me for other jams. there are about 15 players and when it is their turn they stand up drop it in gear (usually first gear ,"G" in banjospeak) and cut loose. There is no fooling around, head scratching, wondering what song or what key they are going to do. They go through more songs in a half hour than my Sunday night bunch does in 2 hours. Fast hard traditional bluegrass with the occasional Jimmie Rogers or Hank (the first) Williams and plenty of old time gospel. Even though I had left my singing voice home in the pocket of my other pants they acted like they were glad I came. Really, it is a rare treat to see and hear these guys and I try to get down there a couple of times a year if I can. Just show up, sit down, and hang on!

It rained all night Friday but we missed the biggest part of the wind that came through. The camper stayed snug and I got a good nights sleep. The Smokies were gorgeous. The trees were in full color and the day was just overcast enough that the sun didn't wash out the colors. I rolled into Dillsboro about noon, got some more coffee then went to find Mike and Karen. They had caravanned down from Lebanon Thursday evening with their pal Jim Reinert from Michigan and had hit traffic and weather both. I 'm glad I left when I did.

 The WNCPF is organized by Dillsboro potters Joe Frank McKee, Travis Berning, and Brant Barnes along with dozens of friends and volunteers. Loyal readers will recall that Joe Frank had a studio fire last spring. Many people in the pottery community responded with donations and labor and he reports that the new studio is up and almost ready for final inspection. He and wife Kelly send their thanks to everyone for their help and good wishes. This is the 9th year for the festival and it is really well done with an emphasis on quality and hospitality. It is a two day event with fun, games, and good natured competitions on Friday afternoon and a show on Saturday. Many of the potters do the show every year  and drive from places like New York, Minnesota, and Texas. This is a nice time for them to socialize instead of just blowing into town in the morning and blowing out and night. Competitions include throwing the tallest cylinder and widest bowls from 5lb of clay in 5 minutes, tallest 1lb and tallest 2lb cylinder blindfolded. Elise Delfield threw like she had been practicing all year and walked away with it. Here are pictures.

Sorry, I'm told it's Doug Hubbs

About 6:30 we were able to get on the street so we clipped headlights to our caps and started unloading and setting up the booth. Even with a big archtop tent, a lot of furniture and 62 (that's not a typo) cases of pots it went smoothly. Other friends had come down and helped quite a bit. The group from Cincinnati was even big enough that a couple of them helped Tony Holman set up next to us. There is a lot of community and camaraderie among potters. People bond through hard work and there was plenty of it to go around. After an hour, we were fairly well buttoned down and went for a bite and a beer.

I snuggled in about 10 pm and slept til I woke up at 3 to turn on the heat. The next thing I knew, it was 6 and Mike and Karen were already at the booth setting out pots. I got myself together and dived in about 15 minutes later.When we finally looked up and it was almost time for the floodgates to open at 10. I know Tracey asked me to take lots of pictures. There was no way I could even take one of us we were so busy. The crowd hit us and we were swamped all day long.  I wrapped pots and wrapped pots. Mike moved back and forth from helping wrap, to helping Karen charm the masses, to talking to wholesale clients. Many former buyers came and it was like a big family reunion all day. I've never seen anything like it. I think the extent of my leisure time was one quick run to the bathroom and back. The show closed at 4 but we kept selling for another half hour as we pulled boxes out and put props away, then the heavy lifting started. We worked hard and fast but it still took 3 hours to pack up. We were not last off the street but we were close. There is a post show pig pickin' dinner and we got there just at the end. I did get a chance to see Gay Smith for a few minutes and say hi to John Baumann. It was also very interesting to talk to Brant Barnes about the impact of the show on Jackson County. He said they expected sales to be over $150K and total impact of over $1 million by the time you fill every motel and  restaurant in 20 miles for the whole weekend. If you want pictures of sale day there will be some on the WNCPF web site soon. They had a camera club come and do a competition for best show pics and they plan to post them. So, sales were great, hospitality was great( big Sonic breakfast burritos not a cold box 'o donuts and they brought them to your booth), dinner after the show, and a chance to see old and new friends. That's probably not everything but I need a nap. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Summer in Review

Where have you been? Seems like so long since we visited with each other. Oh wait, that was my fault. I seem to get focused on the task at hand and let everything else go in the mean time. This year, it has been construction. Tearing out the heating system, having gas service run and a new system installed (ductwork and all) in a 60 year old house was enough for one summer. We added a lot of patch and paint plus new floors installed and most recently a deck replacement. I didn't do all of this myself but I did do parts of most of it. I squeezed in a few shows and glazed up stockpiled bisque ware to fill in the gaps but really have not thrown many pots this summer. Then we had the government shutdown and the rollout of Affordable Healthcare. I have tried to solve these issues but don't blame me if they keep jumping up. It's your turn to try and fix things. Last week, the last of the major projects was completed and I finally threw a few pots over the weekend. I'm going to get to the "summer in review" pictures but you all need to know that the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival is this weekend in Dillsboro. This is the best show I've ever attended. Great potters and very nice people. These folks are in a higher pay grade than I am but I go every year and help my friends Mike and Karen Baum . It is like running a marathon but I wouldn't miss it. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's Left

I got a call from someone the other day asking what pots I had on hand. Well. it's the end of my season so things are a little picked over and some other things would be cost prohibitive to ship but I thought I would post some pictures for her to see. In case I'm not allowed to do this, this is not a general offer to sell anything through Blogger. It is just to let Caroline know what I have handy and what prices I would charge her for them. Note some of the greens came through a little too saturated. They are really the same color as the other green pots.