Saturday, March 17, 2012

Coming Out of Hibernation

Well, actually I haven't been hibernating at all. Instead, I have been working on a number of projects and planning for this year's potting season. The new flyers will soon go to the printer. I hope to get that mailing out by late March or early April, so if you are on my mailing list, watch for it!

If you aren't on my mailing list and would like to be, you can send an email to and I will be sure to add you. Don't worry, you won't get inundated with junk mail. At most, I send out two mailing each year.

Yet another way to stay in touch is currently under development. Plans are underway to develop an e-newsletter through Constant Contact. This will allow customers to receive news and (yes) occasional promotional specials in their email once in a while. That letter is also expected to go out only a couple times each year, but a lot will have to do with what you the customer wants.

So that's the administrative side of things. What has been happening? Well...

Winter in Maine is rumored to be a cold, snowy experience. It wasn't this year. We did have cold weather, and there was even some occasional snow, but it was generally mild. Mind you, there was enough chill in the air to keep me away from the studio. Regardless of how warm it seems, the pipes have to stay drained if there is any chance of freezing. So there you are.

The tile project has progressed nicely. I am in hopes that the first edition of the Maine Lighthouse tiles will be out this summer. Each step of the way has its challenges, and right now, it's the glaze firing and overall shrinkage issues that need addressing. Those are fairly minor, though.

A new tile design is under development as well. These will feature geometric and natural designs for use in wall and table panels. More on this when I have designs worked out.

And of course, the Rowantrees reproduction line - arguably the star of the show - will take center stage. I have been working on and fine tuning glaze formulas over the winter. That's a job that is never completed because raw materials change from time to time and those changes have to be compensated for. As Sheila Varnum once told me, there is always a mystery to solve in this business. To me, that's part of its allure.

There were other developments over the winter. Some good, some not so good. That's essentially what they call life. In the not so good department, a couple of machines that I had been using at the Rowantrees facility were removed by a junk removal guy. One of those was the old rock grinder. It was used to grind the granite used in the glazes. There are other ways to grind granite and I have plenty done up ahead, so this wasn't all that much of a blow. Besides, the old grinder really was pretty worn out. Still, it was an historic piece of machinery made by the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (better known as 3M) way back in the 1030s. I would wager that parts were still obtainable for it but they would have cost more than the machine itself. So when it comes to the granite, it's ball milling from here on in.

Less good was the loss of the pug mill. Through a misunderstanding, the junk guy - who apparently didn't understand, "Don't take this!" dismantled the pug mill and removed it. While I wasn't planning on taking it with me (although my resolve was weakening), I was still using it. It's difficult to operate a production pottery without a pug mill if you value your wrists.

But on the good side, a friend nee benefactor who believes in this project has decided to gift a new pug mill to me. We are currently in discussion on how that will work. It's not going to be possible to replace the machine that was removed, but it won't be necessary to do so. I'll post a picture of the new mill when it is in place.

Also on the plus side is the removal of the old filter press. This was beyond saving, really, and was the actual reason the junk guy was there. Its removal has made for a lot more room.

There is still a lot to do to get the studio ready for this season. I will spend most of April just cleaning. It's amazing how much dust settles in just a few months. I will be away on my first actual vacation in three years in May, and then I will return with sleeves rolled up and ready to go.

But no matter where I am or what I'm doing, my web site is up and available for ordering. And I will be checking mail and messages frequently.

My plans are ambitious but realistic for this my third year in operation. I look forward to seeing you!

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