Saturday, June 27, 2009

Exhibition going well, last day tomorrow (Sunday), a question of clay!

Just a quick update
I have been in Dunedin three days in a row at the exhibition, and have spent several hours working on the wheel on each of those days. The response from the public has been good, with little crowds forming around me at times each day, and quite a refreshing level of interest. I am delighted to see the curiosity that people have over the glazes. Wood fired pottery is something of a novelty here now. I don't know of any other potters around this area that do it, and so many people have not seen shino glazes that have a luster from the wood ash on them. Also, as most potters are firing in electric kilns, most people have not seen reduction fired copper reds.

The Number One Question
The most frequently asked question is, "Where do you get your clay from?" There is a temptation (when feeling mischievous, or weary) to say that we farm it in special enclosures, or formulate it from the dust of semi precious stones to an old family recipe... but I always answer truthfully, and respect the fact that someone has "taken the plunge" and asked a question. I let them know that it comes from Southern Clays Ltd, which is a Dunedin firm, who prepare potter's clays and do use some local materials in their clay bodies.

Supporting Your Area
I do like the thought of using our local firm, and of using local materials where possible. It seems a shame, that in this global village, that an increasing number of potters are entirely reliant on materials from outside their region, or from the other side of the world. For some materials this is, of course, necessary, but for the basic clay that the pot is made of, isn't it good to be able to use something closer to home? As an Otago potter, I like to think that someone is taking a piece of Otago New Zealand home with them when they buy my work.

The Call of the Wild!
I have at times lusted for clays from other localities that seem to promise easier throwing characteristics or yield a different colour or firing range, but I always keep coming back to something that Shoji Hamada said about using his local Mashiko clay which had a justifiable reputation for being "difficult". That it was "better to make a good pot from bad clay". I don't mean to imply that our local clay is bad clay, I actually like it a lot, but it does have its own open sandy character, that helps it sit up quite well on the wheel and dry fast on the drying rack, but this sandiness does limit its plasticity, and I have found it more difficult to throw really thinly than some other finer grained clays. So I try to make work that suits the clay, and try to develop a technique to make the best of it.

Coming Down
The exhibition will be packed away tomorrow afternoon. I have probably sold about 26 pieces so far, or about $1500 worth, which is a good effort for this time of the year. Lots better than staying home and forming a foetal position whilst waiting for the weather to warm up! Items with copper red glazes seem to be some of the most popular, but I have sold a smattering of other glaze types too. Obviously I have a large stock of pots that remained unsold, but that will be good for replenishing my shelves at the Dunedin Stuart Street Potter's Co-operative, and also at the delightful Gallery On Blueskin, who kindly sponsored the exhibition at the Community Gallery.

Some Thoughts
It has been most instructive seeing just how much more can be sold at a location where there is reasonable foot traffic, and seeing the positive contribution that working in public can make to people's enjoyment of an exhibition. Well worth doing more of.

We Did Get in the Paper, Which was Nice!
Arty Facts

Disturbing Rumor and a Rant
There is a disturbing rumor afoot that the Dunedin City Council intend to "relocate" the Community Gallery to another site, as some City Councillors resent the fact that the current location is on a "prime commercial site". I am also to understand that, in the mean time, the charges for using the Community Gallery, are due to rise steeply. I find it fascinating that a council can bask in the reflected glory of the achievements of the city artists, and happily knee cap them with this sort of treatment.

Daft Big Projects...
A Stadium
Meanwhile our council seems intent on building an enormous monument to the god of sport, in the form of a hugely expensive stadium which is approaching NZ $200 million (in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup).

A Mall
And they have just completed a monument to the god of commerce, in the form of the, our American readers will love this, the Wall Street Mall!!!! (Yes the DCC really have spent around NZ $35 million on building a shopping Mall that they have named "Wall Street"!!).

Wait, there may be more!
The Council also wanted to spend a truck load of money on itself, in the form of town hall extensions, and the Regional Council wanted a new NZ$35 million building down near the proposed expensive redevelopment of the wharf area, where we are led to believe we will be better off having yet more cafes, boutique bars, and apartments, in place of the "dirty", blue collar engineering, and shipping type businesses that are currently there. There have been some hiccups in getting started on those as yet, but....

"I Am Dunedin" and "It's All Right Here!"

Dunedin has also spent dollops of money on self promotion and getting catchy ditties to reinvigorate its image. I Am Dunedin I think is the current one, although I have lived here long enough to get confused, as there have been others!

Here is some of the marketing speak, it is for an old timer like me, actually quite funny in its way,
The DCC believes that “I am Dunedin” will continue to be successful and effective due to its innovative flair and the originality of branding a city and positively changing perceptions. The brand has no barriers, is therefore sustainable, and can be developed into a multitude of campaigns that are timely and relevant to the City of Dunedin’s future promotional and communication needs.

The population of Dunedin is approximately 120,000, and much of it poor. Our sewage still ends up in the sea, all be it from a longer pipe...., we really need all this "visionary spending" don't we!


Kitty Shepherd said...

My most asked question when I was in England was “Have you seen Ghost?” It used to drive me mad it was always when I was on the wheel and I got to the point where I would look up and just say “No, is it s film, I think I have heard about it” and then I would get an entire synopsis, lingering around the wheel moment where the teller would go all dreamy and then wonder off quite happily.

Second most asked question was,; where do you get your clay!

Third most asked; is it good for your skin!!!!

Fourth; how long does it take to make a pot? Answer: 21 years one week and four hours (for example). Puzzled look….explanation; 21 years to get to this skill level and the rest was actual hands on effort.

I am glad the show is a success, you must be exhausted though, they are such hard work these things, all the people.

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad you had a successful showing Peter. I love that you made the paper and the title of the article "Arty Facts" tickled me.
I am sure your audience learned a lot from you. You are such a good teacher.

Peter said...

Dear Kitty, You made me smile! Such a good thing after a very disturbed series of nights which are largely due to being overtired. Quite right about being exhausted through the hard work of the exhibition. My next hurdle to jump over is lots of paperwork that has been accumulating in a draw for rather longer than it should. It is almost the final deadline for getting such stuff to the IRD for the last financial year. It takes so many hours to actually make and to try to market stuff in order to feed the tum and put a roof over the head, that it is really hard to summon the energy to shuffle paper.... but it must be done! I am amused by your list of FAQs. I haven't yet been asked about the film, thank goodness, or about the benefits or otherwise to my skin. I think that a glance at my aging, sagging frame, and balding head is enough to steer conversations away from apparent health benefits of clay!

Hi Patti, I had a feeling that you might be amused by "Arty Facts", Oh,the joys of thinking up catchy titles "to engage the reader!" For my sins I did once edit, write, design, compile,take photographs for, a local newsletter/almost little newspaper. Dreaming up a punchy start to an article was always a challenge. I did actually enjoy quite a bit of the work (especially interviewing people and writing about their lives and work), but bad RSI through too much typing and scribbling long hand notes, put me out of commission. It is nice "to be back" through this blog!

Teaching can be a joyful thing to do with some folk, a sort of mutual discovery of the wonders and splendors. I am not great at it with everyone, but there were some lovely moments over the last few days, where things were just as spellbinding for me as for my little audience. When a pot grows on the wheel between ones hands out of what had been a sticky mass of mud, there is a little miracle taking place.

Anonymous said...

Hey Peter, You must be tired....I get that, 3-day shows and some travel can be tiresome. I just want to eat and VEG after a 3-day show plus the week leading up to the show,etc. Whew!
We also have some political rumblings going on at this summer's 5 part series. However the man who owns the largest retail building is still backing local artists. So the summer is good but after that who knows?

Kitty Shepherd said...

I think it's because I am a girl potter that I get asked all those silly questions!
Have a cup of tea and go and ground yourself on any bit of planet that doesn't have under ground pipes or wires. It really works when you have been exposed to lots of people all wanting a bit of you.

Dad said...

Well Peter, I hope you'll be able to take Kitty's advice! Bearing in mind all those wires under the OPO from the former telephone exchange, that patch of earth needs to be well away from your studio!
We're so pleased it's gone so well.
By the way, we love Laura's latest too!

Jewels said...

When I was around nine years old, I remember watching with fascination a man throwing a pot on a kick wheel. He saw my interest and was kind enough to let me feel the clay move through my hands. It was magic and I knew it was what I wanted to do when I grew up. It is really neat that you demonstrate throwing pots and have undoubtedly already influenced someone to try their hand at potting. : )
I am glad the exhibition was a success for you. I was thinking that we have an advantage as Christmas sells help to tide us over in the winter months.
I hope relocating the Community Gallery and the increase in dues is just a nasty rumor, and you are enjoying a sigh of relief at having completed your IRD paperwork!

Peter said...

Hello Mary, Kitty, Dad, and Jewels, lovely to hear from you all. I did manage to lie in bed until 10am on Monday, just to try and catch up on some rest, but have been quite busy after that. Today, Tuesday, I have been in Dunedin looking after the Potter's Co-operative Gallery. I was slightly dreading it, as am still very tired, and it can be cold and rather too quiet in the Gallery at this time of the year, but things went quite well today, and the trickle of customers through the Gallery were frequent enough to keep me wide awake and entertained! Met some lovely people and enjoyed talking to them. What with the day in town today, and having to sort out advertising and our own display of pots yesterday, the IRD paperwork has had to be put off until tomorrow!

Sadly, the relocation of the Community Gallery and increase in costs have more substance than just rumor, but we will try and put up a fight.

Jewels, that was lovely about the potter who let you feel the clay moving through your hands. It is a nice thought that demonstrating throwing on the wheel may one day prompt someone to have a go themselves. It's all about sharing something joyful!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Good day to you, Peter. I'm glad your exhibit was a successful one. I know it's necessary, and that you do make those beautiful things to sell, but does it ever give you a pang to see the fruit of your labor go out the door? Is it going to "a good home?" LOL! I do tend to personify almost everything.

I read with interest the goings on in Dunedin. Your City Council sounds a great deal like most other municipal governments; it's so easy to spend what they did not personally break their backs to earn. Sounds to me like you desperately need a sewage treatment plant instead of a new wing on the municipal building, and some of the other "spend it" programs.

I shudder at the thought of all the millions and millions of dollars (in whatever currency) are spent on sports and sports venues. Yes, there are some things I will never understand.

Wishing you a good day, and some well deserved rest.

Peter said...

Hello Pat, and a Good Day to you too! Hope yours is rather warmer than ours. Today we have the situation of a frost with a gray cloudy sky over the top. Not all that much fun, as we never seem to warm up much with that combination. Alexandra in Central Otago does get it worse than us in that, due to a peculiarity of geography, they can get fog hanging for several days over a really heavy frost....bbbrrrrrrrr! It ssends a cchill to even ttthink about it!!

Pat, Please, Please.. stand for our City Council, your letter is a drop of sanity and calm. I am sure that, if there was any objection to your residency status, we could have you here as an overseas expert to advise Council officials.

Sometimes I do have a "pang" at parting with my pots. There are one or two that I can't quite face parting with yet...., but we do have a problem with not enough storage space. And then there is the thought..., wouldn't it be nice to think of it giving pleasure to someone else?

Probably the part I find most difficult is the pricing of my pots or paintings, but that is probably worth a post all of its own, so I won't labour the issue here just yet.

All the Best to you, P.