Friday, February 22, 2013

A and P show, and a time of comparative ease!

My head has been rather empty of words for the last two or three weeks, an unusual state for me as I habitually expend a great deal of mental energy making up conversations, incubating little descriptive sentences, and entertaining myself with wordy things.  Most of the stuff never gets to the point of being dumped down on paper, but it is up there bubbling and fermenting.  Well, it usually is.  Lately there has been a damping down of that fire, and hardly anything has emerged through the hissing steam, and the veil of smoke.

Agricultural shows are really about people and their animals. Photo P. Watson
My last post was about our time at the Lawrence Summer Arts Festival.  The following Saturday we had a stall at the A & P (agricultural and pastoral) show at Palmerston.  Although Palmerston is only a short journey from here, there was a similar level of preparation and packing to do, because I was to have the wheel at the show as well as our sales table.

Things seemed to get off to rather a rocky start with all sorts of minor things going wrong... and many of them early in the morning whilst we were still setting up our display.  I won't list them all, but they did include me painfully splitting a thumbnail whilst closing a car door just prior to the time I was going to have to prepare clay for throwing on the wheel.  Whilst I was still clutching my thumb and wondering how I was going to get it back into working condition, a vehicle arrived towing a trailer, and the people wanted to set up a food stall next to us, but had not been allocated enough level space to put up their stall.  We agreed to move our tables and also my potter's wheel a few feet.  Whilst moving one of my large wood fired pots to a "safer place" I managed to break a piece off it.  For safe transport I had discovered that the large pots would travel in 60 ltr plastic rubbish bins.  The bins give a lot of protection to pots, and are quick and easy to pack.  The large pot in question had decorative bands around it, with a pie crust edging.  It was a big, heavy pot and the pie crust edging hooked the lip of the plastic bin as I was putting the pot in, and a short section broke off.  It was one of those stupid things that happen if you don't give a simple job your full attention, and I was doing things too fast.

These things should not have bothered me as much as they did, but I felt very dispirited. I came very close to throwing everything in the back of the van and driving home, maybe if I had been on my own I might have done... but Laura bravely carried on setting out pots on the table, so I busied myself with getting the wheel set up again and my thumb attended to so that I could make use of it.

Laura in command of our stall and I make another wobbly pot in the shade.  Photo P. Watson.
It was a nice day, with sunshine, and a refreshing breeze that kept things from getting unmanageably hot. On one side of us there was a man from Nigeria selling "lollies" (candies), and on the other side of us the food stall cooked up sausages and burgers to raise money for a local high school class to visit Vietnam.

I liked the Nigerian "Lolly Man" (as he called himself). Talking to him helped me get through the early part of the day, and put me in a better mood.  The Lolly Man had come all the way to New Zealand with his wife and three children, to give his family a better life.  He was happy to have moved over here, but through the day I thought of how hard this "better life" must be, adjusting to a new country, travelling from show to show, market to market, weekend after weekend to sell $2 and $3 bags of lollies to make enough money to feed his family.  My own concerns shrank somewhat, and my respect for him grew.

As the hours dragged past we had several people say "It is such a nice day, you must be selling lots of pots!"
The truth was that on both sides of us, fat and sugar were selling well, but we looked in danger of going the whole day without selling anything at all. Of course, this is not the sort of thing that you can say to someone. All we could do was smile sweetly and say "Yes it is a lovely day!", and try to look happy.

The Topp Twins performed twice that day, and we had a good view of them from where we were.  I have seen them on Television before, but this was my first time "in the flesh".  They mix stand up comedy with country singing, and it was interesting seeing how they "worked" the crowd.  They made the most of being country people in a country community. "Have we got anyone in the audience who has a lifestyle block?  I suppose you don't have any animals on your place other than a ride on lawnmower!"  "There's the town Mayor. Once he was a stallion and now he is a mare!"

The Topp Twins and Mr Familton the Mayor.  Photo P. Watson.
 We started setting up our stall at 8 in the morning, and we made our first sale six and a half hours later, the friend of ours that started me potting bought a mug.  Almost immediately after that someone purchased a white crystalline glazed vase. This was a fairly large piece that we had put in the display with little hope of selling, but we thought it was good to show the range of work that I did, not just the budget items.  After that a teacup sold.  About an hour later two more cups sold.

So that was our day.  Enough sales toward the close of the day to make it worth us attending the event, and we were so lucky that the vase sold.  It could easily have been nothing.

A pink Lavatera that is in a pot outside our back door.
I have taken it fairly easy over the last two weeks or so out of necessity, the "gas tank" has been empty and I profoundly weary.  The weekend at Lawrence, and the A & P show at Palmerston came at the end of a long period of work that started well before Christmas, and just kept on going with me in the studio most days and no real days off at all.

Convolvulus and Fennel.
I have done some work in the garden (I had forgotten that we had one!), I have done a lot less in the studio, and nothing much with the blog. For fun two days ago, I installed Archlinux on a computer.  This is one of the best Linux distributions out there, but is also one of the most "geeky" to install, and I enjoyed crafting my own firewall, and peering into various configuration files.  I now have a system that starts in 10 seconds, shuts down in 4, and only consumes about 75 megabytes of RAM... oh joy!

Mmm looks like it was made from porcelain.
Thanks to Peter Watson for allowing me to use some photos that he took of the Palmerston A & P show... another slight hiccup that morning was I neglected to pack the camera that I had left ready and waiting to take with me...

Ginger keeping an eye on things.

Sorry for my neglect of all of you in the Land of Blog.  I'll be reading and writing again soon! P.


cookingwithgas said...

Fat and sugar will always beat your sales.
It is good to read you.

Arkansas Patti said...

Well that show certainly had an iffy start. A busted thumb nail and a broken pot would be really discouraging. Good thing you have Laura to keep you going and glad you managed to salvage the day. Your crystalline glazes are so beautiful, you ought to show more of them.

Angie said...

Great to have you back ...I enjoyed the read even though I squirmed as you injured your thumb and cursed as you broke the pot. I am so glad you made enough sales to have made it just worth while but now you deserve a rest and time to do other fun things.That day showed just how much Laura is your rock ....hugs to you both ...and Ginger and Miss Stoppit xx

Michèle Hastings said...

Congrats on selling the large piece. I am glad it too the sting off of a frustrating day.

smartcat said...

I was beginning to wonder where you are gotten to. Good that you had enough sales to make the day worthwhile. Food will always outsell pots. Be glad you didn't have someone selling dough ornaments next to you!

I thought for a minute the convolvulus was Angel's Trumpet. I love white flowers, especially at dawn and dusk when they shimmer.

Ginger looks like he/she is keeping everything under control and in good order!

Linda Starr said...

Oh a finger in a car door is so painful and then the broken pot so glad Laura was there to console you; I would have packed up myself many a time if Gary wasn't there to cheer me on. What is the pot at the top, it is a lovely color. As always your flowers are so beautiful. yes the food always sells, now let's see if I can think of a pot with a food ingredient included with it I can sell maybe that is the ticket for me. Ha.

Peter said...

Hi Meredith,
Probably I should sell my pots as food, or as a mineral supplement with an appropriate label..
"contains calcium, magnesium, iron.... and may contain traces of nuts!"

Hi Patti,
Laura is a great support and help, and it would be hard to manage without her. I will revisit crystalline glazes soon, I am starting to run a bit short of pots that have them, and there is a lot more I want to try regarding making the best use of them.

Hello Angie,
Hugs accepted and shared around. We're starting to bounce back again here, but I have certainly needed a bit of a rest.
Hugs sent your way too, and purrs from "Miss Stopit" (who is currently occupying my computer chair, whilst I use something less comfortable)! Pxx

Hi Michele,
A good sale certainly does make a difference!

Hi Smartcat,
Not sure what variety the convolulus will be, it is a weed around here that blesses us with its flowers. Ginger is a he (sort of!!). I know what you mean about the dough ornaments..., we did once have something like that happen, where someone sold a whole load of "car boot sale" items next to us at a "craft" stall, and was selling second hand stoneware bowls at 50 cents each! Aggggggggggggggggh!

Hi Linda,
The pot at the top of my blog is a detail of a large wood fired earthenware one that I was commissioned to make for someone. There is a photo of the whole pot on

I have wondered about making bread and selling it in earthenware baking pans. I don't know how they would go, but it would give me a good excuse for building a large wood fired bread oven!

Armelle Léon Bitterolf said...

Hello Peter,
Maybe I don't understand all what you say (about the Mayor). Sorry for your finger and the broken vase, happy that finally the day was good enough.
Your first photo is really stunning, you are right, the farmer and his animal make a beautiful couple !!!
Beautiful flowers, and I notice the fenouil seeds, we have the same in august, here.

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,
Mayor/Mare sound the same in English, but one is the title of an important person in local government, and the other is the name for a female horse! The Topp Twins were making fun of the Mayor in their comedy act, "Once he was a stallion (male horse) now he is a mare (female horse)". I suspect that there are similar puns in other languages, where words sound the same but have very different meanings?

I have just looked up "pun" on wikipedia, and there is a very studious article there. Apparently puns have a long history, being found in cuneiform writing that was done by scribes in ancient Iraq about 2500 BC.

My friend Peter Watson took the nice photo of the man and his animal.

August..., you are right, it does feel like August here. Still the sun is hot, but there is a chilly feeling to the air at night like autumn is not far away.


Jill M Hodgson said...

After the thumb incident and then chipping the pot I think you could have been forgiven for having a full on Basil Fawlty moment!
What happens to a chipped pot...... is there any way to recycle or repair it?
I am the kind of customer who would likely buy an earthenware pan with homemade bread in it, buying into a vision of a more wholesome life. (Then the next year I'd probably buy another one, hope springing eternal!)

Peter said...

Hi Jill,
Nice to hear from you. Currently the large chipped pot gets put beside the gallery door when we are open (best side on show and the chip hidden from view). I am thinking about how to repair it nicely. It could probably be sold as a damaged and repaired second if someone really wanted it, but it is serving a useful purpose as a gallery sign.

I should say that the earthenware pan with homemade bread is "food for thought"..., The good thing is that I will be able to make some prototypes for our own use, and enjoy the bread too.

Linda Starr said...

One of these days I hope to build one of those wood fired ovens, have always wanted one, the dome shaped ones you know what I mean. I think they'd look lovely in the landscape

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
The smell of wood smoke combined with the heady aromas of baking bread... all this goes through the imagination! I recently came across a nice book at our library about making wood fired ovens, I will try and remember to note the title and author, and pass it on to you. Most ovens in the book were adobe type construction, and looked great.