During the month of March (coming soon … “Three Things I Would Have Blogged About in March if I’d Had the Time”) I did an Instagram challenge about meeting the person behind the business. I’ve crossposted these already on my work blog but thought some of you who don’t read that might still really like this challenge.
Day 1: Brand Image.
I have a graphic designer friend who did this for me after meeting a few times and discussing the vision I had for HaldeCraft, before I even officially opened. I wanted something that wouldn’t be just pottery, or just hand-dyed yarn, since I was going to do both of those things (and make soap) and didn’t want my image to be limited to one particular craft. If it also looked old-timey, and maybe had something to do with typewriters (both my father and uncle are accomplished science fiction authors) that would be awesome. I gave her pretty vague instructions — more feelings, really, than instructions — and when she came back with this, I was in love. A wax seal, as if I’ve “put my stamp on it”… but the letter is a typewriter key instead of an ornate initial. It doesn’t scream just-one-craft, and can be resized to be unobtrusive on my labels or as a big stamp on the outside of packages. Almost six years as HaldeCraft, now, and I’ve not wanted to change my brand image at all.
Day 2: You.
Like a lot of other people have said, ahhhhhh! A selfie? I prefer to be in back of the camera! Which explains the look on my face because I’d already taken, like, 15 photos, and didn’t like any of them. So this is what you get. I’m Lorena, and I’m the sole force behind HaldeCraft.
I dream up the things, I make the things, I photograph and list the things, I promote the things, I sell the things, I package and ship the things, I own up when things go wrong and try to make it right, I take care of the accounting and the supply ordering and the social media and the customer service and the craft shows and the look of the website and… and now I need a nap, just thinking about all that. Or a beer. Or a beer and a nap! Whoooo! (PS. I’m also a wife, a daughter, a niece, an aunt, a goddess-mother, a friend, a confidant, a champion of underdogs, a voracious reader, a gardener, a maker of cupcakes, and a collector of animals who are sweet but just not right in the head. Bonus points if those animals have an odd number of legs.)
Day 3: Workspace.
At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat… here’s my 2000 sq ft studio, on our 15 acres that we bought last year. Y’all. Y’ALL. Sometimes this shit *still* doesn’t seem real.
There’s a few hundred square feet not shown, in a garage attached to the building; my husband uses that for his woodworking projects, and my kiln is out there since it’s covered but open — that way we didn’t have to put in a venting system to handle kiln fumes (mmmmm, kiln fumes…!). Can you believe that until last year, ALL OF THIS was in three rooms of our 1500 sq ft house?! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I could only work on one thing at a time, had to completely clean up and move everything in order to move on to another project, and if I had a sale, I had to move seven things in front of the thing I needed to get to in order to process the order. Y’all. Y’ALL. I just can’t even.
Shown in this picture, top to bottom — taken from my seating area for social gatherings, looking across the building to where most of my ceramic work takes place. Then taken from that corner where the plaster molds are, looking back and sideways across the building to where I dye yarn and work on soap (the random big window in the middle of the wall looks in on my office). Speaking of my office, that’s the third part of the photo, looking out into the studio proper. I’m tellin’ ya… luckiest girl alive, me.
Day 4: Tools.
SO MANY TOOLS. Paint brushes. Glazing brushes. Tools for handbuilding and slipcasting and cleaning greenware and carving and shaping. A wheel and a slabroller. My crock pots for dyeing yarn. Half of what is in my studio is a tool, and I use them all! I may have a tool addiction, too, because I can never refuse something new to try out. Maker problems, eh?
Day 5: Can’t Live Without
I thought about posting a picture of my hands in yesterday’s shoot on tools, until I noticed the next prompt was “Can’t Live Without”.
In June of last year I broke my left ring finger breaking up a dog fight. It was a 70% rotational fracture, and the surgeon said he’d never seen a break that bad that still left the finger on the hand. When he went in to put two screws and a plate into it, he couldn’t — the bone was almost completely pulverized from the break down. He was able to get one screw into the biggest two remaining parts of the broken bone, and then kept me immobilized for about a month (and in a cast for another five or six weeks after that).
The fear of possibly losing the ability to use that hand in making art was … I don’t even have words. Seeing the break was bad, driving myself to the ER was torturous (why didn’t I call a bus? Who knows, brains, so stupid when in pain), but the black pit of fear that I might lose the finger? Lose the ability to make things with that hand? I decided I couldn’t live without being able to make things. I couldn’t live without my hands. So I rocked the f*** out of physical therapy, did everything (and more) that the surgeon and the therapists told me to do, and while there’s still scar tissue and some rotation in that finger, I can now, still, do everything I did before the break.
Except maybe I do it with more with gratitude, and more awareness of other’s limitations.
Day 6: Raw Materials
For spinning yarn, I use roving – processed fiber, primarily animal fiber like wool, alpaca, and sillk. For dyeing yarn, I use … well, base yarn. Already spun yarn that is undyed; again, primarily animal fibers.
But for ceramics! Ah… ceramics! I use slip, and clay.
Slip is a liquid version of clay — it’s used in pouring ceramics, also called slipcasting. You pour the liquid clay into a plaster mold (usually a two-part mold, but possibly more than that, and it’s held together with jumbo-sized thick rubber bands or straps) and after it begins to set and dry against the plaster, you flip it over and drain the excess slip out, creating a hollow piece (or an empty piece, depending on whether you’re casting a bowl, a mug, or a figurine).
And as in my photograph, here, I also use clay for throwing and hand-building. This is what people typically think of when they hear the word “clay”. Mostly mushy, you can make it even more goopy with water, and it gets harder as it dries. First leather-hard (when it can still be carved into, or be stamped, or have slip-trailing added to it) and then greenware, which is the dry state of the piece before it is first put in the kiln and bisque fired (bisque is after it’s been fired once, but before it’s been glazed and final fired). I do love me a good messy day filled with all kinds of clay!
Day 7: How and Why?
How, for most of my life (I started making ceramics when I was about four) has been slipcasting (using a liquid clay and plaster molds). A few years ago I picked up hand-building, after not doing anything with it since I was in grade school, and then a year ago I started throwing. With all three skills under my belt, I feel like a triple threat — I can do any one thing, or a combination of two, or mix up all three and make things that are truly unique.
Why…? Because I have to! I can’t not. Even when I had “real” jobs I would always make ceramics. My grandmother, who had a studio in the 50s and 60s, taught me when I would stay with my grandparents when I was a child. I kept at it growing up, and would do them every summer when I would stay with them. After she had a stroke and could no longer make them herself, I would make them in front of her whenever we were together. She loved to help me pick colors, and watch me paint. After she died, I kept at it as a testament to her. And after the yarn store I owned with two friends closed, and I was facing unemployment vs. burger flipping, I turned to my life-long hobby as a business. I thought I’d try it for a few months, until the money I had cashed out of savings ran out… but a few sales led to investing in my business which turned into more sales which turned into more investment which turned into more business, and so on! Now I never, ever want to do anything else.
Day 8: Where?
On our hard-won, fought-for property. Last year we bought (after a long six months with a story that comes with a two-drink minimum) 15 acres of pretty untouched land outside of Gainesville, Florida. On the left is my studio, and the house is on the right (we weren’t over the moon about the house being a mobile home, but with 15 acres, we can build a better house to suit ourselves, and live in the mobile home while we do it. Try doing that on a quarter acre city lot!).
The land itself is what’s called the Sandhill ecosystem, and we have a lot of native plants – long leaf pine, turkey oak, wire grass, and prickly pear cactus. Animals include gopher tortoises, deer, raccoons, a wide variety of frogs and snakes, and more birds than you can shake a stick at – hawks, eagles, turkeys, turkey vultures, and sandhill cranes (in addition to every-where birds like cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, doves, and wrens). I find being in the middle of nature incredibly inspiring. If I’m ever stuck on a project, a quick walk around the property will fill my eyes and ears with so much life and inspirational nature that I’m back in the studio plugging away in no time! Some days I still can’t believe how lucky I am.
Day 9: Goals.
Oh, goals. How do I describe thee?
I have mundane, boring, every-day common goals, like remembering to put flea medicine on the cats this month, folding my laundry the same day I do it, sending out those birthday cards.
I have deep, introspective goals, like being a better person than I was yesterday, being tolerant with the petulant and patient with the slow, being generous with my time and heart.
I have goals for my business; doing financially better than the year before, bringing in so many new products over such-and-such months, putting out newsletters and not slacking on social media.
But ultimately, all of those tie into one big goal… to be able to reflect at the end of the day while I plan about tomorrow, enjoying a cold drink and a beautiful sunset, and to be secure that I am walking the right path, facing my True North, that I am happy and whole in my heart, surrounded by love and beauty that I appreciate all the more for having fought through pain and loss to get to this place.
Day 10 is a tough one – Favorite Small Business.
Can I only choose one? When I love so many other artists and makers? So many other potters and yarn dyers to whom I’ve gladly given my money, and even more that I’m eyeing? So many illustrators that make me wish my walls weren’t already covered in art and bookshelves, so I could make room for them, too? AUGH! But then, what if I try to list them all and wind up forgetting one, like someone accepting an Oscar who forgets to name her spouse, or her parents, or the person who wrote or directed the movie? HOW DO I CHOOSE?!
I will go, then, with a locally owned restaurant where I’ve been eating for… I don’t know… fifteen years? Since they opened. I didn’t even like sushi then, but have not only grown to love it but consider it my comfort food (at least, when I can get it without things I’m allergic too… stupid food allergies). Chopstix Cafe, in Gainesville Florida, where I’ve eaten probably twice a month for 15 years. I go there for birthdays, for anniversaries, when we have friends in town, to celebrate good days, to get comfort on bad days, to enjoy the food, to stuff myself on good food and drink, to chat with the friends I’ve made who own and run the place, who, in a weird turn of events that we didn’t find out until a year or two ago, had bought the 40 acre farm my father had to sell at the end of his divorce in the early 90s. I had always wondered who had bought the place, having not been privy to the entire story of what was going on with my dad’s divorce. But how I found out it was them is another long story….!
… come back next Thursday for days 11-20!