The month of October was very busy at the pottery. I was so busy that I thought I might not finish enough pots to fill for the two shows I had to make work for. The month was unseasonably warm, and the beautiful Fall days were as warm as summer, with cooler mornings. The leaves put on a stunning show of color on the winding back roads of North Eastern Pennsylvania.
The first show, The Artist’s Open House Weekend, landed on the month’s first weekend and ran through the Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Holiday. I took some vacation time off work and scrambled to fill the candle cups, and the mugs fired out. On the tour, I was at a new location for the tour. The location was stop #27, the Soaring Gardens Artist Retreat.
It was great being at the retreat as my past professor at Keystone College, Bill Tersteege, who got me making the pots, was on the board. While taking a tour, I could see some of his Ceramic artwork in the large old main house. The Main house was quite beautiful, and bookshelves lined the walls between large windows. It made me want to sit and read a book there on a rainy day. The studio spaces were also stunning and well-lit. I was in a lower painting studio to set up the pots. You may learn more about the retreat’s history by visiting the link above.
The Soaring Gardens Artist Retreat was on a winding road, and I worried visitors would have issues finding the location. I did a live feed from the location and posted the address, and the booklet contained a map and QR code, which made it easy for visitors to travel the map. I was shocked and humbled by how many stopped and visited me while I displayed and made pots on the treadle wheel. I made some new friends, and the administration was very kind. One artist I had the pleasure of meeting was artist Cherie Lee, who was an eggshell sculptor.
It was a pleasure to greet the visitors and tell my story and how pots were made. I want to think that some of the small children who saw how pots were made might one day become potters themselves. I enjoy inspiring others to take up potting and, if not taking on the craft in a major way, at least trying. Life is far too short not to, and creating work is like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was yesterday, and the second-best time is now. From all the interactions, I collected fragments of stories from the visitors as I told my own, and the exchange was very enriching. I sold more than expected. But the story and community building are far more important than revenue. Revenue is simply a tiny reward and by-product of meaningful interactions.
Two weeks after the Artist’s Tour came my Creek Road Pottery Fall 2023 show at the pottery on the local Pumpkin Trail. Having both shows two weeks apart had me scrambling to replace the work that sold. I could fire out a kiln load or two and get more candles filled to have enough to fill the pottery shed once again. Once more, I had my worries, and once more, I was amazed at the support from the local community and how many took the time to travel the Pumpkin Trail and support small businesses.
I was proud of the colors that showed up in the glaze on some of the casserole dishes. I have been working to send the kiln into deep reduction and sometimes messing up the pots while experimenting. However, I was able to fire out a few lovely pieces that I hope those who stopped by and purchased did enjoy. I always enjoy doing work for the fall show and love the local interaction it brings.
I was humbled when folks from a few hours away stopped by to say hello and to see the pots. I never take anyone for granted and always appreciate their time and effort. All three days were hectic. I was able to do a few demos for children on the treadle wheel and maybe turned a few of them into potters.
On the local trail shows, some stop in to try to win the raffles and door prizes. They have a runner, a kid with a pile of entry papers to get stamped. One little girl loved the pots and would look around while I stamped the pile of entry papers. I gave her a free pot last year and told her not to tell. And that someday she would be a potter.
When the little runner returned this year, I gave her another mug. Mom got out and thanked me this time, tearing up a little. She said they watched me online and didn’t have much money. I told her it was okay and that her daughter would make pots someday, and I’d help her fire out the kilns. I think in a year or two, I will have convinced her to take up the pots.
I enjoy building community as we can set the narrative. My community was wrecked last month by a terrible event happening next door that involved the loss of life of an abuse victim. For a few years, I have helped struggling single mothers and abused women with some of the revenue I generate. Nothing made me feel better than paying a few bills for a struggling single mother who escaped abuse and needed a little breathing room.
I am proud to say that I am helping my cousin Beth start her own pottery business and maybe one day throw pots with her. The last image is of my cousin Beth setting up the kiln she came and got from my place.
My ideal customer, Mrs. Davis, enjoys the pots more when she is here. I lost a lot of money by not having enough larger baking dishes and centerpieces she sought. About five Mrs. Davises told me they would have bought from me if I had made enough large pieces. So, I need to show up for Mrs. Davis in a big way at the Christmas show.
I am unsure how to handle being famous, as some drove two hours one way for the pots because they saw me throwing online and interacting. I remind myself to be normal and to never take any customer for granted. I also try to be humble, as some foot could drop at any time, causing a bad time.
Between the foot drops, I do celebrate a bit by posting here with you all and watching the bank teller count the cash. I mix up the bills on purpose so that I can watch them all be counted. In town at the Wright Choice Diner, some new things were happening that cold Wednesday morning as Darrel Cline sat in the corner in his usual seat having a coffee.
The tall man took off his coat, dripping with cold rain, and sat in booth three. Big Jimmy, the owner and cook, looked out from the kitchen. He didn’t recognize the tall man and assumed he was new in town, but he did pick up on his white hair covered by his black hat. Big Jimmy kept an eye on everyone. He couldn’t afford not to.
“Good morning, Sir! My Name is Darrel Cline! That sure is a nice hat you have. I hope you have a great day!” complimented Darrel.
” Why, thank you, Darrel. It sure is nice to meet you. My name is Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel, but you can call me Rabbi Asher if you like. How is the coffee here, Darrel?”
” Best coffee in town! You sure made the Wright Choice, stopping here!” said Darrel.
The Rabbi chuckled at the pun.
“That’s great to know, Darrel. Thank you!”
In the back, Big Jimmy flipped two eggs on the grill and leaned over to his waitress, Stacy.
“Now listen close and do as I say. That man appears to be an observant Jew, and tonight at sundown starts the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. They build an outdoor fort called a Sukkah. When you go out, he will order a coffee. Tell him we can pour over from pre-ground coffee if he wants, and we can pack up his meal to go.”
“Su..what?” asked Stacy.
” I’ll explain it all later. Just go out there and take his order and try to be normal. And spit that gum out, Stacy. You know better!” hissed Big Jimmy.
“Okay…Jeez… calm down, Jimmy. You’re acting; it’s like the president out there or something.” groaned Stacy.
The Rabbi put in his order, and Stacy returned it to the kitchen—a brisket and matzo balls to go. The pressure was on to do things right, and Big Jimmy loved a good challenge to be correct, at least a little. He slowly cooked brisket with tomatoes, onions, garlic, brown sugar, and a touch of vinegar. He then made up the Matzo balls and served them in a warm chicken soup. He packed up the order and sent it to the table with Stacy. Big Jimmy held his breath as a Rabbi opened the container and looked in.
“This looks great! My compliments to the cook. How much do I owe you so I don’t have to wash dishes?” chuckled the Rabbi.
“Thirty dollars plus tax. Mr. Rabbi, Sir,” said Stacy awkwardly as Big Jimmy let out a sigh of relief in the back.
The Rabbi paid his bill, put on his hat and coat, and gathered his order. He nodded to Darrel and walked out into the cold and rainy street.
“What the hell was that all about, Jimmy? And what the hell is Sukkah?” asked Stacy.
“It’s a Jewish Holiday where they build a fort outside. They do it, they say, to remind them of the forty-year period during which Israel wandered in the desert after leaving slavery in Egypt way back. It’s been a long since I’ve seen a Rabbi in town. It caught me off guard, as most folks here are Baptist.” explained Big Jimmy.
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t mess all that up, Jimmy, or I would have been embarrassed. I think I spelled Matzo right, anyway.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you did great. And for sure, I’m glad I didn’t embarrass you!” laughed big Jimmy.
Now, there may not have been a Rabbi, a Big Jimmy, or a Sukkah, but somewhere, someone was taking care to care. Do justice and love mercy, and maybe things will work out. This is my town and my story. So I get to tell it how I like.
Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.
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