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With the price of inflation going up and the cost of gas sky rocketing I was forced to make a few changes and try new things to save money rather then raise prices at the pottery. One of those ways was to try something I have always wanted to try but put off, was firing the pots only once in the kiln.

This would mean I would need to practice glazing green-ware for at least the smaller items. The cost savings would cut my fuel bill almost in half. Other potters do use the single fire or once fired method but I never have. I was prepping for a show in Lake Carey PA in the Old Carter barn. It’s a real nice old barn that was refurbished to hold weddings and small local concerts. I had a load of bowls to fire out so I decided to try a single fire.

Raw Fired Pots:

 

I first took the bowls that were bone dry and glazed the insides of them all. I waited until they were dry then carefully dunked the outsides. The process was quite delicate and I did end up breaking three but it was not to bad for a first try.

Once all the bowls were glazed inside and out I then made sure the bottoms were clean by cleaning off any drips with a damp sponge. I let the pots dry some once more and went and had a coffee. Next I put large square plates down and loaded the bowls onto them in case anything blew up it would onto stick to the shelves. Being this was my first single fire, I had to be extra careful.

I started the kiln off with a two hour warm up on low with just the burners and kept it under 200F. My next time turning up the kiln I did so just until the burner barely lit. I let the kiln fire this way and slowly warm for another hour. When the alarm went off on my timer I did another turn up, this time until I could just hear a light flow of air being sucked into the burner vents. At this stage the kiln is temperature is at about 800F and it smokes some burning off the organic material. I set my timer for another hour then go trim pots or watch Bridezillas.

On the next turn up I open the valve until I can hear air being sucked in at a study flow and the flame is blue. At this point the flames should reach about half way up the kiln. After another hour I turn up the kiln until the flame in just over the top shelf and just under the lid. By this stage the kiln is normally near red heat and there is no longer any black smoke and all the carbon, if there was any, is burned off the pots and out of the kiln.

For the last turn up I like the flames to be licking about 8 inches out of the top of the lid. I let the kiln fire checking every thirty minutes,, then every fifteen minuets towards the end until the cone bends in the center peephole then I shut everything down and cover the top hole in the lid.

The process I just mentioned above worked out great as the slow manual trun ups were slow enough to allow the pots to both bisque and later become glazed all in one firing. If the single firing is done to fast issues can develop between the wall of the pot and the glaze as gases from organic matter did not have time to escape. This can cause a bit of blistering. I was very relived when I lifted the lid to see all the pots looking back at me in one piece.

I was so happy and let everyone I know all about it. I also had some ash glaze tests in there that turned out great and I was able to take all those pots and sell them at the sale at the The Carter Barn at Lake Carey PA. I also was real happy to know I could now do the single firings and maybe save a few dollars without raising prices.

However, I was not the only one making transitions to new things. Down at the Wright Choice Diner some were not all that use to change and were feeling a bit uncomfortable about it, that is, until things were worked out.

 


Transitions:

 

 

It was 6:00 A.M at the Wright Choice Diner and Milk Man Dan was there early like he was every other morning when he did the milk run. Dan would sip coffee and eat eggs over easy with toast while he waited for the boys up at the Clemmer Farm to get done with milking at 7:00 so he could make his first stop. Milk Man Dan was always a bit late everywhere he went, because in that type of profession showing up early meant waiting for some farmer to finish up so you could pump out his bulk tank. So Milk Man Dan always made it a habit in life to show up fashionably late everywhere he went just to give folks time to ready themselves for his arrival.

It all worked out in the wash as Milk Man Dan applied the same timing methods on Sundays. Showing up late meant you got to sit in the back row at church during the baptist sermon. And if you were the last one to the sermon it was far to late to have the preacher change things up and make the preaching all about you. So even if the good minister came down hard on folks for being late for church Dan was sure to miss half of it while his wife nugged him to stay awake. But this morning Milk Man Dan was not eating his eggs like normal for some reason.

The eggs and toast were getting cold on Milk Man Dan’s plate as he sat with his elbows on the counter and chin in his hands looking at them. We all were not to sure what the issue was as we glanced over.

“Hey Bob..your eggs taste alright?” I ask, leaning in to whisper.

” Taste fine to me.” Says old Bob picking up a piece of bacon and putting it in his mouth.

“ Yeah mine are fine. Not sure what’s going on with Dan down there.”

Just then Big Jimmy the cook and owner came out for a chat and noticed Milk Man Dan not being hungry. He went over to find out what the issue was. Big Jimmy knew the eggs were fried to specification. You fry them until they turn solid white then flip them and count to four. That’s how Milk Man Dan told big Jimmy how he liked them way back and Big Jimmy knew today he counted to four, he seen the kid helping do it.

“Hey Dan, you not hungry today? Did we all mess up your eggs?”

“Nawww it’s not that.” Said Milk Man Dan mumbling.

“I don’t eat eggs made and served by those kinds of people.”

At that big Jimmy went over for a closer chat.

“What do you mean “those” kinds of people Dan?”

“Well, on Monday when I was here that kid you have working came out and gave me my eggs and his name was Ricky ..but just now today that same kid comes out with a name tag called Emma. And you can’t tell me the guy got it mixed up. Just saying.”

Big Jimmy’s neck was turning red and we all at the bar went back to eating like normal as we knew something big was about to go down. Whenever Big Jimmy’s neck turned red you knew someone might be on their way to getting tossed from the Wright Choice Diner, or if not that , walked out to the back steps where all types of things were worked out the hard way.

Big Jimmy was now standing directly in front of Milk Man Dan at the counter. His large body casting a looming shadow over Dan and his plate of cold eggs.

‘”So what’s it to you Dan? Who cares what the name tag says.”

“Are you telling me your eggs are different from the ones you had here on Monday Dan?”

“Like do you think that because a person has a name change or transition that they would mess up frying eggs?”

“The kid counted to four Dan, just like you wanted. I was there to be sure. And yeah the name is Emma. Now you gonna eat those damn eggs or not?”

Big Jimmy looked down the counter at the rest of us with his red face.

“Hey Guys! Those eggs Emma brought out they were fine and all, correct?”

“Because maybe..just maybe..I could be loosing my mind and messed up the eggs today for some strange reason. So you all are telling me they were good?”

Now when big Jimmy asks you a question like that it’s important to answer quick and not keep him waiting or cause trouble.

“Sure were Jimmy!” I say.

“Tasted just like the ones we had here yesterday I would say. Easy over is how I like them and all and the kitchen nailed it for sure? Right Bob?”

“Umm Hummm!” said old Bob with his mouth full.

Big Jimmy looked back at Dan.

“Well Dan, I’m kind of hurt that you don’t like the eggs Emma fried today. And because of that I think your payment for that money I loaned you for those new tires out on the milk truck just might be due right now.”

When we all glanced over and we could see Milk Man Dan’s face go a bit white. We all knew Dan did not have the rest of the truck tire money as eight-teen wheels cost quite a bit and Dan just had them put on two weeks ago. They were nice tires. Michelins, all of them, over seven-hundred dollars a pop. We also knew never to ask Big Jimmy where he got the money that he was always kind enough to lend out if you had hard times. Big Jimmy had a big heart as long as you did.

“So this is what I’m going to do Dan. I’m going to go back into that kitchen and finish up helping out cooking, and when I come back in twenty minutes I want an answer on what you plan to do because I only need to make one phone call to a guy to have that whole milk truck out there up on blocks, because I know you don’t have the money. And also let me know if I can get you a to go container for your eggs if you decide not to eat them here but while walking home.”

With that big Jimmy turned and angrily walked past us all back into the kitchen, to let Milk Man Dan come up with some kind of action plan. It didn’t take long before Dan started eating his eggs cold and in no time flat had cleared his plate. When Emma came out for a small break and a coffee like nothing happened, we all thought we heard Milk Man Dan say the eggs were good when she asked. We though big Jimmy might have set it up that way and had a good chuckle. He was like that. Always one step ahead when he could be. Unless it was the IRS.

Now there may not be a Emma or a Milk Man Dan, but somewhere, someplace, someone was transitioning though something as the only thing constant is change.  We can face change the hard way or the easy way. We get to decide almost every time. Some changes take a bit more effort then others, but it all goes down much eaiser with a large glass of empathy.

 

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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Find my post on cost and a free cost analysis download spreadsheet by viewing the post “Pottery Cost Analysis Spread Sheet”

You can do it! You are ready now! It might take some time and loads of practice and hard work, but in this post I will go over a few things that you can do to make your art cohesive. Making art cohesive is not as necessary as it used to be. Like with the old music industry that went bankrupt, the internet has made it possible for you to show and reach others with your work in very cost-effective ways, eliminating many of the gatekeepers that used to have a grip where and how work was shown. So here is a no bull sh*t approch to creating art in a cohesive way.  There might be grammer and spelling errors but I am an artist and not a teacher so give me a pass maybe for all the free information packed in here for you.  If you do not get anything out of this I’ll be sure to send you a refund at the end.

This article will cover the topic of creating art that is cohesive for those looking to submit work to galleries, shows, venues, platforms, or collectors that require a cohesive body of art work to gain access to their buying community. However, know that if you can buy cars and 52 inch flat screens online and have them delivered to your home, you can also market your art in very much the same way. There is no such thing as talent. Just practice and hard work to build skill.


Build Skills In The Basics

Just like riding a bike, there is no way that you would simply hop on and Lance Armstong it out and get big wins on day one. Creating art that is cohesive takes time to build and to learn skills, techniques, and processes. I have no idea what bad art might be, and only a little about what it is not. But I do know that poorly done work with lack of attention to construction, detail, composition, shape, color, size, materials, texture, line, research, and others can give you a real bad time. I would suggest making a lot of what you make, and then make a lot more of what you make better. Repeat all of that a bunch of times.

It may take fifty, one-hundred, or maybe a thousand or two to get the basics ironed out, but it is very important on your way to creating a cohesive body of art work if you wish. The start to making art cohesive is simply making a lot of bad work as practice, finding and pushing boundaries, finding what might work best, taking chances, putting yourself on the hook, being brave, and working to eliminate any resistance that always crops up. But you can do it! You are ready now! Start by making your first pieces right now! Give yourself permission to mess it up bad and go to it. Just do something! And do it a lot! Once you simply start things will begain to work out and you will feel great creating the work. Even the terrible stuff. It’s all practice.


What To Say To Whom

The next step I would say in making your art cohesive, is after creating a bunch of work, and building the skills in the basics, is to find out who you would like your art to be for and why. Take some of your the strongest work and have a look at it all from way back. Also think about what you wish to say and why. Answering all these whys is very important as it will assist you in whom to show the work to and create work that matters for the folks who care.

No need to make work for everyone but for the minimum viable audience. You only need maybe ten people who care to start. If you are successful in communicating and what you create speaks to that community and they enjoy what you did they might tell another ten folks and before long you have a few raging fans or collectors. It sure makes it easier to sell work or submit pieces to art shows, galleries, art shops, and online platforms if you have some idea what your work might say or how it is read and knowing your “why”. A great book on the topic is “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” by Simon Sinek listed below.

.All of this might take a while to work out and you may ask other how it is read. I would suggest not asking friends and family, as they will lie to you to just make you feel better and not enjoy being honest if they believe what they truly think might cause you to have a bad time. So I would have some folks you might not know, who might be the ideal person the work is for, to give you feedback. Social media groups are real helpful in this area at times. Then, take what those folks say and go back and rework things and show them again. At this point it might be fine to start submitting work to a few shows and galleries as their feedback can be helpful in knowing what they belive you need to improve on, and how well your work is communicating.

After looking at some of your strongest work from way back you might now be able to see some type of themes throughout them all. A cohesive body of art will start to filter out and you will be able to start to see similarities between pieces in a few different ways. At this time it might be good idea to now emphasize those similarities a bit more while at the same time keeping what you wish to say to who in view. Now go make a bunch more work with your discovery of the themes in mind and repeat the process, and then show that finished work that matters to those people who care. You may not get it correct every time, and you may need you to rework things and not feel good about it, but do not stop! Creating work and finishing things no matter how poorly they turn out is far better than all those who simply thought about making work but never did! You’re doing great!!!

 

Layer Up Like An Onion

After practicing your techniques and skills and messing up a lot real bad and taking the least bad that are now good and finding the commonalities it is time to build creating art and a cohesive body of work that is created for a specific reason , with a specific goal, that might say a specific thing to a specific group, to the least viable audience. Since there are a million ways and combinations this may feel overwhelming at first but after you work it out a few times you will become much better at it. For me personally I enjoy layering the work up with technique and meaning so that I am able to communicate with my audience I am trying to reach.

Others may simply have one of two layers to enjoy communicating simplicity. I find it easier to make a list with columns on a paper with those things that you found common in your work. Then list out the thing you might like to say to who using the many techniques, subject manner, lighting, line, sound, symbols, texture, patterns, planes, shape, depth, height, weight, size, history, research, and many other ways to communicate. To me personally good art is simply a form that communicates clearly and/or in some interesting way. Next layer things up in a way that communicates best based on the goals you are trying to achieve.

It is possible to become cluttered and have to much going on in the work to where it is a distraction. But if you chart out the project first you can begin to add or subtract even before you begin taking the time in constructing the actual body of work. At this point it might be good to make up a few small samples, test pieces , or studies to work out a cost analysis and to decide how many to make in the collection on the particular topic and also to begin to help visualize what it might look like.

Can you see the collection in your mind? Visualize how it might be if you walked though a room at a gallery or shop that was filled with your work. How would you want it to feel to the viewer? What can be done to make an impact or to communicate what you might like to say? Once you are able to visualize it in your mind then you might be able to have a better feel for how to set up the collection and the way it communicates. Also think how it can communicate on other platforms, like when on a website for example. How will you shoot photos? What feeling do you want the online viewer to have as they click though the gallery?


Do The Work

With all the planning and testing completed it is now time to do the hard work of doing the work. Actually doing the work can be the most challenging part as many things will start to crop up on why we should not do the work. A lot of resistance and issues will arise that will give us excuses not to complete the project. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, material issues, issues with technique, and other set backs will stop by every day for coffee but keep going!

After some time when you reached the amount of work that you planned for make a few extra pieces so you have the option to choose what to use to fill out a showing. It is also at this point of doing the work you might want to show others who care about what you are doing what you are working on to build interest and excitement about the project. It might even benefit you to post updates to your email list or do social media posts and live streams of the process to get those who care invested in what you are created and trying to communicate. It is my belief that the total work is the planning, the construction, the showing, and the buyer enjoying it .

Doing the work might take days months or years but be sure at this stage to have good project management as no collection is complete if it is only partially done. And remember at times done is better then perfect. While it is very important to pay attention to details, fine craftsmanship , and technique do not let waiting to release the work until it is perfect become an excuse. Keep working though the dips, both the good times and bad, and wrangle it out.

Doing the work is the most intense part and can be a struggle but keep climbing the mountain. While doing the work take small breaks at certain planned stages along the way to review what you are doing and that you are staying on message and reaching your goals. Reward yourself at certain stages and be kind to yourself. Creating a cohesive body of work is no easy task and sharing work that matters with people who care can feel like your are exposing yourself some to the world but push on you almost are ready to put on the finishing touches and show your work as a collection!


Show The Work

Great job! You did it! Now you have a bunch of work sitting around your studio, basement , or in storage. Now it is time to show your work to people who care if you have not started the process already. Take all that work someplace and set it up and look at the collection all together if you can and start to decide which work should be shown together, separate, or not at all. Some pieces will be stronger then others so take note on those things and why to remember for next time. It might be beneficial at this point to create an artist statement about the work for promoting the work and explaining the project, technique, and ideas and also some background about yourself.

Depending on the platform you might be able to get help with these types of statements based on what the gallery or selling platform requires. It might be beneficial to see how other artists have gone about this process. Planning this all out now will help later and make things run more smoothly if you work should be accepted into a gallery or on a platform for a show. There are a verity of ways to show a collection of work to people who care and one way would be to find a gallery or selling platform that might be a good fit for you and can help you show your collection to people who care. Like writers you should ready yourself for rejections, these rejections can be beneficial as they can provide feedback on what you might need to think about when creating. On the other hand the work and message you are tying to tell may not simply be for them or a good fit so keep going and try not to feel down about things. You have created a cohesive body of work and that is far better then all those who simply just sat and thought about it but did nothing.

Some may disagree, but you may need to separate yourself from your work in your mind so that you are able to sell it better. Your work is not you but simply an extension. Just because others might misunderstand, misinterpret, or simply dislike the body of work that does not mean they dislike you personally. I try not to take anything personally and if others reject the work it simply was into for them. However, if your goal was to agitate or upset and you caused a ruckus then congratulations your cohesive body of art work is working!


Ways Around Gatekeepers

Think of different ways around gatekeepers. Many might say they enjoy the work you do but have no room or you may not get into shows due to other reasons due to a jury rejection. I have heard some artists being rejected for the way their booth looked or how their set up or display was done. If needed work on what they suggest if you need to but also work to break though the gatekeepers. One way to work around gatekeepers is to build your own community of people who care and collect your work.

If a ten year old girl in Tennessee can gain one million subscribers on social media doing a milkcrate challenge then you as an artist should be able to muster up a few hundred or thousand people who care. Like the old music industry that refused to change and went bankrupt, or the book industry, you can also like the song writers, producers, singers, and writers; have opportunities to put your work into the world in many different ways on different platforms to reach those people who care.

There are some challenges you will need to work though but once overcome can give you leverage in promoting your work and speaking what you wish to say. While they are helpful, you no longer absolutely need galleries, art shows, shops, or the old ways to show your work to the world. You can do all of that with your own website or online shop. Size does not matter. A person can buy a car and have it brought to their house and a 52 inch tv shipped to their doorstep. So times have changed and your thinking as an artist may need to also to take advantage of these great opportunities that you now have available to show your work.


What Are You Waiting For?

Time is short and the only thing we never get back and you are the only one who can best tell your message and story to the world though your work!  At the time of writing this if I live to be 86 I only have 14,104 days left. If you do not tell your story someone else will and it might not be the story you want told in the way they tell it. I hope you found some of this helpful and can better  plan in creating your art in a more cohesive way that you can feel great about and also work your buyers enjoy! Below is a reading list of books that I found helpful. I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.

 

Here are some great books I have read!

Seth Godin:

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. 
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
Purple Cow.

Stephen Pressfield:

The War of Art
Do The Work

Simon Sinek:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Steve Blank:

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

Free Class:

How to Build a Startup

Donald Miller:

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Hero on a Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life
Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More

Joseph Campbell:

The Power of Myth

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Victor Frankl:

Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

Hebrew Jars

 

I had the idea and process for creating the “Line Upon Line” collection of Hebrew jar type Dead Sea Scroll replicas for quite some time but needed to nail it down in some way. I also needed a good time to put the collection together. When I was invited by Gallery41 in Owego, New York to be a guest artist for July 2022 I took the opportunity.

In the past I used the iron oxide wash technique in small ways on the shave brush handles. Some time back I created a whole series of brushes, a collection on the topic of Ancient warriors found in the biblical literature. I enjoyed how the red iron oxide when fired brought out the texture patterns of the clay and sent the color to an ancient looking toasty brown. I thought that if this process and technique worked for small pieces, it may turn on great on somewhat larger.

For the project, I made up 20 pieces with about 5 ponds of clay each. I trimmed and dried them out and inscribed Hebrew out of the biblical texts of Isaiah. I always thought the verse of Isaiah 28:10 sounded beautiful when read in the Hebrew. I decided the body of work should be called “Line Upon Line.” I also wanted an inscribed text in Hebrew connecting all the pieces, and so used small quotes out of the texts of Isaiah on the topic of Justice to combine them all. Inscribing the Hebrew was a bit of a challenge as I have not practiced writing the letters for quite some time.

I was relived when all but one pot survived the firings and process, as I cut everything a bit close with the deadlines and getting the show set up by going for the idea and collection. I have always enjoyed the study of Ancient Near Eastern texts and Biblical literature, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls and their discovery. The ancient pottery jars the scrolls were found in are amazing to me, and I found the idea of pottery preserving literature and writings with the use of clay interesting. You may view an up close container of a dead sea scroll vessel here. Also, have a look for yourself at “The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) by clicking here.

My next project I am thinking about will be to learn a bit of ancient Cuneiform and write in texts. I love both texture on pots, and texture that can be read would be even better. I would love to create a whole series with texts from the Baal Epic or that of Gilgamesh. Thanks to my good friend Richard I have all the material to start to learn the process, including the material on the epics.

You may view the “Line upon Line” collection of jars and vases if you wish by clicking here. The name of the piece is the name of the reference and both the Hebrew and English translation was provided along with the dimensions. This special collection of Isaiah “Line Upon Line” of jars and vases were made by my own hand on the pottery wheel and fired and refined in the gas kilns at Creek Road Pottery in Laceyville, PA along the cold Tuscarora creek. Special thanks to Rabbi John Herbert Ludemann for his guidance and advice with this project.


Hobo Smoky

 

It was about 2 am that the long train hauling loaded sand cars and 25 boxers came to a screeching halt just out back the Right Choice Diner. Hobo Smoky fell into the small town of Laceyville with the force of the stop and landed in a heap at the front of the empty car. His violent stop was padded in a small way by the pile of packing cardboard he had laid out to sleep on. The door of the Union Pacific boxer slid full open, then came crashing back closed against the rail spike Smoky had wedged into the door track to hold it open. At least he wasn’t locked in. Smoky groaned some from the pain of being thrown across the floor and into the wall of car when the air brakes kicked on. This had to be bad.

Smoky crawled sore to the door and took a look out into the dark night. He saw the soft glow of streetlights about a half mile up the tracks, and the sound of the fire whistle started its lonely cry to wake the sleepy town to the tragedy. “Awww shit.. I better get off here.” Smoky rolled up his sleep pad and found his pail of gear scattered about in the car in the dim glow of his flashlight, its batteries running low. Once everything was collected, he tossed the sleep pack and pail to the ground outside the train into the dark night and climbed down out of the car. As Smoky made his way up the tracks, he could make out the flashing lights of emergency vehicles arriving on the scene and could hear the sound of sirens. It was the length of about 35 cars to town, he guessed. 35 cars to walk off the pain. In all his days hopping trains, he could only remember one other time when an 90 car CSX train locked up on its way to Indiana when a dump truck ran the crossing. But that was only a near miss. Whatever happened up ahead had to be much worse. It seemed the whole town was waking up for a meeting at the tracks.

The track was just taken over by R.J. Corman which combined the Lehigh Railway, Owego & Harford Railway, and Luzerne & Susquehanna Railway. Smoky found an open boxer at the Reading & Northern interchange at Mehoopany while they hooked on to fifty sander cars. He was on the Lehigh Railway that heads through Laceyville and hoped for an easy trip on his way to see his new grand baby in Athens. Other than a heavy rainstorm pounding on the box car, things seemed to be quite peaceful until the violent stop after he just fell asleep. Smoky hid his gear and bedroll in some brush. As he neared the front of the train, he saw the crew standing together by the big engines. A sheet covered a body while emergency crews worked the scene and everyone waited on the county corner to arrive. A middle age woman sat on a large rock back some from train sobbing with her head in her hands and beside her sat a teenage boy staring blankly into the night and a big man was on the phone next to them making a call.

Hey Missy. This is Jimmy. I know it’s real late, but I was wondering if you could come down and open the Wright Choice. I would never ask, but we are having a real bad time here in town tonight and folks may need someplace to hold up.”

” Hey big Jimmy, what happened down there? I heard the train lock up clear here where I’m at! Everyone ok?”

“I’m afraid not. Terence Mott was hit on the tracks. Looks like the poor guy fell sleep there drinking, and the train didn’t see him until it was too late. Could you come down and open up and make up some coffee for the emergency crew and folks. I got Brenda Mott and Billy here. They are real shaken.”

”Okay Jimmy, I’m on my way down. Just let me get dressed and I’ll open up.”

” Thanks Miss, I owe you big time.”

Big Jimmy then put his phone in his back pocket and as he turned, saw the outline of Hobo Smoky.

“Smoky. How are things?”

”Hey Big Jimmy, sorry to see all of this. The brakes woke me up and it looks I’ll be in town for the night. You need help washing dishes up at the diner for a day or two?”

”You could not have asked at a better time. You can start right now. I got one of the girls stopping down to open and serve coffee and let everyone calm down some.”

Big Jimmy sat on the rock next to Mrs. Mott who was still sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. He put one big arm around her to try and comfort her some.

”Okay, I’ll head on up and get to work.” said Smoky

Smoky walked up the small hill, though the laundry on the line, to the rickety back steps of the Wright Choice and waited outside the screen door to be let in. He pulled a smoke from behind his ear and took off his cap and dirty red bandanna. There was something terribly beautiful about the scene from the back steps of the Wright Choice in the fog with the flashing lights. A fair and foul day for sure.

Now there may not be a hobo Smoky or a Wright Choice Diner, but somewhere, someplace, someone dropped by to help at the right times. This is my story about my town, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

Founder’s Day

I went to a show in my hometown to show up in my hometown to push the pots and say hello to folks. I had to do all of that after working all night at the paper factory. The night at the paper factory was a long one because nothing was running right. So I super rush home and showered and loaded the pots. My wife was a big help as she was so kind and had all the pots that came out of the kiln packed. I almost was late to the show from hugging her and all. So we packed everything in the car and went to the show 40 min away and followed the instructions..

So they had teams of folks there to help unload with set up, so we pull to our spot and unload, and they all help, and we move the car and then start the set-up. Now I don’t have a normal show tent but one that is 5 sided and once up it for sure did not fit in the 10×10 spot but was well over it and was all up in my neighbor’s biz and Even though I was exhausted I quickly realize I was becoming that guy by holding things up. So I say “Hey It’s not supposed to rain so we don’t need the tent, thanks everyone. ”

But the director of the show said to me “Well you might want shade from the sun.” and I said “I got nice trees here so I’m good thanks and I don’t want to be that guy and hold you all up.” So we wasted time and argued a bunch, but she was very kind and overly helpful. But after some thought she told me that she had 2 slots of folks who did not show, and I could move all the stuff to that spot and put up the tent. By this time things were very stressful as we just needed to get set up to look good and all

So we wasted more time and that of the helpers when the kind lady had us all move all the pots and the stuff to the other double space and us and them got the tent up thanks goodness and one helper dropped a container of pots and I told him not to worry as everything on the bottoms are always seconds anyway and all the million dollar pots were home and the ones here were just mugs and all. None of that was true, but I just didn’t want to waste time with him going on about how bad he felt and all and for sure I don’t have any million dollar pots. So we got set up and the work put out on the flip shelves that set up fast and my wife helped me put out all the pots she packed up so nice in nest format from the boxes, and before we knew it we were saying hi to folks who started to stop by and poke around.

After we got set up my wife said she would find me food and coffee while I did some pricing adjustments. She asked me what I wanted in my coffee and I say just cream because you’re helping me added the sweetness and I might have a mouth full of cavities, call the dentist. So after my wife came back with food and coffee, she thought maybe I should shoot a pic and post to social media, so the peeps could come say hi if they were in town. So after six shots of me not sure where my arms should go we finally got a nice one, and then we sat out there all day in the shade in the hot sun and had a nice time chatting with folks and talking about how pots are made .

I was able to sell quite a few pots and made back my booth fee and believe it or not a few hundred over. And I was relived that I had the right stuff for the right folks, as I always worry about it. I appreciated each and every sale as no one owes me anything and I had some strong interactions and also a lady who wanted to learn to fire gas kilns as she only does electric. So I told her to stop up sometime.

Then I walked around a bit to wake up while my wife watched the booth when things slowed and bought a mug off another local potter who had some real nice work and had nice hand-builds. So over all it was a nice time as I sold some work and got some money and a sunburn. We then went home and I went to bed then got up and worked on the Hebrew pots for the opening on Friday, July 1st. Twenty of those pots are drying now, flipped in the sun.

 

Clemmer’s Tractor

I was not the only one out in the sun that day. A cool breeze was mixed in with the heat, so it was a great day for drying hay. They had plenty cut up on the Clemmer place, and they needed to get the hay raked and baled due to threats of thunderstorms. Old man Clemmer was using his new Oliver tractor.

Old man Clemmer was able to purchase his new Oliver tractor with the insurance money he got from when his pole barn full of bedding straw burned down. After the big investigation of the burning hay pile they went with Clemmer’s theory that sunlight from his pickup truck mirror reflected into the barn and set the bedding straw on fire. It also helped out if you were good friends with the fire chief and those who worked the fire company as then there was no need to look deeper than you needed to into things.

Some at Millie’s bar thought the fire up at Clemmer’s was a bit strange, and they all were talking about how much young Davy Clemmer loved fire works. Every year when the night went warm, it would sound like Chinese new years up on the hill. Davy Clemmer would save all his money and have his older friends buy fireworks. Before Facebook, fire working was a form of entertainment for a lot of folks. When M80’s were no longer big enough, there was always quarter sticks to relive folk of the burden of having all 5 fingers. Davy Clemmer was down to three fingers now but was still going strong as he still had a thumb.

Davy Clemmer lost his second finger in a heroic effort to save a friend’s life. Somehow, a quarter stick that was lit got dropped on the floor of the side by side the friends were driving up on Turkey Trail road. And while they both in a panic tried to find a stick among the empty beer cans, the fuse was much shorter by the time Davy Clemmer came up with it. Davy for the better got the stick to the window as the side by side he was driving rolled into the ditch. Davy lost a finger and part of his hearing that day when they crawled out from under the vehicle and celebrated being alive in pain. “So I think Davy Clemmer set that fire up there, and you can’t tell me any different.” said Bob as he took a sip of his beer. “I don’t care what the investigation found. If Davy Clemmer was around the place and there was a fire, you can almost bet that kid was part of it all somehow.”

But Clemmer’s Oliver was real nice and worked much better than the last tractor he had. It always seemed he was working on the old one more than he was using it, and when you had nice days on the farm, it was time to get things done rather than mess around trying to be a mechanic. The rain held off for Clemmer and he was able to bag everything he had down. It was almost like a miracle happened as when the dark clouds gathered a hole seemed to open up over his field. “How lucky am I!” thought Clemmer as the rain went up the other side the road.

Now there may not be an old man Clemmer or an Oliver tractor, but somewhere, someplace, someone was forced to appreciate life a little more. This is my story about my town, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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It sure was a hard time getting started but I was able to make it into the studio to start some outstanding projects. The weather is nice enough to have warm days to do yard work but still cold enough to have frost. The studio was a bit cold so I used hot water in the tossing pail. I was brainstorming on finding ways to keep my clothes clean some while throwing and thought I would try aprons made for dishwashers and they worked great. I have for years simply clayed up cloths then took them to the laundromat after soaking them in a pail of hot water. Way back I remember my mentors soaking their cloths in hot water and vinegar. I have since learned to not enjoy the smell all that much as potters use vinegar for almost anything; in their slip, cleaning, mop water, handling mugs, and anything else it seemed they can dump it into. If you asked the reason they always have one for sure but it may not make total sense but that’s just fine as long as it makes them feel good about what they might need vinegar for.

Warm Days Cold Nights

I was able to fill a bunch of grow bags with soil to start a garden later. My wife and I decided to use grow bags because the soil here at Creek road is very rocky once you break through the sod. It took about 10 bags of dirt, the was a bit expensive due to inflation but we got it done. All we need now is a fence to keep out the rabbits and deer. The rabbits have no fear of us and we can almost walk right up to them and I’m sure they all would have a great time munching down the lettuce when it sprouts. I hope to plant around Memorial Day.

I have a few summer shows planned that should be fun to attend and meet people of the area. Work-life balance has been a challenge as I had a schedule change and things are going well but I have been a bit tired on my days off. I hope to get back on the straight and narrow and keep looking ahead as if you look back to much things can get crooked some so no need to be perfect. Just make your first furrow as straight as you can with your eyes looking to some landmark on the far side of the field and it should for the most part come together. It’s Spring and the plowing should be done but the fields were a bit wet to get on. Many couldn’t wait any longer to plow or things would come up late; “knee high fourth of July” for corn. But Rusty Clapper was having a real bad time getting started this year plowing with the horses.

Rusty Clapper Breaks a Leg

When Rusty came to he lifted his head a little. The sun was bright and warm up in the twenty acre plot on Crow Hill. He could make out the looming dark shadows of his three large workhorses standing ahead, their heads shaking off the black flies and getting impatient.

Rusty could feel the cold damp earth as he lay on his back in the six inch deep furrow. He tried to move some to see if he was all right but he could not feel his left leg. He reached down with his left arm and a thousand prickling pins raced up the limb, telling him he must have been laying there long enough to cut off the circulation. “Hooo!” Rusty said to his team. They were older horses, well trained, which may have saved his life. Rusty propped himself up on his elbow to have a look at his situation.

Big Sam was smart enough to stop the team when they hit the rock plowing. A younger team might have spooked and ran, killing Rusty and breaking the plowshare. Rusty loved having big Sam in the furrow as he set the pace for the other two horses. He could see the evener had came right off the plow and the pull beam lay on the ground, The trip for the plow might have been rusted up some as it never sprung when it collided with the huge rock. He sure was a lucky guy a little. But he was in a great deal of pain in his left leg. He winced and lay back down as the horses shook their heads, annoyed by the flies swarming around them.

Rusty and Evelyn always had a rule that they would eat dinner together no matter what at 6 P.M. sharp, and if one was not there, each should go find the other. The boys had their own jobs off the farm now, so it was just the two of them and a basset hound they called Sherlock, who mostly laid under the table. Rusty left a note for Evelyn that we would be on the Crow Hill lot plowing with the horses. When rusty checked his watch out in the damp furrow under the big sky it was only 2 P.M. So he had some time. He knew it would be a long fours hours.

It sure was a nice day up on Crow Hill in the field, in furrow, under the sky. A few clouds moved slowly over head as Rusty lay there on his back. It had been some time since he lay on his back looking up at the sky. He thought maybe the last time he had the pleasure was way back when he was 10 or 12 years old when his cousins and he would go swimming in the pond out past the barn in the pasture. Out by the big gnarly oak tree where the cows would lay in the shade on those warm summer days. All the kids would lay out also on the soft grass by the pond after a swim before milking, watching the clouds float by.

The tree had a large bough that reached out over the water and if a kid claimed up there and if he was brave, a good cannon ball splash could be made from leaping off. Out in the pond where you could play all day knocking each other off the big tractor tire inner tube, out where you could scoop up tadpoles and minnows in your hands. A cloud drifted over top Rusty that look like a plow. “Real funny.” said Rusty out loud to the Lord. “Real funny.”

The horses were being quite good, standing still as they all spent time out there together, on Crow Hill, while they all waited for Evelyn to get home and come to find them. Rusty was doing better than expected with the pain as he lay in the furrow. There were a lot of things he might have done differently in his life now that he had time to think about it out there on the ground as he watched a few sparrows dive and dart above his head.

Rusty Clapper thought maybe he should call his brother as he reflected some. Maybe he was a bit to hard and judgmental way back when Randy decided to sell his half of the cows and leave the farm to take on a factory job. Rusty seen it as a bit selfish, and a betrayal of what their father worked so hard for all those years. But maybe the guy just wanted to be happy, and plus Mama would be disappointed with the falling out they had if she were still alive. Rusty must have dozed off some in the furrow behind the horses with the plow with thoughts of his mother’s comforting smile.

’Ruuuustttty! Rusty!”

Rusty thought he heard his name but was not sure until he heard the barking and yelp of old Sherlock , his hound, coming his way.

Rusty Clapper! Are you OKay?

Rusty propped himself up onto his elbow. ‘I’m over here!” he yelled back.

It was Evelyn, she came out to find him. Tears welled up some in his eyes as Sherlock waddled up wagging his tail and licking his face pushing him back to the ground. ‘Ohh come on boy not now. Ouch! Not that leg boy! Off me now!” Rusty reached in his pocket and gave Sherlock the treat he was looking for. Rusty always kept one in his pocket in case Sherlock needed to find him. He knew Sherlock worked for food like the rest of us. “Now lay down boy or you’ll spook the damn horses.”

”What on earth happened out here! It looks like you could have been killed!” said Evelyn as she made her way over the turned clumps of plowed earth. “ I’m doing okay but I think I might have broke my leg” said Rusty, as Evelyn stumbled towards him.

“Mercy! How long have you been out here like this!”

”Ohh just a few hours..you know..I just laid down and had a little nap is all.”

”Rusty I told you to sell those horses. Your going to get yourself killed!”

”Now Evelyn I need you to listen carefully because I need you to unhook Abe and take him back to the barn and hook him up to the rock sled. Then come back so I can get to the road. I’ll tell you exactly what to do.’ Rusty instructed.

“First unhook the evener from the tug line on the back of Abe here and then the line connecting his bit to Jacob. Next unhook the evener from the other side and then last unhook the neck yoke. Always unhook the neck yoke last in case they take off.

“Rusty Clapper your going to be the death of me! Back Abe..back..back.. Abe a little… Hooo!”

Once Evelyn got slack in the line she unhooked the eveners on both sides of the team and then went to the front and unhooked the neck yoke. It made a heavy clink as it dropped it to the ground. She unhooked big Abe and led him back beside the plow. Standing on the plow tire, she swung up on the tall horse.

”Okay I’ll be right back! You don’t move Rusty Clapper! Keep Sherlock here with you and the horses.”

”Be careful hooking to the sled. Remember, always hook the neck yoke first. Abe is good with the sled and knows what to do. He won’t give you to much trouble but go easy!” Said Rusty, shading his eyes to see Evelyn on top the tall work horse.

”Okay don’t worry I’ll be right back. Abe.. step up..easy Abe..good boy!”

The large workhorse knew his way back home. As a matter of fact, a little to well. Anytime Rusty had the horses standing, he knew if big Abe was in the team not to have him stand in the direction of the barn or he might feel the need to return home a bit early.

Evelyn returned no time flat and helped Rusty roll out of the furrow and onto the sled. On the somewhat painful and bumpy ride home, with his hound and the two other large horses, Sam and Jacob trailing behind, Rusty thought himself quite lucky. After having worked so hard and coming so far he thought maybe he even enjoyed his sufferings a bit. What a great day to be in a procession with horses stepping slowly down the road and being alive to enjoy it.

There may not have been a Rusy Clapper, Big Abe , or a corn field on Crow Hill, but somewhere someplace someone was forced to have a time of relection. This is my story about my town so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

It was a long month after my Spring show 2022. It was sure nice to see everyone out, and I very much appreciated the support. I was able to finish the candle project that ran long and all of that happened just before we got the big April snow storm, and we lost power for 3 days. Three days was not bad for us, as some were out for six or more days with trees on the lines.

No pots were made as I worked to file taxes and iron out the bookwork that seems to be tangled up like a box of Christmas lights. A friend who is an accountant and a fire brand Libertarian went through my books and made the crooked straight in no time flat. She had all kinds of hard conversations with me about my bookkeeping and financial management. So I had to make some tough changes to keep things moving along.


Burnout

Burnout happens slowly over time and is something that seems to run in cycles. After the Spring show, I did not want to see another pot and was happy to fire the kilns and finish things up with a load of dark rusty red iron glazed pieces. Most of those were for the wet shave community and work to update the shops. It was nice to make the rounds and see and talk with the shop owners. I took images of some work to load into my online shop.

When the snow came and the lights went out, My wife and I dug out the camping supplies, the old time Colman stove, oil lamps, and hooked up the propane heater to keep the place warm. Once the power was restored and things were back to normal, I intended to go back to the studio after a few folks sent me messages looking for work, but I was a bit too exhausted still.

To deal with burnout, I let it run its course. At many jobs, you get vacation time to work out such things. But for me personally, I spend most of my vacation making pots and take only a few days each year to go camping. Also, I try and balance life and work to maintain good relationships with family.

Reading books is also relaxing for me and also project planning, marketing, website updates, and cleaning the studio helps. It is ok to take breaks. It is ok to read books. It is ok to take time with loved ones and do other things you might enjoy, as time is limited, and you never get it back.

I always try and ask, “If I was living yesterday a second time, what would I do differently?” It seems to put things into perspective. If I live to be 86 from today, I only have 14, 168 days left to do all the things I wish to accomplish and to try new things. 14,168 days left to impact those around me in positive ways and create positive change if I can.

All of those things combined become who I am and come out in the work though my hands when I do come back to create once more. Even in the Hebrew biblical texts, the Creator rested after seven days.

Maybe he was a bit burned out after it all. Maybe he needed to create the man and the woman as a hobby to relax. Maybe the Creator did some gardening to relax some and see what would happen.

It seems that I was not the only one burned out. Even the preacher seemed to be stumped working his sermon Saturday morning down at the  Wright Choice Diner in town.


The Preacher

There was a worn bible, a few commentary books, and papers of handwritten notes all over table three in the corner where preacher Mansfield sat. It looked like he was having a real hard time working things out that Saturday morning as he attempted to write his Sunday sermon.

Poor guy looks a bit flustered today.” said big Jimmy, the owner and cook, as he brought out my eggs.

Yes Sir! He sure does.” I say.

Maybe folks will be lucky and get a short sermon tomorrow. Since he took over preaching, everyone’s Sunday dinner roasts have been burned, as he’s a bit long-winded. They all had to go out and buy crock pots.”

Haaa! Well that’s good for me here at the ol Best Choice. If they burn dinner, I might get to see everyone Sundays. Now if I was smart I would run a roast beef, potato and gravy special. I should go over there and see what’s on his mind.”

Now most of the time you would see the good Reverend Mansfield there at the corner table each Saturday morning writing away like his life depended on it.

He would be writing down the divine words that poured from the heavens, words that seeped out of the bible texts, though his hand, out his pen, and onto the notebook page. And if you knew any better, you did not disrupt such a process.

The waitress Missy would keep refilling his coffee for him as it seemed to be the fuel to the fire until he was finished around lunch. He would then collect all his notes and stuff them in his bible between the pages his sermon came from to save the spot.

The preacher would then pile up his commentaries and supporting materials and put them under his arm and head out the door. He always seemed to forget to leave a tip, a habit that put Missy over the edge, and also hampered her church attendance a bit, but we are all working on something.

How are things today, Reverend?”

Here is some toast on the house. Someone accidentally got rye but ordered wheat.”

Big Jimmy pulled up a chair while the preacher shoved his books and papers aside and made room for the plate.

I’m not sure what to preach on tomorrow, Jimmy. I usually have it all down by now, but today I got nothing.”

Well, I could get you some stronger coffee if you like?”

Naww, I’m okay for now..thanks anyway.”

I just think God’s people can do better. I am having a real bad time getting folks to follow the gospel teachings outside the church doors. It seems folks forget everything I told them once they get to the parking lot.”

Big Jimmy rubbed his chin in thought.

Well preacher, maybe you should get out more. I see plenty of folks who might not be all that Baptist and are a bit shady doing gospel things. I don’t attend and all, but as a kid I remember that story of Sampson, a shady guy for sure, always getting into trouble, becoming a hero pushing over the pillars. And ol King David sleeping around. All those folks somehow got their names right there in the good book. Maybe push “doing” for a bit instead of only “believing.”

Yeah..you might be right Jimmy.”

It was at that time, Missy came up to the table for a word with big Jimmy.

Hey Jimmy, Billy Mott’s here. He ordered a coffee. I asked if he wanted anything else, and he said he had no money, wanted  just a coffee. His mother spent all the money this month on beer and only on some of bills. The guy looks hungry. You told me to let you know when he’s here and..well.. he’s here.”

Okay Miss. Thanks. “ said big Jimmy as he leaned over to see Billy Mott around the preacher.

Yeah I‘m not sure what I should do. Maybe I’ll come up with something a bit later. Maybe I can hook up some text out of the book of James on how works and faith need to match up for things to work right. But I worry folks may also forget that. Maybe I got my calling wrong. I feel like a real failure in this town Jimmy.”

Big Jimmy missed that last part. He was still watching Billy Mott sitting having a warm coffee and shaking off the cold from the early Spring morning air. He did look a bit hungry. Big Jimmy signaled Missy with his hand to have her stop over.

Yeah Jimmy?”

Ahhh shit…Hey, go back there and have the kitchen cook up three eggs over easy..two pieces of toast, bacon, and ahh..one pancake..and have them bring it out to Billy over there..and if Mr. Mott gives you any shit about it tell him I said to shut up and eat it.”

Okay Jimmy..got it.” said Missy, writing it all down.

The guy looks like he hasn’t had anything in days. I might need to go talk to his mother again over at the trailer. Billy does great taking care of her, but it looks like things are getting bad again.”

Okay I’ll have it made up. You going over there now Jimmy?” asked Miss.

If so I’ll let them know in the back.”

Yeah.. I’ll take a walk over. I won’t be long. She was going to AA, but looks like she stopped. I’ll get her back there if I have to drag her there myself.”

Well have a good one preacher. Hope you get something by morning.”

With that, big Jimmy got up and left the table, with his apron on and all, and walked out the Best Choice door. As Missy made her way to the back to put in big Jimmy’s request, the heavens finally cracked open a bit on the preacher and rained down the sweet showers of understanding. His face went white and his eyes filled with tears.

How could I miss it. It was all right here the whole time. Right here in this town, in this diner, in the cook big Jimmy. The same big Jimmy who made shady deals out back on the steps, the guy who swore like a sailor at the dishwasher for breaking mugs, the guy who stayed up late playing poker with friends, the guy whose shadow never darkened the Baptist church door was now doing all the things I myself have missed.”

I need to cancel church tomorrow.” The good reverend thought to himself.

I need to cancel church and tell everyone to just do a good thing tomorrow for someone..an act of selfless kindness, no matter how small or big..without thinking on the selfish desires of heaven.”

With that the preacher jumped up, left a 5 dollar tip, and ran out the door to catch up with Jimmy. He would go with the cook to help with the chat. He thought maybe he owed Jimmy for the help.

There may not have been a Billy Mott, Big Jimmy , or a Preacher, but somewhere someplace someone forgot themselves in helping others. This is my story about my town so I get to tell it how I like.

 

Written By,Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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I was supposed to get up at 6 am to get the kilns going but hit my snooze button twice and got up at 6:30 instead. I made a coffee and looked out the window at the second heavy frost of the year. Mrs. Smith’s black and white tomcat was sitting on the pottery porch watching a rabbit hop across the frozen grass and into the brush at the edge of the lawn. By 7:30 am, I had the glaze clean-up done on about sixty pot bottoms and started to load them out in the cold, stopping every once and a while to take sips of my steaming coffee. The candle cups with the blue glaze would need to go on the bottom shelves while the farmhouse green cups went on the middle and top shelves as this kiln runs hotter up top. I have one kiln that runs hot on the top and another gas kiln that runs hot on the bottom. Correct placement is important as each shelf puts out a different effect and color due to the temperature difference. My phone buzzed at 7:30 am. It was a message from Sandy. 

R u up yet?” 

I took off my glove and typed out, “Yes. Loading kilns what’s going on?”  

On my way. b there 8:30” 

K,” I type back. 

Sandy is a middle-aged lady with red hair who goes all in on almost everything she does and works sales for her day job. At 8:53 she pulls in as I am lowering the updraft kiln lid. “Sorry I’m 23 minutes late,” she says. “My horse got out, and I had to put him back in. When he gets out all the goats follow but thank goodness they all follow back also. 4H and goat shows have me running around like crazy. I did get your soaps made up for you.” 

Well, that’s good they follow like that. Now if that were a pig, they would never go back in the same hole,” I say. 

Yeah, the old guy got cut some on his leg from the fence, but I was able to fix him up by spraying blue coat on it. He should be fine,” Sandy says, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “He’s a real good boy but getting old.” 

I wonder if her horse is anything like Magic, I think to myself.

 

Photo by Zosia Korcz on Unsplash

It was the start of “The Best Summer Ever” when I was a kid. That was the summer when the stray dog showed up that could do tricks, where us kids swam in the cool Starrucca Creek, and Uncle Will brought home a pony we named Magic. Aunt Barb suggested the name because he had blue eyes. She thought it made the pony look magical. As we stroked the pony’s mane, we all had to agree. We took turns riding Magic all summer over at Aunt Barb and Uncle Will’s. When we stopped for lunch, Aunt Barb would make us all peanut butter sandwiches and give us each one hot bean made by Uncle Will himself. Along with the bean was a small cup of milk to tame the burn. We would all sit on the porch steps and eat before taking turns riding Magic. The pony worked hard that summer. We knew better not to fight too loud while taking turns. If there was any trouble, Aunt Barb would make both offending parties stand and hug each other in the middle of the yard to think about things while the other kids went your turn on the horse for you. 

Sandy handed me a box. “Here are ten shave soap pucks, we can do a trade. I also have this old kiln you can have if you help me get on Square. I have a sale at a farmer’s market next week” 

Well, that sure is a lot. I’ll pay you for the kiln. Getting on Square is no real trouble,” I say. 

I had the buddy gas heater going in the pottery shed. Sandy took a seat in a yard folding chair and I in another beside her, and we both got out our phones to go through it all. It didn’t take too long, and we got it all done before the next kiln check. The cones in both kilns dropped just in time to give me an hour of sleep before a 12-hour night shift at the paper factory. When I returned, snow clouds were in the sky. The wind was cold, and the air was crisp. I added four pieces of wood to the stove while the candle cups started to cool. To stay warm, I thought warm thoughts. Like thoughts on that Best Summer Ever and that pony named Magic.

Sandy made out ok at the sale. It’s ok to take time out to help others. Some names and events were changed, but there truly was a Best Summer Ever and a pony named Magic. This is my story about my town, and childhood, so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

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Pick Yourself

It took me a long time to get back to pottery this year but no longer than last year. Maybe I was waiting for someone to pick me to do something rather than just starting. It can be a bit scary to just start, as you would like to play it safe and wait until everyone and everything is ready. Maybe I was waiting for inspiration, a better idea, for the right weather, for some gallery to pick me to make a commission, for some customer to pick me to make a plate setting. Today I thought I would pick myself and just start making pots. By just starting, I do mess up but get better as I go. Just starting means you’re on the hook for ideas that may not work. Not starting could mean you were not ready to fail. But if you make art, you fail many times as it’s part of the process.

But today I told myself I would fail, and it felt great. We go to our jobs as they tell us in school. They train us to follow all the processes that would guarantee success, to make all the normal things for normal folks to make money for the stockholders and for our families. But if those above us fail from being too normal, we still lose our jobs. Normal is a race to the bottom and too normal is bankruptcy as normal folks can buy it anywhere. I don’t ever want to make normal work at the pottery for normal folks. Folks like us do things different.

Others can buy those normal pots at normal places like Walmart and Amazon. And to get better, I may mess up a bunch. I’m putting myself out there and taking chances to connect with those who may enjoy what I do. If I can just make a few things and show it to a few folks, maybe they will show it to a few other folks, and then I might be on to something. If I pick myself and nothing happens, then maybe I need better work that communicates, creates change in some way, and connects with people.

As the great marketing philosopher Seth Godin says:

“It’s up to us if we are picking ourselves to decide what we want to be known for. It’s essential that we not permit ourselves or anyone else deniability just because it’s ‘doing my job.’ I think if you’re doing your job, you’re responsible for the work whether or not someone asks you to do it.”

You and I can make a statement or give a gift to the world. There is no better time, and we can reach a world of people by just a few clicks. We do not need permission to pick ourselves, nor do we have any gatekeepers to tell us what we can or can’t do. We can simply start and see what changes we can make to the world around us, even when those who are far more normal, looking for normal things may disagree. Many may not like what we start or finish, but that’s ok; it was not for them, but for the few on the edges. You will be surprised how much is on the edges by picking yourself and just starting. By starting on a journey, you may find yourself in strange places doing new, exciting things, and helping others–like waiting on the kamikaze corner on the Clapper Hill bend.

Rusty Clapper’s Cow

It was 7:00 am when Rusty Clapper finished milking. He had to finish on time as today was the day the milk truck would come at 8:00 am. Rusty had a cow that was almost ready to freshen, and he needed to clean the pen. He thought it would be safer to put her across the road in the small pasture, as the ol’ gal was a bit jumpy, and he didn’t want to spook her and all from cleaning the pen and laying down bedding. She went across the road real nice and easy. Rusty went to cleaning the pen. He fluffed up the bedding extra special. 

Everything was running smoothly until Rusty tried to lead the cow back across the road. 

Now Rusty Clapper never in all his life had seen nor heard of a cow simply laying down while crossing the road. He had never thought that his milk cow would end up stopping traffic for the better part of the day because of where the cow decided to rest. It was on the sharp bend on Clapper Hill right in the middle, leaving no room for traffic on either side as the right had a large maple tree and the left side had a deep ditch. Many a good folk not from the area would have issues making kamikaze corner on the Clapper Hill bend. It was more like a 90 degree turn with no S shape at all with no sign because a big water truck took it out six months back when they lost their breaks. Rusty made good money pulling folks out of his field up there, and he always had a tractor ready when someone would knock. Rusty Clapper yelled to the barn for the boys to come out and lend a hand with his cow. He had to yell as they had no cell phones at the barn because you could not get a signal anyway up on Kamikaze Corner on the Clapper Hill bend.

Rusty Clapper had one of the boys park the John Deere tractor in the road on one end to warn traffic, and his Oliver tractor on the other end to do the same. By now there was an extensive line as the gas company was fracking a big well on Clapper Hill and water trucks, log trucks, and the milk truck in the back all came to a halt due to Rusty Clapper’s cow. Folks were getting out and gathering around the cow to see if they could help old Rusty in some way while others took video of the event. Rusty formulated an action plan and told his younger boy to run and get the four-wheeler and chain and drag up an old car hood. The plan Rusty had would be to have a bunch of guys like us help him shove the milk cow over on the hood real easy like and simply slide her out of the road. So, with the four-wheeler hooked to the car hood we all tried pushing Rusty’s cow over. “Ok, hold up boys. I see feet sticking out the back.” says Rusty. We all looked, and he was right. The cow was calving right there on Kamikaze Corner on the Clapper Hill bend.

“Well, I better run to the barn and get the pulling chains and a pail of water. We better pull the calve here if we can before we try to move her.” Some guys took a break to call in late on the one-half cell signal bar the milkman found further up the road and others had a smoke while we all waited for Rusty Clapper to come back from the Milk house. It took another hour to get the calf delivered into the road. Things like calving can’t be rushed, no matter where you might be going. While waiting, Rusty told us all just last year he had six cows freshen Easter Sunday morning all the same time, and he missed church. Once the calf was pulled from its mother and into the road, Rusty cleared its nose and throat, then tied off the cord and drug the calf around front to let the new mother clean things up some as we all stood around waiting for the ordeal to be over with. “Well, she might have milk fever.” said Rusty. “I better go get a bottle of calcium gluconate and the IV.”

When Rusty Clapper got back, he pushed the IV needle into a vein in the milk cow’s neck and had Milkman Dan hold the bottle up. “Ok. Maybe that’s why she laid down in the first place. She’ll be good as new in a few minutes, guys. Thanks for stopping by today, Dan.” Rusty said, making a joke as the calcium emptied into the cow’s blood stream. “You got my Milk check payment in your pocket or is it in the truck?” 

“Yeah I do.” says Milkman Dan handing Rusty an envelope. “But I should take part of it as payment for a late fee and a vet bill.” 

“Well, that would be hard to do Dan.” said Rusty smiling. “Not unless you rip a corner off and take it with you. But they may not cash it at the bank.” 

“Shut the hell up and get moving,” said Milkman Dan with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “My hands are cold.”

Rusty Clapper then gave the cow a slap on the back, and she stood up like she had someplace to go. We all clapped. As folks walked back to their vehicles, Rusty and the boys moved the cow and calf to the barn, then went to work removing all the cow-moving emergency equipment from the road. Rusty waved us all though like he was managing an accident scene. The whole event on Clapper Hill made Facebook and everyone in the area sent in hearts upon seeing the calf delivery out on Kamikaze Corner on the Clapper Hill bend.

There might not have been a real calf delivery up there on Clapper Hill, and there may not be a real Rusty Clapper. But there is a real Kamikaze Corner on the Clapper Hill bend, and I got to meet that maple tree up real close and personal. This is my story about my town. So, I get to tell it how I like.

Written By Al Wayman:
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

 

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Downtime –

I have been thinking and reading a lot of books while I come out of a time of direction setting and planning. Making the pots is only 20% of running a pottery buisness.  The other 80% is getting the work out to folks who might enjoy it.  I need to get back to working on the 20% as I have been down far to long already to think things over on the 80%.  Good ideas are only good if one can follow though with them.  I now have all the foundation tools in place to have a great year but just need to start working with them. 

I learned that downtime is a thing not to feel guilty about as I foud it refreshing and a time to think and learn.  Also there is no reason to light yourself onfire to keep others warm.  We can only help others by keeping ourselves healthy. Taking time for self care, family, books, and thinking is very important. I always look forward to the month I take of down time over the hoildays to relax and also come up with new and exciting things for the new year. 

Over the break I was able to work at a few of the art shops and galleries and had a great time chatting with both customers and other artist.  I was able to generate some idea for collaborations. We not only sell our work as artist but we also sell stories. At times that story can be communicated though the work.  Other times it is told though the community one becomes a part of if they chooose after buying the work.  I am feeling very positive about the new year and hope 2022 allows me to get more of my functional work into the hands of famlies so they can enjoy using authentic handmade art in their every day lives.  

Below is a short story I wrote for you all.  It is about somthing that might happen in a small town near you if you only take the time to look.  Story elements are everywhere. Hiding under carpets, in closets, under beads. We just need to go find them all, stuff them in a bag then dump them all out on some life table and look at what we have collected.  Here is a story about Billy Mott’s Boots.  Hope you all have a great year!




Billy Mott’s Boots – 




There was a big box propped up on edge next to the mail box on the snow bank for Billy Mott last year Black Friday weekend. We all knew because Debbie Johnson told us all when she stopped in for a coffee at the Wright Choice Diner, while walking her dog. It looked like it was from someone in Plano Texas to Billy Mott. Big Jimmy , the owner and cook thought maybe it was from Billy’s oil rich uncle.


Billy Mott lived with his alcoholic mother in a small camper down by the tracks. He lost his father two years ago Thanksgiving after being hit by a train when he sat down to have a beer on the tracks out back and dozed off a bit. “It sure was a terrible thing.” Said big Jimmy shaking his head. “The whole town knew something bad happen when they heard the train breaks lock up.”

“Yeah it sure was terrible.” Says old Danny Taylor. “I was out on the porch having a smoke and I heard it . I live clear up in Wyalusing almost 10 miles away. A long load of fracking sand is hard to stop at 45 miles an hour.” “Yeah that sure is sad.” I say. “Yeah the whole town was down there almost..Ill never forget it.” said big Jimmy shaking his head.

“Billy lives down by the tracks now in the trailer doing the best he can to take care of his mother. I give him a warm plate on the house when he stops by some times All he seems to do is hang out in that old tin shed. I went down one time to see if I could borrow some gas for the lawn mower.” Says big Jimmy. “All they have in there is an old wheel horse tractor and some old paint cans. Billy sits in there on rusted out folding chair next to a big buddy propane heater. Says he likes to sit in there and think. So I didn’t push anything or get nosy on a guy who likes to think and all.” “Yeah I don’t blame you.” I say.

Gloria Mansfield knew what Billy was doing in the shed. Gloria was the Baptist preacher’s wife and Sunday school teacher at the big church in town. Some Baptists tend to run a tight ship on moral regulations. Living in a glass house plus home schooling your children in the Christian way can be stressful at times keeping up with expectations. A friend who pretends not to know you at the liquor store and a place in hiding to have a drink to take the edge off some makes a world of difference on how well you carry the Lord’s heavy cross he laid down on your shoulders.

Gloria found her new hiding spot from the pressure of the ministry and the kids when she walked over to Billy Mott’s to borrow some white paint to finish off the garden fence she was working on. Since then she went back a bunch more times to borrow things, then stayed to chat and have a swig , and a few quick visits turned into an hour or so long therapy sessions.

Billy Mott was a good listener and Gloria would unload all her burdens. She talked about gossip, church dissension, and even her love life. It didn’t even bother good Billy Mott when she started naming names. He wouldn’t say a thing as he sat thinking. But the day the big box came things started to change up a bit for the better.

What’s in the the box you got there Billy Mott?” asked Gloria. “Anyways, I brought your snow shovel back.” She leaned the shovel against the shed wall and went to the corner shelf and grabbed her flask from behind the paint cans. Gloria then climbed up on the lawn tractor seat, sitting backward letting her feet dangle over it’s back wheels. “Well come on! Open it up and see what you got.” She said taking a swig. “I’m not sure what it could be.” Mumbled Billy.

Billy Mott brush off the snow from the big box and squinted to slowly read the label. “ From: Warren D. Mott 126 Corporate Drive Plano Texas..Yeah its from Uncle Warren..he’s rich.” Said Billy. “Well Open it up Billy!” Said Gloria jumping down off the tractor. She found an old metal paint can opener and handed it to Billy. “Here cut the tape with this.” Billy sliced though all 4 layers of tape as whoever packed the box up did a great job. Brown wrapping paper filled the box as packing and in side that two objects wrapped in white tissue paper. With paper flying Billy reached in and unwrapped the gifts inside. He held up the first object, a western cowboy boot and a second just like it to make a pair.

”Wow..they sure a beautiful! Hey Billy look there! The tag is still on them. What are they worth.” Billy squinted and read the tag Uncle Warren must have forgot to remove. “$350.00” Billy read. Now Billy did not own hardly anything that was $350 dollars. Let alone boots. “Well try them on!” pushed Gloria taking another swig from her flask. Billy slipped in one foot and they looked like $350.00 but a bit tight. Gloria pointed out that at the factory they wad up paper and place them in the toes to hold the form.

Billy took off his boot, knocked out the paper and slipped it back on. It was a little loose now but perfect if he wore wool socks. “Nice!” Said Billy as he stood there looking down admiring his 350.00 boots. “Yeah real nice!” said Gloria. “Well I’ll need to hide these from mom. She would sell them on me I know. I’ll just leave them out here and wear them for special things maybe.” Said Billy still looking down and wiggling his toes.

Billy Mott needed a reason to wear his $350.00 boots. Like some place he could go special where his mother would not be with him. He thought about it some over the next few days. On the TV Billy’s mom love watching the country music channel, and as she fell asleep with a beer and cigarette in her hand Billy would watch to, and one night he had an idea when he seen a beautiful county girl in real nice boots teach country line dance steps. “I could learn the Achy Breaky.” Billy thought. He scribbled down step directions of what he could real quick on an old CVS receipt.

Back then everyone was doing the Achy Breaky and if you were doing all of that with a bunch of people and if some of those people were pretty girls even better. “ Well folks will pick on me and all so I would have to learn some in the shed just to see. I mean I wouldn’t think of doing anything like that in public. Hell way out here they don’t even country line dance.” It was 10 p.m. and cold that night, but Billy Mott went to the shed, pushed out the tractor, and laid down a 4ft by 8ft rotted out particle board on the floor.

Billy bought the cassette tape of Billy Ray from the Walt-Mart store and dug though the junk drawer in the trailer and found his old walk-men. Under his bed in a box of electronics and playboy magazines he found his two speaker boom box. “Where you going with that?” asked mom. No where special.” Said Billy “ Can you run to the gas station and get me some smokes dear? Here is a Twenty. Get yourself a soda with what’s left..there should be a dollar twenty five left after taxes for you. And for the love of all that is holy stay away from the damn tracks!” “Ok will do Mum.” said Billy, stuffing the twenty in his pocket. He stopped by the shed, cleared a shelf of paint cans, and set the boom box down then headed to the store.

For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas Billy Mott would practice the Achy Breaky Heart in the shed in his Three-Hundred and fifty dollar boots off the steps he had written on the faded CVS receipt just like the pretty girl in boots said on TV. “Step right to side, cross left behind right, step right to side, hold Bump hips left, right, left, hold Touch right toe back, touch right toe forward, cross/touch right over left, Unwind ¾ left (weight to right) Step left back, step right back Hitch left knee turn ¼ left, step left together..” Gloria came back to borrow the snow shovel again and seen Billy practicing dance steps though the cracked window of the rusted shed. The tractor was pushed outside. The catchy sound of Achy Breaky could be heard though the empty screw holes in the wall.

”What are you up to Billy?” Said Gloria, surprising the tall skinny string bean of a man in three-hundred and fifty dollar cowboy boots. Billy froze. Gloria hit the stop button on the tape deck and got her flask and opened up the folding chair next to the heater and sat down and took a sip. “ It’s ok Billy Mott. I won’t tell anyone what’s going on and I am not going to pick on you one bit. From what I have seen here you are one good dancer. Now get back over there and we’ll go from the top! I would dance to help you but I’m Baptist and I’m not allowed to dance and all. Okay you ready? From the top” Gloria rewound the tape and hit play.

”You can tell the world you never was my girl You can burn my clothes when I’m gone Or you can tell your friends just what a fool I’ve been And laugh and joke about me on the phone..” sang Billy Ray though the boom box speakers.

There was not much Billy Mott could do but go along with what was going on and so he did the steps the best he could with what he had memorized off the CVS receipt with Gloria clapping in time. He was messing up the fourth and last part of the steps as he was just getting that part down.. Turn ¼ right and step right forward, stamp left together. Turn ½ left and step left forward, stamp right together …and that was it the receipt had ripped loosing the rest of the steps.

“ I’m missing a section. Said Billy stopping. “The last section. I had it written down but..” “oooh Hell! Come on Billy I’ll show you.” Gloria took a swig from her flask “We can do it together.” Said Gloria smiling. “But I thought you didn’t..” “ Never mind I practiced at home a bit…if you don’t tell I won’t tell.” Gloria stood next to Billy Mott. “Now that last part your missing is Step right to side, cross left behind right, step right to side, stomp left together then clap. Like this!” Gloria did a run though. “Okay from the top!”

The sun was setting low on that short winter day by time Gloria and Billy Mott wearing his three hundred and fifty dollar boots had all the steps to the Achy Breaky line dance down. The good Baptist preacher was just finishing up the sermon in his study while he also kept an eye on the kids. “Back from the women’s bible study already dear?” asked the good minister as Gloria came in. “ Yeah I had a real nice time. I’ll start dinner.”

Billy ran though the steps a few more times back at the shed and he had it nailed down like roofing paper. “ I bet I could go on TV right now.” Billy Mott fantasized. The crowd went wild in his head as he finished up the last steps and took a bow. Tomorrow night was Christmas eve. On every Christmas eve they had free Jukebox night over at Millie’s Bar. Billy Mott thought he might wear his three hundred dollar boots to the event. That is if his mum didn’t go.

A light snow was falling when Billy Mott made it to the Millie’s bar Christmas eve. Mom decided to stay home so Billy made a quick change into his Three Hundred and fifty dollar boots out at the shed and walked up to town. There was just a small crowd there so far when Billy Mott came in and sat up to the bar. Chuck the owner was working the bar and passed Billy Mott a beer. Billy went to reach into his pocket to pay but Chuck waved it off. “Naww first one is on me Billy Mott. Merry Christmas!” “Thanks Chuck. Merry Christmas to you also.” “How’s Mom? She doing okay?” Asked Chuck. ‘ Hanging in there.” replied Billy “Well tell her I said hello!” “ Ok will do Chuck. Thanks so much for all you do for us and this town.” Said Billy Mott. “ None of that. Shut up and drink your beer before it gets warm and I charge you for it.” said Chuck smiling.

As the night moved on more folks from town filed into Millie’s. The Jukebox was playing non stop and folks were catching up with each other, Milkman Dan talking farm stories with Eddie Baker, Big Jimmy talking shop with Dave from the hardware store, and Mike the Mailman hitting on the bar girls and buying attention with his large tips. It was sure cozy in the happy dimly lit Millie’s bar there in small town Christmas eve. It was 9:00 p.m. when someone played the Achy Breaky.

Billy knew it was 9:00 P.M. when they played the Achy Breaky Christmas Eve at Millie’s bar that night because the song came on just as he was two beers in and was getting ready to head back home to the trailer with mom. He checked the time. At the very start of Achy Breaky, for Billy Mott, the whole world stopped for a bit as he felt conflicted in his mind on just what to do. It might have been the two beers he had that lowered his inhibition making him feel brave, maybe the small town Christmas cheer he felt, or some once in a life time opportunity he was confronted with, but for some reason he went to the center of the bar floor in his three hundred and fifty dollar boots to do the Achy Breaky.

The first time though went smooth as butter. Folks were still talking but got real quite when they discovered Billy Mott doing the steps so perfect in time almost as if he had been practicing. It was total concentration in Billy Motts head. All he could hear was the music, folks clapping in time, and Gloria’s counting in his mind. He finished it out ith ease, a state so perfect, like a reflex. At the end the music stopped. No one said a word. You could hear a pin drop. “What the hell did I just see? Hey Dan play that again! Will you?” Yelled Chuck before anyone could move or say a word.

”You can tell the world you never was my girl You can burn my clothes when I’m gone Or you can tell your friends just what a fool I’ve been And laugh and joke about me on the phone..”

Billy Mott stepped the whole thing out perfect. This time the bar girls came in beside him and his Three Hundred and fifty dollar boots and did the line dance. Billy Mott was almost in heaven as everyone clapped in time.

“Don’t tell my heart my achy breaky heart…

I just don’t think he’d understand

And if you tell my heart my achy breaky heart

He might blow up and kill this man…”

Turn ¼ right and step right forward, stamp left together Turn ½ left and step left forward, stamp right together Step right to side, cross left behind right, step right to side, stomp left together clap.

At the end everyone at Millie’s bar gave a big cheer and clapped loud for Billy Mott. The two girls turned him red by each giving him a kiss on the cheek and everyone put in for another round and bought Billy Mott a beer. “How Much for the boots?” Yelled a voice from the back. The whole place went silent. “ They are not for sale Dan! Mind your own business.” Yelled Chuck from the Bar. “ He’s a grown man he can answer for himself.” Said Milkman Dan. “Don’t know.” Said Billy Mott. How much will you give me for them. They were a gift to me.” Said Billy as he finished his beer.

”I’ll give you one hundred and fifty cash right now.” said Milkman Dan. “Come on Dan you’ll need to do better then that. Leave the guy alone!” Chuck said annoyed. Billy Mott remembered he didn’t get his mum a gift. Even though she smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish she did make sure he got lunch every day. French toast every morning with coffee and one can of condensed chicken noodle soup with one half can of water added to fill the bowl with a side of toast. If Billy Mott didn’t buy her a gift no one else would and it was up to him to look after his mum if he was a real man. “Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” he mumbled to himself.

” Alright you have a deal.” Said Billy Mott slipping off the three hundred fifty dollar boots. Billy Mott stood at the bar in his wool socks as Milkman Dan counted out the money. Once in hand Billy Mott turned to Chuck and said. “One case of Coors Light please.” “No way!” said Chuck ‘Not doing it!” “I didn’t get Mum a gift and she likes drinking Coors. So one case of Coors light please Chuck.” Chuck slowly walked to the back cold room shaking his head. He returned and placed the case of beer on the bar as Billy paid him. After paying, and with the case of beer under his arm he spent the rest of the money on tickets over at the big lotto machine, folded them all up, and went out the door into the wet snow and rain. They say the last song played to close down Millie’s bar that night was one by old John Prine:

”For pity’s a crime and it ain’t worth a dime to a person who’s really in need, Just treat them the same as you would your own name next time that your heart starts to bleed. “

We are all not to sure what happened after that but some say there were foot prints all the way back to the trailer from Milly’s bar that night. Also we heard later that Gloria felt the good Lord telling her to take up a collection at the church to send down to Billy Mott.  Now there might not be a shed, a Millie’s bar, or a Billy Mott. But there was for sure a pair of three hundred and fifty dollar pair of boots that went a long way to making folks happy that Christmas. This is my story about my town so I get to tell it how I like.

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

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It was two nights before Thanksgiving and cold. The flames licked out of the tops of both running kilns. My eyes was getting tired from checking the peep holes because a watched cone never drops. I had the whole show to fire out and if things went bad I truly would have a Blue Christmas and so would my customers.

They left me off the hook last year when I over fired a shelf of 20 mugs because I fell asleep and missed shutting the kiln down by 15 minutes. The clay blistered some and started to bloat. I was honest and went online and showed them all. “It’s ok!” they said. ” They can be called COVID mugs!” So I put ten dollars on each for gas money and the safe ones sold out first before the good pots. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong working so hard. But I needed to pay attention this year. The cone in the first kiln dropped around 11:00 pm and the larger kiln fired on.

Cones never lie. I had to tell myself that as the kiln fired on well past shut down time of 12:00 a.m. I was doing 15 minute checks. I stayed outside by the kilns thinking the cold would keep me from dozing off. I had the alarm running on my phone. At 1:00 a.m. I thought I could see a slight bend in the cone and maybe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I had to shut down the kiln and blow in the peep hole to be sure I was seeing the cone and not the edge of some mug. In the fires at the end everything looks the same at times. There is was a slight bend. Thirty more minutes to shutdown.

Morning came quick. It was 7:00 a.m. when I pulled in at the Right Choice Diner for French Toast. I had to park out back by the railroad track as the street parking was filled up. The back dumpster was piled high with bags falling out and three stray cats were licking bacon grease off a paper towl. I walked through the laundry on the line and up the creeky wooden back steps where Missy was having a smoke outside the screen door.

“Hey Miss! Nice to see you. You all look busy.” She had little turkeys on her nails. If you were not sure what holiday was on the way you could tell off Missy’ s nails. “Yeah. This is my first break since 4:00 a.m. It’s been crazy. Hey just between me and you thanks for the money you sent over. I was able to get the books I need for my accounting classes. I have one more semester. But don’t do that shit again.” “Your welcome Miss.” I say.

” You let Robbie out from under that car, or is he still up there pinned?” I ask. “Naww I let him out. He was yelling like a stuck pig but he won’t kick me out and make me walk again.” “Yeah we all heard about that.” ” Well thanks again Alfie. Not to many guys like you around . Go on in and I’ll get you your mug and a coffee. You getting the usual or is it French toast today?” “French toast today Miss. The kilns gave me a bad time last night.” “Yeah you do look tired.” “Yeah if I do good at this sale we’ll run off together ok? ” “Haa! You tell me that before every show. Well you know where I am!”

There was one seat left at the counter it was next to old man Bob. He had pins of honor on his Vietnam Veteran hat and local fire company patches on his coat. “Morning Bob. Thanks for your service. It’s a hopping place this morning. You all ready for Thanksgiving?” ” Yeah we are heading south to see the grandkids a few days. It only an hour or two drive but I’m having my wife drive. I hate driving.”

” So what was going on up the hill last night. I thought I heard the fire trucks last night while I was out there with the kilns.” I ask. ” There was a bad trailer fire up on Charlie Skillets place. His kid there ..ohh what do they call him..Buttons ..yeah.. they said Buttons was up there cooking meth they thought. Brought him out in cuffs but his girlfriend and the baby might not make it.” “Aww that’s terrible.” “Yeah they had trucks from three different counties up there and four on standby.”

Miss was back and poured me a coffee. ” Hey Bob can you pass the creamers please if you don’t mind?” “Sure here you are.. I left three for you.” ” Aww what a nice guy. I’ll have to forget all the terrible things I heard about you.” “What’s going on with the garbage out back? Drivers on strike?” ” No they can’t find enough drivers to work. Big Jimmy was just out here saying it’s been two weeks since they been by.” “Well the cats out there are ok with the set up.” ” And the coons to!” laughed Bob.

The coffee was strong, and the French toast warm. And all the Blue Christmas pots were cooling in the kilns. I just hoped not to fast. Things were moving slow it seemed. I went home and put up the Christmas tree in the shop while the neighbor’s guinea hens chased a dog around the yard. A smell of wood smoke was in the frosty air and dark snow clouds hung low and heavy in the sky.