Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fall Color + Things I Am Thinking About

This post is a little long so you may want to come back to it at another time. I have added some recent photos of nature at the end of the post that were taken in our pastures a few weeks ago when there were still bits of color. 

My days, these last couple of weeks, are filled with lots of making and painting of pottery and ceramics. While I am painting/decorating the pottery with underglaze, I need to have some white noise to fill the space so my brain doesn't overthink what I am doing. I have been watching different YouTube videos on art history to keep me company. (Like these fantastic BBC shows hosted by Art Historian Alastair Sooke about the artists PicassoMatisseWarhol, and Dali. Click on each name to watch the video on YouTube. Super interesting - each show talks about how each artist changed the look of our modern world.) Although I am totally engrossed in the surface design of each object I am creating and painting on the ceramic piece, I listen to what the presenter is talking about and think about actually watching the video later so that I can actually see the art. 

I also listen to different podcasts that interview artists and designers who do similar work to me. Monica and Abby are my favorites. I must say that I find the podcasts that are hosted by women are my favorites. It is kind of like having a girlfriend sitting there with me while I work. 

My friends Alicia and Deborah and I had a planning meeting for our Open House/Open Farm Days on December 5/6. We aren't sure what to expect this first year and if it goes well, we may do it again next year depending on what we all have going on. Alicia is an amazing fine artist and Deborah is a ethnographic textile collector and jewelry designer (and artist). All three of us have art that doesn't compete with each other and actually - it is going to be a really nice mix. I'll be posting an interview with them both within the next couple days. 

I am producing as much as I can physically to sell at the Open House. Whatever doesn't sell I will put up for sale on my Etsy shop for all of you who live far away. My ceramics are very time consuming because of all the painted motifs and details on each piece. Each piece has to be made out of clay, then dried, painted with underglazed, fired in my kiln, then painted with gloss glaze and fired agin. I am trying to figure out the pricing - to make them fairly priced but also compensate me for the time, the two firings, the clay and the blank dinnerware plates and bowls that I purchase for dinnerware. 

The other night, on the way to the grocery store, I was listening to NPR's Marketplace. The host Kai was speaking with some experts on the economy like he always does. The general gist of the conversation was that Macy's corporate profits were not up to where they should be and that no one really knows where the economy is headed. Well, seriously - do we ever really know? Are consumers going to come out and buy like they used to? Will the big corporations have lots of gains and make lots of money this holiday season? Add to that all the recent uncertainty in the world and consumers don't know where to turn.  

Has the world of commerce and business changed? Has the way you and I buy things changed so that we don't want as much stuff that the big stores are trying to sell to us? Has the economy really gotten better? Do the big chains think that we are back in the go-go 90's and early 00's before the tech bust? Are people going to consume like they did back then? I really don't think so. 

All that talk about big retail businesses making money made me think about the economy that I am participating in and part of. I am trying to make my living by selling virtual knitting and stitching patterns, authoring and selling my books, pottery, notecards and whatever else I dream up to people like you who are reading my blog and following along with me. Besides that, I help out with our small sheep farm which is another story altogether. There are thousands of people like me - potters, seamstresses, woodworkers, bakers, farmers, authors, quilters, Christmas wreath makers selling their wares on the side of the road or in virtual on-line shops -- people living in their own little worlds and homes and studios making and growing things with their hands and their bodies and their brains. 

On Marketplace the other night, they said that the recession has been over for six years. I was quite astounded by that. Doing the math - that would put the end of the recession as 2009. Gee - I thought this one began in 2007 with the financial meltdown. Did it really end in 2009? Not here at this house. I think that giant meltdown began the tides of the change of how consumers spend money. I think people are more careful - as they should be - about plunking down their hard earned money for stuff they don't need. 

I also wonder how much the "handmade" economy is cutting into the standard corporate economies. I'm probably way off the mark here but I think that consumers are realizing that buying handmade things - or products made by small companies that have a story - may be changing how $ is going around in the economy. I am no economist for sure - let's say that was the only class in college that I almost didn't pass! But I wonder - are consumers changing the way they spend their money? Are on-line sites where you can find everything like Etsy and Ebay taking money away from the big department stores and the "normal" way things are marketed and sold in the US? I would say yes - to some degree. 

I wonder how long the big old chain stores will survive - much less prosper again. I know I live in a pocket of New England where things don't work the way they do other places. Here we have very few chain stores and I have to drive 40 minutes to get to a place like Target or Walmart or Old Navy. I'm probably not seeing things the same way you all out there are seeing things. 

This summer when I was hosting my workshops with the fabulous students that drove and flew in from all over the place, I couldn't help but think about how these women and you all out there who read this blog, buy my stuff, and support me emotionally with your comments are helping my family and I keep it all going around here. Between our customers at the Farmers Markets who purchase our lamb, to everyone of you who orders a pattern or maybe a piece of my pottery - or buys a book directly from me ---- all of you are keeping us going, supporting our farm and our family. 

I can't think of a time in my life when I have been supported this much financially by individuals. I told my students this summer that they were my patrons - in the old-fashioned sense of an artist having a patron. That by purchasing from me or taking a class from me, each one of you contributes so much to our family being able to survive and keep our farm and business going. For this - I thank you all so much. 

Enough rambling - I have things to do. Pottery to make, newsletters to write, interviews to do, and a house that needs to be cleaned for Thanksgiving and the Open House. I hope you all have a great day! Enjoy these photos from the pastures below our farmhouse when there was a bit more color out there than now. 


Susan said...

Beautiful photos, Kristin. They make me miss the Minnesota farm where I grew up.
I feel like you are right about the economy and the changes in how people are buying stuff. If you can get what you want cheaper on an auction site, why play full price? And personally, I would rather always support a maker and give a hand made item as a gift. Wish I lived close enough to buy your lamb!

Susan said...

Beautiful photos, Kristin. They make me miss the Minnesota farm where I grew up.
I feel like you are right about the economy and the changes in how people are buying stuff. If you can get what you want cheaper on an auction site, why play full price? And personally, I would rather always support a maker and give a hand made item as a gift. Wish I lived close enough to buy your lamb!

WildflowerWool said...

I think you are right. More and more people are wanting to buy local, handmade and wanting to know where and how things have been made.

Patricia said...

Being a knitter, former Graphic designer, now production coordinator who I am and how I shop is dramatically different these days. First I got a job where I do not have to dress up, and given the current state of affairs, I dress down. jeans (LLBean) Duluth shirts because they wear really well and they have longer waist, really nice, but not expensive sneakers. While I live a distance from my work, I drive a small Honda fit. Great gas milage and it is a hatchback.

I don't go to malls. The malls around me are rather high-end and I don't want to deal with all the visual "buy, this, buy that!" It isn't going to make me happy and I have fun with yarn!

The recession has changed a lot of us. I don't feel strong financially, I think we are going backwards in terms of how we acquire. I know families who shop at Target, thrift stores, just to stretch the money further. The recession may have ended but the effects of spending willy nilly has not. I, a middle class person now look at Etsy, buy used DVDs, look for used books or see if I can get a discount or special deal. I don't generally give birthday gifts once nieces or nephews are over 18, xmas yes. I love finding something unique from true craftspersons. In fact I am asking husbeast to get me some of your pottery for xmas. I am not sure if I will use it or hang it as art. I also am finding that I want less as I get older. I am actually giving stuff away. It is just the nature of things I suppose.

Wish you the best this holiday season

NotThatKindOfFarmer said...

Great article with beautiful pictures! I appreciate your post. Thanks so much and let keep on sharing your stuffs keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, I enjoyed your musings on consumption. As you and the other commenters point out, the recession doesn't FEEL like it's over to my household. Yes, there are more job postings in the paper but money is still very tight and we are careful with expenditures because we have to be. Two additional factors in how much people consume in tangible goods: age and the move to cities. Around here (Virginia)it seems there are increasing numbers of older people who are more interested in shedding what they have acquired than buying more. Also when I visit young people who have moved to large urban areas, I am stunned at how little space they have. We were discussing Christmas and they were begging people not to get them "big" things. The big in this case meant size.

Adaliza said...

Thought-provoking post, Kristen - doesn't feel like the recession is over here in the UK. Consumers think hard about their purchases these days. A certain amount of feel-good factor seems to have left over the past few years and the austerity measures put in place by the British government have entered everyone's psyche, or so it seems. However, I'm pleased to say that I'm able to keep busy making my quilts and have lots of orders. It's always going to be a hobby - like you say about your pottery pieces, it's difficult to find a price that reflects the time and design skill required for these items. It's great to be able to be creative though - and I love reading about your farm. I've been meaning to say that I was so sorry to hear about Winston - and to welcome your new pups. Take care - Adaliza x

Florence said...

You amaze me with all you do! I do believe you are right. I think our money is being spent more wisely and thoughtfully and more of us are spending it with small businesses instead of the big ones. I prefer to give my money to a small businesses. With small businesses you know you are helping someone by purchasing from them. I buy most of my yarn from independent dyers, and my knitting bags as well. The economy has changed, just not in the way they think it has. So many people have gone back to cottage industries, because the economy got so bad we had to do make ends meet so there has been a resurgence of hand crafts, making things yourself. It's less expensive if you do it yourself and the quality you get from a handmade item cannot be beat. You are spot on!

I hope you have a lovely weekend and I pray your open house is very successful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirstin, My brothers and I discussed this topic...sort of this summer as we were dealing with my parents' estate. There were objects we wanted to go to 'good' homes...just not our own as we were feeling...well 'stuffed' might be the term. My husband and I just moved back from overseas and when our shipment came as we opened each box it either went to its spot in the house, in the trash if it was unusable (not that much) or to goodwill. We both are looking around thinking there is still stuff to pare down. When I do buy, I want something that I can connect with in terms of knowing the person that made it. I get the amount of time/work that goes into such items having made a lot of things in my time. I value someone else's work as my own. Where do the bigbox items come from? Mostly not like 'fair market' items. The biggest profits are not going to the makers. I think more people are getting this. It will be interesting to see if the holiday season and 'black Fridays' really do the big stores much good.
Even my aunt suggested we not do anything for Christmas, granted she has everything she needs and can use, but then don't most of us.
I think you bring up an interesting question and I'll be looking to see what the news says about this holiday season's shopping. Thanks. Helen

Auntie Shan said...

Personally, I find the state of "Recession" rather static at best. And somewhat open to interpretation. -- What's that line, " was the best of times and the worst of times.."? -- Sounds pretty much like ALL of the time!

I'm in Canada. The CDN/US currency exchange rate is around that 30% mark... A year or so ago, we were "at par"! Needless to say, a HUGE GAP in a very SHORT time!

I'm also retired with a crappy pension. Thankfully though, I was raised to be frugal - [#ThriftStoreDiva-CouponFairy] - and "invested" my money at an early age. Plus, I dabble in the Stock Market, so I'm exposed to that "big picture" of Global Economies. Not that I really "understand" most of it, but I've managed to stay afloat despite the ups and DOWNS! [You really wouldn't want to play Poker with me!] -- whatever. At the end of the day, I have a roof over my head, food on the table and enough yarn to stock a store! So, I'm good! And, if the exchange rate tightens and oil goes up, I'll be even better! ;-D

Meanwhile, I'm just putting the STASH to work and doing the odd craft show... Perhaps some day, I'll actually break even on the STASH *COSTS*! Until then, I'll just enjoy the "creating" and the company of other "Artisan"-Crafters... And, spending my spare time "FAN-GIRL"ing KRISTIN! :-D

[Have I mentioned that I have no "Life"..?]

Anyhoo, "MENTOR"-GIRLFRIEND, great pics! In fact, a few have got my cranial-"colour-wheel" spinning... I see more hat making in my future... IF I can *remember* WHERE "in" STASH-MOUNTAIN that I put some of those Colours!

But now, I have craft-show PREP to get back to... Got a BIG one on Saturday!


bitten78 said...

I am really hoping some of those mittens make it to the website, so adorable! I love reading your blog and am so inspired by your crafting and the farm, but I do realize just how hard the work must be. I began knitting thinking I could just whip up that perfect 'whatever' having no idea just how much good yarn and tools were going to cost me! I still LOVE knitting and have branched out into embroidery and want to learn proper sewing and quilting desperately. The economy is still a crazy place, my Husband and I decided to move to NC from CT to get away from living paycheck to paycheck and try to buy a home with an actual backyard on our budget. We also made a pact to support as much local business and I suppose 'cottage industry' as possible. I would rather pay a little extra to support that family like mine and know I'm buying something well made by someone who put a bit of themselves into it than something cheaply made in a factory overseas. I would rather pay for that one really great pair of boots than have 10 pairs of cheap ones that don't last a season. I find saving up to pay for something that will last me to cost much less than cheap stuff. And especially from autumn to New Years I love being able to pull decorations out and remember the actual people I got the wares from, and look at what they are up to now on Instagram or a blog. Good luck with all your crafting prep!

Judy in Ct said...

Kristin, you are a woman with the tiger by the tail! Just a power house! I so enjoyed your musings and the comments by your readers.

ebysea said...

LOVE these ceramics, I hope to see them on your ETSY shop as I have been looking for something I can use as a spoon rest and these look like they would fill the bill. Just beautiful!!! (like all of your creations!)

Mary Lou said...

I really enjoy your musings. I don't see the recession as over that soon, as well. And the big stores like Macy's sell so much junk. Badly made clothing with cheap fabric. Who wants that? I think there are enough people who want to support local and small business that credit card companies are getting in on it - Small Business Saturday, for example. I wish I were close enough to shop at your weekend!

Anonymous said...

I've just found your site a few months ago after buying Kristen Knits book just because I love the colors. I take it out and just browse the pages to be inspired! And was I surprised to find you live so close to my family and where I grew up;Greenfield. And you live on a sheep farm as I got to when I lived in Cumbria, UK for 2 years.
I am hoping to make your open house. I have been a self-taught crafter all my life; loving the making sometimes more than the item itself. I do knit now and hope to get better at it.
As I get older and have time to ponder life's mysteries, I realize family and people and special times are more important than any one thing. Shopping may be for the younger folk since once you have what you need, homemade items become very special. I do believe it is difficult to do what you do and make ends meet; both with art and farming. I admire what I see so far and look forward to meeting you, your neighbors and friends in a week or so. Anne

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