Thursday, September 19, 2013

solar powered porcelain pickling crocks!

Care of your crock

Your fermenting crock is made of durable vitrified porcelain. With normal care, it will serve you and your loved ones for generations.  Feel free to compress your pickle with a wooden mallet or the flat of your fist, whichever is more comfortable.  The lip and flange are the delicate part, but you can lift the jar by the neck without concern. 

The stones are sized to rest just at or below the inside of the neck.  When you pack your pickle into the crock, allow for the stones to end up there.  The foods will expand and the stones will press them down again because they have locked against the neck.  For this reason, I advise that you fill the crock to the correct stone placement, not partway.

For fermenting, place the lid on the jar and fill the flange with water.  The water becomes a seal against unwanted bacteria. Unless you live in the desert, there should be enough water volume to not evaporate for about a week.  Top up as needed.

Clean the jar with soap and hot water by hand, or it can go in the dishwasher if the weight is distributed around the lip.  Please do not pour boiling water in the crock or subject it to any thermal shock (like putting it on a range).  The clay itself is impervious to water and does not require any kind of sanitizing.

You may return (at your expense and in the original packaging) undamaged jars within 3 months of purchase for a full refund.  Should you find a functional defect in the work, I will refund your purchase entirely upon receipt of proof of defect.  Studio seconds are available for sale at the studio and occasionally on  Seconds will always be clearly labeled as such with their flaw detailed, but still functionally sound.  The purchase of a second is final.

If you have any concerns or questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I love what I do and I exert stringent quality control.  Feel free to visit the studio and meet me during an annual open studio on Mother’s Day weekend.  If you would like a reminder, send me a message, and I will send you a quarterly email newsletter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

As I spend a little time editing web copy for the launch of our new collective website, I ran across this post from many years ago.  As the keystone exxon pipeline is still somehow up for debate and CO2 emission standards are not getting more stringent under this administration, I feel that the letter is still current.  At the time I was referring to the talks in Copenhagen which, as I recall, was another cycle of going no-where with ensuring a habitable planet for future humans.

My letter to the president-  2009

Dear Sir-
I write to you from the cold attic of my carriage house, two candles over there, dirt under painted nails here, as I have been out in the garden all day. You have a slow and steady way, and I do yet believe that you will manage to wash some sins of past administrations. I struggle with many of your decisions, aware that you balance daily a multitude of pressures and global needs. I do not agree with many of the positions you steadfastly hold, so sometimes I despair. Until I remember your wife. I look forward to the day when the news coverage of your organic garden extends beyond her fashion sense and gives greater weight to her statements about the sensible economics of your little victory garden. Could she speak a bit more about the way a body feels after a day in the garden? Tired but satisfied, with oxygen in the blood and the brain. Cheap health insurance. Perhaps I should write to her...

But I write you because you have the voice. May I introduce myself? I am a “maker of things”, a potter; I glowed to the praise of your inauguration speech. I am a young woman with a mind made keen by travel and high-quality education, a body made hard by labor. I have strong ethics about my consumption of energy, so when it came time to establish my own studio, I designed and built an innovative kiln that fires with wood and waste vegetable oil. I fire functional porcelaineous service-ware to 2300 degrees F in a kiln that is completely carbon-neutral. I am part of the scattered army of green entrepreneurs just dying to break into this supposed new paradigm of ethical consumption, and I clarified my position in an interview with the radio broadcast Speaking of Faith.

I have been trying to dance on the grave of bloated big business but it just won't die! Here's what I'm thinking- I'm not against capitalism, I'm against exploitation. Fair business practice without abuse of power is a must in ethical society. America has lost its moral standing? Well, we should quit being complicit in the abuse of other nations' people and resources (not to mention our own). The more effectively we can keep our sights on the acquisition of the materials, their construction and sale, the more accountable the business in question can be to the community it creates. In other words, make local, buy local. Or at least national. But it's a big nation, these United States. The wheels of change turn so excruciatingly slowly. Perhaps it is this that you encountered more forcefully upon ascending to the high office in which you are now find yourself. Congress is mostly in the pocket of lobbyists, seems to me. It is so painful to watch.

What can you do? You can risk it all. Everything it took to get you to where you are now. Mary Oliver says “Tell me, what is it you plan to do? / With your one wild and precious life?” (the summer day). I feel a great pressure in the world, but not nearly enough. We are teetering on the edge of calamitous climate change. Everyone is looking at America. You know it- they are looking at you. Well, you and India and China. But, You. And Me. Little me, with no voice, no press, no gilt-edged fingernails. I have nothing to lose by giving the finger to big oil. You, well, I'm not sure what you have to lose either, quite honestly. We all die someday- you could go down in history as the president who, in a time of great crisis, gave dirty money the finger and told the truth: we are running out of oil and there is no such thing as clean coal. Harness the tides, implement bio-char, rip up the lawn. Oh, it would be marvelous! Of course, the press would roast you. Ah, but the people would hear you again!- you could just say it over and over- fair, ambitious, and binding. Explain why it is crucial, you know the facts. Fair, Ambitious and Binding. All the way to one of my favorite countries where the sun shines at midnight and the bike lanes are ten feet wide. Will you? Will you help clear the rubble and let us build a sane, ethical and accountable future? What will you do with your one wild and gifted life?

With love almost always-
(and give Michelle a hug from me)
Careen Stoll

Friday, June 29, 2012

summer class, first day

noncredit, so I can be very relaxed.  I state it on the first day: my teaching philosophy is to pretty much follow where your interest is: if you want to do your thing in the corner and not be bothered, that's fine by me.. if you want to become comfortable on the wheel- this is the one in the line where I do demo's - choose these nearby as your front row seats... if you think you know what I'm talking about, you may politely and quietly ignore me- its all good... but fyi, I'm good at this, so use me while you got me.. I love them, and they know it already, so most head for the wheels

after a super-condensed explanation of the process of making pots along with studio orientation, we get going- poorly connected splash pans are rattling around, clay spins off the wheel, I do an excruciatingly slow demo of how to center and stop there, shifting to letting them try and figuring out where they need help.. the more experienced move off to the edges, the newbies near me, and the tuning begins.. I must observe, focus on one at a time, thoroughly enough to truly help them, and meanwhile not drop the budding excitement of the others before it turns into dejection after half an hour of trying to center. If I lose someone the first day, I usually lose them for good.  One woman showed up with her husband, supporting him because he didn't want to come to class alone.. she sits at the wheel, never having touched clay.. she is one of seven I am tending to, and I can see in her body language that she is frustrated, even if her words are otherwise.. cheerful, but she is putting a happy face on it- she's frustrated- I am helping someone else, and then someone else, and I had of course warned them all that it was a very steep learning curve at first.  I see at a distance her fussing, helpless strong motions that don't correlate to understanding of this spinning lump, the physics of pressure on rotation, and I give her a little attention, then move on.

fifteen minutes perhaps, I return to her, a larger woman, red-faced and kind, her body getting in her own way as she tries to follow my instruction to put her elbow against her hip- impossible- I adjust my instruction. but when I return to her, she has whittled her pound and a half to half that, and it is perfectly centered.  unbelievable- a complete beginner, not an hour on the wheel- and I sit next to her to encourage.. she says- well, now what? and sit at my own wheel next to her to show her what I was going in wait till next class to show- opening and the beginning of throwing.. she can't hold back to just watch me for a second- she's in, she's enthralled- she's - I can see the look on her face, her body language again shifting, her face softens, delighted, phrases like "wow", subdued exclamations like "oh! I've never..." she turns to me, apologizing, says "I'm about to cry"- and it nearly makes ME cry- I laugh with delight, say "we have a witness!", and within a few more seconds she has ruined her little pot, but the look on her face, the joy evident in her entire body was so beautiful.. it was just, so very beautiful...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

may, and musing on this "job" while tending the garden

I've hit an odd sensation:  wondering if the pure sensory pleasure of porcelain and liminal obliteration of fire are really the reasons that I continue to make pots.  This year I have a goal of financial self- sustainability.  The same goal I have had for years, and will for years to come, no doubt.  This year I have my studio time with little distraction, which is new in comparison to recent years, and I find myself strangely daunted.  But why?  certainly it isn't a creative block- I have never been at a loss for what to make.  I muse on the topic as I do a spring cleaning and fixing fest, or start the next round of lettuces in the garden.  Why do I feel like actually, I'm procrastinating?  Procrastinating, doing the one thing that I most love?  I mean, sure, its a great feeling to now have a waterproof patio workbench and not be spending money on greens at the grocery store, but there's something else in the back of my mind...

I sold out of small items at both the nceca show and the ceramic showcase, a local potters association show.  Obviously I'm underselling my "product" (as my dad would say), since the income was a measley $1000 from each event.  ok, well, I'll have to step it up over the years coming, analyzing the pieces that sell and increasing their price by 15%.  It doesn't appeal to my "pots for the people" preferences for wide accessibility of all people for my work.  But who am I kidding.

Look at this example: I am initiating a slip-cast version of my mug, which always sells.  my cups do too, of course, but there's tremendous variety to them, not so much with the mugs.  I had a meeting with the homegoods buyer from New Seasons market, my grocery store chain whose mission is to support local growers and the community.  The community goes there to buy wholesome foods (or frosted flakes) usually produced organically, priced close to what gives the grower a living wage.  The clientelle is aware that their hard-earned money is going back into supporting the community in which they live, etc, its a lovely cycle.  New Seasons also sells candles and dishes and cards and hats, also usually made by local peeps.  They are the fastest-growing chain in portland, and the people who shop there are definitely my target market.  But they are, we are, so accustomed to the fruits of chinese labor that the homegoods buyer suspected that even though the whole story of my design manufactured by a local slip-casting operation was a great pr story, the price point that would provide all parties a living wage was probably beyond what the customer would likely pay.  She committed to buying a hundred from me.  I need to sell 700 to break even on the investment.  Even slip-cast pots for the people are too expensive compared to what we are accustomed to paying.  If everyone gets a living wage, a slip-cast mug would cost about $30, and I only designed the thing.  That's what I ask for a mug now.  The prices for my hand-made, wood-fired ones are therefore, what,  1/50th of what they should be for me to be actually paid for my time?

Call me crazy, but that's why I don't want to rush to the weekly market to pick up my csa eggs, and ride my bike instead of buzzing over there quickly on the motorcycle.  no-one is ever really going to pay me for my time.  For the first time in my life, I'm in that question zone where the hassle of meeting a deadline (in this case a potentially relatively lucrative art fair in Bellvue, Washington) is turning the joy of touching porcelain into a job.  and its a job where still nobody is really paying me.  It's turning into a job that increases my stress and wears down my body but doesn't meet my goal of "independance".  It makes me question what it means to be independant, why I value that so much, which makes me think of where my financial lifeline lies and all the ties that bind there...  which strengthens my resolve to cut them but, well, I'm 35 now and ensconced in this "job" that will never pay in the culture in which we live today... Linda Christianson warned me that I would never make a lot of money, but it is possible to make just enough, if you live simply.  Silvie said something similar.  Both of them had partners who helped somewhere along the way, for greater or lesser duration.  I have my parents.  We are never "independant".  and those ladies were getting established at a time when the craft movement was strong.  diy might be making a comeback in portland but its not trickling down yet.

But what I do know is that if I don't water the seedlings, they will die.  and then I need to buy lettuce at new seasons.  So I go do that.  It feels more immediate, less "artistic".  Its not like I lack for friends all supporting each other in their passions for the absolute necessity of the arts.  But even friends seem distant when I listen to the news or wake alone, thinking again about those paintings called three little birds that I'd love to have above my bed, and how cheap they are, but how I might never buy them because even though they are as cheap as my cheap rent, that's still 400 dollars and I blew my wad at the artstream at nceca.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

old man winter smiling on us firing feb 2012

Old Man Winter is smiling on our first firing of the year. That's Georgianna Jones taking it all in...

we are at cone 7 on this mild and breezy day, the wood is in perfect shape and we have more than enough of it, the oil was prewarmed, no clinkers are developing, the crew is well-rested and fed. Dogs are smiling, friends dropping by... so many years of heartache and headache seem to have been necessary to bring us to this place.been necessary to bring us to this place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

close to the bone

a pensive moment as I too encounter one of the many hurdles so many low-income people must leap. I have never hid the fact that much of my income is from family gift, untaxed, despite my work ethic. This year I am attempting again to rectify that situation as well as make the most local choices that are available to me. To this end, I just signed up with a meat share CSA, but more on that in a moment. I have also been trying to switch my money to a local credit union, advantis, where I now have a checking account that gives back two percent interest provided that I meet certain conditions. Imagine my surprise to be declined for a credit card. not just the rewards credit card that I wanted which earns miles towards air travel, but ANY credit card. I mean, I get junk mail all the time offering me credit cards because my credit rating is very high. why is it so high? because I'm always paying my existing one (a miles-earning one from wellsfargo) in full. because I'm able to constantly dip into the jar of honey, and I'm never in debt. How did I get the credit card that I have now? when I was a student and first signed on with wellsfargo in utah. maybe they just extend the card to those with a higher credit to debt ratio because its more ways to suck in the poor. But Advantis doesn't play that way, apparently. They want people who can prove (via tax returns) that they have little debt load. and even though I have no debt, it doesn't show up that way.

very interesting to me. for one thing, I know damn well that even if my family is operating well within legal parameters, there are ripple effects to the action. The situation is not comparable to the true injustices of tax loopholes, insider trading, predatory lending, etc. But its fascinating to me to observe it from the opposite shore. At this point, based on my own merits, I am not able to get a credit card from a reputable bank with safe lending practices. I'm not able to start the process of building my paper worth. I couldn't get a loan for the same reason- I guess I need to start thinking of a credit card as a loan as they do, instead of a tool. By using the tool as I have been, I am offered flashy things and free crap all the time, the spoils that go to those who have enough money to make more money, ill-gotten or fair.

and so a junction point, the same one I have encountered before, which means that at least one road is circular and I must be sick of this ride: do I continue to dip into the jar of honey, dropping 700 dollars all at once on a six month share of grass-fed protein BECAUSE I CAN, never mind that the comparison value of the meat is very reasonable, never mind that I will share it, never mind all that- if I were on my own "paper merit", I couldn't put up that kind of cash all at once, I would have to scrimp and save for it, and given the state of things, I'd probably never get there. Which means one less customer for a family farm.

no, as I have stated, with years of prep work completed, this year (and likely, many into the future) is a great experiment: four firings and four shows, building inventory, applying for the best, not wasting time on side-projects, going for the money. this year I'm all about earning money off my work in the studio. I want to see what I can do. get off the circular road of someone else's money and the subtle ties that bind. those are not the ropes that I love- those are the ones I abhor.

what's sick to me is the yardstick by which I am measuring myself: my paper merit. my taxable self. my degree of involvement in the machinations of the state. I appreciate the law and order, I do not appreciate the warmongering. why cant we pay taxes allocated to what we care about?, other than the obvious database nightmare. ...

well, I received that news just an hour ago. However, months ago, I was sleepless one night and researched CSA farms, landing on Sweet Home Farms, the kind of place that just makes me ache with love for people who persist in swimming against the stream of appalling ranching practices- its not even ranching, is it, when they raise sows in cages in warehouses - what is that? if we are what we eat, what am I if I eat that meat? a poisoned slave. I'd rather starve. If that's the meat I can afford with my artist's wages, let me go vegetarian. let me go back along my circular path of parental money. I purchased a share from Sweet Home Farms, and immediately filled the studio with the smell of the simmering stew bones that they throw in for free in winter. my poor bike panniers! fourty pounds of meat and root veggies - beautiful...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

full stop

to say that everything comes to a halt when seed packets or better yet, live plants, arrive at the door* is not completely accurate. but certainly, my excitement jumps to a higher valence level and I find myself magnetically attracted to doing whatever needs to be done to support getting the little plants the food and water that they need.. the photo is an unpacked box from One Green World , a nearby nursery devoted to permaculture practices that has scoured the globe for plants suited to my climate as well as many others- detailed notes available. In Portland, I could grow certain bananas and citrus, pawpaws, pinapple guavas, passionfruit (no kidding!) in addition to vit-C packed seaberries and goji beyond the obvious such as blue and strawberries (including ones that fruit the whole year). I bought purple asparagus, an delicious eatable fern, saffron, razzberries, and 50 stems of three varieties of those year-round strawberries.. and I am loopy with delight....

*uh, right- anyone else notice the irony here?