Category Archives: Tiles

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending June 15

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Happy Art Week to all.

Saturday, June 9 – After a walk in Norristown Farm Park, my husband and I stopped by the Ceramic Shop in Norristown to pick up an order I had placed earlier in the week.

I am very lucky to have this resource so close to my house – clay supply outlets are not plentiful and shipping is very expensive for clay (for example, I only bought 100 pounds, and shipping of $60 was more than the clay itself cost). Even better for me, this store used to be located in Philadelphia in a warehouse-type spot on one of those smallish city streets, and no parking. They moved here about a year or so ago and I was thrilled.

We parked in the lot:

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and went inside.

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You can buy just about any clay-related item here, from kilns to wheels to clay to tools to glazes. I have learned it is better to order on the internet and then go in a few days later to pick up – your order is all ready for you to take right away. I will show you some of the things clay people find in this store:

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Tools galore.

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This is the Velvet underglaze display, these being the products I use. Notice the sample board above the jars. It shows each color, fired at the correct range for the product, and how it will look with or without glaze. This type of display is found with each coloring product so that you can get an idea of what it will look like when fired. It’s especially necessary with glazes, as how they look in the jar is not how they will look when fired. At all.

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Underglaze pencils. They “write” on the clay like a colored pencil (you can see the samples on the mugs holding the pencils). I have used a similar thing, underglaze pastels, in my work, and I like the crayony look they offer.

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Whisks – Or you could just get the one out of your kitchen…

These  whisks can be used for stirring large buckets of glaze mixture. In large production studios, glazes are often mixed from powders and chemicals with water added. Production work requires large quantities of glaze so it’s more economical to do this, plus it ensures color matching for all items glazed from a particular session.

A bucket-load of glaze is literally what is needed – production work is usually dipped in the glaze rather than brushed on. Saves time and ensures a very even coat of glaze.

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Kiln furniture. These items are all used for glazed items that have a glaze coat on the bottom or otherwise can’t be set on the kiln shelf. Remember, a glazed piece will glue itself permanently to a kiln shelf if any glaze is on its bottom, ruining the piece and the shelf. These furnitures are set on the shelf with the nails up – the glazed piece rests on the little pinpoints of the nails and does not stick.

I wandered around for a while and treated myself to a couple of small jars of underglaze – new colors to try. I never can resist. When I had paid for them, we drove around to the street side of the building and they brought out our clay to us.

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I had chosen a couple of tile-cutting tools I carried out separately on my own. I’ll show them later on when I try them out in a new session of clay work.

Sunday, June 10 – Calendar note – I graduated from high school 42 years ago today. Just saying.

Last night and today I spent some time working on a project I mentioned some weeks back – I want to make a print book of my Minuscule story/poem combinations (read an example here) and illustrate it. The writing part of the endeavor moves along apace. I think I need about 100 entries to make a nice book and I’m maybe halfway there.

Illustrating a book is not new to me, but – I’ve always done the pictures first and fit the words to them later. This is a different slant – words first, pictures second. I have been wondering if I can do it. I decided to take the plunge right now and start to find out.

I printed out the writing done so far. I bought paper. I bought India ink (my idea is to do  B/W pictures, very simple, using the ink and my Chinese brushes).

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I got to work. Now, I am a newborn baby as far as this kind of thing goes. I have no idea how to illustrate anything. Be literal? Allude to some element of the story? Sketch something out first? Remember, these stories are only 2 sentences long. Imagine if I had a full-length work to illustrate!

All right. I decided to read over each entry and whatever came to me, that is what I would do.

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All right, after some false starts, in fact, many false starts, I got more of an idea of how to proceed. For me, it’s best to just read – close my eyes and imagine -draw. That’s it.

OK. I made a good start.

I feel sure I will be replacing or amending some of these images. Well, that is fine. I can see that by the end of this project I will be much more proficient and confident in my drawing skills as well as my ability to illustrate something. Plus, it was fun to work in this manner.

Some of the failures, well, I cut out parts that I liked. I am sure they will come in handy for some other project down the line.

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Monday, June 11 – I spent a lot of the day doing poetry work, so I had just about an hour to fit in some art time. I had this half-hearted attempt at a tree painting (6″ x 6″) that was really more of an excuse to use up paint from earlier projects.

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Suddenly I saw a man in my tree.

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And another one in that ATC. OK, now I’m going somewhere. To be continued…

I also did a couple of drawings for my Minuscule book project. I’ll say one thing – I anticipate using up a lot of paper. I try to remember – relax, and just work quickly and without thought. Secondly, not to try to be realistic in my depictions – it’s not in my nature. And last, the brush has its way of doing things, don’t fight it.

I did a couple of new images (one with two different versions; I’ll pick one later on) and re-did one from the other day I was not satisfied with. I have the feeling there will be many re-dos but you know, I don’t mind it. I’m in no hurry. And setting myself this kind of assignment, to illustrate this book, well, it will build my skills.

Wednesday, June 13 – Today I thought I’d get into some clay – just sort of play around with it. I got out my 25 pounds of terracotta:

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It’s very fresh and wet. I rolled out a couple of slabs.

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I had only a short time before I was going to leave the house, so I made a few cylinders, wrapping a slab around and joining the edges.

I worked on a figurine or two.

Then I loosely covered the works with plastic (dry-cleaning plastic, the workhouse material of clay artists everywhere) and went off to the gym. In the summer, my basement is very cool and while not damp, it dries items slowly (in winter, the heater and the drier air make a difference in this room). I probably did not need the plastic but it is better to be safe. You cannot un-dry clay.

In the afternoon, I refined my earlier pieces and added some more. Individual shots:

and a group shot.

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Notice in the background of the previous photo the clay cylinder with a dowel running through it supported at each end. I have set this contraption up so that the cylinder can semi-hang from the dowel (it just touches the table) and maintain a more rounded shape until it stiffens a little. I can’t make anything with it until it can stand up on its own.

OK. I left these guys to their own devices and I got out new tools I bought on Saturday.

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What are they? They are tile cutters. You roll them through the slab, then cross the slab, to make the tiles. I read up on their use before I tried them. Interesting thing – you can use them on the clay, straight, to make tiles with sharp angled sides, or you can roll over plastic to make rounded edges. I thought I’d try the plastic option.

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I got some nice results right off the bat. I learned a couple of things. One, things work better when the clay is just not so fresh – let it dry a little and firm up. This reduces the distortion that can happen when the criss-crossing is done.

Two, move slowly and make sure you follow the previous track carefully so as not to double-cut an edge. Three, make sure you take off at a 90-degree angle when you criss-cross, to make certain of square tiles.

I’ll let these firm up a little and tap their edges to re-square them, but I really like the look of them.

Interesting note – if you roll the rollers directly on the clay, it sticks. The recommended treatment is cooking spray on the roller. I will try that next time.

Once I finished up with clay, I went back to painting black edges on paintings…

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Friday, June 15 – This morning I set out all my paintings for review, for two reasons. One, I’ll be at a show this weekend, and I needed to decide which ones to take.

The show will be held in a park and my booth will have all sides available for display, but the car can only fit so much work. So, I had to make some decisions.

Second, I needed to make an inventory of paintings that I will take to my upcoming gallery exhibit in July so that the organizers can make price cards and so on. Not all my work will be hanging but this way, they can make choices what to display without saying – Oh no, we have no information for this piece so it sits out the game!

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My clay work is drying very slowly in the basement. I plan to work on it a little, if time permits. In that case I will show what happens in next week’s Diary. I thought I’d get this one done early today because I have a variety of non-art things to get out of the way. So that’s it for this week!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.

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People Sitting

Some people are busy, some are contemplative, some social, some taking life as it comes.

Clay tiles, various sizes, Velvet underglazes fired at cone 06, January, 2018.

Solitude and Society in Nature

 

Clay tiles, Velvet underglazes , January, 2018, fired at cone 06.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending May 25

 

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art is out in the world.

As a note, I say in the post title that this week is ending on Friday, May 25 – but I’m posting it on Thursday the 24th. I’ll be at a show, Mayfair, in Allentown, PA, all weekend, including Friday, and things close up at 8 o’clock each night – so, after we drive home and so on, well, no energy on Friday for a post! I will put the show info into next weeks’s Diary.

Saturday, May 19, and Sunday, May 20 – We were at the Tile Fest all weekend – you saw the set up on Friday. Here’s a little wrap up.

Saturday was a miserable day, weather-wise. It rained all day, and much of it came in downpours that pounded the tent roof. It was also chilly and really just…miserable uncomfortable.

I made one trip to the bathroom through the rain and came back soaked; I had to change my shoes and socks (Note: always take extra clothes to a show. Always). Since we have had a lot of rain recently, the ground is saturated and the water ran down the hill through the tent when the deluge got heavier (you see the straw put on the ground to soak up mud). You also can see everyone wearing coats and long pants. Show attendance was light and sales followed suit.

Two bright spots. All of us vendors are friendly with each other, having come to this show for years, and newcomers get gathered right in. We support each other and make jokes about the weather and so on. It helps.

Number two – the show organizers have the tradition of putting on a really nice dinner on Saturday night – this year we ate inside the Tiles Works building. It allows us to relax and talk to fellow vendors, and the food is always good. We all really appreciate this consideration, and this year it cheered us all up after a pretty long day.

Sunday, the weather really improved! Sunny and about eighty degrees.

I’m showing you the bathroom building. It’s made of concrete, like the Tile Works and Fonthill, Henry Mercer’s home, which is a short walk away. Anyway, it’s like a little cave of a building, and it always makes me laugh.

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Attendance was better on Sunday and we were all more comfortable.

But I think the show’s momentum, for me, and for others, too, never really recovered. I believe that Saturday is generally a more active and buying day, and we lost that with the weather. I’ve had better sales years, but, overall, I was satisfied. Plus, I stress, this show means a lot to me in meeting fellow tile makers, renewing friendships, and just being in a show where people care about each other.

When it was time to pack up, we did so, and got on the road home. The orange cooler is the marker for where we spent the weekend.

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Monday, May 21 – How this week will go is an unknown for me – I’ll be getting over being gone all this last weekend and then getting ready for the long show coming up. Here is a postcard I made and sent last week. The story is, my friend Steve sent me the card with a space drawn in it, saying – Make art here. So I did, and then I kept on going. I sent the card back to him last week but I thought I’d show it (hoping it has made it to his house by now!)

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I used to exchange a lot of mail art. Not much now, but I see it happening again in my future. And, if you happen to read this and want to send me something, I will send back, yes I will.

Tuesday, May 22 – Odds and ends and then some inspiration. That was today.

First, I took some tiles I had set aside from the show. Let me explain – there is nothing wrong with these tiles. I like them ok. But seeing them in my display, well, I just wasn’t loving them, and I don’t like to exhibit or sell things I don’t love.

Sometimes people buy these things before I remove them, that’s ok. People often like pieces that I don’t, because my attitude toward a piece is not necessarily how “good” I think it is. It’s hard to explain my criteria, let’s leave it at that.

Once I’ve decided an item is not up to par, it is doomed, in its present state. If it’s a painting, well, it may get a remake or be entirely obliterated for a new start. Tiles, not so easy. They are what they are.

Anyway, I pulled these out, marked out my name on the back, gave them new names, and voila! Art to be left out somewhere in the world. I think I always knew I was making these items for this purpose, and trying to sell them never felt right. OK. Rebalancing things.

Note: I like that flower tile a lot, but, it is the last one of a group, and they never get the attention they deserve in a show. As take-away art, they are on stage alone – the star.

I’ve also been itching to paint, and I’ve had the idea of making something big and colorful and abstract. No theme, no idea, just paint and see what goes. I got hold of the largest board I have right now, 24″ x 20″ (wish it had been twice that size, a size I never do, but somehow that idea appealed to me…but anyway, this is what was on hand).

I gessoed it black. And I also pulled out some of those 6″ x 6″ squares to use up extra paint (I anticipated a frenzy of painting, you can see). I chose 2 each of black and white gesso.

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All right. Here is what I ended up with at the end of the afternoon. The large painting:

The small ones.

OK, I feel better now. I’ll let these sit and see what happens next to them.

Last thing today – I  have this page in my current Large Artist Sketchbook to work on, if I want to, maybe tonight while I watch TV. It is certainly a conglomeration hoping to cohere…

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Wednesday, May 23 – I worked some more on this painting. I think it is close to being finished, that’s what I said at the end of the afternoon.

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I also arranged some more of those 6″ x 6″ small boards on my table, two gessoed white, two black. This time I painted random colors and shapes on the surfaces, the same for each color, two different sets. Take a look.

Now you see what a difference the gesso color makes. With the white, I will need to do more layers just to cover the white. The black, different story, the color is richer from the start. I have the feeling I will be using this black gesso a lot.

Later I’ll do something with these boards. For now, I was just wondering what the results would be.

I finished this page in my current Large artist sketchbook. I have been hanging on to this page for some time. Done! Now I have only one more page left in this book. What do you know about that. I was surprised myself.

 

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Later in the evening, I had the larger painting upstairs for me to study, and suddenly I had to do some more work to it. Here it is:

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I think this painting is done. Or maybe not. In any case, done enough for me to paint its edges and take it to the show tomorrow? Yes, I think so. Now I’ll stop writing and get that little task done – plus load the car and so on for tomorrow. Thank you for reading.

 

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Recent Clay Work #2 From May 2018

More clay work from May 2018. Here are face tiles, people tiles, and clay “rocks”. Done in terracotta or white clay, colored with Velvet underglaze, and fired at cone 06.

Most likely these will be art giveaways (where I leave art out in the world for others to pick up). The tiles are rolled thinner than usual (they were scraps from other projects). And the clay rocks, well, they just beg to be scattered around.

Recent Clay Work #1 From May 2018

I’m going to show the latest load of clay items I did in this month – I’ll start here with these clay tiles, white or terracotta clay, @ 2″ x 2″, colored in Velvet underglazes, fired at cone 06.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending May 18

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Always time for art…

Saturday, May 12 – This week, I warn you, will be a bumpy ride for getting some art time. I have several appointments and will be out of the house; and on Friday, I will be setting up for the Tile Festival next weekend. So I’m thinking this will be a week of little bits here and there. In fact, I think the next few weeks will follow this pattern – I have a show over Memorial Day weekend and then another smaller one the next weekend, plus more appointments and obligations. Well, it goes like that sometimes.

Back to art. On Friday afternoon, I went over to the high school across the street to watch a softball game in the beautiful weather. I sat away from the crowd along the first base  outfield line. It was Senior Day and a lot of cheering family and friends were in attendance.

I took my sketchbook with me. I am trying to sketch wherever I am, just catch gestures, outlines, etc. I’m not trying to make anything finished; I need a lot of practice and so…here is what I came up with.

I love how trying to draw something really makes you look at it.

Now, on Saturday, I was busy with home chores, but I worked a little on those tiny paintings I started last week. Where are these going? I don’t know. Maybe they are finished. I’ll check on them later in the week.

Sunday, May 13 – My husband and I went to a play at a local art center – I’ve mentioned this place before. It’s a cafe style theater, small, and really pleasant. See those two tiles? They are staying here when I go home, an art trinket drop-off.

Before the show, I looked around the small gallery – ceramics are on exhibit and I know a couple of the artists.

As I did the last time we were here, I sketched the people around me before the play started (and one actress on stage sitting on the sofa). I am a fan of the technique where you look at your subject and let your pen go along on its own as much as you can. I love drawing in this manner, and it seems to suit me style-wise and results-wise.

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Monday, May 14 – I went into the studio and gathered up some odds and ends. Collage materials, black gesso, India ink, acrylics – then I threw it all into a big pot, heated it on the stove, and drank it right down. Yum!

No, not really.

What I actually did on this afternoon was to move along some small things. I got out my plastic box of bits and pieces and spread things out.

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I painted postcard backs in black gesso – I want to glue some art on top of these and I thought the background would set them off.

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I spent a good bit of time creating people portraits, using an ink and Chinese brush technique I learned a while back from this book:

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using India ink and Chinese brush. The theme here is people in the rain and I mean for them to go on this page in my current Large Artist Sketchbook. Somehow. I’ll be working on this some more.

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I added people to cards – all components already made some time ago. Some things just have to evolve and these have more stages to go through…

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I had some painted ATC’s that I took India ink to – drawing around what I saw in the swirls of paint. Some finished, some will be added to.

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The point here is, if you have odds and ends at the ready, you can sit down and begin arranging, and soon the ideas flow. So my advice here is – build up this kind of stash and see how your fingers start to itch to make something with it.

Oh, and I stepped on my smallest Chinese brush. Crunch, it said.

I said, go to the hospital and get fixed up, and you can come back to work when you feel better.

Thank you, masking tape.

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Tuesday, May 15 – More small stuff. I finished up the tiny ATC-sized paintings. Some are abstracts:

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and these are abstract portraits. I decided not to add any ink-in features or any detail at all. I’ll let the paint do all the work. These photos are not great, and I promise to post better quality images pretty soon.

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Sometimes less is more. I think these small ATC paintings, all of them that I have been doing over the last few weeks, have given me more confidence to try this kind of thing on a larger scale. Simplifying, and abstractifying. I feel a pull in this direction. We will see what happens as time goes on.

Anyway, these tiny boards are all used up. Now I’ll figure out something to do with them, no sense in them just sitting around.

Wednesday, May 16 – Today is our 31st wedding anniversary. Just wanted to mention that!

Art-wise, the recent  phase of the intense work of the last five months or so is coming to a close. I will be doing shows the next three weekends and I have a packed schedule of outside activities in the intervening weeks. I do not plan to start any projects that require deeper thought or mental peacefulness right now. There is a natural flow to my work – I go all out, and then I rest a bit (the run-walk theory of doing a marathon!).

I decided to clear up some remaining bits and pieces. These will give me something to work on, being small and easy to do in short bits of time.

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I pasted “rain figures” on the rain page in my Large Artist Sketchbook – the one I was working on earlier this week. I am not sure where this is going. I think now it needs some pen and ink.

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I pasted these semi-Miro scribbles on to the black postcard backgrounds I had prepared. These darn Miro things have sure been through the wringer. They started off as salvage from the paper covering my art table some time back, were a folded book, were book pages, were de-bookified and became individuals, and finally they are this. And this is where it ends, I hope.

And then I cleaned up the studio. It will be waiting for me when I want to work, if I have some time next week or whenever – it makes it easier to step right in when the surface is clear and empty.

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Now I plan to spend some time getting things ready for this weekend’s show. I need to make some price signs and review my info as to set-up. Tomorrow I will be at Poetry Marathon, and on Friday afternoon my husband and I go up to the location for early set-up and can put the display together. Don’t worry, this art week still has plenty going on. I will show you!

Friday, May 18 – This afternoon my husband and I went out to the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA, site of the show we’re doing this weekend. I won’t go into the details of this show, because you can read a summary and background here from 2017’s show.

Instead, I’ll show you what we did to get ready for tomorrow. On Thursday night, we brought the boxes of stored items out of the basement (the cat is lying where they usually are)

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and put them plus other supplies into the garage.

I checked other items – I found I needed to replenish hangers. When I sell a tile I also offer a hanger the buyer can glue to the back if they so desire. I have different styles to suit different tiles.

Today, we drove to the location and pulled up near our tent to unload. It’s very easy to work this show and set up is one of the reasons – see how close we are able to bring the car. Shout-out to my husband who is wrangling the boxes.

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Inside, it’s pretty empty. We’re not early set up people but we are not the last ones, either.

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We gathered our items inside the tent. They stood waiting expectantly for instructions.

Now, I do very few clay shows and my display is minimalist, to say the least. I have tables and I have covers I made for them, and I go for the rustic wrinkled look. Clay for me is very low-key, but for others here, it’s the way they make their living. Our neighbors have a fantastic display and a lot of equipment, and they drove here from New York state in a motor home pulling a trailer.

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I’m telling you this so that you know – this is a really nice show and I am lucky to be able to be in it, and that such a thing exists so close to my home.

OK, back to set up. We have a site with no neighbors – four open sides. We set the tables in a hollow square and sit in the middle.

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I open up the boxes and unload the tiles. I try to group them in theme groups as I unpack them.

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That theme idea gets me only so far and then I just let the tiles go where they look nice. I tend to crowd my display. I have decided that I’ll overlook good merchandising principles in favor of having my whole selection out and available. People at this show seem to cope; they are all tile-lovers and take their time. In a regular show with a mix of items, I would pay more attention to the visual impact of my booth.

I am sure you recognize some of these tiles from various past blog posts.

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A quick look around. You can see the first tent from inside ours; and also here is a view of the interior courtyard of the Moravian Tile Works, with the dining tent set up.

Here is a view from inside our space. We have no “backstage” here, so people will see the blue price stickers from various directions, and well, that is fine with me, if it is a little cluttered. Because having three sides for sales space, well, that is really a prize.

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The weather is threatening stormy tonight and I know from experience that these large tents sometimes have drips – so we slapped a little plastic over the wood-framed items. Everything else will be fine if it rains.

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We talked to a few friends, catching up a little – in this business you know a lot of people who you see only once a year and yet – the relationship is bonded by our shared activity, making art and selling it. I was chatting with a couple from Michigan and after checking up on each other’s general situations, we fell into a familiar and always-pleasant theme: shows, bad shows, good shows, shows with rain, shows where the tent blew over, shows where a lot of people bought a lot, shows where the food was really good, shows…you get the drift. Shop talk!

We will be at this show all weekend. Looking forward to it.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!

See you next week! Thanks for following along with me.