I have a love/hate relationship with orders.
The love is this: that people want John to make a piece for them in the glaze they like and they are happy when they get it in the mail. We like happy people and who doesn’t. This entails conversations about the size, the glazes and how they always wanted something just like this. John sketches shapes, takes notes on glazes, deadlines, where they live. I record the order, make copies, take deposits, file everything. Then everyone has something to look forward to.
I look forward to the balance being paid in the future, almost like having a favorite aunt mail you money for no good reason. John looks forward to making a series of butter crocks, or mugs or goblets which then fills the kiln and the gallery. And our new customer looks forward to the phone call from us, letting them know ‘It’s Done!!’.
So, why the fear?
I fear interruptions, actually.
Art shows can be like a black hole and suck our hours and days while we get ready to go by packing the pots and and then we return and unpack the pots. Or someone gets a super crummy cold or flu or a migraine. This year I had to have knee surgery and John had to go for medical tests (lots and all good results, whew). We had reunions, graduations and weddings to attend. The orders pile up and the gallery NEEDS (yes, galleries have needs) more pots. And once in a while we actually think not working 12 hours days would be good for us. But the worry and guilt at the stack of orders drives us back into the studio, cutting short the personal time.
We have a pretty loose firing schedule of about 4 to 6 weeks. The truth is a tight firing schedule is 6 weeks. We have to make well over 200 pots to fill our 42 cu. ft. kiln and that always means more pottery than we can fit so we have enough of what we want: tall pots, short pots, narrow and wide pots. Fill the orders and fill the kiln. Then there are the emergency orders.
Emergency orders are those that must be in the next firing. We try to meet those emergencies. I know, they aren’t real emergencies; they are artificial ones. But we strive to meet those needs of people who finally found what they were looking for in our gallery! for their cousin’s daughter’s wedding in 2 weeks or some story like that. So, yes, we will take an order and put it on the top of the pile for those emergencies. (We would do it for you, if you asked.)
The fear creeps in because we are getting close to our dead-deadline and there are more pots to make than hours in the day. And orders that are really really specific or are special (out of the ordinary for us) tend to be the ones that crack, or the glaze is just not up to our standards, or a myriad of other minor problems that seem to appear out of thin air. Really, it happens. The worry quotient rises daily. I should be clear on this: I worry and John pots, division of labor and all.
This year, though, for our last firing, all the orders came out of the kiln the way we wanted them. The red teapot was really red, and rich and luscious and I am a teensy bit jealous.
It’s a beautiful teapot, and this one makes about 4 cups of delicious tea. I do have a mug that matches, though. We also completed orders for goblets, mugs, a canister set, chalice and pattens, a very special order for compotes, crocks, cups, plates, a ceramic basket (for a family member) and ornaments. Today and tomorrow are packing and shipping days.
Today, I am super in love with orders, since we are all done for the year.