Shipping Materials…

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I have been a full time potter now for about 3 years and while I have had some friends donate shipping materials to me, I have found that I have not had to purchase these materials. First, I can’t imagine doing that because I just don’t have the funds for it and second, there are items in all of our houses that will cushion fragile items without spending pennies on that kind of thing. I thought it would be helpful to other potters to showcase the way that I ship an item, or more to the point, what I use to ship an item.

  1. If your house is like mine, there is lots of junk mail that gets delivered to your house every day. What do you do with it? Do you recycle it? Do you just pitch it and it ends up in the landfill, ultimately causing your county taxes to rise? Do you compost it? My solution to packing material is to shred the junk mail and store it for packing. I bought a small shredder at Target for about $40 and each day, or when the pile gets too large, I shred it and store it as packing materials. If you don’t have a need to ship something to use it in this way, you could also compost it. Many printers now use a soy based ink that would be fine in the compost pile and it can line planter boxes to use as a mulch. You could cover it with a wood mulch so that it doesn’t blow away but, I have used it as a weed barrier in my cold frames.
  2. Plastic bags are something that I have eliminated from my local grocery store but that doesn’t mean that other food substances don’t make it into my house in some kind of plastic bag. Think apples, potatoes, onion, oranges, granola, coffee, the list can go on and on. So, I reuse those bags and stuff the shredded paper into those and they work just like those air filled bubble pillows that sometimes come in a package. My paper stuffed bags may be a bit heavier than the air filled pillows when I have to figure the cost of the package but that cost is offset with not having to purchase a shipping product.
  3. And wrapping paper. I have a great source for my wrapping paper. My old employer just so happens to toss a wonderful brown and white paper and I occasionally can connect with them and pick up a large batch of this to have a substance to wrap a package with.
  4. My clay boxes are great to ship in so those get used a lot to send out wares. There always seems to be boxes here as well so I have not reached a point in three years that there has not been a box somewhere in my house that I can ship an item, both large and small. There might come a time that I might consider purchasing some nice gift boxes but so far there has not been a need for that either. Make do with what you have is always been my motto, as many of you know.
  5. Clay comes in a really heavy plastic bag and if you go through a lot of clay, as I do, you have lots of those bags lying around the studio. I will take those bags and run them through the washing machine. As the washer is filling up, I catch some of the water in each bag so that they get good and wet and then I hang them up to dry and they make awesome packing material or transporting wares inside the shredded paper.

I will admit that the only item that I have purchased for my wares has been “orange bags”. I found an online source to purchase a net bag that looks like an orange bag as a branding tool given that my company name is Laughing Orange. I promote the bags at shows by hanging them from my tent and give each customer my speech about the importance of recycling, explaining the shredded paper in the bag and ask them to use the bag at the market for their produce and to reuse the bag. Because the bags are red, they draw customers in and they are curious about what their purpose is.

Tape is the only material that I am having to purchase at this time and I wish I could find an alternative to that but I don’t see that happening for a while.

So, if you are a fellow potter and are curious about how you can use what you have to pack your wares or are just looking for ways to avoid having excess junk mail in your house, I hope you find these tips helpful when you are packing or shipping a box of something to someone else.

This Small Space…

It has been a while since I have done a blog post and after time lapses, I start to panic a bit because I know that I need to find something to blog about. But a subject jumped out at me this morning.

Designing My New Small Space

Since I have started on my new endeavor of inventing my new life as a potter, I have been working in the basement of our 105 year old house. The ceiling down there is about 5’6″ where the beams hold the floor joists that hold up my first floor and about 6 feet in other areas. I am 5’4″ tall. Herb is 6’2″. I can work down there and not bump my head, but there is the feeling of that ceiling being very close to me so subconsciously, I am scrunching my shoulders and at the end of a long day, my neck and back ache horribly.

old building

old building

We have two outbuildings on our property and one of those buildings used to be a garage and we now use it as a workshop that houses things like saws, drills, hammers and the like while the other building is basically a storage shed. It is a story and a half with a saltbox sloped roof on it. It is in pretty rough shape and so I am in the midst of trying to get help to convert that building into a space that I will use and move out of the basement.

In the process of doing all of this planning, which I seem to be spending a lot of time on these days rather than working with my clay, I am seeing and finding a lot of great posts on smaller spaces and how to utilize them. Our country is finally realizing that more isn’t alway better and that small can be a good thing. I love the idea of built in furniture and multipurpose uses for storage or furniture. Here are some of the sites that I have come across lately that have helped me to get a vision on how to use the small amount of square footage that I have…

  • LifeEdited is a site that features scaling down and living with less.
  • The Minimalists I heard these guys interviewed on NPR about becoming  minimalists and letting go of a huge house, car and lifestyle so he could be happier with less to deal with. Their blog is full of great info about living with less. You can also listen to more from them here.
  • Shrink Your Super-Sized Life and Become a Better Neighbor  A challenge for all of us to live with less energy. When we think about it, it is really all about being a better  community rather than the race to see who can own the most. Right?
  • Felice Cohen goes from 90 sq ft to 500 sq feet This woman shows how she went from 90 sq ft – 500 sq ft. I think what strikes me most about this video is that  it is her mindset about how the space is used. Especially when she was in the 90 sq foot space
  • Apartment Therapy This article on Ten Tiny houses is one that shows some great use of space.
  • And of course, one of my favorite authors, Sarah Susanka’s the Not So Big House. Sarah is an architect that realized that bigger isn’t always better and has used that philosophy in her business and yet puts a large emphasis on quality rather than quantity.

The building I’m going to move into is only 580 square feet total. That is both stories combined. The upstairs has a sloped ceiling that is not going to be useful for much else but storage of shipping materials, an office space and possibly a sleeping space if my son brings a bunch of people for a visit and there isn’t a bed in the house for them. So my new work space will amount to about 240 square feet.  The good thing about this new space is that the ceiling will be a consistent height of 7 feet and I won’t have to deal with working around support poles. So I will have a large rectangular room and can move freely about.

And of course, there is the recycling that I want to do in order to keep the trash from the landfill or to reuse as much of the old parts of the building as possible. I have found a cabinet maker locally that is interested in the lumber that is going to come out of the building. I have been searching for used items to put back into the building and am trying to have the least impact possible on the natural resources. At first I was going to add plumbing because there isn’t any in the building now. Now I am challenging myself to use as little water as possible, even though I am a potter and need water to make my craft. I am looking at, in the future, if needed, adding a composting toilet in the upstairs, just so guests might not have to come into the main house in the middle of the night.

So, as I work through this process of converting a small work space and getting the dust out of the basement, hopefully, I will blog more about this process and keep you up to date as the building is transformed into a simple minimalistic space that I can spend time creating and enjoying the my new endeavor even more.

 

A few of the squares…

Now that the wedding is over and we are adjusting to the idea of Thomas and Belle moving to Seattle, I thought I would use my evenings to start assembling the “Wish Them Well” quilt that I put out for the party here at the house in September and also at the picnic the day after the wedding in Arlington, VA. This way I could envision, while working on it, them seeing the messages that their friends and family wrote for them in their new apartment in Seattle. Their new apartment is all white, as most apartments are and I see this bringing some color into that space and helping them settle in. I envision them either hanging the quilt on the wall to look at or using it on the sofa to snuggle under while they watch movies or TV.

“Wish them Well” table

Today, I thought I would share my progress on the quilt and let you in on the fun. To start, this is an old idea. Quilters call this type of quilt a “signature” quilt and they have traditionally been made to commemorate a special occasion. I thought of doing this for my own wedding but didn’t. My idea at that time was to use it as a guest book instead of an actual book. To have guests sign a square as a way to know who shared our day with us. I have now seen, on the web where folks have done this idea to send off a co-worker, to welcome home a soldier or to share memories of grandparents. So it was only fitting that being a quilter, I wanted to do one for my son and his new bride to begin their life together.

Four inch white cotton was cut with the seam allowance drawn onto the square. Markers were put out in a basket and the sign to write them a message and we collected about 25 squares for the finished quilt. They are wonderful with some of them actually taking the time to color a drawing for the couple.

photoshop map of layout

I use photoshop instead of any fancy quilt software to layout anything that I want to work on and I put together a quick layout of how I want the squares to be placed. A twin sized quilt is about 96″ x 72″ so I used that size to scale the pattern for the squares. I am not sure if the quilt will end up a twin size or a lap quilt when it is finished because there is some white space that I need to design for and I don’t know yet what to put in there. I can be a “quilt as I go” kind of quilter sometimes. So, the wishes will be the whites squares and each of the green squares will be a traditional quilt square to add interest.

I am looking for traditional squares that might have some meaning to beginning a new life together. There are some really adorable cat and dog squares in the book that I am using and some on the web that I also want to add for their pets and a house square for their new place in Seattle. I have favorite patterns that I have enjoyed making through the years and I will probably add some of those. I have about 34 squares to play with so I am sure I can find lots of interesting options. I will get all those squares done and lay out the quilt on the floor before assembling all the squares together. This way I can make sure that there is a balance of color throughout and not have a concentration of too much of one color in any area of the overall design.

I’ve attached a gallery of the squares that I have so far and I am using my evenings to do a square a day. Not sure if the quilt will be done to ship to them for Christmas but I can certainly try. Over the years I have hand quilted all of my quilts but I may take this one to the quilt shop and see if I can have them quilt it for me. My hands are needed for other projects these days and the love that will go into the squares will show through without the added ache of putting all the stitches into the finished piece.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if there is a favorite square that you would like to see in the sample of squares surrounding all the wishes for a happy life in Seattle, WA.

Wishing Them Well…

I cut some flowers from the yard, the ones that are still alive anyway, and put a rooting cylinder in the center of the bookvase, filled it with water and did a quick arrangement so you can see it with flowers in it. I think it is lovely, don’t you? The draping flowers are a green emerald amaranth with some ferns and zinnias. Very simple, yet elegant.

A photo of the book vase…