Last week I worked a dream into reality. I have been enamored with Food and Wine magazine for years. I noticed their frequent use of handmade pottery when I first began working with clay. I quickly subscribed to the magazine. At 19 years old I quite honestly could barely heat up food or use the toaster without destroying "dinner" so I was completely realistic that this subscription was for the pots, not the recipes.
I grew up around food. As a child my family owned restaurants in New Hampshire. My best friend's family still has the most amazing sandwich shop in the world. If you're ever in Concord, New Hampshire be sure to visit The Sandwich Depot (you'll thank me). It is interesting to watch earlier parts of your life line up with the present. When I started working with clay I didn't consider the connection between the muddy mound I was struggling to center on the wheel and the incredible food I grew up completely surrounded by. When I began my subscription to Food and Wine magazine I didn't consider the art and preparation behind each carefully styled photograph. I saw only the way the pottery lifted, elevated, supported and enhanced the impressive recipe I was far too intimidated to attempt.
Now fast forward seven years or so and suddenly all these pieces are clicking together completely and surprisingly logically. I've been making work to bring beauty into my own kitchen while keeping a wistful notion in the back of my mind, "One day, Food and Wine..." In the last year I've begun working with many of the most talented Food Photographers in the industry. These are exceptionally talented artists who have supported my work and used my pottery to create breathtaking displays of their tastiest recipes.
Working so closely with these individuals has taught me a lot about their field and my own that I never would have learned sitting at my wheel in my dusty studio. I have a stronger understanding of function and practicality when creating my pots that I just didn't have before. Through their help I have learned the needs of this industry. Through their support and inspiration from their photographs I now feel very comfortable embracing the direction my work has gone, namely that I work almost exclusively on tableware and prop design. And put into the context of what was a huge part of my childhood, this direction into the food world just makes sense.
This is all the background to give meaning to what happened last week. I was contacted by an individual at Food and Wine magazine about my work. Even now as I type this I'm getting excited all over again! They were interested in several items from my shop which I quickly packed up and sent to New York. When they received the box on a Wednesday I was contacted again asking if I had any plates or platters that could join the other items for a photo shoot on Tuesday morning. I did not have any plates or platters. I thought I might have a few pieces in my studio that would work, but nope. Nothing. Knowing the limitations of my material I was devastated, realizing that I would need to pass up this opportunity. But then empowered optimism paired with insanity and an acceptance that I would not sleep all weekend I decided: What the hell. I can do this.
I threw the pots on Thursday morning, frantically. I turned up the heat, grabbed a space heater and all the fans I owned and started my impossible objective: Take these pieces from soaking wet to bone dry in a single day, slightly less than 24 hours. This is normally a process that takes a few weeks. How I did it: I had to carefully arrange the pots and rotate them while they were drying, flipping from bottom sitting to rim sitting and back. Moving the fans closer and farther away ever hour. I massaged the bottoms of each piece as they dried to try to seal the clay and protect against cracking. (Not all of the plates survived. See the "S-crack" on the plate to the left. So sad.) Plates and large bottomed pieces are especially tricky to dry quickly, and by quickly I normally would mean within a week.. that is my normal "rush drying." Towards the end of the drying the pieces each took turns on the space heater for 15 minute increments, rim down. I would not advocate trying this. It was so stressful! I still don't know how I managed to do it. But caring for the pots and addressing the needs of each one every 30 minutes or so paid off. I was exhausted Friday morning but I had dry, nearly bone dry pots to put into the kiln!
The bisque fired all day on Friday and into the night. When I woke up on Saturday morning the bisque was still well beyond 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. I was finally able to unload the bisque that night at 11:00 PM. Still needing pot holders to handle the more than warm pots I quickly glazed and cleaned everything I had just unloaded and back into the kiln it went. The glaze firing was turned on an hour and a half later, at 12:30 AM and fired until noon on Sunday. At 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit there was a lot of cooling that needed to happen by noon the next day. I will not unload a hot kiln. Will not. A warm bisque, maybe. A warm glaze, no. A hot glaze definitely not. And thankfully my kiln cooled right on the crazy schedule I had created, so I did not need to tempt myself to break that rule.
Out of the kiln and into layers and layers of bubble wrap. Those of you who have received my pots know I use more than a lot of bubble wrap for my pots. I go overboard. I'll admit it. But once I have put in all that time to create something that is truly irreplaceable I am not about to take any chances and leave my fate in the hands of dozen (hundreds?) of people that stand between the box leaving my hands and safely arriving at its destination.
The package was picked up at 4:00 PM on Monday afternoon. UPS cut it a little close on that pick-up. I was pacing. An overnight flight to New York and the plates and platters arrived at the studio just in time for their photo shoot. I could breathe! And can now too, as I am sitting here writing this and apparently holding my breath.
It felt indescribably good to conquer such an impossible deadline. I was elated. And the best part came a few days later when I received an email stating that the pots were in fact used and scheduled to appear in the June issue! The magazine returned the unused pieces to me (using 1/4 of the bubble wrap I did and the package still arrived safely-- maybe I am really, really overdoing it). The used pieces were then purchased and added to the Food and Wine Prop Closet with the intention that they will be used again in the future!
Totally worth it.