Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Handmade? Factorymade? Etsy's Policy Changes. Me on NPR.

So...I've never claimed to be the voice for anything, but I'm glad I was able to chime in my two cents on "All Tech Considered" on NPR.  Many thanks to Ashley Milne-Tyte for including me, and for showing both sides of the Etsy policy changes.

Below is the article on NPR's "All Tech Considered" program.  You can also read it and hear it on their website HERE.

Etsy's New Policy Means Some Items Are Handmade in Spirit

"Under online marketplace Etsy's new policies, vendors can now use an outside manufacturer to help make their goods.

That is not going down well with some longtime sellers, who are calling the new policies a turnaround from the site's original mission.

"Their moniker is, you know, a place to buy handmade. It doesn't say a place to buy factory-made," says Rae Padulo, a potter who began selling dishes and ornaments on Etsy in 2009.

"There's nothing wrong with factory-made — it's just, that's not what Etsy started out to be," she says. "It started out to be a place where you could get something special, something one-of-a-kind, something made by a human being."

Padulo says Etsy is abandoning makers of handcrafted goods, who, like her, only have one pair of hands.

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson says the company is still behind lone artisans — they make up most of its one million sellers. Still, it wants to support those whose businesses are growing, and under the old rules, that was difficult. Successful vendors were frustrated that they couldn't get enough help with their work.

"We heard from a wedding seller, for example, who said that when wedding season came around she was in a state of mild panic attack, because she just reached her limit and was working, you know, 18 hours a day," Dickerson says.

Under the new policy, anyone who wants to work with an outside manufacturer has to apply and be vetted by Etsy, which makes sure the arrangement meets its ethical guidelines.

Alexandra Ferguson started her pillow business on Etsy several years ago working from home. She's since expanded her line to makeup cases made out of organic cotton with recycled felt lettering.

Ferguson's business has tripled in the last two years. She now works out of a small factory in Brooklyn with 11 employees.

Ferguson says she's proud to be creating manufacturing jobs in New York City. "That Etsy is now encouraging and embracing that growth, to say it doesn't matter how many employees you have — you can have 25, you can have 50, you can have 100 — just means we've now been given free rein to hire as much as we need to sustain our growth," she says.

But not all vendors want to grow their businesses like Ferguson did, especially those who were attracted to the site's small business ethos.

And some of its rivals are hovering, hoping to attract disappointed vendors. Padulo says she's heard from the CEO of a site called Zibbet.

"He sent an email to every account and said, 'I make a commitment: We will only sell handmade items on this site. We will never sell manufactured items,' " Padulo says. "It's music to a lot of sellers' ears, you know?"

Padulo says she's enjoyed being part of Etsy but may close her shop after the holidays.

Dickerson says he hates to lose sellers because of the new policy. But in the eight years that Etsy has been online, the creative world has changed. For example, some sellers are creating jewelry using 3-D printing.

"Those are handmade, I think, in spirit, even though they're designed on a computer and printed," he says.

He says Etsy sellers can now turn their hands to whatever innovation comes next."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Horns and Having Too Much Fun to Learn My Lesson

I turned this...
into this...
in order to reinforce the frame.

I'm making a crown.  No, not because I think I'm Queen.  (Though I do abide by tea time and a good hat.)

It's to be auctioned off at a fancy, fabulous fundraiser for the Arts Council of Princeton called Dining by Design. The theme this year is called Savage Beauty, inspired by the show at the 2011 Metropolitan Museum of Art show, featuring the incredible genius of fashion designer, Alexander McQueen.

I made these out of Model Magic.
They should be dry by tomorrow,
at which time they will become my molds
 for the papier mache versions.
I've never made a crown before, let alone one made of butterflies and horns.  Beaded horns.  With tiny, tiny beads.  This headpiece needs to be worn by an actual person during the course of the evening.  Thus, all these grand ideas are all theoretical, since I do not know what construction troubles I shall run into, before said construction is completed.  And there WILL be troubles, as I have learned over the years: from my pair of nine-foot, silver-leafed hearts.  And again from my eight-foot wide wings.  And please, lest we forget, not one, but two failed attempts at lamps in the shape of a beehive. There are many more examples, but I guess I just do not want to learn my lesson.  Or rather, I am having too much fun even failing at my lesson.

My tiny pearl white Delica beads from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads are on their way.  100 grams.  Which I think is about 10 million beads too few and will have to order more this weekend.  Oh, the trouble's just beginning...she says, alternately poised between pulling her hair out and rubbing her hands together with glee.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Carson Woods

vole, rabbit, another rabbit,
skitter from the turning wheels.
dragonfly on wings of mica,
and monarchs, fly with me, next to me,
across the handlebars of my rusted red bike.
i watch the shadows grow longer, a little longer.

not a soul around - 
save for the brown wrens, 
who sing their complicated song 
to the crown of blue overhead.

sturdy swirls of hay are ready to be spread in open fields
i am giddy at the barest hint of russet,
give thanks to my friends the oaks 
for their cool respite from the dappled sun.

my tires turn and crunch over crushed brown stone
soon I must return to all kinds of obligations
but the tall grasses urge me on
not just yet
not just yet 
the wrens titter, and agree.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A List in INGs

I love lists.  They're like an archeological dig of what's going on in your life.  (Especially old ones found in the bottom of handbags, or tucked between the pages of a forgotten book.)  This happy list has been making its rounds on some lovely blogs I follow, like Kathryn Mitchell Ceramics and Pip Lincolne, and I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Making : Rectangular platters with inlay.
Seeking this one out at the PPL.
Cooking : Gazpacho.
Drinking : Grumpy Monkey coffee (Holla, Small World.)
Reading: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.
Wanting: More TIME.
Looking: Pinterest, you saucy minx.
Playing: Too much solitaire on my iPhone.
Wasting: Beautiful heirloom tomatoes from our CSA share, but a girl can only eat so many tomatoes.
Sewing: Nada.
Wishing: For the colors and cool of fall.
Enjoying: Middle of the summer day hugs from my boys.
Waiting: For lightning to strike never works.
Liking: The quiet of the house before everyone else wakes.
Wondering: If I will ever finish this manuscript.
Loving: My David.
Marvelling: That there's always another idea in my head.
Needing: A good source for handmade, round wood boxes.  Don't ask.
Smelling: Aforementioned coffee.
Wearing: New ikat t-shirt, navy and white.
Following: My heart.
Noticing: Color combinations: gray and yellow, lilac and white.
Knowing: I just need to keep at it.
Thinking: All the time.  Way too much.  And somehow not enough.
Bookmarking: Indie bridal websites for work inspiration.
Opening: Happy thank you note from friend.
Giggling: Everyday, with these boys of mine.
Feeling: Blessed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Take A Penny, Leave A Penny

Today I decided to ask myself a question that I ask other people when I feel they’re struggling:

“What’s going on that you’re not telling me?”

That sentence is usually all that’s needed for a troubled friend to let go of what is causing her brow to knit together, or to “unclog” my teenaged son. (Okay, I might have to ask him MORE than once to get him to talk, but he’ll get there...)

They need a penny.

We all know and love that little dish full of pennies next to a cash register. It’s usually under a sign that reads something like: “Take a Penny, Leave a Penny.”  You go to buy a sandwich at Wawa and it comes to $4.99, so you leave a penny. Or it’s $5.01, and you take a penny. So when my friend or son or sometimes even the lady behind me in the grocery store checkout line, hesitates before they continue: I have said more than once: “You know, sometimes you leave a penny in the dish, and sometimes you need to take one out. Maybe right now you need one?”

It's that permission to take what you need.  That's all.  And for someone to recognize that you're not being selfish by asking for what you need.

That furrow between my brow has dug in pretty well over this past year. I’ve been doling out a lot of pennies. Many people needed change, and I’ve been happy to empty my pockets, felt helpful. But for the past couple of months, I’ve only got big bills.

In other words, I’ve needed a penny.

thThis summer, I’ve mostly broken free from social media: from FB, from Blogger, from my website, Pinterest, Etsy. Hearing about all the doings by busy, vital, productive artists (and other nice folks) has, in the past, been uplifting to me, but of late, has been sort of bumming me out, so I unplugged. Email has been at a sort of minimum.  Haven’t taken on any new projects, signed up for any shows, written much, including this blog. I’ve kinda gone dark. Let it be. I’ve picnicked with my boys, gone on bike rides, watched them swim, made cakes, got beaten at Rummy, folded clean clothes with pride, cleaned out closets. I’ve been reading books, instead of trying to write one. I’ve been going to see pots in museums, not making them. I’ve been sketching ideas, not enacting them.

But that’s okay. Sometimes you need a penny.

Has any of you ever needed a penny? Or know someone who does? Time to check those pockets...I’m know I’m starting to hear a jingle in my jeans again. :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Torn Between Two Lovers


My two boyfriends are tired of sharing.  (No, not like that.  My husband knows he's my one and only.  23 years together should have ironed out any questions by now.)

Pottery.  Writing.  There is a duel on the horizon.  Pistols are drawn.  I'm not sure I have much to say about the outcome.  Even as we speak, I am writing this blog, with the current issue Ceramics Monthly flipped open, right next to the computer.  (BTW, there's an article on Brian R. Jones in there.  With an articulate, honest take on what life is like for a full-time potter.  See?  I can't stop myself.)

In the past, I have been a sort of all-or-nothing sort of girl.  Not a big problem until these two boyfriends came to woo me.  Now what?  What am I?

Am I a writer?

Am I potter?

This blog was a way to combine the two.  So it was settled: I am a potter who writes.

Then I wrote a play.  And started a novel.  Now I'm halfway through writing a novel.  So okay: I am a writer.

So I just got another ceramics commission - a large job. And there are these big framed pieces I want to make.  Yep, you guessed it: I am a potter.

These loves of mine are both handsome.  They are both good kissers.  But I'm fickle.  I can't decide between the two.  So, starting today, guess what?  I'm not going to.  I'm going to date both of them and I'm going to let them worry about it.  They'll have to fight it out.

I am going to wake up every morning and check to see who won my hand for the day.  And I'll be a very good, loyal girlfriend.  For the day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Noticing the Blessings

Being so busy over the last three weeks, getting ready for a couple of shows, my "noticer" went on hiatus.  But I was grateful that it popped right back into action today when I had time to slow down.  Here's a list of a few of blessings that today brought.

  • My young son's socked foot always finds another socked foot under the kitchen table.  It's an egalitarian foot; it doesn't care whom it belongs to.
  • My husband brings me flowers on a pretty regular basis.  Carries them all the way home on the train. (Yes.  I know how lucky I am. Totally.)  I love seeing what colors he picks for me and that they're wrapped in crackle-y deli paper.
  • My older son cracking jokes and the whole family laughing.
  • My jeans fit okay.  (Yes.  This is a blessing.  It doesn't rank with like world peace or something, but it ranks.)
  • Reading for an hour in the green armchair, on this rainy day, with several rounds of tea in my favorite fat mug.
  • A fridge full of healthy food.
  • Walking with my friend.
  • Pink flowering cherry trees and bright yellow forsythia layering their colors in my front yard.
  • A new gold Sharpie.
  • Cracking a glazed kiln load, and seeing bright, shiny pieces staring back up at me.

What did YOU notice today?  What made you feel lucky?

Sunday, April 28, 2013



It's PRINCETON at its biggest, baddest, loudest, fun-nest best.

Come be part of the fun and visit me on Witherspoon Street, near Agricola Restaurant. Click HERE for all the details.

And then join me back here tomorrow for a nap.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Construction of "Delft, Reconstructed"

If you've been following me, you know that I've been TRYING to take a break from claywork these last few months, to concentrate on writing. But hard as I've tried, that damneddeliciousfrustratingwonderful clay pulls me back in. The piece that did it? Delft, Reconstructed - for the Tombola at Pinot to Picasso, one of the Arts Council of Princeton's yearly fundraisers.

I thought it might be interesting to capture my thought process from a piece's beginning, middle and end. So here we go: hang in there. I have learned that my "flow" is not linear. It's kind of a rabbit hole, but I've learned to go where it leads me.

1. I see a promo postcard from the Times Discovery Museum in NYC, advertising the exhibit of the Terracotta Warriors. (Short history: In 1974, Chinese farmers start digging a well and instead come up with an army of nine THOUSAND clay soldiers, horses, figures, depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor in China (210-209 BC). Their purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.)

2.  Become a little obsessed with the AMAZING tiled stone armor detail on the soldiers.

3. Start thinking more about soldiers and armies, which are such male-dominated things, aggressive things. And, long ago, when it was just men out on the battlefield, the women were left behind with all the rest of life. It got me to thinking about mothers, and how they're also soldiers, in a way. Soldiers for their children and families. Domestic soldiers.

4. Question: How I could interpret armor in a more feminine, domestic and modern way?

5. Think about ceramic items used in everyday domestic life, like vases, mugs, plates.

6. Think about the idea of excavating a life, about archeological digs and the pieces of domestic things that are found.

7. See an old piece of blue and white Delft pottery at the Tomato Factory.

8. CLICK. Start creating my own modern interpretation of Delft pottery/female armor. Create tiny tiles and begin stitching a modern, rectangular shape with silver thread. Decide a softer, feminine addition is needed, to contrast against the hardness of the pottery, and add orange thread and tiny gold glass beads.

Mounting and framing this piece was a logistical challenge, but I found it strangely satisfying when I finally got it done.  I was happy to complete this piece but sad to see it go.  If you're local and have a chance, Delft, Reconstructed is now hanging in the ground floor gallery, along with so many wonderful pieces from talented local artists - get thee to the Arts Council!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stop Waiting for Lightning to Strike

I used to wait for inspiration to strike.

I also used to believe in the Easter Bunny.

I mean, who doesn't want to believe that some magical benevolence hops into your life and deposits chocolate and the BIG idea, right into your basket?  No work, no money to exchange hands, no sweat?  It would be the greatest thing ever.  And sooooo much easier than the reality.

It's not to say that once in a great while, lightning doesn't strike.  There are those times, like winning lotteries and a good parking space in downtown Princeton on a Friday night.  There are genius ideas that come in dreams.  But it's lightning.  And how long do you have to wait in between strikes, or for it to strike at all?   Answer: Usually a LONG ASS TIME.

So.  What to do.

I have the answer.  I'm not gonna lie to you: it's not glamorous, or even that appealing.  You ready?  Here it is:


Start writing.  Start painting.  Start making.  Start creating.  Every day.  When you're tired.  When you have a headache.  Upside down.  In your jammies.  Uncaffeinated.  Super-caffeinated.  When the kids are fighting.  And especially, when you don't want to.  The most important time to do it is when you find yourself sighing, or cursing, at the screen, at the canvas, at the block of clay.  I hate this, you'll think.  Why am I doing this?  I have not one whiff of an idea in my head.

I'm not gonna lie; I've made a lot of crap and written a LOT of crap.  Mountains of it, truth be told.  But when I look back on it all, even the crap has something to say.  It gives me a record of where I've been, what I was thinking, roads I don't want to take.  But often, I find a kernel, a path, an idea, somewhere to go or explore.  There is value in all of it.

Creating something from nothing is a really hard thing.  Really hard.  It's a skill and a skill takes time, and practice.  Lots of practice.  It's hard work. But I think it's where the lightning lives.

"Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus.  
Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll."  
-- Helen Hanson

Saturday, March 2, 2013

And the Giveaway Winner Is.....

....Amy Abolafia!!  Congrats, Amy!!  I'm so happy that Rosie's new home will be with you.  Just zip me an email at with your shipping info, and I will send her on her way!

xo Rae

p.s. Thank you, all, for your sweet comments on my 100th post.  I just love connecting and sharing with you.  (I'm smiling, can you see me?)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Post 100!!

Three big, yes, BIG things are happening today:

1)  Today is National Margarita Day.  For me it might be right up there with Christmas.  It's Friday - why not mix a batch up for you and your honey to celebrate a long week's work?  I'm usually a purist when it comes to my margarita, but seeing as citrus is in season right now, this Grapefruit Margarita is DEE-lish:

Grapefruit Margarita

This makes six small margaritas, or four properly-sized ones.  (C'mon.  Get your head in the game.)

  • Salt
  • Lime wedges
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau
  • Ice

  • On a small plate spread salt.
  • With lime wedges moisten glass rim.
  • Dip glasses into salt.
  • Place glasses into freezer to chill.
  • In a pitcher combine tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and Cointreau.
  • Remove glasses from freezer and serve margarita mixture over ice.
  • Garnish with lime slices or grapefruit slices.

I will be using said margarita to toast the next two items:

2)  Last night I hit 150 pages of this novel of mine.  I gave myself three months to "change gears" from pottery to the written word. (Oh, I'm totally coming back to clay - just a hiatus for a few months...) Now I am writing in the Princeton Public Library, in the early morning, in the night, upstairs, downstairs, in my Honda, in my jammies, in my dirty apron, at Small World Coffee - whenever and wherever I can.  When I'm not writing it, I'm thinking about it.  It's way more difficult and way more fun than I anticipated.  I can't share everything, but I can tell you it is a modern romance that I hope is a little funny, a little sexy, and I hope a lot of fun to read.  I keep a weekly word count on my website, if you'd like to pop in and check my progress...

3)   It's my 100th post!!!!!!

I started this blog as a way to keep a record of my creative journey, process and inspiration, and to share that with other like-minded folks.  I am so grateful that you kind readers have stuck with me, connected with me, and have shared some of your journeys.  The creative process can be a lonely one, and it has been such a comfort and joy to connect with other artists here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my readers.  You make my heart happy.

So in honor of this momentous occasion, I'm doing a giveaway of the design that started it all - my Rosie Candle.  If you would like to be put into the drawing, just leave a comment and I will put your name in.  In a week or so, I'll pull a name out of my bright orange winter hat, and Rosie will be yours!  (And yes, kind readers, I will ship internationally... :)

And have I said Thank You?  I have?  Just one more.

                       Thank You.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Changing Gears

Back in November, I wrote about changing gears - giving myself permission to try new things, to stretch, to push into the uncharted territory.  And so I've done it.  Though working with clay scratches a creative itch unlike any I've ever had, I've finally broken down and given myself until the end of March to pursue my writing.  I'm not going to lie - it's been a little weird, because I was in such a ceramics groove the latter part of 2012.  I found myself going from working with clay six/seven days a week, doing five shows between September and end of December -  to basically halting production.  Talk about weird!  Talk about scary!

It feels right to talk about this in my 99th post here. (99...Phew!) Two milestones this week: I have hit 99 blog postings counting this one...c'mon...#100!!  And I have officially written 25,000 consecutive words. (Flu, included.)

I've written this blog since 2009.  I am really grateful that I've kept at it.  It documents a lot of my creative journey, and it is really gratifying to have a record of where I've been, of what's inspired me.  The ritual, the habit of writing this, along with all the work, learning, and growing that I've done with Mudstar, has taught me:

1) Rome was not built in a day.

2) 90% of creating something good is just showing up and doing the work.

3) Making/writing/building/doing creative things makes me feel alive and whole.

4) If the task feels difficult, or even impossible, yet you still feel drawn to do it, and you feel this weird compulsion and propulsion, then it's probably the right thing to pursue.  Go for it.  Just start chipping away.  Just begin.

p.s. Stay tuned for my 100th blog posting!  A giveaway is on the horizon for a lucky reader...:)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Five Finds

I'm baaaaaccckkkk!!  Screw the flu.  And that's all I'll say about that.  My only saving grace during my week+ in bed was my iPad, on which I streamed all kinds of bad 80's television.  Thank you, Netflix, for keeping ALL eight seasons of Magnum, P.I. alive and well.

Oval Plate by Brian R. Jones
"Sweet Tooth" Necklace by Elva Field
I like his happy, graphic pottery, but I think I might like his interviews (He calls them Jonescasts...) with potters even better.
Neck Candy: Elva re-uses vintage bits and baubles to make colorful, one-of-a-kind jewelry.  Pretty accessories which reduce, re-use, recycle!!
Be careful with this one.  If you love ceramics, you may never leave.  Be sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so you can find your way back!

Plate by Jason Burnett

Once in a blue moon, my husband's and my music tastes collide and the universe rewards us.  Meet Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers.  Their "Van Series" on YouTube is sort of fantastic.  Locals: They're playing March 26th in Philly at World Cafe Live.  And bless them for making Hall and Oates cool in my husband's eyes.  ( I think it was the kazoo...)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013: More or Less?

Yesterday I found this brain of mine cluttered up with all kinds of flotsam and jetsam.  Taking up square footage are definitely important things that have earned the space they take up.  Things like: how to help my kids thrive and be happy, this year's ceramic designs, a new direction for Mudstar, plot points in this piece I'm writing.  Then there are the stupid things that should be relegated to one shelf in my mind's closet:  like why porchetta is the new darling of the food world, when beards are going to be over, the size of my thighs, and why can I not find music in the new millenium that I can identify with.  Writing was not going to get done that afternoon, so on a hike I went, through Chauncey Woods.

There is something about trees, and inhaling the cold fresh air, and the crunch of leaves and cry of crows that always makes me calm down and remember what I thought was important in the first place.  Do I really want to spend 80% of my time on stuff that made me 20% happy?  (Rhetorical.) What do I want more of this year?  What do I want less of?

Less of this.
More of this.
Less of this,
(though pretty sure that's impossible...)
Definitely more of this.

I would like fewer parties where I need to wear Spanx, and more gatherings where this is acceptable attire. 
(Hi, Millie.  You look pretty fantastic.)

And oh.  For sure, more of this.

2013 is brand, spankin' new:
What do you want more of?
What do you want less of?