Homeowner’s insurance do’s and don’ts before and after a robbery.

I’ve been a studio potter for 26 years now.  During that time I’ve made, traded, or purchased from other artists every piece of my dishware.  Every plate, cup, and bowl has a memory, a face, and a story.  Using them daily is a visit with old friends.

That was how I collected the jewelry that was stolen from my house on March 16 when it was tented for termites.  I’d purchased it from various artists over my 26 years doing art shows.  Every piece had a story.  For that reason it was possible to come up with all the data required for insurance reimbursement.  Yes, it was a pain.  I spent three days wracking my brain writing down every anal retentive description of each piece I could remember, the estimate of what I paid for it, and where and when I bought it.  I had not one receipt. I’m grateful for help from Lauren at Many Hands Gallery and Ann at the Arts Council of Santa Cruz when I just couldn’t come up with a name but had a good description of the jeweler’s style.

Enter my friend Google.  I looked up every artists’ name and included their websites in my lovely spreadsheet.  I LOVE spreadsheets and I became the detective determined to fill in every box completely so that I would get all my insurance money!  Game on!  By locating each artist I was able to contact them and get an estimate of what it would cost to replace these items.  I caught up briefly with old friends I hadn’t seen since the late nineties.  Did I mention I love Google?

Depreciation is not your friend where insurance is concerned as you get reimbursed for the depreciated value.  It was a sad tale for our electronics.  But with jewelry in good condition there is no depreciation.  What that meant was that I got every cent back for my jewelry less the unfortunate deductible and I submitted not one receipt.  Organization is king.  The assessors love it when you’re organized.

Here’s what I’ll do going forward.  I’ll get an appraisal of anything really valuable.  I should have done that with my mother’s rings.  In the end  AAA gave me what I estimated my dad paid for them way back when with no quibbling.  I had used Google to come up with my estimate.  Did I mention I love Google?  If I amass more than $2500 in jewelry I will purchase extra insurance to cover it, called a jewelry rider.  Every insurance company has a different reimbursement policy so read the fine print where the jewelry is concerned about riders.  Unfortunately I had more that $2500 worth of jewelry stolen so I lost out in that department.  Oh well.  AAA’s check came within 10 days of submission of my spreadsheet.  Now I get to go shopping!

Most importantly going forward with every piece of jewelry I purchase I will take a photo of it right next to it’s receipt.  And keep it all in spreadsheet of course.

Termite tenting: how not to get your house robbed in the process

There’s something the fumigation companies don’t bother to tell you.  This is that there’s a window of time where the gas has worn off and it’s safe to go into the house before the fumigation company comes back to officially OK entry back into your house.  That’s a golden opportunity for thieves.  I wish the Hydrex people who contracted out with First Class Fumigation had informed me of this BEFORE my house got robbed early in the am of March 16.  I would have camped in the driveway of my house that Sunday night if I’d known about this unadvertised fact.

Here’s how it went down.  Then tent went up on Fri by about 2:00.  The house was gassed soon after that.  The house was locked after that and they kept the keys.  The company waited 48 hours before coming on Sunday afternoon about 2:00.  At this point they used the keys to go inside and install a bunch of fans that were used to blow the gas out.  The house was locked again.  HERE’S WHAT THEY DIDN’T TELL ME.  It’s considered safe to enter the house after a minimum of 12 hours.  That meant thieves were able to enter my house with no repercussions after 3am Monday morning.   I was told that I couldn’t get back into my house until about 1:00pm Monday.  I showed up earlier than this just to check on the house before I went to Starbucks to kill some time.  That’s when I found the tent cut open and my house wide open and I called the police and Hydrex.

Every bit of my jewelry was stolen including the last precious rings I had of my deceased mother.  All of it was one of a kind pieces I’d collected over the years from fellow artists.  They took my sons’ gaming systems and all their games.  Assorted small electronics that were on my son’s shelf were taken.  Our bedroom was trashed as every drawer was pulled out and dumped and the closet gone through looking for cash and/or special hidden items.  They even pulled out everything from under the bed.  Only Christmas decorations, pictures, and a magic set.  Ha ha you fuckers!  They were clearly moving quickly and everything on my dresser was opened, dumped and dropped.

Although there was huge sentimental value associated with the stolen jewelry,  in the end it is all just stuff.  We’re moving on and looking forward.  But I’d love for word to get out that steps should be taken before tenting your house.  Take EVERYTHING out of your house that is easy to grab and run with and is not replaceable.  In a perfect world camp on your property or at least stay next door the last night of the three night cycle.  I hope this helps someone.


A visit to the Stanford Design Program

In November I had the opportunity to visit Stanford University and be a guest speaker to two groups of students.  The first was to the Designing Your Life class of 70 open to all Jrs and Srs.  The second was 12-15 senior hopeful designers in Product Design (the Designer’s Voice).  Their professor, Dave Evans, had purchased two wall pieces from me at Open Studios and thought that my story would be a great fit for these classes.  I was one of several real life examples of people  who used the art of creativity throughout their daily lives to create success (and what was a “successful” was measured in many different ways they learned.)  I’d gone from writing accounting software at Apple in the 80’s to making pots and I considered myself quite successful even if  my annual salary was about a tenth of what it was at Apple.   They were an amazing  group of young people filled with thought provoking questions.  Here is my summary of what we talked about.


Pink’s Keys to Success

  1. Learn the rules, follow the rules, break the rules.  I poke fun at myself for being a good little “doobee” (from Romper Room…jeez I am from the stone age!)  for getting straight A’s in high school and being the one that all the teachers loved because I was such a good rule follower.  But it served me so well!  It’s now a knee jerk reaction to learn the rules and practice them until I have the proper “muscle memory” of how things are supposed to work.  This gives me insight as to where I might insert a left turn, a right turn, or a zig zag in version 2.0.   The iterative process of making pots in series demands this or the work gets stale and the consumer knows it.  It’s so much easier to thumb your nose at the rules when you know them inside and out.
  2. Sit with the discomfort.  I don’t mean seek the pain, just don’t run from it when you start to feel it.  For conflict phobes our natural reaction is to try to “fix it” somehow so instead of dealing with the emotions which are creating the conflict we tend to squelch them somehow by distracting ourselves with activity.  I’ve learned that if I can sit with that place of anger, confusion, disappointment without running off to tidy the kitchen or eat a bag of M&M’s I will inevitably learn something from it.  I continue to make pots that don’t come out as expected, do art shows that don’t provide the hoped for sales, and have interactions with family members that don’t go as lovingly as I’d hoped.  But as with most things that you practice on a regular basis it gets easier with time.  So don’t run, sit and stay awhile.
  3. Do what you need to do to fill yourself back up.  When I had children I initially felt guilty for taking them to child care two or three days a week.  I had a mental image of what “the good mother” would do and that didn’t include dropping my kids off to be cared for and influenced by someone other than ME.  But inside I knew I couldn’t be mentally healthy if I couldn’t do the very thing that I considered my dream job.  So I explored options and, lo and behold, there was child care right down the road from me.  My kids loved going to Lizzie’s to be with their friends and be loved and encouraged by Lizzie.  At the end of the day I picked them up with eager anticipation of playing with them as I’d had an interesting day in my studio.
  4. Allow yourself to experiment without the need for an end product.  As a working artist there is the perpetual list of what I must make to keep my inventory stocked at Many Hands Gallery in Capitola and for doing art shows. If I limit myself to sticking to that list I may eventually perfect a form which is tremendously satisfying but I miss the chance to find new material.  So occasionally I do something that’s not on the list just to see what happens. It may lead nowhere or to a great big mess.  More often it’s pay dirt.
  5. Forgive yourself (and others) and move on.  Tell the voice in your head to “Shut the F up,” as you’re going to make mistakes.  More than you can even imagine.  Get over it. Say “I’m Sorry,” while you look into their eyes (or in the mirror) and mean it.  Mind your manners.  Having good manners shows that you care about the other person.  Can you tell I’m a mom?
  6. Make a connection every day.  Smile at a stranger as you catch their eye.  I do this in the grocery store (I buy a LOT of food as I have 12 and 14 year old boys) or at the kids’ school.  It opens your heart and the receiver’s heart which sends blood flowing to the brain like a shot of wheat grass juice.   I used to march through my day accomplishing tasks looking at the ground so I could maintain focus.  Several years ago I made the conscious decision to just look up while I walked.  Then I started looking at others.  It’s uncomfortable at first but it gets easier with practice.  Now I alternate looking up and looking down because I don’t want to miss quality detritus that I may squish into the clay.
  7. Take risks but create a safety net.  When I quit my job at Apple I had loads of cash in the bank, enough to live on for over a year.  I also gave my employer 6 months (no, not weeks) notice so that I could train my replacement.  I left very gracefully so that the door would be left open for my return if and when I ran out of money.  This could be viewed as overkill by some but it’s what I needed for me to feel comfortable to take the first step.
  8. Develop a support network.  For several years I maintained connections with my friends/associates at Apple when I left but I also embraced my new circle of ceramic artist friends and colleagues.  I moved to Santa Cruz two years after I left Apple to buy a house and build a studio with my then future husband, Chris.  I juried into the Open Studios Art Tour put on by the Cultural Council within a month of living there.  Potters seemed to come out of the woodwork to meet me.  I’d fallen into a close-knit supportive group just by taking the risk of showing my work to the jurors.   I made life- long friends as a result of that first Open Studios Tour.  They noticed my weird socks and came out to show me theirs.  In the end I lost touch with the Apple folks largely because I moved over the hill.  Those Santa Cruzans just never want to leave paradise.  And my values gradually changed over time.  I connected with people who were creative, curious, intellectually stimulating and committed to making a life that’s profoundly rich in experience if not in the all mighty dollar.
  9. Laugh daily.  I proactively seek out and make things to crack myself up.  I wear tie dye underwear so I can smile at myself every time I take a pee.  Why miss the chance?  Belly laugh = open heart = blood to the brain.  I download Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and listen to it in my studio along with many episodes of Fresh Air, Stuff You Should Know, and Science Friday so I can hear about the outside world and stay current and laugh.
  10. Touch soft animals, children, and old people.  Our family shares a dork of a dog, three cats, and a rat so there’s an abundance of comedy relief from doggie walkies, purring fuzziness, and stupid pet tricks.  And that’s before the REAL animals get home from school.  Hang out with a little person or an old person and they say the wisest funniest things sometimes.  Plus they give great hugs or they need great hugs.
  11. Give back.  You won’t really know your stuff until you teach it or share it.  And then it comes back tenfold.
  12. I wouldn’t change a thing if I got in the time machine and went back to my 25 year old self.  My art work, my relationships, my life wouldn’t be as rich as it is without all the angst along the way.  I’ve found I’m really good at helping people who are “stuck” in a process weather it’s ceramic or mathematical.   Empathy creates compassion which creates connection and you have a deeper empathy from having lived through a similar experience.  With empathy comes authenticity.
  13. I still love money but it seems that our family usually has enough.  We are rich beyond measure in the lives we’ve created for ourselves.


V 2.2

A teacup for the roof

Why a teacup for the roof of my house?  Why not?  I thought it would be an interesting way to advertise that I’m a potter.  So many people whiz by my house going 60mph or more.  They wouldn’t notice a sign the size that we are limited to where I live.  But they might just notice a giant tcup sitting up top my house!  My two lovely assistants, Miles and Reid, age 11 and 14 made it extra fun to make.


March 6 Los Gatos advanced slab building workshop

Teapots, pitchers and more teapots. All participants start with exactly the same templates. And somehow some way each teapot and pitcher comes out spectacularly different. The potter’s personality can not help but become infused in the piece. I LOVE the feeling of a completed circle of energy and enthusiasm that happens when the students inevitably do things I’ve never seen before. A treat all around. And here they are!

Linscott middle school ceramic exploratory

At Linscott School where the illustrious Miles (my 12 year old) attends there are not what we generally think of as “Electives.”  Instead the middle school has several “exploratory” courses to choose from.  The selection of courses changes every three months or so.  The sessions are 1.25 hours long and occur twice a week.  Last November I undertook teaching a ceramic hand building exploratory to 14  6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  Among the techniques they learned were rolling slabs, joining clay, texturing clay, making pinch pots, and finding ways to personalize pots.  Here’s several slide shows of the beautiful creative things they made.

The first project was a soap dish and a candle holder. Various small sculptural surprises appeared as warm ups for a larger sculptural project to come.   The next more difficult project was a mug.  Students were encouraged to personalize their mugs with texture and/or imagery.

The final project was “the orb.” Students began by making two pinch pots. These were then joined together by scoring and moistening their rims.  A coil was added over the join for reinforcement.  Once the orb was sealed so that it was filled with air and allowed to firm up a bit students could pound and paddle the orbs into a desired shape.  They had four requirements to complete the project:

  1. It had to be completely covered with texture and embellishments.
  2. It must have some kind of attachment(s) on it.
  3. It must include some use of a contrasting color of clay.
  4. Any large additions to it must be hollow as well.

Beyond that there were no restrictions. Some made their projects abstract and some went with realism. When given the opportunity there is never a lack of ideas with Linscott students. Such an abundance of creativity!

And here are the fabulous final projects glazed!


Nov 7 Corralitos workshop

Here they are at last.   Fabulous fotos of wonderful work made by stupendous students.

From 1991 to 2010

Long time no post.  Recovering from the most amazing Open Studios ever in 18 years.  Many connections, opportunities, and dollars were raised.  Thank you all who came by!  Here’s some funnies to note the changes that have occurred over the years for me as an artist and member/student of my family and teacher/student of kids at Linscott School for 9 years now.

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June 1 Sixth grade mask making

Once again I undertook mask making this time with my son Miles’ sixth grade class. Teacher Seth and I showed examples of masks from different regions and cultures from around the world. A writing prompt was given: “How and why do people create masks? What’s their purpose historically?” There were, of course, no wrong answers. Then each student received a slab of clay and off they went. They are an astonishingly creative bunch!


May 5 Where did the school year go???

School’s over in 5 weeks.  Ack!  I’ve made about a dozen pots since Christmas.  Where did the time go?  Too many bon bons with my feet up as I watched the soaps I guess.   Couldn’t get the pool boy to make the pots for me.  Oh… I guess I was a bit occupied doing art with the talented kids at my kids’ school.  Here’s some highlights of what I did during the 2009/2010 school year.   Reid is a third grader in a multi-age grades 1 through 3 classroom called Rainbow Room and Miles is in a sixth grade classroom called Fox Landing.

Rainbow Room made tie dye T-shirts in September.  They learned about the color wheel, primary, and secondary colors, and how to make yuck when you mix them all together! The kids were soooo much easier to keep track of on field trips in these shirts!

In November the sixth graders in Fox Landing made paper mache globes out of punch balls to understand world geography up close and personal. Now just how DO those continents fit together and what oceans are between them??

Next the sixth graders made block prints using styrofoam and printing them on thin slices of the cross sections of branches. They focused on the marine food chain. The class was divided into three groups: producers (plant plankton, plant life which other animals feed on), primary and first level consumers (animal plankton, crabs, small fish, etc.), and upper level consumers (sharks, whales, birds, etc.).

For holiday gifts the kids in Rainbow Room made clay luminarias.  They contained candles which glowed through the holes when lit.

More marine life was created in sixth grade. This time they created mixed media fish emphasizing the difference between warm water and cold water fish in color and form.

As part of an experiential unit on ancient Egypt sixth grade students made khats and salt dough jewelry. First teacher Seth divided the students into groups representing nomes (city states in ancient Egypt). He had them make fabric khats for their heads which they decorated with symbols referencing their nomes. Traditionally khats were worn by nobility in ancient Egypt. Next each group chose a central symbol for their necklace which characterized an important concept or religious belief which was held by their nome. Each nome had gods and beliefs which held special significance for their region. Many more “lesser beads” were made as well, followed by painting and stringing.

Rainbow Room made clay masks this spring. They have been “traveling the world” studying different continents. They were shown examples of masks from Indonesia, China, and Africa they learned about their significance in different cultures.

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