Mountain Arts Musings
Holiday Open House & Christmas Kiosk 201614th of November, 2016
Come delight in the sights, sounds, & tastes of the Season! We have a new shipment of handmade wooden crosses, fleece mittens, Christmas ornaments, felted wall hangings, local honey, and Montana jewelry. Register to win this year's Mountain Arts Pottery Giveaway worth $500.
Christmas Kiosk Opens - November 18, 2016
For our 16th year at the Gallatin Valley mall, Mountain Arts Pottery will be setting up in the space located in front of JCPenney. We will be open the week before Thanksgiving, starting on November 18 thru the holiday season. Because Mountain Arts Pottery has a full-scale pottery studio and retail store just seven miles west of the mall and a mile south of Four Corners, this year we will feature our most popular pottery items which are our vast variety of mugs and our signature Blessing Jars. Check our Facebook page for weekly promotions.
Should we be blessed with longevity? 3rd of November, 2016
The hard part might be that our health isn’t a good as it was. We might not be as stable on our feet. We aren’t as strong, so we might have to depend on someone else to take a lid off of a jar that we would have had no trouble with in the past. Tasks that we used to do ourselves, we now we hire to get done. The biggest challenge is to take on these changes and to do it with a good attitude.
All of this is a prelude to our most recent visit to Scottsdale. Jennie and I went to Arizona to babysit our four-year old grand daughter and to find a replacement car as our van lost the transmission and was old enough not to be worth repairing. It was much more fun to babysit than it was to go through the hassle of finding a dependable car, but both tasks were accomplished. The last day we were there I had gone to the pool where I walk, and coming back from the pool, I dragged my big toe and fell onto the sidewalk. I gouged my forehead above my eye. Everything was ok except the bleeding. It’s true, head wounds bleed. A lot. I had covered the gash with my pool towel to control the bleeding and went to our condo where Jennie was. Since the gash was covered, she didn’t panic when I told her I had fallen, but she called our son who came right over. I tried to convince everyone that I didn’t need stitches, as I always hated the thought of being sewn up while I’m awake, but my pleading fell on deaf ears.
When we got to the ER and we were with the doctor, I explained to him that I really didn't think that I needed stitches. He felt differently and said as he was cleaning me up, "It would heal, eventually without stitches, but the fact that I can see your skull probably means that it would be wise to sew you up." The battle was lost and I added 11 stitches to my war chest.
I'm sure that I am just beginning to feel some of the pitfalls of "The Golden Years", but I choose to be thankful and to ask for God to help me to have a good attitude knowing that there are so many who struggle much more than I with my light and momentary tribulations.
Current Trends in Color and Home Decor1st of October, 2016
Colors are such a vivid part of our lives, and as a potter, one of the measures of each potter is the colors they work with. One of Jennie’s contributions to the pottery business is her keeping up with current trends in color and home decor. She saw a muted orangey red that she really liked, and as we were associated with as potter who was using that glaze, he allowed us to purchase that formula. We named the new glaze Copper.
Then came the months of experimentation to learn how to apply that glaze to obtain the right thickness and to fire to the right temperature and in our particular kiln atmosphere. Once we have learned how to apply the glaze correctly and the firing schedule down to get the desired color, we begin to experiment with adding a second color to the pot. We can now see what the combinations look like. Glazing is peculiar in that if you put glaze "A" over the top of Glaze "B", it turns out totally different from doing the reverse, so that piece also needs to be determined.
We wanted to use two of our own glazes, Tenmoku which is a shiny black and another glaze that we developed called Midnight Blue. When we apply the Tenmoku with the over dip on top of the Copper, we get some real vibrant colors that have turned out to be very popular with our customers.
The Midnight Blue was a mistake and when the sample glaze was fired, it was definitely not the glaze we expected but we really liked the new color, so the search was on to determine how to get it to be consistent. It was obvious that the glaze had been mixed wrong, so Bob, who has a lot of experience working with glazes, tried to figure out what had been mixed incorrectly. He felt that one of the glaze components was probably doubled so he mixed up a sample using the calculated mistake and he got the Midnight Blue formula.
We have now added these two new glazes to our website and we have carried them in the Mountain Arts Store for some time. They have proven to be very popular and have added a new dimension to the look of our pottery.
Developing Systems That Work8th of September, 2016
I started developing our system by collecting bicycle boxes and large sheets of cardboard from appliance dealers, and we bought apple boxers from grocery stores. They measure about 12” x 19”, so I would cut cardboard on my table saw to 12” x 19“ so I could make a false bottom and layer dividers and a top divider for the cushioned top. For building the compartments for the pots I cut 19” strips that were 4.5”wide with 3 slits half way through on one side and two slits on the other-side. That way when we slide a 12 strip with a slit in the middle we can make either 6 compartments or 8 compartments for bowls or mugs and we can put three levels in a box so we can ship either 24 mugs or 18 soup bowls. After filling in each level with styrofoam peanuts, we tape the box as tightly as possible and we are ready to ship.
After 25 years in the business, we can now afford to have all of our cardboard precut for us. This is particularly important to Jennie, because whenever she heard the table saw fire up she would start praying. After all those years of cutting cardboard I only had one accident on the saw and even though it was close, I saved my thumb and have at least 95 % present of my motion and it didn’t even leave much of a scar.
Bob has been with us for two and a half years and he is our main shipper. Bob has learned our system well and does a great job. The way you evaluate his expertise is all in the history of how many claims we have turned in for breakage. There is no way to tell a bad shipping job outside of how many pots have we broken, and out of the thousands of pieces we ship, there is very little breakage. It’s amazing how God has helped us to develop so many systems that seem to work.
Dave's Delicious Salsa Recipes 10th of August, 2016
1 Bag Cranberries, 1 8 oz. Can Crushed Pineapple (partially drained), 1 Tbs. Onions finely chopped, ¼ - ½ Cup Sugar, 3 Tbs. Chopped Cilantro, Jalapeños to taste & heat. Salt to taste.
3 Med. Tomatoes finely chopped, 1 Med. Green Pepper chopped, ½ Med. Onion finely chopped, ½ Tbs. Chopped Cilantro, Jalapeños to taste & heat. Salt to taste.
1 Mango peeled & chopped, 1 8 oz. Can Crashed Pineapple (partially drained), 1 Tbs. Onion finely chopped, 3 Tbs. Chopped Cilantro, Jalapeños to taste & heat. Salt to taste.
Experience and Business Advice8th of August, 2016
When I'm asked to give business advice, I try to encourage young potters to try the Farmer's Markets around the area in order to test the market for their pottery. I tell them to plan on being there for the long haul. My experience in doing the Farmer's Market and craft shows is that it takes time for people to appreciate your work before they start to buy. This is not always the case but generally what I have found. Even doing shows over a long period of time, I found sales increasing every year as people add to their sets. It is exciting to watch someone pick up your pots and make positive comments about how light the pot is or how much they like the glaze color, but then they set the pot down and go on. Then one day with the same pots and the same crowd they pick up your pot and make the same comments but this time they purchase your pot. It is such a sense of accomplishment to have made the pot and gone through the whole process when people actually like it well enough to put their money on the line.
It was fulfilling to offer our team in the Studio that same opportunity. The six people who work in the Studio and who set up for the show have completely different techniques and styles, yet each sold something, and it was an encouragement for them to do something outside of what they do for Mountain Arts. I think that the Potter's Sale will become a yearly opportunity for them and for the public as well.
Summer Memories8th of July, 2016
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home
2016 Annual Oops Sale6th of May, 2016
We collect this pottery over the year then, on Memorial Day, we put this pottery out at discounted prices and have our annual Oops! pottery sale. There are some incredible bargains for our customers, and we get to clear out our storage. This has become a very popular event that people look forward to. We set up our racks outside on the lawn on the Friday morning before Memorial Day and the sale is on Friday, Saturday, and Monday.
We start the sale at 8:00 am and continue each day until we close at 6:00 pm. Come down early, grab a cup of coffee, or enjoy a French Toast Breakfast special from The Coffee Pot Bakery Cafe and browse the racks to find something special for yourself or to give as a gift. While it is true that "No one is perfect", it’s also true that "It's an ill wind that blows no good!" Both idioms are true for our annual Oops! Sale.
The 2016 Annual Oops! Sale will begin Memorial Day Weekend. Open Friday, May 27th, Saturday, May 28th & Monday, May 30th. (We will be closed Sunday, May 29th).
Signature Glazes by Dave Lockie6th of May, 2016
There are some chemicals used in glaze formulas that are a given. Cobalt produces a blue color. Chrome usually gives a green tint. Iron oxide will typically be brown, and we have a red glaze in which copper oxide is the coloring agent.
Sometimes there are just lucky mistakes, such as the time we were running the kiosk at the Gallatin Valley Mall in Bozeman. I was glazing a kiln load and was running out of our most popular color (Mocha). I saw a 5-gallon bucket of mocha glaze that was dried out, so I put water in it, mixed it up, and poured it into the glazing bucket. It was more than enough glaze to finish glazing that load.
When the firing was done and I opened up the kiln door, something was drastically wrong. The load should have been a light tan color, but this load was all a dark grey/black color. I was short enough on pottery that I had to take it out to the kiosk. As I was placing the pottery out on the shelves, a lady came by and was watching me. She proceeded to pick out about $300.00 worth of our pottery with the glaze anomaly and bought it. It took me awhile to figure out what mistake I had made resulting in that Charcoal color, but after about two months, just as I was running out of that glaze which had been a very popular seller, I figured it out. I had mixed together a specialty glaze for someone and when it was dry, it looked identical to my old Mocha glaze. We’re still selling the Charcoal glaze today, and it is one of our most popular sellers.
Creating new glazes is an important aspect of any pottery studio. It is a process that takes a long time and many mistakes to perfect, but these are the signatures by which a studio is often known.
Mountain Arts Scripture Line11th of April, 2016
For quite a while we have made medallion mugs with scripture on them, and those have been quite popular. We wanted something in addition to the mugs, however, and our idea was to create other beautiful pottery pieces in which we could incorporate Bible verses.
Inscribing is not a task every potter does well, and for a long time, we had not been able to find someone who could carve the words so they were really sharp. In addition, there is a problem in that there is only so much room on a pot that is available for carving, therefore, the verses can only be a certain length. After a lengthy process, I think we finally have all the pieces coming together.
We now have a few of our scripture vases, platters, and bowls in the Store. They have been quite well received, so we are on the road to developing a whole line of pottery based around the scripture verse theme. Our goal is to be able to fill special orders with scripture which are meaningful and create a one-of-a-kind inspirational heirloom.
- Jennie Lockie
One Sweet Relationship11th of March, 2016
One SWEET relationship (literally) we particularly enjoy is our friendship with Haefeli’s Honey Farm in Del Norte, Colorado. Haefeli’s Honey Farm is a family owned business that has been operated by the Haefeli family for over 100 years. Located in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Haefeli’s offers a great selection of world famous raw honey, tea, beeswax candles and other fine gifts, including Mountain Arts Pottery’s hand thrown Honey Pots. To learn more about their history, or shop their products (including our Honey Pots) online, visit haefelihoney.com.
Haeffeli’s Honey + hand thrown Mountain Arts Pottery Honey Pots = ONE SWEET PAIRING.
Did we mention our Honey Pots are 20% off during the month of March? Shop our great in-store selection or shop Honey Pots online.
Local Montana Made Products In Our Bozeman Store7th of March, 2016
Our Store Manager, Nick, has always wanted to carry handcrafted rolling pins. Last year we located a source for some gorgeous wooden rolling pins crafted at a Hutterite Colony in the Choteau area. Former employee, Becky True, now owner of True Originals, began making beautiful hand made ceramic crosses for us a few years ago. Becky’s crosses have been a wonderful addition to Mountain Arts Pottery’s store offerings. Aside from our own pottery, these crosses, available in a vast assortment of designs and colors, have been from one of the most popular items in our store, and are 20% off during the month of March.
We’re always looking for new items to complement our pottery. I’ll be going to the Made in Montana show in Helena next month, and am excited to look for more new items to add to our line. If there isn't something in our store that interests you, don't forget that we have one of the best Bakery/Cafes in the area!
Unnatural Disasters by David Lockie2nd of February, 2016
The second unfortunate incident occurred the only time we did a show in Big Sky, about five years ago. We had taken pottery and some treats from the Coffee Pot as well. It was a gorgeous day, and everyone was in high spirits. We had just set our racks up and people started arriving for the show, when a little black cloud appeared over the mountains from the southwest. No big deal. Soon the cloud got bigger, and the whole southwestern sky turned black. The wind picked up and we yanked the top off of our canopy tent. People ran in to help us hold onto our shelves and canopy frame, and to pull pottery off our racks, but a microburst blew over two thirds of the pottery racks before we could it taken down. It began to downpour and all of our food was ruined. We ran to the car to wait it out and within twenty minutes, the storm blew over and the sky became blue and it was, again, a gorgeous day.
There always seems to be a blessing, even in disasters. Folks came running to help us clean up and pack up. It was amazing. Probably a dozen people came with trash cans and brooms, helping us pack up our trailer. Within an hour, you wouldn't have known we had even been there. I'll never forget one family who was helping, with their seven or eight year old son. The boy was complaining that he was afraid he'd hurt himself, and his dad said, "Just pick things up and throw them in the trash. That's what you do to help people who need help." What a good model for life! They've since become customers at Mountain Arts Pottery.
Considering that in the thirty odd years we drove to shows from California to New York, we haven't had much to complain about, and God has always used the things which were difficult to remind us that He is in charge.
What Pottery and Coffee Have in Common5th of January, 2016
Back in the dark ages, I received my business degree from Montana State College (now Montana State University.) One of the first things one learns is the importance of a business plan. Unfortunately, that didn’t sink in, and when we made the move to our store on Gallatin Road, our business plan was very simple: build some display racks, put the pottery out, put up some highway signs and start selling. Year two: move the studio from our back yard out to the property and continue to produce the pottery needed to fill our retail and wholesale orders. It was all pretty simple and followed along with what we had been doing for the last 23 years. What weren’t prepared was what was about to happen to our business.
Growth was very slow for the first few years, and then it really took off. We made the decision to cease doing wholesale and focus on retail pottery sales at our store, and our mall Kiosk during Christmas season, as well as our web sales. The coffee business went from coffee to rolls and coffee. Then, after much discussion and with trepidation, we added soup and bread, followed by full a breakfast and lunch menu. Due to limited space and seating, we added frozen take-out and pick-up heat and serve food items. It seems that we have never plateaued, especially at the Coffee Pot. Over the years have just tried to keep up.
As people continued to comment on the growth of our business, I tried to explain the expansions and increases to them, while trying to understand them myself. We honestly didn't even know how to start to write a business plan. It finally hit me. While we truly didn’t have much of a plan, our Senior partner did. He has led us each day and has shown us how to continue. He has placed people in our path who have possessed the exact skills and expertise that we have needed, just when we’ve needed them.
The Business College at MSC (now MSU) had it right. Putting a plan in place is a great idea. The best idea, however, is a Partner who knows the Plan.
Trial and Error8th of December, 2015
Creating pottery is a bit like making a cake. There are many, many steps and each step is an opportunity for something to go wrong. In crafting pottery, if all goes well, and the piece ready to be sent to the person who purchased it, it still has the hurdle of being shipped to the customer undamaged.
I remember one of the first times I packed a box of pottery for shipping, early in my career as a potter. I was shipping several pieces of pottery to one of Jennie’s siblings for Christmas. Almost everything in the box arrived broken. We didn't hear about the disaster until several months later, and then more by accident than the recipient just coming out and telling us. Not only did I not know how to successfully pack pottery, I also happened to be broke, which prevented me from buying shipping supplies, so I tried to make do with what I could scrounge up, mostly newspapers and cardboard.
As we filled more wholesale pottery orders, shipping became more of a necessity. I began to develop a packing system. I realized I needed to keep the pots separated so I started shipping in recycled apple boxes. The apple boxes were a standard size, so I would pick up appliance boxes and cut them into dividers, which allowed me to place several layers of pottery in a box. At that time, we were shipping many mugs and soup bowls, so I cut strips of cardboard to make somewhat of an egg carton with 6 compartments to put our soup bowls in. Next, I packed shredded paper around the pots to keep them from rattling against each other. For the mugs, I made an 8-compartment layer.
Cardboard and shredded paper were free for the gleaning, and for a time this was a good system, until I received a call from a store owner who was pretty upset, as his wife was in the middle of their store unpacking their pottery and all of this shredded paper was going everywhere. His message was clear, and we converted to collecting styrofoam packing peanuts. We contacted several local stores and asked them to save their packing peanuts for us, which they were happy to do. While we had to purchase some, the upgrade resulted in cleaner packaging and lighter shipping weights. Today we purchase bubble wrap, styrofoam packing peanuts, and all of our cardboard dividers are pre-cut for us. (Saves fingers and time.)
I had UPS show me how to best package our pottery. One of the things they explained was that there needs to be a cushion of at least 2 inches of packing material on each side of the packing box, so we put down 2 inches of styrofoam peanuts and press in a layer of strong cardboard for a false bottom. We then make sure there is adequate padding around each side, which protects our pottery in transit.
We have learned a lot through the years. One thing we guarantee is that our pottery will arrive undamaged, or we will replace it. I don't ship much these days. Bob Crystal does our shipping, and seldom does anything break when using the packing system we've developed. Our shipping process has undergone many changes over the 35 years we’ve shipped pottery. Though it may not be perfect, it is a good system. In fact, our shipping procedures are so good that when a pot is broken in transit, our provider always covers the claim. One more aspect of our company that God taught us through experience.