Thursday, August 16, 2012

Help Wanted. Sort of.

Hiring is one of my least favorite things to do. Inviting a stranger into our tight-knit world is a crap-shoot. We went through 5 studio assistants in 2010. Two quit. Three were fired. Having people quit sucks. Firing people really sucks. It makes us question our judgement. In almost every case, I could have predicted their demise after a week. That's about how long it takes for some to realize that what we do here is work. The fact that we're dressed down, listening to music and laughing - that's the window dressing. Behind the curtain, we're on a mission: Paint, glaze, fire, pack and ship as fast as possible. Many days, we drag ourselves out of here. We're hot, tired, sweaty and gratified in a 'we just kicked ass' kind of way.

Working at Museware Pottery is possibly one of the coolest jobs ever. We're wicked busy and the work just keeps coming. Write those 50 cursive platters and here come 50 more. Stamp out all those plates then turn to find another pile waiting for you. Empty those blazing kilns and load them again while they're still hot. Then do it all again - oh, and faster please?

We need help and have for months. We put it off because training a new employee is time consuming, expensive and disruptive. Did I mention disappointing? We finally gave in last week and ran an ad. Our application doesn't ask where you worked and when. Filling it out is more like on-line dating than applying for a job. We ask who you are, what you care about, why you want to work here. What we really want to know is - can we trust you? Will you fit in? Will you work out or break our hearts?

We'd like to start interviewing next week. We like this local gal. Her natural hand writing looks like ours, she's artsy and articulate. Her application was thoughtfully completed, her plans open enough to include us. If the stars align, she'll become an important part of team and we'll wonder how we lived without her. For The Women of Museware Pottery, training a new employee is like starting a new relationship. Everyone's all excited and hopeful. Finding the right combination of heart, determination and creative thinking in our new hire, well that will be kind of like falling in love. Only different.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Inside Our Studio

Our studio is in a battered historic mill in downtown Manchester, NH. This mixed use mill is the home of an eclectic group of other creatives - jewelry, mixed media art, quilting, cabinet makers, musicians & recording studios. Dozens of light industrial business operate here as well - machine shops, printers, cabinet suppliers, telecommunications suppliers, more.

We share our corner of the block with World Packaging. A busy day for WPI involves power jacks towing 50+/- pallets up and down a wrecked wood hallway, honking as they pass our door. We often have to ask callers to repeat conversations. WPI is headed up by David - a smart, energetic & noisy ball of New Jersey. His assembly line business is all about faster, faster. It's common to hear him clapping and bellowing at his temporary and largely Cambodian workforce. Come on! Clap Clap Clap. Let's go! He also loves talking business and has inspired us to make major cost saving changes to our own production line. We raise a glass of beer to you, Mr. Harp.

Our space is awesome. One of the things that makes it awesome is this kiln room. This 31' long, totally brick space is only 8' wide, exactly wide enough to work. It tapers down to a 5' hallway just beyond the kilns. We just had a brand-new big-ass whole-house fan installed in the window. That thing moves some air, keeping it below 90* in there. A veritable autumn zephyr.

In our old space, the 3 kilns fired right in the production area. They automatically shut off when they reach 1835* but not before heating the room up to 115-120*. We joked about working in our underwear, but it wasn't a joke. When temperatures soared, we locked ourselves in and took it all off.

Faced with the prospect of 100* indoor temps for the 6th summer in a row, we finally hired someone to install two A/Cs. We lost the fabulous light from this 5' square window, but gained the ability to wear clothing at work. Sincere thanks to Tom Hopkins, the Macgyver of carpentry and of just about everything else.

This is a late afternoon shot of our production area. The new light is a bit artful we think. The entrance to our kiln room is hidden beyond the forested veranda surrounding Nicole's desk.

Our studio is a place of music, conversation and laughter. We are part of a small & growing handful of women working and creating in the noisy, dusty maze of Manchester Mills. We humanize the place, encouraging (with the stink-eye) men to close and lock the unisex bathroom door behind them. A few even look sheepish when we hear them use language we're guilty of using ourselves. Last week, one fast moving pallet ripped the corner off of our newly installed exterior wainscoting. We were 100% sure this was going to happen. Because everyone knows you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.