Hi Everyone, 

I know that I haven't sent anything in a really long while; it's probably even been a year now that I think about it, but believe it or not I actually have some news to share. So get ready for a story involving my storybook-like animals.
Early in 2017 I thought that I would be able to take control of at least one thing. Everything felt like it was going out of control in 2016, but at least I knew what I needed to do to keep moving forward. I needed a space to keep working and to make more animals: to participate shows, to approach stores to see if they would be interested in carrying some of them, and to sell more of them online. Things felt optimistic and primed earlier this year, my landlord has a kiln in the garage where our apartment is and I was given permission to use it. I was also told that it was fine to put whatever I wanted in the backyard and in the mudroom of our place, awesome!
Well... If you follow me on Instagram, or to some extent Facebook, you probably have already read a little bit about how this all actually went. Although I was determined that I could progress with the very small space that I had been given, my landlord had decided to change his mind or forgot that I asked him. Honestly, kudos to him, he's allowed to make (some) of the rules to be followed. However, while I aspire to be in his position someday and respect his property obviously, after having spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting everything setup and ready, this was not what I was hoping for, and things didn't go my way again. I was left with expenses that I'm still not sure that I'll be able to recover from this year, and to add salt to the wound, I needed to put everything into storage. 
Throughout this time, I had been working on putting all of my remaining animals that I had made while I still had my former studio at The Clay Underground on Etsy, instead of my website story. I launched this store in the spring of this year, and it has been really great to see feedback in the form of likes, and a few reviews as well. Though I'm still learning how to use Etsy, and though I'm very grateful for the few sales that I've made during these 8 months, each sale felt like a double edged blade to me: for every animal that I joyfully have packed, I've also had doubt that I'm either reaching enough people or maybe the animals are "out of style" or out of place and not enough people like them or are interested in them. When I had to store everything, I also feeling the frustration start to build up; I wanted to make things in response to the feedback that I was getting and I wanted to do something to counter the now mounting expenses that have been building up. I was really at a loss for what to do. 
There are currently so many things in the air in my life right now that I didn't feel like I could safely spend the rest of my money on what would equate to renting an overpriced studio space somewhere else for only 3 months especially when I struggle to make the rent for my own apartment month to month, so I had to eliminate that option. When I first lost my studio in San Francisco, I had fantasized about being able to run my potter's wheel off of a car battery and hooking that up to a solar panel assembly to keep it charged, but two things were against me: one San Francisco in the late summer and early fall is not really the sunniest place on the west coast, and two I just haven't figured out how to cheaply get all of the parts that I need to make that idea work. However, during my research, I did see that somebody else used a portable wheel (one that draws less power than the wheel that I had been using) to make things anywhere they wanted. For some reason, I've always felt scared of these portable wheels, I didn't think that they could actually work to do "real" throwing. Without very many other options though, I had something new to obsess over.
I didn't think that I would be able to find one of these wheels though, though I would keep my eye open (as I normally do) for good deals on craigslist and maybe I'll be able to find one next year, so I really didn't expect to find one pop up in my craigslist search alert machine a few days later! I also didn't expect my landlord to go out of town for a month. Now it was all clear what I needed to do, and though I knew that it wouldn't be perfect, I made the 8 hour round trip journey to get this key to the future and managed to pull out a few essential things from my crammed storage unit so that I could finally get something done! 
Now that I had the means to create, and a window of time that I could reasonably get something done, the question now was: what should I try to make? When I first had everything setup at home, I was able to shake a few cobwebs of my throwing abilities, and I was feeling pretty confident that I would be able to make anything. The real restriction though was the amount of time that I had, a month may sound like a lot of time to make things, but when you throw in the facts that it take a little while for me to sculpt the animals, that the clay needs to dry, and then that the new animals get fired twice (not to mention that I still have to work a "day job") that month's time starts to look pretty short. Realistically, I knew that I could only make a few of one animal, and that this would probably be my only shot during the rest of the year because hopefully they will be done before the holidays.
I finally decided that even though my goal at the beginning of this year was to make more elephants, it was more important to make arctic foxes. Yes, it was something familiar (or so I thought) but a little bit different, and yes I was handed a lot of free bags of Vanilla Smooth (the Clay Underground house clay of choice) last year, but it was more than those conveniences. The holidays were and are approaching soon, and I wanted to make something that would be symbolic of the hope of the season and of the triumph over difficult situations. The arctic fox is currently facing difficulties as well in what should be its frozen tundra habitat. Usually it's hard enough for them to hunt voles during the colder periods up north, and that alone merits triumph, but thanks to global warming they're also facing the added challenges of their distant cousins, red foxes, invading their territories and competing for the already limited resources there. Red foxes are much larger than arctic foxes, so now arctic foxes have the new worry about being somebody else's dinner while trying to find their own. I have hope and confidence that they will persevere, and though my setup is far from perfect I'm determined to persevere too!
I'm planning on listing these new foxes next week on my Etsy store, but because you've subscribed to my mailing list, I wanted to show you first. In addition to having something new, I've also introduced a new size that I'm testing out and I have changed my prices to reflect this: so the small planters and coin banks are still $30, but the new medium sized animals are $40, and my old large animals are now $50. If you see anything that you would like feel free to respond to me, in whichever way you'd like! (even this email!) If not, thank you very much for letting me type this really long story!

I hope that you're able to preserve in your own challenges, and that you have a warm and happy holiday season!

Thank you -Ryan
See what else is my Etsy Store
Copyright © 2017 Ryan D. McCullen, All rights reserved.

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