Our experience of 2020 was full, unexpectedly abundant, and trying and disconcerting in many ways. The year 2020 started out with a bang, posting our best gallery sales for any previous January. Little did we know.
February 2020 found me teaching pottery to high school boarding students at The Orme School during its 52nd Annual Fine Arts Festival. The school is located on a ranch in Arizona, between Flagstaff and Phoenix. I spent a week on campus. (My sister and brother-in-law live on campus and teach at the school. My niece was one of my most ardent wheel students!). I hit the ground running and did not stop. I spent every minute of every day planning, executing, cleaning up from, or preparing each day’s workshop; and I still could not keep up! I had 10 students, each uniquely wonderful. We created a group conceptual piece, individual hand-built sculptural pieces, and pots on the wheel. It was mayhem.
In the evenings: An art opening, a student play, and nightly dinners at rotating faculty homes. I hit the sheets by 9, skipping the after hours parties with faculty and fellow artists to the chagrin of my super-extroverted family. Whew! I’m not worthy!
Left to right: 3′ x 3′ group wall piece “Equal Not the Same”. Student work on display. Orme pottery studio. Individual student un-fired mask.
When I left Orme School, still 2020 (haha), I headed to California to visit my mother for a week. COVID was just peeking over the horizon in my consciousness. I figured that if I could “just get off of this LA freeway without getting killed or caught” I’d be okay. I was lucky. Made it home safely. Did not see my mother again for a year.
Shut Down & Opportunity
By March of 2020 the virus was threatening to close down the state. Roger and I decided to limit our hours at the shop, both to protect ourselves and others. I remember asking ourselves, “Should we be running to town to buy toilet paper too? Are we going to get shut down? Is this for real?” Counter to what we expected, sales when we were open in March and April were steady. It was as though people felt they needed to buy a unique pot or painting in the event they might never get out again. I think we were shut down the latter part of April into the first part of May. And then face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting door knobs and surfaces became the norm.
My spring show cancelled. Then the summer fairs cancelled. Then the studio tour cancelled. We received some of the unemployment funds made available to self-employed business owners; shortly afterwards I was hired under a short-term contract with my old employer, UNM-Taos, to provide support to early childhood teachers via Zoom (past life degrees can come in handy in a pinch).
More Unexpected Opportunity
As the UNM contract was ending, I was hired under a 6-month contract with the NM Department of Health to do Case Investigation/Contact Tracing. I had applied for this position back in April out of frustration and a need to help; but had assumed I’d been passed over. State bureaucracies work in mysterious ways.
Suddenly, I was working 40 hours/week at a desk in my home, staring into a laptop screen and calling people all over New Mexico. Not only did I make new friends with COVID team members under the worst of times; so many of the conversations I had with people in both English and Spanish were lengthy, deep, and resonant.
I felt our collective human heart beating.
Fortunately, I had plenty of inventory in the gallery/online to keep my end of things going at the shop. I worked in my studio on the weekends when needed and to keep my hands in the clay as much as possible. I just made “comfort pots”- large, mostly round, lidded vessels – because their large, full forms satisfied me and they did not need a lot of futzing in order to complete.
ArtQuesta continued to do okay to the end of 2020, with online sales much improved from previous years during the holidays.
2021: Are We There Yet? (Wherever there is…)
Yes, sales were down significantly for the year 2020, but we are still afloat!
We’re still here! On the side of road, highway 522, in Questa, New Mexico!
My DOH contract ended in February 2021 and by that point I was more than ready to get moving again. It’s taken me some time to get my groove back in the studio, into a rhythm of clay work. I started by replenishing the consumables that had sold out on the website and in the gallery. Then I moved into a couple of more ambitious projects: Candle Stalks and Teapots.
New Mexico is “out of the red” in terms of Coronavirus. Taos County is currently Green. Roger and I got our jabs in February and I must say there is a sense of relief and freedom in having been vaccinated. Still, we continue to wear our masks when out in public and when visitors come into the gallery. We don’t want to “go back there.”
After my Mom and I both got our two jabs, I drove out to Southern California for a visit. We got a lot of things done; like replacing a blown microwave, settling healthcare reimbursements, and filing taxes. We also played a lot of Yahtzee, looked at old family photos, and watched old movies. My big sis came over from LA and we three played Harry Potter Clue which was great fun. Mom’s year inside, largely alone, at 91 years of age, has taken a toll; but she is one tough cookie.
Onward through the Fog
Still no spring or summer shows.
(Maybe that’s okay.)
The Questa Studio Tour is a ‘go’ for August.
And it’s time to bring the wood kiln out of moth balls and fire her up I suppose. That’s going to require a lot of pots!
Roger is painting up a storm. He had an excellent 2020 in painting sales, thankfully!
I’m still processing. Looking back, it all feels surreal. Looking forward, it’s still a mystery.
I feel the world has changed drastically. ..
…Time to make more comfort pots!