Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Day at Simon's Pottery Barn

As is the case with all craft books, the time comes when it must be photographed. In most cases, the process of organizing a photo shoot is the most anxiety-filled part of making a book. I think it has something to do with how quickly it must be done. And how this is your "one shot" to get it right. And there are so many things that can go wrong, like bad weather, or clothes that don't fit, or models that have totally different hair than they had in their head shots (or models that just don't show up). Thankfully, the photo shoot for the pottery book I am editing for STC Craft--Simon Leach's Pottery Handbook--had none of these problems. In fact, it was one of the most serene and lovely photo shoots I have ever attended. And that's really saying something.

Here's why:
1) I hired Jared Flood (aka Brooklyn Tweed) to shoot the book and Karen Schaupeter to style it. Aside from being insanely talented, both of these people are professional when needed, and a total hoot the rest of the time. Plus, they are excellent road trip buddies!

2) There were no models, no make-up or hair stylists, no assistants, no wardrobe, no props, nothing. Just simple, guerrilla shooting at its finest.

3) Simon lives way out in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania (on what I cannot stop referring to as a Pottery Barn). There were green growing things and old stone houses, handmade bridges and abandoned refineries, wildflowers and rain. It was lush and lovely.

4) There were pots....lots and lots of pots...strewn about, sitting in rows, stacked one atop the other, some glazed, some freshly thrown, some bisqued. All of them, absolutely gorgeous. Even after two days, I was still finding new treasures on the shelves.
When we first arrived, Jared had barely parked the car before he leapt out and started snapping pictures. It was all so picturesque that I think we all worried it was going to evaporate into the mist like Brigadoon. After Jared snapped some environmental pics and got it out of his system, Simon brewed us a pot of coffee (served in his homemade mugs, of course) and we turned our attention to the shoot list.
Karen got to work creating still-life arrangements.
And when Simon wasn't busy throwing pots for us to photograph (very much like a short-order cook), and when Bruce wasn't busy answering my many questions about what we actually included in the manuscript, they busied themselves with bocci on the front lawn.  
Jared, I would say, had the roughest job of all. Not only did he have to hold up that camera for two days straight (no tripods here!), he also had to get in real close when we were removing pots from the raku kiln, nearly choking to death on the smoke. Luckily, he found a respirator right fast. Safety first! 
As for me? Once everything was rolling, I mostly played with this cat. After the first few shots, Jared and Karen got into a groove, so it was just a matter of approving shots and crossing items off a list, all of which can be done from a grassy spot on the lawn with a cat on your lap.
And of course, I also tried to pick up tips for my own pottery making where I could. Like studying these tutorials of the various phases of making a cylinder.
And admiring the perfect thinness of this porcelain bowl, wondering if my walls will ever look so peacefully uniform. As Simon would recommend, I shall "keep practicing."

(If you, too, need to keep practicing, you should really check out Simon's YouTube videos, which are mesmerizing.)

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