Shipping pottery, admittedly one of the most important parts of our business, isn't rocket science, but there is as much anxiety.
Our pottery lives or dies by the 'Rule of 3'.
Three inches of packing material surround the pot, which is in it's own little box suspended in another box. Sometimes John has to construct boxes, so a little creativity is necessary. We count on this Rule to get the orders delivered safely.
We find bags of peanuts and stacks of boxes on our porch delivered personally by our friends and neighbors. A few local businesses will call us when it's our turn to get their boxes and peanuts. We are happy to recycle everything they give us. There are times, though, when this serendipitous system fails us, and sometimes it happens when we need the stuff badly.
It takes just a few moments to transform our pottery studio into a shipping department and it usually happens after we're done glazing and while the pottery is being fired in our kiln.
First, John cleans the studio of all the detritus of glazing. Drips and drops of glaze can be found on the floor, walls, our clothing, our glasses, our hair after several days of glazing. Though we do shower regularly during glazing week, we don't clean the studio until we are all done and the pots are loaded.
After washing off the table, John goes up into the storage area above the gallery where extra inventory and most of our packing materials reside. In the winter this unheated room is, well, cold. The fluorescents flicker, casting shadows everywhere. There are probably mice somewhere watching John moving boxes around.
It's like a treasure hunt up there. He knows what he's shipping, so he looks for the right sizes. But, all the boxes don't necessarily fit so there is the trusty box cutter to cut boxes down to size. And the tape gun, one of my favorite tools, puts everything together.
Huge bags of packing peanuts, know 'affectionately' as ghost poo, are poured into the boxes. Sometimes a small dog has settled onto one of the bags and John has to nudge her off. Boxes are nestled into boxes, business cards and candy are placed carefully and the tape gun seals the flaps down.
I'm upstairs printing labels on three different sites, nervously matching the addresses and the pottery. And double-checking everything, twice, like Santa. Only it's not as much fun, since a mistake can cause too many interesting moments.
Finally, boxes are sealed. Labels are in the pouches and on the boxes. Boxes are in the van. John transports the boxes two blocks to the Post Office.
He returns, empty handed.
The studio looks like a cyclone went through it. The office floor is littered with slips and scraps of paper. Lunch is cold as is the coffee.