Robert Serb's FAQ's

Here are some of my most frequently asked questions, with (hopefully) enlightening answers, in no particular order:

So what do you write about, anyway?
      Whatever comes to mind—I’ve written stories about being a kid, including Boy Scouts burning down their tents, running away from home, fighting with your brother, etc. I’ve also written grown-up stories about camping trips, bar fights, Rainbow Festivals, and so on.
      Most of my work isn’t completely imaginary: I’ll start with some real-life happening or event that I heard about or witnessed, and go from there, changing the plot, events and characters to suit the narrative flow. For example, I’ve never actually burned down a tent, but did wrote a story about Boy Scouts who set a tent on fire.
      Most of my stories are short (500-5,000 words) but I have written a novella of 30,000 words (about a long hiking trip to Yellowstone National Park) and a full-length novel (About a Rainbow Gathering) which I’m trying to interest a publisher in.

Where do you get your inspiration?
      Beats me—I read a lot, but have never (to my conscious knowledge, at least) gotten a story idea from something I’ve read. I have gotten ideas from conversations I’ve overheard. As far as my ceramics goes, I get ideas from other artists’ work, or from seeing something unusual—I got the idea for my “hexagon fountain” after seeing some hexagon-shaped planters at a restaurant.

Why do ceramic pieces have to be fired twice?
      Because they shrink—see the “Ceramic Notes” section here or on the left for a full explanation.

How’d you get interested in ceramics?
      I took a pottery class when I was in college at Loyola University, which frankly wasn’t very good. The teacher skipped a lot of the basic stuff that I’ve since learned, like how to trim a foot on a piece. They also only made low-fire earthenware, which isn’t really waterproof, or scratch and chip resistant. Fifteen years later most of the pieces I made in that class have cracked, chipped, or disintegrated from absorbing moisture.
      Then a few years ago I was hoping to take an art class at the local college, and couldn’t get into the drawing class, so decided to take a ceramics class instead. This one had a good teacher, who taught me a lot, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What got you into woodworking?
      My Dad was a “handyman” type who did home repairs, including making built-in shelves, and occasionally home-made furniture. I got interested in making things because I either didn’t like the furniture I could buy, or couldn’t afford the things I did like.

What do you draw with?
      I use a graphite pencil made by the Start company—not because it’s better, but because it was cheap. Regular pencils, the kind you can buy at the drugstore, are usually made of coarse graphite, which isn’t ideal for delicate lines and shading. Fine graphite pencils can cost $3 or more at an art store, but I managed to buy a dozen at a sidewalk sale for $5, just when I was starting to draw. And I use a basic sketchbook, the kind sold at Borders and Barnes & Noble, which has acid-free paper, so is less likely to get discolored over time.

Do you ever draw in color?
      Only rarely—because I’m still learning how to draw an outline, and the colored pencils are either expensive, or not of good quality lead.

Have you tried painting?
      Not yet, unless you count furniture, walls, etc.