August 31, 2009

Creative Crossroads or "Art"life Crisis?

While I usually find myself keeping my blog to more positive and newsy entries, I feel like I need to write about what I’ve been struggling with the last few weeks. So, I’ll get up on my soapbox. Whenever I complete a big production cycle and take time to regroup and get organized for the next phase of deadlines and events I always go through a period of reflection that can be positive (what worked, what sold, what I’m excited about working on) but often (due mainly to my nature) becomes negative (what didn’t work, what the heck am I doing? I need to go back to a “normal” job, etc.). I’ve been having a hard time getting myself through the sea of angst after this summer’s art fairs and I think I’m having some kind of “art”life-crisis. I’m not 100% sure why. My shows were actually pretty good, I won a couple of awards, I got lots of good feedback and had decent sales in light of the economy. But, I feel like I’m at some kind of crossroads and can’t figure out clearly which direction to go. I’ve come from a tradition of making functional work, but my current work has moved into such a decorative and time-intensive process that the model of making lots and lots of functional pieces (mugs, cereal bowls, etc) is becoming unrealistic with the amount of work that goes into each piece. As I’ve developed my illustration and decoration process, it’s become a meticulous series of steps to get the results I want. I don’t feel like I can compromise on this—it’s what makes my work special. Unfortunately (at least in this region) as long as your work is functional, no matter what kind of time has gone into the piece there is a definite ceiling on what you can sell a pot for. If it’s a mug, it should be $25. My mugs should be $100 based on time. I sell them for $36. When I raised the price to $40 this summer they stopped selling. I moved the price back. I hate to make creative decisions based on sales, but the reality is, this is my job. I need to contribute to my family’s bottom-line. I need to pay the bills. I need to save money so my kid can go to college some day and I won’t be bankrupt at retirement age. Just because I love my job and get to make beautiful things doesn’t mean I don’t deserve financial stability. My reality is this: I can only sell my pieces for as much as the market allows. I can only make so many pieces in a given amount of time. They actually are made by hand, from start to finish. If this doesn’t add up right, something has to change. So…then I start over-thinking the options. One possibility is to develop a “wholesale” or production line that is less time-intensive than my one-of-a-kind stuff.  Still, how to make enough of it and market it is opening another can of worms. Another option is to focus on moving my work farther from functional and closer to “art.”  People will spend more on a piece of art than than they will on a mug. I know other potters who have made this transition and found some success. This is a hard leap for me to make though. I’ve always made dishes and I love that connection to daily use. I really don’t know what the answer is, but I know I haven’t found the magic key yet to both making what I love and making a good living. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this!

August 28, 2009

A piece of the process

I was in the studio today getting work ready for a glaze firing and realized how much I love to see everything spread out all over the table. It also makes me realize how time intensive my glazing process has become. I thought I'd share a few steps. These pieces have already been decorated and bisque fired. Most of these dishes are for my cousin's wedding registry (lucky kids...wish I could register for myself and actually get a nice set of my own dishes at home).

Pots with stain painted applied.

Stain washed off, ready for glazing.

Can't wait to get back in and glaze these babies on Sunday, then into the kiln again. It's magic!