Friday, November 26, 2010

It Isn't All About Clay

Going from potter to artist-entrepreneur is a sea change.

After 25 years learning and plying my craft, I keep finding out how much I don’t know about selling pottery.

Fortunately, there are books, articles and organizations to educate artists if you look for them.

Apparently many ninth graders learn the acronym SMART, though I did not- Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely. This is, for me, a reminder that my time to make art is not endless, so it had better be used judiciously.

This week I didn’t make new work (though I did fire a glaze test kiln Sunday.) Instead, on Monday I went to a half-day seminar on Business Savvy for Artists, given by a very savvy consultant through the Arts Council of the Morris Area, and got a very broad overview of some sound business principles. There’s only so much to learn in four hours, so a list of useful books in relevant areas means I have some reading to do for a while. One thing I learned for sure is that my business card is a very poor design. (Well, I really knew that. Have you seen my sad business card? I've been penning in contact information.)

Meanwhile, Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet by Jay Conrad Levinson et al is my current textbook. There are also some good articles about using social media, that I found on Yahoo.

I never read all the way through the golden oldie, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is waiting for me with a bookmark where I last left off. (The bookmark is the very beautiful business card of another potter.) I’ve been working on some interesting paradigm shifts for Mimi Stadler Pottery. The result should be greater intensity in the surfaces and colors of my work in the coming months.

As a result of the Arts Council workshop, I have a further reading list at least six books long. Well, I've got plenty of notepaper, and a thirst to know and grow.

The key point here is I didn’t learn how to be a businessperson when I was learning (at Kean University in Union, NJ) to be a potter. The lack of business courses is a serious flaw in art education almost anywhere, not just at Kean.

Tuesday, I met with my favorite web builder. Deborah. The website is my business brochure and shop. Deborah's done a very good job so far, though I made the mistake of not consulting with a web designer (not the same as builder) first, so that my website took a very long time to come together. I have no clue about html, and Deborah had not done an artist’s shop-type website before. We made some poor design decisions the first time around. The site has had to evolve s-l-o-w-l-y, as we saw what was missing or fixed errors of poor judgment. It has mostly come together, but wow, it's been a long process. You KNOW it’s not good when the artist does not want to go to her own website for a visit. It had issues, now resolved. And I think it's kinda pretty, too.

Wednesday, I took a box of my pottery to a cooperative gallery an hour away, to show a committee of artists on its board my work, and let them decide if it has a place in their shop. (They will let me know. They have a waiting list.) I am very interested in the co-op gallery concept, and wish there was one locally.

Thursday, as you know, was Thanksgiving. Among all the other aspects of life for which I am grateful, I am thankful to be healthy and capable and working in a field I love. I’m thankful that I have the capacity to continue learning new angles of an old business.

My normal studio workweek ends with Thursday. Friday is my day for cooking, setting the house to rights, and errands, as I prepare for the Sabbath that falls in the evening. Luckily I don’t need any books to tell me how to do that. Like Jewish homemakers everywhere, I’ve done the pre-Sabbath routine week after week for years. It’s like making Thanksgiving every Friday- clockwork production.

Next week, happily, it’s back to the clay with me. I owe pots I haven't made yet (Specific), I have no large beautiful bowls in stock (Attainable), and I just received a commission for an item of Judaica (wine goblet and plate) that I must get right on (Timely). (Pottery Making Illustrated had an article on one-piece goblets back in 2008, and I kept the issue. I want to try the technique.) The web site needs Judaica urgently, too (Measurable), leading to work on designing and making a series of wine goblets and plates in various group configurations, as well as new washing cups and mezuzah cases. In fact, that’s at least a month’s work, right there.

When I say what it is I do, I sometimes hear, "Potter? Oooh, you must have so much fun!" I just smile. I do have fun. But maybe there's the occasional smidgeon of work in it now and then...

1 comment:

  1. Don't feel bad I never heard about SMART either and I'm only 7 years out of 9th grade!
    To be honest, learning a trade and not the business aspect of that trade is something that I am also weary about! I'm going to try to pay attention to all of the business details of my trade as I am in school so that I will be better prepared in the future.
    There is so much to learn in this world!!!