A Whole New Year: Part 2
Today we continue hearing from some great makers about what's firing them up for 2017. Be sure to read Part 1 if you haven't already!
(photo credit: Sara Pimentel)
Do you set strategic goals (personal, financial, career, etc.) at the beginning of each year? Or do you like to move through your year more organically?
Until 2016, I moved through the year organically - taking opportunities as they came along, filling orders for shops and building stock for shows. However, in the last couple of years this strategy started to become a problem. I realized that I had reached my limit in the amount of work I could produce in one year working in an organic way. I needed to streamline my process, reduce the time I took on each piece and have a more structured plan in order to be as efficient as possible in the studio. A further catalyst to this change was when I became pregnant at the end of 2015 - I knew that I needed to make the changes before the majority of my time and attention would be spent on a new born baby.
Do you ever feel mental blocks in the studio? If so, any tips on what gets you unstuck?
I usually feel mental blocks in the studio right after a big show, like the Christmas One of a Kind show. I think it is due to the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with preparing for the show and then selling for 11 days straight by myself. To get rid of the mental block I clean and organize my space! This might also be due to the fact that after a show like OOAK my studio space is usually a total disaster (along with everything else in my life ie: bedroom, laundry etc.) To clear my head, I get to work and make my studio (and home) spotless again - by the time I am done I am inspired to get back to work. I also find reclaiming clay helps me clear my mind and think about the things I would like to make with the clay I am reconstituting.
What do you do in moments of self-doubt?
Ah, the moments of self-doubt. I think I have at least one big one per year. I honestly think it comes with choosing to be an artist. This is not a conventional lifestyle choice and, like anything else, it comes with sacrifices and difficult decisions. Inevitably there will be doubt at some point. In those moments, I usually end up talking to my husband about my options/choices and business - that usually ends in frustration. Then I brood over it for a couple of days and eventually I come to the realization that this is what I am meant to do.
I have been a maker my entire life. My earliest memories are of making things out of random materials I found around the house or drawing or painting. When other children were out playing sports, I was drawing clothing designs and watching Debbie Travis do a faux-finish on a wall. Right now my focus is clay, but at the end of the day, I do what I do because I have a constant urge to create. Whether it's re-decorating a room or knitting a hat or making a mug, I constantly have ideas and I NEED to make them, I would be miserable otherwise.
Have you ever taken a hiatus from your work?
I took a four month break after the birth of my son and it was the longest time I have ever gone without making or creating anything (well, other than a baby... haha). I was positively itching to get my hands in clay again. I did what I always do - cleaned and tidied my space. Then I handed my son over to my husband and went into my studio for a couple of hours. IT WAS GLORIOUS. I had a silly grin on my face for the rest of the day and I felt more like myself than I had in months. The hiatus didn’t change anything about my approach to making. With a baby, I have a lot less time in the studio so I have to be super efficient when I have a chance to work.
Is there a mistake you’ve learned from in the past, specific to your artistic practice, that you’d be willing to share with us?
I have made many mistakes along the way, but I think one of my biggest ones was broadening my product list too quickly, which resulted in spreading myself too thin. It's not efficient to try to make a variety of products at once. It's better to do large batches of one product at a time. However, with over forty different items in my catalogue, that approach was impossible to do. If I were to do things over again, I would grow my product line slowly - one item at a time - instead of designing five or six new products every time I had a show deadline.
Do you set strategic goals at the beginning of each year?
When I first started my business in 2014, I definitely operated on a more organic level. I said yes to all business as it presented itself. This meant all wholesale, custom work and shows. Now, I begin my fiscal year more strategically. I line up all my large wholesale contracts through the winter months, doing my best to wrap up all outside work by the spring. I have a little retail shop that continues to grow. My retail gallery is the organic element of my business. New ideas surface throughout the year and my retail shop is where I get to showcase my new collections.
Can you tell us about a goal you set for yourself that you recently achieved?
I recently expanded my retail. I designed the space to reflect the style of work I create. It has modern country vibe; beautiful barn board walls, a corrugated metal ceiling, antique stained glass windows and elegant glass lighting. This was a goal I had set for myself the day I decided to name my business shed. The idea behind naming my business shed was to pay homage to where it all began for me: in my grandmother’s pottery shed when I was just a little girl.
Do you have help in the studio? How has that changed your workflow?
To allow more time for myself and to run my business more efficiently, I have asked my husband to join me as my apprentice in 2017. He will be joining me one day a week in the studio. We hope to increase production and to turn this into a more efficiently run business. Our goal is not to live in a state of "busy." We want to maximize our enjoyment of life. To live peacefully and simply.
How do you keep connected to other makers in your community?
Social media has been an excellent tool for connecting with other potters and makers. It offers a library of inspiration and a wonderful way to meet like-minded people. It connects us otherwise more solitary makers. We can develop friendships and find inspiration while remaining in our studios, hard at work.
Also, I have recently started firing a wood kiln. The groups of potters that join my team vary and it’s been a great way to meet other potters in person; to share our struggles and joys of living life as potters.
What do you do in moments of self-doubt?
Moments of self doubt can happen daily. I try to embrace the lows just as I do the highs. I think there is a level of healthiness to doubting ourselves and our work; it keeps us humble and it keeps us striving to do better. When the lows are really low, I reflect. I think about my starting point, about where I am in the present moment, and where it is I want to take myself. We are the creators of our own destiny. We just have to work hard and stay focused in order to achieve our goals.
What mantra or phrase are you using to help guide you for 2017?
Keep your pace and stay calm. Also...it’s okay to say no.
Food is fuel. What’s your favourite studio snack to keep the engines running?
Not a snack but a meal: I start every morning with two eggs (laid by our sweet hens) and two pieces of rye toast, one for dipping and one for honey. I have grapefruit juice and a cappuccino or coffee. This is the most important ritual to start my day. This meal provides enough fuel for me to continue on well into the afternoon.
A huge thank you to all the potters featured here! Be sure to visit their websites & instagram feeds for more info.