Friday, September 11, 2009

attitude adjustment

This past week I've been working really hard, trying to get ahead of the overwhelming order, while also catching up with my orders from August. I haven't worked hours like this in a long time: yesterday I was in the studio at 7 am and stayed there until 4:30. I had to immediately go and drink a martini afterward, but after a long day I think the reward system should be in full effect. I almost forgot it was possible for me to work a straight 8-hour day.

I've broken the overwhelming order down into its smallest parts, and I keep looking at it, looking at it, and looking at it again. The more I look at it, the more I feel like I may actually pull it off. As I've been spending hours and hours with myself in the studio, I've started working on my attitude. Part of the reason why I took a month off from the making work was to get some perspective. My stress levels have been getting cranked all year from studio issues: not having enough assistance, nagging glaze issues, misbehaving cake stands and the relentless orders for them... all of it has made me feel like failure is the default setting, while success is something always just out of my grasp. Talk about lack of perspective... for every failure out of the kiln, there are probably 20 successes, but when you start losing your mind, all you see is the failure.

The failure mind set is completely debilitating and also totally self-fulfilling. As I deal with the overwhelming order and a few others that came in on its heels, I've been asking myself how I can think about my situation in a more positive light, starting by just appreciating that people actually want to buy my stuff at all. I also try to see all the pieces finished on time, perfectly fired. And normally I would hedge a big order by making a bunch of extra pieces. I recently read a brilliant article by Sequoia Miller in the current issue of Studio Potter magazine about this very practice, and what a waste of time it can be. I really don't have time for hedging right now, I want to count on things coming out right the first time.

So right now it's all about long solid days in the studio, deep breathing, positive visions, 8 hours of sleep, and not toooooo many martinis!


  1. i've started changing my attitude as well and trying to change my language/approach. one thought i had as i read your blog was that perhaps you should call it your 'great' order or 'huge' order as opposed to the 'overwhelming' order which in itself, just makes you want to go take a nap.
    cheers and lots of good studio time to you.

  2. Yes it's all perspective. I know you have paid your dues. The orders you have are indeed earned, but they are also a blessing. As for me, well, I have zero orders. But, I'm making pots and gearing up for a couple holiday craft fairs. I'm not a fan of craft fairs, but I know they are on the road to where I want to be.
    You just keep that great attitude.. It's contagious :)

  3. Smile for the order. Do the best you can. Big order customers should know about clay and its finicky properties and if they don't we can all teach them. Cake plates warp, glaze pits and crawls. I would feel exactly like you if I were in your position, but alas, I have no orders. My pots are in 4 galleries and I earn about $30 a month. I'm still waiting for a 'huge order' as Heidi commented you could call it.

  4. If we can give ouselves an attitude adjustment it is indeed contagious to ourselves as Cindy said. I think it is a matter of retraining ourselves, I do know too well it is easier to say than to do. Good luck with your studio time; I'll have a vodka martini dry with an olive please.

  5. ahh excellent stuff, having a break away myself has def. helped with stress levels..stay calm

  6. all I'm seeing are failures right now. unhappy customer kills the joy from a dozen happy ones. New glaze mixer splashes out 1/4 of the gallon. Glaze failures on my best color. I needed to read this.

  7. Heidi, your comment about calling it he "overwhelming order" was right on. I noticed that I needed to change the language on that too, but then got distracted and published without editing that. Language is so powerful. I refer to it as the "huge Japan order" around the studio.

    And it's true that and unhappy customer can really hurt. But, most customers are happy. You really have to put your mind on that, every time the stress wells up.

  8. I used to hedge my custom orders with multiples too, and am learning to tweak my glazing and firing methods down to a tiny tiny percentage of failure. I already have enough of those seconds filling my cupboards. I just recently finished 12 placesettings of dinnerware with only 2 extra pieces--one with a glaze drip/stick, and the other with a chunk from the shelf stuck in it. I'm really really glad I didn't have to make 18 placesettings to end up with a good 12--which is what I would have done only 5 years ago.
    We learn.
    Congrats on the 'great' big order!

  9. Such wise words. I think it's one of those things you just have keep trying over and over and eventually it will (hopefully) become second nature.