Monday, May 23, 2011

what I really wanted to say

You have a message From randomblogger on Etsy.
Subject: Blog Review

Hi! I am a stay at home mom and I have a blog that I frequently update at called RandomBlog. My blog has over 800 followers and a Google page rank of 3. I do a feature on my blog called the “Etsy Shops I Love”. I just found your shop, and I was wondering if you would be interested in sending me one of your adorable products, and then I will post pictures and a review of it on my blog. I can also do a giveaway of your work! I'm sure you would get some new business from it!! Please let me know if you are interested and what information you would need from me.
Thank you!!!

I get these emails on a semi-regular basis. I don't know why, but they are mostly from women who have blogs dedicated to raising children in aesthetically pleasing environments. Somebody, tell me why this is. And don't tell me it's because these are former corporate sharks who gave it up to be a stay at home mom, and now they're broke and want free cupcake stands.

Mostly, I ignore these emails, because it seems to me a transparent trolling for free stuff. Bloggers who have opinions that actually matter-- and by that I mean bloggers who can write about someone and that someone will immediately be slammed by overwhelming business-- not only never ask for free product, they will usually not accept it if you offer it up. I know of one exception, and I would love to write about this person, but since he did not try to hit me up for free pottery but a good friend of mine, I have to hold back.

This last email I received was particularly annoying to me, which is no big deal since I get annoyed very easily. And all the time. Perhaps, I should do more yoga, or stop drinking so much coffee. If I have a minute I want to burn, I will take a quick peek at the blog just to see what I'm dealing with. This particular Randomblogger gathers followers by offering giveaways to people who become a follower and post a comment. I guess the majority of followers are people who want free stuff. Not my demographic. Most posts had zero comments. Not surprising, because the posts were in depth discourse about family trips, baby milestones, and free-ranging opinions regarding the pluses and minuses of stuff that I don't care about. Which is fine, bloggers are free to write about whatever they want, but don't use your blog with a google pageRank of 3-- which is not very good-- as a quid pro quo.

This email itched at me. I think it's unethical to ask for free stuff that you will then write a "review" on. It's intrinsically biased, and I would not be very happy at all if I discovered a blogger I liked to read for opinion and recommendations were going around asking for free product from the people they were giving glowing reviews to. I really wanted to nail this person with a scathing email, but then I realized I was losing my mind again over something stupid. But I had to say something. I managed to write back a non-scathing email that I saved for all future trollings:

Dear RandomBlogger,
Thank you for your email. As a policy, I never give away my artwork in exchange for a review, a blog write-up, or as a giveaway. Bloggers write about my work all the time because they want to spread the word to their readers and support what I do for a living. I have found that giving away my work does not generate meaningful business. Thank you for thinking of me and good luck with your blog.

I did not hear back, thanking me for my subtle slap in the face. And my blog has a pageRank of 4.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

be a bad worker

Lately, I've been getting fed up with the stress of being me. Being me means my mood is almost solely tied to how well my work is going. If my clients are happy, work is shipping on time, orders are fast and furious, kilns are firing the way they are supposed to fire, production is snappy, new work is in the pipeline, then happiness is mine. From that list, the convergence of all of them happening is about once a month for approximately 3 minutes. Basically, I have it all set up so satisfaction is almost impossible and I'm always wrestling with this demon who is telling me if I just work harder, try harder, maybe everything will finally come together in the way I think it should.

I've had to admit to myself that I am a workaholic. I resist that word because it seems like a word that would apply to somebody else doing different kind of work. But if I take some of the classic symptoms of alcoholism and apply them to work, it's hard to deny that I have a work problem. For example:
  • I minimize how much time I actually spend working, the way an alcoholic minimizes how much he drinks.
  • I don't count certain types of work as work, like listing stuff on etsy or cleaning my studio, the way an alcoholic may say that beer isn't really alcohol.
  • I hide work, like snapping my computer shut and pretend like I was in the middle of doing something else when my husband walks into the room, and we all know alcoholics hide booze.
  • And then the classic: does work make your home life unhappy? Yes, yes, and yes. My husband is an independent soul who doesn't allow me to dictate the mood at home, but there's no doubt I undermine his pleasure in life when I come home and whine about work, or worse, cry because the stress is getting to me.

It was suggested to me by my friend Jack, who is similarly driven-- actually, I am surrounded by these types, now that I think about it--is rather than work so hard at being good, apply myself to being bad. Be a slacker. Say "no" to clients. Be late to meetings. Blow off emails. Spend all day making something ridiculous instead of filling orders. And do it all without a single apology. I was laughing so hysterically when he was making these suggestions to me, tears were rolling out of my eyes. He was making a larger point about Americans working too hard in general, and how the culture of being "busy" and driven all the time is killing us and making life difficult to enjoy. "We all need to learn how to be bad workers." is how he summed up his theory.

It's an indication of how deeply ingrained the American hard work ethic is in me when these suggestions make me almost hysterical with laughter and seem about as realistic as walking on water or setting myself on fire. However, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that these measures could actually be therapeutic, and maybe being a bad worker would be like taking some vitamins. Maybe I don't have to do all of them at once, but I could try a few of them and see if the studio collapses or my head explodes. So if you are wondering where your order is or why I haven't responded to your email, you'll know I'm taking my medicine!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

this weekend, and next

Here in the Bay Area, we are spoiled. We have the best weather (at least in the East Bay), the best food, the best views, and frankly, some of the best ceramic artists. When you are spoiled, you forget how good you have it. You start thinking that the rare, beautiful things you have ready access to will always be there, and in fact, you often fail to notice how awesome these things are. That is the nature of life, taking for granted the things that come easy.

I still count myself one of the luckiest gals in the world that my favorite ceramic artists are also my best friends and live within 15 minutes of my own studio. And at this time of year, we get together, have show celebrating the moms of the world, and sell off our seconds at prices you will never see anywhere else. It's true that sometimes we smash our seconds, and sometimes we sell them. My home is decorated with "seconds" from my gals, and there is nothing lovelier, in the Bay Area, in stores, or in life.

The opening party for our Vase Show is May 6 (that's tomorrow!) at 6 pm over at the Fourth and Clay Studio + Gallery. There will be food, there will be booze, and there will be me, drinking the wine as fast as I can. You will be able to check out our vases and shop seconds. The show will continue on Saturday and Sunday from 11-5. For those of you who can't make it this weekend, I will be having a follow-up sale at my own studio next Saturday, the 14th, from 11-4. Be there!