Sunday, December 16, 2007

Potter's Seventh Circle of Hell

A quick perusal around some of my favorite pottery blogs confirmed what I suspected: few are writing, including myself. If I know ceramic types—and I do-- I suspect everyone is holed up in their studios, and going through something like this:

1)“I don’t have enough work, I don’t have enough work!” (repeat 500 times a day)
2)“I need to make more work, I need to make more work!” (Repeat in head at least once every 60 seconds and yell at spouse/significant other at least once a day, especially when they try to get you to relax.)
3) Feverishly make work while repeating above mantras, first one, then the other.
4) Have repeated breakdowns and self-loathing sessions as work you so feverishly made cracks, sticks to the kiln shelf, or just kind of sucks.
5) Repeat.

I’ll call this the potter’s Seventh Circle of Hell. I know it well. I’ve slept by the Lake of Fire for weeks on end trying to keep ahead of Christmas orders. I’ve been fielding a few panicked phone calls from my potter friends as they feel the flames licking at their little heels. I’m really a good person to call when a potter is ready to jump because I have been there so many times, I can talk anybody off the ledge.

I’m going to give a tiny little lecture here that I’ve given to more than one artist this season: Hire some goddamn help. If you can’t sleep at night as you consider all you have to make the next day, you need some help. If your stomach or spine is burning as you contemplate your order sheet, you need some help. If you are at the studio, missing dinner, ignoring your boyfriend’s cell phone calls, you need some help. Don’t tell me that you can’t afford it. A half-decent assistant pays for themselves. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to train somebody. You’ll get all that time back and then some when you send that assistant on their own. Don’t tell me you are a lone wolf who creates alone. Hire someone who doesn’t talk too much. There are so many people out there dying to work for you, in your dusty little studio. Go and find them!


  1. hallelujah! from a girl who was about to jump, got talked back from the ledge {THANK*YOU WHITNEY} and who finally hired some help. :)

  2. Dear Lovely Lady Maker,
    Thank you for the wonderful post, I read it at just the right moment!
    Wishing you buckets of joy this holiday season!
    From one maker to another!

  3. Anonymous1:14 PM

    It's true, we're out there.

  4. I had to laugh when I read your blog. My father was an artist,-sculptor, jeweler and a potter! I am myself trying to retain that side of myself- having opted to continue my safe job as a teacher (teaching art to young kids) because of the pressure to survive comfortably as a single mum. My father did not encourage me to per sue an artistic career something I struggle with to this day, I know it is because of the uncertainty he felt in trying to make ends meet. I am now fully encouraging my children to explore the artistic option first If they desire to do so!- give it their all then be "safe' later if they need to be.
    Any way reading what you have said had echoes of voices of my father, myself and my artistic friends.

  5. Ha! I love your post! "hire some goddamn help" is right! I am a jeweler and I was very overwhelmed in December. In fact, I'm still overwhelmed because now all of my shops are asking me for more jewelry, which I basically ran out of in December! Anyway, I love your stuff - check out my blog to see one of your bowls featured!

  6. that's straight talking sense, thanks, someday I will be busy enough to remember what you said when I need it.