Wednesday, December 31, 2008

all together now: dream

I've had a lot on my mind lately. For one, I have no idea what this new year will bring. I feel equal parts anticipation mixed with trepidation. Not fear, exactly. But curiosity. I know that many things I have taken for granted are in position to start shifting. This is not a bad state of affairs, but in fact, an excellent time to be more fully in touch with what is important. With this thought in mind, I've been sleeping like a baby for weeks now, which is unusual when the old brain is boiling.

I'm an ambitious person. I have big dreams, and an expectation that my dreams will come true... if not exactly in the way I dreamed them. There is always the persistent question; will you be able to make your dreams happen? This is the way of the world. When things are going good, your dreams seem within reach. When things are going shitty, dreams seem tenuous. But in reality, your dreams are always just that: dreams. Whether or not your life is good or shitty, your dreams have still not become events that can be placed under the category of reality. So my question is, does a dream's actualization depend on factors happening out there in reality, or do they depend more on the dreamer and their state of mind?

I'm reading a terrific novel right now, called "Netherland". I love the title, because it implies this subconscious underworld that we all move in, even as we go about our day-to-day on the surface of the planet. I'm not sure is this is what the author intended, but that's what I get from it. Also, the protagonist is from The Hague, which is also very interesting, since this book takes place in New York City immediately after 9/11. So the title has many facets and underpinnings, which I'm not going to go into right now. The book is partly about the big, even grandiose, ambitions of one of its characters, Chuck. He is, in his little world, a mover and a shaker. In one scene, the main character has just told Chuck that his wife is seeing another man. Chuck asks, "What do you want to do about it?" Our protagonist, rather helplessly, says what many of us say when we are dealing with this kind of situation: "What can I do?" Chuck says:

Not can do: first figure out out what you want to do. It's Project Management 101: establish objectives, the establish means of achieving objectives.

To summarize the rest of the interaction, Chuck goes on to say that if you do not follow up on what you want, you are in danger of having regrets. And his bottom line is, of course, no regrets. I'm sharing this little bit of the book with you because I really think we all need a little Project Management 101 in this new year of 2009, and we all need some Dream Management too. I have the sense that, while we have achieved some big dreams, like _______ (fill in the blank here), we are being disappointed by our failures in smaller dreams, like_______ (you know what to do). So while we all try to figure out our resolutions for 2009, let's do our homework first: What do you want to do?

Friday, December 19, 2008

vacation mode

I unloaded my last kiln a few days ago. There were some great successes and a couple of disappointments. A couple of people got emails that they will not get their piece before Christmas. I would usually be so strung out about that, absolutely crazed that someone did not get their piece of pottery by Jesus's birthday. This year I just sighed, drank a bottle of wine, and forgot about it. I had already cut a deal with god that if she let this piece come out of the kiln perfectly, I would be happy for a little while:
This is a piece that a new customer ordered about 8 weeks ago. I made two of these babies a few years back, one for myself and one for another client. They are obviously very labor intensive with a lot of small details that can go wrong. I was praying the whole time I glazed it-- the glazing alone took about 3 hours and you have to get in all of the nooks and crannies with a tiny brush. This is my bad boyfriend glaze: gorgeous and perfect when it behaves, abusive and bubbly when it's not. As you can probably tell from this image, we are all in love and happy right now.

And then Sara and I had a blow-out dinner at Wood Tavern. Her last day with me as my assistant was Wednesday, and now she's goin' to grad school. This was a gift she gave me:
I can't wait to start drinking the 20 proof sake I received from one of my loyal customers with this set. Man, I'm talking about drinking a lot on this post. Sara and I drank a lot too at Wood Tavern, as we both have a love for the red wine. I will really miss her. Everyone needs an assistant who kicks their ass as much as mine did, gives you that skeptical look as you are trying to bullshit your way through a problem, or totally ignores you as you are having a hissy fit with the tape gun. But she's going on to bigger and better challenges, and I'm excited for her.

And finally, I as tagged by two people recently. I'm kind of like an old man when it comes to tagging. I'm mentally shaking my fist and yelling, "Get off my lawn you taggers!" I'm sorry, people who tagged me, I promise I will do a tagging post while I'm on vacation. I know everyone is dying to know 7 random things about me. And with that, I"m out for now!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

lessons from the land of panic

It's usually about this time of year that I start to wonder how the fuck I'm supposed to pull off this holiday thing. I will usually have a stack of orders that are half-done, open studios and shows to prepare for, emails and postcards to send out, studio appointments to keep with people, and stores screaming their heads off for more stuff. All of this activity is usually squeezed down into two or three weeks of frantic activity where I sleep little, eat even less, and make up for that by drinking endless cups of coffee all day and try to wind down at night with endless glasses of wine. I'm a wrung-out mess by the 24th and my husband is ready to have me locked up. Ho ho ho.

I get myself into this situation because I have a tendency to be a procrastinator when I have a lot of activity coming up. I put things off. I've noticed this about myself for years, and this tendency becomes especially troublesome when one is trying to run a successful business. I always manage to pull it off: the orders all ship on time, the studio gets cleaned up and made presentable for customers, the postcards go out, and no one gets disappointed. But it all comes at a cost to myself as I scramble.

I realize that I like to be pushed to the wall. No, I don't like it, I need it. The situation doesn't feel real until my heart is pounding with panic and my head is spinning. I love to make a long list of shit that needs to get done and then freak out as I see how much I have to do and how little time I have to do it. No one can jump into action the way I do.

I'm trying to change this, if for no other reason than I'm sick of having to spend extra money on rush shipping of supplies. This year I sat down in early November and made my list with a target date for each item. I was already running behind, I should have made this list in September, but it was better than waiting for the weekend after Thanksgiving as I usually like to do. I didn't make all of my target dates, but I came close. It helped to remind me that panic doesn't make things more real, it just things more difficult to deal with. I know a lot of artist types are procrastinators in the same way I am, and it's easy to get away with because we are artists, dammit, and we do things artistically. Sometimes chaotically. But I'm getting older, and I hope a bit smarter. I don't have energy to waste on freaking, I want to put it into my art. And I'm happy to report I haven't had a single meltdown this whole season. Now that is a Christmas miracle!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

notes from a church of shopping

I'm not much of a shopper. I love to buy beautiful clothes, pick out the perfect gift for friends and family, and get nice things for my house, but I'm not someone who shops for the simple pleasure of shopping, or as therapy. I always shop on the fly: when I happen to be out, and I see something I want, I buy it. If I know exactly what I want and where to get it, I order it online. That's it. I can no more imagine a day at the mall than I can imagine stabbing my own self in the eye.

Last year the holiday shopping season took on a whole new life for me. My shop on Etsy put me out there in the bigger shopping world than I had previously been, and I was slammed. In my Etsy shop alone, I sold 48 separate items. That, combined with my Open Studio, and normal call and walk-in sales, made it an insanely busy month. While I really enjoyed it, I was left feeling sort of beached at the end of December: exhausted, picked-over, and unable to swim another stroke. I also considered for the first time that a business that depends on those end-of-the-year sales is not a sustainable business, that it was really important for me to build up my own business to a point where Holiday Sales was a nice bump, but I didn't have to depend on it.

And more: if we've learned anything in the past couple of months, we've learned that spending and buying is what our economy is totally dependent on. No matter what is happening in the world, in our economy, we are told to buy, and to shop by the people "in charge". It bothers me. It's like we are all children who can only find comfort in things. We can be distracted by our toys, and ignore what ails the planet, and the people on it. Isn't that what the word "retail therapy" means? I listened yesterday to a wonderful and dark essay by Andrei Codrescu that totally mirrored my feelings about the religion of shopping. And I don't think I'm overstating it by calling it a religion.

As someone who makes things and depends on people buying them so I can continue to make more, I know I'm in a tricky position here. If shopping is a religion, then there can be no doubt I run one of its chapels, and I love me a large congregation, tithing on a regular basis. So what am I saying? That we should all stop buying stuff right now? Of course not. You should buy stuff, and you should buy it from me. All I want for Christmas is some more thought about what we purchase, where we purchase, and why we purchase it. More reflection about these things will probably not do much to pull us out of recession anytime soon, but maybe it could be one, tiny little baby step to making a more sustainable economy for ourselves. And if that meant that I had to lose some sales this season, I'm okay with that, because I do feel as if I'm participating in a group psychosis this time of year. And I really prefer to be psychotic on my own. What do you all think?