Wednesday, November 04, 2009

hiring the help

I had a new intern start yesterday, a high school student obsessed with clay. Next week, I have another person starting as an assistant who I've been wooing since the summertime. She's coming from another studio so she has experience, a quality that is difficult to find. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but it seems that the under staffing problem I've been having since the beginning of the year since losing Sara to grad school may be coming to an end. And not a moment too soon.

You've may have heard me talk before about the importance of having help in the studio when you are always under the gun meeting orders. I've had people helping me in the studio since about 2004, and my life is better and more sane because of it. Some people, who shall go unnamed, and who really really need the help, have yet to take this step. There are several reasons for this: 1) some artists don't want to take the time away from their work to train new assistants. 2) some artists don't want other people messing with their work and changing its character, or worse, damaging it. 3) some artists think they can't afford the help. 4) some artists just don't want other bodies in the studio, making noise while they breathe, and changing up the dynamic.

I get all of these reasons. A lot if these fears can be overcome by finding the right person to work for you in the first place. I have always been extremely lucky in having really talented people work for me, individuals who can fit into my flow smoothly and pick up the work quickly. Each assistant I've hired has been better than the last. This year I had my first exception. I made a really bad hire. All of my instincts told me this person would not be a good fit, and I hired them anyway because the first person I hired totally flaked, and I was desperate. My studio can actually no longer function without extra hands, and the flaker put me right up against my deadlines, so I went ahead and hired someone who promptly drove me crazy. Not only because they simply could not handle the fast pace of a production environment and do the work in the way I wanted it done, but because of personal habits, like walking really really slowly. And dragging their feet while they did it. After about 8 weeks, I fired them. And vowed to never again hire anyone I had doubts about.

Finding the right person is more difficult than any of the reasons for not hiring someone in the first place. Unfortunately, suddenly putting the word out that you are hiring does not usually bring a flock of qualified applicants. My technique over the years has been to keep my eye out for people constantly, even if I'm currently all set. All of my friends know I hire help, so sometimes people will send me their nieces or random people they meet in workshops. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, but staying open to the possibilities of new hires keeps a fairly steady flow. And I can't wait for my new person to start!