Tuesday, April 13, 2010

you thought I made pottery? silly you.

Lately, I've been feeling like a squirrel with ADD. I have so many tasks to deal with every day, I can only focus my attention on any one thing for a few minutes before my concentration is broken by another task pulling at me. This is slowly driving me absolutely crazy. I think most artists like to have long periods of uninterrupted time. I remember back in the day, before I got all "successful" that my days were nothing but long periods of unbroken concentration. I'm starting to think that's how I became so successful in the first place. Brain power, baby. Back then I would get so irritated with anything or anyone that got in between me and my pottery. Now, I can't allow myself to get irritated like that because then I would walk around in a constant state of irritation.

This is what my Tuesday morning looked like this week:
  • get up and run to the studio at 8 am to unload the kiln and see what survived.
  • run home, make ship tags for survivors, write "thank you" notes to customers (on this day, that was 9 notes) finish up editing my monthly newsletter and send to 1,000 people, and list a few things on Etsy. Oh, and answer about 8 emails.
  • run back to the studio by 10 to meet with my assistant, Ruth. Ruth starts bubbling orders while I match the tags with the items. We can't box them because I'm totally out of boxes and we're waiting for a delivery from Uline.
  • Right when Ruth finishes at 11, Uline arrives with boxes. Ruth moves on to glazing while I put away boxes and then box orders.
  • Finish at 11:30, pull dogwood flowers from the mold and clean those for 30 minutes.
  • At noon, wedge up some clay and thrown for an hour.
  • At 1, the high school intern arrives. Spend 20 minutes with her getting her task lined up and organized. Then, I leave for lunch.
That's kind of a typical morning. That day I actually didn't go back to the studio until the intern left at 4 so I could have some time to just throw with no one around me. And that's the crux of the problem right there: I can't run my business without people helping me. But the more people who are around, the less time I have to focus on what I want to make because I have to manage people. Managing people well takes a lot of time and attention, and I have to be available to the people who work for me so they can do a good job. I'm always telling my busy artist friends to hire help so they can get more done, but more and more I see how having assistants is really a double-edged sword.

I've been not doing so well mentally for the past couple of months, and I'm just now starting to grasp that it's connected to the problem of broken concentration. This kind of short task mode is great for pumping out production, which is what I've been stuck doing because I've been shorthanded, but not great for making new work, or art. And that's the stuff that keeps me happy and jazzed about pottery. I've just hired another set of hands to help with production, and I'm really hoping that with her help, I will be back on the path to mental stability. Soon. I would like to know what you all do to give yourselves that long, luxurious period of focused attention to your work, especially when you have things like kids, assistants, or another job.

Monday, April 05, 2010

myth of the lone artist

This is my last installment on five things that I think artists need in order to run a successful art-based business. If you haven't read the five things yet, read them right here. Today I'm writing about point #4: the importance of building a support network of colleagues.

My friends love to laugh at me when I say that deep down, I'm kinda shy. When I was a kid, I could only manage one friend at a time, and that didn't change until I became a teenager and more comfortable with myself in groups of people. What I discovered as a teenager is that having good friends who are going through what you are going through can get you through anything, including being a teenager.

A lot of people rely on their families for support-- spouse, siblings, parents-- and I think families are good for a certain kind of support, the unconditional "you-are-so-talented-everything-you-make-is-beautiful" kind. And that's great, we all need some of that. But colleagues who share your field understand on a deeper level what you are experiencing, and can give you more specific support. This is essential in order to not lose your freaking mind when you are trying to run your art-based business.

Forget the myth of the lone artist. The truth is, we all need lots of support from various sources on a steady and ongoing basis. Every artist should have a go-to person for:
That's just the beginning. All of the issues above are problems you have probably already had and will have again. My husband will usually offer a hug, and when things are really bad, a stiff cocktail. He's like a general practitioner. My colleagues, however, are specialists. They usually know exactly what remedy is needed. And talking to someone who knows exactly what you are going through is a huge comfort. Most things cannot be solved instantly, but being put back on the right path can bring much needed relief from the nasty voices in your head, telling you what a screw-up and failure you are.

If you don't have a network in place already, get it in place. When I moved to the Bay Area, I started an art group of people who wanted to become professional artists, and I made great connections that way. If a shy person like me can do that, you can too.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

a tiny slice of life

I'm interrupting my series of articles on running an art-based business for a little shameless self-promotion. Regina Connell writes a blog called "A Handful of Salt" and she came to my studio a couple of weeks ago to write a profile on me. I'm usually a little leery of in-person interviews because I always feel the way I'm portrayed has little to do with who I actually am. But I'm such an attention whore that I never say "no" to interviews, and I thought Regina did a wonderful job in capturing a version of me that I actually identify with. And she took interesting pictures of my dusty, dusty pots. Though I forgot to tell her she should only publish pictures of me that make me look totally hot. Oh, well. I have to admit it looks just like me.

I'm working on my last article right now, so stay tuned, it will be up in the next few days!