Thursday, November 11, 2010

the freedom, the pleasure

I don't think I've mentioned lately that I've been having a nervous breakdown in the studio lately, dying of boredom. This is a perennial problem that I have to deal with, and I think I 'm only just now recognizing that it is going to continue to be a issue that comes up as long as I'm making pottery for a living. I keep thinking I have the problem beat with various fixes, but I keep falling back into the pit of despair, boredom, frustration. I was listening to a wonderful interview with Sophie Crumb, daughter of the great R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky , as she and her father promoted her new book of drawings. Though both of her parents are famous and professional artists, Sophie shrugged off the idea of having an art career, saying, "Trying to be professional takes you away from the freedom and pleasure of drawing." Boy, that hit me right in the heart as I thought about how my own career in art sometimes takes me away from the freedom and pleasure of making pottery. And I'm not the only one suffering with this problem.

Pulling the problem apart is easy, but the solution is hard. The current problem? Too much production pottery, making the same thing over and over. Now, it's true that I have Ruth helping me, and so I apply very little brain power to the actual production of the endless cupcake stands, bird vases, creamers, etc. that roll out of the studio on a weekly basis. But that stuff takes up a bunch of physical space in my studio, which in turn takes up a bunch of mental space in my head. Then there's no room for anything.

Then there is another looming issue: Ruth is leaving me. Didn't that just sound like she's breaking up with me? That's kind of how it feels. But Ruth is burned out too and needs to move on from being an assistant to doing her own thing. In this strange world we live in I'll probably end up being her assistant some day, but for now I need to find a new assistant... like now. Do I feel like looking for another assistant? Not at all. Ruth is an ideal assistant: easygoing, great at her job, and no habits that consistently get on my nerves. Easy on the eyes too, I don't know why I always end up with the cutest assistants. Even then, I'm finding that having another person in the studio when I'm there to be, well, constraining. Draining.

Part of me just wants to go kamikaze and not hire a new person, but I already know that's a short road to insanity and then making a desperate hire, who I will end up firing. Not an option. I know there is a creative solution out there for me, but my brain has shrunk so much lately from the boredom thing that I can't see it. Any ideas out there?


  1. I'm not sure if this will help but how about scheduling your new assistant in a way that you have at least one day in the studio to yourself to do non-production projects? That way you get to have the best of both situations.

    I know how it feels to get into that slump where being professional takes away from the joy of creating. I've taken to playing hooky on the stuff that needs to be done and indulging in the stuff I really love to do at least once a week so that I get to keep the love part of doing what I love

  2. I would actually like to schedule my assistant to work at night and on the weekends so it's never an issue! I've been playing a lot more hooky too under the guise of "inspiration" and I do find that it helps.

  3. Wish I lived in Cali and could offer myself as an assistant!

    I get bored pretty easily, and I guess this is why I've always shied about from production pottery. As much as I'd like pottery to be my full-time job, if I try making more than 5 of something, my brain and creativity just seems to sputter and die, and I start procrastinating. I always wished I could just get it together and have the discipline to make more salable work, though.

    Is there a way for you to designate a space in your studio for personal projects? A set of shelves or a corner where production pottery does not belong? Maybe that would help you switch gears when you get in a rut and need to make something just for you

  4. hmm... hope I didn't fuel the fire on this...

  5. I have to admit that I'm already feeling this and I still consider myself a new artist/small business owner. Yikes.
    It sounds like you need to be more "strict" with yourself and allow yourself to create more. I know, easy to say, but you are a strong-willed gal! :) Don't let the what-ifs and the people who are looking for your next thing get in the way.
    I don't know...this is a hard one Whitney.

  6. By what you said about having another person in the studio being constraining and draining, I'd definitely consider setting aside one day a week where they aren't there, as a creativity day for R&D. I know having an assistant there is always going to intrude on the creative flow with production issues/conversation.

  7. When I'm bored, I clean. I totally admit to having a little OCD, and cleaning does something good for my brain. I especially like the part about throwing out all the collected tidbits where I once told myself "I might need that" but eventually realized I don't. When my work surfaces are de-cluttered and sponged down, my head feels clear and I feel like working again. I know, I'm weird! But hey, potters are weird.

  8. I know that worn out "I've just made 10 million pots" feeling. You have to give yourself a project...a creative, possibly financially reckless one! I've been collaborating with a jeweller this year and it's been great for inspiration. If not for my wallet.