Sunday, February 07, 2010

making ceramics your j-o-b

I promised to write more about each of the five points I made about making pottery a business. I'm going to write today about #3- Realize that when you make pottery for a living, you are sacrificing a part of yourself for money. Because of the nature of my job-- making pottery--A lot of people think I spend all day just having fun. That is the fantasy of a working artist's life, and sometimes I like to make fun of that idea. I do have a "dream job," and the reason why I chose this path in life is because I really hate imposed routine, which is what a regular job working for somebody else usually entails. I like showing up at the studio when it suits my routine. I like to take long lunches with friends on a regular basis. I like being the only one to tell me what to do. I like to take 4 weeks off at a time. I spent the first part of my life being tortured by public school, and I couldn't wait to get out and live a life according to the way I wanted to live it.

Despite the perks, taking an art that I am good at and using it as a means to make a living means sacrifice. Part of that sacrifice means that I do not go into my studio on my days off and make pottery for fun. I've tried that, and all it does is burn me out and crowd my studio with more pottery I have to sell, or with pottery I can't sell because it is too expensive or doesn't fit with my current collection and therefore only interests a few people. It is very important to understand that when you make ceramics-- or any other art-- your regular day job, you are going to lose a segment of your passion for that art. That doesn't mean you are no longer passionate about your art, it just means that you are married to it. Being married means that you no longer get weak-kneed every time you see your beloved. It means a deep love that requires attention and persistence to keep the interest alive.

When I was first really starting to make maybe a half-time living, I remember chatting with Nancy Adams and Ross Spangler, both nationally recognized and established ceramic artists. I was gushing about how I liked to get up at 6 in the morning and work before going to my job and then heading straight back to the studio when I got home. Both Nancy and Ross said, "Aaaah, remember when we cared that much? The good old days!" I thought they were being condescending and crusty old buggers. But now I understand that it's not that you lose the passion or motivation to make work, but it still is a job. A job you may have to do even when the inspiration is not there.

And that's the rub right there. It's taken me 10 years to figure out that putting all of my creativity into one thing-- pottery-- has drained me. Pouring all of my creative juice into pottery has made me a less creative person, because cognitively my brain thinks that all creative ideas need to go to clay. Yes, I'm a brain researcher and I figured that out all by myself. Now, I'm working on fixing that: less time in the studio, more time pursuing my other artistic dreams. I'm taking a memoir writing class with an author and expect to be working regularly on my writing. I'm going to take a paper cut class, I looooooove paper cut. I want to teach workshops to help people figure out how to run with Etsy. While my head is being turned by other hot creative pursuits, pottery is popping up with new ideas, making itself more attractive to keep me interested and coming back.

So this is the bottom line advice: know what you are sacrificing when your hobby becomes your job. To establish yourself takes years of dedicated pursuit and a certain self-imposed insanity. Hedge your internal stability by making time for the other things that fire up your juices, whatever that is. Your relationship with your art is a long-term commitment, so don't going ruining it by spending every single second with it.