Saturday, March 20, 2010

get a mentor

I'm getting close to finishing up my series of postings on making pottery-- or any art-- your business. If you haven't read my five brilliant points yet, read them right here. Today I'm writing about point #1: get a mentor.

I put mentoring as #1 because in my case, having a mentor was vital toward establishing my pottery business. My whole life, I wanted to be an artist as a profession. No other profession remotely appealed to me as much as being an artist. But that goal always seemed very fuzzy and vague. After all, there is not a clear road toward becoming a professional artist. If you want to be a doctor, one knows exactly what to do. But to be an artist is in a completely different realm, and the path toward becoming an artist reflects the difficulty in being an artist. One must fashion it for oneself, which requires creativity, drive, vision, and desire.

Having a mentor is one of the things you can do to help yourself see that path wending through the woods. Your mentor should be somebody who has achieved a level of success in their field that you are trying to achieve. And remember, you will have lots of mentors over the years, so don't get stuck on trying to choose the perfect person. You may outgrown a mentor or even surpass them. Your goals may change. Your life may change.

So, how does one find a mentor? In my case, I worked for a woman for several years who was a successful ceramic artist. There was no formal agreement that she was my mentor, and I didn't think of her that way, she was simply my boss. But while I worked for her, I was absorbing all of her success and learning how she ran her little business, which taught me more in two years than I ever could have learned anywhere else.

Finding someone to work for is probably the easiest way to learn from a mentor. Look around your area, and find the people whose success you want to emulate. Work for them for free, if you can. I never told my boss this, but I would have totally worked for her for free even though I was a poor college student and needed money. If you can't work for someone else or can't find someone in your area, then get online. Look through your network and find someone through your connections. Make the connection if you don't have one.

Basically, if you want a mentor, you have to go out and get one. And yes, it means getting out there and pushing past your comfort boundaries. You may get rejected, not everyone is interested in guiding others. It may take you a little while to find the right person who can give you the help you need. Help yourself find the right person by making a list of what you would like to get out of a mentor relationship. Some things might be:
  • advice on applying to the right shows.
  • honest feedback on your work.
  • help in meeting the "right" people in your field.
Does anyone else have advice on finding a mentor, or are you interested in being a mentor? Post here so someone can find you!