Friday, December 12, 2014

slow ceramics

It's been an unusual holiday season for me, in that it has been remarkably slow. This has been by design. Of course I love the holiday bump and the attendant swelling of my bank account. What I don't love is the pressure cooker of holiday shopping, the timeline of trying to get handmade items to people by Christmas or Santa will explode and ruin every one's day.

I decided not to do any shows at all this year, with the exception of my own Open Studio and a pop-up I'm doing with friends. And I also decided that I would not participate in any Black Friday or Cyber Monday promotions by offering free shipping or other discounts. All those things do is create a bunch of extra work for myself, at a discount. One could argue that the value of these promotions is reaching new customers, and even though you are not making as much money per item, you are making it in bulk, which disguises the net loss.

But I oppose it on a philosophical level. Black Friday is nothing more than a media invention designed to panic people into spending money, and it has always disgusted me. I don't see why artists and makers should be participating in it when what we are offering is the very opposite of that kind of mindset. I just can't handle the dissonance of it anymore, and this is the year where I checked out. Cyber Monday, while not as gross on the face of it since it doesn't involve people getting squished to death in a Wal-Mart toy aisle, is still of the same ilk, designed to concentrate purchases on a single day to measure consumer spending.

I did have a sale on my own website, which I figured would reach my current customers and fans who keep an eye on what I do. Those are the people I want to reach, give a discount to. My customers are the ones who keep my business going all year. I don't have a business that needs bulk holiday sales to see me through the year, and I don't see why I should be selling discounted work to what usually amounts to a bunch of one-time customers.

All of this high-minded thinking has created the slowest holiday season I've ever had, which has given me moments of pause, but I feel like it's totally worth it. I've not worked any weekends, broken down into stress tears, or had unpleasant email exchanges with people who don't understand the term "made-to-order." I've been able to create an oasis of calm in my studio, to actually enjoy the season as we head toward the darkest day of the year.

And I'm creating a whole new body of work right now, and I'm completely immersed in it. The holidays are a side note to me compared to what I'm doing in the studio. The work is crazy labor intensive, taking hours and even days to produce a piece, which is the polar opposite of what I've been doing for years with running a production pottery.  It's slow ceramics, slow making, and I am loving it. The pleasure is so deep, and it's a pleasure I have not experienced in years. Because I also love selling my work-- a lot of it--I will probably figure out how to put some of these pieces into production and make them more widely available, but for now, I just want to ride this wave.