Wednesday, April 22, 2015

is this thing on?

Life has been strange, and strangely wonderful lately. First, I'm just gonna put something kinda uncomfortable out there. It may wreck your image of me as a highly successful potter. This year --so far--has been the very worst year for sales... ever, I think. I mean, in the 15 year history of my business. This month especially, April, has been the deadest month I've had in years.

I don't really want to go into it, I'm just mentioning this as a way to communicate my state of affairs. In a weird way I am grateful that things are slow, because it's giving me the freedom and the time to work on my new pieces, make some custom orders, and put time into other creative projects that I have going. I also think when my assistant left last year to move to Hawaii and I did not replace her, I was signaling to the Universe that I desire a change of pace. I feel like it's a transition time, for me, for my career-- if that's what it's called-- and that transitions are by nature temporary, challenging, uncomfortable, and what I'm feeling -- like I'm walking on a very high tightrope in a stiff breeze-- is normal and natural.

But goddammit, every once in a while I fucking freak out. I mean what the fuck?! Am I here? Am I alive? Is the internet working?! Is this thing on?!!!

I've been working out all kinds of strategies to deal with the anxiety. I'm doing yoga and meditating every single day, trying to overlay the chaos with a sheen of sanity. Ultimately I know that even if it's not temporary, this is somehow the new normal, being a wreck is not going to make it better. Being a wreck will make it harder and also make my husband miserable. He hates dealing with me when I'm a wreck.

I was having a small moment last week where I was feeling alone and adrift. Very quickly I wrote down some goals for the week, something to focus on and stay engaged rather than feel sorry for myself. I wanted to share them with you because I think these are all good goals to keep in mind if you are circling the drain:

  • Connect: with a stranger and with a friend. Write an email to someone you admire and tell them they are amazing. Even better, send them a postcard. I did both last week and it made me feel good. I also took the time to connect with a couple of friends who I've been out of touch with for too long.
  • Promote: something easy and something hard. The goal here was to get myself out of my comfort zone a bit when it comes to promoting. I can do my usual thing, but what about reaching out to a store, or to another artist and suggesting a collaboration, or submitting a story to a blog/website? This is hard for me, because I prefer to have people chase after me, but it gave me something to work on and feel like I was planting a seed or two. 
  • Finish: the thing you've dreaded and the thing you haven't made time for. We all know what that is in our lives. Get it done. You'll feel better.
  • Do: something for yourself and something for someone else. Taking care of oneself is the kindest thing any of us can do, and doing something for someone else is the next kindest. Make someone else's day while making sure you are taking care of yourself too.
And here, for your enjoyment, are some pictures of my some work that came out of the kiln last week. Yes, it's for sale, you can buy it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


I am often asked where I get my inspiration for my work, or how I get myself inspired.

Every once in a while inspiration is just delivered to me like a divine gift. A completed piece will show up in my head that I immediately understand and have the wherewithal to go ahead and make, but those times are very rare. It is magical, and I can't depend on it.

I think there is an assumption that art gets made through this kind of inspiration almost 100% of the time, that's how it "should" be. It helps feed the image of the artist as a special and mystical being, an image that I admit I can kind of enjoy, but ultimately it's just dress-up. It's not real.

The inspiration question I am never good at answering, because I get the feeling that people want a formula, or a step-by-step set of guidelines on how to pull ideas out of the ether and render them into creativity, and I don't have a formula. I mostly just do my work and hope. I think the reward for work is inspiration. And the reward for inspiration is work. It's a continual feedback loop. But all kinds of things will interrupt this loop, and that's just the reality of living in an annoying and imperfect world.

The best I can do is look for the beauty in all things. This is a habit for me, I try to find it everywhere.  Since I live in a crowded, polluted, overtaxed city environment, I have had to expand my definition of beauty. In hillsides covered will oil storage tanks. In broken down industrial lots with a small patches of flowering weeds. In the peeling paint on the sides of buildings. In the remote and withdrawn faces of strangers. Finding beauty means withdrawing judgement, and letting go of other people's definition of beauty. And as creative people, that is the first thing we all need to do.