Sunday, June 30, 2019

dreamy fun time

Things are suddenly very stacked up at the studio. Literally. Pots are stacked on top of each other because I ran out of shelf space. I have enough time to do one more round of work for the Clay and Glass Festival. And when I say "enough time" I mean I will be unloading a hot kiln load of work into a bin and throwing it into my car and driving directly to the show. That's how we do it around here.

I've been kind of amazing myself with how much work I have finished in the past few weeks. I always work better under pressure, which is good, because that's where I usually find myself with pottery deadlines.

 And there is a very good reason for that. When I have time, and I'm feeling all expansive, I usually use it to fuck around. I'll stare at pieces for 20 minutes, thinking about what to do with it. I'll gather some underglaze colors, then put them away and grab some different ones. I'll make some sketches. I'll gaze at my inspiration board for some... inspiration (almost never works, I don't know why I bother). I'll make some tea. Then lunch. Then more tea.

This is the dreamy artist life I've always wanted, but not a lot gets done during these periods and that doesn't always feel good. More work = more money. Dreamy fun time = no money. But I have to do dreamy fun time to be able to pull off the more work time. All the ideas I've been playing with this year, the new motifs, markings, styles, colors, is now getting fire hosed onto my newest work in a highly efficient way. I don't have time for thinking, for considering, for wondering what this particular bowl really wants to have for decoration and what is its highest expression. It's all stored up in my brain and I'm just doing the work. No blah blah blah, what should I do next.

It doesn't last though. I filled up my well and now I'm draining it, that's how it works. The hard part is not filling it up again, it's remembering to fill it up again. I'll tap it out and then wonder why nothing is coming when I turn on the tap. I start getting frustrated, and then depressed: it's all over for me, I'm all washed up. You have no idea how many times I've had that thought and imagined it was for real. I'll keep riding my little horsey until we both fall into a ditch, and it's only then that I' realize I forgot to feed it.

Dreamy fun time seems like an indulgence, but it's actually a necessity when you make a living off of ideas. This is why my trips to museums are written off as business expenses. Also, acrylic paint and canvas.  And coastal hikes. Dreamy fun time is actually a necessity for anyone who works, period. But we don't live in a culture that supports that idea at all.  It's seen as a privilege for privileged people only, and we buy that crap, which is why I "forget" and tap myself out. This time, I'm making a plan. What's yours?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

how high is too high?

I've been in the zone with pottery making lately. I'm getting ready for the Clay and Glass Festival in July, and every year it's a big push in May and June to get enough work made for the show. Every year I have the same goal: sell $10,000 worth of work. And every year I sell about $5,000.

There seems to be a ceiling, and part of that is because I don't even bring enough work to sell $10,000. By Sunday morning, my booth still has plenty of work, but the discerning eye can see the holes. I'm a master merchandiser, if I do say so myself, but even I can't hide the fact that every small and medium bowl is gone or there are only giant vases left.  This year, I'm not fucking around. I'm cranking out work. There will be enough to sell $10,000 worth. I think.

Or, maybe I don't make my magical $10,000 goal because my prices are not high enough. This thought has been an annoying buzz in my brain lately.

I had a very uncomfortable moment with pricing a couple of weeks ago. A request came in for a custom item, an item I don't normally make, with a specific design on it. I wrote the person back, telling them I can make this thing, but giving them a heads up that it's going to be expensive. They came to the studio and we worked out what they wanted, and even though I had told myself ahead of time that I would not give them a quote at the studio, but give myself time to think about it so I could come up with the appropriately outrageous number, I ended up dropping a number right then and there. I don't know why, which is a question I will be exploring with my internal therapist.

The customer was fine with that number, and then said that they thought it would be twice that. And they had been prepared for twice that. What I would like to know is why I was not prepared for twice that.

That incident coupled with the upcoming show and the question of my prices has me pondering a couple of things. First, what is the ceiling on pottery pricing for me personally and is influencing that cap? I wonder if I were a man, and asking for 15% more, would I get it? The answer to that question is "yes".  Then I start wondering if I need to present myself in a slightly different way to get higher prices. Because it's not just about the work. It never is.

And I have never been one to under price my work. From the start I've always asked for more, and part of that came from working for Sandi Dihl, and seeing how she priced her work. She always pushed prices higher. But I have been doing this for 20 years now--whaaaaat?!-- and I feel like I have plateaued on price. There are a host of reasons for that, including competition, the global economy, patriarchy, capitalism, blah blah blah, but I wonder about minute personal factors that are influencing my prices, and what I can do to change that up. These are not questions I enjoy pondering. But I think I would be a fool not to.

Back to the customer in my studio who is feeling relieved and surprised that they just saved $500. We talked about the price more, and we came to a price that would split the difference between what I just quoted and what they expected. I was transparent and honest in telling them that I don't always value my own work, which I hate admitting. It makes me mad at myself. But I realized in that moment that if we didn't balance the price between us, I was going to resent the hell out of that order, which would mean I would end up having to make it several times because the first one cracked in half, and the second one exploded in the kiln. That's how pottery works. It often expresses my internal conflicts, which forces me to reckon with myself. And that's why I'm an ARTIST! *confetti falls from the heavens, god smiles*

Here is a picture of some of what I made last week. I had to move work-in-progress onto my studio display shelves, because my ware carts were all filled up.