Canteen vases, 9 in. (23 cm) in height, slip-cast stoneware with underglazes, stains and glaze, fired to cone 5.
The Rose & The Black Bird platter, 18 in. (46 cm) in diameter,
My career as a potter started fifteen years ago, soon after I
Making a living
I sell my work through a multitude of
In 2006, I decided to start writing a blog, One Black Bird (www.oneblackbird.blogspot.com). At the time, there were only a few blogs covering the topic of ceramics, and I thought it would be fun to give people a glimpse into what was happening in my studio as well as provide a dynamic aspect to my website. Doing this was, by far, the most advantageous way to promote my work. Because of the blog, I was able to share what I do with a much broader audience than if I was only showing my work in galleries and at craft shows. It also expanded my community of fellow potters and ceramic enthusiasts, as well as people in the design world. Selling on Etsy and promoting my work via design blogs has resulted in a great amount of exposure that I may not have received otherwise, including giving my work international attention.
The Internet is a really wonderful tool for potters and artists to utilize to promote themselves and their work. However, this does not come without working at it. Managing an online shop, writing blog entries and keeping up with correspondence can take up a lot of time. I think, in today’s world, it is foolish for artists not to take advantage of the Internet. I know many potters who are not tech savvy and find it difficult to transition into the digital world, but an online presence would go a long way toward growing an audience for their work.
When I play, I prefer it not to be doing clay related activities. Already, so much of my time is spent focused on my work in some way or another. So, when I have free time, I like to spend it traveling, being outdoors, gardening, cooking (I love making my own jams!) and spending time with friends.
I do my best to stay out of debt, so often financial concerns dictate my decisions. My motto is, “If I can’t pay for it, I don’t do it.” Not being able to enter a show, afford a booth fee or to be able to buy a plane ticket to Tokyo for a show I am in are all difficult decisions I have had to make, but being this way has kept me debt free.
As most potters already know, working in the studio can be very hard on the body. I do a number of strengthening exercises daily to keep my back in order and to prevent injuries while working. I also try to rotate activities in the studio so that I don’t do any one thing for too long a period of time. I also love to run but a recent knee injury has interrupted my running regime, so I am planning to take up swimming. I have forgone health insurance for the first time in my life (another reason why I kept a secondary job for so long). Getting myself health insurance is the next item to tick off my to-do list.
I certainly don’t mind working hard, and really I am not the kind of person who expects to have things just given to me. I do believe that, sometimes, a little hunger can be quite motivating, but a lifetime of struggle to do something that provides beauty in this world is a downright shame. If I could have it my way, I would love if there were some way that professional potters, craftspeople and artists could do their work, house and feed themselves without having to forgo things like health insurance. Let’s just say, if someone walked up to me and said; “Hey, you can have a place to live and enough money for food and health care as long as you keep on making your pots,” I wouldn’t turn them down.
If I were to advise someone about pursuing a career in ceramics, the first bit would be to remain flexible yet focused. Though my work stays consistent, I find that I am constantly re-inventing myself in order to make a living with it. I do my best to keep an open mind about this. There really are a multitude of possibilities out there for one to have a career as a ceramist. Being too precious or limited in ones thinking can kill that dream. Oh, and bend at the knees-it is really important to bend at the knees!