Just the Facts
Mid-range Grolleg porcelain
Primary forming method
Favorite decorating method
Primary firing method
My studio is the main perk associated with my position as visiting artist in the ceramics program at the University of Louisville. The setting is urban and industrial, with the constant rumble of planes landing and trains passing by. I have a large private space (10 × 27 feet) that opens into the main ceramics studio classroom. It is nicely equipped with an air compressor jack, hood vent, sink, and shelves. I use the same kilns that are used for student work, so I must work with the ebb and flow of the semester and student demand for kiln usage.
Teaching and making work can get scrambled together, and I often find myself in conversations and impromptu demos that can last hours. It’s nice, but it makes it hard to get things done at times. Headphones are a good idea but don’t always work. That said, I love working within a community setting. If I spent as much time as I do in a completely private location, I would become an absolute recluse. This way, I get the bulk of my human interaction mixed in with the long studio hours I put in. Of course, not having to pay rent is pretty nice, too.
paying dues (and bills)
Day job: I am now in my second year of teaching part time while making work full time. I hope to eventually become a full-time professor. I’m not quite there yet, but that’s what I’m working toward.
Ceramic training: I first threw on the wheel when I was 14 years old at the very well equipped Verona Area High School just outside Madison, Wisconsin. After I graduated, I went for my BFA at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, which took me 6 years to complete. In 2008, I received my MFA at Indiana University in Bloomington. During the summer, when making work is my only responsibility, I spend about 55 hours a week in the studio. During the school year, it drops to about 30 hours a week. There is a constant 15 hours per week of paperwork/promotion/photography/shipping in addition to that.
I couldn’t accurately be described as physically fit; however, I do try to sneak in a hike whenever I can and find that it helps in a number of ways, especially in relieving stress. I address the physical demands of making art by varying my studio routine. I never do the same part of the process for more than a couple hours in a day. I jump between throwing, trimming, glazing, and assembling constantly to avoid repetitive stress injuries. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands, so I must be very careful about that or I’m out of commission for a week or more.
I basically had to make the choice between having health insurance and following my dreams. I can’t have both at this point. My adjunct teaching positions do not come with health insurance, but are necessary in gaining the experience needed to become a full-time professor. They also don’t pay nearly enough for me to afford to buy an individual health care plan. I’m between a rock and a hard place; that’s just my reality for the next couple of years. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, descending staircases with caution, and driving defensively.
I like Kurt Vonnegut novels, Sculpture magazine, and Ceramic Review (in addition to Ceramics Monthly, of course), but sadly, I almost never get the time to read them or anything else.
I occasionally discard all work in progress and take a vacation. I really like to go camping or visit friends from my past who are now spread out all over the country. Once I realize I’m in a rut, I try to get away from the studio for at least a week. When my hands start itching to make work again, the new ideas just flow.
Most of my work is sold directly. About 80% of my work is sold through Etsy.com, in person, and through email commissions on my website. Various solo, two-person, and invitational group shows make up the other 20%.
I am a practitioner of social media cross-promotion, which is essentially the act of promoting promotion tools. I use my twitter account to promote my blog, store, and facebook fan page. I use each of these venues to promote each other venue. Once someone has stumbled across my work, there are hours of content to explore, and many ways to get to know me in a casual, Internet sort of way. Making strong, accurate images of my work is instrumental to this approach.
I say yes to almost every opportunity that comes my way, as long as I’m certain it isn’t some sort of scam. That seems to be doing the trick for now.
The small online successes seem to build upon one another to become one big success. The more websites that reference or feature my work, the more attention it gets from other websites. I would attribute many of the shows I have been invited to, jobs I have gotten, and even this Ceramics Monthly studio visit at least in part to the growing online presence I have been cultivating over the last year and a half.
I am occasionally haunted by my past in the form of my very first, very embarrassing, geocities webpage popping up in the google searches. It will only vanish if traffic to it stops. Lesson learned: everything you put out in cyberspace will remain there indefinitely, so keep the filter on at all times!
most valuable lessons
I am astounded at the volume of work that must be made and sold to make a living. I truly had no idea what that looked like before I tried it. It continues to terrify me. On the plus side, when you make that much work, you get really good at it.
Jeffcampana.com facebook.com/JeffCampanaCeramics twitter.com/JeffCampana
campanaceramics.etsy.com 1000markets.com/users/jeffcampanaceramics akardesign.com