I really like repetitive making in order to progress and grow in my work, but there are times when it is nice to just ask “what if?” and go off on a tangent and really push a piece around.

I really like repetitive making in order to progress and grow in my work, but there are times when it is nice to just ask “what if?” and go off on a tangent and really push a piece around.

I may have said before in this column that I really like my job. I think I also may have mentioned that I had considered being a potter for a living at one point (all the way up until I actually tried it for a few years). I rapidly proved to myself that running a business all by myself did not really jive with my temperament. Now, I’m not sure that would still be true, but it matters very little since (as you’ll recall) I really like my current job. When I was operating my own studio business once upon a time, I did at least cover bills and break even on overhead, but I always seemed to be grasping at an elusive business plan or staggering through marketing efforts like I was lost—which I now see that I was. But if, at the time, I would have been able to read Mea Rhee’s “Hourly Earnings Project”—which you’ll find on page 46, and in which she walks through the steps she took to calculate her earnings—it may have been just the right nudge to conduct the same analysis in my own studio. At the very least, I think it is a great example of what’s possible, and how to fill in a few of the gaps many of us seem to have in the area of business knowledge.

I’ve also learned that I tend to work better in a team than I do by myself, and it goes part of the way toward explaining why the solitary life of a potter started to lose it’s luster a bit. I think that also speaks to at least one of the reasons I enjoy working at CM; there is a great team of clay folks on staff who care about clay and the magazine as much as I do. However, if I had read the accounts from Emily Free Wilson and the Free Ceramics team on how they organize their family pottery business, it possible that I may have come up with a team model myself that could have worked for me. All water under the bridge, to be sure, but we all question from time to time, don’t we? I mean, asking “what if?” is almost the one single thing required of all creative endeavors. It’s like thinking about winning the lottery—except without the prospect of all that pesky money.

We also do a lot of thinking about and talking about the romantic side of being a potter—even those of us who are professional potters must reflect from time to time on how their days just don’t seem to reflect that same rosy story that was the original motivation for working in clay. And I used to think that things like business plans and market analysis were not as important to the profession of making pots as they were to, say, the making of carpet squares. But there are several working potters in this issue, in addition to Rhee and Free Wilson, who prove that assumption wrong in just as many ways. You can do what many (perhaps most) potters do, which is to simply dive in, start making work, and figure out how to sell it as you go. The other potters included in this issue (Ryan Greenheck, Woody Hughes, Michael Kline, and Fritz Rossman) have all found their own version of what works for them. It can be a long way to success, but as so many of us have learned time and again, there is rarely a short way that is as enjoyable as the long way.

—Sherman Hall

 

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