Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Dubious Adventure of Yes

Big pot
     I love a challenge. I consider myself to be optimistic and positive, so I revel in saying "Yes!"  Lately that has taken the form of wedding registries, which I adore because it enables me to make a cohesive set.  Then I said, "Yes" to the challenge of an 18" tall vase with a 9" mouth which turned out to be much easier to type than to achieve- though I did end up with my tallest vessel yet at 12" tall and a 7" mouth.  With a tall lid it almost reaches 18".  And I said,  "Yes" to the custom tile project which has taught me patience and how to reproduce a single piece of a puzzle (when one randomly decided not to cooperate), calculating shrink rate and grouting.  
   Recently, Anthropologie contacted me about being a handmade holiday showcase artist both at their stores and online.  They wanted 460 mugs initially, which, being a 1-woman factory was not only impossible but unappealing.  It’s forced me to reevaluate my business plan (again) and my intentional lack of growth.  I generally say, "No" to galleries who want to buy my products wholesale and retail them at 50% markup, especially not my mugs.   I don't have the means to make endless product, so it doesn't really benefit me to sell more products for less money.  I do not want to mechanize my pottery, as it would lose it whole purpose of being an intentional object.  I can't really imagine hiring someone because I love the absolute control and flexibility I have over my schedule (though I did solicit the aid of fellow potters to throw for me when my MS first appeared and crippled my left hand.... but those were desperate times.... )  
Broken tiles around the edges are ones I had to replace
     My mugs are pretty much my gift to my customers (or a gateway pot, accessible to almost every budget), because they take as much time, concentration and effort as my larger platters for which I can charge more.  As a business, I want to be truly sustainable; earning a supportive income and maintaining my physical, intellectual and spiritual self while minimizing my environmental impact.  If I make a factory of myself, all joy that I hope oozes from my pottery might be squelched in the drudgery.
I don't want to make 100 imprisoned owls.  But I do want to increase my online presence, to not have to heave my poor delicate pots all over the country to hawk them in the sun.  I love selling my pottery in person, I thrive off the feedback.  But it is exhausting and time consuming.  So I am tempted to dip my toes deeper into the online marketplace; piggyback off a known brand.  Anthropologie offered me a fair deal and I feel respected in the exchange, (and I have negotiated a reasonable quantity for them to sell).
     To get in the spirit, today I painted 20 stag mugs, to see if the repetition would be productive or mind-numbing.  I found the proportions skewed over time- my stags grew a bit more Picasso-esque in their imbalance.  I've put them aside to reevaluate later.  But there was also calm in the repetition, a refining of the lines and details.  I have certainly done over 1000 octopuses and they still make me smile.  I even painted tentacles on the Otter box of my phone so I can identify it as my own.   I think I can manage this.  Feedback is certainly welcome….
Life is apparently like my Pilates class; continually seeking the balance, finding the relaxation in the work, the joy in the challenge, and when you have to say "No" and take a break.