Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Tough Custom Order

I don't do custom work, except when I do. I have often vowed not to take any more orders, because, in my experience, no matter how well someone describes what they want, even if what they want is well within my style, since I can't see inside their heads, the finished product is never quite what they had in mind. So even if the transaction proceeds, I am left feeling like I have let someone down.

As occasionally happens, I felt this order was different. A woman contacted me through a friend who had told her I sometimes make urns for a local veterinarian who specializes in cats. She had recently lost a beloved cat, one of a pair of littermates, and she was wanting a special container to hold the ashes, all she has left of her dear companion. I myself lost first one, then the other, of a pair of littermates who had been my loving friends since my college days; and then shortly after that, I lost Waldo, a beautiful, mysterious cat who came to live with us. I deeply understood this woman's grief. I accepted her order for an urn with a small sculpture of her cat on it.

Of course, because it is so emotional, it is important to me to get it right; which makes it more intimidating. I struggled, and then put it off, and struggled some more, and looked at the photos she sent me of her cat, Allegro. I wanted to get it right for Allegro.

I still want to get it right, and I hope I have done; and I recognize that I might continue to try to do better forever. So: the wetwork is done.  The surface, of course, is equally important, and I will work to get the markings right. I plan to use underglaze, so I can tightly control where the colors go -- they will stay where I brush them.  

That's Step 2. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

And I Almost Missed it!

I learned via Twitter this morning this is National Clay Week. If I'd known it was coming, I'd have fired a kiln! Instead I made lidded jars, which are still not quite what I have in mind. I was trying for jaunty; the word "circus" kept coming to my mind, although I didn't want to be literal about it.

Happy National Clay Week!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Here's What I am Making Today.

I hope. I don't usually sketch first -- I just keep making variations, sort of sketching three dimensionally -- but I can't quite get what I am after. Maybe drawing it will help.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June Goal Setting

I had a wake up call this week, in the form of a voicemail from the director of Watershed, asking for a callback regarding the kilns. Tyler is my buddy and a great guy, but I managed to convince myself that he was going to tell me I wouldn't be able to use Watershed's kilns anymore. The truth turned out to be no big deal -- thye are having some work done on the facility, so will need to limit access to the kilns to summer residents and staff until that is done. But it brought home to me that I really need to move forward on rebuilding my kiln, so I can do all my firings at home, not just the bisques. I love Watershed, and I love spending time there while I fire, but it's a little untenable to remain dependent on them. Also, it just starts to feel a little -- what? amatuerish? -- to be again using someone else's kiln, no matter how awesome the folks and facilities.
So: I have one main goal for June, and that is to get started on the kiln shelter, which is the necessary precursor to the kiln rebuild. I will not come up with $4000 all at once, but once the shelter is built, I can start stashing brick, buying a hundred (or whatever) at a time.

"Make What People Want to Buy"

This is the most common advice I read online for artists. I saw it today in the Etsy forums; I see it everywhere. Not selling as well as you'd like? Change what you make to something people want more! Do market research to find out what to make!

Well - pardon my Klingon - fuck that noise. If you aren't going to be true to your aesthetic, what's the point of being an artist at all? If you just want to sell stuff and you don't care what, why not sell insurance? I know a guy making six figures doing that.
Here's how it might play out in my case: Let's say my market research informs me that in Maine, a lot of people seem to enjoy buying smooth rocks with lobsters and lighthouses painted on them. How could that translate to pottery? Why, I could make pots with lobsters and lighthouses painted on them! I'm not interested in that imagery, but I'd probably sell 'em faster than I could make 'em. Unless I didn't...because I'm not interested in it, I might not do it well. And then I'd have a bunch of pots that even I didn't like. Or, I would sell bunches of them, and I'd spend hours of the only life I get making stuff which is meaningless to me. It's a no-win.

The way I see it, part of an artist's job is trying to find the people who want to buy what you want to make. Sure, it would be easier to change what what you make, but if that's the priority, it's much easier not to be an artist at all.

Sorry for sermon.