Monday, November 19, 2012

No Worries / Silencing the Inner Critic

I hope my last post didn't come off as negative! I was actually feeling pretty good, in the way that a moment of clarity can make you feel, even if the conclusion you reach isn't the one you hoped for.

I didn't mean to be mysterious or foreboding about my upcoming change; all I've decided - although it still seems like a pretty big deal in my head - is that I am not charging NEARLY enough, not nearly. In the new year I will be increasing prices for most items by 40 - 100%. Maybe more, I need to do some math to come up with the actual numbers.This is intimidating for a couple of reasons, one internal and one external. Externally, it will probably mean connecting with all new vendors: I don't know if any of the stores currently carrying my work can sell the price points that I am talking about. I have a list in my head of higher-end outlets to approach, and will need to assemble a set of images and sample pieces that represent the body of work well. That's a bunch of work but -hey!- it's no harder than what I've been doing. (As an aside, if you have been considering a piece listed on the website, now would be an excellent time to grab that, before the new prices kick in.) The larger obstacle is internal.

Maybe it's my New England upbringing, but I have a naysaying voice in my head constantly muttering, "Who do you think you are? $250 for a teapot, I guess you think you're really something!" And so on. Just choosing to be an artist at all means pushing back on that voice, but I haven't yet learned not to tag on the disclaimer, to apologize for anything that might appear as prideful - such as charging a sustainable price for my work.

I can make a reasonable number of things without any pain. I can fill the kiln once a month, even if I throw every piece in it. That's what I want to do: I want to make fewer things, spend more time on each one, and get a better price for them. Here's what I don't want to do: contrive more and more ways to make more pots in less time, just so I can sell them for price that a thrifty Yankee would deem a bargain. I look at potters I admire: Adero Willard. Kristen Kieffer. Jeffery Lipton. Jennifer Mecca. Joy Tanner. These folks aren't apologizing for charging for their work and skill. Oh, but now the inner critic is howling: I dared mention myself in the same paragraph as this illustrious company. Maybe someday you'll be good enough to deserve a living wage, she says. But I doubt it.

Shut up, bitch.

Someday is today (well, technically, "someday" is January 1). Yeah, I know I'm not Kristen Keiffer or Joy Tanner, and I don't have to be self-loathing to be acknowledge that, but - dare I say it? - I'm a pretty good potter. It's time I started treating myself like a professional. I have to, because the other choice is not to be a potter at all.

Not that that option is even in the running.


Marian Williams said...

I agree....If you don't think you pottery is worth more, no one else will either. If it is worth nothing, people will pay nothing. And so what if you take it home, you've got storage. I hope I take my own advice on this for the sale this weekend!!!!

Barbara Rogers said...

Good for you to come to that conclusion. You know the quality of your work. I'm so glad that you are taking this step. Whenever those little doubting voices speak up, tell them where to go. I just did the opposite to clear out some inventory. But I didn't give away anything that I had a really high value on. I'm an artisan. So are you!

Unknown said...

Way to step into yourself!! I admire your willingness to be brave and ignore the inner critic. Apparently your critic knows my critic very well ;) I'm not at the place you are (yet?)but take solace that everyone struggles with taking these steps.
You GO!!!!

- Cindy - said...

Yep, this is exactly where I was hoping you were going with this. Good for you! I think even the potters you mentioned have struggled with this. Every artist I know has...

Maybe my comment on your last post I made it sound like it was a given, but then I just had someone say to me recently while I was hemming and hawing over pricing my own work, "Well then charge X! And don't apologize for it!". I didn't even realize I'd started slipping into thrify yankee mode...

We're all thrify yankees who have been told how useless art is our whole lives... and I already talked about the potter-martyrs here in the USA who think it's their duty to undercharge. It's not easy to break from that kind of conditioning.

This makes me think of one of the big differences between working in a community studio and working on your own. I had someone else say that to me at the studio, but you need that inner voice to say those things since you're working on your own. It's admirable that you can do that!

Lori Watts said...

Cindy - "Potter-martyrs," heh-heh. I'm gonna use that, because it sounds exactly right: as if the purity of our commitment to craft is sullied if we can afford to buy the name-brand ketchup once in a while.

- Cindy - said...

That's fine as long as I can use the quote "as if the purity of our commitment to craft is sullied if we can afford to buy the name-brand ketchup once in a while". :) That's hilariously on target.