Sometimes someone else's thinking is so unlike your own that it throws you for a moment.
I have been working on this Kickstarter campaign ("Oh, what's that, Lori? You have a Kickstarter project? You should have said something! " said absolutely nobody at all.) While remaining optimistic, I have been prepared for the possibility that it will not reach its funding goal, and therefore fail, Kickstarter being an all-or-nothing deal. Since the project - to convert all my ^10 reduction soda glazes to ^6 reduction soda, hopefully seamlessly - is a really good idea, I plan to make it happen one way or another; which means thinking about how I will fund all those unprofitable test firings and glaze ingredients. How exactly that will happen is not what I am here to write about today.
Instead, my mind got hung up on something a friend (let's call him Mr. Business Guy) said to me when I mentioned this to him. He shook his head vehemently and said, "No. Work without a net. If you build yourself a backdoor, you won't push as hard; you won't try every possible avenue, call in every favor, take every reasonable action to make it happen."
This struck me at first as sort of nuts; my approach has ever been to always, always have a back-up plan. Why deliberately allow your options to be only either full success or absolute failure? He really is better at business than I am, though, which shows in our circumstances, so I was not inclined to dismiss this advice out of hand. Was Mr. Business Guy right? Do my Plans B hold me back? I think of the years I worked part time at an office job, unable to commit fully to the world of conventional work or to my true calling. Should I have made the leap years before, and let my terror of being homeless provide the impetus to success?
Maybe, if money was the sole bottom line. This is often how I come down on issues regarding business practices for artists. If would be so much easier if all we wanted was to make money. Easier, but so much duller. We serve dual bottom lines: money, as in, enough to live on; and our aesthetic: that which makes us artists in the first place. Having no financial plan b might have pushed me harder to sell pots; and it might have forced me to sacrifice the aesthetic bottom line.
The campaign is at 71% funding, with 10 days to go. There is reason to be optimistic, so maybe all this fretting over Plan B will be unnecessary. However, more generally, as an approach to business, to life, to accomplishing anything, I'm still on Team Back-up Plan.
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.