Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hi, I'm Lori, Your Friendly Neighborhood Potter

After ditching the Nazi-infested social media site formerly known as twitter, like a lot of folks, I searched for a new text-based app to take its place. I tried a few & settled on Threads, an imperfect but passable substitute - the main thing it has to recommend it over similar sites is the level of activity. 

I find myself in the art-entrepreneur corner of Threads, where there's an ongoing conversation about making and selling art while maintaining your vision, your sanity, and the roof over your head. The differences in priorities, the different strategies...I find it all fascinating. Since a lot of what I have written about here for the past tumpty-ump years is about the business of art, and my clay & business journey, I wanted to introduce myself to my new friends on Threads. 

I've been a potter since before some of you were born - took my first class in 1987. I've worked production & had various non-pottery jobs over the years but since 2011, it's been all clay, all the time. I teach classes Portland Pottery for some of my income, and the rest is selling soda-fired ware. 

I want to say that I know that I am lucky, in more ways than I can count. I am able-bodied (so far!) & have never felt any urge to have children. To some people that might sound distinctly unlucky, but if I had wanted children, I'm not sure I could have chosen clay as a profession. Especially in the early years - which would have coincided with my childbearing years - the income stream was too unreliable. When I only had myself  - & later my husband - to consider, a rice-&-eggs month was no big deal. Oh, what's that, we're out of oil? The wholesale check should be arriving tomorrow, turn on the space heater & put on a sweater! No big, we could ride out any calamity, at least of the financial kind. If there I'd been responsible for a child, it would have been a different story. & there were a few sticky spots like that!  

Another way that I've been lucky is I bought my place before prices went insane. Granted I was willing - 3 times! - to purchase in what were considered less-desirable places to live, but that's been the economic role of artists forever. We move into economically challenged areas, & by our presence make them fun & cool. Those are harder to find now, but not impossible - living someplace that wasn't my first choice was a price I was willing to pay. 

I've also been lucky to have pottery teaching gigs basically every step of the way. In Minnesota it was the Northern Clay Center & the Bloomington Art Center; here in Maine, I've been at Portland Pottery for more than 20 years. I teach 5 classes a week. Could I make a living without the teaching bit? Yes, but there's no question it would be a lot harder. Part of why I can do stuff like refuse custom work is because I have that net to catch me. More importantly, though, I don't want to! Everybody needs community, and the PP studio provides me with that. 

I hope it doesn't sound too arrogant to say it hasn't all been luck. That's where priorities come in. I've been willing to tolerate some of the discomfort & inconvenience that comes with a spotty income stream. I've driven ugly, unreliable vehicles & worn almost exclusively secondhand clothes. My furniture is all secondhand, too. I cook instead of getting take out. My floors have needed to be refinished since I bought the house. I do almost all the repairs. We take camping vacations. 

All this has been worth it to me, to be a potter. I decided early on that, since we spend SO much of our waking lives at work, my job should be something I enjoy doing - and that that was more important than fancy vacations or flawless flooring. That might seem obvious to some folks, but so often I find people who say they want to be a full-time artist but aren't willing to give up any of the nice aspects of conventional employment. So, my friend from the arts-entrepreneur section of Threads, that's a thing to think about: what are you willing to do without, to bring this dream within reach? 

Nice to meet you! Looking forward to more conversations about the business of art. 

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