Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
LeeU

Potters Guild Development

Recommended Posts

I have no idea if this is the best forum for this topic or if it belongs in education (??) 

I am interested in other people's practical experiences and recommendations for strengthening a non-profit group of potters that appears to be declining in "relevance" .  The predictable culprits are an embedded culture that resists change,  a board that is too small to be effective (as is--that may change if it expands a bit), and a small membership base where many only join to be in an exhibit or access a kiln firing. Members who volunteer to do specific tasks frequently lack follow-through, and workshops have been cancelled due to lack of response.   Simply getting a functional web site up took  years of talking; it was finally done just last year (!) with less than 3 months of work.  This may be the last go-round where a few dedicated people are still invested and motivated to try to turn it around. 

Standard development practices are already well-known and new leadership is likely to implement the basics over the next year. I am interested in hearing about any especially unique or creative approaches  that may enhance the "Development 101" approach.  Of special interest are strategies that might better engage and motivate the existing member base as well as attract new members and get their "buy-in" early on.   Thanks in advance! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It may be worth it to name an art docent for your guild or a docent team depending on how large or in demand it is.  Our local schools here always lack art docents and it's because they typically rely on parent volunteers for it.  This is a good way to get younger people involved and interested in ceramics, and schools will be very thankful for anyone who can come in and either show students art, talk about art or art history and even give the kids little kits they can take home and do with their parents.  

I've never met someone who built or made something with their hands who regretted doing it.  Just the introduction is enough sometimes to form a life long interest so take a page from Phillip morris and 'gittem while they're young'.

Our potters guild in Washington is very hands off, there are some events but they're easy to miss.  If you're having trouble getting members to participate in events or meetings, try making up a Google survey and sending it out to all of the members so you can gauge reasons they aren't coming.  

Myself, I don't attend the WCAA events because I have two kids and am constantly busy during the day, and on top of that have fairly crippling anxiety/autism issues.  I know a few other artists who are similar, I don't know if there's a connection between artists and anxiety or if it's just the weather up here but it seems pretty common hah!

Anyway, in order to stay relevant I think you need to have a multi pronged approach.  Arts are barely glanced at in a lot of schools now and the average age of potters seems to be climbing pretty steadily, but at the same time you need to get the people who are already there with you to actively participate as well.

I think a survey might help you determine what the main issues are as far as current members go and maybe start you down the path of catering these events and meetings to the needs of the prolitariat.

One more tip, since you seem to be part of the leadership or at least have their ear, contact other state guilds and see what they are doing and if they are having the same issues, it's not always a direct solution but seeing or hearing from them may help craft a new angle or seed ideas that you may not have been exposed to before.

That said, I am just a curious and eager young man and all of the words above are just that curiosity and eagerness coming through, I have no experience in leading an organization or trying to cater to the most common denominator so the politics of it all is way above my head. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Find two or three very enthusiastic people who would like to join your group. Unless they meet with resistance, that's all it will take to activate your group. A few highly motivated people can affect even a large group in a significant way. I've seen it happen many times.

Sincerely,

Arnold Howard

Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree wih Arnold. These organizations need the right person in a leadership role, the type who sparks initiative, follows through, and inspires others to raise their energy level too. Without leadership you get entropy. I also recommend a process where the top person serves for a finite term, so their commitment is not permanent and they don’t get burned out. Regularly scheduled change keeps people on their toes. 

Also, if most members join for access to shows and kilns, that is not wrong. Make sure not to hold his against anyone. In fact, if this is the organization’s  strongest offerings, then promote them as much as you can. If you want participation beyond that, your other programs must provide the same kind of value. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was involved with a guild, chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, back in the 80's. I was one of the founding members, and we had a variety of craftsmen involved at the time. It was non profit, and had maybe 20 members upon startup. We had shows/sales  that were juried, and juried and non juried memberships.  I served as president for a few years, and was able to get some shows going in conjunction with other organizations and still hold on to juried status for entry. In the long run though many of the better craftsmen started doing larger shows with greater distance to travel, and became busier. Membership became more varied until it was almost a "sewing circle". They voted out juried status, and I don't even know if it still exists. Strong inciteful leadership is needed in these endeavors as others have said. Tough to bring back a failing guild.

 

best,

Pres

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Topic resonates; as local JC doesn't allow students to repeat courses, will be looking for "community"...any road, my experience with not for profit also says find the key leaders an' get'm on your board - twenty two years, seven kid's swim teams, all run by volunteer parents (the only paid position bein' th' coach, me); charter schools, private schools, volunteer parent; churches - they run on and by volunteers, eh? All about who and how they work together. 

Edited by Hulk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If this is the one that has a wood filed kiln I would tear down whatever structure that is in place and redo the charter from the ground up to be about the wood fired kiln, the history around that and workshops build around it. Implement the buddy system on working shifts and make the kiln firings and openings a big event. You will have to create some buzz. Check local rags, they need local stories and may also offer some free display space for a non profit. 

Maybe even have a big kiln opening sale open to the general public every time it is fired and fire it often. Give the artist 65-70% and keep 30-35% for the guild to make it stronger. If you can get some cash flowing then maybe you can get it to the point of a low income hire and that means a weekly dedicated effort of at least 40 hours.

Good luck!    

Edited by Stephen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As soon as I got to "embedded culture that resists change," I wondered whether a new guild might have more promise than trying to change course with an organization in which a small number of powerful people are fully vested in a status quo. that works well for only a limited cohort of people.

You probably have already considered ways of diversifying your board so that new populations are more likely to see their potential interests reflected in your programming.

For example, if you want more young people, it would be useful to add young people to the board.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@ Liam--I like the docent idea. ..thanks. I am hoping that a short & simple Survey Monkey will do good things-I know how to design engaging/valid ones & how to leverage the results. The time and travel issue is significant, plus the guild has clustered meetings in one area of the state and to move them around a bit, especially to engage the more northern tiers.  (An  aside-my daughter, an artist,  was relocated from VA to Wanatchee and now to Kennewick (hubby's job) and she has SAD+anxiety, so--not caring for the weather so much right now.)

@Arnold-unfortunately, enthusiasm/motivation don't go very far if those same people are just not able to follow through timely with essential procedures. It is fixable, probably, if the willingness is there and emerges with action attached. I have seen some sparks of interest lately from a few newer people--hope we can tap them.

@GEP-There are 2 year terms-chair, vice chair, secr'y & treas.  At this time the board is only 4 people. One of the chair/VC slots is opening up.   Re: lots of people joining right before a major event--the problem is that the sudden inflation of census messes up the quorum/voting the way the bylaws are currently written. The guild is often  violation of their own procedures, and there is no mechanism for members to vote who are not present at the (poorly attended) physical meetings or live out of state. So, after an influx, there is never a legitimate quorum, which gets ignored. I've provided a draft for bylaws revision with discussion points, and recommended including  e-mail for voting, as well as requiring that the issues to be voted on be sent out, with proper descriptive text and a form for voting,  to all members-- not just quickly raised and verbally discussed in the meeting and then voted on with a show of hands  by a small percent of members.

@Hulk   "All about who and how they work together."  Yep--therein lies the problem...and hopefully the solution!  

@ Stephen-most of the points in your 1st paragraph are well in place &  it should not be hard to leverage for more effective marketing. I really like your 2nd paragraph suggestion-- that is how it is done in many other places, and I see no reason not to do it here. The kiln is in a beautiful location and the quality of work is quite high.

@ Gabby--yes--board development is the key.   I hope to be appointed to the board. I just turned down an officer nomination, because I want a seat as a member-at-large , to afford me the autonomy I would need to help guide effectively. 

@Pres--"Tough to bring back a failing guild." John B. warned me about this 2 years ago! There are up to 6 board seats that may be filled by members, appointed by the chair, and not a single member has been selected in at least the last 4 years.   They're getting 1 more year out of me, then if it's not happening, I'm finally/really "letting it go".

Appreciate all the input. 

Edited by LeeU

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/29/2018 at 7:52 AM, Hulk said:

Topic resonates; as local JC doesn't allow students to repeat courses, will be looking for "community"...any road, my experience with not for profit also says find the key leaders an' get'm on your board - twenty two years, seven kid's swim teams, all run by volunteer parents (the only paid position bein' th' coach, me); charter schools, private schools, volunteer parent; churches - they run on and by volunteers, eh? All about who and how they work together. 

I know this is cheating, but back when I was in your circumstances I got an additional year and a half of classes, lab and kiln access by not turning in my final projects at end of semester, earning an Incomplete and a chance to re-take the class. Not sure how I could have proceeded in clay when my instructor caught on if not for the opportunity of a minimum wage Student Potter job which gave me more chances to experiment and learn what sells. After 2 years of that, I had the confidence to invest (more time than money) and otherwise acquire kiln and equipment and firing partners. 

A Potters Guild would have been a godsend. Maybe @LeeU could find a few ambitious, hungry, talented students to organize and recruit. 

Edited by Rae Reich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

,)

The select few go credit/no credit then repeat for grade, and/or get in under "independent study" or just wink.

I can do one more semester as independent study, mebbe in a year or so; I'll miss seeing what others are working on, meeting people, and short cycle -  weekly bisque and glaze fires. The other hand for me includes too dusty (really, just filthy), high probability of artificial fragrances (ranges from slightly uncomfortable to ruined day), and time spent to and fro.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Hulk said:

,)

The select few go credit/no credit then repeat for grade, and/or get in under "independent study" or just wink.

I can do one more semester as independent study, mebbe in a year or so; I'll miss seeing what others are working on, meeting people, and short cycle -  weekly bisque and glaze fires. The other hand for me includes too dusty (really, just filthy), high probability of artificial fragrances (ranges from slightly uncomfortable to ruined day), and time spent to and fro.

I recently went back to school for my bachelor's and the amount of strong scents was alarming.  I empathize with you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Running a small operation by group vote is very difficult to do. I've seen the problems in both non-profit guilds and small business partnerships. There are always people who are resistant to change (typically the folks who have been there the longest) and people who want change. Nobody is ever all that happy, and people take sides. The other problem is that only a certain percentage of the population is good at leading. Some people just aren't comfortable with the position, others see it as a place of power, and a few actually do lead. A lot of people aren't very good at making decisions in general, and are happy to be told what to do. When you get all of these personalities having equal say, it's incredibly difficult to accomplish anything. So the guild/business plods along with no changes, doing it the same way they always have, and they have a difficult time retaining new members/customers until the guild dies.

Change is necessary, because the world changes. My business is very different than the one I opened 14 years ago. The way I teach and deal with my students is very different. My advertising and sales tactics are different.

Good leadership is necessary, and strict adherence to the rules they've put forth. People aren't comfortable in situations where they don't know what's expected of them, and where there are no repercussions for others not following through on those expectations. Why should I follow the rules if Joe gets away with murder? It needs to be run like a business, not a group of creative people. If people screw up, they need to be reprimanded, and if need be, kicked out. If they just want a clubhouse where they can do whatever they want, they can go open their own clubhouse.

It sounds like this guild may be done, though. If they won't even address their violations to their own bylaws, they obviously don't care. I wouldn't waste too much more time on them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seemed to me that as soon as I pressed for board expansion to include members-at-large, which is "optional" but very desirable in developing a board and strengthening an organization to engage members more,  the interest seemed to cool off.  I think it probably is done-maybe it'll keep limping along while a few make a valient effort to resurrect, but I am cynical more than optimistic in terms of this guild attaining more relevance within the larger ceramics community. . Neil found the right word-- "clubhouse" mentality.  If the lack of accountability, initiated by the officers/board,  doesn't change, it will remain primarily a nice group of potters who enjoy the bring-a-dish after the meeting.  I asked several times if anyone was a member of the CAD forums? --uh, never heard of it. How about the Potters Attic? (discussing having a way to do classifieds). Uh, never heard of it. So.........we''ll see. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.