Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Rebekah Krieger

Feel Like I Am Hitting A Brick Wall - Perhaps You Have Experienced This?

Recommended Posts

I spent some time at my show this weekend looking at my work as a whole and looking at the work of others as a collection.  I do not see anything special about my work that makes it "mine".  The things that I think are my better work, are inspired by works of other potters that I admire. The problem with that is, I don't want to be a clay artist who makes inspired work. I want to make my own work. I don't want to make predictable pottery. I know what I like, and I know what I am better at, but I still feel like I don't have a look in mind that is my own. Is it wrong for me to look at work of many potters and say "well that is good but it doesn't seem like I would be satisfied if that was my life's work or it seems too predictable for a potter to make work that looks like that"? I understand how pretentious or even ignorant that probably makes me sound.  It isn't meant to be, It's meant to be more objective than anything.  

 

 

Here is the problem: I need to make work that would pay the bills, but I want to make sculptures and work that is thrown with added sculpted features. (i know, reading this you probably expected to hear something phenomenal and I didn't say any thing that hasn't been already done)    I also need to make work that pays the bills, a more consumable product to sell in between the sculpted art.  I have been making consumable pots that I do not feel are original because the work I want to make are not consumable pots. I have to bring in an income, so not making them is not an option for me.   The work that I envision I feel like i do not even have the technical skill to create. I wish I could just go and take some workshops in sculpture and narrow down my voice for the everyday functional work.  I cannot just go off to college and learn sculpting techniques - I am the mother of this household and if I was to leave it would only be feasible to do it for a week or two tops.  I also don't have unlimited funds where i could just go racking up fees for audited courses when I have 2 kids in high school who are in the process of figuring out their own schooling.  

 

I feel stuck and over my head with what I want vs what I am capable of doing.  

 

I hope my ramblings were not too difficult to read.  Please offer me advice - especially if you have been through this or have a good idea on how I can break out of this. 

 

- Rebekah 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rebekah,

 

There's nothing wrong, with questioning your direction.  In fact, I think it's healthy.  I do it, not only with  my artwork, but also with my teaching.  It never hurts to ask, "Is this working, and if not, what can I do to change that?"

 

My suggestion for your path, is at first, just keep doing what you have been doing.  As I commented on your status the other day, your work has come along way, since you started.  Keep practicing and refining your skills on the wheel.  If you do indeed want to add sculptural elements to wheel thrown wares, you'll want the wheel portion to take as little time as possible, because the sculptural portion will definitely take a bit more.  

 

I've seen quite a few people here mention that they do mostly wares, they know will move.  And they use those wares, to drive their business, so they can occasionally afford to create more in depth, maybe less commercial wares, sculptures, etc.

 

In regards to classes, there's nothing saying you have to take a semester college class, or anything like that.  I've seen local art guilds have guest artists, who teach a variety of media and techniques.  The classes are usually all day, on a Saturday and Sunday, and that's it.  They aren't too costly, unless you are trying to get a Graduate credit, which is one reason they interest me.  In that cast, yeah it's a little bit of money.  The local art guild here,  had an artist who was teaching figural clay sculpture.  I could not make it, and I'm still kicking myself.  

 

Best of luck, on whatever you decide.  Like I said, there's nothing wrong with question things.  And there's definitely nothing wrong with a little productive venting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe I can offer a few ideas ....

 

First embrace the concept of probably 90% of income producing potters ... they have to do "Some and some"

Some to pay the bills and some to keep you creatively alive.

There are slow times production wise when you can take a month or two to make some for YOU. For me it was January and February but your sales cycle could be different. It is important to use down time for YOU.

 

When income generation is not foremost then the some/some will tilt more towards what you want ...

BUT ... Having said that there is also a good chance that your sculptures could bring in more money than pots. I had a friend who dropped her pots and went 100% with her big $$$$ passion work and sold out every show. She cast caution aside and just went for it.

So there is no one answer.

 

Maybe your love and passion and creativity does not lie in pots.

You don't have to make functional wares to be a potter.

You don't have to sign up for $$$ classes to follow your passion.

 

If you need to sell pots ...

Take a few hours to do an inventory. Get all of your pots and line them up ... Then sort them into great, ok and yuck.

Hammer the yuck.

Put the great on a shelf.

Study the OK.

Pick the ones you like, group them together and figure out what you like about them.

Pick one or two forms that still need exploration, forms that intrigue you with their possibilities.

Which ones could interest you for the next year?

 

Yes, take baby steps into it ... You don't have to decide your whole pottery future now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi oh boy I do understand. I am the bread winner in my family, waitressing of all things. I have a 14 daughter. I have taught myself weaving ,water color , jewelry,and now on to pottery. I want to be able to even part time sell. Weaving( I was living up north and spun and wove) in Florida would just be freakish .framing on art is prohibitive, even when made by me. Jewelry I actually sold but my god jewelry is so boring, pieces I made looked vaguely familiar.

So I need to do something for my soul. Selling it would be validating. I want to be a fully formed artist ,yet it takes years to develop a recognized style.

I looked at your gallery: your pots and glaze are not generic, you do gave a style.

My suggestion is two fold: first think up a project , eg a mural made of tiles, a fountain w many elements,etc. do it a little at a time, but get wrapped up in it.

Two try a seminar/ workshop. I have been looking- I can't afford it now,but I can work toward it. Not just the learning but the friendship. Good luck! Yearning is part of growth. Jolie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think at one point or another every potter feels the same as you.

In 1994 I pretty much felt the same as you but didn't have your talent.

Use the advice of Ben Zine and Chris along with advice of others that follows.

See ya,

Alabama :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am the mother of this household

 

^ You have a very clear sense of your priorities.  I've seen no pottery or sculptures or techniques that impress me more.

 

I also have commitments to people that "requires" me to produce.  This one person has worked for me for like 27 years now , and my family for almost 50 years.   I would be way happier and make just as much money doing more complex pieces.   However I have to keep the production line rolling.  One of my goals for the year was to spend a portion of my time creating more detailed and artistic impressions.   I've spent a bit of time on this but to be honest I consider it my free time and I tend to spend it fixing up around my property, studio and house.  Hopefully when I'm done with these improvements I will focus on improving my techniques and work.  But I feel exactly like you ... that I'm not progressing as an artist.  But the financial side is more important right now.  If it was just me, I would do it.  Truthfully,  I can live on very little but I have these commitments to other people ... I provide them with jobs.  It's the same for you .... you have commitments to your family.

 

Maybe keep doing what you are doing but allocate a specific amount of time each week to pursue your dreams.  1 or 2 days a week, study and create?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

rebekah,  this advice or comment is just as valuable as what you paid for it.  

 

first, know that you are normal.  everyone yearns for something special in their lives, artists more than others, i think.   artists want to make an impression on the lives of others and in a way that satisfies that inward yearning to do something unique.  it will come when you feel more comfortable with your own skills and realize that you are already making things of value to other people. do you remember the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus"?

 

there will be a time that you will be able to do what you really want.  right now that might need to be deferred because of other obligations but deferred does not mean never.  do what chris says and set a time just for you to do exactly what you want and  to H with the rest. 

 

 

you do not say whether you are living only on the money that comes from your pottery and other artwork.  do you have an outside job that pays you a salary that takes care to the basics?

 

(anyone with a 14 year old daughter should earn a gold medal if the child reaches 15.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rebekah,

 

I might not be the best person to chime in on this but that's never stopped me before so here goes... As everyone that's ever read one of my posts here already knows, I am working towards supporting myself 100% with my art and that currently I have a lot of things and people counting on me which limits my choices on how to go about doing this.

 

That said I have seen your work and you are very talented. Having this talent I think is also why you are questioning where your work is heading and how to get where you SEE your work getting to. You have a vision in your head and you want to create it, it's what drives everyone of us as artists and creative people. Learning patience will help you get there. I have had to learn patience... Okay in all honesty I am still learning patience.... The patience to practice my craft, the patience to know I can't always do what I want when I want, the patience to wait for the income to grow, the patience to study and fine tune the vision in my head so I am ready for the future when it arrives.

 

An example: At the moment I am working on an order of 12 mugs, 12 spoonrests and 18 ornaments, small potato order for some but a nice one for me. The only problem is... I have never had to make 12 matching mugs before, 4 yes no problem but 12 mugs all the same thrown on the wheel. My wheel skills are my weakest area and getting all the shapes, curves and heights to be exactly the same is an issue. I have 3 dozen mugs done at this point with about a dozen more I tossed. From this 3 dozen I hope to get 1 dozen that will look good together. Maybe. There is that brick wall we all know so well.

 

I am tired of making mugs and would really rather be hand painting on a box that I have been slowly working in for almost 3 months now but I am going to get 12 matching mugs no matter what. I don't know why they couldn't have ordered a dozen identical boxes now THAT I can do in my sleep every day of the week. I tell myself this is a good learning experience since I have never before sat and thrown mug after mug after mug. I am getting better and faster at mugs but I still prefer my boxes and what I would really like to be doing is making one of a kind Pug sculptures but between orders, shops, galleries, festivals and my online venues I find myself making spoon rests, mugs, small boxes and jewelry pieces since those are what sells and if I don't sell I can't afford to create.

 

So it's back to the wheel to make some more mugs but in my head I will be planning my next hand painted one of a kind box... tessellation patterns have been poking at my brain for months now and I am working out how to use triangle boxes to create a tessellated pattern with an image spread across numerous small boxes, preferably one that if the boxes are rotated it makes another recognizable image. This has kept me awake for more than one night and eventually I will get it worked out in my head, then I will sketch it, then try and create it in clay. But for now it's back to making more mugs.

 

Keep up the great work and speaking as a mother of a now 33 year old daughter if you survive the teenage years anything else you decide to do from then on will seem so much easier to achieve. Oh and around 25 you will get the daughter back that the wicked witch replaced with a teenager and it will all seem worth it.

 

T

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why not try to mix in your sculptural work with your functional work. That way each little pot is special and can sell for a higher price. I started putting little simple birds on the rims on my bowls and my family started flipping out and stealing them from my garage. They want a set of nesting bowls with little birds on them. The birds take literally like 2 minutes to make, super simple, but its just something extra. Maybe find a way to add to your beautiful pots with some sculpture. Maybe make your handle a work of art? I dunno. I don't sculpt except for stuff for my son. Mostly figurines like in my profile picture. 

 

I like nature and I plan to eventually learn how to do japanese/chinese brush strokes and brush ink strokes on all my work. I love grasshoppers on lone branches. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ac/b2/35/acb2351fd2ebbac77b827c4bb1476e35.jpg

 

Find a way to achieve what makes you happy!

 

I really liked your vulture spout on that pitcher. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm guessing you were working really hard getting everything ready for your sale this past weekend, then you had the work / stress of selling pots all weekend then you got to pack everything up and drive home and unpack it all. I'm also going to assume that there were other potters there who have had the benefit of more years of working in clay than your 4. Give yourself a hug, go have a cup of tea and a rest and I'm sure things will become easier. 

 

Rome wasn't built in a day. Keep making pots.

 

Min (mother of 4 daughters, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and wore it out)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me this process of making pots for sale  to pay the bills vs my work for fun (not sale driven) is two separate areas. I partition the time so I am not pressured to make sale items and have a block of time to work on my own pots(those for fun not for sale straight away)

I cannot work on both in same day-its easier for me to not have any pressure and be creative with my own work-usually for salt firing. I have no expectation of selling them and have freedom to do whatever I want. I make sculptures wall pieces and pots for the salt kiln.When I get to many for me I sell some-but never plan on that as a means to the ends.

Most weeks are spent filling gallery orders and stuffing the van full of show pots

I'm in a spot now where demand exceeds supply so fun pots are harder to make space for. soon I will snap and make that time for myself. Meanwhile two summer shows are coming up.

One last note on looking at others work vs yours . All work is a just that work that has progressed to that point. Style takes time to find and you get yours over time. 

I have done all kinds of things in ceramics but have settled on a solid functional base that brings in profits. I have to push myself out of this comfort zone to do creative work that pushes me and that what salt pots do for me-it once was raku and its also been kiln building and glaze making but now its salt pots.

Its a cycle just like pottery making only for the spirt,

Mark

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hit a wall like that once and threw away all the pots in my studio,  I have come to realize that sometimes people see something in my work that I don't.  I have some miscellaneous pieces in my studio that I give to family or out of state visitors.  I let them choose and they will usually pick the one i dislike most.  I'm not sure what type of sculpture you interested but I know of a good figurative sculpture book by Bruno Lucchesi.  The book takes step by step building a clay anatomically correct model, he shows you how to build the armature first.  Bruno has you start with the skeleton and then muscles ect. I completed this project one time when I was down about my lack of progress, it was interesting and challenging and I had good results.  The book is "Modeling the Figure in Clay"  I imagine you can find it on Amazon for cheap and if you can't I can loan you mine.  Denice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my favorite podcasts these days is called Startup. It gives an in-depth and brutally honest look at the process of starting a business. I learned a new term called "The Trough of Sorrow" which is apparently very common. It's what happens to a new business owner after the initial burst of energy and optimism has worn off, along with the novelty of the "idea" of the business, and replaced by the realization that the road to success is much longer and more difficult than you imagined, and possibly some financial problems.

 

You can google the term Trough of Sorrow to get some good advice about it, and to take comfort in knowing how common it is. After a quick google search I found this terrific piece: http://blog.idonethis.com/startup-psychology-trough-sorrow/ I'll just jump to the best line which is "grit and perseverance are far more important than talent."

 

I did not go through the Trough of Sorrow with my pottery business, because it was the second business I started. I took it slowly, and did it alongside my other business which provided a good income, therefore I never felt any financial pressure or hurry to succeed. I DID experience the Trough of Sorrow with my first business, the graphic design practice. About a year or so in, I experienced a catastrophic computer failure and lost weeks of work. I felt despondent and foolish, and unsure that I could handle the responsibility. I strongly considered quitting and going back to the regular-paycheck world. But I chose to persevere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... As to finding time to do your own creative work ... Well, that desire gets killed by those nagging voices that say you should do your duties first, then relax after.

Ha!! Trouble is, it is too late after because you are too tired!

 

I keep an old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon on the wall of my studio that reminds me never to put off fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JBaymore

..............."grit and perseverance are far more important than talent."

 

 

Mea's info is spot on.

 

Last woman or man standing.  When all the others have given up and fallen by the wayside... if you are still there..... you have "floated to the top".

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.† <Calvin Coolidge>

 

 

Another useful thing to remember is the phrase (don't know who coined it) "Life is short, clay is long."  Mastering the craft (heck... even getting a good handle on it) is not fast.  Make sure your expectations are in line with the reality.  If not........ easy to get discouraged.

 

best,

 

.......................john

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rebekah, I admire your will and your courage very much! Seeing you working so hard in your studio, always getting up again after falling, always learning and getting better and better is exemplary! Our colleagues who wrote before me in this topic said it all, so from me just that bit of advice: you are on the right path. Brick walls are challenging, but you can tear them down and find something useful behind it. I would also approach your current problem in doing the ware that sells for the shows (because the bills want to be paid....) and in between working slowly slowly - one day you can, one day you can't, doesn't matter - on a sculptural piece. If you don't want or cannot attend a workshop, do the sculpting by trial and error, watch videos or youtube, ask here for advice.

 

You are an exceptional girl Rebekah!

 

Evelyne

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am overwhelmed by all of the wonderful advice. Literally each reply offers great advice and kind words. Thank you for all of the support.  My kids are 16, 14 (she will be 15 in a few weeks)  11, and 5.  I think the combination of seeing so many well estabilshed potters (it was a festival filled with all very talented potters, naturally I was the newest one) and my feelings of not being as established as them was overwhelming. (except for one potter who made work that I just thought seemed cheesy)  I appreciate that rome wasn't built in a day, and I need to remind myself of that. I'm a capricorn, patience is not one of my strong points, everything i do is with full intensity.

 I don't make enough sales yet to contribute financially but I feel a lot of pressure to do so. My youngest goes to full day school this fall. (he was to start last fall but we decided last minute to pull him out of 5k and stick him back into 4k due to his august birthday)  If I don't start making enough to contribute I will have to work somewhere for somebody else and that is the last thing I want to do right now. It would slow down the building of rome 10x!!!  My husband runs a small company and his real passion is writing fiction. He writes on weekends but I know how frustrating it is for him to see his friends and collegues publish stories so quickly and he has agents waiting years for his book to finish.  I see how hard he works and the sacrifice of working on his passion part time. Yesterday I was using a cup from a very talented potter who has been at it for decades, and unpacking my crates of "newbie pots" ... it was a very humbling experience.  The combination of all of that hit me in the face. And yes, I cried like a 13 yr old girl haha! 

 

Every single bit of advice here and kind works is helping - I can tell that each reply has a lot of care put into it. Thank you!   :wub:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mea- I think your comment gives me headway into a bit of a secret confession.  I don't tell people this very often but I think it pertains.  Before I found clay I was the local sales director/trainer with Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Although I was one of the youngest to achieve the level of success in the area, and mary kay itself is a constant hamster wheel to maintain success, It took me 5 years to get the free car and the next 5 to maintain my unit of over 100 consultants that I was responsible for training, encouraging, individually coaching for their goals,  my own sales appointments (which was mostly bridal parties and wedding makeup) , and of course constantly recruiting new unit members so we could maintain our status in the company.  I learned a lot from that jouney about my own bounce back ability my ability to keep working when everything around you is sinking, and how I was able to juggle so many tasks at once. Although I don't recommend anybody sell mary kay ever (10 years of my own experience should hopefully be enough for others to believe me and not do it) I honor it as part of my journey. Realizing that running a business can be hard usually happened when consultants ran ouf of bookings from their warm circle and needed to branch out and look for clients who were not family and friends. That is when a good percentage would quit.  

 

With pottery I can't even fathom quitting... but I do need to embrace it as a natural part of my jounrey to get frustrated and the self doubt.  Thank you for the reminder, I know this all too well and somehow my emotions clouded my good judgement.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JBaymore

Realizing that running a business can be hard usually happened when consultants ran ouf of bookings from their warm circle and needed to branch out and look for clients who were not family and friends. That is when a good percentage would quit.  

 

 

This is exactly the same thing that happens with ceramics as a business.  Use your experiences from the "past life" to help inform what you do in the clay field.  Running a BUSINESS involves just about the same stuff whether it is widgets or pots.

 

Think of yourself has having TWO jobs.  One is being a potter. 

 

The other is selling a product you buy from a potter.  You are a wholesaler, or a retailer, or both.

 

Each one of those jobs requires a different mindset and skills.

 

The education and skills needed for each job need to be attended to and constantly improved.

 

best,

 

.....................john

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, Rebekah. I would really love to be able to give you a big hug. 

 

I have a five-year-old ... ONE KID ... and I am in such a crisis. Pottery is time-consuming and right now not profitable for me at all. So I'm spending all this time and money and basically in the past year the best I can say is that I've made what I've spent on clay, glazes, and equipment. Maybe a $2 profit. I've worked hundreds of hours for $2. 

 

If I looked at it that way too long, I would just curl up like a salted snail, give up on the pottery, and start applying at the businesses in the area looking for an evening job. 

 

I know I'm in a different situation than you because at this time it's okay for my pottery to only pay for itself. My husband has a good job and I am so grateful that I have this freedom right now. Still, it's torture not to be making money on this right now. It feels so self-indulgent. I feel constantly torn and conflicted between taking care of my family and the work that I LOVE: Do the dishes or decorate that pie plate? Play with my son or clean the studio? Fold the laundry or attach handles? Cook a good meal for my family or order takeout so I can relax? Whatever choice I make it never seems like the right one. 

 

I had an idea for you (I think of it every time I see your work) but I sent it private message in case you laugh hysterically and call me insane. ;) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest JBaymore

I have listened to a lot of stories about big ticket work actually having a better money vs time spent ratio.

 

In my experience..... that is the case.  BUT... and it is a big "but".......... the market for that higher priced work does two big things.  First, it shrinks.  And secondly, the evaluative skills for establishing the quality of the work increases geometrically with the price.

 

You can't successfully sell a $20 cup for $200.  Someone who can and will gladly pay $200 for a cup (they are out there) .... knows good cups that are worth a premium.  They can spot them.  You can't pull the wool over their eyes.  You can try.... but you won't succeed.

 

Usually there is the factor of "time put in at the craft" that makes the difference in the price points attainable.

 

To make $1000 ... you can make 1000 pieces at $1 each, 100 pieces at $10 each, 10 pieces at $100 each, or 1 piece at $1000 each.

 

A number of factors come into play in thinking about this whole 'what to make' concept.  Such as:

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 has the least direct expenses involved?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 requires the greatest investment in facility space, equipment, and in the depreciation of that equipment in use?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 has the highest end sale price to labor ratio?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 causes the largest wear and tear on the maker's body?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 causes the most "distress" to the makers 'soul'?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 do I have the skills to produce?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 do I have the skills to market?

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 fits my view of how I wish to interact with the buying 'world'.

 

Which of these approaches to making $1000 matches how I wish my ceramic legacy to figure into 'history'?

 

 

A very important point to look at is CAN YOU SELL a $1000 piece?  What does that work look like?  Who is the market?  Do you have the skills to make work that commands that kind of price?  Can you find enough people to buy that work?

 

The market pyramid narrows fast.  The competition expands fast.

 

best,

 

.......................john

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, Rebekah. I would really love to be able to give you a big hug. 

 

I have a five-year-old ... ONE KID ... and I am in such a crisis. Pottery is time-consuming and right now not profitable for me at all. So I'm spending all this time and money and basically in the past year the best I can say is that I've made what I've spent on clay, glazes, and equipment. Maybe a $2 profit. I've worked hundreds of hours for $2. 

 

If I looked at it that way too long, I would just curl up like a salted snail, give up on the pottery, and start applying at the businesses in the area looking for an evening job. 

 

I know I'm in a different situation than you because at this time it's okay for my pottery to only pay for itself. My husband has a good job and I am so grateful that I have this freedom right now. Still, it's torture not to be making money on this right now. It feels so self-indulgent. I feel constantly torn and conflicted between taking care of my family and the work that I LOVE: Do the dishes or decorate that pie plate? Play with my son or clean the studio? Fold the laundry or attach handles? Cook a good meal for my family or order takeout so I can relax? Whatever choice I make it never seems like the right one. 

 

I had an idea for you (I think of it every time I see your work) but I sent it private message in case you laugh hysterically and call me insane. ;)

Yes- that is how it has been for me the past 17 years. But now my time as a stay at home mother is coming to a close.   It's go time now! 

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.