As an artist and small business owner, I definitely do not have a traditional 9 to 5 job. When people ask me what I do, they always have a slightly perplexed look on their face when I attempt to explain. The traditional idea of what a job should be or look like seems to block the querent from initially understanding what my "job" looks like from day to day. So I've decided it is about darn time that I explain it a little bit better.
Other small business owners get it. They know that each day is absolutely different from the last. That's actually one of my favorite parts. I have never done well with stagnation and definitely need new challenges to keep myself feeling useful. But despite the purchase orders changing and the styles that I make waxing and waning, the general bones of running this crazy little project stay the same. So let me share them with you.
How I start my day.
So this is the part that I feel a little bit guilty admitting. It's definitely a perk that I feel very lucky to have. You can call it non-commuter guilt. I have quiet morning coffee and can plan my day's tasks. Since my studio in right in my home, I don't have to rush out the door first thing each day. I get to wake up with my two little pups and husband, who more often than not hands me coffee right in bed. ( yes, I know how lucky I am. ) After he leaves for his office, I answer any emails that have come in from the previous day. Most of the time, this part totally happens in my pajamas. I'm not even going to pretend otherwise. If you have received an email from me before 9 am EST... it was sent from the comfort of my fuzzy slippers.
So the next part changes from day to day. Most of the time, I am in my pottery studio making wares for either myself or one of my wholesale accounts. But I don't have any employees ( Unless you count my husband and the two jack russell pups who never leave my side. My mom also takes pity on me and works for free as a office admin to reply to general inquiries when things get busy.) But for the most part, that means that website updates, shipping, some of the product photos, and production are all on me. I schedule out of the studio days when I know I need to get photography, web updates, or promotional emails / social media squared away. Typically, this method works but during busier seasons I definitely feel like splurging on a clone of myself might be a really solid R.O.I. Each email you see, post you view, or package you unbox was sent by me or my husband, Steve. He definitely is a shipping live saver when we get hectic.
My work is a mixture.
I alternate between hand building and wheel thrown pieces. Some of my pottery even has aspects of both. I learned that encorperating both gives the work a more well-rounded and interesting feel. For me, one feels incomplete without the other. The hand built aspects feel very raw and natural while the wheel's components give things a more polished finish. When combined together, I find my personal aesthetic.
My biggest struggles.
There are certainly things that I struggle with. One of the most frustrating is my pickiness for design and pattern. I am never satisfied with myself. I design and produce and then always feel at the end of it all that I need to change it all over again. In a way, it is good to constantly strive for better but it's also a great way to loose some sleep.
Also, I struggle with honing my craft while still getting work orders out the door. Obviously, current orders always have my top priority. But sometimes that takes away from available time for me to experiment and refine my work. I've learned over the years that proper time management and setting up and sticking to a decent schedule for myself works wonders to help all aspects of my work receive their due attention.
But truthfully, the biggest struggle that I have never fully gotten over is the same as so many other artists. Self doubt. It is still an evil little whisper that I hear in the back of my mind every time I make a new design, post something to IG, or even as I write this blog entry. But I've learned that in order to keep going you have to do it all anyway. We are all our own worst critics and no artists ever started off great. Even great artists sucked one upon a time. The difference is they pushed through the self doubt and frustration because they're a learning process that helps elevate your work each time you delve a little bit deeper in.
The studio space.
My studio is definitely very much a full working studio attached to my 1970s home. If you looked at my house from the outside, you'd currently have no idea that a full pottery studio exists inside it's walls. It's in a quiet neighborhood with friendly neighbors. My studio door overlooks our backyard and very unsightly swimming pool. I have plans to add a lot more curb appeal to it this spring & summer when we add a walking path from the driveway to studio for order pick ups. The inside of the studio is changing too. We're in the middle of adding a much nicer pick up area and consult space for brides wishing for a registry!
My favorite part.
There are a lot of things I love about being a studio potter. But there's definitely one thing that is even better than the rest. Having real people show excitement and enthusiasm for my work is a feeling that I will never get tired of. Since I started selling my work, I have see my pottery help people make connections with each other. I've seen people give it and use it in acts of kindness and love. I've helped people ship ceramic pocket hearts to their deployed loved ones, made mugs that were used in proposals, hand painted platters that will serve as a focal point for years of family dinners, and felt the absolute and overwhelming gratitude from people who use one of my mugs as their favorite mug each day. It makes me feel SO connected to you all.