WHAT WORKS FOR Y-O-U?

There’s no right–or wrong–process to create a body of work. Only what works for YOU.

There are as many kinds of work habits as there are stars in the sky. What matters is what works for YOU.

Years ago, I was in a small artist support group. We met once a month, going over our previous month’s goals, checking our progress, and supporting each other’s choices.

One woman wanted to have a solo show by the end of the year. She was worried about her production process. Other potters worked steadily throughout the day, or the weekends, to create a good representative body of work. She asked for help to speed up her process.

When presented with a problem, most of us have a bad habit of giving advice.  And, being human, we started down this path, making suggestions, giving advice, all of which went nowhere.

The purpose of groups like this is to dig a little deeper, to discover where the real obstacles lie. So when it was my turn to ask questions, I let go of what I thought she should do.

“What do you think your process should be?” I asked.

Well…she’d been listening to other potters talk about their routines. Batch lots, production schedules, record-keeping, etc. Long days in the studio. Late nights and working weekends.

“What is your process now?” I asked.

She replied that, because her days were full, she would work on a pinch pot in the evening, as she and her husband watched their favorite TV shows in their den. She described how she would work in her chair, shaping and molding the beautiful curves she was known for.

“How many pots do you make doing that?”, I asked.

She could make one pot an evening.

“How good are those pots?” In other words, how many were good enough to sell and/or exhibit?

Every single one, she replied.

“How many pots do you need for an exhibit?” I asked.

She named a number.

So…in three month’s time, with her own process, she could produce enough pots for an exhibition or show.

Her relief was palpable.

Contrast this with another friend, in a different group, who said he wished he could produce enough paintings to sell galleries. He showed me half a dozen pieces he’d created during a one-day workshop a few months before. (They were beautiful!) He didn’t have a studio, and at first we tried to figure out a way for him to have one. But he gently resisted. He loved his day job, he didn’t want to give up his evenings, he wasn’t a self-starter.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in my head.

“How many paintings do you produce in a workshop?” I asked.

He was a swift painter. Always, at least half a dozen, maybe more. (He worked in small formats, already had the basic techniques down.)

“Do you like taking workshops?” I asked.

He loved them. In, paint, out and done.

I pointed out that he lived in a major metropolitan city, close to two other major cities. Was it likely that he could find a workshop every single week of the year? It was.

So….if he committed to even one day a month to a workshop, he could create enough work to present to a gallery in a matter of months?  Hmmmm….why….yes, he could!

At every stage of our artistic life, there a new stages of growth, new challenges, new goals. There is no single process–intermittent and fast, slow and steady– that will help us achieve them. Except to discern what works for us.

And then to do it.

BLATANT ADVERTISEMENT or “I was fired from TCR”

As you can read in my sidebar under “Mudding through life with the help of art”, I no longer write a regular column for Handmade Business, the magazine formerly known as The Crafts Report.

I haven’t for awhile now. I didn’t update my profiles nor did I advertise the fact. Truth is, I felt humiliated. (They actually didn’t even tell me. They just quit bugging me about deadlines.) (Which I never actually missed, I just couldn’t remember them.)

When I finally realized I hadn’t sent an article in for two months, they told me they didn’t need me anymore. They said I wasn’t funny or relevant anymore.

Ouch. (Gentle sobbing noise here.)

In my defense, I had about six editors there in 10 years. And my deadlines kept changing. But I still felt pathetic.

Then I heard from other writers in the industry, people I know who are truly professional, and excellent writers. Turns out that’s just the nature of the beast. Since we aren’t paid a salary, we’re technically freelancers, who can be hired (and fired) on a whim. (Though not technically fired. Just….not asked to actually write anything, for months at a time.)

I still fill in at TCR/HB with the occasional emergency article. I have no idea how they are received. And I can’t say, “But it’s a living” because, well, it’s not.

But I want to say, in their defense, that the print publishing industry is in tough shape. It’s hard on everyone, and no clear solution in site. I love print magazines and newspapers. Just check out my coffee table! But it’s cheaper, easier, and faster to get news and information on the web. And so, publishers struggle.

It’s not about me, and it’s not about them. They’re doing their best to stay afloat. I loved writing for them, and I would happily write for them again. (There. I said it. I have absolutely no pride. a professional attitude.)

And fortunately, I still write for Fine Art Studios Online, where I also have my website. (It’s as easy to manage my own website as a WordPress blog, and the support staff is amazing.)

So if, dear readers, you know of any writing opportunities, especially any that would be thrilled to to have moi on their writing staff, please let me know. I want to keep writing. Better yet, let them know about me. (Except for pro bono work. I already write for free, right here.)

And to those of you who followed my column at TCR all those years: A big, grateful “THANK YOU!!!” from the bottom of my heart.