LESSONS FROM CLAY #2 PRODUCTION VS CREATIVITY

LESSONS FROM CLAY #2 PRODUCTION VS CREATIVITY

Ok great, You’ve got this awesome creative handmade business, and you’re selling your creations to all the people and shops who love it. Woo Hoo. So make another 20 of those. Better make another 50. Boy you’re really selling out of those fast, make another 100. I can’t believe that 100 are already sold! Shitballs, make 200. Boy oh boy, I have to make another hundred of those things that keep selling… huuhhh. Yes, yes, they’ve sold out, but I’m making some more over the weekend. Ok, so I better make more of those things that everybody wants. I should make more of them, then I’ll have the time to make something new. I've got these great ideas for new things, I just have to make more of those things first, then I can be creative again. Gotta chase the $$$ right?

Yeah, well… I've finally learnt that production and creativity are 2 completley different things. I know it sounds obvious, but it took me a long time to figure this one out. And I'm still finding a balance between the two.

I always thought I was running a totally creative handmade business, then one day I started getting the feeling that I was on the hamster wheel. It crept in like a fog and hung around for too long. I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted. What would I possibly have to complain about/feel tired about/feel bogged down by? After all, I was running my own creative business, I was my own boss, I could choose my own hours, I could rock up in my pajamas. What’s the deal?

Then after a few years, every time I got large orders for ‘popular items’ I would feel this feeling in my chest like a heavy weight. Why did creating pottery feel like this? And then I realized that there’s no creativity here what so ever. It’s stale. It’s stagnant. It’s old. I’ve been making hundreds and thousands of that same item for over five years, and there’s nothing about the process that excites me, ignites me or feels sacred in any way.  And this type of production takes up 80% of my business! Uh, oh. I have orders to fill, and I have people counting on me to make this STUFF! Now I have to do it, or else…. the world will end!

I can hear you saying “Well, just get someone else to make it for you.” (or suck it up) It’s a smart business move to expand and hire staff, more productivity, get someone to do the shit jobs that you’re sick of. I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. And instead of moving down that path, I chose to go a different way. A potentially scary and risky decision that might cost me some sweet business $$$.

Remembering the reason I got into pottery in the first place was express my creativity and play in any way I felt like... to be free. I made so much stuff, that I had no where to put it all. I realized that I was more in love with the process than the outcome so I made many, many  pieces and started to sell them (I like a little repetition and consistency in my work). People started buying them (yippee) and it made me so happy that other epoople also loved my work, to think it brought them joy too! Then when I turned it into a business, I rose to the demands of production, I ran a tight ship. The more I sold, the more people wanted, the more people wanted, the more I made, then years later, my focus had shifted entirely to make what people want… make what and how many they ask for (after all, that's where the money is right?) but it was too much hamster wheel for me. I needed five people to handle the workload of production and business management I was doing, and I was only one person! EXHAUSTION. BURN OUT. RESTRUCTURE.


This lesson has been a tough one. This process of figuring out what my business is and how it works. How to please people, and provide a good product and service, and still remain creative and free. For me it is so intrinsically tied up with my heart, which is unusual in business to always operate from the heart. But I hold dearly the essence of why I create in the firstplace. That place where creativity comes from is so new and expansive, it is sailing into uncharted waters. It's is about not always taking the same path. 

I like that my work is made by me, totally me. And that I put my heart in it.  It is sometimes difficult to navigate this in the business world of retail and wholesale. But I realize I can say yes, and I can say no. I can choose projects and creative challenges that ignight me. I can have a break from products that don’t excite me any more, I can take time to play with new ideas and how important it is to come up with new and exciting products. 

And at the end of the day, I am a potter. I love to create things. Some of these things are for sale. Interested?

LESSONS FROM CLAY #1 EXPECT DISAPPOINTMENT AND FAILURE


Ceramic work can be an intense and deeply inward process. If porcelain was a cult, I'd be it's loyal devotee. I love it. I want to share with you the lessons I've learnt from working with that buttery stuff I squish between my fingers. The first lesson?

 #1 EXPECT DISAPPOINTMENT AND FAILURE

Ouch.

This morning when I opened the kiln to take a peek at my latest glaze firing, I saw 3 porcelain rings that had fallen and stuck themselves to the middle of the kiln shelf. Rings broken, kiln shelf buggered and my precious time wasted. Years ago, this would have pissed me off. Today, I’m surprised it even gets a mention is this blog.

This kind of shit happens all the time in pottery. Things explode, glazes drip, hard work fails. If you keep doing it, you get better at it, but doesn’t necessarily equal less failure. Things just sometimes go wrong. Not to mention each time you take on a new challenge, when the testing process can be full of failure and broken dreams. But the more you experience ‘things not turning out’, the quicker you recover from disappointment. It becomes just another part of the process.

Expecting 100% of everything I do to be total success is such an unrealistic expectation, yet at the beginning of my work with clay, this is how I thought. A few months of hard work, and a few entire kiln loads of disaster quickly shook that expectation down a notch (or ten). 

If we forget that failure can happen, we are shaken when it arrives. When we know it might show up at any given moment, if we truly know that its always a possibility, and understand  completely that our hard work, and our ideals about ourselves can crumble in the opening of a kiln door, then we are unafraid of it. We do it anyway, because Knowing that there is a risk of failure is part of the fun. There is no challenge in a predictably perfect outcome. That's so boring. Failure keeps you fresh.

Adapting this philosophy to other areas of my life, means that I am less aggravated by experiences that don't live up to my expectations. I expect a shit coffee 50% of the time, and enjoy it when I receive a perfect one. I expect customer service to be consistently bad, my food to arrive not exactly how I ordered it, I expect my telephone company will dick me around. I expect half of the things I do to work out, most of the people I know to disappoint me, and when that disappointment comes I can deal with it. When I fail at something I can learn from it. This doesn't mean I have to lower my standards, just be more realistic about how life truly is VS how I want it to be. 

Biting into that shitty floury apple is bound to happen, the question is what's your response to it?


How To Make A Paper Mache Tree

I know, it's something you've been wondering for a long time... "Just how am I going to make that paper mache tree??"

Well fear not... Mrs P is here to help solve all your paper mache tree problems.

Ok, First up, Get yourself a butt load of chicken wire and start making a trunk. I've made this tree in 2 parts so it's easier to transport. If it's gonna be big, then think about weather or not it's going to fit through the doorway... just saying!



Use the chicken wire to make branches and roots, twist wire to the trunk to attach them and tie them as tight as you can.  The more secure your initial structure is, the better. Simply putting wet paper mace onto wire is a total nightmare... it doesn't have anything to stick to. I used masking tape and lost of it to reinforce the branches and give the first layer of paper something to stick to. imagine the tree has been bitten by a snake and wrap the tape like a bandage around each turn.. you gotta wrap it tight, and tell the tree to stay calm, you don't want that snake poison to spread now do you?




Then add your paper. Lots of it, lots of layers. I started with big layers in the large areas and worked my way into smaller pieces with the branches and folds. My paper mache mix was PVA glue, flour and water... and salt to stop the mould from killing my tree. I dipped each piece in the mix and used a brush to coat both sides, then BAM! Onto the tree. I like to work quickly and then let the layer dry for a day or so. I was in a hurry, so I only did about 4 layers... if that.



The painting was a total pain in the ass. For some reason it took forever. Naught me didn't seal it first, so the paint changed the texture of the tree and kind of shrivelled the paper.. not to worry.. I kind of liked how it looked, but if you wanna go deluxe, make sure the tree is TOTALLY dry before you start priming and painting. 2 coats of brown house paint did the job for me. I poked holes in the branches where I wanted the foliage to spring out from and used gorgeous bendy wire branches with silk leaves from a florist supply store. 


And last but not least... add some fairy lights for that little twinkle... Who knows, you might even win first place for your awesome creative skills.... 



Buckets Of Slop


The true meaning of getting your hands dirty, this weekend I spend the days cleaning out my pug mill and reconstituting old clay into beautiful new clay. 

If you're a potter you will know too well the feeling of avoiding those buckets of old scraps of clay. I keep telling myself I'll get to it one day... but it's only when I run out of clay that I am actually forced to do it. It's like having boxes of papers and receipts that you know you have to go through, but it's just so overwhelming!

Well... Christmas trade has already begun, and if I'm going to approach the silly season with a healthy attitude towards work, then I need to pull my finger our and get to work!!
And thus, the pugging begins...



This industrial machine is HEAVY, and it took Mr Peterson and his muscles and a crow bar to help me pull it apart. I hadn't used it in over 6 months, and so getting out all the dried bits of clay and washing the grates is essential. Did I mention how much I LOVE this machine? I'm in absolute awe of it's strength. It can do in a day what would take me a week to accomplish. Every time I use it, I always tend to make a remark about how it would crush a human hand in seconds... not because I think it will happen.. but just that it has the power to do so... it's a strong thing this pug mill. Respect.




 
So after a day and a half of making new clay, I have at least enough porcelain for a few good weeks of making. I still have more to process, so no doubt before Xmas, there will be another day of hard puggin', perhaps with margaritas... or is that a really bad ideas OH+S?


Be Brave, Live From The Heart..


It's something I struggle with everyday, the choice between doing what my heart says, and what my head tells me.

I think it's so common that we all do it subconsciously without even realising it. Yeah sure, the big choices always come from the heart, Who I fall in love with, what I do for a living etc.. but there are everyday choices that perhaps could be coming from a deeper place.

In order to do this I need to let go of the expectations of other people (weather they are there or just in my mind), and focus on what I know is best for my heart and soul. These past few years I have been making better decisions about how I spend my time (what time!? I say!!), but as the new year feels like it's quickly approaching, I am craving more and more space to myself and more and more time to reflect, have some peace and quiet and find better ways to relax into my life rather than fill it with more 'stuff to do'.

How indulgent it feels to even think about having more 'me' time. Time to be still, be silent and write in my journal again. Time to meditate, create and have picnic lunches in the grass with my dogs. 

I sometimes crave a hermit lifestyle. One where I live hidden in the woods with my Man where we lye around in hammocks all day eating peaches.... what bliss! 

We are so good at placing expectations on ourselves, I wonder why we feel the need to justify to one another how we spend our time? Is it enough that we exist, that we have families, work commitments, and a responsibility to take care of our health? We can put so much pressure on ourselves to be better, meet social expectations, always look fabulous and be a success... I'm thinking in this next coming year I want to empty my calendar, and fill my days with simple things like clay, cloud watching, reading books with cups of tea, writing, drawing, baking and spending more quality time in nature. 

I've been thinking this all week, and I wonder why I'm so obsessed with making hearts at the moment...  sometimes it takes a while for me to realise what I'm making, and what it's telling me. Or sometimes I just need to find enough silence so I can hear it speak.

Happy Birthday to Me...



Ok, so it may have been a few weeks since my Birthday but I'm still feeling all Birthday-ie. Are you one of the many people who have come to realise that the pressure surrounding a Birthday can be a big let down? You know, "It's you BIRTHDAY!! So start feeling Happy!!" Sometimes on my Birthday I think I should feel super happy and excited, and because I feel like I should, sometimes the opposite happens... and I just want to stay in pyjamas all day and make no effort what so ever. 

Well, that's what I did this Birthday... I gave myself the day to do NOTHING... not even a dinner plan or a movie in mind. I decided to stay in, do bugger all and not even pretend to feel special (how sad). But the funny thing is, it turned out to be one of the best Birthday's in history. 

Perhaps when you start with low expectations it can only ever go up from there. Not only did I get woken up with A chorus of Happy Birthday from the wolf pack (boy can those dogs howl), but fresh strawberry tart with candles.. and yes I made a wish Shhhhh! Spent the day watching trash like True Blood and Teen Wolf (so bad it's good), then the Amazon man arrived with a pair of Fly London shoes I ordered the week before. 

By the time Mr Peterson came home I was pretty much up for doing nothing which was perfect because when someone you love runs you a bubble bath in the outside bath house, pours you champagne and feeds you grapes... you pretty much are doing nothing. Maybe chewing and sipping champagne is the hardest part of that task. What a hard life!

But the work bench... the work bench he made me is any maker's delight... the right hight (no more naughty stooping!) and sturdy too.. but the best thing is it's made with love. It has a bright red love heart in the middle and reminds me every day of the most important thing in the whole world.

Starting the day with a focus like this is such a gift. 

I'm not big on Birthday's, in fact I'm shocking when it comes to remembering them (my own included) but sometimes presents can blow you away when you least expect it. This one goes down in history. I'll be a 90 year old woman one day and still remember how I felt when that work bench came into my life.


Black Milk Leggings Giveaway!!!



Whoever says a pair of leggings can't change your life has obviously never had a taste of Black Milk Clothing before.


This awesome company are based in Brisbane and all their stuff is made in Australia... Yep, they sew it all in their workshop and send it to those of us in desperate need of something new and awesome. Now, I'm not really one for fashion fads (op shops and the odd sale bargain are more my style.... a little Nancy Bird here and there) however.... every now and then along comes a flash of brilliance that no matter what... I just have to have. These guys just know what women want :)

Confession time... I already have 3 pairs of these bad boys, blue galaxy, red galaxy and wallpaper leggings. And yes, they've changed my life. I love them, I adore them, I've never seen anything quite like them which is perhaps why they are selling so fast they often sell out! 

So in the mission of changing the world one pair of legs at a time, Mrs Peterson Pottery is giving away a pair of Black Milk Leggings valued at $75! Yepo! Lucky prize draw is open to everyone, just head to the Mrs P Facebook page, and leave a comment under the comp to tell me what style you'd get. The hardest part is picking you fave. Be sure to check out Black Milk Clothing and have a good browse. Winner will be drawn on 1st June 2012 via video post. Want to increase your chances?  All Mrs Peterson Pottery customers through May get their name entered not one, but 6 times! Feeling Lucky?