Being a working artist means doing the work

I was in the art studio at 7 am this morning. With luck I’ll be done for the day by 8pm or so. These are pretty standard hours for me to be working when I’m on a production push, which is most of the time from about April through mid-December.

I’m lucky that people like the functional art pottery I’m making and are willing to give me money for it so I can keep making more. My success though is not so much about how much nifty stuff I’m making and the fact that people like it but rather how much work I’m willing to do.

I’ve spent thousands of hours practicing throwing, experimenting with different techniques, constantly pushing myself to expand and refine my skill set. I read and research historical and innovative pottery techniques that others use. I’m constantly on the lookout for inspiration to use to make my art better. How can I push myself to take risks, to make my work just a little bit better?

The ~business~ side of Sidhefire Arts also takes a huge amount of time to maintain. After the pottery is made I need to photograph it (Good photographs are KEY to selling my work), I need to get listings up on Etsy, make sure I’m being consistent with my marketing publicity, communicate with my customers in a timely manner, schedule and coordinate for vending opportunities and stay on top of my financial accounting.

Math. There is so much math. I need to know how much clay to use to make each specific item so my sizing is consistent. How much glaze it takes for each piece and what the average cost per piece is for both clay and glazing. What’s the average amount of work I can fit in the kiln for each firing, how much electricity does the kiln use for both bisque and glaze firing and how does that break down to cost/per piece? What’s my monthly budget for advertising, what percentage do I need to pay to Etsy (my primary online market) for each sale, and what percentage do I need to pay for credit card processing fees?

I constantly check in with my customers, friends and random strangers about what designs they like. I spend hours doing Google searches for pottery to see what is currently popular and then do the design work to see if those ideas fit in with my personal art aesthetic.

I try to prioritize taking care of myself. STRETCHING. Stretching and drinking water are so very important. I take breaks and go outside and just lay in the grass for 5 or 10 minutes. I try to take at least one day each weekend completely off and one whole weekend a month. I’m lucky that I have an amazing understanding and supportive partner who helps me remember that I need to take care of myself first so that I can do the work I want to do.

Another thing that I think is key for me is having a support group of like minded artistic entrepreneurial women to interact with. Even though we all do very different work it’s inspiring to see others creations. When I’m slogging through making 50 of the exact same thing it’s super helpful to have encouragement from other artists who understand that to be successful you have to do the boring part of the work.

I’ve had a number of people over the last few months say something along the lines of, “I wish I could be as successful as you at selling my artwork.” Well, you know what? You can. Really. But you have to be willing to put in the work and time. You have to listen to your customers and be willing to cater (at least a little bit) to what they want to give you money for. You have to MAKE STUFF. Make lots and lots of stuff. You have to put yourself out there, put your work up for sale on Etsy (or in whatever market works for you.)

I’m going to put a plug in here for a book that I’m currently reading for the 3rd time, “The Handmade Marketplace – How to sell your crafts locally, globally, and online.” By Kari Chapin. So much good information in this little book. It’s easy to read, easy to skim through, and easy to just pull out the bits that apply to each individual crafting artist.

Okay, this got longer than I intended and I have bisque ware waiting for me to finish glazing it. Back to ~doing the work~ for me.