Saturday, March 29, 2008

wholesale, production and romance, oh my.

hi all...don't know if you read whitney smith's blog, this artist's life, but she has been discussing the issue of wholesaling work and how to best make it work for you. she brings up some interesting points about speed and consistency that i have been also wrestling with in my own quest to achieve a wholesale line.
so, i started with candle holders that i make by hand (see above). though they don't look it in the picture, they are quite labor intensive and, honestly, quite slow. the idea of possibly getting an order for even 100 is exciting, but i realized there would be no way i could hope to make them consistently and in a timely fashion. so, i have decided to slipcast them. i went back and forth with this for a while, but i have decided this is the best way, if i am to truly try wholesaling, and to not make myself a crazy candle holder maker.
now, i know slipcasting still has a stigma attached to it, and that a lot of people frown upon it as a way of making, but i have thought a lot about this over the years and here is a little of what i have come up with to justify it for myself: moldmaking is just another tool, like the wheel, or a slabroller, or a rasp, or a paintbrush. i do not see much of a difference between someone who sits at the wheel for 8 hours throwing the same form over and over again, and someone who spends 8 hours making a beautiful, well crafted mold (it is an art in itself, really...if you have ever tried to make a mold this is painfully clear!) and then using it to make the same thing over and over again.
i can slipcast the forms above from a mold i make myself and then add the decorative elements to them. not much in the way of "handmade" is lost, and it will enable me to actually sell them and reach more people than those who go to my local craft fairs and farmer's markets.

any making on a large scale, especially for ceramics which is exquisitely time consuming and labor intensive, requires "mass production" methods. this can be whatever you need it to be: wheel-produced, or an assembly line and division of labor, slipcasting, or any other way you can think of to make your process faster and more efficient. they are all really just another tool in your tool box. any and all of them will be valid methods of making, and in my mind do not necessarily take away from the handmade, artistic value of the finished product. it is still not factory work, made by drones for pennies in china. (and, i might argue, that even those objects have their place in the world, but that post is for another time....)
it is difficult for any artist making things alone in their studio to make a living off of their work by producing small quantities or one of a kind pieces. sure, it can be done, but by and large it is difficult. believe me, i know this.

if you do not want to make a living from your work, then more power to you! make one of a kind things until your heart is satisfied, and then make more. i think the difference is in your intention. if making things is to be hobby, or to supplement income, then that is one thing, but if it is to be the source of your livlihood, then you must produce, market, and sell. this is just the way it is.
so, that said, i am attempting to do both the "mass produced" ware and the one of a kind, or limited edition pieces. making things for wholesale is making me think in completely different ways than i have before, and that is a good thing. it is my hope to make a living from my work, at some point, and that has forced me to rethink my antiquated, though beautiful and romantic idea of myself as the artist working away in her studio and selling her one of a kind work to the discerning customer with an open wallet. it is just too hard and quite frankly not realistic, especially in these troubled economic times.
ok..i will get off my soapbox now. not sure why, but i feel especially fired up about all of this...i have been thinking and reading a lot about it lately. i guess i am still processing the fact that my reality will be that i have to become a production artist (maybe a contradiction in terms??), which i always swore i would not do. i really don't want to go to work for someone else, however, and believe that i can make a living from my work, and that right there has forced me to start shedding my stubborn ideals. it has been slow in the coming, but i am trying to embrace it without sacrificing my artistic integrity. i used to think this would not be possible, but now i realize that is not so.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

back in the saddle

hello hello....sorry to have been absent for so long...i was sick for a while and then busy getting back to work and catching up...i have also been taking a business class, and now i'm very behind in the homework...partly due to illness, and partly due to the fact that we are working on financials, and this is the most dreadful part for me, so i have been putting it off, putting it off...must dive in, though...what is it they say? just do it. yeah, that's it....

on the bright side, my slabroller came!! yay! it has taken me a while to get the hang of the mechanism, as i am used to using a different brand, but now that i've got the hang of it it has made my life much easier, and opened up so much room in the studio. the scary part is, now i have to make things!! a lot of them!! it is scary, but in a good way, i promise.

so, don't know if any of you read american craft magazine, but you should. this month's articles are great, though they kind of beat the dead horse of art vs. craft and all of that, but they generally have very insightful articles, not to mention great pictures. ;) they always get me thinking in ways that i haven't since grad school, and i think that's a good thing. anyway, there is one particular article on ceramics and industry this month, and i highly suggest you read it. you'll find it here. there is actually another article by marek cecula on similar things, but i liked this other one better...check it out.

not to rant about it, but i think a lot about the craft v art v industry debate, and i really don't see the big deal. mostly what i come to, especially after reading these articles, is that industry is not a bad thing...after all, if you think about it, industry was born from craft, and crafters should be proud of that, and own it, rather than bitching about industry and what it does to ceramics (or any other media, for that matter). but really, everything is valid. i don't think one is better than the other, the cottage potter or the industrial designer. this world is big enough for all of it, and one would not exist without the other. we all have our place. i could go on here, but really am working on getting my thoughts down and then i'll post something a bit more articulate, but read the magazine and come to your own conclusions.

above is an image of a wall piece i made recently. black and white porcelain. here's one in white.

Monday, March 3, 2008


welllll....i finally did it! i ordered myself a slabroller! for years and years i have been rolling slabs by hand, with my trusty rolling pin and a few sticks, and it has served me well, but alas it is time to move on up! i finally decided on the northstar and bought it through my trusty equipment source sheffield pottery in sheffield, mass. i also bought my kiln from them and their service and support is great...not to mention they always seem to have the best prices around.
so, it should be here sometime this week or next, and i have been busy prepping the studio for its arrival...moving things, throwing things out, organizing. it has been a great opportunity for me to re-think the flow of my workspace and find a way to make it the most productive. my space is only about 530 square feet and is broken up strangely due to previous tenants, so its always interesting to try and get the most out of the space with all the stuff i seem to pack in there....i think i like it a lot better now, and i can move around nicely without it being too choppy...and i have a nice little space set aside for the slabby slab roller! i'll take some pics and post them once i get it all together....