Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Sunday Visit and Thoughts about Juggling Your Ambitions

There are always pots waiting to be glazed.

Just a little more decorating to be done and then put them in the kiln.

It was Sunday afternoon and I try not to work on Sundays keeping one day for myself. But there I was again, working. My studio is still a bit crowded and so I decided to move my "open" sign outside wondering if that meant I really was open. "Whatever." I decided. " I am or I am not open. What does it matter? I'm here."
It used to be more significant being open or not. I used to have walk in traffic, lots of people I had never met before. Now, if someone finds me they are usually looking for me.
So I am glazing to some of my favorite music and the little door is open,as opposed to the garage door, and a car parks outside and two ladies get out, one about my age and a younger lady.
They are looking for me so I stopped glazing and talked with them. It turns out the younger lady is 27 and has been making pots for about 7-8 years and found me on the Internet and decided to see if I just happened to be there. Of course, I was.
We did the typical potter chit chat like" What cone do you fire to? How long have you been working? Where does your body hurt? Where did you go to school school?" And we compared the economics of the south east, she is from Radford, VA, close to where I used to live and Tulsa. Sounds like people are buying more there and the festivals are doing better. She was an interesting young woman.

And then we started talking about the "Guilt factor" of being a potter. She suggested this as another chapter of my book. Great idea.

Most people, I think have a sense of their job never being finished. I do believe it is especially true in pottery. Pottery and sculpture is such a labor intensive career that there is always a lot more to do. There are so many stages in the process. Simply waiting for something to dry enough to fire it and cool enough to take it out and glaze it and fire it again can drive a beginner crazy. And it is true as I have said before, when you are in college if you are in an area that requires a lot of reading or writing time, date a ceramics major. They won't have much party time and you can read and write all you want.

But what about the guilt? As a person making a living as a potter/sculptor and being self-employed it is difficult for many of us to give ourselves some time off. We feel guilty if we only work 4 hours in a day sometimes. If we worked for someone else, that would be fine and you would expect that every now and then as a perk. I always feel like when I am working and it is not my normal work hours I am getting ahead and those hours are more special. It is a little game we play with ourselves. It was all I could do to drag myself into work on Sunday because I wanted to stay home and nest in the house and yard. I made myself go work so I would be sure to have my commission finished on time this week. Once I got there I was fine and then was not sure I really wanted to come home.

When I used to have a studio in my garage at home and a big lovely 2 car garage attached to my house, I had to use the the screen door as the "gone to work" message to my brain. Don't step in there and clean the kitchen or poke around. You are at work on this side of the door. By the way, it was heated. I had a washer and dryer in my garage and I undid the dryer vent leading outside, attached a pantyhose filter to the end of the venting and made nice warm moist air in my studio whenever I needed it. Those were the days. Big space and heat!

When I was finishing grad school I was walking with a friend across a farmers field picking up cinnamon patties to fire with, commonly called cow manure. We were talking and I realized I had become a bit boring. I did not want to talk about anything but pottery and do pottery. I still remember the moment and I realized the importance of a balanced life. Don't forget to smell life's roses. It is not all about cow manure.

I will be thinking more about this chapter for my book and I appreciate the idea. How to make potters take a break, accomplish a lot and still have time for life. The words multi- task come into play but so does sanity. Severe multitasking is not the answer either. I think it is about not taking yourself too seriously and still staying motivated and balanced.

Do we work to hard because of a strong work ethic instilled as a child?
Do I work hard because I think I get paid by the hour even though I hardly ever pay myself?
Do I enjoy my work so much I can't stop because I like what I am doing?
Do I think I can get ahead financially if I work harder? That used to work.
Is it all the above?
Am I just avoiding unfinished jobs at home?
Is working too hard just a bad habit?
Is it really wrong to work too hard?

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