I achieved an HND in Industrial Ceramics by the time I left education.
I can make pots and moulds in all kind of ways, but the one thing we were never taught was glaze technology, we were just given vats of the stuff and taught how to dip.
Glaze technology is hard and complicated (or is that just for me?). I got really frustrated with having to buy bottles or powders that I couldn’t control. So I bought myself a book and with the advice of a much more knowledgeable potter, started on the journey to produce a perfect smooth white base glaze.
It took about a year, a lot of firing, a few tears, and wrecked some kiln shelves, but that knowledge is my most valuable ceramic asset (and i love it).
Your own perfect bases can be adjusted to anything you like – gloss, satin, matte, running, textured, any colour the oxides can give you (apart from red and yellow, we’re all still working on that). You’re no longer constricted by the inventions of others, it opens up a whole new world of creativity that you alone control.
It can feel very depressing when you think everyone else is selling loads of work and you’re not.
How do you actually know everyone else is selling …. because they tell you!??
‘My work flies out the door’
We all want to make ourselves look like established, collected artists …. But the only things that fly out the door are hand sanitizer and toilet rolls.
‘I’ve just delivered more work to my gallery’
I’m sure they have, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t also returned with work that’s been sitting there for months unsold on a ‘sale or return’ basis. Just because work disappears from a physical or online gallery doesn’t mean it’s sold, it may have been moved or swapped to keep the display fresh and give people the impression that it’s been sold. High street shops use this tactic all the time.
‘I’ve just completed a commission’
Is it a proper business commission though ….. or has one of their friends just asked them to make something?
‘Your work is so lovely’ – Social media comments V sales reviews
It’s very easy for friends to tell you how beautiful your work is, much harder to get a stranger who just paid you some of their hard earned cash to give you the same comments with a 5 star rating ….
Here it is again … Work will sell itself.
The best way is the old adage – It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know, (but most of us don’t have friends or family who own art galleries and exhibitions spaces).
We all start by renting space, (I’ve certainly have since college!), be it craft tables in shows, or joining others to rent a space to exhibit, but it’s usually the renters of that space that make the profit. What we really aspire to is acceptance and representation by those in the trade.
Gallery owners know what they can sell, what they can make money from and what the price point is, they get hundreds of emails every day from prospective artists trying to get their work in, we’re all just very small fish in a very big pond.
Ultimately, work will sell itself.
This is the tricky one … we made our work, then it was just getting people to buy it. It’s the brick wall we all hit at some point.
Three things people think when they’re walking past your stall or browsing your online shop.
1 – Do I like it?
2 – Will it fit in?
3 – Can I afford it?
If the answer’s yes to all three, you might get yourself a sale.
Truth is, it’s not about the pretty posters or the bunting … work will sell itself.
We have our bag of clay, and the excitement of creation … now … what to make?
It’s fantastic to feel inspired by whatever inspires you, the light bulb moment is a real high … just no copying please! It’s very upsetting for us ceramists who’ve spent months designing, just for others to pass it off as their own ideas. (Yep, happened to me and it drives you nuts).
When I started college we were banned from any designs involving flowers. This was very frustrating but if we had been allowed flowers, we would’ve done nothing but flowers.
So we had to think of something else, so I started doing fish.
English artists also have China to contend with, (they’ve had the flowers and fish thing covered for hundreds of years). This country is flooded with ornaments and utilitarian ware from the East, produced and imported so cheaply how can we possibly compete.
I guess the only real answer is coming up with something they haven’t ….
The most annoying question we were asked by our tutors in college was ‘does it work?’
Nobody could work out what this meant. Every time you scribbled a design they would ask ‘does it work?’ We would reply with a shrug and say ‘I don’t know …. you tell me ….’
As you evolve as an artist you realize what ‘does it work’ actually means, they wanted you to discover your design instinct …. that special subconscious something that tells you ‘yes or no’.
You get the same gut instinct as a customer when you look at someone’s stall. You don’t know why you like it, or you don’t.
Ultimately different things ‘work’ for different people at different stages of life, and if people give you money for it … it works!
While we’re in lockdown I thought I’d start a little blog on my website with some thoughts about my ceramic life ….