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Thoughts on Artists Success

The other day I wrote a blog post which was inspired by other bloggers discussing branding yourself as an artists and a Ted Talk by Coach John Wooden.  You can read the blog and see the talk by clicking here.  I'd really suggest going and listening to it, it's only about 10 minutes and I'm going to refer to it in this blog.  I'll wait.

In Coach Wooden's Ted Talk he says "My idea is that you can lose when you outscore somebody in a game. And you can win when you're outscored."  I can relate that to my pottery by saying I can be successful yet sell less pots than someone else and I can be a failure yet still sell more pots.  If I'm making work that I don't want to make, and not crafting it very well it doesn't matter how many I sell, it wouldn't be a success.

The thing is, sometimes potters make pieces not out of love for the piece but because they sell and that helps to pay the bills so we can make more pots that we love.  For example, I make some soap holders.  They are not tremendously creative partly because if I were to put many, many hours into each one of them they would be cost prohibitive and I would rather they be accessible.  I don't mind making them at all.  I love having them available when I know I'm going to have a booth near a friend of mine who makes handcrafted soap.  It's a way for us to work together, support each other, serve a customer's need and help pay the booth fee.  They are really pretty popular so I've been thinking about putting them in my Etsy store.

Handmade ceramic soap holder and soap by Future Relics and Basic
Hand Crafted Soap Holder and Soap

Would I put one in my portfolio?  Highly doubtful.  I don't think a judge would be as impressed with them as my customer's are.  My customer's see them as something nice for their homes or as a gift.  They see them as a complement for the handcrafted soap.  So even though they make people happy I suspect a show jury would not be positively impressed by them.  However, I see these soap holders as being a successful item because they make it possible for me to keep my hands in the mud and they help other people.  I consider this a win.

A while back someone suggested that I make a certain piece.  Another artist made these pieces and they sold really well so why shouldn't I?  Well, let's see, they are hand built and I'm a thrower, they are something that I'm not inspired to make, and they are someone else's idea and that would feel like stealing to me.  So I walk away from an idea that could make a few more dollars for me but I keep my personal and artistic integrity.  I may be outscored but I still win.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Comments

  1. Lori, you hit the nail on the head. As you know I make sponge holders. They sell well. If I absolutely hated making them I would stop. But I like the throwing process. I can bang them out pretty quickly. It's good practice for throwing consistency. They bring in some cash.
    You should definitely put your soap holders in your Etsy shop!

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    1. Thanks Michèle, it seems we are frequently having discussions about the soap/sponge holders.

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  2. We all have to set our own boundaries. I personally don't like to be held to a particular style in my work. If I want to do something different, I don't worry about "brand" or "Art vs. Craft". Those terms make me feel like I'm stuck inside a box. I say make whatever makes you happy, just put yourself into it. ....And, if you can put some quick cash in your pocket, that makes it even sweeter!

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    1. I would guess that everything you create will show your style to some extent so why not experiment with what moves you.

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  3. I am a potter that makes my soap dishes to enhance my soap making biz. My products sell like hotcakes. I love making them and love seeing people enjoy them. Why would that make you less of a potter?

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    1. Hi Katy, you're right, it doesn't make you any less of a potter or artist. Your soap dishes are beautiful. The question is, how would an art show jury perceive these beautiful, functional, and well received works.

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    2. Thanks and that's a very good question! The soap dishes are home decor and functional pottery at the same time. :-)

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    3. I guess the soap dishes that you, Michèle, and I make are judged by the public and really, they are who truly matters in the long run.

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  4. that quote there "something I am NOT inspired to make" sums me up too :)

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    1. That is really the bottom line, Gary.

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