LESSONS FROM CLAY #2 PRODUCTION VS CREATIVITY
Yeah, well… I've finally learnt that production and creativity are 2 completley different things. I know it sounds obvious, but it took me a long time to figure this one out. And I'm still finding a balance between the two.
I always thought I was running a totally creative handmade business, then one day I started getting the feeling that I was on the hamster wheel. It crept in like a fog and hung around for too long. I couldn’t understand why I felt so exhausted. What would I possibly have to complain about/feel tired about/feel bogged down by? After all, I was running my own creative business, I was my own boss, I could choose my own hours, I could rock up in my pajamas. What’s the deal?
Then after a few years, every time I got large orders for ‘popular items’ I would feel this feeling in my chest like a heavy weight. Why did creating pottery feel like this? And then I realized that there’s no creativity here what so ever. It’s stale. It’s stagnant. It’s old. I’ve been making hundreds and thousands of that same item for over five years, and there’s nothing about the process that excites me, ignites me or feels sacred in any way. And this type of production takes up 80% of my business! Uh, oh. I have orders to fill, and I have people counting on me to make this STUFF! Now I have to do it, or else…. the world will end!
I can hear you saying “Well, just get someone else to make it for you.” (or suck it up) It’s a smart business move to expand and hire staff, more productivity, get someone to do the shit jobs that you’re sick of. I thought about it. I thought about it a lot. And instead of moving down that path, I chose to go a different way. A potentially scary and risky decision that might cost me some sweet business $$$.
Remembering the reason I got into pottery in the first place was to express my creativity and play in any way I felt like... to be free. I made so much stuff, that I had no where to put it all. I realized that I was more in love with the process than the outcome so I made many, many pieces and started to sell them (I like a little repetition and consistency in my work). People started buying them (yippee) and it made me so happy that other people also loved my work, to think it brought them joy too! Then when I turned it into a business, I rose to the demands of production, I ran a tight ship. The more I sold, the more people wanted, the more people wanted, the more I made, then years later, my focus had shifted entirely to make what people want… make what and how many they ask for (after all, that's where the money is right?) but it was too much hamster wheel for me. I needed five people to handle the workload of production and business management I was doing, and I was only one person! EXHAUSTION. BURN OUT. RESTRUCTURE.
This lesson has been a tough one. This process of figuring out what my business is and how it works. How to please people, and provide a good product and service, and still remain creative and free. For me it is so intrinsically tied up with my heart, which is unusual in business to always operate from the heart. But I hold dearly the essence of why I create in the first place. That place where creativity comes from is so new and expansive, it is sailing into uncharted waters. It's is about not always taking the same path.
I like that my work is made by me, totally me. And that I put my heart in it. It is sometimes difficult to navigate this in the business world of retail and wholesale. But I realize I can say yes, and I can say no. I can choose projects and creative challenges that ignight me. I can have a break from products that don’t excite me any more, I can take time to play with new ideas and how important it is to come up with new and exciting products.
And at the end of the day, I am a potter. I love to create things. Some of these things are for sale. Interested?