Posts Tagged ‘play’

Work and Play

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Last week the current edition of Ceramics Monthly arrived. With all I have going on preparing for another river trip and getting the garden whipped into shape I am surprized that I had time to look at it at all. Of course I was delighted to see Kevin and Linda Crowe’s words in the Comment section. I read with some interest the focus on working potter’s titled “Work and Play:The Potter’s Life”. The article features the self written expressions of eight studio potters several of whom are old and new friends of mine. It was very interesting reading their various approaches and thoughts about this thing we do. It reminded me of the time when I was a lot younger and just had recently moved to Spring City. I’d say it was 1977 or so. My neighbor Lonnie Brewer who then ran the little filling station in town asked me as he checked my oil and cleaned my windshield (Yes, that was still going on here then.) what my line of work was. I told him that I was setting up a pottery shop. He cocked his head to one side and mused “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play for a living.
Perhaps he was right, potting is a form of play for many. Lots of folks wait until retirement to pick it up. My endocrinologist and his wife make pottery on evenings and weekends and attend a workshop somewhere almost every summer. I have not seen their work but I am sure it is done for the right reason, love.
My career in clay began while I was studying developmental psychology and early childhood education in college and took a potting class to unwind. I am still unwinding I guess. Lee advised me when we were first married that I should think about going into ceramics as a major. She observed that when I came out of my education and psych classes that I was all knotted up and that when I had been kicking it (pun intended) in the pot shop I was relaxed and looked a lot more like the guy she had fallen in love with.
I remember asking my mother when I was about nine years old why it was I had to eat all my food, do homework and certain household chores that I found unappealing. I really felt that life should be spent doing things one wanted to do whether they were work or play.
I am afraid that that sentiment has become a defining element in my adult life. I busy myself with things that I find fun. Not all aspects of potting are as fun as others. Throwing cups is a gas while butchering wood is a bit more like work, but it is all part of what it takes and are all a form of working on my stuff. On the river rowing a big boat into Lava falls is as good as it gets while cleaning the crappers at the end of the trip is less romantic. In my garden planting, harvesting and eating are pure fun, weeding is less so. This morning I was shoveling fresh horse manure out of the corral so I will have compost next year in the spring when I need it. On Fridays I like to hang it up and go sit with murderers , rapists and various other felons because it feeds me and them. Last night I spent a couple of hours splitting large boulders into smaller more manageable blocks of stone for landscaping. Bursitis not withstanding, it was a lot of fun. I wish I had picked quarryman and mason skills a bit earlier in life.
One common aspect of each of the narratives in the CM piece was a breakdown of time spent on ceramics into potting, firing, marketing and bookkeeping. I was surprised at how much these other artists spend on the marketing and bookkeeping end of things. In my last post I talked about how I market my work. I asked Lee to give me a sense of how much of the time I spend on ceramics goes to those things. Her response was “About one percent.” Because my marketing is almost all out of my own front door I don’t spend much on packing, shipping, keeping track of inventory on consignment, traveling to shows and fairs or dealing with galleries. I check the shop (always open) once a day when I am not working there. I spend an hour once a quarter logging sales for tax purposes. Once a year I spend a day or two writing our newsletter and gathering photos. Lee will spend another couple of days on the computer designing the rag. In January I’ll spend another couple of days going through our filed receipts and statements organizing information for our accountant to generate a 1040 and related forms. Lee makes the deposits and balances the checking account. Once in a blue moon I’ll pack and ship a pot to someone who has contacted me from a distance wanting a piece. I don’t think one percent is too far off.
I don’t know if this is a better way. It is just what I do. I don’t make as many pots a some of the people in this article. My time on the river, in the garden and in jail takes me away from the studio. I go there when I need to restock the shelves or when I have a request. I’d say I spend eight months of the year all told making and firing pots and that is enough.