All in My Own Time

I have been reading Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal this week.  It throws a fascinating light on the experience of getting old and I commend it to everyone.  41cD6wyaxLL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_[1]As a window on the world of narrowed horizons and the choices available to the elderly and frail it is fascinating.  I suppose it was a particularly relevant book for me, given my own father’s increasing frailty but I think the main message in it for  me is actually that all of us need to be prepared for this stage of our lives which does not tend to treat us kindly.

There is a section in it which struck a chord with me very loudly.  Gawande talks about the change in how we seek to spend out time at different stages of our lives.  ‘When horizons are measured in decades, which might as well be infinity to human beings, you most desire all the stuff at the top of Maslow’s pyramid – achievement, creativity and other attributes of “self-actualization”.  But as your horizons contract – when you see the future ahead of you as finite and uncertain – your focus shifts to the here and now, to every day pleasures and the people closest to you’. (Gawande, 2014, p.97)

This explains a couple of conversations which I have been involved with over the past couple of weeks.  Both during my mentoring session and during the Bristol seminar by Patricia van den Akker (See my last post) I have been asked the ‘where will your business be 5/10/20 years from now’ question.  I have found this particularly difficult to answer this time around:  I am aware of a definite shift in my energy levels and inclinations recently and I find that my knee jerk response to this question is ‘who says it will be anywhere at all!’  But this makes things very awkward.  If I don’t know where I am going why set off?  What IS the point?

There are still good friends who are certain that what I do is simply a hobby, that I do it to keep myself amused.  I suppose it did begin like that and then there was a stage where I needed an outlet for my work so that, at the final reckoning, my children didn’t enter the loft with fear and trepidation wondering what on Earth to do with all those pots!  But now I have to acknowledge that things have gone beyond that.  I am chasing a dream of it being successful and so presumably I do need to know what success is going to look like when I get there.

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Why does it have to be all about the money?

I find that cannot drift about simply making stuff and hoping that people like it, I need a reason to make in the first place and, for me, that needs to be connected to somebody else wanting it.  But at the same time, I am not sure that I have to be utterly driven by building the business.  I need some aims but they don’t have to be measured in financial terms.  And anyway, what does success look like?  I don’t think that it necessarily has to have a load of pound signs in front of it.  It is something I need to give some more thought to but I do know roughly what it looks like and I will share it as it happens.  In the meantime though, I am no longer sure that we do have all the time in the World!

 

 

 

There Are Going to be a Few Changes Around Here.

This Friday I attended a workshop by the amazing Patricia Van den Akker, director of the Design Trust and creator of the Dream, Plan, Do planner which is designed for creative people to help and support them in their business.

This lady kicks some ass!  She is proud of the fact that she asks the questions which hurt; which dig under the skin; which make you question what you do and why.  There was a moment during the day when it dawned on me that, as it currently stands, my business is completely unsustainable!  I cannot physically make the volume of work which I need to create (and sell!) in order to make ends meet.

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This level of work is simply unsustainable.

Whilst for some people that might sound like the end of the road, for me, sitting in the auditorium listening to this inspiring woman, it simply means ‘Look out, Guys, there are a few changes coming this way very shortly!’  In actual fact, it is a relief.  I have all but burnt myself out over the past couple of months trying to support the demand for my work and I knew something had to give.  Patricia has given me the ideas, the determination and the drive to make those changes.

One of the more entertaining exercises that she asked us to do related to considering how our own personality and artistic behaviour informed our business:  She asked us to imagine ourselves as a form of transport.  What would we be?

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Pitting ourselves against the elements.

I tried this out on some of the family yesterday and whilst my husband sees himself as a sailing boat because of the desire to pit himself against the elements and be challenged, my daughter visualised herself as a double decker bus, seeing above the crowds, travelling in style and at speed but able to stop regularly to pick up and set down ideas.

I would be a ferry:  I love water travel and go out of the way to be on or near the water whatever the weather.  Ferries often cross spectacular reaches of water between beautiful waterside landscapes.  Ferries help people on their journeys, they often make it easier for someone to arrive at their destination by providing a shortcut.  People love a ferry ride – it gives them a little buzz of excitement.  Indeed the King Harry Ferry in Cornwall is so popular that it has its own Webcam on which people can, and do, watch the chain ferry live as it plies backwards and forwards across the Truro River saving people a long round trip from the Roseland Peninsular to west of Truro.  Of course, being an artist, I also don’t expect to be paid until I get them to the other side!

Calm Down Dear!

One of the very good thing about being a part of the Design Factory is the provision of a mentor to support you in your creative business.  I have to confess that I have been actively avoiding my mentoring session because I have had so much on that I couldn’t bare the thought of my mentor piling anything else on top.  list[1]

What a fool I am!  During a lengthy and well structured session today we went through the success of my past year and considered where things needed to be done better – not more, just more planned.  It was incredibly useful to actually break down all the events and to work through what might have made it even more successful.  I now have a list, it isn’t a very long list but I have considerably more confidence as a result of it that I can go some way to avoiding the turmoil of the past couple of months if I follow it.

Just three things on my list

  1. Address my marketing – do what makes a difference and don’t bother with what doesn’t.
  2. Get a planner – and use it!
  3. Research the galleries that I want to stock my work. 
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    Tregony Gallery will remain firmly on my list!

Having got that all out of the way I decided that the day was too good to be in the studio and I set off to play in the water.

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With the Falmouth Classics in full swing it was wall to wall boats in the bay.

When I got back to my phone it was to a message form the wonderful Tregony Gallery to say that whilst I had been messing about in boats they had sold five of my pieces!!  Do I panic that I need to make more work I hadn’t planned for?  No!  I will refer to my planner and decide what to do calmly and sensibly.

 

And so, with no apologies, I’ve got a little list!

Going Nowhere?

This week a dear friend introduced me to Simon Jenkin’s book England’s Thousand Best Churches.  She did this shortly after I had introduced her to one of the gems of the Roseland Peninsular, the thirteenth century church at St Just in Roseland.  I am particularly fond of this church and so it is one of the places which, when showing visitors for the first time, I take great care to approach from the right direction.  We walked out along the Bar, a spit of shingle which reaches  across the creek, so that she could see the church across the water.  She was appropriately impressed.  A series of ‘wow’s and other appreciative sounds confirmed this.  Later we walked round and into the church.  It is a beautiful and interesting place full of peace and history.  Its creek-side setting and semi-tropical gardens are the icing on the cake.

I was astonished that Jenkins only gives St Just one star and have resolved to explore some of the Cornish churches to which he awards 4 stars in order to compare and contrast.  Turning to the page for the Roseland churches I was shocked.  None of them merit more than one star and Jenkin’s summary of the Roseland is ‘A secret annex which might just as well be called Going Nowhere!’  I would like to add to that, please, Mr Jenkins.

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Creed Church.

The Roseland is steeped in history and tales of daring do; its coast is rugged and yet gentle at the same time; its geology is fascinating; its villages have their hearts in tact because they still have sufficiently large residential populations, having been blighted slightly less than some parts of Cornwall by people who own houses but only use them for a few weeks a year.  I could go on and on but, given that one of its charms is that people leave it alone to some extent, I won’t tempt them!

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This is my playground!

 

Having given Jenkin’s remarks some time to filter through my tatty brain I appreciate their accuracy.  Geography makes his comments completely accurate.  Apart from a couple of ferries there is literally one road in and one road out.

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You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to!

You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to – and I meant to!  It gives me a sense of well being.  It is my playground.  It inspires my work and I am truly glad that I now have the opportunity to live and work here.

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The Roseland inspires my work.

 

 

I am Such an Exhibitionist!

During this last week the exhibition Light, Clay, Colour ended and another one, for the finalists of the Royal Arts Prize started and it has got me thinking about the nature of different types of exhibition and the pros and cons of each sort.

Our three person exhibition at Fountain Gallery attracted a lot of attention.  We must have averaged about 25 visitors per day with some days being much busier than others.  We each sold work, although I think we would all agree that we would have liked to have sold more, but at a self invigilated show such as this, at least we keep what we make.  There is no gallery commission and that has to be a huge bonus.

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Preparation takes a lot of time.

We also enjoyed plenty of feedback from our visitors.  People are not shy about saying what they like about a piece and what they don’t.  They offer comments which can spark a trail of thoughts and might eventually lead to a whole new body of work.  I had a couple of very interesting discussions along those lines and am excited to know where they might lead. On the down side however, I spent a lot of admin time on this exhibition.  Preparing press releases, most of which got me nowhere; helping to design, print and deliver fliers; organising the hanging, displaying and labelling of work; writing, editing and printing out price lists and artists’ profiles.  The list goes on!  I also had a lot of up front costs: the hire of the space, the printing of publicity materials, the drinks and nibbles for the private view to name a few.  Then, when the exhibition was on, it was down to the three of us to invigilate – that is a lot of hours sitting in the gallery!

The Royal Arts Prize exhibition is a totally different kettle of fish:

The aim of the Royal Arts Prize Exhibition and Award is to search out for and showcase artworks by artists that have embraced their individual exegesis in art, artworks that are a product of an inner balance in a world full of diversity and often chaos.
An exhibition of 26 shortlisted artists for the Royal Arts Prize. The prize will be awarded to artists that present works that are the product of an emotional connection between dream and reality; we’re exhibiting contemporary art that shows the force driving individuals to express and affirm their personality and ego, through today’s modern art landscape. A winner will be selected by a judging panel made up of Art Professionals and Artists. There will also be a Visitor’s Choice Prize awarded to the Artist with the most votes by the visiting public.
30th May – 10th June 2017
Opening times Monday to Saturday 10:30 am-6:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12.00- 5:00 pm
Admission: Free

You enter the competition, if you are fortunate enough to be shortlisted you take your chosen pieces to the gallery and leave them there.  You come back three days later for the private view where you drink their wine and eat their canapé whilst trying to look intelligent, artistic and graceful and then you swan off home and let them sell your work.

BUT . . .

  • You pay a fair price to enter the competition and there is no guarantee of being among the chosen few.
  • You have fewer pieces on show
  • You have no control over the publicity, except for a pdf invitation prepared by the gallery which you have to accept, warts and all.  In this particular case it looked great and I was really excited by it but, given the dates on the invitation, some of my guests arrived to discover that the exhibition had taken longer than expected to hang and so they had not opened on the day they had announced!  If we had been organising it ourselves we could not have got away with that.
  • You have to accept the price that they sell your work for will not necessarily be the price that you put on it and that you sometimes have little say over that.

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    Proof reading the invitation should be the gallery’s responsibility.

On the up side, the gallery has a huge and interested client base, the private view  included people that the gallery has on its mailing list, many of whom don’t know you, and so this kind of exhibition is a great opportunity for building your own customer base and you don’t pay commission for work sold.

The third sort of exhibition in which I am currently involved is through my regular gallery.  Tregony Gallery is what I would call the ‘slow burn’ of exhibiting.  I have had work with this gallery for some time now and I like to think that we are building a good relationship.  I seem to be receiving a steady flow of sales.  I don’t pay to exhibit my work but they charge me a percentage on everything that I sell through them.  This seems entirely fair given what they do in terms of invigilation, publicity and promoting their artists.  If you get a good gallery, and Tregony is, the work just sells and you get the money – well some of it at least!   I just have a responsibility to the gallery to keep supplying them with the work that they want.  The customer feedback is through Brian and Judy so it is slightly less ‘in my face’.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one!  All decisions about the running of the gallery are made way over my head.  I’m dead certain that is a good thing!  So when the gallery came up with the idea of Tregony By the Sea and asked if I wanted to be involved I was thrilled!

Tregony Gallery presents ‘By the Sea’, a new event showcasing the best in contemporary and traditional artists, from locals to Londoners and recent graduates.

We are thrilled to be displaying new work and key pieces from a selection of our most talented artists and makers in the beautiful harbour setting of St Mawes.

Visit us at; Millennium Rooms, The Square, St Mawes TR2 5AG.

9 & 10 June 2017. 

(http://www.tregonygallery.co.uk/bythesea.html)

 

Its a Kind of Magic

Well, it has only taken me about 18 months but at last I have found the time to enjoy reading Edmund de Waal’s book The White Road.  I am glad that I have waited until the right moment as I have been able to indulge myself with soaking up de Waal’s palpable enthusiasm for the subject of porcelain without feeling rushed.

I have had the time and the peace to read most of the book whilst invigilating our exhibition at Fountain Gallery which has its final day today.  Now this says something about the number of sales and visitors to the gallery and begs questions about self invigilated shows.  (Thank goodness for Tregony Gallery which cheerfully goes on selling my work without me putting in an appearance).   But that aside, the luxury of reading a well written book about the porcelain story has been a delight.

There are three lasting impressions from reading this book.  First is the extraordinary excesses which those with money and power went to in the past.  When Augustus the Strong of Saxony died in 1733 he had a collection of 35,798 pieces of porcelain (de Waal, 2015).  Secondly of the heightened emotions which the efforts to create ‘white gold’ in Europe seemed to invoke.  The alchemists searching for the formula for creating gold from base metals and also how to make white gold spent decades working in intolerable conditions, imprisoned and forced to experiment over and over again until they struck success (de Waal 2015).  Thirdly the wonder  with which people have always perceived this material.  De Waal describes the first makings of English porcelain by William Cockworthy as an obsession;

 ” To make something so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows as the blackthorn does when flowering in the hedgerows in early spring.” (de Waal, 2015, p.225).

 

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Sometimes opening the kiln really does feel like a kind of magic!

 

 

Oh my goodness, I get that one!  When I open the kiln and there it is: a crisp, thin, translucent vessel with a pure, creamy whiteness.  It is a kind of alchemy if you ask me!

In Praise of Partners

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Alan has painted plinths, mopped brows, calmed nerves and polished vessels without a single complaint. 

I think I might have over-stretched myself a bit recently.  I have committed to too many exhibitions and commissions in a short space of time and found myself with a bit of a problem.  This blog is in recognition of the part of my team which always seems to come up with a solution to this kind of problem.  He does it with more cheer than I can muster on most normal days and with greater efficiency than anyone else I know.  In fact, he leaves me feeling more exhausted by his efforts than I was before but, quite frankly, I could not have got through the last few weeks without him!

 

My darling husband has not only been responsible for bringing me hot drinks and lightly poached eggs whilst I have been fighting the ‘Mother of all Colds’,

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Sometimes I have been feeling like a scalded cat

he has also shopped for buckets of ice-cream; he has visited the chemist for the most vile cough linctus ever created; he has listened with patience and tolerance whilst I have alternately moped like a kicked puppy and scratched like a scalded cat;

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At other times I just wanted to crawl away and lick my wounds.

he has painted plinths late into the evening; he has waited at our private view pouring wine and engaging our guests with charm and wit and he has polished my vessels.

I have mentioned the wet polishing of vessels before.  It is a painstaking, time consuming, messy, cold, wet, unpleasant activity!  My other half has polished 21 vessels this week – at an average of an hour per vessel.  Well, you do the maths!  Even if I had been well and fit it would have been utterly impossible for me to get done all that needed doing unless someone took from me the load of doing the polishing.  One word of warning though.  He has done such an amazing job on the polishing that he might have constructed for himself a cross that he now has to carry for all time!!

Alan, thank you. I found something which says it far better than I can –  this is for you.