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!

Spring is in the air!

I have been suffering a considerable level of Pot Anxiety in recent weeks.  This is the state of stress which keeps ceramicists from their beds in the middle of the night because an idea hits or a problem resolution crystallises.  At which point there is nothing to be done except to get up – sleep will elude you until the offending thought has been dealt with.  The current bout of trouble stems from having rather a lot on and some difficulty knowing how to get 4 firings through the kiln before I head up to London in preparation for the exhibition at The Fountain Gallery which starts on 16th of this month.

At 4:00 in the morning there are few cars on the roads in Cornwall and, as I drove the couple of miles to my current studio to swap pots and glaze things in the dark, I really felt that the world belonged to me alone.

On the return journey I tuned into BBC Radio 4 and discovered that I had woken early on the perfect day.  It was International Dawn Chorus day!  The song birds that the BBC was recording were fantastic but imagine my confusion when I stopped the car, turned off the engine, got out and still the music played!  The birds of Cornwall were all up and about and heralding the morning with gusto.

I could have gone back to bed but that would have been a crime against nature.  Instead I brewed a mug of tea, pushed my feet into my walking boots and set off through the woods to the little stone quay at the bottom of the hill.  Through the woods the pale green canopy was still not fully out and the path was fringed with blue bells, red campion, wild garlic and with a late narcissus and an early foxglove or two completing the spectrum.  The birds were giving it everything they had got – it was truly magnificent.  IMG_20170123_103337

By the time I reached the water’s edge the tide was just beginning to ebb – sucking at the stones on the slip way as it crept back out to sea.  The surface of the river was as flat as a mill pond.  You couldn’t really make out the colours because the light was so gentle but I could see a couple of small boats hunched over their moorings and, in the houses opposite, there was not a single sign of life.

The chorus was diminishing now as the song birds all went off in search of their breakfast but the rooks and the oyster catchers were in full swing, it was a beautiful morning and a joy to be alive.  I tried to record the sounds but technology defeated me and anyway, I was being far to self indulgent to try for long so here is the BBC podcast from early on International Dawn Chorus Day.  If you don’t have the patience to listen to the whole thing I commend the last twenty minutes to you.  You will not regret it!

The Potter has Landed

A couple of years ago I was invited to apply for membership of the Design Factory, an organisation funded by Arts Council England which exists to promote artist integrity, raise standards and to ‘support and develop the very best designers/makers in craft practice today’.  I was hugely flattered.  I had only just finished my diploma, didn’t know what I was doing and was crashing around in the dark.  Through their scheme of mentoring, workshops and support at exhibitions I have learned so much.

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Design Factory stand at Top Drawer.

Now, in addition to having an artist’s profile of which I am really proud and which I could not have come up with without attending a writing workshop organised by them, I have taken part in exhibitions which I would not have dreamed of being involved with if it had not been for their support.  One of which, Top Drawer, this January has done enormous things for my career, leading directly to 3 exhibitions in interesting places over the next year:  This July I will be the featured maker at Hybrid Gallery in Devon, at the same time I am exhibiting alongside Debbie Barber, an established maker whose work is well known at Red Barn Gallery , one of the best known galleries in the North-west.  Then, in the autumn, I will start preparations for a collaboration with artist Candide Turner Bridger for an exhibition in Norfolk at Great Walsingham Gallery next year.  I can hardly believe my luck!

This week, probably as a direct result of the opportunities which they have provided me with,  I was informed that I have been invited to become a Flair Level member of the Design Factory which, in addition to looking great on my CV will give me even more opportunities to learn and to exhibit both nationally and internationally.  I am really excited about this.  It feels like a true endorsement of what I have been trying to do since I finished the diploma and it definitely promises to open doors for me.  There is just one tiny problem – I think I need to get back to the studio and get making – so much to do, so many pieces to create, so little time!

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Time to get back to the studio and start making!

 

 

 

Who Am I?

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to take part in a workshop organised by the  Design Factory  providing advice on writing about your art.  The session was run by Jane Adams from the Royal Literary Fund. 

We began by talking about our work.  We had about five minutes each, during which the other members of the group made notes on what we had said.  It is extraordinary how your attitude changes when you are talking to real people.  Suddenly we each began to say the things that the rest of the group seemed interested to hear.  Our description of our work practice changed significantly, well mine did for certain.  Instead of spilling out some ‘arty-speak’ notion of what I do I actually began to talk like a proper human being and to try and make what I said informative and interesting instead of merely talking through the top of my head.

Step two was to feed back to the speaker about what they had said and to try and distil what they had talked about into just the key points.  Next we split into pairs and, using the notes that we and the others had made, we wrote 4 sentences about our partners work.

Here I was exceptionally fortunate to be paired with Liz Cooper.  It turns out that she is a bit of a wordsmith!  Given the fact that she is a freelance curator this is no bad thing but, for me, it proved to be a very good thing indeed!  This is what she wrote about me:  I love it and will use it almost unadulterated as my Artist’s Profile from henceforth!

  • Geology is at the core of Bridget Macklin’s ceramics: she mixes in other materials, then scrapes back to reveal fantastic and colourful strata.
    Bridget loves porcelain and says, “When my hands are contact with it, I just can’t stop working with it.”
    She delights in repeated refining of her pieces, revelling in the challenge of taking risks with her materials.
    Bridget strives to make lustrous, delicious pieces that only reveal their full natures and hidden treats on close inspection.

Now I ask you, What is not to like?

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What is not to like?

I was a Trade Show Virgin

Let’s be honest from the start here – when I signed up to be part of Top Drawer as a part of the Design Factory team I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for.  I had not really thought about what a trade show is and I hadn’t really considered whether it was appropriate for my work or not.  As I catch my breath after my first ever trade show I find myself reflecting on what I got right and what I might have done differently if I had had the presence of mind.  So this week I thought I would share with you my post show feelings:

  • If you possibly can, especially for your first time, go as part of a group. safety%20in%20numbers1

You might get a little less space than if you went on your own but what you get instead is someone reminding you of all the things you have to do, organising the stand, supporting you before and during the event and producing a more corporate feel to the area – I think our area looked great because  it was so coherent in appearance.

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Our stand looked coherent.

 

  • Do not trust the public transport system.

I found travelling to an unfamiliar venue first thing in the morning discombobulating.  On the first day my journey took double the time that it was expected to and I arrived late and flustered.  The second day was better but still not perfect.

  • May friends with your neighbours.

cachedimage1Everybody needs good neighbours!  To look out for you when you need a bite to eat or drink, to boost your energy levels and with whom to have a bit of a laugh and to hold the fort for you when the public transport system lets you down.  Thanks guys!

  • Say no to nothing but promise nothing either  9c47ce60901c0e8e0aee74b0eced525f1

I now have a pile of interested parties to contact.  Potentially I have some very exciting opportunities to look forward to.  If I had promised something to the first person who showed an interest, I would have felt rather pressed to agree to some of the later ones.  By agreeing to things in principle and suggesting that I follow up later, both the potential customer and I have time to consider all the opportunities that the show presented and neither side is stuck with something that might not be the best for them.  I am hugely looking forward to making contact with the people who expressed an interest over the next few days and having more detailed discussions with those who, in the cold light of day, really do want to do business with me.

  • Take a goodie bag with you

I seem to have eaten rubbish for 3 days.  Next time I do a trade show I will make sure that I have plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge so that I can stock up each day and not fill up on chocolate and muffins!

  • Do not party until the middle of the night before!

On the day before Top Drawer I set up my stand in very good time in order to drive 150 miles, party half the night, eat and drink far too much and then drive back on the Sunday morning to man my post.  It was not a good look!  Party all night!

  • Be prepared

 

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The invaluable ‘little green book’.

Due to the fact that my wonderful daughter was left in charge until I could get back from Somerset on Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to give her a structure for her conversations with possible customers.  Throughout the weekend ‘the little green book’ was to prove invaluable.  I could never have remembered the detail of all those conversations if I had not had a structured approach to the notes that I made immediately afterward each one.

 

  • Don’t plan too much for the few days afterwards.

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    don’t plan too much for after the show.

By the end of day 3 I couldn’t feel my feet, my brain was in a complete fug and the only place that I wanted to be was my bed – for a very  long time!  So it was a bit of an error to have to go into the studio on the following day to work on 4 urgent commissions.  I need to think that through more carefully next time.

  • Get help

 

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Set up and Break down was a nightmare

The unloading, set up, break down and removing of the stands is a nightmare.  If it had not been for my strong, helpful, patient and tolerant husband I would not have coped.  Simple!

 

 

  • Smile

All the time, at everyone!  bc35526f361a06e4957a0716a80112761

 

Just An Ordinary Market Town

Sleaford: a market town on the edge of the Lincolnshire fens;somwhere between Grantham, Boston and Lincoln with a population of about 18,000 and, from my limited experience, the worst traffic system in UK!

Important fact: Sleaford is now the home of the National Centre for Craft and Design within an old seed factory on Navigation Wharf.

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NCCD, Sleaford.

It is this fact that meant I was in Sleaford on Friday.  I have the good fortune to have been selected by the Design Factory,which is based in the building, as one of their Emerging Makers.  On Friday I made the trip to visit the centre and to chat about the direction in which my work is going.  It was extremely helpful to be able to voice some of my ideas and to have feedback on how things are developing – much food for thought!  It was also good to look in their shop and to see the work of other artists, Kate Welton for example, whom I had the pleasure of exhibiting alongside at Great Northern Contemporary Crafts Fair, and who is also an Emerging Maker.

 

I had no idea that this was such an impressive set up.  In addition to the shop there is a lovely looking café, several workshop spaces and a number of fabulous exhibition spaces which, coincidentally, currently comprise two ceramics exhibitions.  Alphabet Aerobics by Anton Alvarez challenges the preconceptions of making, craft and design. Alvarez is not a ceramic artist but here he is making use of clay to explore and  redefine the role of the artist in the creative process. The results are strangely beautiful and the space they are currently occupying only serves to enhance this.

Up on the top floor in Sleaford is the work of Kathryn Parsons151228-found-in-the-woodlands-1med-307x400[1]Her exhibition, Found in the Field is inspired by the poems of John Clare and comprises tiny, exquisite porcelain works.  I could have spent hours in their company!

So come on, friends, the deep recesses of Lincolnshire are certainly worthy of a trip, but might I suggest that you leave your car at home and go by train!