I don’t often write on my blog or tumblr. For the most part I keep things about the artwork. I present to you the life of a self-employed artist:Year 1.
Last July I quit my day job. It was a long time coming and I was waiting for the perfect time. I quickly realized that no such thing existed. It was time to focus on the classroom I had opened six months earlier and work on a large forecast for a catalog.
I was run down from life, working a day job, teaching at night and making art in between. I worked in the non-profit industry and I can tell you I was not profiting. Self-employment did not provide a pause. I was thrown head first in holiday madness. Mass exposure on a national market is both a tremendous blessing and a huge weight to fall on one person. Social media and branding can make a business appear far bigger than it actually is and with that comes more pressure. I struggled but succeeded to keep up with orders but not much else. I worked on average 60-80 hours a week to get through it. I was exhausted, looked and felt like death, in need of many workouts and a proper diet not to mention my social life disappeared. The criticism was luckily something that grad school had prepared me for however customers seemed to think I was running an enormous enterprise. That was the problem - It was me and a few interns and studio assistants. This is not a huge corporation. This is one person carving 2,000 mugs. And many long nights of my trusty staff helping dig out from under orders and bubble wrap. I was lucky to have the generosity of many friends helping with glazing and shipping. However at the end of the day this still was not working. After holiday shipments ended I spent a period of 18 consecutive hours in bed. Not until the end of February did I dig out from under orders. I will never complain that I had too many orders after all this is what I worked to achieve. I was there. It had become time to figure out how to live and run a business without it running my life.
I learned something very important in 2013 and that is what NOT to do in 2014. I scouted the country for a slip casting manufacturer which was no easy task. I was determined to get this mug manufactured for two reasons. First, no human being can make thousands of mugs a year by hand. I am a person. Not an octopus. Not a machine. Second, I cannot only make one item and let the rest of my artwork and the classroom fall by the wayside. That defeated the entire purpose of quitting my day job.
Cue to April 2014. Thanks to Ceramic Art Productions in Texas, my mugs are made for me in the United States and not in China (which was a very important goal). I have a lovely group of assistants and peers in the studio to help. They have a studio to use and I have my sanity. I have 30 hours a week back to make artwork. Most importantly, I have time for myself. It sounds simple but an hour a day to do yoga or ride my bike does wonders for the body and mind. I can take days off (even 2 days a week like a “normal” person). I can take a real vacation. I can breathe.
I love running my own business. It presents many challenges and often times social media makes it look much glamorous then the reality. I would not change a thing about how I got here. I look forward to going through holiday again and hopefully getting more things right than wrong. Most importantly, I look forward to maintaining my life while running my business even through fourth quarter. It am sure it will not be without packing peanuts in the fridge or bed (it is seriously worse than glitter), a few errors here and there and a lot of studio whiskey a la Mad Men to help us through December. I just hope I can look back at this point next July and say I succeeded in achieving balance.