New Year and New Frontiers

The past two years have been incredibly busy in the pottery and for that I’m really grateful. I had a record breaking year in 2013 and that came with a lot of hard work, but work that I love…mostly. The things I don’t relish are paperwork and cleaning, but nevertheless it gets done with much groaning and procrastination.

For the past two years I was busy with many custom orders and a very large dinnerware set with which I encountered some glaze issues. Luckily it was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, but it did take some time.

People are finding me doing searches for their needs. I fielded a lot of calls last year answering questions about what I do and don’t do, for example, ceramic repairs (It depends…”I can glue it back together if you have all of the pieces” is about the best I can offer.)

I only have two dinnerware orders pending right now and they both mainly involve plates. Plates are a tricky thing. If your kiln is vertical, as is mine, with 7 cu. ft. of space and 18″ shelves, then firing four dinner plates of 10″ – 11″ and four luncheon plates in one firing (on two shelves) is the maximum amount of flat ware that I can comfortably fit into the kiln and still get a good firing.

One time I tried firing three or four shelves of plates instead of my usual two shelves and the firing took about five hours longer than it normally does. That could also have been partly due to the fact that my heating coils in the kiln were starting to wear out and needed to be replaced soon after that. But unless you try several methods, you won’t know what is best. My work is constantly evolving because circumstances change, materials change, and the weather changes too.

The weather, something beyond my control, plays a large role in pottery making. This cold snap that has been happening for most of the winter plays a crucial role in whether or not I can even work in the pottery. My workshop is a converted garage with a cement floor and a baseboard heater along the outside wall. Other sources of heat: overhead lights and my electric kilns.

On days like today – it was – 35 C this morning – I simply can not work in the pottery. It’s far too cold and even though it is heated 24 hrs a day, it remains rather cold in the workshop, probably due to the lack of heating units and a cement floor. Currently we are thinking of ways to solve this problem. I have worn up to four layers of clothing into the pottery during the winter months. I always wear woolly or thermal socks and closed shoes, but on really cold days like today, my feet freeze.

Now, when you work with clay there is a 90% chance your hands will get wet. Clay is cold all of the time, but it is especially cold and quite unpleasant to work with in the winter. It is the kind of cold that shocks you right to your bones almost as soon as you start to wedge cold clay. That is the nature of wet earth though. It’s cold and it takes a while before it will warm up enough to work with comfortably, so if we have several nights of severe cold that can mean several days of no clay work.

When I’m not making pottery I have many other tasks that I must do to run a successful business. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but it honestly can not be stressed enough. If you are self-employed, you are going to wear many different hats doing your job and it’s hard to change hats quickly. Give yourself time to transition between tasks. Sometimes I will break up my tasks with a walk outdoors or a session of yoga.

Lately I have been studying marketing and I have been getting business coaching and guidance from my sister, Toni. She owns a print production business. I’ve never studied marketing before, preferring to fly by the seat of my pants but my pants are wearing thin. I need guidance and information and to really learn something instead of intuiting it. Toni pointed me in the right direction where marketing is concerned. She sent me a link to PattyK’s Holistic Marketing website and I’m learning to market my business more effectively. I’ve only just begun and already I have a zillion ideas for launching a new website. I’m quite excited!

If you are self-employed and interested in working smarter instead of harder, I highly recommend learning some marketing skills. PattyK is a great place to start!

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