Three truckloads further and Koos and I find ourselves back in the first house we bought in Saltillo Mississippi and that was rented out while we were in Illinois. Now we have to make it home again and my studio needs a serious revamp after termites got hold of it.
Example of pottery from my factory.
The University of Pretoria recruited Koos to work for them. We were sad to leave beautiful Malelane behind, but we realized that there were several advantages in moving to Pretoria. We were young and today we know the grass always seems to be greener on the other side.
I started teaching pottery classes again, but also took the opportunity to attend pottery workshops. It was great to enroll in a pottery class as a student and learn from masters in the field.
Every artist dreams of the day that he or she will make it big, so I was happy that I could sell more pottery. At this stage I did not consider myself as an artist. I was good at teaching and I was good at making pottery. I even got to the point where I started to understand the chemistry of ceramics and could make my first glazes.
One of the things that is often overlooked by artists and which should be addressed more often in college courses, is the art of business and how to work yourself gradually to a place where you can earn an income without allowing that the business to consume your whole life . I was completely ignorant in that field and the perfect candidate to fall into a trap.
In looking back at the situation, I learned a lot; not only about business, but also about managing the 20 people I had working for me at the time. I learned how to plan and schedule the production of hundreds of pots per day, sometimes jumping in and working side by side with my employees. The hardest, but maybe the best lesson that I learned was that I loved pottery and not wanted to be a manager of potters.
The aftermath of the factory was difficult. I had a lot of self-doubt. My children, still very young at the time suffered with me and my husband were stressed out to his core. He co-signed for the factory and lost everything because of my crooked partner. With a very demanding job, it was not good for him to worry about me and the children.
As with all things, life went on and soon we were back on our feet. I restarted my teaching studio and our lifes resumed as if nothing happened. I became a very successful teacher and not only did I write my first articles for a newspaper, but soon thereafter I won my first pottery award. As a family we were content and happy.
At the time the winds of change were already blowing viciously over our beloved South Africa. Nelson Mandela was the new president and although everything seemed to be peaceful, thousands of professional people started to leave the country; either because they lost their jobs or because of fear that they will lose their job. Little did we know at the time, that we would soon follow in many other's footsteps. We just had to make a little detour through Namaqualand and Cape Town, before we would, in 1999 also find our way to the United States.
· It is very important to know what you want to be. Do not be a potter or artist because you think it is a moneymaker. It is not. It is extremely hard work and if someone tells you that the life of an artist is an easy one because they can get up and play their life away, do not believe that. You have to be extremely disciplined to be your own boss and the hardest thing to do is to find inspiration when you are tired and the money coffer stays empty.
· Find your voice and your own niche. It is difficult to do while you are still a beginner and after all how will you learn if you do not copy others. You have to separate learning to do art work from doing business in art.
· The easiest way to stay on that track is to be honest with yourself. Sit down with pen and paper and write down subjects that interest you. Tear pages from magazines of things that catch your eye and find the common elements that you like in those pages. Incorporate those ideas into a workbook. Keep notes and transfer ideas to your artwork.
· Have the discipline to work regular hours, eat and exercise enough and to maintain a good lifestyle.
· Once you have a style and maybe a series of work, you have to learn how to market it. Bruce Baker http://bbakerinc.com/ offers a series of CDs in which he discuss important rules for the creation of images of your work and things you should know to set yourself up for success at different shows. He also teaches some selling techniques. It is of no use if you make beautiful work and you cannot get rid of it.
· Know and understand your market and do not fall around from one style to the other.
· Make sure that you have a well worked out proposal with business cards, images, an artist statement, resume and biography. It is important that you know why you are doing what you do and make sure that others can learn that by looking at your proposal.
· It is difficult to make money if you do not have money to start with. I want to encourage you to read my blog “The beginning of my pottery career” One of the nice things about artists is that they are problem solvers. I heard a story about a guy that was working off the side of the road………ahmm……….but wait I am jumping the gun here; that story is part of an interview that I had with a fellow potter. I will post that shortly, so check back if you’re interested to hear it……..
· An artist without at least some basic computer skills will survive with difficulty in today’s world, since social networks have mostly taken over as the advertising tool. It is a fast and effective tool to use. Use it sparingly, but wisely.