I’ve moved…please visit me at my new location.
Hi everyone, I retired Colorado Art Studio as of Jan 1st of this year – legally and emotionally. Fret not, you can find me at ceramicscapes – my new business and virtual studio where I will continue to blog.
I didn’t have the heart to pull the plug on this website and renewed hosting for Colorado Art Studio for one more year last month. I just won’t be adding any new content to this site and will eventually migrate some of the information to ceramicscapes. I might even import most of my blog posts since I still have a lot of content that people find interesting based on my daily site statistics. At some point this year, I will redirect traffic from this domain over to my new website.
As some of you may know, I returned to school in 2009 and graduated with a masters in landscape architecture in 2012. I thought I wanted to give up clay and become a landscape architect. I have been working as a landscape designer since 2011, first as an intern and later as a part time consultant for Didier Design Studio. I have assisted on many interesting projects including a housing project design, an international university campus plan, a Denver park playground competition, a commercial landscape project, a high end residential garden plan, and many more. It has been a fantastic learning experience and opportunity – also one that made me realize that I missed clay and that I want to create a new kind of ceramic business using both my clay knowledge and architectural design education.
Midway through grad school I started joking that my anticipated MLA degree was going to be the best MFA that I ever earned! Yet all kidding aside, a design education is worthwhile even in an alternate yet semi-related field. In someways, studying a different discipline forced me to rethink clay in a more robust fashion from where I started. By definition, landscape architecture is a multi-disciplinary field that encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. It includes everything from big picture urban and open space planning ideas down to more dimunitive private residential garden design.
Last summer, I started taking baby steps towards making my idea [ceramics + landscape = ceramicscapes] a reality by doing a lot of research and then eventually taking a start up business class through the Denver Small Business Development Center called NxLevel for Creatives last fall. During both my undergraduate and graduate studies in art and landscape architecture respectively, not once was any type of business class or entrepreneurship studies offered. Odd since both disciplines have high levels of self employment. Starting Colorado Art Studio in 2007 entailed trial by fire and throwing lots of soggy spaghetti at walls to see what would stick – it’s an odd and ineffectual approach to running a business. AND, artists/potters are small businesses like it or not. If you’re not earning an income from your efforts, it’s a hobby. (I’m not poo-pooing hobbies but the way…I have many.)
Back to the NxLevel class. It was a 4 month intensive attended by approximately 30 creative people with diverse business concepts from clothing designers, social activists, photographers, a scooter aficionado, and a theater school to name a few – and one that has been an invaluable experience to me. Not only did I write a comprehensive business plan, I also honed my idea, my goals and have a really clear vision for what the next three years looks like in terms of business concept, finances, growth, products and social responsibility towards my community.
Starting a small business is exhausting, extremely difficult and rewarding all at the same time. Did you know that only 50% of small businesses that start every year ever see a five year anniversary? Grim statistics. Yet those that plan and are prepared, tend to succeed at higher rates. I can’t help but think that if I had planned a bit better in 2007, I would not have taken a leave to go back to school just as I was gaining momentum in my clay career. On the other hand, the concept for ceramicscapes would not be…and I tend to think that all of our choices in life are learning experiences. It’s what we choose to do with these experiences that defines their worth.
About mid way through the start up class, I took off my rose colored glasses and realized that breaking into the field of architectural ceramics is going to take a while – I need to find clients, build a portfolio, take some risks, seek out public art projects and more. It’s a big task and one that’s not going to happen over night. So, I’m still making pots and ceramic jewelry – not in resignation, but as a part of the business of clay so I incorporated these products into my business planning. I’ve also joined forces with a collaborator to help me in this venture. While I admire the lone artist potter, that’s not who I am. In school we often worked in groups, in part to simulate working in a professional office, but also to be able to bounce ideas off of one another and to negotiate in order to make our projects stronger. There is strength in numbers and I hope to realize this in a clay studio environment.
Many potters may look down on me for talking numbers, business and products – that’s okay. I am not an artist potter. I consider myself a designer and small batch ceramic producer. I plan to craft molds from original designs in order to speed up production – I am not talking about mass production, but something more on the line of a print maker who numbers their edition of prints from an original plate. The image above is slip cast work – I make the molds, the slip, clean up the pots, fire and glaze each one. My hand still touches each piece several times during the making process. I still throw and hand build…just not all the time.
I didn’t intend to write such a long post, and at the same time feel like I need to provide an explanation as to why I’ve switched focus from pottery to landscape architecture and back to clay. It’s taken me almost 1.5 years since I graduated in 2012 to articulate this myself because it’s confusing to me as well. I suppose life is not linear. We make choices, try things out, take forks in the road and that’s okay because there is no predefined path. I feel fortunate that I’m able to pursue these choices because not everyone has that luxury.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll bookmark ceramicscapes and follow my ventures over there.