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shows/discernment/and utter confusion...(long, also)

updated wed 23 apr 03


Aleta Anderson on tue 22 apr 03

I Don't have answers for Katie's confusion, just my own questions and
confusions I'd like to add. I empathize with your feelings about
competition and when I was younger wondered how I could survive in a society
that is so focused on competition, all the time. Would there be a place for
me? As I've moved along, made choices and perhaps grown up a little, I've
certainly been drawn toward living and working more independently, away from
what can be a competitive, even cutthroat world. That has mostly been in my
career choices (separate from clay). I knew early on that I would not be
thick skinned enough to work in corporate america. I learned after a while
I'm not even thick skinned enough to work in non-profit america. That can
be just as competitive and judgemental as corporate. I struggle to find a
place to work and be that gives meaning to me, that isn't about competition
with other employees (politics, one-upmanship, etc), and leaves time and
energy for a full, creative life outside of work. And that brings me to my
internal debate and dilemma and confusion...

Making a living with clay. I'd like to hear how other clayarters got to
where they are. I have two big frustrations when people see my stuff. One,
they often like the pieces that just aren't very good technically. the
glaze crazed. the bottom's thick. whatever, they like it and don't even
notice the one I poured my heart into and is actually beautiful and good. I
know that part is just taste and experience. I'll live with that.
Non-potters are drawn to different things than clay workers. The other big
frustration, which ties in, I think, with Katie's frustration, is the almost
invariable comment of "you could sell this".

Now I know people are considering this to be a compliment. But it's as if
the only judgement can be whether it is money-worthy or not. I suppose when
I show someone something, I am at some level soliciting their judgement.
But for someone who is not particularly money oriented... And, it's often
the so-so piece. And, I've seen lots of things for sale, that I wouldn't
sell, yet people do. So just because someone can put a price tag on it,
doesn't make it good. I also feel this pressure, that if I'm not selling
it, then I'm not somehow good enough, or successful enough. That just doing
this for my own edification is not quite enough.

But I'm afraid that if I tried to make a living from my clay, then I would
become a slave to the money and grow to resent this clay that I love as
something that I HAVE to do to pay the bills. However, I'm not so afraid of
resenting it, but of becoming a factory worker, so to speak, and just not
having the time to be creative. Which is also the problem I have now,
working a consuming, tiring (yet meaningful) full time job.

And selling it, means putting it out there for judgement, competition, which
is something I'm also not entirely comfortable with.

I guess the simple, distilled question I'd like clayarters' opinions on is
How do you turn your passion and creativity into your paid work and keep it
and yourself fresh and alive and not just become a slave to the market?

I know it can be done, because I see people doing it (I just read Robbin
Hopper's Stayin' Alive). I would really like to hear your stories of moving
from dabblers, hobbyists, etc. to selling your work to making a living in

on the Olympic Peninsula