New Year's Resolutions

January 7, 2009
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Last month, I wrote about the many choices we have as ceramic artists and potters. The variety of choices for materials and processes, content and design (only to mention a few) are abundant within our field. Recently, as I reread that piece as well as some of my other writings, I realized that with the New Year now upon us, some harsh realities continue to merit our consideration.

The biggest challenge is, of course, economic. Everything and everyone is now faced with a new economic reality. While fuel costs, at least for the moment, have dropped appreciably, it is not permanent. Costs for labor and resources to produce the materials we use will all rise. Equipment costs will also increase as the products used to make them will surge. Fees to participate in wholesale and retail crafts events will certainly reflect a tightening economy. Wholesale purchases to stores and galleries might slow down as retailers are vigilant in watching their bottom line. Consignment may become a more prevalent method of doing business as cash flow retrenches.

While this certainly might be viewed as a dour and negative point of view, our art and our craft does exist within a greater economic picture. How we choose to position our businesses in these changing economic times is an important and timely consideration. I don’t foresee the United States Treasury bailing out any ceramics enterprises!

I think some New Year’s resolutions for ceramic artists and potters are certainly in order. Here are some things we can all consider:
  • Are the items in my product line still relevant? What can I discard and what should I keep? Have my ceramic products evolved and changed, or are they old, tired, and out of pace with my customers’ tastes?
  • Concurrent with assessing what I make, what can I add that might be of interest? A new glaze or a new form?
  • Are my glazes tired? Does my ware have a dated look? What then do I need to do to jump-start my color palette? Are my reduction glazes languishing in the 1970s?
  • What can I do to work smarter and not harder? Can I still continue to make 50 mugs for, say, $12 wholesale (totaling $600) or two pieces for $300? How is my body holding up?
  • Are my utility bills outta sight? What measures can I take to manage them before I can no longer afford to fire my work?
  • Do I need to edit my road and travel time to shows by concentrating on more local marketing?
  • What do I need to do to maintain my cash flow?
  • If my employee costs, labor and benefits are skyrocketing, what do I need to do to manage and, if necessary, decrease them?
Much of this discourse is all bottom-line generated. Some of these considerations may not apply to you specifically, but, while we all love to work with clay, our work is economically driven. We cannot treat 2009 like the years that preceded it.

It will be interesting to read the reports from the February markets in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, as they will certainly be a harbinger of things to come. The global recession will impact each of us in many different ways. Even though we will be challenged on all levels, we need to always concentrate on making the best work we can, to elevate the beauty of the ceramic vessel in whatever ways we choose!

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