Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The things we keep

THIS IS IT!  Christmas came and went, the grad school semester has ended, including but not limited too an 18-page paper on the place for connection to objects in Philadelphia, and I have a full work-week off!  My time this week will be devoted to a) putting Christmas away, b) putting everything else away, c) decorating with 'generic winter' decorations, and d) getting the second floor of my house back to a functioning space.  After all of this, I will have a clean house, a fridge stocked with holiday leftovers, a space for yoga and small workouts (much needed after last weekend!), and a studio space to make items at my leisure, which is required so that making is not a stress.

This blog is about my experience getting back on my feet, as a maker, after my house flooded in May of 2015.  My outlook has been different since moving back into my house this year.  Out of the flood came a small piece of adulthood I had not known I was missing, and I think some adults never get.  People become attached to objects.  You might just love something because its pretty.  You might feel a sentimental connection to your childhood, or another person.  The feeling may be so strong with some objects that it is the closest thing to having that person sit right there.  These moments come and they go.  It is healthy to have a few items of sentiment, but you cannot keep everything.  These things we hold onto...are just things.  You'll be OK if they break.  You will come out unscathed if you pass them along.  You will not forget them if they go missing.

This little piece of growing up that I experienced as a 28-year-old was a gap in time.  The items I had before the flood were packed in boxes and moved to a POD and trailer in my driveway, nearly inaccessible (below).  Some items were sent to be repaired and held at the repair locations.  A year passed, and I didn't need those things.  I healed from the initial shock, and when the objects came back, I realized that the space they left was more valuable than the objects themselves.  It was a space for oxygen, and a rest for my eyes.  My house, my grandparents' house, is my object of sentiment.  I don't need to keep everything in it.

This was my personal lesson, and every person is different.  But with the new year approaching, so does the great purge and spring clean-up.  So I wanted to share this experience with you to help.  I by no means have an empty house, and I still struggle with trying to get rid of some things, but I do question objects on a daily basis...Why do I keep you?  And as a maker of objects, it challenges my whole purpose, but it is precious things we must keep.  Things that serve us joy.  Life is too short to be carrying more than you need to, or want to.  If the object doesn't weigh you down, and it gives you happiness, then keep it, and care for it.

This is a constant balancing scale: keep it, throw it out, give it away.  But since my recent events, I can say that it's easier to let go.  Now, I better get started on what I set out to do at the start of this post while I'm still in this mindset!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pride, priorities, and puppy games

My last post was pretty significant to me.  It represented a timestamped memento of this turning point I am on.  I have a sale coming up in two weeks (mmc.ceramics on Instagram and Marilyn McCauley-Potter/Maker of Things on Facebook for info), and among other things (due dates for grad class, preparation for the holidays) I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  I unpacked my inventory so I don't over-prepare, even though preparing for the sale is all I want to do (developing my brand and organizing are kind of therapeutic for me...).

In my crates of pottery, which remained untouched in the chaos of packing after the last sale, I found a little bit of pride.  Pride, but also my inner-critic.  She's usually a constructive critic, though.  In the silence of my second-floor studio, that looks a lot like an storage unit at the moment, my mind was loud with thought after thought.  I can't believe how many times I've packed and unpacked this cup.  I need to make more mugs with words.  I miss the dots, I wish I had time to revisit them.  Maybe I can create a hybrid surface design that doesn't take as long.  This plate does not belong with the rest.  How can I display these ornaments better?  I need to get more bags.  I need to clean this space.  I really need to write an 18-page paper...

I am chasing that dream, and it's playing games with me like a puppy that's escaped the yard.  If I go after it with too much intention, or too aggressively, it'll run.  It's having a great time, and it has no idea that I'm not playing.  I'm getting mad at it for being so hard to catch, but it's so damn cute, how can I be mad?  Maybe I should change my approach and casually pretend I'm not interested.  You know, a little hard-to-get.  Just when it thinks I'm heading home without it, I'll pounce and take it home.

Anyway, what I'm after is a relatively clean space for making, an inventory system that works, and most importantly, the fulfillment I get from creating.  It's that feeling that I miss the most.  That right-brain workout.  That time-passing state of mind that cleans up my headspace.  It's not selling the product of my efforts that I long for...it's the engagement in the process, and all I have to do is move it from the bottom of my list to the top.

MMc Studio - circa Spring 2014

MMc Studio - today

Friday, November 25, 2016

Big feelings about small business

I'll start with a thought, which you, the reader, may relate to, be surprised by, be upset about, or compassionate toward, a thought which I have finally embraced: while it may be an easy decision to do what you love, it is not always easy to make it happen.  In fact, sometimes, it is the most difficult, last thing on your endless list.  I find myself often looking back at what I had built two years ago (which was only a start) with my business.  I had customers come to sales just to see what I had made (which feels amazing). I had family support of my endeavors.  I had a bigger dream to do bigger shows with more prestigious fellow crafters.  I was about to invest in licensing, and I was finally finding the customer base that fit my style and my brand.  I had a system for making, a long list of sketches to bring to fruition and to meet the needs of client suggestions and requests, and a Pinterest board worth pining over.  I had started something, and it was going decently well.

...and then the rug slipped out from under my feet and I fell.

I stopped making.  Without going into detail, my studio flooded.  I had begun a masters program.  I had given my spare time to teaching, my family, my boyfriend, and my other hobbies, and even if I devoted less time to all of those things, it wouldn't get me back to where I was because the truth is, all of those things give me purpose, and I love them.  I kept telling myself that when my studio was set back up, I was going to explode into a whirlwind of creativity and production, but what I didn't see was that getting myself to that point would be so impossible.  This time of year, as a craftsperson, I feel a lot like I'm being locked in my room when there's a party going on outside.  It is during this season last year that I heard all of the feedback that made me feel like I was doing what I loved.  I loved seeing that every time I unpacked for a show, my brand was more clear and my booth was more organized, and it's sad to think that I'm missing it this time.  

People say that having no time is not a good excuse for skipping the gym.  Make the time, they say.  I can't help but feel like this applies to me in a crafty-sort of way.  And I definitely love making pots more than going to the gym, so it is inevitable that I'll have weekends booked with craft sales again like I did a couple of years ago, but I am writing this blog, and intend to continue to write, so that you know that I'm still here, and that I will always be a maker.

The trouble with being a maker, though, is the same thing that makes it one of the most special and incredible occupations that exists.  As the sole maker of your things, you are the only one who can see them through to completion.  If you fall, which you may, your business will fall, too.  But the good news is that when you get up, which you will, you will lift your business as well, and probably with bigger, stronger muscles.  What you've gained in your *down* time is reflection on what was and what you've been through, and a new set of goals to accomplish.  As a maker, you never stop learning from what you see.  This is who I am.  A sponge for things I can use.

Because it is so hard, small acts of support go a longer way.  Be compassionate toward any one seeking to accomplish their dreams.  We need encouragement, congratulations on what has happened for us.  Not a scoff at a price you think is too high, or a judgment on a career path.  We need a follow, a like, and a share.  It is that support that keeps us going, that makes us proud of being where we are, even if we haven't quite accomplished that whole dream.

Last year, my holiday MMcCeramics social media posts were all about shopping small and supporting makers of handmade items, and I still believe in this.  But in addition, this year, as you visit your local little guys, and your Etsy shops, I encourage you to tell the maker or the owner that you love what they offer.  It means a lot, and it doesn't cost a thing.  Happy shopping, happy holidays, and thank you for your continued support.