how i did it

Wheel-ly big day

Yesterday was a big day - and an expensive one, I bought my wheel. After searching in vain for suppliers in London I decided to go up to Stoke to visit Potterycrafts, as they had the biggest range I could find. I'd looked at the options beforehand online, but didnt feel able to make a final choice without seeing them all in the flesh.

I'm left-handed so one that went on both directions was essential, and I'm also tall and didnt want to spend my days hunched over a tiny machine, so some height was important too.

After some discussions over the phone we shortlisted the Shimpo Whisper, the Roderveld Max red and the Brent C. All these were waiting for me in the show room when I arrived, plus a Cowley hush.

They were all quiet - which I had been hoping for after the monster I'd used in class that rattled even when stationary and truly grated on my nerves. They all had 1/h hp as well so there was nothing to compare there. Some were belt driven and some had direct drives, but I'm not technical enough to know which is supposed to be better.

The Brent and the Cowley didnt have extending legs and so were the least tall so I crossed those out.

A random visitor to the show room (who seemed to have taught throwing at Harrow) said the Shimpos were very popular - more so than the Alsagers, and later that he had never used a Roderverld but knew they were supposed to be good. He also helped us extend some of the legs and mentioned that they could safely be stood on breezeblocks for extra height (and that you can stand on the tray of a Shimpo if throwing something huge!).

I was pulled towards the Roderveld. It was such a nice thing with it's red body and wooden shelf and sturdy metal tray. My colours and no nasty plastic bits here.

However, I also wanted a lotus style head so that I could move newly thrown pots around still on their batts and no such thing was available for the Rodervelds so I had a nasty decision to make...

In the end I went for the Shimpo with its fancy head and not quite such long legs. I can't say I'm in love with the way it looks, but it is soooo quiet it's amazing!

Roll on next Thursday when it gets delivered.

While I was in Stoke I also went to check out the ceramics gallery in the Potteries Museum, but that's another story...

Artists' circle 2

Like many people I have been working my way through Julia Cameron's "Artist's Way" this year. Unlike most people (apparently) I got to the end in July. One of the things she reccomends is setting up an artists' circle to support you moving forward. I am fortunate to know several likely candidates, and we have got together and met twice now.

Last sunday we met in the garden because we all live together and nobody could be bothered to go out and spend money. It was nice, but slightly odd as others from the community meandered by.

We started with a go-round. Pretty much everyone was tired and not in the mood, but we did it anyway.

We shared our most recent work. I had the stamps for my business cards and some newly printed photographs and got some feedback on what to give away and what to sell at a forthcoming exhibition event, K had an excerpt from her book and P had a poem about crows - plus a great kids book about a baby crow doing beak stands.

We made collages on a rather randomly selected topic of "bright light". Here's mine. There was also a geeky discussion about collaging techniques, I focussed more on overall structure, P worked on aligning elements within adjacent images.That all took at least 2 hours, so we ended with a quick go round of inspirational quotes. Mine was:

"Curiosity is the greatest form of insubordination"

(That's from Nietzche via the internet)

Then we set the date for the next circle, in c. 6 weeks time. We all felt much better at the end!

Business cards for the creative with no work pictures

So, people at work have been asking me if I have business cards - which I take as a good sign. But it created a bit of a quandary - pretty much all of the cards for creative people I have ever seen have photographs of their work on. I dont have any work I am that happy with yet, but I need the cards now.

Lying on bed on sunday morning I realised that I could make my own with block prints. And here they are.

I made some little blocks of some of the motifs I have been thinking about anyway and used these as background patterns in white and red, and then made blocks of some generic pot shapes that I printed over the top in black. For bonus diy points everything I used was in the house anyway. Fret not, they do have contact details on:

Bingo.

Last minute jitters

Yikes! Woke up feeling worried yesterday, guess it's the jitters. Am I doing the right thing? All these people I respect telling me i'm good, that "museums NEED people like me" - am I giving up too soon, abandoning something i've proved i'm good at for a crazy hare-brained scheme? What if i'm no good at doing ceramics? What if nobody buys anything? How will I cope with embarressment of rocking up to the studio and having no clue what to do... Partly fear of the unknown.

Partly feeling the pressure of what other people want me to do and my old habit of giving them what they want.

But that approach is what got me into the doldrums of work that doesnt satisfy the basic truth of who I really am and what I find fulfilling, and as Ms P points out the ultimate foolishness is to carry on repeating the same actions whilst hoping for a different result.

So i'm sticking to my guns, feeling the collywobbles and doing it anyway.

On resignation

After many months of soul searching and battling with my inner sensibilist I finally decided that I definately wanted to change direction and do ceramics full time- hooray. Then I had to actually tell the world- scary. I made a bargain with myself that as soon as i had actually found a studio i could leave my job. I found a studio 2-3 months ago, but wont be moving in for another month. That gave me a timescale for leaving my job. I have been working at a great museum, the team are lovely and I didnt want to make things difficult so i decided to stay until the end of the Olympics. The service is in the process of being rescturctured and my job will definately be going, and i have known this for some time. It's one of the things that encouraged me to take stock of what my real purpose in life is. It's also been extremely stressful and difficult to deal with as the timescale and outcomes have been very uncertain and as a manager i didnt feel it was appropriate to show my distress at the situation too openly when the team (i felt) needed me to hold it and the team together. So, challenging times. Plus there was the redundancy payment to consider. I've been working in local govt for 14 years, so it's potentially a decent chunk of money. I dithered a lot about the sensible thing being to stay and get hte payout versus the humane thing of not going through the torture and getting on with what i really want to do.

In the end i told my boss that i was planning to leave. He was surprised and finally actually said that he had had me in mind for a new more senior management post, which was nice to hear - though it would have been nicer 6 months ago. He also explained all the many ins and outs of the redundancy process and tried to encourage me to stay on either in one of hte new jobs or at least until he could could get someone else in and we had done a handover. I dont like letting people down so that was all a bit discombobulating and i didnt feel able to resign in that meeting after all.

I went home and thought about it all: i would have to attend go through the formal consultation process and then an interview with people i knew for a job i didnt want and fail to get it, and then go into a pool and resist the council would try to shuffle me sideways into other jobs for another 3 months and only then actually be able to leave with the money - and only get hte additional bonus if they decide i have played nicely... It was all too much and too wierd and nasty and far far to long. So i decided to just resign and walk away from it all.  Fortunately I have enough savings that this is possible.

I knew exactly what i wanted to do, but had struggled a lot with convincing myself that i was allowed to allow myself to do it. That didnt make actually doing the resignation any easier. Plus i felt a terrible unidentified fear about telling people at work 1 that i was leaving and 2 why. In the end i resigned by email at 5 to 5 on friday afternoon and then went on leave for a week. It meant i didnt have to face the fear too much or get talked out of it again, and it was a big relief. But it was also rather unreal.

I realised afterwards that i was scared that the team would feel i was betraying them, or that they would take my departure from the museum world as some sort of criticism of them for staying in it. It helped to identify the fear, and i pursuaded myself that they wouldnt really respond like that if i told them the truth.

When i go back from my holiday i had a long letter from my boss basically not accepting my resignation, re-explaining all the options to me,  encouraging me to reconsider and asking for a meeting. When i got back to work it turned out he was off sick for days. That was horrible, i knew i was leaving, and soon, but no-one else did so i had to go on pretendeding that everything was normal as i didnt feel i could tell anyone else until the formalities were sorted.

Eventually on the thursday he came back in and we could meet. I finally met with him and explained why i was leaving, why i was doing it now, and why i didnt want to stay and get hte money. He finally accepted my resignation after i re-confirmed it all in writing.

Finally i was free to tell the team. Except that none of htem were in the office. They were in other buildings and working from home and ill and on leave. I was bursting with news and wanted to tell them asap. So instead of telling htem all together as planned, i ended up telling each of them that was in individually. Actually this was good, they were all really lovely in the way they responded and i got to spend the whole afternoon having nice 1:1 discussions with people about the value of doing what you really wanted to in life and the excitement and when they could come and visit, and could see that they were genuinely pleased for me, even inspired - and realise again what lovely people i have been working with.

At hte end of the day i got home and finally felt that it was actually real, i was able to celebrate with one of my housemates and an impromptu bottle of cava. Finally the feelings of fear and dread were swapped for relief and excitement for hte future. A big day!

Getting a workspace

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I tried doing evening classes. You probably have too. They are just too short to do anything in, particularly with ceramics when you have to spend so long wrapping everything up and cleaning up.

And its not an easy thing to do at home. Particularly if you share a house with others, or live in a crowded city, as I do.

So I decided to look for a workspace of my own.

A lot of the big studio providers were not helpful. They wanted a portfolio before they would think about renting you a space. Total catch 22 as I cant produce a portfolio of work until I have somewhere to produce it.

I did find a useful website you could search to find all the currently available studio spaces in London. You can't search by what you need from a space (like water) but it was helpful in discovering just how many companies and organisations are currently providing spaces.

(When I'm back home I'll dig out the address and add a link in case it's helpful)

Basically I ended up trawling through everything offered by all the providers looking for something that fitted the bill.

I wanted a decent size, daylight, water, power, close to my house, not tooo expensive and preferably other potters in the vicinity.

One place in Bow was very promising, and the people were very helpful - despite my lack of portfolio. Again I'll try and add a link.

But in the end another route came up trumps...

Having subscribed to ceramic review, I was avidly reading the small ads and found one for a shared studio in Hackney. For some reason I didn't follow it up for a month, so when I got in touch that space was gone. BUT. Luckily for me someone else had decided to move out and Igot the next space.

I move in on Sept 20th. Can't wait.

I'll have 1/5 of the space, nice people to share with, communal kilns to use - and amazing views over east london!