My 7 Top Survival Tips for Life as a Full Time Potter...

Kara Leigh Ford February 2018_44.jpg

I can hardly believe two years have passed since I started my potting adventure. This is officially now the second longest job in my life (the longest was 9 years) -  I have a bit of a way to go before it's the longest but I will get there - this is it now; I'm thrilled to say my career path is sorted. Period. I keep saying to my husband "I'm not going to retire, I am going to continue to make pots until my body literally no longer lets me, you may well find me slumped over my wheel, aged 99 with lots of cats around me".

I spent the last few days in a tent by the sea, with my love. It was only when we realised the date that I remembered: on the 27th April, it was 2 years since I gave up the 'proper job' and became a potter. It was a really nice opportunity to reminisce over a pint of cider about my time as a self- employed maker.  I decided to document a few things in this blog mostly as a reminder to myself of how far I have come, the lessons I have learnt and also because they might offer a lighthearted example for others who are on their own creative journey...

1) Shipping...don't EVER estimate how much shipping is going to be.  International shipping is especially expensive, ceramics are heavy things which need a lot of padding. Remember the time you paid £50 to get £90 worth of mugs to the US but only charged the customer £10! That was your profit you just gave to the post office. Slow clap. 

2) DONT SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. DONT SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. I know you're excited about someone being interested in your work and it is very flattering when someone asks you to make them something. But think about it first. Tell them you'll do some sums and get back to them. Don't just say yes, you may end up regretting it. The point of this whole thing is to enjoy what you do - don't ever make yourself wish you hadn't agreed to something. Yes, it is right to keep learning and stretching yourself but you are only one small potter, you cant accept every commission on every budget. Make sure you can actually achieve what is required, in the timescale and that it fits with your (in order of importance) style, creative interest, skill set, time, space and what the customer is willing to pay. If one of those things isn't on-point then politely decline the commission; you'll thank yourself later. I was once asked to make someone a garden gnome.

3) Don't forget people. Don't forget people. You know, 'people'. You used to work alongside a lot of people, you even really liked *some* of them. Don't forget you enjoy the company of people, sometimes. It's very easy to mistake radio 6 for social interaction. And no, the cats don't count!
As an ‘introverted extrovert’ it’s easy for me to spend literally days in my studio without venturing out into the world but then I’ll suddenly realise I haven’t seen another human being (apart from my husband) for a week. I then become a bit over-excited on posting days and get all my conversation out to the poor person behind me in the queue at the Post Office😆. When your studio is just such an oasis its a struggle to balance studio time and putting on real clothes and washing your hair 😉 Have any of you got any tips on staying in touch with real life people to stop becoming, well, a bit strange?

4) Self care -  Brush your teeth *before* you go out to check your kiln in the mornings. Do yoga. Don't drink too much coffee. Stretch. Clean your studio more than you do - it helps focus your mind and the dust is not good for you. Don’t drink too much wine.

5) Take time to enjoy yourself - Take the time to enjoy yourself. It's easy to jump from one task to the next without stopping to enjoy the bits you really love. This is why you did this- right? To *enjoy* your job - don't forget that!
We choose this pathway because it nurtures us, take a moment every now and then to absorb it all. Sit in your studio with a cup of something and just contemplate. Where you’ve been, how far you come and what you should do next to keep the nurturing alive. Maybe consider getting someone to do your taxes for you? Or someone to help recycle your waste clay? Even maybe a helper for packaging up orders at busy times. Just make sure you’re still doing more of the bits you really love - like creating and making - and less of the bits that you don’t.

6) Be grateful - everyday. You are very lucky to do what you do.  Be grateful for every order. Every enquiry. Every like, every comment, every follow.  A customer might only buy 1 bowl from you today but they might go on to order £1,000 dinner set from you later (this actually happened to me). Treat every customer as if they were your first. And I don't mean your mum, I mean the first stranger who trusted you enough to give you their hard earned cash in exchange for one of your pots. I will always remember my first for as long as a I live - her name was Rebecca and she bought 6 plates from me 2 hours after I opened my Etsy shop. I was beyond thrilled. I actually thought it was a mistake! Keep that flame of excitement alight in your belly - your customers will feel it's warmth too.

7) Trust - Trust - in yourself and the decisions you've made so far, not just in your business but in your life. Granted, you’ve made some pretty crappy decisions in your life; like the time you decided to put ‘Sun-In’ on your fringe because you wanted to look like Sporty Spice 🙈😳😬 (I was 14)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You’ve also made some pretty good ones. You married your husband = good. You bought your house = good. The friends you chose= all good. Trust your instincts when it comes to the big stuff, they’re better than you give them credit for. Instincts have helped me navigate through things when I literally didn’t have a clue what direction to go in. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And when you really don’t know the way: trust the universe - it will provide the answers AND the lessons. And know that where ever life takes you, it's exactly where you are supposed to be at this time. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

8) In the words of Baz Lerman - 'Don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself too much either'- you're still learning. 

Yunomi Tea Bowl