Pottery in Pretoria
I am sure you will know what I mean when I say that decisions can sometimes cause big storms in one’s life. Koos and I put our house in Illinois on the market in late August and had it sold 2 weeks later. In these economic times that is almost unheard of, so when it happened, the storm was on and it came like a tsunami down on us. We had to move out of the house in less than 2 weeks, because the initial closing date actually happened on time and was not delayed like it so often times happen.
Three truckloads further and Koos and I find ourselves back in the first house we bought in Saltillo Mississippi and that was rented out while we were in Illinois. Now we have to make it home again and my studio needs a serious revamp after termites got hold of it.
Example of pottery from my factory.
In 1987 we made a similar move, except that our children were small and I was just past the beginners’ phase of my pottery career.
The University of Pretoria recruited Koos to work for them. We were sad to leave beautiful Malelane behind, but we realized that there were several advantages in moving to Pretoria. We were young and today we know the grass always seems to be greener on the other side.
I started teaching pottery classes again, but also took the opportunity to attend pottery workshops. It was great to enroll in a pottery class as a student and learn from masters in the field.
Every artist dreams of the day that he or she will make it big, so I was happy that I could sell more pottery. At this stage I did not consider myself as an artist. I was good at teaching and I was good at making pottery. I even got to the point where I started to understand the chemistry of ceramics and could make my first glazes.
One of the things that is often overlooked by artists and which should be addressed more often in college courses, is the art of business and how to work yourself gradually to a place where you can earn an income without allowing that the business to consume your whole life . I was completely ignorant in that field and the perfect candidate to fall into a trap.
My first series of pots were unloaded from my kiln one day and I was very excited about it. When I had an opportunity to show my work at a big show, I got an order within 3 days that was bigger than I could handle. I was totally freaked out, but instead of working my way through the situation, I turned my attention to buy a factory. All signs indicated that I should not buy the factory, but at the time I was too close to the problem to think clearly and after one year, a crooked partner and lots of heartache I was back home with just my one wheel and small kiln.
In looking back at the situation, I learned a lot; not only about business, but also about managing the 20 people I had working for me at the time. I learned how to plan and schedule the production of hundreds of pots per day, sometimes jumping in and working side by side with my employees. The hardest, but maybe the best lesson that I learned was that I loved pottery and not wanted to be a manager of potters.
The aftermath of the factory was difficult. I had a lot of self-doubt. My children, still very young at the time suffered with me and my husband were stressed out to his core. He co-signed for the factory and lost everything because of my crooked partner. With a very demanding job, it was not good for him to worry about me and the children.
As with all things, life went on and soon we were back on our feet. I restarted my teaching studio and our lifes resumed as if nothing happened. I became a very successful teacher and not only did I write my first articles for a newspaper, but soon thereafter I won my first pottery award. As a family we were content and happy.
At the time the winds of change were already blowing viciously over our beloved South Africa. Nelson Mandela was the new president and although everything seemed to be peaceful, thousands of professional people started to leave the country; either because they lost their jobs or because of fear that they will lose their job. Little did we know at the time, that we would soon follow in many other's footsteps. We just had to make a little detour through Namaqualand and Cape Town, before we would, in 1999 also find our way to the United States.
Business tips for pottery
The online workshop "AMAL": All artists makes a living by Curtis Benzle is available on TeachinArt
Comments from my former website
1/21/2014 12:16:36 am
1/22/2014 11:53:28 am
Thank you Elizabeth. What do you do?
3/18/2014 12:24:31 am
Great post! Been reading a lot about this kind of work recently. Thanks for the info!