Like all of us I find the year gets away really easily, suddenly it is October and all those hopes and dreams I had in January for the year are tucked away, neglected and still in the ether, rather than solidly in the real world. But this really sucks when I have regular customers who are looking for new designs from me.
As any artisan making her living from what she creates knows looking after regular customers is really important. So coming up with new designs and making them is crucial for these treasured long term relationships.
Looking ahead for designing and making
I’ve learnt I need to plan ahead and set myself deadlines for designing and making, especially as there is such a long making time-frame when transforming clay into porcelain.
Each year I have a big four day show at the Tasmanian Craft Fair on the first weekend of November that is the perfect precursor to Christmas for me as I need to take new designs there every time for two simple reasons: to look after my customer expectations and to increase my sales year on year.
This has one of those lovely double whammy effects for my little creative business, it means that I have a firm deadline every year and new designs for every Christmas. Being at The Rocks Markets means my regular customers visit me every six to 12 months and they hail from all parts of the country and all corners of the world. By having new designs by October I can easily say, “Oh, this is new since you were last here” and that’s always a good thing for a designer and maker to be able to say.
How to an artisan can have regular new designs
It’s much easier than you think to come have new designs for your key times of the year.
1. Look at when it’s most important for you to have new designs, is it a big annual show, at time of year like Christmas is for me? What matters the most in your annual calendar?
2. Have an annual calendar. This makes the world of difference because it lets you see when what is happening in your life. I use one of those family organiser calendars and have a column dedicated to Creatively Belle as well as family commitments and admin (those general things that can turn suddenly big if neglected, better off keeping them small). When I plot out each month what is happening with the normal busyness of life I can see where I need to be super organised and when I have space for what I want to achieve each year. It helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed by it all.
3. Set time for designing, for coming up with new ideas and pulling them together. This could include research time. It took me an amazing amount of time to figure out how to get my watercolour paintings onto my porcelain. While it was longer than I anticipated I was able to get it done because I had given myself deadlines for it.
4. Look at the making time involved for the new designs. Mine take months in reality. Once I have the designs figured out (and out of my head!) then I have to do test batches that need to get through the two firings before getting to market for feedback – do they sell or not, are changes to the design needed, what does that involve? Then I test again and that’s more weeks soaked up. For my key new designs for the first weekend in November I need to be working on them in May and June just so I have time for design, testing and getting ready with the full compliment.
5. Figure out what your regular designs need for making time. I work up a making list of all my designs that I’m taking to the next show. I write up this list in January and start plotting out the making time to the calendar. I try to avoid the horrible experience of needing to make everything in the September and October because that just puts too much pressure on me and makes me a kiln hog and if you’re part of a studio of ceramists you don’t want to be that person! So if I can get the bulk of my work done by August that leaves me space to do the new designs comfortably and avoid bucket loads of pressure on my shoulders.
6. Just get your work done. Yes, we all have weeks where family et al responsibilities come crushing in or we get the flu or motivation is out the window but they can have less of an impact if you’re steadily getting your work done. We all have to make a living and every job, no matter how much we love what we do, has it’s moments when you just have to suck it up and get on with it. But I certainly prefer doing that with my own creative business than in someone else’s. The accumulative effect of getting a bit done often is so much more powerful than doing nothing productive regularly and having big mad scrambles to catchup. So have some structure to your creative time and enjoy the results.
7. Get some new designs out early as this is great for motivating yourself. It’s heaps better having positive talk in your head about getting things done than always beating yourself up for missing opportunities and being behind the eight ball. Plus customers love it.
8. Be sure to give attention to both your exciting new designs that are loudly playing around in your head and to your tried and tested regular designs. If you don’t have enough stock then how are you going to sell it and generate enough income to pay your rent, put food on the table, pay your electricity, gas and phone, buy supplies and invest in components for those thrilling new ideas?
9. Give yourself time to do the things are recharge your creative spirit. If you’re always on the go then you’re sources of inspiration will drain away and coming up with new ideas and having the energy to bring them into reality will be really hard. Understand what nurtures you soul and do it. For me it is being around art and artisans, having time alone in the wilderness and country driving. So I need to make sure I have time set aside for doing these things. I also need to take with me a note book so I can capture ideas and designs that come flooding in as soon as my spirit is being fed.
10. Avoid what sucks you dry. It can be people, situations, places, whatever depletes you. It’s important to keep these things to a minimum. For me that’s meant recognising that some folks are just negative people and I need to have as little to do with them as possible. Happily now they are quite rare in my life so most of that work is done. Money pressures really get me down so to make sure I have that sorted I plan out expenses in my family organiser calendar so I can see what’s coming up and be ready for it. I now find being like a squirrel and saving for these expenses really satisfying. So have a think about what drains you and look at making positive changes over time.
Finding your routines
The more experience I have with all of this the better I’m getting at avoiding procrastination, having a plan and getting my work done but truth be told, I’m still learn
ing with it all, I’m still having times when I’m being bitten on the bum for not getting things done. Fortunately I am improving and I hope these lessons learnt help you.
Finding routines through the making year will create a world of difference for bringing your dreams into your daily life. A little bit of structure is great for the creative spirit because it takes away the distracting noises of worry and stress.
So what would you like to make happen and what steps do you want to take to get started?