Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Start of a New Job!!!!!! :)

I started a new job today! I'm working as a potter's assistant near Bristol train station in the run up to Christmas, helping finish work and run a stall at the Bath Christmas market. And it's paid!!!!! However, the best bit is that this stretch is actually mainly a trial run to see if the potter might want to hire me in the future, when I graduate, for a longer period/s. There is also the possibility of a pay rise. This is fantastic for me, as I'd been planning on getting a part time job to supply a steady income, while I try and make a career for myself in ceramics/art and it uses my expertise :)

The potter who has hired me is really nice and friendly, but seems quite quiet, and mainly had me making tree decorations using slabs of clay and cookie cutters, and also glazing "here's several I made earliers" for the kiln. I think he was still trying to get the measure of me after having met me when I visited the studio to see what he wanted/whether I was suitable, so it was simple stuff. He thinks of himself very much as a studio potter making functional ware that the public are demanding, and it reminds me of Emma Bridgewater's stuff, except in terracotta. He makes teapots, bowls, mugs and other kitchen ware in a very simple English style decorated with coloured slips and polka dots. He says he prefers the traditional honey glazes and styles, but the public is demanding colour and polka dots! He compares himself to Isaac Button (and really likes his practice), an incredible man who was the last country potter. Before mass production, this country was full of craftsmen like him who produced work from scratch (he dug his own clay from the bottom of his field) to supply people's daily needs. This amazing guy could turn a ton of clay into pots in ONE DAY. I'm extremely jealous!

Conversely, he also likes Damien Hirst with his half a cow in a tank of preservative and diamond encrusted skull. 

We chatted on and off as we worked throughout the day, about all sorts, everything from art to ceramics specifically, to Obama and the sparrows he feeds outside the studio window. A couple of things he said about business caught my attention. First, gallery commissions are going up and some of the good ones now expect to take 50% with VAT on top, meaning the artist only receives maybe 42% of the sale price! Using galleries is getting expensive, but the potter said he just raised his prices for the galleries so that he still received enough profit. Secondly, that he attends Stroud farmers market every other week, and that this was worth twenty galleries worth of earnings! He said he could achieve a weeks wages in about four hours that the market is on, as handmade products are very popular there, and the clientèle are well off and can pay the prices. Even minor celebrities occasionally go, such as Lily Allen's dad. This is definitely something I'd be interested in getting involved in, especially as it's a regular selling event.

Also and thirdly, there is a Bristol potter who considers himself a businessman first and a potter second who supplies the National Trust with work to sell in their gift shops and makes part of his success through that. I've seen this work myself, it isn't dissimilar to my potter's work, but the hand thrown terracotta is glazed with (at a guess) alkaline glazes instead, which give a cascade of colour not dissimilar to flambe in appearance, but different hues. It's practical and very pretty - I can see it would have a wide appeal. I find his attitude very interesting as it's unusual for a potter to be more concerned with business than clay, and for a businessman to consider ceramics as a worthwhile business opportunity, but it's good to know such opportunities might exist.

I worked from 10am until 7pm, then headed home by train. When I got back, my Dad gave me an article to read on a ceramicists co operative gallery in Bristol's Christmas Steps art quarter called "Potters". It's not for profit, and the artists all have to pledge to work in the gallery for eight days a year to keep costs down. It's been running for 17 years and has a regular customer base. This is also something I'm very interested in becoming involved with! It sounds like a fantastic idea.

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