This is my second time round as a self employed potter. I took a few lecturing hours at Leicester College and before I knew it I was sucked in – running a course with 11 staff and 30 tutees and when I looked up 13 years has whizzed by. I absolutely loved the students and had nothing but respect for my passionate, hardworking colleagues but I was very happy to get back to what I’d always wanted to do – to make and sell and to teach just a bit to keep me fresh and sane.
It was a bit of a shock to see how things had changed though – gone are the days when I could just put a box of pots in the van and turn up at galleries on-spec. Now I needed a “marketing strategy” and to engage with social media, amongst other terrifying and confusing things. I decided I’d better join some organisations and get some training.
My first port of call was to join the Design Factory. They gave me a long telephone “interview” to see what I’d done so far and how I could develop my business. This was equally useful and worrying, and to be honest, didn’t help my tiny confidence very much at all, but I persisted, went on some training days in Sleaford and started to understand this new world a bit better.
By far the best thing about all this has been finding my peer group – an incredibly talented and inspiring group of people who understand all the anxieties, idlemmas and small triumphs of being a maker because they’ve been through such similar experiences themselves. I’ve moaned and whinged a bit, had incredibly geeky discussions and laughed my head off with them. And learned such a lot.
More than anything, I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter how many hours I spend in the studio making, testing and analysing my work and it doesn’t matter how delighted I am when I open the kiln door and that new glaze is finally working. If I don’t learn to communicate what I’m up to and learn how to develop my small business I might as well have a “real job” with a boss and a steady wage and normal working hours. And I’ve tried that already.