Becoming a Full Time Potter - Mindset
Mindset is important in both pottery and self employment, it can be the difference between thriving and burning out. A lot of these sections are just snippets of the wisdom I've taken from episodes of Letters From A Hopeful Creative, and I'd highly recommend listening to the full podcast if there's anything that appeals to you.
I sometimes get asked if I feel worried that I've made it really easy for people to copy my designs and steal all my customers. The simple answer is no.
Unless you've developed something completely unique, chances are that experienced potters will have seen something like it. At the very least, they'll probably know where to start if they wanted to recreate it. The real key for me there is 'if they wanted'. The work required to take and develop an idea to the point of offering it for sale is considerable. Even if someone can copy you, it's very unlikely they want to.
The people you're harming by keeping your ideas and techniques secret aren't your 'competition', they're the people just starting out. I certainly would have taken a lot longer to learn what I've learnt so far if nobody had shared with me in the beginning.
Also, I personally think that one of the largest contributors to the growth of my Instagram account has been the posts where I've shown the techniques or tips that took me the longest to figure out. It provides value, and gives a good reason to follow and engage. The engagement is far more likely to result in a sale than it is to result in someone stealing your customers, and the whole community will benefit from it. That leads neatly onto the next topic:
How you see the other potters around you (geographically or digitally) is affected by whether you believe there's a scarcity or abundance of customers. If you feel that someone else's success directly detracts from yours, then it's very difficult to be pleased for them. Whereas if you think there's an abundance of demand for handmade ceramics and any increase in visibility will lead to a greater number of engaged customers, then everyone's success is shared.
You'll definitely enjoy going on Instagram more if you believe the latter, and I believe it's probably closer to reality. Once people start seeing the value of handmade and unique work they generally seem to follow and buy from multiple potters.
In a similar vein, it's very tempting to measure your success against others. I think it's a very basic and primal human desire.
Even though I've got a reasonable Instagram following now and know firsthand that it doesn't directly relate to financial success, I still find myself tempted to compare follower numbers whenever I view an account. It's not helpful, it's not even particularly meaningful information, but I think while that number is displayed so prominently it's a tough habit to break.
We should all strive to take away any positives we can from other's success without using it as a way to mentally undermine ourselves, but comparison is something that doesn't go away easily. Getting more followers won't solve it but understanding your own thought processes might help.
I'm not sure what the correct term for this is, but I've had a few conversations with people recently who have expected a process to feel how it looks to an observer. I personally feel this has got to be one of the biggest reasons that people get disillusioned and turned off when they try something.
In my experience, nothing feels as effortless and satisfying to do as it looks when watching an expert. Whether it's playing an instrument or throwing a pot, the internal process is a lot more involved and a lot less effortless than it might appear (but maybe I just haven't got good enough at either yet).
I think you have to enjoy the process for what it is. If you want to get good at something because you expect it to feel as satisfying as it looks then you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
A growth mindset is the belief that talents can be developed through hard work, rather than being innate.
"If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence."
Having a growth mindset is hugely important in ceramics. Things will go wrong all the time, and how you deal with that will make a massive difference to your progression and enjoyment.
This isn't to say that losing a piece is ever enjoyable, far from it, but you have to be curious about why it went wrong and believe that you can overcome the issue if you put in the work. I was terrible at throwing when I first tried it, but I enjoyed the challenge and put in enough time to learn and improve.
I've saved the hardest for last.
Money is a difficult topic in so many ways. First there's the stigma attached to discussing it. Then there's the impossible challenge of balancing the value of your work against the price your imposter syndrome thinks it's worth. And all of this around something that has a very real and tangible effect on your life (up to an income of around $60-75k, apparently).
I highly recommend the Letters From A Hopeful Creative episodes on pricing and money mindset.
Everyone feels insecurity about charging for their work, especially at the start or when putting prices up. I have a blog post about pricing work that has a formula to work out the minimum amount you need to charge, which can help when feeling like it's an unreasonable price for 'just a mug'. When you look at the time that goes into a mug, and the limit to the number you are capable of producing, it's much easier to realise how reasonable it is.
You can't price your work to please everyone anyway. You have to charge what your work is worth, even if that's more than some people are prepared to pay. That's not to say you should try and charge hundreds for the first few wonky mugs you've made as a beginner, it can be appropriate to charge less than average based on where you currently are in your progression. Once you know the quality of your work lives up to the higher price, don't be afraid to charge it.
I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject, please contact me with any comments.
Other posts in the mini-series: