Kip O’Krongly: Potter of the Month

This month, I’m delighted to feature Kip O’Krongly as Potter of the Month!  It turns out that Kip and I both grew up in Anchorage, Alaska although our paths never crossed until recently.  We met at Arrowmont’s Utilitarian Clay Symposium in 2012 and although we didn’t have much opportunity to get to know each other during the symposium, we now correspond regularly as members of the Objective Clay collective.

okrongly_2I’ve been intrigued by Kip’s work for a long time and was excited to learn more about her layered surfaces.  Kip’s work is sensitive to ideas of food and energy and the links between consumer and environment.  In the interview, she talks about what prompted the new direction in her work and what piece of literature helped motivate her to make the shift.

Enjoy!

How did you first get involved in ceramics? Can you briefly describe your background and education?

image_1I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. While my childhood was brimming with art classes and creative activities, being an artist never occurred to me as a possible path. Ceramics wasn’t even on my radar when I was a kid – I’m so envious of the many schools I’ve encountered in Minnesota with amazing clay programs for youth! I was a sophomore at Carleton College when I first stepped into the clay studio, and as the story so often goes, I was instantly smitten. Carleton was a great clay kick-start, but it was in the years following undergrad that I truly learned what it would take to run a clay business and find my own ceramic voice.

image_2Despite plans to set up a studio in the San Francisco Bay Area after leaving Carleton (where my husband was starting graduate school), I quickly came to realize my undergraduate skill set paired with an extremely high cost of living was a tough mix. From that point on, I’ve often partnered my work in clay with other jobs to cover my expenses and take pressure off selling work as my primary income. From things like working as a dental assistant, baking part-time, running a community center clay program, to teaching clay classes and workshops, these jobs have given me the resources to continue developing my studio work.

image_3There were a few educational opportunities that have profoundly shaped my artistic path. First was an apprenticeship at Whitefish Pottery in Whitefish, MT from the summer of 2003 – summer 2004. There I beefed up my undergraduate skills and learned the ins and outs of running a production studio (I fired an endless string of bisque kilns and pulled 1,000’s of handles!). Along with gaining experience in a production setting, came the space, materials and time to develop and push my own work (for the first time outside of an academic setting). It was a transformative year of working intensely alongside a group of artists passionate about clay.

In addition to my time in Montana, applying to take workshops at places like Haystack, Anderson Ranch, Penland and Arrowmont have been invaluable supplements to my undergraduate training. While two weeks doesn’t seem like much, it’s amazing how working so intensely with such talented people has helped my work evolve.  All of the craft schools across the country offer scholarships and work-study options, so despite the high initial price tag, there are some more affordable ways to participate.

image_4I can’t talk about my education in clay without mentioning Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. I worked in a number of positions at NCC starting in 2008 as a student, transitioning to a studio artist in 2009, the Material Technician and a Fogelberg Fellow from 2009 – 2011, and the Anonymous Potter resident from 2011 – 2012. While I moved into my home studio in 2012, NCC is still a huge part of my ceramic life. I continue to teach and exhibit work regularly in their gallery and was just awarded a $25,000 mid-career McKnight artist grant. The amazing support from NCC, along with the insights of staff, studio artists and visiting residents has been like my own little version of graduate school. I am immensely grateful for Northern Clay’s dedication to clay education and ceramic artists and can’t imagine being without the support of this fantastic community.

image_5How do you feel that your formal education (undergraduate school) prepared you for your career in ceramics?

Once I discovered clay, the studio art component of my undergraduate education became an intensive time of repetition and daily practice (or: I spent a lot of time in the studio wrecking pots and slowly learning techniques). While the formal aspects of my education were immensely valuable (from skill building in the studio to the broad education a liberal arts degree provides), it was some of the informal experiences that truly left an impression on my ceramic career path. One of the most memorable moments being a trip to Linda Christianson’s and Jeff Oestrich’s studios along with two other ceramic students (Kristin Pavelka and Juliane Shibata – both of whom still work in clay!). Meeting with working artists in the field (and such lovely ones, at that) was what ignited my desire to become a full-time clay artist, and gave me a sense of what a career in clay could potentially look like.

Your work made a huge shift when you lived in Pittsburgh. What prompted the change from traditional pottery ideas to politically charged narratives?

My husband and I took the extra-long route from our home in Seattle to his first teaching job in Pittsburgh via a road trip through Alaska and Canada. Back in my home state of Alaska I physically witnessed for the first time incredible changes happening in our climate – temperatures were undeniably hotter and glaciers had retreated miles since I left Anchorage in high school. I decided during our visit that I wanted to somehow talk about issues of climate and energy in my work, but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen just yet.image_7

image_6These ideas gnawed at me for another year and a half until the tipping point finally came in 2007 when reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. His narrative following foods from their sources to our tables (and the complicated food-energy web that results), gave me a written framework to visually explore. Pollan’s book, along with the vast array of food and energy related documentaries that pepper our current foodscape continue to inspire my food and energy themed ceramics to this day.

How do you come up with new ideas? Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas?

Developing new forms and ideas is a slow process for me, but comes most often through steady work in the studio. I’ve found that ideas drift into focus as I’m in the act of making and I need to be present enough to grab hold before they slip on by! In an effort to nab image_8these bits of inspiration, I keep a whiteboard in my studio to easily jot down thoughts and sketch forms. I am an avid NPR listener and new ideas are often sparked while I’m working away and listening to the radio (Radio Lab is one of my favorites!). Sometimes I’ll mull over an idea for months (like how to make a solar panel stencil, or what form makes sense for a teapot body), while other times things seem to snap quickly into focus (like the need to talk about livestock generated methane via farting cows). It seems like working consistently, listening carefully and tuning into intriguing or unexpected connections has been the key for me as I develop new surfaces and forms.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

One of the most challenging aspects of being self-employed is balancing work, social and family life – especially when you work from home. While I certainly think keeping to a schedule is helpful for anyone who is self-employed, one of the things I value most about my job is the flexibility I have. Some days I’ll spend 12 hours just working in the studio (although, that’s not actually my favorite way to work!) and some days only 3 – 4 hours in the studio and the remainder of the workday doing some assortment of answering emails, photographing work, packing and shipping pots, mixing slip and glaze or loading a kiln (and a walk with the dog!). There are times I’ll focus solely on applications, class proposals or be off teaching or at meetings – it all depends on what deadlines are coming up. I’m an avid list maker (there’s nothing more satisfying than a big fat sheet of crossed off to-do items), love to organize and plan, and am an absolute slave to my digital calendar alerts!

I find the drawn narratives on the surface of your pots intriguing. Why is it important for your drawings to be composed on pottery forms? Why do you choose the forms you do?

okrongly_6I find drawing on pots to be a slightly subversive way to get an idea into people’s homes and lives. A pot is something that you use and see on a regular basis, share around the table with friends and family and it’s my hope that this work promotes discussion and dialogue in a personal space that other art forms can’t often do. I like that you can hold pots in your hands and really explore them and their surfaces – they feel so intimate as a result. My interest in pots that participate in meals means that my work tends to live in the realm of functional ceramics. I gravitate toward forms that are simple and sturdy (so they can survive many runs through the dishwasher!), while at the same time giving me a smooth and open base for decoration.

How long have you worked at your home studio south in Northfield? What were the most important steps you took to market your work to your local audience?

My husband and I bought our house in the summer of 2012 and I began converting a playroom into my studio space that fall (as my Anonymous Potter residency at NCC came to an end). The studio modifications took a lot longer than anticipated (which I have sense learned is the case for all house projects!), so I didn’t start working in my home studio until December of 2012.image_9

Even though I’ve now been working in Northfield for almost two years, I’m still getting to know my local market. The most important part of developing that relationship has been my involvement with the Northfield ArTour. Every October, over 40 artists in the area open their studios to the public for a full weekend. Inviting people to visit my space and purchase work directly has made me feel much more connected to the local community. This year, I volunteered with the ArTour planning committee, which has tied me into the artists in the area as well. I’m also part of two local artist meet-ups each month (one with potters, and one with a group of artists in multiple media), on the gallery committee for our local arts guild and I attend as many local art-related events as I can. All of these areas of okrongly_3involvement have been a great way to increase my local contribution, to raise awareness that I’m a working artist in the area, and to learn about upcoming opportunities. I’ve also been chatting with two of the galleries in Northfield and am investigating the farmer’s market and fall food and arts festival as potential ways to expand my local presence.

Your work is in numerous retail galleries across the country. Can you talk about how you selected the representation you did? What kind of advice could you offer someone wanting to approach galleries for representation?

Figuring out not only where you want to sell your work, but also where your work will actually sell can be a challenge. Make a list of places you’d like to see your pieces and then do some research. What artists do they carry year-round? What is the mix of functional vs. sculptural work? Does the gallery lean toward high fire ceramics (and are you an earthenware potter)? What price range do you see? Does that fit within your price range? Do they have any open calls for exhibitions? For me, I’ve found exhibitions to be a okrongly_1great starting point in developing a relationship with a gallery. Typically, if your work sells in a show setting, a gallery will be open to trying out a larger selection of pieces. I’ve also found that a number of galleries do some sort of holiday sale where they broaden the number of artists they carry for the holiday season, which can be a low-pressure way test the waters.

When approaching any gallery (either to participate in a show or to be taken on as a gallery artist) having high-quality documentation of your work is absolutely vital. I take my images myself using an EZ Cube (which I love). If your work is complicated to shoot, or you’re not yet comfortable doing it on your own, absolutely pay someone to do it! The quality of your images can make or break any application, no matter your qualifications on paper. If you have any questions about your images, seek out the advice of someone who knows what to look for – an instructor, an artist who exhibits regularly, a gallery representative. I’d be happy to look at anyone’s images!image_10

While targeting galleries you’re most interested in makes sense, being part of ANY show is a great way to raise awareness of the work you are making. Be prepared for a lot of rejections. Even if you’re making fantastic work, sometimes it just won’t fit well with the overall space or exhibition vision. And once you do nab an opportunity, make sure you pack and ship it professionally and do things on time. Every interaction is a way to make an impression – good or bad! You’d be amazed by how often galleries receive poorly packed pots or communication that is unprofessional. It’s the seemingly small details that often result in you getting invited back for another opportunity with a gallery or not.

Which marketing venue(s) (website/social media sites /galleries/studio sales/etsy/craft fairs/etc.) have you found to be the most lucrative for your work? What kind of advice could you give someone wanting to market his or her work?

Aaaaah, marketing. Despite the fact that my father’s business is in marketing, I don’t know that the gene was passed on to me! I have found this to be a difficult part of my studio practice because it’s something I just don’t particularly enjoy. While it may not be a favorite aspect of my business, I do know it is what’s required to get my work out into the world. In terms of marketing advice, I’d say that having a web presence in some way, shape or form is mandatory. A website is a great way to house your body of work so interested folks (consumers, galleries, fellow artists, etc) can see a collection of pieces and learn more about what makes you tick as an artist (here again, images are paramount!).

okrongly_7While I do have a website, I’ve largely outsourced a good deal of the day-to-day marketing by electing to work with galleries rather than pushing the work myself.   Either way you’re paying for the marketing. You take the 50% gallery rate, or you pay with your own time and money.  A hybrid of these two options for me has been working online with Objective Clay. We’re a group of 14 ceramic artists, from all over the country, who work together to create a unique online space for content and selling work. Pooling our resources has been a wonderful way to broaden the audience for, and awareness of, all of our work – I’m excited to see where this virtual space goes in the future.

In terms of craft fairs, I’ve found the initial financial investment to set up a stellar booth and lighting situation, along with the often-expensive booth fees, keeps me from diving into that particular market. There are some local fairs that I could envision as a starting point, but right now the gallery work (along with my fall studio sale and Objective Clay web sales) make the most sense for me.

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring potters trying to make a living?

okrongly_4Making a living working in clay has meant a lot less time in the studio than I initially envisioned. Running a small ceramic business (any business, really!) requires so much more than making the product (from photographing work, packing and shipping, finances, marketing and promotion to seeking out new exhibition opportunities, teaching and writing grant proposals – just to name a few!). And while I never would have imagined this as I started working in clay, there have been times when going into the studio felt like a job with a capital J.

When you solely rely on pots to cover your expenses, you put serious pressure on how much work (and the kind of work) you make. You’ve got to make a lot of pots and have them in a lot of places just to support daily life and studio expenses. You may find that after awhile what once brought you joy, now has lost that initial spark. I know, I know, how could you ever feel sour about working in the studio? Trust me, it can happen. It happened to me. I have found though, the best times in the studio come when I’m bringing in (at least a little!) predictable income and the direct pressure is off my pots.

As I talked about earlier, I’ve had many other jobs to supplement my own creative work.

okrongly_5So, I’d suggest getting a (ideally part-time!) job and keep the freedom to make what you’re passionate about making in the studio. Spend all the time you want to develop strong forms and thoughtful surfaces. Play, experiment, apply for shows, take some business classes, talk to lots of artists; slowly build your business. But most importantly, recognize that there are as many ways to work in clay as there are people. There is no ultimate path, no right (or wrong) way to make a living. Keep yourself open, set some goals, be willing to make mistakes and you’ll get to where you want to go.

 

For more information about Kip and her work, please visit her website:

www.kipokrongly.com

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Potter of the Month: Chandra DeBuse

For the month of April…to help ring in spring…Chandra DeBuse!

Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

Chandra and I met at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts a couple years ago.  Before we met, I was flipping through Ceramics Monthly magazine and stumbled on images of Chandra’s work. I was immediately struck by her playful pots and imagined how fun they would be to use. Her work is charming and cheerful, witty and whimsical.   Most importantly, the pieces I own put a smile on my face everyday.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of Chandra’s upcoming events and where you can find a piece of hers for your very own:

To celebrate spring, Chandra will post a virtual kiln opening of new work on her Etsy site (DeBuse Ceramics) May 15th.  Also in May (4-5), she will be at Baltimore Clayworks for a two-day workshop.  July 27th, Chandra will conduct a one-day workshop at Red Star Studios in Kansas City and in September (20-22), she will present her work and her processes at the Handbuilt Conference for CERF in Philadelphia.

For additional information, please visit Chandra’s website:  www.chandradebuse.com

Enjoy the interview!

How did you first get involved in ceramics?

My early experience with ceramics was most definitely NOT love at first sight.  I was drawn to the responsiveness of soft clay, but I lacked the discipline necessary to have any kind of success during my undergraduate ceramics class.  Fast forward a few years—I was working a stressful job and I needed a creative outlet, so I took a community clay class.  By that time, I had matured and gained discipline and everything clicked.  I couldn’t get enough.

What made you choose to attend a post-bacc program in ceramics? Can you talk a little bit about how that decision impacted your career path?   

DeBuse_APF

American Pottery Festival 2012

Going back to school after I had been working in clay for 8 years was a game-changer.  I had been gaining knowledge through community classes, books, magazines and workshops but I was really hungry to know more and academia seemed like a logical next step.  I took two clay classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before applying to their post-bacc program.  Just being in the university environment helped me understand the culture of academic clay, filled in some gaps in my education and helped me start to think critically about my work.  The encouragement and generosity of the faculty, graduate students, and my peers helped me to sort out my vision for my own future.  As a special student, I was at an advantage because I was paying in-state tuition so I took some extra classes: an art history survey course, kiln building, and sat in on the graduate seminar, while working on my portfolio and applications to graduate school.  Being a special student was like being inside a magical bubble where I had a lot of opportunity and not a ton of responsibility.  Seeing how another program’s graduate department operated gave me insights that helped me navigate my own graduate school experience.   Oh yeah, and I made some good friendships that continue to this day.

With a background in psychology, how did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree in Ceramics? 

I have always had fluid ideas of career and education and some days I even ponder what I’ll study next.  After working in human services and nonprofit administration, I was ready for a career change, although I was not entirely sure where my MFA would lead.   I always felt that my undergraduate degree just scratched the surface of the field of psychology and I kept searching for a deeper understanding of the human experience.  That quest led me to making pottery and continues in the work I make today.

How do you feel that your formal education (including your psychology degree) prepared you for your career in ceramics?  

The practical on-the-job experience I gained between undergrad and grad school developed my skills in mediation, listening, problem solving, communication, record keeping, grant writing/reporting, time management, personnel management and statistics. I definitely drew upon those skills during graduate school and I have used every one of those skills as a potter! I feel that the life I lived before I found clay gives me not only appreciation but also a perspective that grounds me.

My work is much stronger because I went to graduate school.  Formal education taught me how to continue asking questions and improving on my ideas. I also grew to understand how educating others through direct teaching and presentation aids my own artistic

DeBuse_Studio

Kansas City Studio, 2012

development.  The support I have received from the University of Florida ceramics community during school and since graduation has without a doubt pushed my career forward.school developed my skills in mediation, listening, problem solving, communication, record keeping, grant writing/reporting, time management, personnel management and statistics. I definitely drew upon those skills during graduate school and I have used every one of those skills as a potter! I feel that the life I lived before I found clay gives me not only appreciation but also a perspective that grounds me.

How would you describe your work?  How did you arrive at working this way?  

I make voluminous pots that incorporate narrative hand-drawn imagery and pattern, candy colors, and bouncing lines to impart a sense of play.   Because I learned about pottery-making in a relaxed community pottery studio, on my own terms, outside of an academic agenda, I approached clay in a very playful way. I trained myself to play with clay for 8 years before learning to think conceptually about pottery.  This shift in thinking was painful for me and I’m pretty sure it was painful for my instructors too.  My early forms and surfaces weren’t cohesive.  Working narratively is a straightforward way of communicating ideas.  I always loved drawing, but I didn’t seriously try drawing on pots until the summer

DeBuseChandraSquirrel

Catch Platter, 2010

before my thesis year.  It all started with squirrels, which were always right outside the studio window.  Squirrels are just like students:  they are impulsive and obsessed with a goal.   A metaphor was born.


What is the inspiration for your pieces? 
How do you come up with new ideas?  Can you walk us through your creative process when coming up with new forms/ideas? 

My thesis installation was a retelling of my own graduate school experience:  a playful story of achievement through the eyes of a squirrel.  After grad school, I continued working under the same larger themes of play and achievement, but started working through different stories with different characters and landscapes.

The process of play remains an important part of my studio practice. My formula for creative play is:  low risk + high novelty.  Ideas are born in my sketchbook.  I’ll start with a doodle, turn that doodle into a character and think about the struggle that character is involved in.   I add details to the drawing, play with composition, edit down, and relate the story to the landscape of a vessel.   I throw forms on the wheel and handbuild, using soft slabs with molds that I generate out of clay, plywood and/or craft foam.  These inexpensive materials are easy for me to customize and quickly work through ideas about shape and form.  Even as a novelty junkie, I do believe that great pots are born from discipline and repetitive practice, looking with a critical eye and making adjustments for the next round.

I’ve always been attracted to your use of the narrative.  What comes first, story or form?

DeBuse_Tumblers

Troublemaker Tumblers, 2012

 It depends on what I’m working on.  I use cups and plates to try out a lot of narratives, so the stories might change, but the forms stay the same.  My loose narratives are based on larger themes, such as achievement or play.  These larger themes tie my work together.  Casual observers may not make the connections between the pieces, but for me, they are all related.  The tiered treat server forms were conceived while I was developing my thesis.  The tiered forms tell the story of desire, as it relates to achieving a goal and reaching the reward.  When I include a character on a treat server, such as a snail or squirrel, they are involved in that struggle of getting to the highest tier.  The function of the server, to hold treats, is conceptually relevant to the story too. It is much different than if I were designing a server for fruits and vegetables. The result is a piece with layers of meaning.

I know that you’ve moved around a bit post-graduate school.  Could you describe some of the most influential or career changing experiences you’ve had?  

Being a resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN) was pretty special.  The national summer workshop programming provided me with opportunities to meet renowned artists (like you!), host visitors in my studio, and give weekly public powerpoint presentations about my work.  There aren’t too many places that offer that kind of exposure.  I knew that continuing the momentum built during graduate school would depend on making a lot of work and finding an audience for my work.  I was lucky to land in two year-long residencies (Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, FL and Arrowmont) that provided financial stipends and allowed me to devote the majority of my time to my artistic practice.

Being recognized as one of six emerging artists at the 2012 NCECA conference, being named an Emerging Artist in Ceramics Monthly magazine and delivering an NCECA-sponsored lecture during SOFA Chicago made 2012 a remarkable year.  This happened as I was preparing to make a transition to being a full-time studio potter.  The exposure certainly hasn’t hurt. 2013 has some big shoes to fill though.

Kansas City is a hotbed for ceramics.  Not only is it home to the Kansas City Art Institute, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Sherry Leedy Gallery, Red Star Studios, etc., but there are many private studios maintained by internationally recognized ceramic artists (like yourself) in the area.  Now that you’ve settled and set up a studio, can you describe what attracted you to Kansas City?  

It IS a hotbed!  There are countless benefits to living in a city with such a thriving clay and arts community.  Since moving here, I taught a community class at Red Star Studios, presented to the KC Clay Guild, and I am currently an instructional assistant at the Kansas City Art Institute.  My boyfriend Tommy, the Studio Manager at Red Star Studios, has done a lot to keep me connected to the arts community here.  If not for him, I would probably hole up in my studio way too much.

DeBuse_InProcess2

Glazing, 2012

After living in some remote areas, I can really appreciate the access that Kansas City offers. I live a mile from Crane Yard Clay, which sells studio materials and supplies, there is even a packaging supply distributor where I can drive over and load the truck with bulk shipping materials, there’s a really cheap place that sells clean scrap upholstery foam.  No more harvesting foam from nasty side-of-the-road couches!  There are some really great restaurants (not just bbq!). When I moved here, I had a full calendar of show obligations, so I needed to set up a studio quickly.  I chose to rent studio space in a quieter place near the arts district.  The cost of living is moderate and I grew up just a few hours north of here, so Kansas City feels like home.

Was there a point in your career that you made a decision to sell your pots for a living? Could you describe how you came to that decision?  

That decision is evolving.  After graduate school, I wanted to spend 3-5 years primarily focusing on my artwork in an effort to build on the momentum I gained during school (I am in year 3). As it happened, I spent the first two years in artist residency programs.  While at Arrowmont, I began to find an audience for my work and started a mailing list to keep connected to the hundreds of people I met.  I have been working as an independent studio potter since last July, piecing together my income from selling pots, teaching and doing workshops.  It has been stressful at times and I have not got the pie chart of income figured out yet. There is much tweaking to be done with price points and time investments.  I am still pretty open-minded about opportunities that take me out of my studio, as long as they present chances for income, learning, and still leave room for me to make pots.

DeBuse_InProcess

Squirrel Treat Server in process, 2013

What does a typical workday look like for you?  How much do you spend on marketing vs. making?

I have yet to find “typical.”  So far, deadlines have driven my time.  Last summer and a little bit this fall, I was spending 14 hour days in the studio, preparing for shows.  Teaching, traveling, packing and shipping work, taking photographs, applying for things and writing articles have taken me out of the studio.  When I’m out of the studio, such as doing a workshop or setting up a show, I try to be mindful of marketing opportunities.  A snapshot of me teaching a workshop posted to the web on my blog or facebook page tells my story and serves as a marketing tool.  It not only connects with my audience, but defines who I am and what I have to offer.  Working with other organizations, such as AMACO and Northern Clay Center has resulted in media that has expanded my audience.

How does an artist go about acquiring business and marketing skills? What piece of advice would you give to others just starting out?  

Marketing efforts should reflect your brand identity, which should be cohesive with your artist statement.  If you want organizations to invite you to do workshops, make sure that your online content reflects that.  Share pictures of yourself giving workshops, record a little video demo and put it on Youtube.  Write a how-to article for a ceramics publication, present at NCECA.  If there is a product you love and use in your studio practice, reach out to the manufacturer and let them know.  It may lead to some kind of partnership that can lend exposure to your work.  There are many ways to tackle the marketing monster, but it’s all about finding your audience and creating opportunities.

There is a mythology surrounding a potter’s life and marketing efforts tend to lean toward, “crafting the mythology.”  I think there is a lot of truth to this, especially since it doesn’t make much business sense to promote an image of failure—even if that’s the reality.  Those who are actually making and selling their work and making a living are exceptionally disciplined and resourceful.  I have my eye on those people and I try to learn as much as I can from the ways they have structured their businesses.

What is your relationship with galleries (on and offline)?  How has that relationship changed over time? 

DeBuseChandraTS2-1

Garden Treat Server with Snail, 2012

The internet is really changing the gallery/artist/collector relationship.  Well-respected galleries are able to reach a wider audience and lend credibility to emerging artists.  I prioritize galleries who have both a physical gallery and an online presence.  It is imperative that galleries selling online represent my work through beautiful displays, photographs and provide promotional materials, including catalogs, posters, print mailings and social media.  As my work has become more visible in the past year, keeping galleries stocked with inventory has been challenging.  David Trophia of Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville, NC recently offered advice to “under-promise” and “over-deliver.”  It’s good advice and my mantra for 2013.

Although I want to maintain excellent relationships with galleries, the traditional gallery model of sales is not feasible as my only source of income.  Commissions, cost of studio rental, materials, labor, shipping and taxes eats away the profits of making time intensive work like mine.  I am currently researching opportunities to increase the potential for direct sales.

I know that you have an Etsy site where you sell your wares.  Can you briefly describe your Etsy experience?

My Etsy site (DeBuse Ceramics) has been open for 8 months.  Most of my sales through Etsy have been with people who are already familiar with my work.  The biggest challenge for me has been to allocate work to my Etsy site instead of sending it to other venues.  When you look at pure profit, it may seem like a no-brainer to focus on direct sales, but maintaining gallery relationships is a tremendous benefit.  My business plan includes increasing my Etsy listings. I will be launching a virtual kiln opening on May 15th on my Etsy site, where I will be listing 30 new pieces celebrating spring.

DeBuse_InUse

Floral Cup and Plate in use, 2013

Finally, what advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice/style? 

Collect what interests you in a sketchbook or binder.  Make a lot of work.  Seek feedback from people you respect.  Experiment with other solutions.  Allow yourself to play.  Write about your work often (what are the pieces communicating?  How are they doing that? How could they say it better?).  For me, giving a 5-10 minute power point presentation about my work always helps me to condense my ideas and verbalize my intentions.  More often than not the process of preparing a presentation leads to new ideas and gives my studio practice a kick in the pants.

For more info about Chandra and her work, please visit her website: www.chandradebuse.com

And…here’s a shortlist of what Chandra’s up to these days:

Upcoming Workshops:

BALTIMORE CLAYWORKS WORKSHOP: MAY 4-5, 2013, BALTIMORE, MD   HTTP://WWW.BALTIMORECLAYWORKS.ORG/CLASS/MTCLASSES/SPRING2013/WORKSHOPS/WS02_DEBUSE_WORKSHOP.HTML

RED STAR STUDIOS: 1-DAY WORKSHOP, JULY 27, 2013, KANSAS CITY, MO  HTTP://REDSTARSTUDIOS.ORG/WORKSHOPARTICLE/ARTS-WORKSHOPS-KANSAS-CITY.HTML

HANDBUILT CONFERENCE FOR CERF: SEPTEMBER 20,21,22, PHILADELPHIA, PA  HTTP://SANDIANDNEIL.COM/HANDBUILT-2013

Upcoming Shows:

VIRTUAL KILN OPENING, MAY 15, 2013 –FEATURING 30 BRAND-NEW PIECES CELEBRATING SPRING  WWW.ETSY.COM/SHOP/DEBUSECERAMICS

AKAR 2013 YUNOMI INVITATIONAL (ONLINE ONLY), APRIL 19 – MAY 17, 2013  HTTP://WWW.AKARDESIGN.COM/SHOWS/UPCOMING.ASP#SHOW126

SMALL FAVORS VIII, THE CLAY STUDIO, PHILADELPHIA, PA, MAY 3 – JUNE 2, 2013  HTTP://WWW.THECLAYSTUDIO.ORG/EXHIBITION/SMALL-FAVORS-VIII