Wednesday, February 29, 2012

designer verses maker


I'm in a bit of a conundrum these days, trying to sort out my next move.  It's as though I need to go back to the drawing room of what I want  'dahlhaus' to be.  When I started out on this journey to make a living from my art, I thought about this dilemma a bit, but left it well behind for the immediate issues surrounding making unique work that could become my signature, and that I could make consistently well.  I was grappling with the day to day concepts of how to get my work 'out there' and how to get people to buy it so I could keep doing what I loved.  Along the way I found out what people liked about my work and began to tweak it so that people would begin to love it and want to buy it.  There's a big shift that goes on in that stage and it is very exciting to have shops start to contact me (instead of me contacting shops), have some blog and press mentions, and start to feel like maybe, just maybe, I can really make a living at this. 
So now I'm in the grind of making.  I am a great maker, it's what I seem to do best.  I've never thought of myself as a designer, but these days I find myself envying them.  The idea of coming up with an amazing ceramic design and then passing it along to a manufacturer to do the making.   I used to scoff at this with my art-school turn up your nose to everything that seems like the easy way out.  But now, in the midst of all my making and the constant requests by new shops to wholesale my work, I dream of passing along some of my work to a manufacturer to make it for me, because I can't do it all by myself anymore.  I have a whole host of ideas of how to avoid my work being 'made in china'.  I have all sorts of reasons why it wouldn't quite be the same to have my work made somewhere else- it wouldn't feel or look the same.  I think about raising my prices to meet the demand of my work better so I could avoid this (it's a good start).  I think about expanding my studio to have a staff or 2  (and all the issues in expanding and staffing that would come with this).  So it's a conundrum, you see.  Financially not much seems very viable, and yet, it seems a shame to just throw up my hands without at least searching for a way around it.  At the very least, it's not a terrible place to be embarking on- a crossroad in life has always been an exciting place to be standing at.

7 comments:

Jessica said...

As someone who is in the extreme beginnings of a shop - I certainly envy your position. But I also see the challenges you face. No doubt, the talent, drive and know how that has gotten you this far will help you see and conquer your next step. Good Luck! :)

Melissa @ Hilltop Hausfrau said...

Oh dear. I'm sure you will arrive at the perfect solution for you. Not all makers have a product that can translate to bread and butter - it sounds like you are aware of the lucky situation you are in!

dahlhaus said...

Thanks for the comments here!
Maybe just to add to the conversation- I think in particular ceramics is such physically demanding work- with so much stress on the hands, back and neck, while also being extremely time-sensitive and slow in terms of 'turn-over'. While I'm stoked that I've been able to come up with work that can be my bread and butter, I'm not a machine. For many reasons I feel pretty strongly that my work needs to evolve and I would love to be able to keep making new work, instead of just making the same work over and over again. That's where the conundrum lies- the bread and butter is still with the work that sells easily. Anyways, probably could have written a post here, but it's good to dialogue...

Pinecone Camp said...

I know a number of talented people that have struggled with this. Your work is beautiful, and I have seen you in action...you're obviously meant to be doing exactly what you're doing. It'll all come together for you!

dahlhaus said...

Thanks Janis-so appreciate the encouragement!

Birch + Bird said...

You are obviously passionate about what you do and that passion is sure to translate through your work, whether you are the designer, the maker or a bit of both! Your work is beautiful...wishing you lots of peace with whatever decision you make :)
~Lily

Up in the Air Somewhere said...

Oh man! I feel like I could have written the exact same post. I'm struggling with the same decisions/challenges right now myself. I wouldn't even know where to begin to outsource production, but I seriously have fantasies about having a huge delivery of cups sent to me. At the same time I fear their "life" will be lost. It seems like it's another point where a big plunge has to be taken: invest in studio help or invest in outsourced production. Looking forward to seeing where you end up!