Monday, September 10, 2012

Practice verses Business...and a bit more of the new studio

Ever since Forage, I've been thinking through the difference between having a 'practice' and running a 'business'.  One of our panel discussions had to do with grant writing, online financing campaigns, and award applications for making art.  The term when to use 'business' and when only to use 'art practice' came up - for instance don't ever use the term 'business' when applying for a grant- always use the term 'practice' or the grant jurors won't even consider your submission.  Although when it comes time to collecting and submitting my taxes or applying for a business license to be able to use my studio, I essentially operate as a ceramic manufacturing business.
So I started thinking through how I felt about the terms 'business' and 'practice'- whether or not one applied to me more then the other, and also, if these terms were really in fact the same way of talking about what I do.  I generally use 'art practice' and 'business' interchangeably but I often feel ill-equipped as an artist to be running a viable business.  For instance when the chatty guy at the bus stop starts asking what I do and I say 'ceramic artist' and he replies 'Is there any money in that?' I kind of stumble over my words.  Not like it's any of his business, but it has become clear to me that I'm much more comfortable understanding what I do as a practice where the personal out-comes of creating and making are more important than the dollars and cents of it.
Part of me realizes that my core values are being triggered here- that I have always viewed 'business' and 'making money' as self-serving and with a negative slant.  The artist in me wants my motives for making decisions to be 'pure'- as though making decisions to do with my creative goals and out-comes are more honourable then if those goals considered financial out-comes.  I totally admire those who feel like their ability to profit financially through their creative endeavors comes honestly or naturally, and always hoped that this would be really seamless for me as well, but am recognizing that making decisions based on my artistic out-comes alone and not considering the financial isn't healthy, viable, or sustainable either.
Every milestone I have crossed with 'dahlhaus' has been really amazing and I'm truly grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.  The potential I see in what I do will come at the cost of other things for sure, but I sometimes mourn the missed opportunities that have come across my desk- missed because I wasn't ready to have all the pieces in place to make those opportunities happen.  I have always been less prepared for success and more prepared for failure and I'd really like to change this notion (*thank you to Fiona from Cartolina Cards for clarifying this in her talk at Forage).  I'm hopeful that I  can create a more symbiotic relationship between the business of what I do and the practice of making so that the decisions and the opportunities don't overwhelm or stall the creative path that I'm on.
 **These are a few photos of sections of my new studio. It's a little hard to see how big the space is (360 sq. feet!).  I have yet to photograph the whole thing because last week I purchased a used slip-casting table to help me out with some of the heavy lifting that slip-casting demands.  It's a big massive table that I still have to sort out how to configure the rest of the studio around it.  I'll also be sharing this space with my former studio intern from a few summers ago, Kelly, who wanted to share some studio space for the next few months before she moves far, far away.  I'll be missing her when she goes so it will make for some good time together before she leaves.


Carolyn said...

Thank you for this post Heather! It certainly sounds like you're in "good process". Sometimes "being ready for success" can be more uncomfortable than "preparing for failure". . .and that is certainly relevant for all of us!! At least that's how I'm feeling these days. What if we all embraced and stepped into our own greatness?
Anyways, I could ramble on about this but your process struck a chord with me this morning =) . Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn said...

I'm also looking forward to seeing your new studio some day!!

HeidiZ said...

I just stumbled upon on this post (2,5 months later... who is counting?) and it really resonated with me as well. I am an Architect, running my own "business" with all that this word entails. The business acumen I has to pick up on the fly, whilst on the other hand I would dearly love to just design all day long and not have to send out those invoices or do the tax returns, or manage other people. Thank you very much for this!