There are a few defined career paths in our field. These range from full- or part-time teaching; to working at arts institutions in administrative or technical positions; to working as a full-time artist and supplementing studio income with side gigs like workshops, classes, or part-time jobs. Looking beyond these, many artists create very individualized careers.
The uncertainty of an artist’s path invigorates some, and causes others varying levels of worry and anxiety. We all want to make a living doing something we are passionate about, but often, we don’t know where to begin. As I learned myself when facing the unknown after graduation, there’s no one right or best way to build a creative career. It’s important to play to your strengths, stay true to what you value, keep overhead costs low, and seek interesting and challenging opportunities.
In this issue we focus on the business of being an artist and the career paths artists take. You’ll find perspectives on both selling artwork as well as the wider view on constructing a holistic life out of this labor of love called making art.
Articles focused on sales and marketing include advice on pricing artwork for artists at all levels of experience from Tim Compton, tips from Didem Mert on using social media to sell work directly to followers, and a perspective on a marketing plan that includes renting dishes to restaurants and chefs from Careen Stoll. There are also administrative tips for getting and staying organized from Grace Archambeault.
Other artists featured here built careers with a variety of approaches. Their chosen paths complement their skills, interests, goals, personalities, and situations or localities.
Taking the long view, Thomas Shafer’s article on the 50+ years that Julie and Tyrone Larson have made a living working with clay shows how adaptability and following their interests were key to their success. They shifted from production pottery and selling at fairs to establishing a studio and gallery in an arts district, then downsizing and selling from their own studio as their needs and the marketplace changed.
Like many artists, Mark Errol wears a number of different hats as an instructor, gallery owner, and studio artist, and he’s found that they all fit him quite well. While balancing the demands of all three keeps him busy seven days a week, he finds that each job satisfies his desire to challenge his own artistic growth, foster the development of the next generation of artists, and ensure that his community has access to experiencing the arts first hand.
In order to be successful and happy, we each need to cut through the myriad distractions as well as the expectations of others to distill what is truly important in our creative working lives. Sara Truman discusses the decade-long journey to finding this internal sense of success that she, Brian R. Jones, and Dandee Pattee have each taken, respectively.
While there are defined trajectories that people in many fields follow, Sue Scobie has defied that approach. She followed her interests where they led her, from a career in environmental science to learning about and working with clay full time, exploring ideas of topography and landscape.
Alexis Gregg and Tanner Coleman first demonstrated to themselves that making public art was a viable business that they enjoyed. Then, they focused on keeping their overhead low, applying for as many opportunities as possible, and through these, finding collaborative ways to make large-scale, interactive sculptures out of carved brick.
Although challenging, there are many ways to carve out a creative career and find an audience for your artwork. We hope that this issue inspires you on your own path.
In the January 2019 issue of Ceramics Monthly, the captions for three of Adrian King’s pieces were inaccurate. We apologize for the mistake!