How To Survive As An Artist – 9

Courtney on the potter's wheel

It is hard to be the artist, sales manager and CEO of an art gallery at the same time. As my work became known, there was a shift from stock purchases and consignment of art and crafts to an increase in the production of my personal work; and hiring of staff.

The demand for the Ckalky Mount pottery and my success at local art competitions inspired a new expansion. The local government had developed a mini development for artists and craftsmen, the Pelican craft village was designed specially for small craft producers offering both production and retail spaces.

Pelican village was within walking distance from the cruise ships terminal, l and also close to the capital, Bridgetown. This created some obstacles for the location; most tourist would take a taxi from the cruise chip terminal to Bridgetown, the Taxi drivers did not promote Pelican village, because of the proximity; as a result the village was discovered mainly by the tourist who opted to take the 10-minute walk to Bridgetown rather than take a taxi.

The rents were attractive and the idea of a craft community offered a bonus. My decision to rent one of the spaces was as a result of an unfortunate ceramic workshop accident involving one of my main suppliers.

My supplier was persuaded to join forces with an expat investor, who built a very attractive studio and retail operation in the country. I was not aware of the financial arrangements; but I was assured that my orders would not be interrupted. The partnership meant the chalky mount potter will have access to an electric wheel and a large Kiln fueled by natural gas.

The investor was a painter, and the glazing and decorations would be out of the hands of the potter; his role was just to throw pots.

It took just under two months to produce enough pottery to fill the kiln for the first firing. I was following the progress of my order, when I found out that all the finished production would be fired in a new gas kiln that that was not tested; not even to get rid of any dampness from the construction.

I begged the potter not to risk his production in an untested kiln, since he was not being paid upfront but would be sharing in the success of the firing. No one listened to my caution, and the first firing was a disaster, the entire production was lost. The potter was a sad, disappointed and beaten man; he went back to his push wheel and wood kiln at chalky mount.

I was in a state of shock and disappointment and panic. I immediately ordered 2 electric pottery wheels and 2 Electric kilns from Stoke On Trent; along with and my first shipment of clay, tools glaze materials and the ceramics bible at the time-Clay and glazes for the potter by Daniel Rhodes.

My special interest as an artist was sculpture, my college course taught me a little about ceramics, but I was no production potter. I knew that my potter of first choice would be too scared and downhearted to consider another arrangement.

A careful approach was made to the potter I considered to be the most artistic of the potters, and also possibly the oldest. I had spent many of my child hood hours sitting in his workshop, and even pushing the handle that powered the wheel; We had a very cordial relationship and respect for each other. A proposal was made for him to become the production potter for my new venture. He was asked to calculate his average annual earnings and to alert me as soon as he had arrived at a figure.

It took about a week before he gave me the figure, which I calculated as a weekly sum. I guaranteed him an additional ten percent on his figure and offered him a guaranteed weekly salary working 9 am to 4 pm with one hour for lunch, five days a week.

There was a catch, he had to find two young helpers and teach both of them how to prepare the clay to his satisfaction and spend at least one hour per day teaching them how to throw pots. I might not be a production potter but I am a good teacher and I will pitch in to assist with the training.

My strong words were to him were – “you will sit on the wheel all day, if you need a glass of water one of the helpers will get it for you.your job will simply to throw all day” I knew he was capable of throwing an average of 100 pieces a day, depending on size. He lit one of his cigarettes; “You sure you can pay me that figure, if so I am with you”.

As soon as the shipment arrived from England, COD Pottery and Ceramics was launched, with The potter and two trainees to supply the now 3 existing outlets and various hotel orders.

My personal focus was still on wood carving, with one laborer for the sanding of my creations.

The opening attracted much media attention.

Soon come.


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