March 7, 2016 § 4 Comments
Last summer, Joseph Fuller came to work in the workshop. He has been an invaluable asset. In many ways, two are better than one. He comes from a Fine Art background, like I do, and has an astute and well-trained eye. He is also curious and conscientious, two important traits for any aspiring potter. We talk constantly about the development of DSP – how to refine it, define it and evolve it. Having Joseph in the workshop has allowed the space for this to happen. Before he came, I was throwing, glazing, wrapping, emailing, marketing, just about hanging in there – the normal state of affairs for a potter. This is fine but allows little time or space for the developmental aspect of the business, so fundamental to the vibrancy of a healthy pottery. I could concentrate on the standard pieces but little else.
I was aware that this was the case but found I was unable to do much about it, an exceedingly frustrating experience. Now, Joseph takes care of the glazing (including glaze experiments) and packing, some admin, and much else. I can focus predominately on throwing, which, given the increased time, is, I hope, improving. Having two heads in the workshop all the time means that we talk regularly about how to take the business forward and we are in a much better position, now that he is here, to be able to make that happen.
Two conversations I have had with other people have also been profound and affecting. One took place at a show last year and the other just last weekend. The show, for me, had been a curiously flat affair. We took reasonable sales, really fairly good sales, in fact, but during the show and after I felt oddly dissatisfied, yet was unable to pinpoint exactly why. Asked by one particular maker how it had gone, I replied that I thought that something had been missing. We discussed it further and then he said to me “Are you sure it was the show? Could it be something that you are doing?”. Something I am doing?! The cheek, I thought!
The second conversation was with a fashion designer, who I enjoy talking to about his work. I asked him how things were going and he told me about how he had been designing products which would help him market his next collection. He spoke about needing special pieces, ‘key’ pieces, that call attention to the brand. When actually placing orders, shops usually take the basic range, plus a few extras, but you need the calling card pieces to give the brand personality and life. As I was listening to him, I was thinking about how this would translate to DSP.
I think the comparison with a fashion brand is an apt and appropriate one – that model is a good one. We, too, have ‘basics’, these are the plates, bowls, mugs, beakers etc. – but, I feel, what has been missing from DSP are the ‘key’ pieces that bring the brand alive. The maker from the show had been absolutely right – there had been nothing wrong with the fair; quite the opposite, it was dynamic and vibrant. DSP has done the ‘basics’ reasonably well but, on reflection, that was really all there was, which after a while is only remotely interesting. That was the reason that the show felt flat. Putting these two conversations together has been totally enlightening and invigorating. A pottery needs ‘key’ pieces; it needs pots that grab people’s attention. But, like in the fashion industry, that attention needs to be regularly tweaked; maybe not seasonally, but it definitely needs tweaking and tweaking hard.
So, Joseph and I have a resolution for this coming year: to add ambition and daring to the collection.