Monday, October 17, 2011

Beatles vs Stones

I liked the Rolling Stones better than the Beatles, and if you were a teen in the late 60’s to 70’s, this choice had to be made. It defined who you were. Maybe it still does.
I am listening to Keith Richards’ book, Life,  on CD in my studio, and then caught Martin Scorcese’s documentary on George Harrison the same day. Keith was the guitar player for the Stones; George for the Beatles. I was struck by a sharp contrast between these 2 British rock stars who rode the same wave to fame.
George used his music to say something important. It was message driven music. He railed against the Tax Man and advocated Eastern mysticism and philosophy. Whereas Keith was obsessed with what he could learn from playing guitar. He was driven by a need to get a chord he’d heard or a blend of sound that felt right. George was a teacher who used art in his lessons. Keith was a student and his art was his teacher. And that’s why I’ve related to Keith and the Stones more than George and the Beatles.
It's not that I disliked the Beatles nor mysticism, and George wrote some of the best, like Here Comes the Sun and Something. It's just that, as far as music goes, George wasn't all in the way that Keith was all in. There's this old quote that gets attributed to different people, that goes:
"If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you."
Music was that thing within Keith that saved him. And that is what pottery is like for me. I'm not expressing joy or awe in my work. Joy and awe are expressing through me when I am making pottery, and that's why I make it.

I don’t have anything to say with my art, yet it has taught me to live a life filled with satisfaction. What I find there is beyond words, beliefs, theology.

flower bowl in OneClayBead
Who are you, as an artist? Stones or Beatles?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marketing Tips from Steven Jobs and Me


Apple CEO Steven Jobs was truly brilliant. He left many great quotes as part of his legacy, and here is one that stands out for me:

"We've never worried about numbers. In the market place, Apple is trying to focus the spotlight on products, because products really make a difference. [...] Ad campaigns are necessary for competition; IBM's ads are everywhere. But good PR educates people; that's all it is. You can't con people in this business. The products speak for themselves."

In contrast to this I also read the Etsy forums, which are full of advice on how to market your work. You know, you can Twitter and ban together as teams to dominate Front Page coverage and do a Feasibility Analysis and give your work away for free in order to attract attention. And yes, I've tried all these things and more at one time or another.

The sad reality of Etsy is that only 5% of the 290,000 sellers on Etsy are making over $30,000/ yr in sales. And in the face of this overwhelming failure, they are intent on marketing more, marketing better, and marketing different.

Not that marketing is bad… but as Steven Jobs says, it focuses attention on your products. So if marketing more, better and different  isn’t working, it might be time to focus on improving the products. For an artisan, good products don’t come from making what everyone else is making. Good products come from connecting to that adventurous inner desire to try something new, to master a technique, to innovate, to push something known into the unknown.

My rustic ceramic bowls, hand sculpted with vintage lace textures and up to 7 layers of glazes are where I'm currently pushing the boundaries on functional pottery.