“So, what’s new this year?”
Having been making pots for so many years, there’s a certain amount of predictability to what I will be doing in any given season. Historically, the first quarter of my year is a slower time. Because of this I tend to think I will spend the first few months of the year designing new work, looking at what worked (and didn’t) in the previous year, and planning how to make it better in the coming year. This year, like every year, there is a discrepancy between what I think I will do and what actually happens.
First of all, I run a production studio. Every week the primary task is to produce work. All other tasks in the studio must fit in around time spent making and firing work. Making the work is my favorite part of all the things I do, but there are myriad other things that have to be done.
Early in the year gallery owners always want to know what new pieces I’m making. I always feel like I should have a definitive answer by the end of January. My actual approach doesn’t really work like that. I don’t set aside time to design new work. Instead, I cultivate ideas, create prototypes (along with my regular production items) throughout the year, bring them to shows and then refine the process based on feedback from customers. Of course, the best feedback is sales. For me, design is not something I just sit down to do one day (or even several) out of the month. It’s an ongoing process. Sometimes it’s a few years before I know if a "new" item will stick around long term. Usually by the time I have the production bugs worked out and know how the piece will sell, it’s not really a new item any more. My new work grows into the line. By the time I feel I can announce that I make it, most of my customers have seen it before (many have already purchased it) and it doesn't feel all that new.
I want to announce what’s new in the studio, but I won’t know what works until I’ve been making it for a year or two. My most recent successes in the “new items” category are soap dishes, garlic graters, fantasy design plates (in “Jurassic” and “Safari”), ring holders, and small ikebana style vases. I started working on most of these a few years ago and they are now ensconced in my usual production line.
Things on the drawing board this year are some simple (rimless) bowls in varying sizes, small upright vases and perhaps some other unnamed items I have been receiving many requests for over the years but have yet to develop in a way that satisfies my need for efficient production, durability, and good craftsmanship. As you can see, I’m reluctant to commit to what I think will succeed in becoming an official part of my line by the end of the year. You (my faithful customers, friends and followers) will know it when you see it. I will keep making the best sellers (and improving on the new pieces). What stays is determined by the feedback I get from you. So, look for new items and let me know what you think. I will make more of the things I can’t seem to keep in stock.