Gary's Third Pottery Blog

When the going gets tough, dragons gonna get going....

Gary's third pottery blog

WRITE TO ME! garyrith@yahoo.com Come see me! Open studio HERE! November 25-26 (11-4 each day); Aurora Art and Design, daily until 12/24; Cooperstown Art Assoc. daily until 12/24; Ellis Hollow Community Fair, 12/10; December 10, Little Red Wagon at the Space at Greenstar. All material on this blog unless stated otherwise is copyright Gary Edward Rith 2016

Friday, October 18, 2013

being valued and getting paid....



NO, I do not want to be sounding like a grumpy old man.  I try very hard to be polite and diplomatic.

You always want to help out a friend, right?  When a charity you know and like asks for a donation or when friends want to show their cousins your studio?  You always roll out the red carpet.

But as many potters find, people ask a LOT of us sometimes, and they don't offer to pay us for our time.
As Meredith might say "the electric bill still needs to be paid".
People may not realize how hard we work as potters and how low our salary is.
If we are demonstrating at an event we love to talk to you, if we have an open studio, ditto.

But what about the strangers who ask to come over and mess around in your studio?  Or they want a demonstration and don't purchase something, or like the query I had the other day from a high school some ways away for a talk and demo?

I told the high school I charge a fee.  I will tell that to strangers who want a class or demo here.

The high school says it does not have money for a fee, and I restrained myself from saying "well, do you tell your teachers and bus drivers 'you should be grateful we let you come here to work, we don't value you enough to pay you and we don't care whether you can buy groceries or not'".

Because truly, I, and other potters, have a friendly and generous nature, but NOBODY CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE how fukking poor we are.  We are always scrambling to make it and sell it, and it is not just for fun, it is a profession.  You pay plumbers and doctors for their expertise and efforts, right?  Nobody tells them to work for free.  We have bills to pay too, and YES, we choose to be artists, but treat us with respect for our time, OK?

ANYWAY, the wife penned a very diplomatic reply for me to use in the future:

"Thank you so much for your inquiry and interest in my pottery.  In order for me to miss half a days' work to (speak to your students or fill in blank)  I would need to request a fee to cover mileage and lost income.  Please let me know if you are still interested."

What do  you say to politely explain yourself?  Because I am getting approached by charities etc for something free every week....

You could probably use an elephant jar, right???? or something else awesome from my etsy shoppe, hmmm??????

  blue green elephant jar

14 comments:

Dia said...

I own a small business too and a very small salary. When someone is trying to chew me down on prices I remind them... "You know I do this for a living right". In other words this is not a hobby! Asshats!

bartster said...

I think you raise an important point. The letter strikes just the right tone; diplomatic and clear in defining the ways in which you are affected when you consent to offer tours and the like.

smartcat said...

This is the bane of being self-employed in the art. You love what you do and what!? you want to get paid?

The other one that makes me go ballistic is...."Well, you can take time off and do it later!"

I like the reply you and yours have come up with!

Michèle Hastings said...

We respond with what our fee is for the day or hour... no apologies. If teachers are resourceful they can find the funds to pay for artists to come in and do workshops. A few schools that we have gone to consider it an in house "field trip". Some have gotten funding from outside sources, arts councils etc.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

OF COURSE you should receive compensation--at least a buck or two per kid! Sheesh.
It's fascinating how people don't understand the give and take of economics.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Great elephant jar. Yes, diplomacy and truth, good letter to approach the answer. And now to ask for free advice...any tips for successful open studios you'd like to give, please let me know! If it's not free, mmm, it's a bit hard to offer you a jar.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

LOVE the elephant jar. If I was a rich woman, everyone would be getting your pottery for Christmas.
Good for you, putting your foot down and explaining that this is your WORK.

George and Maureen Johnson said...

Gary being treated fairly, and valued just never seem to happen to me or George. Sigh, it seemed that today Art is viewed as some hobby that everyone just does for the hell of it...grrrrr! I quit Art all together, sigh, just had to be that way. We are in the process of selling all our equipment, etc...and still they all want everything for absolutely nothing...grrrrr Luckily I sold almost all the pottery we had except for a few items we are going to keep. I just got tired of always standing up and fighting for quite frankly peanuts...it's sad, tragic, and horrible. We did our pottery business for 10 years, all I wound up getting out of it was bad health from frustrations....I am glad you fair much better and your stuff is gorgeous, we love it!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

You've probably heard my "glory of the lord" rant before about being asked/expected to play for free. My best advice is to not apologize. Be very clear, polite, and upfront about what you charge. You can easily say, "I'd love to come do a demo at your school. My fee is $$$" I also have a standard line about donations. If I do not want to contribute, I say, "Thanks for asking, but I've filled my quota for contributions/donations this year." I figure if it's not a group that I would be willing to write a check to, then it's not a group I'm willing to donate my time and services to.

That being said, if I believe in the cause, people, group, project, etc. I'll happily donate my time and efforts. I just want to be the one to set the rules like any other professional.

My friend Jen and I learned this one the hard way. She makes fabulous lamps out of old instruments. (I used to make them too but hers are better so I just help out now and try to find her instruments/materials). She put together a gorgeous lamp made from an antique clarinet that we thought was for a silent auction for the symphony. The last one she made went for several hundred dollars. There was at least $100 worth of materials, time and labor in the lamp and they ended up giving it away in a raffle. That ended that.

I think we have to stop apologizing for being professionals in the arts. People can ask me to play for free all they want but I can also say no and shouldn't be made to feel guilty about that when you are paying the secretary, the plumber, and everyone else in the building.

Okay, end of rant!

cookingwithgas said...

truth Gary, this is the truth.
people think we work for love and admiration, but when I go to pay a bill they want dollars not my love and admiration.
For every pot I sell it is one step closer to paying a bill. I think people would be amazed at what little we live on. How do we do this? We like our life, we are good at what we do and we are very careful how we spend our money. Do we wish we had gone another direction, at times yes.
But most times no.
The other ting I have learned well how to do is how to say no.

Darlene said...

That is a very good way of wording it. I was constantly asked for demos and donations and it took me a long time to realize it was okay to say no when I was starting out. After fifteen years I too am taking a break but due to health reasons. But it's not like we were raking it in. I is wonderful to make pottery, but I never ceased to be amazed by the number of people who thought I could afford to give pieces away to organizations I didn't even know.
Love your blog Gary!
Darlene

Darlene said...

That is a very good way of wording it. I was constantly asked for demos and donations and it took me a long time to realize it was okay to say no when I was starting out. After fifteen years I too am taking a break but due to health reasons. But it's not like we were raking it in. I is wonderful to make pottery, but I never ceased to be amazed by the number of people who thought I could afford to give pieces away to organizations I didn't even know.
Love your blog Gary!
Darlene

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love Maude's letter.
Your work should be valued as everyones work. Right?
Even those government peeps who took....how many days off? Who paid their electric bill? Oh wait, maybe you and I did?
But yes, I get this! I work for a photographer and we get several calls a day from people wanting free work. Hello? she has bills too.
Always stand up for your craft, your work is important.
Suz

smalltownme said...

Gee, my kids always had to pay for field trips. "Return the permission slip and money by Tuesday, etc." I'm glad you are making a statement. Claudia has some good statements, too.

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I am a full-time studio potter, sculptor, and dog walker, married to superhawt Missus Tastycake.