Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Brand authenticity

 In my last post I was talking about branding myself. I lived in a world of salesmen/women for most of my early career, although I wasn't always a salesperson, I could be good at it when I tried. But the ick was always there for me, because the companies I worked for pushed me harder and harder when I was selling. More sales goals, more customers, more, more, more. Drive the brand! But my real true self was an artist, a designer, why was I trying to sell shit? Also, there was always dishonesty present somehow. My mama raised me not to "tell stories", and this was my foundation, even though I could very easily be a pathological liar without a whole bunch of effort. I have always told Wesley, it's easier to remember the truth, the lies you can never remember, so just be honest and life will be easier. Selling never felt honest to me. Never authentic. Now I find myself once again in the selling game, but trying to do it in a more authentic and soul nourishing way. But selling is selling and with selling comes marketing.

The term "branding" also brings on the ick for me. I worked for brand driven companies and I get it, but it's not the same when you are selling work you have loved all along the way of making it.  To brand yourself as an artist isn't quite the same as a Mac apple or a Nike swish. It's more about the visual and mental connection someone makes with you and your name when they see a piece of your work.

So that has been my goal. To make work that represents me and not be all over the place with inconsistent design, like I was before. You know what I'm talking about. The potter down the road makes the perfect soap dish and you say to yourself, hey I like that, I can make that, and you make one. And then you are picking up your fired work at the local community studio and you see such a cool handbuilt vase, and you say, hey I can do that, and you make one..... and so on, until you have nothing but a hodge podge of work that was inspired by someone else and your voice is nowhere to be found. I did this. And then I took workshops and everything I made looked like the person that taught us workshop participants how to make the same thing they were making. And then I tried to make everything I saw in Ceramics Monthly magazines. And then I bought the work of other potters and tried to figure out how they turned that foot, or how they got that rim like that. Mine never had the same feel as those pieces. They weren't authentic.

And then...... I searched for my own voice, because my skills were stronger, I had more knowledge and I could go forth and make work and when someone saw it they said, hey Tracey Broome made that. I picked an iconic image of my work. Then I put that image on postcards and business cards, and blog headers and every publication that asked for a photo. I kept my body of work consistent, my themes, my colors, my forms, all consistent. And I got brand recognition, ta da! And then I got burnt out, haha!

My point is, I want my art to be honest. I want it to speak to someone. I would also like to earn a decent income with my work, but I'm afraid the process of selling what I make takes away from what I make. What a pickle! Another pickle is being a Libra. What I say and believe today might be gone tomorrow and I might say and believe something entirely different.
For instance. I have been deciding to slow my work down and make what I want, spend time with it, get a nice collection together and then decide where to show it, if anyone wants to, that is.

Then yesterday, I was talking to a gallery that is interested in my work. I sent some samples, lots of price points and they said, "we love your stars". Well, I love my stars too, they are very pretty. But, that takes me down the road of inexpensive mass producing, exactly what I was thinking I would get away from. But, those stars sell, so make them I shall...... and there is also the fact that I bought a loom and I took a jewelry making workshop, so where do I fit all of that in? How do you stay consistent with a body of work when you want to do so many different things? So..... I ponder all of this and while my studio is a frozen tundra, I sketch, make notes, do yoga, drink tea, spend time with my family, make some jewelry, think about weaving (the math!) and hope for some warmer days sooooon, so I can get on with some new ideas!


cookingwithgas said...

I don't know if there is any right answer to all of this. Even after 30 plus years I have less answers and too many questions. When one is selling it is great. But..... I have trouble keeping my mind focused on the task at hand. I use to think that if I could find that one item that would bring in x amount of money for me then I could do whatever I wanted to.
No, there is always too many things that can go wrong, will go wrong and then are you stuck spending all your time on x???
I love that you will question, take apart your thoughts and put them on the page.
I just bump along feeling at times like I am in a ping-pong match with myself.

Dennis Allen said...

I'm not saying folks can't make sponge holders, brie bakers, earring bowls, or apple bakers but they need to be part of a consistent body of work not just a collection of crap copied from other people.I'm not rushing to make a splash in a hurry.I'm taking my time and building a brand I won't have to change. I think that from the studio name and the story behind it through me, my pots,my display, my pitch and character my brand is really consistent so people remember what I want them to about me and my pottery.If I add an item it won't be the hot pot or glaze of the season

Michèle Hastings said...

You bring up many good points. I think focusing on what you do best and keeping it consistent is key... but it's REALLY hard when you have so many ideas dancing in your head. I made the decision last year to focus on my ginkgo leaf design and piggy banks. Sales were up. Was it because of that? Who knows!!
When I start to get bored I think of a new form that I can carve into... it seems to satisfy my urge to wander and often brings about new ideas.

Tracey Broome said...

Meredith, I am pinging and ponging right along with you! I also have a hard time staying focused on one thing, like Michele says in her comment, it is so hard when you have so many ideas.
Dennis, really good points! Even though functional ware potters are making lots of different items, if they are consistent with their work I know who they are when I spot a piece of theirs. I used to be so all over the place with glazes and items, you would never know who I was, except some mixed up pottery student, haha! Slow and steady wins the race :)
Michele, I think a narrow focus does lend itself to success and I think you had a good formula last year, proof is in the sales. It's hard to not get bored though, I agree.

Lori Buff said...

They say that the creative side of the brain has so much stuff going on it's impossible to keep up.

I understand the Libra thing (and I have Gemini as my raising sign) so I try to narrow down what I do in my pottery. Yes, you may not love the idea of making a production batch of stars but you will love the money that comes in and helps you build your barns. Think of them as the distraction that keeps you from burning out on barn creation.

Susan Wells said...

I suppose sometimes we do need to make compromises and at the same time, the more we make what suits us the better! Some times its good to have bread an butter made of stars!

Tracey Broome said...

Lori, oh dear, my dad was a Gemini, work, work, work! That's all he did, but he loved it. Thankfully, I don't really mind making the stars, but they like to kill themselves, cracking, glaze issues, blah blah, I have to charge a bit more for them just to make up for the time spent. It could be worse :-)
Susan, yes bread and butter stars, with strawberry jelly please!

Tracey Broome said...

Lori, oh dear, my dad was a Gemini, work, work, work! That's all he did, but he loved it. Thankfully, I don't really mind making the stars, but they like to kill themselves, cracking, glaze issues, blah blah, I have to charge a bit more for them just to make up for the time spent. It could be worse :-)
Susan, yes bread and butter stars, with strawberry jelly please!

Michèle Hastings said...

Tracey, I think your stars are my piggy banks. Everyone loves them, which means they sell, and it's a good thing we enjoy making them!
I made the decision last year not to sell the pigs on consignment. If a gallery wants them they have to buy wholesale, with a minimum order. I can sell them pretty fast on my own, so I don't want to have to wait for the money.


Your stars are my chip and dips- they are a nice ITEM and they like to kill themselves. AND they ain't SO cheap either. I ping and pong and pong and ping. I think allowing your voice to come through every item, every SERIES is key. Framing the idea as your BARN Series. Within in the larger Tracey Broome brand is the way to go and letting go of some pieces we KNOW that we can make BUT, let someone else do that and focus on several that you continue to develop within their framework(barns,stars) and have a few little experiments it off shoots or short shot series. For you maybe it is a Boat series? Dunno but keep exploring. Within each series make really small barns and really big barns. Little pink houses ? Put a bunch of the stars together as a wreath. Just keep pressing forward and test yourself to exhaust an idea or item or look until you are sure you are done done done. Takeshi Yasuda gave some advice like that at a workshop. He said it is like a relationship/marriage. You should be sure you have really tried everything if you have a look/style/item before you just move on. Or perhaps we can cheat(not a real marriage) on it (go off in a different direction)and yet come back and make it work with a fresh outlook. As I share this advice with you, I am trying to take it myself. I need some form of discussion, criticism about my work and I am currently exploring the idea of trying to find and work with a true mentor(my stumbling block is especially location as I can't just run off but a long distance/Skype /mail/phone/email scenario would be great- trying to get into a two week workshop at haystack to dive in deeper this summer) in the meantime ... A peer critique/discussion group could be wildly helpful. Any interest ? Judi

Tracey Broome said...

Judy, thanks for this great comment. Yes, I like the idea of working an idea until there is no idea left. I worried over the past year that I was done with the house form and what would I do now, but I have more ideas, so I ain't done yet!
I agree that a peer discussion group would be great. I would start one with a blog but I fear everyone has skipped over to facebook, who would be here to read and critique...... just us few that are hanging on to the blog world? I'm happy to participate with you through email or here on my blog.... it's a great idea, we need more of that, let's think about what we can do.....


Let's Tracey. Email any thoughts.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours!