Lisa Smith of Studio Delve was kind enough to join us today to share some insights into her creative process, her business and what makes her "make."
AW: How did you get started in ceramics?
Lisa: In high school, I had zero attention span. I could not focus on a single academic thing. I was a "C/D/F" student for most of my young life, except in ceramics class, where I was an "A" student! I would stay after school to work on my ceramics projects until the teacher was ready to go home. Since then, I have always known I wanted ceramics in my life.
AW: Thanks for sharing that story with us, that's very brave of you. It's a real testament as to why keeping "the arts" in school is so very important. I'm sure your technique has changed over the years since High School, what is your current process? Do you start with the finished product in mind?
Lisa: Yes, and no sometimes. My process is everything. Delve IS my process. I used to try to force my work, I would start out with one thing in mind as I worked, I would reject anything less than a perfect rendition of what I had in mind. It was torture. It was self-defeating and miserable. Now, I do still have ideas in mind when I start out, but I allow myself to be part of the process and let it become as I create. Most, if not all, of my most successful and popular pieces have been profoundly unplanned and unlike what I had in mind originally. My best sellers are pieces I have thrown in the trash at one point and then retrieved later as I thought:"well, maybe..."
AW: You have a fairly wide range of products in your repertoire. Can you talk about what you started out creating and what lead to what?
Lisa: Great insight and question! I started out making porcelain jewelry because I wanted something unique to wear and I couldn't afford to buy myself any jewelry. Also, I wanted something funky and unlike normal jewelry. That was the beginning of my ceramic necklace pendants. I got stuck doing those for a couple years as I dreamt of larger pieces like light pendants. When I looked at other large pottery items like bowls, I saw light pendants (an upside down bowl.) Somewhere along the way between necklace pendants and light pendants, I began drawing on flat slabs of clay and thus, wall gardens (wall art) emerged. I had coasters in mind, but decided to hang them instead.
AW: It's funny how one thing can lead to the next, creatively: a coaster becomes wall art, a hobby becomes a business. What lead to the creation of your business? Is it full or part-time?
Lisa: Full time and then some!! Oh my goodness, it is crazy. I feel like I am doing the jobs of a full time staff. I just want to have my hands in the clay, however, I spend only about 5% of my time working with wet clay. The rest of the time is the "other," such as: updating several websites like Facebook, Twitter, Delve, and Etsy, emailing, processing orders, designing line sheets, ordering components like chains, clasps, earring backings, gluing earrings and necklace pendants to their backing, shipping, using the Dremel to grind off glaze and glue, errands to the hardware store for more clamps, light bulbs, glue, Xacto blades, troubleshooting with the computer and printer, taking and retaking product photos, editing photos, posting photos and item descriptions....and much, much more!
AW: How do you balance your creative vs. marketing time?
Lisa: This is a constant battle. I just try to take it one day at a time. I have two planners, one for all Studio Delve planning and one for life. I will pencil in "studio" for several hours, but if I get a last minute call for a baby sitting job (I moonlight as a nanny) I will usually erase it and take the job. Honestly, creative thoughts are always occurring, so I try to jot down my ideas in my planner, take a picture on my phone to remind me later or email myself a link that has inspired me. Marketing takes a back seat just because I would rather go to the dentist. It's SO HARD! I rely on Facebook and Etsy for word-of-mouth marketing. I am working with a few close friends who have expertise in this area, but I just want to continue developing my work at this point.
AW: What's your best piece of advice for creative types trying to make the jump?
Lisa: Take the plunge! Commit to a deadline. Deadlines are the most inspiring motivation. Get together with someone else and have an art party at the very least. Pick a date and COMMIT! This will get things rolling. It has to start somewhere. An art party is great because there is no registration fee and it's a great excuse to get people together. Also, start an Etsy shop. It is extremely user-friendly and having an online shop is also a great motivator to update your work.
AW: You do art shows and have an online shop. Can you talk about what each offers and why you choose to do both?
Lisa: Being part of the shows like Open Studios in Boulder is great because the event advertises nationally and has an immense following from all over the U.S. and Canada. It is a great honor to be accepted into the juried event. I have a couple of shows per year in my studio (Christmas and Mother's day) because it's free and a nice opportunity to get people together and show my work. As a consumer, I love the convenience of online shopping, so of course I want to make that available for my customers. The internet is the best tool out there, having an Etsy shop is so easy and simple, I love it. My Etsy expenses are wonderfully minimal. I also love being in the retail shops because that's where people are shopping and buying. Although I only get 50% commission, I feel honored to be accepted into the shops and I am very pleased to do business with all of them.
AW: Do you have other creative hobbies?
Lisa: My other hobbies range from: cooking, sewing, writing, snowboarding, running, hiking, ultimate frisbee and if I could afford to skydive regularly, I would.
AW: What's on your wish list this year?
Lisa: An iPhone, a 2-bedroom apartment (we live in a one bedroom loft,) snow tires, baby Smith.
AW: Awww, baby Smith. I like how you threw that in at the end. Speaking of "little things," what's a teeny tiny thing that makes you happy?
Lisa: The light of day.
If you happen to be in Boulder, Colorado this Saturday, December 12th (I wish,) Lisa is having a holiday sale from 11-4. Lisa, thank you for taking the time to chat today, I know this is a busy week for you. Good luck with your sale and enjoy the season there in Boulder.