We’re back! And we officially have a series! Thanks for giving this another shot. Or, if you didn’t catch episode 1, check it out here. The quality of this episode should be much better than the first episode but there are plenty of improvements still to be made.
Let’s talk about your work!
Blog post about branding by Carter Gillies:
Welcome back to the MudTalk Podcast! My name is Brandon Schwartz also known as Fuzzy. This is the 2nd episode. That’s right, we officially have a series! If you haven’t listened to episode one, be sure to check that out so you can hear why exactly I’m doing this. My apologies that the quality was less than great on that first episode. I hope you will notice a difference in sound quality from that episode to this one. I got a much better microphone and hopefully, I’ve gotten a little better at recording and post production. And if I’ve done everything right, you should be able to subscribe in iTunes or with your favorite podcast listening program.
So let’s get on with it. The 2nd MudTalk Monday prompt was basically “describe your own work.” I tried to leave it open for interpretation. At first glance most people probably thought about “your work” as the work you produce – the actual pots we create. But you could also think of “work” as the process. I chose this prompt because I think it’s important to be able to talk coherently about pots. Especially if you are a maker of pots. You should definitely be able to talk about your own work. I wanted responses limited to 2 sentences to encourage people to refine their answers and really focus on the primary reasons that their work is unique or why people should be attracted to it. I organized the comments into some loosely defined groups including Slogans, Descriptions of the Pots, Process, and Customer Response or Feelings. Then at the end I chose a couple of my favorites. After the responses I’ll share some of my thoughts about describing your work and how it relates to branding and marketing. I’ve come up with 7 tips to help you describe your own work if you need a little help.
Let’s get to the responses!
Some of the responses read more like a business slogan to me. For example:
Studio2ceramics We bring the fun to functional pottery with our handmade mugs!
Potted.arts Whimsical and unusual pots for plants
Dirtkickerpottery Catches your eye. Captures your heart ❤️
Pathwaypottery Practical and pretty.
Liz T LizzieTee Pottery features handmade pottery and ceramics for functional and decorative use and enjoyment. Creative clay for every day!
I like these kinds of descriptions. Short and sweet, to the point. You can include this a lot of places from a business card to a website tagline.
Describing the Actual Objects
Some of the responses described the actual objects being produced.
Fernstreetpottery My work is designed to fit comfortably in your hands, your home, your life. Mugs keep coffee warm longer and bowls that frame your food.
Zeldalune my work reflects my experimentation, my experience , my mistakes , my angst ,my breath ,my imagination my narrative and my curiosity
BlackBerryCreekPottery Beautiful functional pieces that fit together as a set, or stand alone as an individual art piece.
WaysideClare Inspired by nature and natural forms. I started ceramics for stress-relief and just got hooked.
NicoleMainPottery Random and experimental. ?
Kika F Zanella My work is the simple and sophisticated …
Laura S FUNctional pottery for home and garden. Each hand built piece is decorated with a textured surface highlighted with a colorful glaze palette.
Martha H Organic with sharp edges..I know strange..
Some responses had more to do with the process of making pots.
D TaylorSATM Home potter with muddy hands and a grateful heart.
Gardenclaypottery An accident (sometimes a happy one) waiting to happen.
Chilmark_pottery i take very small rocks and make them into bigger,hopefully more interesting and or beautiful rocks, and, in so doing, paid for my home on Martha’s Vineyard. That’s only one sentence
Casa Pangea (spanish) brings nature to ceramic. plays with daily discard objects into eternal ceramic forms.
Debra P Began practice/study in March. Now on my 52nd bowl w plan to make 100 b4 any other form. Just recently able to recognize/apply vision on form/function of work focusing on interior shaping as I pull… Plan to see where I am this March having worked nothing but bowls as a beginning to serious study.
There were a couple responses that focused on feelings or what the customer gets from the work.
Evilknowlesyou My work makes me happy, I hope it makes others happy also.?
Donna L practical ceramics that are perfect for people who want to bring whimsy and fun to their homes by using handmade, contemporary designs where they eat, play and live
There were 5 comments that stood out to me. The first was by
Jude_prevost_ceramics I like the idea that I can create a pottery piece that is functional and may become a favorite because of its usefulness while at the same time create a piece that is unique and creative… So that it may become a favorite art piece as well
Chris_throws_pots As a maker of functional forms, I am inspired by the idea that pottery becomes part of habit – a favorite mug that is essential to a morning routine or a serving bowl that holds a treasured dish at family gatherings. ☕️????
Both of these responses make me think back to the first episode and some of the responses to ‘why clay’. Handmade pots are definitely special and I think highlighting that is a good way to increase interest in your work.
I like these next few responses a lot because they really help me start visualizing the pots in my head even before I see them.
ArtbyGretaMichelle Functional pottery with japanese inspired forms and textured surfaces inspired by my home (island, earth, nature).
JkeeranCeramics I create two polar opposite kinds of work in the same space. One form is very organic and floral, whereas the other form has sharp geometric shapes put together like a Tetris game.
CatherineDanielCeramics Quirky and quilty. Colour and pattern.?
This last one reads more like a slogan but it is an interesting description of the work as well. I immediately had to go see if what I was picturing in my head matched the actual work. The work I was picturing was a based a little bit more on flat squares of many bright colors. But the description really fits the work with the fabric textures and stitching. And the description got me interested and sucked me in.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this MudTalk Monday. It’s so great to hear different perspectives and ideas.
So, why is it important to be able to talk about your own work? I think there are a few reasons. First of all, it helps you sound more informed or professional or just intelligent when talking to other artists and potential buyers. And speaking of buyers, who doesn’t want to sell more pots? I hear advice all the time that it is important to build a personal brand because it will help you find and connect with an audience and increase sales. That sounds good to me! If you think about it, you’ve probably bought something before based on the brand. Why would people pay twice as much for one brand over another? Is one brand known for it’s amazing design, ease of use and offer great customer service? Maybe another brand offers cheaper prices and better specs but clunky design and so many options that the product is more complex to use. Are you picturing two brands in your head that fit these descriptions? Why do you make these connections? Because these companies spend piles of money on branding to make you think of them a certain way. Is one right or wrong? No, it just depends on your personal preference and what is best for the way you operate. So you can do the same thing with your own products to build trust, spark interest, and encourage people to view your work a certain way.
But Carter Gillies makes some good points about how branding may not be mandatory, especially for artists. From his blog he says:
Branding ‘works’ to help sell the artists at marketplace, it is an attribute of livestock, but it is an affront to the undomesticated creative spirit. Branding an artist makes sense only to get sold.
Then later he says:
As you describe it, a brand is how we can best relate to an ideal audience. But making work under that constraint IS A CONSTRAINT. Our liberty is at stake. Can it really be sold this cheaply?
All good points, Carter. I encourage you all to check out his blog. He is a fount of creative thought.
I think of branding a little differently. I agree that it is mostly for marketing purposes. But I don’t think of it as a constraint in a bad sense. I think of it as the essence of your current personal style. Basically, a symbol of what your work is right now. You just want everything about your business to express the same thing that your current work expresses. So whatever you are currently creating, or exploring with your work should be reflected in, or complemented by your logo, your website, your online shop, your paperwork, your social media accounts, your photos, and everything else. For example, if you make serene, minimalist pots with subtle pastel glazes you probably don’t want some kind of horrific bright red halloween font in your logo. If you start sending conflicting messages like that people will get confused or won’t connect with you or your work the way you want them to. And I don’t feel a brand is a permanent constraint because brands can change. Big companies spend millions on rebranding all the time. So if my work starts to go in a different direction, I can change my personal brand. And I’m all for artistic freedom but I don’t think certain constraints are such a bad idea. In a sense, I have placed the “constraint” of function upon my work since I consider myself a potter. Everything I make should function properly. If I made a mug with holes in it or finished it with spray paint instead of glaze, it may let me express some different ideas but if I’m trying to be a potter, people would be confused because I’m not making good functional pots. Does that hinder my creativity? Maybe it does. But I think that’s okay. Maybe branding is just showing very specifically what you specialize in. And you can always have more than one brand. My design branding would look a lot different from my ceramics branding for example.
So, anyway, being able to describe your work is is an important part, maybe the first step, of your personal style or brand. Which, in my mind is just helping other people understand you and your work. If you have ever set up an Etsy shop, or even a wordpress website, you get the title of your shop or site and then a short little description or tagline or slogan. This little one-sentence description can be enough to get a viewer to take a closer look. I’ll come across a site or etsy shop and the little tagline makes me think “ooh, i need to find out more about that” or “hey, I feel the exact same way” or “I wonder what they do to deliver on that claim?” So I’ll go take a closer look because that short little description got me interested.
But for some reason it feels like for some of us, describing our own work is hard. It is for me at least. My current Etsy shop tagline is Handmade Pottery and Ceramics. (Lame!) I’ve been trying to take notes on some of the descriptions and taglines that have made an impact on me and really figuring out what kind of work I’m trying to make. So I have put together 7 ideas that you can consider while describing your own work as part of a personal style or brand. These probably won’t apply to everyone, but hopefully there is something here you can use.
- Think about what you want to explore in your work
What part of the process do you really focus on? What kind of subject matter do you include? Are you making a political statement? Are you focused on textures? Do you only care about how a pot functions? Are the complex layers of glaze what get you excited? Whatever you want to explore is probably a good place to start.
- Think like a customer
If you are trying to sell your work, think like a potential buyer. What are they looking for? What feelings or experiences do they want from your work? How will your work fill some kind of void in their life? You aren’t just selling an object. You are selling an experience. Something that makes their life better somehow. Highlight the ways that your work can do this for someone.
- Avoid cliches
If you can, try to avoid using the same words and descriptions that “everyone else” uses. Yeah, you make handmade pots. But “handmade pots” as a description is overused and not very specific. It makes you sound like you do the same thing everyone else does. Get rid of any cliches.
- Highlight what is unique
What is it about your work that makes it stand out? Why would someone want to buy your pots instead of the thousands of other pots they could get? What are you doing that you haven’t seen anyone else do? Everyone makes unique work but someone may need a little help to see the subtle differences your work offers.
- Use a thesaurus
A thesaurus is my favorite writing tool. When I have an idea but I can’t come up with quite the right words, I can look up a word I’m using and find a word or phrase that conveys my idea more clearly or just sounds better. Instead of describing your pots as “simple” would clean, quiet, sleek, stable or tranquil give someone a better vision of your work?
- Avoid jargon that your audience doesn’t relate to
If you use a special process to make pots, that may be okay to include.. But think about your audience. Do they really need to know you fire in a cone 6, oxidation atmosphere? Do they even know what that means? Unless you are selling mostly to potters, probably not.
- Make it as short as possible
You don’t want a dissertation if you’re working on a tagline or slogan. You want to get your idea across in a few seconds. Use as few, meaning packed words as you can. Then you can unpack these ideas later in conversation or articles or when you describe individual pieces.
To get started, maybe you could do a brain dump. Get some of your pots together, set a timer for 5 minutes, maybe even challenge someone else to describe your work with you. As quickly as you can, write down every word or phrase that comes into your head while thinking about your pots. Even words that are the opposite. Then go through these 7 tips and combine, elaborate, and narrow down your list. Hopefully you’ll start to come up with some good descriptions.
So, that’s all I’ve got. Hopefully it gives you a few new ideas if you need them. If you have any other advice or ideas, I’d be glad to hear them. Look for episode 3 soon where we will talk about pottery goals. So if you haven’t already, subscribe to this podcast. Thanks for listening and stay muddy!