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For many artists, art isn’t their day job. Something else is their day job, like teaching, fast-food, manufacturing, or even being a homemaker and raising children. That means they make art on the side in their time off. It is a constant struggle for these artists to have a healthy work/life balance. This post is no answer to that struggle as we all go through our own valleys and do what art we can when we can, but it might offer some advice. I am struggling with this myself and I want you to know you are not alone. Here are some helpful tips as I try to stay balanced.

 

Have a Good “Why”

 

Knowing why you make art in the first place and having a goal or reason far beyond yourself can be extremely helpful when you find yourself juggling a day job and creating art. Having a higher cause will help you keep going, even in small steps, if your “why” is something you feel strongly about, an issue you would like to make better, or work to make change on a larger scale in society.  Once you find a good “why” no “how” or “what” will keep you from reaching your goals.

Simon Sinek wrote a great book on the topic called “Start With Why”  In his book Sinek explains how to motivate yourself and also to inspire others to take action.   Below is a video where Sinek discusses the topic of finding your why.

 

 

Schedule Everything

 

I work at a paper plant and the job requires us to work 12-hour swing shifts switching between days and nights. At times after a long shift, I might not feel like making pots.  I found that if I schedule everything and write it out, I can better plan for family time, reading, and other things I need to do. I put everything in a journal.  I have a few nice templates I use with my journal to make layout easy. There are a million ways to create a journal layout.  I use the tips found here, but find a layout that is best for you and start filling it in. If you wish not to do journaling, purchasing a planner is another way to get things more organized.

I don’t always keep to the schedule, but at least it is written down in a journal I am able to review the tasks and goals then work to change things to get back on track. One of the issues I have with a schedule is I tend to beat myself up for not being able to complete everything. Try to set realistic goals and plan for only three major tasks a day. If it happens to be a work day I only schedule two tasks.  That means if you are tired after night shift, it might be fine to take a nap, then spend time with family before making pottery.

 

 

 

Find Wasted Time

 

One of the areas that I have trouble with when creating art while having a day job is wasting time. Once, I mapped out my entire day and tracked what I actually spent my time on. I found that while I complained about not having enough time for things I enjoyed and making pots, I did have time to spend hours on social media. I then feel terrible about all the wasted time and try to do better. It’s a slow process.

Wasted time does not always need to be on social media and our phones, but it can be time wasted on relationships that bring us down, or people commenting mean and unhelpful things. I quickly realized not all feedback should be valued the same, and had I listened to many of those people, I would have given up. It is possible to work hard and not give up on the wrong things. I try and ask myself “If I was living today a second time, what would I do?” It takes practice to cut out wasted time and replace it with things we enjoy. I am still practicing. See my post here on procrastination.

 

Think Long Term

 

The turtle wins the race. Making good art to sell while working a day job might take time and practice. It also takes time to build a community of followers and buyers who enjoy what you do and love what you make. At times I need to stop and think long term and see each step, big or small, as a step closer towards the goal I set for myself.

Many feel disappointed when they have a bad month of sales after only a few months in business, or when they fall short of projects. But thinking long term can help you to be kinder to yourself. Remember to not only set one-year goals, but also five and ten year goals. If we see it as a marathon rather than a sprint, we can enjoy the journey more and not feel so stressed about not being where we think we should be.

 

Stop Worrying About Others

 

I find myself getting distracted when I stop and look around at what others are doing. I might see a larger shop doing much better and start feeling down about where I am and think about giving up. Or I may look at small shops to make myself feel better and forget to have empathy and remember what it was like to be just starting out.

Artists who work day jobs may get picked on by family, friends, and even those who do art full time. Those we know and work with may make fun of our efforts at making art to sell. At times professional artists might gaslight you into thinking you have to go all in with art or else you are doing it wrong. But going all in might not be the best decision if you have others who depend on you. It’s your story so tell it the way you like. Who cares what others think?

 

Use Your Job Skills in Your Art

 

No matter what industry you work in, your day job skills and processes can be applied to making your art and running your small business. Accounting, project management, social media management, manufacturing processes, or IT can come in handy when you apply what you do each day while you build your art business.

Like your day job, be sure to learn new skills. In art, you do not need to be worried about processes failing or plans not working out as you now are free to explore and learn from issues and troubleshooting. In art, solving one issue simply means you move on to the next problem to solve. Use your day job to work to your advantage. If it was not for my day job, I would not have been able to start my pottery studio.

 

 

I hope that today after work you take the time to do one thing, if you can, towards your goals on making art. I will try to do the same. I wrote this while on lunch break at the paper factory at three in the morning. I hope to go home to my pottery studio and make a ware board of mugs.   I will make them for my “why,” for myself first and then for you all. Some time back, I started a little group on Facebook called “Pottery After Work”. I thought it might be nice to chat with others who make pots while working a full time job.  I need to revive the group and interact more.   I do hope this post helps at least one person to start managing making art while working better. Let me know in the comments!

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

 

I had a whole week off from my job at the paper factory, and I should have used that time for making pots. I have a few shows on the way, but for some reason, I did not feel like going into the studio. I did many things to avoid making pots, and then tried to justify the things I was doing to validate myself. I began to wonder if I was beating myself up too much about it. I did take time for self-care. I read some great books, went to visit family, helped at a small vendor show, and made out direction-setting plans for the pottery. I even wrote a few blog articles. But even still, I felt as if I got nothing done.

Work Energy

I decided to read the book Work Energy by Jim Harmer. Jim is a blogger and runs the web content business called Income School. He had some terrific tips for working things out on the topic of procrastinating. Harmer in his book thought that at times we might be overwhelmed by a bunch of ideas. He suggests starting a bucket list, even if you are not sure you will do everything on it. Harmer says you should think about the list as things you might dream about. Then Harmer suggests picking one of those things you wrote down and make one small step towards the goal, no matter how small. Harmer believes just taking the first step towards a goal may prompt us to do a bit more.

Another great idea in the book Work Energy was to try an idea for a month or more to see if you enjoy it or not. This gives a person time to work though the issues rather than giving up too early. Harmer thought we might need to get through the boring period before we start seeing progress. He calls this period “groundhog day.” Like in the movie Groundhog Day, things repeated. When tasks become repetitive, we may need to put our head down and “groundhog” through the issues and boring parts.

The book also pointed out how we might get distracted by new ideas and feel overwhelmed. This means we should put our heads down and concentrate on the things that get us 90% of the progress before we try other ideas or modifications. A lot of patience is needed, and plans should be made for the long term. Many times, we may procrastinate by thinking we need more time to get ready, but no time like the present! Today is a suitable time to start. Work Energy was a delightful book to read and Harmer’s rags-to-riches story on writing blogs and giving photo classes online was inspiring in showing how simply taking the first step can be the solution to ending procrastinating.

 

Organize Tomorrow Today

 

Another book I read was Organize Tomorrow Today by Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow. I thought I was procrastinating because I was disorganized. I tried everything under the sun to work things out and make things easier so I would stop procrastinating. Organize Tomorrow Today has eight ways to retrain your mind. Now friends, I’m not sure about you all, but anything that makes such claims I end up being skeptical of. But the good Dr. Selk had a list and some things on it merged nicely with the last book we discussed above.

  • . Organize Tomorrow Today
  • . Choose Wisely
  • . Maximize Your Time
  • . Win the Fight Through
  • . Learn to Talk to Yourself
  • . Learn to Talk with Others
  • . Be Abnormal

The book has processes for each of the eight sections. To go through them all would take time so I will just cover one section of the book that was most helpful to me. The section “Win the Fight Through” was about working past the first few days when the task is easy and continuing when the task gets hard. In my experience, when I first start something, it might be easy to do the first few days but gets harder as time goes on.

For example, one time I thought it would help my procrastination to show up for myself and each day make up ten pots. Ten pots for seven days is seventy pots a week. I was able to push through at least three days of making pots, but then I had a rough day at the paper factory. I was really tired and did not want to make pots that day. So, I missed a day and then became comfortable and missed a few after that. Winning the fight through, according to Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow, might take a few tools. If I were to ritualize the task and schedule it in no matter what, it may help in pushing through the challenging times.

The next tool is recognizing roadblocks that keep us from doing the task we wish to do each day. Once you know what is blocking you, it is easier to plan a way to counteract the issue. Dr. Selk. & Tom Bartow say to ask yourself the questions, “How would I feel if I were to do the task?” and then “How would I feel to not do the task?” Next, think about your quality of life and how the decision for change might affect you.

 

Do The Work

 

I was still having a tough time as I enjoyed reading about procrastination far more then working on it and all those pots still needed to be made. Then came the real hitter. Do The Work by Steven Pressfield. Folks, let me tell you, this was hard to read because Pressfield was not shy about pulling punches and telling me what I needed to work on. The book was on the topic of resistance, or all the things that might keep us from doing the work. Pressfield went all out like a Baptist minister telling me my faults and what I needed to do to overcome procrastination. He even mentioned a bunch of other issues I didn’t even know I had.

I was at the paper factory reading Do the Work and it told me that I needed to go all in if I wanted to be happy and do my true calling. This book almost made me quit my job until I remembered Pressfield would not be paying health insurance for my wife as I was the sole bread winner. But what he was saying was all true. I did not need better systems, better apps, better scheduling, or better time management. I needed to simply do the work.

 

2-minute Rule


A video I  enjoyed was the 2-minute rule. This idea has you complete tasks that are two minutes or less to get you started working.  The video below explains it in a real good way.

 

 

What I discovered is that each person might be different and have varied reasons why they procrastinate. Some may have a fear of starting due to the fear of failure. Others worry about what others may think of them if they mess up. Many may justify doing other things instead of what they know needs to be done. I decided to simply show up and make five mugs. If I could make five mugs, I might be able to make ten. And ten mugs would be a great start.

I promised myself I would not define myself by my last mistake. Today is a new day, another chance to take a step towards finishing my goals. I learned I do not need to be perfect; I can go slow as its the turtle that wins the race. I need to stop comparing myself to others and not take personally what others think (unless they are good friends and are trying to help me out). We are all working on something, even if it is working to avoid the work we need to do.

How do you deal with procrastination? Let me know in the comments!

 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

 

“And one day they taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon, and this word first the goddesses said to me – the Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus who holds the aegis: “Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.”      – Theogony by Hesiod, English translation by Evelyn White

 

Many people may ask me where I get my inspiration. Artist or not, we all get inspired to do something, something that drives us into action. Many say, “Follow your passion!” In my observation, passions can change after you have pursued them for a while. “Follow your passion!” also assumes it is something of good. If your passion was stealing cars it could cause you a bad time. Something more than passion needs to drive a person as at times I do not feel all that passionate about clay when pots crack.  A video I thought was helpful on the topic of following your passion can be found here. You may realize, after all the effort, you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would when you first started. But to start, folks believe they might need to be inspired or moved to action by some “trigger”. Here are a few things that “trigger” me. 

 

 

Reading & Research

 

When I was younger, I loved to read and had a small library of books that I enjoyed. I read many of The Hardy Boys books and Little House on the Prairie. I was terrible at reading and spelling until the 5th grade, when I had to do a book report. The experience was so moving that I still remember which book it was. The Hardy Boys: The Secret of Pirate’s Hill. I earned an A. I realized learning could be fun and took off reading like there was no tomorrow. While reading in my free time, I learned English grammar and spelling. My grades improved the more I read, and by high school, I was doing much better.

When I attended Keystone College in my home state of Pennsylvania for art, I met a guy who had piles of books all around him in the snack bar. His name was Richard. He was surrounded by books as he was studying ancient near eastern literature. Loving literature myself, we connected immediately. When we became friends, I went to Office Max with him to photocopy parts of books (as this was before the internet and the texts he was using would cost hundreds to own). It was at this point also that I was introduced to world religion by the librarian named Dr. Elliott. Dr. Elliot taught a world religion class and gave students permission to sit in and listen. She went over the ideas of Joseph Campbell and a bit of the psychologist Carl Jung. This led me to read the book The Power of the Myth by Joseph Campbell.  Between my buddy Richard and Dr. Elliot, I learned how important reading and research was to learning and applying it to my work.

 

 

Nature

 

I also get prompted to action by nature and love color and natural texture patterns. Before I made pots, I loved to go winter camping and hiking. I used to do all of this with my buddy Stephen. I even had a fun channel about my adventures outside. You may view those terrible old-time videos here. Taking the long hikes, up to 3 days or more, gave one plenty of time to spend with oneself and work things out surrounded by color and texture. Sitting in a field of grass with a good friend, making meals on a small cook burner as the sun set made an impression on my mind. The community of camping with friends made its mark as well. In times past, each Memorial Day and Labor Day we would camp with our college friends and loved ones and have grill fests. We would all bring our favorite dishes to show off and share. At night, sitting up late around the fire chatting and joking impressed upon me the community feeling that all was right in the world at that moment where we were. 

Nature shows up in my work in the texture patterns. I often use natural patterns in my pots, mostly the texture patterns of tree bark and things pressed into the clay like stones, plants, and other natural found objects. In the past, I use to layer these patterns, creating line and shape contrasted with color and glaze. I enjoyed using and feeling the raw, unglazed sections of the pots, and tried to leave parts unglazed to show off the clay’s natural beauty. Firing reduction in gas changes the glaze colors to the earth tones that I grew to love and enjoy.

 

 

 

Themes of Color

 

I am inspired by themes of color. I am not sure how it all works. Maybe I get it from my mom who always needed a matching outfit for every occasion. I always told her if she were to live a second time, she should be a fashion critic. Even at 86 years young, she still calls and asks what glaze colors I am running for the shows so she can dress accordingly when she helps as a greeter. Last year for the fall show, I ran all the colors from a single pail of glaze.

Depending on the shelf it was fired on, how hot the pots got, and what the atmosphere was like in the kiln, I was able to produce a wide range of work all from the same glaze that matched the color of the October seasonal fall look. Another show I was inspired by was the 2020 Christmas show called Blue Christmas. All the pots for this also were done from one pail of glaze. I was relieved when the blues came out beautifully to meet the expectations of those who stopped by to see.

The set-up for that show matched somewhat how I imagined it. I also think about these when working out collections for the shows. I try to get customer feedback and pair that with some ideas of work that can match in color or theme. I very much enjoyed the rolled rim mixing bowls and flattened rimmed handles on the batter bowls and bakers.

 



 

 

 

Be Like a Sponge

 

Inspiration can come in many forms, and many times we may not know from where. The ancients tell us about the muses, gods, or God. I try to expose myself to many things, absorb as much as I can and let it come out of my hands and into my creations. Not all of it ends up being well received, and I may spend far too much time working hard on the wrong things. But those times when inspiration hits your total concentration can be a fair and foul thing when you are driven to create, do the work, and get it to the right people as a gift. What I do know is I would make the pots even if no one else cared or bought them. I would still pile my ideas high to see where it would go or where it might end up. Mug one is far different to mug 120! So, what inspires you? What drives you to action? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Written By,
Alford Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

The Struggle

I always have a real bad time knowing when to do what and many times I feel as if I specialize in procrastination rather than doing what I do best. But what can be seen by others or ourselves as procrastination or being lazy might simply be due to a poor work-life balance. I remember last year in 2020 during the pandemic, I shut the pottery down for a week to read the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. I loved the book and what he stated still has stuck with me. Frankl in his book said:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” -Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Take Time For Yourself

Taking time off to do nothing or to be with family is just as important to creating as creating its self. Even though I had a lot of orders to complete and kiln loads to fire I still took time to go to the family reunion and visit with all the family I have not seen for years. I sat and ate potato salad with Uncle Wayne and Aunt Ruth and chatted with cousin Sean at the grill. Gave hugs to Aunt Gladys bent with age but still smiling and got to meet all the children of those who were children themselves last time I have seen them. You have no idea how fast time passes until you attend a reunion and see loved ones you have not seen in years. Then my friend Richard stopped by.

It was Richard’s birthday. I had planned to make pots all day, but Richard was on his way to Texas to take a class. My friend is huge into all types of research and I always enjoy spending time. So we took the day having lunch at the Diner and watching interesting films he has been collecting for his newest project. Richard is the one who got me into many topics of study and in his home shelves line all the walls but the kitchen three books deep. Over the last 25 years he has loaned me book and even helped me with clay projects. All of this was a nice break to have. But I need to get back to work as customers are looking for work. So I need to do the work and I need to learn to enjoy the hard parts and learning how to suffer the right way.

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Having a good “why” is helpful to stay on track and having patience to persevere over the long run can make the work more about the journey rather than the destination. If you have a mission after resting, the hard work still needs to be done. I always work to get back into the mud, sometimes kicking and screaming. If do not participate in telling my story to the world, others will write it for me, or I will end up following or living the story of someone else.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder, Mishnah Avot 1:14

Work-life balance helps us focus on what is truly meaningful and it then comes out our hands as we make the work and do the tasks that becomes a product that others enjoy. So I might take a long time getting custom orders out, or maybe a bit slow at finishing a few projects, but over all I try and ask like Frankl asked “If I was living today a second time what would I do”

 

The Dark Forest

 

 

“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Guide

 

 

“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Journey

 

“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

The Ascent

 

‘We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars”

– Canto 34, Inferno by Dante Alighieri

 

By:

Alford D. Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Creating Authentic handmade pottery in the hills of the Blue Ridge Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Notes:

Annie Reneau – “A trauma psychologist weighs in on the risks of ‘motivational’ pressure during quarantine”

Divine Comedy, By by Dante Alighieri Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, Divine Comedy English Translation

Frankl, V. E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Miller, Donald.  Building a StoryBrand, 2017 (Harper Collins Leadership), Marketing Made Simple, 2020 (Harper Collins Leadership)

 

 

 

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Firing out the Amaco AG40 is great for raku , but I sure had issues with the higher temperatures.  When I was working towards my degree and also was an apprentice at a pottery when I  found a little Amaco AG40 updraft kiln in the classified section of the paper.  The kiln was owned by older gentlemen and hobby potter about two hours from where I lived.  This gentleman had the kiln installed above his garage he was using as a studio.  He had a ventilation fan that came with the kiln and everything was in great condition.  A family member and I loaded this little kiln onto a truck and carefully drove it home.

The kiln had no instruction manual, and we had to learn how to light it from the label on the side.  We had the gas company bring out two tanks and connected both with 2 lines running into one hose with a connection to the regulator.  After following the directions, we were able to fire the burner and bring the kiln to life. That summer, and for the next two years would use the little kiln to run a raku line of pots.  Those were the best summers.  We ran a Spring and Fall show with demonstrations for the public.  It was three days of fire, smoke, and pottery.

 

View post on imgur.com

Dusting off the AG40 Updraft

After graduating with a B.F.A. in Ceramics and leaving the pottery, I put all my equipment into storage. I had to find work to pay off student loans.  When my wife and I bought our home, I put in a small clay studio with the encouragement of friends and family who were into the wet shaving hobby.  These friends wanted lather bowls and brush handles.  I hooked up my little Amaco Kiln again and looked online for a manual. Amaco was able to send me an old manual.   I only fired this kiln to a midrange temperature with this kiln once but could not remember the schedule to repeat it.  The manual had a suggested firing schedule, so I started tinkering.

I had the gas company come and hook up a tank large enough to prevent freezing.  The first few firing were terrible simply because I was not able to properly regulate how much gas was going to the kiln’s burners and I had a broken gauge.  I started with a simple bisque fire but knew I had to make some repairs before I went to a full first firing.

At times I was almost ready to roll the kiln over the bank.  I had a whole cone or more difference in temperature between the bottom and top, with the bottom shelf being hotter.  The kiln would also stall out.  So I saved up some money and bought a converter kit.  The kit had a stand with an updraft burner which allowed hookup to a twenty-pound propane tank.  This helped out a great deal because I now had more control over the amount of gas and temperature of the kiln because this had a gauge that worked.

With the conversion kit, I now went back to square one and used the firing schedule out of the manual and completed a midrange firing.  I still had a large temperature difference between the top and bottom.  To fix this issue, I widened the glaze firing range so that the top of the kiln would not fall under fire.  I was able to get a few good pots using this method; that is until I accidently overfired on Christmas day.

Over Firing The Amaco AG40

Meet the Kilns

On Christmas Eve 2015 I prepped and glazed a load of shave bowls that I wanted to have completed as Christmas gifts.  I wanted to wrap those gifts right from the kiln for dramatic purposes and hand them out a few days later. Glazing ran later than expected and the firing stalled out climbing to cone 5/6.  I left it run for an hour longer than usual, but the cone was not bending.  I realized that the gas had dropped off.  After fixing the issue, I went back inside. It was now 3 am Christmas morning, and I had an alarm set to go off every 15 minutes, but instead it went off after another 45 minutes.  While I nodded off with”visions of sugar plums dancing in my head” the little Amaco AG40 was over firing.

I jolted awake and looked at the time and realized the problem, then rushed to the kiln and looked through the peephole.  The bottom shelf was running real hot, and the middle shelf cone was now all the way down.  Thinking I caught it in time I started the 2-hour cooling cycle the manual recommended. All was fine until I opened the kiln about 30 hours later.

The bottom shelf was severely warped with cone 5/6 clay pots melted to it. It appeared that the shelf might have gone to cone 9 or 10.  The second shelf of pots had blister marks in them, so I suspect this shelf reached cone 7/8.  The top shelf was perfect.  I was able the salvage five good shave bowls to give to friends.

All of this was great practice on how quickly things can escalate even if minor adjustments are made.  I am still working out temperature differences, and the little Amaco AG40 needs new bricks and repair work done.  But the kiln has grown on me, and I enjoy firing it out in both reduction and oxidation firings.

Click here for the manual for those who may need it. It’s quite old but had some good information in it.  If you would like to add your experiences or tips concerning the Amaco AG40 or updraft kilns in general, feel free to comment!

 

20160512_185726
Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

cropped-20160114_162250.jpg

While researching the start up the Creek Road Pottery, I quickly came to realize that running a business would be much more than making pots. Months before I even thought about creating a pottery I went through the Business Model Canvas course given by Steve Blank on the Udacity website. The class was very helpful in organizing and researching the many areas of a business that would need developing. One area was developing Revenue Models. Within the many revenue models, there was Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

When I was perusing my degree in ceramics, we learned a lot about art and little about marketing ourselves and the work. At the time, it was believed that the way to make money and sell art was through galleries, trade shows, and studio storefronts. Many who went on to pursue their masters degrees ended up teaching which gave them a position of recognition through the university they were employed. Others would leave the field due to lack of finances, student loan debt, or have to take on other jobs outside the art field to earn a living for themselves. But today all of that has changed, and if the artist can put on a few hats or have processes automated, handed over to paid services, or use applications, the jobs can become manageable once again. Below we will look at some applications that can assist the artist in writing content geared toward SEO.

Yoast SEO Plugin

One of the simplest tools that helped SEO management when creating posts or pages was the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin built for WordPress has a simple install and came with a host of features that helped with content writing, page analysis, Meta and Link elements, XML sitemaps, RSS optimization, and much more. The Yoast SEO also grades the post and ensures that keyword usage in the headings and content. It also gives a list of most used words in the post so that the writer can make changes to up the ranking. This plugin also shows the total word count of content and also monitors SEO for title and descriptions of posts. With the plugin writing content, creating titles, and descriptions much easier.  And with the color coded indicator buttons, it was easy to see if my attempts at SEO were on the right track or not.  However, SEO cannot be adequately managed without better content. With Google’s new standards, the search engine will be far more selective about how it ranks post and information.

The Grammarly App

Another tool that is very useful for SEO, content creation, and management is the Grammarly program. Grammarly has a free version that installs as a plugin to most browsers and also has an extended paid version with many added features. These features allow the user to make informed decisions about how to use words, grammar, punctuation, and flags wordiness. It also claims to enhance vocabulary and grammar usage. As Grammarly flags issues, the user can remember how to use words or punctuation.  Also, there is a built-in search that can detect plagiarism and alert the writer or content provider that a text was copied.  If you have written content outsourced, it may be wise to paste it in Grammarly to see if the text is original or copied.

 Shopify SEO Manager

Artists who sell online have plugins that one can install with the store packages.  One of these would be the Shopify SEO Manager. Since SEO is important to ranking and sales, stores like Shopify, Etsy, and others have both plugins and free classes and resources on how to post items and create descriptions for products. Many have Google result simulators, page speed integration, site map management, and SEO issues scan built in. Many times when creating a post or descriptions, the artist would fill up the meta tags with as many keywords as possible.  Now with the new Google SEO standards, these types of loaded fields will have a lower ranking.  Even though these plugins can be somewhat costly, they offer simple solutions to the user to alert them if they are compliant or not. Users also post case studies, which can be very informative. Although some of the studies are sensationalized, one case study that I found very helpful was the creation of ThinkPup.

So as one can see even though it may take some time to learn SEO, there is much more help by the way of applications and plugins that can make writing content and listing products much easier for the artist.  These programs also can not only save time but take the guess work out of SEO, and if keywords or phrases meet the search requirements. The artist is then able to use some of this free time doing the things they enjoy, which is making quality art for his customers.

By  Al Wayman

20160512_185726

www.creekroadpottery.com