Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Volvox?

On my website, I talk a little about Volvox aureus, and why I named the site after these colonial microorganisms, but this morning in the shower (where I do all my best thinking), I was giving it more thought. Decided I’d dissect the idea a little deeper.

As you may know, I studied Biology as an undergrad. Actually, I've studied biology my whole life – my parents both work in science/natural resources. Though my current career is not related to biology, the upbringing and education certainly shape my mind-set and artistic aesthetic. I like the idea that the name of my work connects my science background and my artistic expression.

The name Volvox comes from the Latin volvere, which means to roll (the ending –ox turns volv- into a personal adjective). There’s the obvious connection to wheel-throwing of course. Also, many of my forms are very round—more than just radial-symmetry from the wheel. My thrown forms tend to be somewhat spherical (teapots and vases are more short and round than tall and narrow). Even my hand-built figures tend to have an overall spherical bent—toes are made from little balls, human forms tend to have round bellies, etc. I’m not sure why that is. I’m just drawn to circles and spheres. They're very aesthetically pleasing, relaxing, satisfying forms.

Of course Volvox were named rollers for a reason. They're spheres within spheres. The parent (or grandparent) colony contains daughter (sometimes granddaughter) colonies. The spheres basically just float around, photosynthesizing and dividing until the daughters get too big for their britches, at which time the parent sphere breaks open to release the daughter colonies into the world. That's sort of how I feel about learning pottery. I started by taking classes, where I was part of a community of baby-potters, not ready to be on our own. After a while, I became a parent of sorts--still within the grand-parent pottery class, but starting to share my experience with others. This year, leaving PCC to join Radius has been a sort of release from the protective sphere of the classroom.

Pottery is a communal activity beyond the classroom. We all produce our own work, but we depend on other potters for a lot. Think this is something I'd like to explore in a separate post.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On becoming a (very) small business owner.

VolvoxAureus recently became Volvox Pottery LLC. Yep, I decided to register Volvox as a business.

My reasons for registering Volvox were mostly financial. Now that I'm paying studio rent, I can write off the expense if it's for a business (I haven't heard of anyone being audited, but according to the IRS, I have to show a profit in 2 out of the next 5 years). It also keeps me from getting personally sued if my pottery hurts someone somehow (my boss's idea).

I didn’t realize there would be unintended (positive) consequences of creating a business. My attitude has changed. Now that Volvox is a business, I’m thinking much more about my future as an artist and how I can be viable as an artist and a business. I’ve said before that I want my work to be more coherent, but that’s even more important now that it’s legally more than a hobby. I think more about getting work together for a show, and what it will take to get my work into a gallery, or find a space where I can show it myself. I have cards, and I actually give them to people. I twitter pictures from the studio to show my process to anyone who might be paying attention.

At the same time, I’m trying hard not to put the cart before the horse. I know I can’t afford (and am not really ready for) my own private studio space with all my own equipment. Given that I’m only just starting to bisque my own work, I still have some learning to do before I can go off on my own. But I can't help but think about what it would be like to have my own studio, and of course the gallery I've always wanted. Forming Volvox Pottery LLC is a step in that direction and makes the possibility of having my own art-related business seem a little more possible. Someday.

My first electric firing

Most people who study ceramics in some sort of organized manner probably learn to operate an electric kiln pretty early in the process. Not me. I’ve done wood firings and Raku, but until last weekend, had never bisque-fired my own work. It’s always been so easy to have someone else do it for me!

Once I decided it was time, it was pretty easy to learn. I took a class at Georgies, which gave me the basics, then asked someone at Radius to share a kiln with me and teach me how to use it. Not hard at all!

We started later in the morning than we probably should have, and ended up using a manual kiln instead of computer-controlled. This required me to do the last turn-up at 1am, which was not ideal. But otherwise, it was just a matter of loading (Mariana is a pro at fitting things in with no wasted space!), and slowly turning up the temperature at pre-planned intervals. I didn’t have a single cracked piece! I can’t wait to do it again. :)