I didn’t expect business lessons from pottery when my hands were covered in clay as I hunched over the pottery wheel hoping to finally make a mug. You see, I recently recognized a need to add more self-care into my schedule. To step back from my hustle centered routine and lean in as solitude and a space for free creative expression were calling. I craved an outlet outside of my creative business to refuel my inner artist. A place where I could trade in my camera for a few hours and close the office door behind me. No networking, no sales pitches, no talk of business and brand strategy or my favorite marketing tactics.
In an attempt to avoid burnout and rekindle my creative flame, I found myself sitting in front of a pottery wheel at The Clay Lady. As a Type A with perfectionist tendencies, I quickly realized pottery class was going to teach me a thing or two. So you don’t have to get your hands dirty, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite business & personal takeaways from my time spent filling my cup. Or rather, molding it.
Join me at the wheel, it’s time for pottery class. Here are 5 business lessons from Pottery.
Center your clay before you start
In order to control and mold your clay, you must first center it in the middle of the wheel. This is what gives your piece a firm foundation to build upon. If the clay isn’t centered, it will be wobbly and difficult to pull up and shape.
You, my fellow business owner, are the clay. To run a sustainable and successful business, you must be centered. This is an essential part of building a sturdy and unshakable foundation for your business to grow. Always prioritize taking time to care for yourself.
Our wellbeing is naturally woven into the fabric of our business. If things are out of balance in our personal life, our business will feel it. And so will our clients. A happy and healthy business starts with us.
The list of to-do’s will always be there. So as the inquiries roll in and your schedule fills up, don’t forget to pencil in some time away to fill your cup and center yourself.
Make a plan A, B and C in the pottery studio and business
I walked through the studio doors with excitement and a plan to make a mug, vase and candle holder. What I ended up with? Bowl, bowl, and you guessed it, another bowl. That’s all to say, things don’t always go as planned and it’s perfectly okay.
We tend to approach business in a similar way. We map out our launches, plan for quarterly goals, and anticipate our client workload. However, our vision and plan for how things will go can quickly change. I’ve learned that just as with clay, it’s best to be flexible and to hold our plans loosely in business, too.
If your mug looks more like a bowl, don’t let it slow you down or stop you. Even when things don’t go as planned, keep your wheel in motion. Continue on and before you know it you’ll have reached your income goal, launched the podcast, or finally have made a mug! Mine is being fired in the kiln as we speak!
Good Things Take Time
Hundreds of artists come to throw clay and express their creativity at my local pottery studio. With all of the pieces to be glazed and fired in the studio it can take a few weeks before I see a finished product. Pottery is a slow process to begin with. You have to throw the clay on the wheel and shape it into a pot. Once it’s leather hard you have to trim away the excess clay and polish your piece. Then you wait some more and fire the pot in the kiln for a bisque fire. Only then are you able to glaze your piece and fire it on more time.
I give so much time and attention to each piece I throw and shape, so waiting to see the final product requires lots of patience. As I leave class and step back into my office I’m reminded of this process. Good things take time. Rushing the process never produces a good result.
Mitakes are how we learn
If you’ve dabbled in pottery you’re familiar with the lengthy process you’ll take going from wet clay to finished piece. Each step along the way allows for a new opportunity to make a mistake. The pot could be off center, you could trim too much, choose the wrong glaze, or worst – the pot could crack in the kiln. On our journey to making a pot or building a business, perfection isn’t the goal.
No one starts off as an expert. As you grow a thriving business, or make a pretty vase, you will encounter trials and errors. Mistakes are unavoidable. Things may take longer the first time around. You may end up with a broken pot.
The silver lining – mistakes are an opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes what looks like a disaster is actually a blessing in disguise. You can always rework it into something else that can serve you. It’s all figureoutable.
You’re not bad, You’re New
On your way from beginner to master, remember this…the time you spend on your wellbeing is worth it. Allow yourself the freedom to explore, to rest, and to express your creativity in new ways. In fact, my bookkeeper calls this Time and Wellness Profit, and I don’t know about you, but as a business owner I want my profit to be really high this year.
If you’ve been feeling a little off center I implore you to step away and recenter. And just remember, the greatest lesson pottery can teach a business owner is that at the end of the day, it’s not that serious…it’s mud and water.
Mandy Liz is a Nashville brand photographer and digital marketer who is passionate about running a business without the side of hustle and burnout. You can read more personal posts from her here.
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