Ruth Greenberg, Sharon Greenwood, Rabun Thompson | Episode 363
This is a special episode that was recorded live at Georgies’ open house. I sat down with ceramic artists Ruth Greenberg, Rabun Thompson, and Sharon Greenwood. We talked very extensively about the role of social media for today’s growth of a potter’s business.
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Ruth, for you. What is the power of social media for you?
Ruth: Relationships. Definitely relationships and sometimes inspiration.
How do you find inspiration?
Ruth: I like seeing what other people are doing sometimes or glazes , I don’t know, one of my favorite people I follow is a bird photographer in Florida. So seeing these amazing bird photos and wildlife and things like that is often what inspires me as opposed to other people’s pottery. Although I do love seeing other people’s pottery also and I love seeing what they are doing. But again that comes back to relationships because I care about that ceramic artist.
Sharon, how do you protect ( I am thinking about plagiarism) …how do you protect your work and still get your stuff out there?
Sharon: I don’t protect it. It is interesting because I have seen some people try to do what I do and sometimes they tag me and say inspired by Sharon. Sometimes they don’t and it shows up in my explore feed and that’s always fascinating to see someone doing my work but it’s not me. And I don’t mind and the reason being is that they will eventually get frustrated (laughter) and move on. I feel like what I do is not easy and most people that have tried it get really bored. So I don’t worry about protecting it. I think the work itself protects itself.
Rabun for you, what’s your impression, in general,of social media that has held you back from taking the leap?
Rabun: Well, because my exposure has been limited I would say it is because I am really not interested enough to pursue it. I really don’t have a clear idea of what can and cannot be done with social media and on my own I really don’t feel compelled to dig into it. The idea of sitting in front of a screen in the evenings stops me. I am a pretty physical person and I always have been and one of the reasons I became a ceramicist as opposed to an accountant is because I am working in my own studio, on my own projects, and I am physically engaged every day with the work I do. It is very physical and it is what sustains me. I am not sure social media could hold my attention for long. I do acknowledge that it is going to become necessary, but I am not looking forward to it.
Ruth for you: How do you keep yourself creatively engaged with your work so you can continue to make something fresh?
Ruth: That’s a good question. I have to be honest that I am not sure that I have had to try. I feel like I am interested. There is a kind of collaborative relationship with the clay and it teaches me and pushes me and I will get an idea to pursue something and I will try it and figure out what the limits are and the clay will take me to a new place with it. I have always been interested in exploring. I think the truth is one of the other things I like about social media is that it is sort of a little bit of an adventure for me. I have a lot of friends who write and who are writing on social media and I like learning and that feeds my ideas and then I have ideas of things I want to make. I had to turn to one thing that keeps my inspiration fresh, it’s nature. I have to go out into nature. I must. It is an essential for me. My work actually reflects that. It is about a connection to nature.
Sharon, do you do much commission work?
Sharon: No. (laughter)
Then I’m not going to ask you about commissions. Why don’t you do commission work ?
Sharon: I like making for me and I don’t enjoy being told what to do. I find a lot of times when somebody puts an order in it’s not as enjoyable because I am being paid to do something that I wouldn’t have chosen to do. Somebody chose that for me. So I usually turn down custom orders.
Rabun you have been potting for a lot of years and you also said earlier that what you make today is not too dissimilar form-wise from what you were making when you first started. So one of the things you said is that you are trying to find a new flair. What types of things are you doing now to be able to get that new flair into your work.
Rabun: Well I am kind of betwixt and between. I mean, I am still producing what I have for the last several years. I also find that I have to remake myself every seven or eight years and it is about time to do that now. What I meant to say earlier when I pointed to something I thought was reminiscent of something I was doing many years ago was more a combination of color than form. And that is a result of just trying to find something that the market will respond to. I also find that there is a lot in pottery that is timeless.
Ruth, what validated your work the most?
Ruth: That is a good question. I think there are a couple of different levels and they have to all be there. You know the sales and the appreciation and the exchange between your client of customer is very important. Although, you know, the financial exchange can never be the only thing. There has to be a personal satisfaction in the work. It has to be interesting for me to make. I have to like it. I have to feel good about it. The process of making it has to be satisfying so at the end of the day I am kind of enlivened instead of exhausted. But the customer relationship, the exchange, the validation, I think knowing that people value what I do is very important.
Have you ever had any mercy sales?
Sharon: Oh yes, I get lots of pity sales.
What does it make you feel?
Sharon: You know what, if at art festivals I am bombing, and this has happened fifty percent of the time, I will have a festival that doesn’t go well. There are a lot of artists around me who will support me and buy one of my pieces. When I went to Sun Valley this summer it was the worst show that I ever had and at the very end of the show a bunch of artists came up and bought from me to help me make my booth fee. That was incredibly generous. I just felt so incredibly loved by that. I love pity sales. (laughter)
Rabun what are you excited about right now for your immediate future on your work?
Rabun: I think I have great potential. Right now I am engaged in Christmas. Since our last show three weeks ago I have produces about three hundred pieces of functional pottery. This is another aspect of being a journeyman craftsman. You have production. What encourages me is that it is money coming in and that will enable me to take the time to do something a little more creative later on and that is in the back of my mind as well.