In early September, I had to put a note out — I was full up on custom work and couldn’t take any more on until the beginning of October. That I was happy to talk to you about your needs, but I wouldn’t be able to start on anything until October. I know, right?! There are worse problems to have when trying to get your craft business off the ground, than having too much work.
But… and it’s nothing that anyone in particular said or asked, but… I started to feel as if I had to defend why I couldn’t take on work. Why I couldn’t just crank that out for someone. Why there’s a time frame, and it seems like a long one.
What it boils down to is that there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many days in the week. As the Indigo Girls say, “the hardest to learn was the least complicated.”
For example, I want to fire the kiln at least once a week. Firing the kiln takes on average eight hours; eight hours that I need to be home, near a fire extinguisher (just in case of emergencies) and then there’s about a 16-hour cool-down period before I can open it. I don’t need to be home for the cool-down (or can be asleep) but really, I should be home for the firing — especially for the end, to make sure it clicks off when it’s supposed to. So I can only fire the kiln on days when I know I’m going to be home for eight to nine hours at a stretch, or at least won’t be leaving until after the kiln turns off. So firing on Tuesdays, when I meet friends for knitting at 4, doesn’t happen… unless I want to get up at 6:30 to start the kiln, which I have done (just last week, in fact!). But I can’t fire on days when I have a lot of errands to run, or have an appointment in the middle of the afternoon, or late morning… so there’s that to factor in. I mean, sure; I could start the kiln at 3 in the afternoon… but then it wouldn’t be done until midnight, and that’s way past my bedtime. I’d wind up setting an alarm to wake me up so I could get up and make sure the kiln turned off; and I guess I could do that in an emergency, but on a regular basis? No thanks! Just because I work at home doesn’t mean I want to make a complete shambles of my home life.
Also, have I mentioned how big my kiln is? Five cubic feet. I can’t justify only firing one thing in a kiln that large. I wonder, with so many jewlery makers out there, how many people think I have some small table-top kiln, like the ones used for making glass beads and whatnot. I don’t. I have a large kiln. And I’m only firing it when it’s full. Let’s say it costs $25 to fire the kiln. $25 divided between 25 pieces isn’t that much — but I’m sure if I charged you an extra $25 for your $11 soap dish just because you want it right away…? Because I totally would. And that wouldn’t make you happy, would it? Not to mention that one of the things about kilns is that they’re made to fire full — I can’t guarantee that firing the kiln with only one piece in it would even work. The heat might be so high concentrated on that one piece that it could bend or even melt.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. This was supposed to be about time.
When firing greenware-to-bisque, a conservative guess would be to say there are six hours of greenware cleaning that go into filling my kiln. That doesn’t count the eight or nine hours spent pouring enough greenware to fill the kiln, plus about a three-day drying time in between pouring and cleaning. So say I pour on Saturday, can clean everything on Wednesday, then I can fire on Thursday and open the kiln on Friday.
But what if I also want to glaze fire? When firing bisque-to-ceramic, I have at least two eight-hour days of glazing and painting time before I can fire. More, if I’m doing detailed work like little dolls, or welcome signs, or whatnot. Not counting coats of paint, each piece needs three coats of glaze, and the glaze needs to dry in between each coat. So let’s say I paint all day Monday, glaze on Tuesday and Wednesday, fire on Thursday, and open the kiln on Friday.
Clearly I can’t fire the same kiln twice on the same day, nor can I fire both kilns on the same day as there’s only one outlet that can handle the kiln (we also can’t do laundry when firing the kiln, so I try not to fire on the weekends so that Tim can do his laundry). Not to mention that I no longer fire G-ma’s old kiln, since getting this newer – and much more reliable – kiln last year.
There have been some weeks that have worked out perfectly; I both pour for the next round and clean current greenware on Sunday, fire greenware Monday, paint other things on Monday, glaze on Tuesday and Wednesday, and glaze fire on Thursday.
But it’s hard to do that and dye yarn or make soap at the same time. Well, truly, the dyeing yarn and making soap part is easy. But eventually I run out of space and all the soap I’ve made needs to be wrapped, and all the yarn I’ve dyed needs to be wound. And I wrap soap and paint ceramics on the same table. And the table on which I wind yarn. Which is also the table where we eat dinner, so it needs to be cleaned off every day before 7. Some days when there’s not much to do I can manage to do everything, either by only wrapping a few soaps or by choosing one project for before lunch, and one for after; but that doesn’t happen often. Typically it’s ceramics for a few days, then soap for a few days, then yarn for a few days. And I’m fine with that! It’s awesome to have such a variety of things going on, as I never feel tired of any particular thing. I am in my crafty element.
But lately it has been making me feel guilty, for as much as I want to make everything all of the time for everyone who wants it, I just … wow, I have limitations! I’m human! WHO KNEW?!
I think not taking on any more work in September was a good choice. I’d had a lot to do lately, was feeling very overwhelmed, and was starting to feel that a few custom orders might start slipping by the wayside, and I didn’t want that. If I can’t give you my best, it’s best that I not give you anything — because something half-assed is only going to displease you and embarrass me. I’m starting to feel more in control than I was a month ago, and that’s good — large soap orders are behind me, I’m getting into a routine with a large ceramic order that is going to take until the end of January to finish, and sock club is finished (dyed, wound, and labeled) through November’s offering. but I still have this weird lingering guilt for not being superwoman, and wanted to explain why I’m not. Even though none of you expect me to be, because you’re my friends and you love me and want me to be happy. And many of you are my biggest champions, for which I am eternally grateful.