Dear Design Doctor
I have been working as a professional ceramicist since my graduation nearly 15 years ago. I have done pretty well.
My work has been shown at the big craft fairs and exhibitions. I sell regularly to galleries and collectors, and get the odd commission too.
But it feels like I have reached ‘a ceiling’ – both financially and creatively. I am getting a bit bored with my work. I wonder if ‘this is it’? Am I suffering from a midlife creative crisis?
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine July/August 2013 (page 26):
‘You have done well, congratulations! You are probably living the career that many creatives dream of.
But it feels like your career has gone into a certain direction, and you have lost touch with where you want it to go.
This frustration you are experiencing right now might be unsettling, but actually it can be a great source of creativity and inspiration.
Clashing values can give you great insight into what really matters to you.
Where your values clash you’ll often find the source of your creativity.
Using your time and skills to look at what’s REALLY going on can offer loads of opportunities for self-discovery, as a human being and an artist.
So, let’s take stock, start dreaming BIG about what you want to be and do, and then become more proactive to start creating the kind of business or career that YOU want.
Firstly, settle yourself in a nice space, get some paper and start brainstorming around the following big questions. Don’t think too much, just write down what comes up or draw images if you prefer. Don’t be too harsh on yourself, or think ‘that will never happen’. Give yourself permission to start dreaming again!
Where are you right now?
What is working in your business?
What do you like about your business and life right now?
What do you want to take with you?
What do you want to leave behind?
If you think about your 60th or 80th birthday what would you like to do or be?
Where will you work and with whom?
What do you want to be known for?
What do you want people to say about you?
Write down what’s important to you, and create a vision of your future work and studio space.
What do you want your (creative) legacy to be? Think really BIG here.
Why are you a ceramicist?
What impact do you want to make in the world?
Do you want to create larger scale work or work that gets people thinking?
Or is it not really about being a ceramicist and do you want to share your wider creative knowledge and experience?
Also travel back in time, when you were a child who loved to play with clay.
When was it that you decided to become a ceramicist?
What got you inspired in the first place?
What is important to you about your work? Is it about the colour and glazing, the functional use, the craftsmanship, the longevity and historical significance of ceramics?
Spend some quiet time to REALLY listen to yourself, about what YOU want.
Maybe the answers come easily to you, or maybe you need to dig a little deeper and come back to these questions. You might like to share them with others, or keep it private for now.
Make sure that you are excited and passionate about your future. Stretch yourself a little, but don’t get stressed out!
Once you have got your big list of things you want or a collage of images of your future, then start thinking about how to turn your ideas into reality:
What do you need to do in the next 5 or 10 years to make your legacy real?
What skills do you need to have?
How much money will you need?
Who do you need to get in touch with to create the kind of opportunities or experiences you want?
Get specific about how you will turn your big dreams into reality.
Break your goals and actions down further:
What 5 goals do you need to do this year to make your life purpose happen?
And to make it even more real: what can you do TODAY to share your specific creativity, or your passion for ceramics?
When you have a list with 5 goals and their actions for this year, then you need to start making time for them. Physically put these goals in your diary, and set time aside. Share your ideas and plans with others to add accountability (to ensure that you don’t chicken out!) and to get that crucial support (practical, financial and emotional).
The summer holidays are a great time to take a break.
It’s essential to get away from your day-to-day routine.
Many creatives love what they do, but forget sometimes to stand still and wonder again about their creative journey. Make this summer some time to start thinking about what YOU really want, and what else the world can expect from you in the many years to come!’