SALLY FLANNERY IS BUILDING A BUSINESS THAT SERVES HER CREATIVELY AND ENERGETICALLY
4 MIN READ
Sally left school without a plan. She fell into line and did what she thought she was "supposed to do" (university), but after years of experimentation she found her home with clay.
After a spontaneous, but seriously successful, Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, she raised more than three times her funding goal for a new kiln, propelling her business – and her work – into the spotlight. She's been gaining momentum ever since.
Not everyone knows instinctively what their calling is. Sometimes you have to really hunt it down. I tried so many different courses, from music to business and everything in between. In the end, I found myself unexpectedly at TAFE, where I realised how much I thrived in a hands-on, skill-based environment. Getting to that stage took years of what often felt like mistakes, but I've learned that every single step on my pathway to where I am now has actually helped shape me as an artist. The skills we learn along the way come in handy in the most unexpected ways.
Actually starting my business was a big challenge for me. For a long time I was really worried about going for it. I wanted to succeed and I think I was procrastinating for that reason. It took me a long time to realise the only way to succeed was to start, and the best time to start was as soon as possible. I don't think anyone is ever really ready.
I was afraid of putting myself out there publicly and of the possibility of failing so publicly. There is a big difference between people liking your work on Instagram, and actually wanting to purchase it to have in their homes. In the end, I realised if I didn't try because I was scared of failing, hadn't I pretty much failed already?
I prepared myself with ceramic and small business study, and learned a lot of foundational skills like bookkeeping and time management, but the hardest lessons are the ones you can't prepare for. I've made so many decisions about how I want to work just by trying things.
I started out thinking I would just use hire kilns, but only a few weeks in, I realised how limiting this would be. I stumbled upon an article about a ceramic artist in America who had funded her kiln purchase with a Kickstarter, and I felt like the universe was sending me this sign: "DO THIS".
I don't think people realise how much work goes into a Kickstarter campaign. I was sitting on my computer for 12-14 hours a day, replying to messages and emails and comments. It was overwhelming.
When it was over I just cried. I was so grateful, but also so exhausted. I felt like I could exhale and just rest for the first time in a month. It actually finished at 9pm. I wrote a little thank you post and crawled into bed and fell asleep. The next morning I was able to appreciate it so much more.
The rest of the week I just kept crying randomly – happy tears! It seriously did make me feel like more of an artist. It was validating to know people not only liked my work, but wanted to own it. It didn't feel totally real! It was, and still is, incredibly humbling.
Creative work can be so rewarding, but it can also be incredibly draining. You're just pouring so much of yourself into something. Sometimes I push too hard and start to burn out, so I find it important to acknowledge that my creative work is just a part of me, and not to let it consume me totally.
A big part of prioritising myself is giving myself weekends – switching off my computer and phone and doing whatever I want. Sometimes I work with clay, but I don't make things for customers, I just let myself play. This is actually where some of my best ideas come from.
I also had to make some decisions for "energy management". I don't do custom orders anymore. They end up taking so much more time and energy, and usually not for much more reward. I used to feel so drained after doing them, so now I just don't. It's about honouring what feels right to you and doing only what will serve you energetically.
When I'm hitting the wall creatively, I often find it's because I'm overwhelmed. I usually can't switch off all the ideas spinning around inside my head, so when I'm feeling stuck, I will just step back from it all and go to the beach, have a bath or spend some time in the garden. A few hours away from clay and I start to miss it, and ideas start swirling around in my head again. My best ideas strike when I'm completely in the moment, usually offline.
I am really inspired by the notion design can contribute to your wellbeing, and the psychology of design and texture. Your brain actually perceives texture better when it is presented in contrast and you release positive chemicals when you experience it. I found that mind blowing, so I intentionally add textural contrast to my palm mugs. I wanted them to be warm, but not too hot to touch – something you could hold your hands around perfectly to warm your palms. I added the lid so you could also use this mug as a coffee cup on the go.
I don't think your life has to be insanely profound or wild to be beautiful. The little moments are what life is all about – good food, sunshine, nature and beautiful people. A moment to sit in the sunshine with a cup of tea in a beautiful cup can change the mood of your whole day.
See Sally's creations and follow her on instagram.
Interviewed by Emma Startup
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