I Deal In Mud.
Feral Interview with Ceri White
What area/field are you in?
I deal in mud. That is to say, I'm a potter. Or ceramic artist. Or ceramicist. I make really fancy mud pies, and I'll answer to all of those things.
Describe in as many ways as you like what you do. Tell me all your job titles.
I pretty much concentrate on being my own Chief Mud Monkey which actually means I am fully committed to making my ceramics and trying to make a very (very) modest living from that. This means I am also a product photographer, social media marketing wizard, research assistant, designer, thinker, general marketing manager, saleswoman, maintenance bodger, flunky, and a quite remarkably inefficient secretary, accountant, book keeper, and time-scheduler. There's more, but you get the picture and this will be familiar to all freelancers, I'm sure!
What is the biggest eye roll you’ve given a question or comment about being a freelancer? Or what would you like waged people to understand about working as a freelancer?
Generally speaking, especially these days and after many years of open studios and fairs, I find The Waged are perfectly lovely and inquisitive about what I do, can see why it has more value, is unique, takes ages, and therefore costs more than something mass-produced in far away lands without unions. And even when they don't want to hear it, I'm often blethering at them about it anyway.
However..... I enjoy what I do but my ceramics don't miraculously fly from the kiln to the customer. Time wise the arty bit is a just a small part of the whole thing and so it's NOT like having a full time hobby, no.
Also we do need your wages to stay circulating in the local economy and paying your friendly neighbourhood freelancers benefits one and all.
Also, to that certain breed of well-heeled gentlemen who wave their 3 grand's worth of Apple gadgetry at me then tell me that of course I must be open to the idea of giving a hefty discount/free piece of work/small piece of my soul to them because they've graced me with their custom to the tune of a round in the pub... ha ha no. Just get your Goldcard out and stop it, Tarquin.
What’s your favourite part of being a freelancer?
It's got to be the general freedom to make my own decisions and if I'm not staring at a heavy deadline then I will take off in pursuit of 'life' as I see fit when the opportunity arises and while it's there. That might just be a wee walk in the park with a friend or seizing the opportunity to have a grand day out while the weather is nice... something... but it's up to me and I can't begin to imagine doing things any other way. And I think it's really essential. The older I get, the more insane our Western capitalist work culture looks to me. I mean look at it. I've no idea how that would ever be tackled but I do think it's important to look at ourselves from the point of view of an alien visitor to earth and wonder, why are they doing that to themselves? Perhaps people are thinking about changing structures more after this past year... I dunno. Hope so. I feel overwhelmed thinking about it so in my own small way I try to tackle myself and take time to fill the tank as necessary.
What is the hardest part?
Organising my time efficiently. I'm laughably bad at it. And switching off. I talk about filling the tank blah blah but you never actually switch off completely. It actually takes effort. There's a constant white noise about trying to be heard and for enough people to see the work so a percentage will want to buy it and allow me to carry on doing the only thing I think I can do and I often wonder what it would be like to look at a pebble/flower/railings/brick/shelf without my brain trying to apply the shapes to ceramic surfaces, drawings, the layout of my studio and all the things I'll never get done.
Oh, and emails. Emails combined with my appalling time management. Awful. How long have you been feral?
Since 2002. Impossible and yet it seems to be true.
I'm pretty sure I always made a slightly challenging employee for various reasons, not least of all my mouth and backward circadian rythmn.
What have your highlights been? (Take a moment to have a brag about your accomplishments)
Like many others, I got a proposal accepted for a Wild in Art sculpture (seen in cities round the globe, usually for a summer, then auctioned for charities.).. in this case, the Scotland-wide Oor Wullie's Big Bucket Trail two years ago that raised a lot of money for the Archie Foundation, Glasgow Children's' Hospital Charity and Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity. In my case it was Glasgow and my sponsors (The Catherine McEwan Foundation) bought it at auction for more than I ever imagined it would get and donated it back to the GCH where he sits in the grounds of Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, cheering folks up. I see him on Instagram a lot. I know many artists do these but it personally made me push myself to do something I found quite tricky with a number of problems to solve (he has many an embellishment!). So it was a wee personal triumph and was for a fantastic worthwhile cause. There have been a number of other moments of quiet satisfaction, working with talented fellow creatives and being part of bigger things... But, and I'm going right ahead and sounding cheesy here, with my studio change and new possibilities, I think the next few years are going to see some highlights if we can get out from under this pandemic. I did coast along for a long time but there are small thoughts happening, opportunities beckoning and some confidence is building...
You can see Wullie, Yer A Pure Dancer here : https://www.oorwullie.com/wullies/wullie-yer-a-pure-dancer/
Why did you decide to become self employed?
It was always something I assumed I would do one day. Since leaving Gray's School of Art I worked in potteries/ceramic studios and it was the obvious goal. I'm pretty sure I always made a slightly challenging employee for various reasons, not least of all my mouth and backward circadian rhythm. Then one day it was self-employment or unemployment with a two week window, so I took over the studio I was in and hit the ground running. It's still something of a headlong flapping dash.
How do you protect your work time from distractions?
I could say something here about how important it is to observe work/life time boundaries (and it is!) but there's a danger someone who knows me will read this and die laughing.
I am the Queen of Distraction on a day to day/minute to minute basis. My own brain is a distraction. Just LOL.
However, when there are long stretches of intense deadlines I will go at it for weeks/months on end to the detriment of just about everything else in my life that requires attention. 'Feral' is pretty accurate. If I don't need my solving brain then I do constantly listen to audio books and podcasts and I might manage a whole 20 minutes without wondering if a coffee might be nice or remembering some random thing and wondering off to attend to it.
Where do you work? home?studio?/favourite cafe/all of the above?
After almost 15 years of working from a wooden garage shed thing at home on my own, I moved into the new Wasps Creative Exchange studios in Perth a year ago. It's the best thing that's ever happened to me in my life as an FF. It's warm, dry, contains lovely people and has a warm, supportive atmosphere. When Covid hit, there was a few months when we couldn't get access and I worked a bit from home again, but now a year has passed, I know I couldn't have continued doing ceramics anymore without it. I'd probably be drawing on the walls with crayons, if you get my drift...
Obviously I would also have a personal assistant/overseer to manage all this since we've established I can't manage myself out of a paper bag.
Do you think you’ll ever retire?
Absolutely not. It's not a concept I relate to. Financially I couldn't and I think like most creative freelancers, it's just who I am and will end when I do even if I depart this realm finger-painting.
If money wasn’t factored into your work choices, what would be your most glorious dream for your future as a freelancer? Be as outrageous as you dare.
Off the top of my head, I'm imagining a very large, airy building full of fellow creative types realising their own ambitions with the necessary facilities, sweeping, biodiverse grounds with a few retired or rescued animals, people to look after them who know all about that sort of thing (but also creative) with a selection of rescue dogs being fostered and rehomed, again with live-in employees to help with the wrangling. Visitors would come from far and wide to see what we do and buy our wares and take classes. Parties of children would visit to learn about respect for other species and how being creative is in all of us and should be factored into their lives forever in any way. Somehow all of this is tangled up together. Obviously I would also have a personal assistant/overseer to manage all this since we've established I can't manage myself out of a paper bag.
I would also have endless surfaces and shelving for making all my ceramics and drawing/painting. There would be a babbling stream and roller disco facilities. Anything else you’d like to highlight about the life of a freelancer?
There are always choices. There are always creative solutions to a problem. You need to look after yourself and push yourself a bit when you're too comfy but also be free to say no when experience suggests it's really for the best. It's not easy to rely entirely on yourself to make decisions but it balances out somewhere.
Oh and Feast or Famine. That.
Ceri's website: https://ceriwhitestudios.com
Ceri's shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CeriWhiteStudios
Where to find Ceri on social media: