Saturday, February 15, 2014

Considering Tasks for a Studio Assistant

Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed with how much work I have to do, I start thinking about what tasks I can give away. At times this is just idle mind-wandering while I'm avoiding something, but thinking like this can help me prioritize what I need to do and what can be done by someone else. Occasionally this thinking helps me identify a task I can give away, thus freeing me a bit of time and, more importantly, a bit of mind space.

At this point in my teaching career, giving away certain tasks can be good for more than just me. I have work-study assistants in the studio who earn money and gain experience when they take over studio maintenance jobs. Students in my clay classes also benefit from the experience of leading tours of the studio and showing visiting groups of children how to throw a bowl on the wheel.

throwing demonstration

When I delegate duties and tasks at work, I like to think that I am exhibiting good leadership qualities while also finding time to perform the pressing jobs that must be done by me. Ironically, I don't have much experience with delegating tasks in my studio at home, except to my husband (who graciously helps me clean bike parts, alter metal pipes and safety-wires sculptures) and my daughter (who will make up her own task if I don't find one for her). 

safety wired bulb

I always used to ponder what I would do when I became a rich and famous artist. I certainly remember considering, as early as high school, what jobs I would have an assistant do when I reached the elevated level at which one hires an assistant. At this early stage, I suspect the tasks I envisioned ran along the lines of someone to wash my brushes and cut my mats (I've always hated cutting mats). In college and graduate school the question became a bit more pointed as I was, more often, the assistant doing the tedious clay-mixing job for the successful professional artist who could afford to hire these jobs out. 
preparing clay

Now sometime in the last few years it began to occur to me that I am, at least sometimes, the harried, overworked professional artist who could use some help around the studio. I don't have a clay mixer in my home studio, so recycling clay, the obvious job for the clay studio grunt, is already one I hire out to Seattle Pottery. Lately a few more tedious jobs have come to my attention as possible to hire out. In Pasco, installing my show, I had some help (by which I mean Randy did it all) screwing in 100 L screws and putting up the scary high pieces in my wall installation. Recently, as I was discussing my frustration at taking professional quality images at my show (discussing with a professional photographer, I might add), I realized that maybe that's a place to delegate, too.

my installation shot

I'm not quite comfortable delegating in my own home or my own studio, but maybe that's worth a look. When I was a teenager, considering my future assistants, I'm pretty sure my visions of the artistic fame that necessitates the hiring of an assistant were a little loftier than my current status. Of course back then my friends were planning on marrying movie stars and royal heirs. At this point, hiring someone to take photos of my work and hiring someone to help clean up and prepare my studio is starting to sound like a pretty reasonable idea.

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