Alex Olson | Episode 925
Alex Olson makes pottery and works as a freelance photographer in Brooklyn, New York. Alex fires most of his faceted and textured functional pots in wood and soda kilns. Alex studied studio art at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he focused on ceramics, photography, and woodworking.
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This interview was edited for ease in reading. Extended version is on our podcast.
Is it important at least in these early stages to have varied income? To have different sources for money to be coming in to your life?
Yes, right now having a variety of sources of income is definitely important. I mostly do pottery but also some freelance work, websites, photography, videography, and having those alternate income sources allow me to both have more consistency with the money I am making but also there is more variety day to day, week to week. And that helps put less of a strain on my body because as we all know pottery can be taxing on the body.
I think you said, Life is real. You’ve got real expenses and there’s a reality that comes with trying to live the artist’s lifestyle. Is it good to have kind of have those “reality checks” that you’ve got real responsibilities that have to be dealt with?
Absolutely. I think it’s important before diving into a creative life, kind of have a little bit of a road map as to how you want to pursue what you want to pursue. And I think it’s important to recognize that it may not look like pottery one hundred percent of the time right away. It could be that you have a part time job in addition to what you are doing creatively. You might have a full time job at first. I think those reality checks, being honest with yourself about the cost of living, whatever you are doing has to be at least sustainable in the short term.
Do you have a monthly budget that you live in, a plan for how the money is going to be spent?
I do have a rough plan based on what my expenses were in previous months and obviously that varies depending on where you are living and what sort of lifestyle you live, and what your income sources are. But I think having at least some sort of budget definitely helps especially in a place where the overhead is very high.
Where do you sell your work?
I sell my work mostly on my website. But I also have my work in a couple of galleries and juried shows every couple of months. And I also do some wholesale work with a couple of tea shops.
Do you have to budget your time also to provide for those various outlets?
Yes, there is a good amount of planning that goes into creating work for those different avenues of sale. I, again, mostly sell my work through my website but when I am delivering work to galleries I definitely have deadlines on the calendar and sort of work back from there to make sure I have work that is ready. And with the wholesale work I do I shop a batch of tea bowls every month, so typically at the beginning of the month I start making those and I make sure that by the end of the month I can ship at least twenty-four to thirty-six pieces to a given tea house.
What would your next dream chapter look like?
I definitely like the idea of going to graduate school to both learn more professional skills related to pursing a creative career but also continuing to develop my knowledge of pottery, of how wood firing and other atmospheric firing methods work. And I think a graduate program would also help further my eventual goal of potentially having a property one day with a wood kiln or a soda kiln and having my own studio.