I wake up around 8am most days. I start off my day listening to news podcasts from NPR and the NY Times while I make a french press or pour over coffee. Breakfast runs the gamut, but usually whatever I make involves a bunch of veggies or fruit. Next I wake up my snoozing pup, Kaia, by asking her if she wants her breakfast, and she responds by wildly launching out of bed. She gets her breakfast in a puzzle toy that keeps her entertained for a bit while I finish up my coffee and start planning out my priorities for the day.
Being self employed and also particularly blessed with inattentive ADHD, I have a whole toolbox of apps and life hacks to keep some semblance of structure in my life and keep me relatively sane. In particular I would be lost without the app Todoist (referral link https://todoist.com/r/anna_cosimini_rygays) which I use in conjunction with a pen and paper scratch pad to keep track of tasks in practically every area of my life.
My most effective AM ritual is picking out just THREE priorities and making sure I write them down and log them in Todoist. I also often tell Kaia what our priorities are for the day. She is a terrible secretary and never seems to do anything with this important information, but saying it out loud seems to help me actualize my plans. I call this process my “morning meeting” in a nod to Steven Pressfield’s classic guidebook for creatives, The War of Art.
Next Kaia and I head out on our morning walk, often hitting the nearby park while we’re at it. I like to take a few minutes to sit in the grass and do a tiny meditation for 1-5 minutes with Insight Timer or Simple Habit, and my Duolingo language practice for the day. I’m a year and a half into learning Vietnamese, and I’m often astonished by how consistent little bites of practice add up! The motivation to maintain a “streak” within those apps helps me stick to practicing every day.
After we walk, I try to go directly to the studio without stopping at home, where I’m likely to get distracted. I might clean my studio desk a bit first, but so long as I dive into a project quickly enough and get into a good flow state, it's the start to a good productive day.
I’m originally from Natick, Massachusetts. My dad is a veterinarian with a small clinic that my mom manages, and growing up in a vet hospital undoubtedly influenced my interest in science and biology. Those themes come up often in my clay work. Their example of entrepreneurship probably influenced me as well.
Both of my parents are very creative, and my extended family has a lot of creative professionals- carpenters, musicians, illustrators, chefs. I have one older brother, who was always tinkering and building things as a kid, who is now a custom knife maker and product developer. We’re very fortunate to have a family that encourages our creative interests.
There are a lot of pathways to creative careers, and unlike becoming a doctor or a pilot, you aren’t required to get a specific education to be a ceramist. I think formal training is a fantastic option for a career in the arts, but it’s important not to discount the many other potential pathways to a creative career. I learned so much at art school, but I also learned a lot from a myriad of other experiences and I continue to take workshops and classes when I can.
I’m fortunate that I went to a pretty affordable state college, so tuition wasn’t as high as a lot of private art schools. That’s a critical consideration especially when it comes to studying art (particularly ceramics or another fairly humble craft). It always helps to be ambitious for financial success in your career, but even if you’re famously successful in ceramics, you’re still likely to make a pretty modest income. If a program you’re considering is going to saddle you with debt as you’re beginning your career, keep in mind all the alternative free or lower cost ways to get practice in your medium and learn from masters of your craft. I sought out a summer internship at Santa Fe Clay for one of my summer breaks, and that experience was really valuable. Though I had a great experience myself, unpaid internships have garnered more concern in recent years. Do your best to be discerning, but maybe don’t write off the idea entirely. Don’t work as an intern for someone who’s only going to send you to pick up coffee, but if the company or artist really has your best interests in mind, you can create a symbiotic relationship where you’re helpful and simultaneously learning the same skills you might learn in school. At Santa Fe Clay, I also learned a few skills that weren’t covered at school, like the packing and shipping tricks I learned in their gallery that I now use to safely send my own work across the country.
After I graduated and moved to San Diego, I was lucky to work for a year in the studio of the potter David Cuzick. If you’re able to work as a studio assistant/ mentee in the studio of an artist you admire, and one who is willing to pass along some wisdom, take the opportunity. Much like an internship, your compensation for your use of the studio may be mixing glazes, pugging clay, grinding shelves, etc. - a lot of the same stuff that you should be practicing in college anyway.
I also try to pay attention to the aspects of my side jobs that teach me useful and relevant skills for my own ceramics business. Over the past 6 years in San Diego I’ve worked side jobs and gigs for a bunch of small businesses, independent artists, and a few bigger businesses. I’ve been able to see how each of them ran their business, managed orders, goods and supplies, how each one approaches branding and marketing, customer service, etc., and get a sense of the effects of their strengths and weaknesses. There’s a lot of value in that education as well.
I think this is something I’m still figuring out. Artmaking is often such a personal thing. It can be hard to tell where to place your boundaries when it comes to talking about your work. The meanings and concepts behind my work are often more complex than the summary I might give to someone who comes to see it at a show. I’ve found it can be successful to give an idea of the concepts that were important to me in making the work, but largely to let the viewer interpret the concepts that they draw from it on their own.
I used to shy away from making work exploring personal concepts because it was intimidating, and I told myself I just wasn’t interested or that it wouldn’t be interesting to others. Over time I find myself more drawn to using those ideas, safe in the knowledge that I don’t actually HAVE to tell everyone exactly what I was thinking. I think that by doing this over time, I’m finding more ways to translate those thoughts and ideas in different ways to an audience.
Otherwise, the fear of vulnerability, of asking for help, of not being perfect, has kept me from doing a lot of things. It’s hard to break out of those habits, but I think the first step is practicing simple awareness of when they're happening. By consciously noticing those tendencies I can practice challenging them more often.
All these efforts add up to keep my brain happier and more engaged, so I have way more motivation. Right now everything is in total chaos with the pandemic, so even with my best efforts at all of the above, finding motivation is HARD.
Right now, with everything in crisis with COVID, I feel pretty unmoored from the goals and plans that I made in December and January for this year and the years to follow. The way the world will function in the future and my finances as I weather the loss of shows and sales are more uncertain than ever. I wish I could say that in the midst of the pandemic I’m one of those people who’s doubling down on productivity and using all their free time to develop 15 new skills, but it’s hard not to feel drained and disillusioned right now.
I first read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art when I was 23, and I’ve re-read it and listened to the audiobook countless times in the last 5 years. I have a hundred favorite lines, but one of them is, “Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”
Lately another favorite, especially on days that resistance is showing up as depression and anxiety and general malaise is, “As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.”
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” (Picasso) puts it best. All it takes is walking into the studio and getting underway.
-Listening to way too many podcasts
-Puttering around at home doing inconsequential projects like organizing and little home improvements
-lately, I’ve been going down rabbit holes of looking at vintage jello ads and recipes on Instagram, from the gorgeously enticing to the fascinatingly weird. I just can’t look away.
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