Just finished the last North cohort day on the Hothouse program.
And it all feels a little bit odd to be honest. I think I am really going to miss it.
The brief for this session had been playing on my mind for quite some time. We were given the task of presenting our “business plan” to the rest of the group and a few invited craft professionals and I was struggling with the whole idea as I really didn’t consider what I did in my making to be an actual business, primarily because I wasn’t actually making any money through selling the things I had made. So I had decided to forget about the scary business word and just call it “my plan for future making”, which just made more sense to me.
I arrived at Manchester Craft and Design Centre with a chronic stomach ache, (probably psycho sematic) feeling nervous (normal) but also kind of strangely excited about the prospect of talking about my future plans (not normal).
It was great to see all the group again and after a quick catch up it was time to get down to business. When it came close to my time to present, that weird thing happened where I start to nervously shake or kind of vibrate internally. I’m not sure if anyone else can actually see this when it happens, but I feel like I’m having some kind of seizure which everyone in the room is just ignoring out of politeness. Anyway, I told it to go away and this time, for some reason, it did.
I began my presentation by apologising to the attending Hothouse partners for the fact that due to my difficulties with the written word I would have to totally concentrate on reading word to word from my notes, and that my eye contact with them would be very minimal. (Good to start on a positive note)
I then introduced myself and said..
“ Hello My name is Tom Philipson, I am a furniture maker and designer, making nontraditional furniture and sculptural objects. I use traditional woodworking tools and techniques which have been adapted experimentally to produce works that are unique and unusual in their form and construction”.
“But basically, it has become apparent to me that, I just make weird stuff from wood that few people seem to want or need”. (My very own Unique Un-Selling Point or UUSP)
“But that’s Ok.”
“As I believe there is a way that one day I can somehow start to make this pay”
“I have come to the realisation over the past year, through the Hothouse program and through reflecting on my practice, that people on the whole may not want or need many of the things I produce, but generally people seem to actually really like and admire my work. And even those that do not like it at the very least find it interesting and it gets a reaction from them. It’s a bit like, Made you look, Made you think.. and this is a good thing.”
“At a recent craft fair I exhibited at the comments ranged from:”
“That’s amazing, you are a genius”
“which was a bit over the top and I had to pull them up on it”
(Cockney accent) “Oh no… Chop It up and f***n burn it… I don’t like spiders..”
“ which was hilarious and I will treasure the memory of those words for the rest of my life”
“So, the question is, how do I turn making furniture and sculpture that doesn’t seem, at present to be hugely commercially viable, and doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste or pocket, into a successful craft practice.”
“The answer I have come up with is to simply widen my audience. To do this I will have a core to my practice which I can rely on for income to pay for the necessities in life like mortgages, school shoes and toilet rolls. And this will give me the freedom to continue producing weird stuff that makes people go.. “Wow” or “What?”
I then went on to talk about:
The Core Waged part of my practice, Show pieces, Batch production, Experiments, Commissions, Hypothetical shelving of ideas and products, Dumbing down work and then getting bored of making it, Dyslexic mushed up brains, (You had to be there) What I intend to be doing at the end of this year, Next year, and in five years’ time.
I handed round examples of the different types of direction for my work.
And I finished it all off with a bit of reflection:
“This has been an interesting exercise for me. It has helped me to realize how far I have come, where I am now and how far I can possibly go in the future.”
“Some of the statements I have made about where I perceive myself to be in five years’ time felt a little far-fetched and over optimistic when I was writing them down, but if I look back and see where I was when I started this designing and making journey I realise that this is not the case.”
“It was only three years ago that I was working for builders on a construction site with small town, racist, homophobic, bad newspaper reading, bad radio station listening habits. Pulling down ceilings in order to pay for school shoes and toilet rolls.”
“So in just three years my practice has developed immensely and I know now that if I carry on in the direction that my passion for making takes me that there is possibly no limit to where I may end up.”
I then looked up and gave them all some eye contact:
The feedback everyone gave me was very kind. No-one seemed to mind that I just read it out, they seemed to think that what I was saying was actually more important than how I was saying it. I was very relieved and it filled me with confidence. Katia even said that it made her feel emotional and she started to well up. (But I’m not sure I believe her)
I then went back to my seat and listened to the rest of my fellow makers presentations. They were all fantastic. Everyone did brilliantly and it was great to see how far everyone has come over the past few months.
In the final part of the afternoon we all took part in a meeting potential applicants for next year’s program thing, or Networking (Hate that word).
This was fun. Bit weird at first. They all looked awkward and nervous like first year students waiting to come in but it soon became really relaxed (thanks to the Scottish co-hort for their left over prosecco) and it was very interesting and enjoyable to meet them all and give out some advice about applications and the content of the program. Good look to you all.
I left the session feeling really relieved about getting my presentation out of the way. But at the same time I also felt a little flat about the coming to the end of the program. We still have one session left in September where we all get together in London, So I’m not saying it is actually over to myself yet.
So on a positive note, it’s great to know that I don’t have to worry about having to do any more scary presentations in the near future.
But the weird thing is that I think I am, ever so starting to begin to, kind of, In a very small way, actually enjoy them.
(“Did I just say that!”)
Thank you Hothouse I’m doing things I never thought I could do.