9. What was the most challenging aspect of your Project?
Budget. That was the most challenging part for me. Even before my departure for the project I became aware of a number of additional costs, including internet, laundry, and cooking for 15-20 people once a week. Beyond this, I had also realized that shipping my work was going to be rather expensive. One estimate ran to nearly $1000 for a decent sized crate.
As I went through the project, I kept a careful record of my expenses, dividing them among food, transportation, materials, and an all encompassing “other”. I considered which costs I could reduce and which I would need to increase, hoping to keep my total within a reasonable amount of my planned budget. I found ways to cut expenses by changing my living habits, like drying my laundry on the line and I also altered my studio habits, reducing the scale of my work. Smaller work meant less material, less space in firings, and less shipping for bringing pieces home. I obsessively reclaimed clay and made a number of pieces that could be once-fired. However, towards the end of the project I recognized that I needed to forget about cost and make the work look the best it could. Though I might have saved a good deal of money by firing in electric, I decided that gas was what I needed. When it came time for the exhibition I freely spent money on extra materials, keeping track but not holding back.
In the end, my materials cost ended up double what I had planned for in the budget – and that was only because of the many materials I got for free, including metal rods and plate glass. The “other” costs added up: internet, bicycle, museum visits. The only area I came out under budget was in food – and that was merely because I ended up not paying for the last meal I cooked at the center, thanks to the other cook. I’m still not sure if I owe the center anything for the crate that Richard built for me. Luckily, I was able to convince the airline to take this oversized and overweight baggage onto the plane with only a $60 surcharge. By my own calculations, I should have been paying $200, but I didn’t complain. Altogether I went less than $500 over my original budget.
I count myself lucky to have the grant paying for as much as it has. Conversations with others revealed the great lengths many had gone to pay for their stay here. Rabi and Renata, coming from Mexico, had been saving up for… a year? A long time. They’ve been artist assistants, guides, ran workshops, and saved everything.
All of this was a good exercise. In school, we were encouraged to work without concern to cost. After a nominal $400 material fee, we were free to mix as much clay as we pleased, mix as many glazes as we wished, and fire as many kilns as we could fill (or barely fill, as was sometimes the case). The Hodmezovasarhely Symposium was no different, the materials of the factory were entirely at my disposal. In Denmark I was forced to confront the cost of my work and take responsibility for it.