Perfectionism

by Hamilton Williams Published Friday, August 29, 2014

Since the gallery opened last year, I've had to really adapt my approach to... well, almost everything. Even though I've been a full-time professional potter for many years, the additional role of "gallery owner" has thrown a big wrench in my standard way of getting things done. I've always had a tendency toward perfectionism when it comes to making pots and now that impulse has extended itself into the look and operation of the gallery. I can easily obsess over the smallest detail if I don't catch myself. Today, it was the placement of exhibition cards for Southern Women Potters (In fact, I obsessed over many things bit by bit. It's just that the cards stood out in my mind.) While there is certainly the need for a conscious analysis of how the gallery presents itself to visitors, there is a fine line between conscious presentation and obsessive perfectionism. I've found that at times I need to pause and ask myself whether the outcome of any particular decision actually warrants the kind of consternation that I give it. Occasionally, yes. More often, no.

I don’t believe striving to get things “just right” in the gallery is inherently bad, but whereas in the past I had time (sort of) to get all of the bits and pieces worked out myself, now there is far too much to obsess about and far too little time to personally attend every detail. So, I am forced to learn to delegate. Not an easy thing to learn for someone who grew up as an avid do-it-yourselfer. On the surface it seems far easier to roll up my sleeves and get something done rather than spend almost as much time explaining to someone else. But when that same task comes along again I begin to appreciate that the extra bit of time used to train another to do that task reaps benefits later on. The only way to achieve my vision for the gallery is to find people with the right talents and trust them to help flesh out the specific details. This idea is an easy thing to acknowledge intellectually but a concept that I have found harder to put into practice.

Fortunately, I do have some great people working with me to push the gallery along. Gallery assistant, Erica Schwarting, has single-handedly arranged the work of seven different potters for our Southern Women Potters exhibit on top of her usual gallery duties. The show looks great, better than if I had arranged it myself. And my parents, Dot and Wayne, have helped out a tremendous amount. Preparation for this exhibit and opening reception has unfolded without a hitch, and it’s experiences such as this week leading up to our new exhibit that illustrate how well things can work if I don’t obsess too much and don't try to do it all myself.

There’s still a lot of slope on that learning curve, though.

-Hamilton Williams