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Mark C.

Ceramic Income Streams For Studio Potters

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I have said this more than a few times as a functional potter to try and spread out your income sources. As time goes by your situation can change and having various income source points helps as some fade away or others change.

This year during tax time mine are roughly as follows-it changes slightly year to year but this is a rough estimate for 2015

 

Wholesale           15%

Fairs in state       20%

Fairs out of state 40%

Consignment       30%

 

I realize these do not total 100% but they are rough enough for you to get the picture. The thing I like is no one stream is enough to really affects me all that much. I can choose to pick up more of this or that as change happens.

For me I’m getting tired of traveling with a 1-ton van of pots so much. I used to do over 20 K miles a year for decade’s on the van now its less than 10k (the van is used only for business and is parked between shows)

So I’m cutting back on some shows hence my show income will shift. I can choose to make it up or let it go. In my case I’m letting it go. Or I’m thinking I will-it really has not worked out yet.

I have had a mix for 40 years now and like most things about it. Having a check come in the mail from others selling my work is refreshing just as it is to return from a far-flung show with a bag of money.

I had given up wholesale for about 20 plus years and have brought it back into the mix.I have cut it back 5% since 2014 numbers

If your starting out consider more than just a few income source points –in the long run this diversity will help you.

 

One last note as this has been well covered by Mea’s posts.

 I make more money with my wares at art shows than the other sources but that said if you just limit yourself to this one income in the long run you will have missed some business connections that later in life can help you. This I have seen with other potters when they aged and only did shows in their career and now wished they had other sources to fall back on. Those sources at one time courted them but they turned them down and now wish they had a few.

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Thanks Mark. Lots to think about. I'm going 100% shows starting this year, but I'll keep your thoughts in mind going forward.

 

The past two years I've been ramping up on the road warrior shows, and loving it! I love to drive, and it's a fun reason to visit new towns and cities. Later this year I'm going as far as Boston. But I can see this will be a cycle where eventually it won't be "new" anymore. There will be a "next phase."

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Mea 

You are still loving the driving and expanding and killing it. How many hours or days  to drive to Boston?

I'm a road warrior myself but I'm starting to like driving for other reasons like vacation without the pots.I still have to crunch my total miles for all of my 3 vehicles for the year. The tax thing

I still may be killing it at shows but Its starting to kill me a little.

Its not New anymore-in fact I cannot recall new as far as shows -only new customers which keeps it fresh.

You could stay in this cycle for another 20-30 years Mea and still be seeing new places. Big van and a trailer like some of my fellow potters doing two and 3 shows on one leg at a time before restocking .

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Hi Mark,

I love to drive and explore and stay in hotels, I'm a real vagabond, but I can see how the set up and take down would kill me after a while. It's very physical and time consuming, especially with pottery as opposed to jewelry. :) Thanks for sharing so much of your successful ways. It is tremendously helpful to me, and I appreciate it. 

Nancy

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Boston is a 9 hour drive for me, so it's really not that bad on the road warrior scale. But still it will be my furthest show to date.

 

I have been slowly exploring another possible income stream, which is to produce videos of all the pottery projects I used to teach. Of all the incomes streams I've tried in the past, teaching in-person classes is the least profitable by far. Although it was very rewarding otherwise and I miss the process of being a teacher. Unlike selling handmade pots, this is a product where the internet actually provides a lot of efficiency and potential distribution, compared to accomodating only 10 in-person students at a time. The hard part is to carve out time to work on it. I do think there is a big learning curve, but beyond that the production can be streamlined. Mark, your post is giving me motivation to carve out the time.

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Thanks Mark - the U.S. Wiki link was also an interesting read. So this would be the usual arrangement with galleries, for example, whereby they take a %age of the sale price?

And wholesale - you sell your wares to the outlet and they sell them on?

 

This isn't relevant to my own situation, but interesting nonetheless.

 

What would you say are the pros and cons of these two strategies?

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Mark:

Very much appreciate your willingness to pass on your 43 years plus to the up and coming. How the pottery world has rolled for centuries; the seasoned and learned passing down knowledge to the next generation. I am fresh out of trophies so you get: five well dones, and three atta-boys, and one pat on the back. Best I got.

Nerd

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Celia there has been a lot covered already on this here. I suggest searching some to dig up the pros and cons.

I would say consignment on the whole is risky. My outlets are decades old and have a track record with me so I trust them.

Its really been hashed out here a lot already .

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My daughter and I are doing both vendor markets and Etsy, and are extremely happy with the results.  But, we do use several media outlets to tout our goods: website, blog, Facebook, and Instagram. Getting our name out there, references from friends, etc., seems to be key.  Resting on your laurels never works.  I've been considering some consignment, but it seems they want such a huge chunk of your profit.  Great post.  This gave me something to think about.

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I always feel the need to speak about consignment as it puts ALL the risk on the potter and can go south on you very quickly.

 

First I want to say that there are good consignment galleries and its fairly easy to find them by:

- checking how long they have been in business

- asking if they have a standard consignment agreement to sign

- getting in touch with the artists they currently work with

- visiting the gallery in person to get a feel for the place

- if you like the place, meeting the owners and establishing a relationship

 

Unfortunately there are a lot of iffy ones ... Not to say they mean to be problematic, but sometimes ...

- the owners have no head for business

- the owners realize there is a steady stream of newbies to choose from

 

50/50 split is normal now. 60 artist/ 40 Gallery is good to get.

A gallery collecting less than 40% will face financial issues unless everyone on staff is working for free and the rent is low.

I have a short article on working with galleries on my site:

http://ccpottery.com/untitled.html

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Chris:

Good advice, and would like to add an observation about one comment you made. In the St. Louis and Metro area; on a monthly basis a new consignment shop opens. In addition, on a monthly basis a consignment shop closes. From what I have observed: the ones who are reputable survive the first three years of business and continue operations. The con art shops usually do not make it past the first year. The other observation I have made about them is the overall appearance of their shops. Con shops usually appear like slop shops: reflecting the owners " I do not care" attitude. Professional consignment shops usually reflect that attitude as well. The displays are arranged and kept in a more professional manner: and it is obvious the owners put in the time and effort to keep them that way.

Nerd

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This year has started out with more customers asking for wares than I can recall in years via the web -e-mail-I have been shipping every week pots all over-thins week its dinnerware to San Francisco-french butterfishes to Biloxi, Ms-mugs to Montana.

Gallery orders are up as well-the bad news is one of my consignment outlets is floundering after 15-20 years-so I may have to pull my product out-its a ways away from me (7 hour drive).

The other bad news is I was hoping to do a bit less this year but its not happening so far.

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Did not want to start a new thread for this post: but passing information along. Two weeks ago my wife's cat had to be put down due to old age. Our vet makes paw print impressions on polymer clay as a free service. Few days later I bumped into him and I bought up the clay impressions. I asked him if anyone have ever asked about firing and glazing them? Turns out that over half ask about it; his estimate. It is a keepsake, and a possible income stream perhaps most have not thought about. Certainly would be a good way to dip your toes into the business without much time or investment.

Nerd

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Did not want to start a new thread for this post: but passing information along. Two weeks ago my wife's cat had to be put down due to old age. Our vet makes paw print impressions on polymer clay as a free service. Few days later I bumped into him and I bought up the clay impressions. I asked him if anyone have ever asked about firing and glazing them? Turns out that over half ask about it; his estimate. It is a keepsake, and a possible income stream perhaps most have not thought about. Certainly would be a good way to dip your toes into the business without much time or investment.

Nerd

When one of my Pugs died in February my vet offers the paw print too. I, of course lol, was already prepared with my own heart shaped clay pieces. She saw mine and looked at her plain little pat of clay, and went yours looks so much prettier. She asked if I would make some for her. I said I would do some research.

 

What my research showed:

Clay that you fire doesn't stay soft enough for a month which is what she wanted it to do.

After even a couple days the clay shape becomes too firm for a paw print to be impressed easily.

This could be fixed by wedging, rolling and recutting but that's more trouble than most would want to do.

There is no way to control what they do to the clay to get the impression i.e. Is the shape going to warp or crack because they didn't realize you shouldn't do this or that with a flat piece of clay.

The stress of it.... I would be responsible for someone's last memory of their pet and there would be no just make another if something happened in the kiln.

 

I would offer this as a normal keepsake of a living pet I just decided dealing with a constant stream of dead pet memories would be too upsetting for me. BUT I am the type person that cries when I see a Facebook post about someone losing a pet so it could just be my failing.

 

For my pugs paw print I made a heart shape that I then handpainted with Purple flowers and her name as well as firing on a transfer image of her on the back. It's very precious to me and I made an extra one to give to my daughter as well.

 

T

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On ‎5‎/‎1‎/‎2016 at 9:06 AM, Pugaboo said:

What my research showed:

Clay that you fire doesn't stay soft enough for a month which is what she wanted it to do.

After even a couple days the clay shape becomes too firm for a paw print to be impressed easily.

The stress of it.... I would be responsible for someone's last memory of their pet and there would be no just make another if something happened in the kiln.

A black white photo of the paw print is all you need.  The clay work can be done in studio, from fresh and with controllable results.  I make photo polymer plates from the black white image and then it's just as simple as a stamp project.  Not just paws, any black white image - fingerprints, handwriting, doodles, etc.

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Why not make a clay positive from the polymer clay negative, using it as a press mold coated with a little WD40? Then you can add whatever - portrait, name, quote - in preferred size.  Use ^06 clay for least shrinkage. 

Edited by Rae Reich
Afterthought

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