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5 Year Plan to Jump - Constructive Criticism Welcome

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Well folks! I've been off and on here for a while now and I thought I would ask the community what they thought of my 5 year plan (now 4 years). I've never in my life been so motivated to create something like this. 

If anyone has stories they want to share or advice about making the jump from one career to another it would be greatly appreciated. 

First a little background on my situation - I work a full time job and am compensated fairly well.  Its just not something I want to do the rest of my life. We have debt that we need to pay off that should be done in 2 years if all goes well. I have accepted that this venture might fail, or that we might not make enough for us to survive on. But that is not stopping me from going full steam ahead and will not be used as an excuse to let things slide or for any type of failure. Accepting that things don't always work out frees up mental energy so I can focus on the things that need to be done. I have to work my day gig 40+ hours a week. Nights and weekends are dedicated to improving my throwing, building some standard shapes and pieces and general scheming and dreaming. :D

We've procured and LLC and a CPA (have not gotten a Sales Tax ID or a Tax Exempt ID because we are not  officially selling as a business yet) 

A business loan and credit cards are pretty much out of the picture. 

My wife is working full time and is currently on course for a degree in business administration so that is helping out a lot too! 

We have a business plan in place and are researching our customers and demographic and where and when to sell (this is a continual investigation but Etsy will probably be our first  sales platform as we have used it before) I know a lot of that depends on what we are making as a studio - Functional  Ware  / Cups / bowls / Plates /  Serving Dishes / Vases / Lidded Vessels / all in various sizes to create my own line (while like every other potter - experimenting and improving along the way) 

We are building our social network presence slowly but surely. 

We are calculating our current personal expenses, time, operating expenses, capital, etc... (again since it's an ever changing thing its ongoing and we'll get dialed in the more data the further we move along)

Currently we are working out of the garage with two wheels and an electric Kiln which is being used as a bisque kiln and a test fire kiln. 

I have a spot where I can woodfire twice a year. This is my sticking point. I am not interested in mid-fire at all. Woodfiring  twice a year does not give me enough feedback or testing or experience to line up within this timeframe. Woodfiring is a 10 year goal. Getting up and running in my own studio is my 5 year goal so high fire with gas makes sense. I will be investing in some large propane tanks and I already have a burner and a converted electric kiln so I can do experiments and small amounts of work fired in that for the time being. 

A decent size gas kiln will be a considerable investment and  the heart of the studio. I don't think it is possible to run a good size gas kiln in my garage studio. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.  I think renting a building and installing a gas kiln does not make sense at this point but at some point I will have to get up and going at full scale. For those of you that own studios when did you consider renting and installing a kiln?

Thanks for any input / experience you want to share. 

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Consider renting space in a industrial park instead of a retail spot for the first few years. In my area the rent would be about 1/3 the price.

The time to rent space is when your sales dictate you've absolutely outgrown where you are now.

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It sounds like you need to decide exactly how you're going to fire things, as part of figuring out your product offering. Whatever you wind up going with, you need easy, affordable and frequent access to it, so you can figure out how best to use it. Figuring out how to scale that later will be easier when you know exactly what it is you want to offer. 

It sounds like you need to also incorporate some kind of woodfire or other atmospheric firing workshop/professional development excursion into your plan as well. Many professional potters need to shift creative gears for a short time every year so that their work stays fresh, and to help incubate new ideas to be incorporated into their more everyday work.

 

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I think it a top priority to keep your costs very low-especially starting out.I cannot overstate this.

I can say this lifestyle is Not for everyone (making pots full time)(and selling them) many fail at it this days.

I would keep your jobs while working towards getting a solid product line. I am not and would not rent space these days unless its from a friend who owns the space and the cost is SUPER LOW.

Having your kiln on site with your shop space is a must. You did not mention if you are renting a house or paying a mortgage . Either way have it all together if at all possible . Morgage is better than rent in all cases.

If you are opening a studio for the public (classes /retail and the like) then it can make more sense to rent a space-but moving kilns and clay and locations you will find is not like moving normal stuff.

Keep the costs down-that is key starting out-keep some income coming in from your other work-read the  2018 February issue of ceramics  monthly as they have a piece with a few ideas on how to make this work.

Work ethic-its the magic juice.

I'm on my 45 year plan now.

Edited by Mark C.
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Ya know here's the thing,  no one at the shows or other selling venues you can get into will look at you any different the day after you quit your job to become a potter.  It's going to take decades for your name to mean anything in the business so it's all going to come down to the pots and if you can sell them in large enough numbers to make a living.

ya don't need to wait four years for that, you can start that today. IMHO If it won''t work part time it wont work full time either and man once you quit your job its all going out with nothing coming in. I really recommend  to you to sit down in a quiet room and let that notion settle for a bit. If you can't get a garage space bringing in few grand a month working part time then the rest of the plan is probably suspect.   

Don't get why you think the garage is a bad place to start. It's free and with no pottery revenue that makes it a  great place to start. If you own, can you add a kiln building in your back yard? That will free up space. A lot of potters are moving to cone 6 so it's not an issue that you start out there. That big car kiln can be part of your success, in the meantime you can push a weekly $1000+ bisque load and glaze load through a 7-9 cf electric kiln.  That's about 10 pieces of finished pottery a day. Probably need to make half again that much to end up with those numbers on a shelf in the beginning. Just cull the bad stuff and your rack will look as good as anyone's, just takes you longer to get there as a new potter. Trust yourself on this, if it seems to heavy, it is. Simon leach was able to run his converted electric for a time in a small space. Maybe I'm wrong though but to push through numbers for real revenue the converted kiln is really too much fuss and most of all too much expense. Electric means $10 kiln loads. Why not be good at both. When you break out then you can move toward high fire when you can afford the right setup. 

Etsy is likely just going to be good for a pot here and there (hope I'm wrong) so as a new guy you are probably going to be grabbing whatever show you can find. Do you have a booth ready yet, Costco sells some good options. You will need a table, some shelves and a couple of chairs and a dozen odds and ends.

Why not table this some day stuff and get to work putting together your inventory and first show rig and go meet and greet some customers. Trust me you have what you need to get started and you can't be a potter until you slogged your way through a few dozen low revenue 15 hour show days.   

In any event, I do wish you the best of luck and hope however you decide to proceed works out well for you. Even if you ignore my input at least add a big dose of caution to your plans, those future sales are a lot easier to imagine than realize.

Edited by Stephen

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This is why I decided to put it out here, I dont want a bunch of confirmation bias.  I needed some diverse opinions and input and you guys delivered. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. The input here helps to round things out and gives me lots to chew on and add to my plan.

The comment about "if it cant work part time it probably won't work full time". That's exactly where I'm at. I'm under no spell, thinking that this is going to be some kind of easy feat. That is why its a multi year project. So if I cant get this up and running  to the point where I can make a jump, then I won't. I'll scale it back and it will be that which feeds the soul and then I'll keep the job that feeds the family. I'm in a good place where I can give it my all to do it, if it doesn't work out then, I'll keep doing it, it just won't be my full time gig.

I also appreciate the midfire comments, it's just not my thing, I guess it seems like I'm being inflexible. I get that comment all the time and it will surely play into how the plan turns out. I'm just the type of person that if I want to do something specific, I'm going to put all my effort and energy to do THAT THING or I'm not going to do it at all. I'm weird that way :-) 

I do hold a mortgage, not renting my home currently. We do not have sufficient space to build another structure. We won't be at this house forever and sometime down the road if we move the extra space will definitely be a consideration. I have read back through the threads here and elsewhere and a gas kiln in a residential garage overwhelmingly seems to be a no-go. I have a converted electric kiln and burner and I will use that for the time being to get my atmospheric skills up to par (which I will do before I invest ANY kind of money in another kiln. Money isn't cheap you know! ;-)

Oh I should put it out there, that I don't JUST want to make money by doing pottery. That's not the goal at all. I'll make this extra hard on myself - I want to make what I want to make AND make a living doing it! Other people do it, just not many. So statistically speaking, I'm almost sure to fail, but it wouldn't be fun without the odds right?!  

Edited by synj00

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My advice is to not quit your day job, and your wife shouldn’t either, until after the pottery business is providing an income that covers your living expenses. Don’t underestimate how long that will take. Don’t underestimate the value of a steady income during those years of development. Yes it will feel like you are working two jobs for a while, but if this is really what you want then the sacrifice will be worth it.

Your first priority right now should be to eliminate your debt. Once you’ve done that, your next priority should be learning how to live within your means. A pottery business will never catch up to a lifestyle of debt. You must keep your lifestyle underneath your income at all times. That doesn’t mean you can’t live well eventually, but it will take time and patience. 

You must keep your business expenses underneath your income as well. It is never worth going into debt for the pottery business. And never necessary either. If you still have a day job, you can finance your pottery business with it, in order to avoid more debt (another reason to keep the day job). It makes sense to invest money in your business when you are trying to keep up with demand. It makes no sense to sink money into the business in order to get it off the ground. Getting off the ground can and should be done as cheaply as possible. In other words, keep the garage studio! I know a couple who makes a full time income from their garage studio.

Regarding mid-fire vs high-fire reduction, if that’s your goal, you can have a gas kiln when your pottery bank account can afford it. But in the meantime, be open to getting there through a mid-fire path. If not, it’s very possible this will be your downfall. Reduction kilns are incredibly expensive these days, including the cost of the space it takes to fire them.

If you are just starting out, Etsy is not a full plan. You will need to spend way too much time trying to get your work noticed there, only to have their search algorithms shift beneath you. Those who have conquered the Etsy world also built a name and a following for themselves outside of Etsy, which they use to drive customers to their Etsy page. 

Overall, it sounds like you have put a lot more thought into this than most aspiring potters. I think you have a better chance to make it than many others who do not think about it hard enough. 

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58 minutes ago, synj00 said:

I also appreciate the midfire comments, it's just not my thing, I guess it seems like I'm being inflexible. I get that comment all the time and it will surely play into how the plan turns out. I'm just the type of person that if I want to do something specific, I'm going to put all my effort and energy to do THAT THING or I'm not going to do it at all. I'm weird that way :-) 

Oh I should put it out there, that I don't JUST want to make money by doing pottery. That's not the goal at all. I'll make this extra hard on myself - I want to make what I want to make AND make a living doing it! Other people do it, just not many. So statistically speaking, I'm almost sure to fail, but it wouldn't be fun without the odds right?!  

BIG question ... Do your pots sell right now? Do people want to buy them and ask for more? Making what you want to make is not key to making a living ... it’s making what other people will buy. Working potters call it “some and some” ... some for the bills, some for my soul. Guess which side gets the most!

Does not matter how much work, plannng, effort, blood, sweat or tears you put into it ... how does your work look to others? How good  is the quality? Do you have your own style yet? Can you put a shelf of work together that is cohesive and saleable?

And ... if people do like it how much can you produce day in and day out in order to meet your needs?  Take a look at the numbers Mark C and Mea post and know that consistently  moving this volume of clay is how you make a living.  Even potters whose work has been in demand have been felled by the physical and mental demands of volume.

I’m not trying to rain on your parade, honest. I agree 100% with Mea to keep a full time job until Pottery can cover your living expenses no matter how long it takes. Don’t put yourselves under this time limit kind of pressure.

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Nothing wrong with being rigid with your plans but it just might not match up with accomplishing the goal of making a living in pottery.  If the ultimate goal is not to make a living then you can certainly do whatever you want and if it does not generate enough income then just supplement your income with a part time job of some sort. You mentioned failing a couple of times so that seems to be an acceptable outcome and that will take the pressure off if your approach just won't line up with a living wage and you can make whatever adjustments you need to make it work. 

 

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This is a key statement

(Making what you want to make is not key to making a living ... it’s making what other people will buy. Working potters call it “some and some” ... some for the bills, some for my soul. )

I long ago gave up making just what I wanted-that was dream that died in the early 80's-I shifted to want people wanted(98%) 2% what I want to make. Now its make pots that sell well and I'm happy as that what I'm here to do. I stop production pots now and then and make salt or wood fitted pots-I never mix that production time with my fun pots time-I have compartmentalized  this this which is very easy as my fun stuff is usually stoneware and thats made in a different area of the all white porcelain studio space.

I'm not a mid fire person -electric rates are just top high in my area to support that. An outside gas kiln takes up a small space and is doable in most back or side yards. The permit process is the catch point.Not sure about Georgia ?I know a few who just put the kiln in hook to propane and skip that process. Most of these are rural with a few exceptions.I went the legal way but that was 4 decades ago and now the landscape is uptight.

Us that are grandfathered in sort of speak would have trouble getting permits again.Every location is different and this part is the hardest part in our area now.

I have over the years coached a few that thought they wanted to be full timers-most did not make it.

I think you have some  solid  honest ideas posted above-I would plan on a slow transition as Stephen mentioned as well as Mea.

I will add  again work ethic will be a key point as well for success.

I know some potters who worked out of a garage-they rolled there gas kiln out to fire and rolled it in when empty .All on cement .I'm an a atmospheric guy as well.That been one of my key to success-bright snappy glazes.

Its all doable-I would just start now and ease into it-Keep going even if you crash at some shows-its all part of the school of hard knocks -its where I honed my skills.

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- How soon you can make the jump is all dependent on how well your work sells. That may be 4 years from now, it may be 2 years, it may be ten years, or it could be never. Trying to put that into a schedule is not simple. Rather than shoot for a specific time frame, I would shoot for 'as soon as possible', and keep working hard.

- You need to figure out how you're going to fire your work before you do anything else. If you want to fire gas for the rest of your pottery career, you need to start now. You don't want to build up a customer base with mid range and then make a big change like that. You could lose half your customers, and you'll waste a lot of time and energy trying to learn a whole new set of clays and glazes. Aside from a couple of specific types of glazes, there is little you can do in cone 10 reduction that you can't do at cone 6, or at least do at cone 10 in an electric kiln. Localized reduction can be your friend. Building a good gas kiln with proper safety systems and venting will cost $15,000 or more.

- You may or may not be able to install a gas kiln at your house. Around here you can't. Plus the rules are different for businesses vs hobbyists. Around here you can get away with a lot more as a hobbyist than you can as a home business. Those rules are there to keep your neighbor from opening an auto shop in your neighborhood. There are also strict rules about the square footage of your home business, so it may be that you will have to rent a space, or move out to the country. Even renting a space, it can be very difficult to have a gas kiln because of fire codes. I had one when I was in a freestanding building, but now that I'm in a unit connected to other businesses, it was way too expensive to go with gas.

My primary advice is to start now with whatever you plan to do in the future. Making big changes once you're up and running can be very difficult, and often not even possible.

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3 hours ago, GEP said:

My advice is to not quit your day job, and your wife shouldn’t either, until after the pottery business is providing an income that covers your living expenses. Don’t underestimate how long that will take. Don’t underestimate the value of a steady income during those years of development. Yes it will feel like you are working two jobs for a while, but if this is really what you want then the sacrifice will be worth it.

Your first priority right now should be to eliminate your debt. Once you’ve done that, your next priority should be learning how to live within your means. A pottery business will never catch up to a lifestyle of debt. You must keep your lifestyle underneath your income at all times. That doesn’t mean you can’t live well eventually, but it will take time and patience. 

You must keep your business expenses underneath your income as well. It is never worth going into debt for the pottery business. And never necessary either. If you still have a day job, you can finance your pottery business with it, in order to avoid more debt (another reason to keep the day job). It makes sense to invest money in your business when you are trying to keep up with demand. It makes no sense to sink money into the business in order to get it off the ground. Getting off the ground can and should be done as cheaply as possible. In other words, keep the garage studio! I know a couple who makes a full time income from their garage studio.

Regarding mid-fire vs high-fire reduction, if that’s your goal, you can have a gas kiln when your pottery bank account can afford it. But in the meantime, be open to getting there through a mid-fire path. If not, it’s very possible this will be your downfall. Reduction kilns are incredibly expensive these days, including the cost of the space it takes to fire them.

If you are just starting out, Etsy is not a full plan. You will need to spend way too much time trying to get your work noticed there, only to have their search algorithms shift beneath you. Those who have conquered the Etsy world also built a name and a following for themselves outside of Etsy, which they use to drive customers to their Etsy page. 

Overall, it sounds like you have put a lot more thought into this than most aspiring potters. I think you have a better chance to make it than many others who do not think about it hard enough. 

Fantastic advice GEP, that is where I am at right now. Not quitting anything on a whim, it has to be viable or I just don't get to jump.  Not the end of the world and clay will most likley always be part of my life. And I kinda feel like it's the best position to be in, I get to do the work, build something and see if it can work. I really want it to work of course. It is already hard work as I'm spending nights and weekends improving my throwing and out of that will come a line of pots that will be the first standards.

From there, like everyone is mentioning, people will like them, or they won't. I can choose to adjust what I make, "some & some", or the plan is on hold until circumstances change or I re-evaluate and decide that it's not the right goal (which is always a possibility) And you are right, I have put a LOT of thought into this for the past few years. I am making sure that the plan is as flexible as possible without changing the core ideals that made me decide to pursue this goal in the first place. If you could be in my brain you'd see whats up lol. 

The garage is and will be the studio until I sales dictate that I move. That is a right-on fantastic piece of advice. 

I will be firing in the small homemade gas kiln to start off with (along with my wood fired work twice a year). I really am hearing the advice of being flexible with electric but I cant get past the gut feeling of putting my time and energy into something that I ultimately will most likely abandon in favor of high fire. Lots of this plan is dependant on what each step brings. IF the small gas kiln gets me, on a small scale, to what I want to produce AND people like it, then the next logical step will get taken, with risk measured and noted. Same for investments in facilities and equipment. IF small scale does not work, then no, a 15k investment in a large gas kiln doesn't make a lick of sense.  It's kind of like a choose your own adventure story right? 

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Neil I think addressed this but it is very important . Once you start a line -say high fire or electric fire switching later will only confuse your customers /outlets and it will be a major setback. The line you need to start with is one that you need to stay with-weather its electric or gas fired. The look is what people will like and stick with-you can supplement wood fired into this twice a year with no issues . But changing the firing method on your line say years down the road will really be a setback.

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I had a really hard time convincing myself to switch from cone ten to cone six, too. Personally, I was hung up on the notion that atmospheric was the only thing that I liked. I originally fell in love with any process that allowed me to make a bunch of pots really hot, and then throw something in the kiln to make it dirty.

Except it isn’t the only thing I like, as it turns out.

I had to realize that with the right chemistry and firing cycle, I can, in fact, make pots I really like using a different method. I had to find the right places to focus my interest. Let yourself fall in love a bit, if you can. We’re all creative here: we can think flexibly.

 

All that said, if you really can’t wrap your head around glazing in an electric kiln, then don’t force it. Get your hands on a portable gas kiln that will put out enough work, and learn it inside out.  Build that into your plan.  I won’t judge you either way. 

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20 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

Once you start a line -say high fire or electric fire switching later will only confuse your customers /outlets and it will be a major setback.

I don’t see this as impossible. Obviously @synj00 has an aesthetic in mind, or else he would not be so commited to high-fire right now. He can start out by trying to recreate a similar aesthetic in an electric kiln. Down the road when he’s ready to “go big time” with a gas kiln, his existing customers will follow, and they’ll cheer him on. They’ll brag that they knew him in his “garage days.” Pottery customers are not typical retail customers. It’s more like a fan club.

As others are saying, there is so much you can do in oxidation these days! This transition is possible. It’s also entirely possible that you’ll grow to love oxidation, for all of its advantages, and stick wih it. 

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Sebastian! Glad to see you back on here. 

Congrats on following what you love. I agree with what everyone said above about keeping the job until you make it work enough. I also agree that paying off the debt first makes the most sense as then your pottery business can turn into a full-time business faster because of the lowered income requirements. I am one of the failed potters above.  I never really had a day job to quit, but I definitely tried to do it full time and realized that it wasn't for me. I am glad I didn't have a job to quit at the time because that would have been a bad decision. Until I started spending all my free time doing pottery trying to make as much money and product as possible I realized it sapped the joy out of it for me. I realized that I enjoy the experimentation and development part more than the selling part. Thus I plan to work a job and do pottery as a hobby, although still sell my pots, just not at a production level. I am perfectly happy with this. It took me a while to be okay with it, but in the end, it will allow me to advance my skills quicker as I won't be focused on the pottery business and instead of the pottery skills, glaze development, etc.

With my experience being said. I think that cone 6 electric can produce some absurd surfaces and unique pots, it just takes a lot of research and development. However, I think that is true with wood, gas, salt, etc as well. I see plenty of really bad high fired work that looks uninteresting and boring.

I know we have talked about this before in person but I can't remember now why you only want to do high fire if it is something to do with it being more "real" or if its just the only surfaces you enjoy looking at? 

Edited by Joseph F
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10 hours ago, GEP said:

Your first priority right now should be to eliminate your debt. Once you’ve done that, your next priority should be learning how to live within your means. A pottery business will never catch up to a lifestyle of debt. You must keep your lifestyle underneath your income at all times.

Read and repeat; read and repeat. 

It is essential to learn how to remain debt-free and how to live within a budget, including regular savings, on a daily basis. I say on a daily basis because it is the day-by-day decisions on expenditures and savings, and a daily or weekly accounting,  that makes it or breaks it for paying off debt, not accruing new debt, living within one's means, and having a buffer for that which is needed when really aging.

Building a business with no debt to hobble you, and with your essential living costs covered, and some solid savings for emergencies and later in life is, in my opinion, the only way to go, at any scale.  Everything else is a function of the vision/ desire/passion, but it will come to naught if the money is not there and you try to make it happen anyway.

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13 hours ago, Joseph F said:

Sebastian! Glad to see you back on here. 

Congrats on following what you love. I agree with what everyone said above about keeping the job until you make it work enough. I also agree that paying off the debt first makes the most sense as then your pottery business can turn into a full-time business faster because of the lowered income requirements. I am one of the failed potters above.  I never really had a day job to quit, but I definitely tried to do it full time and realized that it wasn't for me. I am glad I didn't have a job to quit at the time because that would have been a bad decision. Until I started spending all my free time doing pottery trying to make as much money and product as possible I realized it sapped the joy out of it for me. I realized that I enjoy the experimentation and development part more than the selling part. Thus I plan to work a job and do pottery as a hobby, although still sell my pots, just not at a production level. I am perfectly happy with this. It took me a while to be okay with it, but in the end, it will allow me to advance my skills quicker as I won't be focused on the pottery business and instead of the pottery skills, glaze development, etc.

With my experience being said. I think that cone 6 electric can produce some absurd surfaces and unique pots, it just takes a lot of research and development. However, I think that is true with wood, gas, salt, etc as well. I see plenty of really bad high fired work that looks uninteresting and boring.

I know we have talked about this before in person but I can't remember now why you only want to do high fire if it is something to do with it being more "real" or if its just the only surfaces you enjoy looking at? 

First off, Thanks @Joseph F !! Yeah its been a while! Second, I would disagree with your wording. You didn't fail, you got results and from the results you adjusted your course and eventually ended up perfectly happy. That's what counts! I see a lot of people who are just absolutely miserable in their lives and professions. Really, I feel for people with that perspective.

I don't hate my profession. I actually love the people. I occasionally get some satisfaction from a job well done. It took a looooong and miserable time to get to this point and perspective. Lots of people do things from a purely reactionary perspective. "I hate my job, I love doing _____, let me change it up real quick." I dont have the luxury to be able to do that kind of thing. Maybe when I was younger and working at a fast food joint with no bills and no family to support. I think we all have had the phone call or whatever "Ummm I'm not coming in today, or ever again." at least once in our lives LoL! Its part of the learning experience. 

So where I'm coming from is the path of trying to make my life and my families life better and be able to do more of the things that we love and want to do. Maybe 1% of people on the planet get to do what they want to do for a living. I have a 1% chance of doing what I want and being able to support myself and my family. If I don't give it a go I have a 0% chance. I am willing to work hard and be extremely patient for what I want. Of course I may come to the same conclusion, that it isn't for me, or that it absolutely will not feed us and I'm really ok with that, I'll change course and pursue the path that brings myself and my family closer to our natural rhythm and happiness.

And a HUGE part of that is being DEBT FREE!!! We were debt free for a time and long story short I had to take leave and didn't get paid for months. We eventually did get paid but the damage had already been done because of living off of credit cards. Not enough in savings to cover an extended period of absence. Lesson learned. The hard way. So that will happen and other things will have to happen and line up before I decide that I can or cant make a full jump. That single thing, by itself, is going to open up a lot of avenues that were not available before. 

As far as the firing method goes, I was smitten from the beginning with the aesthetic of high fired ware, the simple glazes, the history and tradition that goes with them. It's like the car you want when you can finally afford it. Yes the Ferrari has 4 wheels and goes fast but you want the Lambo because you had a poster of it in your room when you were a kid and the Ferrari test drive, while all the potential is there, doesn't really change your mind. :D

And I didnt put this question out here just for myself. I hope this thread helps other people who might come across it with their planning and perspective. (not that I have the correct perspective, it's just my perspective) :D I'm really enjoying the discussion and reading everyone's thoughts on the matter. So much good advice here from everyone! I cant thank you all enough for your thoughtful input! I owe you each a cup of coffee and breakfast or something! 

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24 minutes ago, synj00 said:

Not enough in savings to cover an extended period of absence. Lesson learned.

It is important to cover yourself for unexpected illnesses, loss of a job or the start any new business.

Most pundits recommend 6 months of savings to cover living expenses in case there is no cash coming in.  Franchises require 1 year cash reserve for new startups before they allow you to open your doors with their name on the sign .  When I was running my business, I've always preferred having 2 years worth of cash reserve to cover unexpected expenses.

Stuff Happens When You Are Busy Making Other Plans.

Edited by RonSa
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20 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I had a really hard time convincing myself to switch from cone ten to cone six, too. Personally, I was hung up on the notion that atmospheric was the only thing that I liked. I originally fell in love with any process that allowed me to make a bunch of pots really hot, and then throw something in the kiln to make it dirty.

Except it isn’t the only thing I like, as it turns out.

Me, too. I spent the first 16 years of my pottery life working at cone 10- gas, salt, wood. It was everything, the only acceptable way to fire. Once I had my business open for a few years, I realized that the gas kiln was not great for my business model, as it required too much tending, it was too loud, too hot in the studio, etc., and I couldn't turn around small orders quickly enough. Electric was the answer. I can turn around orders in a week if I need to, because I've got 3 kilns of various sizes. When I had to move my shop, switching to electric was my only option; finding a place where I could install the gas kiln was nearly impossible. I did find one place, but it was going to cost me $15,000+ to meet fire codes, and have a new gas line installed and reinstall the venting system. That's something to consider- once you set up a gas kiln, you don't really ever want to move it.

If you're working in white clay, switching to oxidation is not much of an issue at all. Most potters who see my work for the first time think I'm firing cone 10. The beauty and simplicity of good glazes can happen at any temperature. And if you're working in brown clay, there are a lot of really great brown cone 6 bodies out there. I've got some glazes that are absolutely gorgeous on cone 6 speckled browns, every bit as rich as cone 10 reduction.

The process of firing gas and wood vs firing electric is definitely different, as you're not tending the kiln the whole time. Some people think it's less interactive, but I disagree. Because of digital controllers, I feel every bit as connected to my firings as with gas, in some ways more connected. I have much more control than firing with gas, and can do things I couldn't easily do before. The subtle things you can do with an electric kiln are quite interesting. Gas is fun because you get to make lots of adjustments during the firing, and there's fire (always a good thing:D) but I feel it's primarily just a case of getting it hot. With cone 6 electric I do a lot more with specific rates of climb and cooling that weren't very easy to do with the gas kiln. Of course, if you have a computerized automatic gas kiln you can do those things, but those types of kilns are generally out of the price range of potters. And you can get big electric kilns. My largest is 22 cubic feet. It's only 2 cubic feet smaller than my gas kiln was, takes up far less space, cost 1/3 as much, and it cheaper to fire.

The reason I'm telling you all this is because I've been through the process of opening a pottery business, and for me, firing gas was not a good fit. I loved it, but from a business standpoint I wasted a lot of time and money on it, from the cost of the kiln itself, to the cost of a space that could house it. I could have started in a much smaller shop and saved a lot of money if I had started with electric.

Make sure you put a lot of thought in to what it is that makes you want to fire gas, and see if that's something that's really specific to gas firing, or if that's just the way you've been doing it. I realized it was just the way I had been taught, but it wasn't the only way, or the best way for my situation.

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Don't discount the power of social media - it is a completely different world now than for potters starting out 10, 20, 30 years ago. There are new potters, who after 1-3 years in the business, snag features in magazine, books, etc. and  sell out almost immediately upon releasing work for sale online - hundreds of pots at a time. If they can do it, so can you. 

 

 

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Well, I had a ton of stuff typed here that was important and soulful advice but the editor bombed out on me, errored and deleted it when I pressed submit reply.  

I will just say this instead and it partly sums up what I was saying anyway:

Quote

The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.

The longer you wait because of aesthetic or "traditional" reasons that your customers won't care about, the longer it will be before you are making work that soars. I could be wrong here, and I hope the others who sell tons chime in, but I have never had a customer ask me how I fired something. I have only had potters ask me. I haven't sold a ton of work, but it has never come up. So while you might only want to fire to "tradition", your customers won't know/care the differences. They only care about the way it looks and functions. 

So you have a few things to think about:

What makes you the happiest? Working your current job and saving for years to buy, rent land, build a kiln, get all the permits just so that you can get pots that look 90% of what you can achieve in electric because of tradition?

Would making pots now using "fake" celadons and other glazes that look very similar to the traditional glazes make you 95% as happy as making traditional ones do? But instead, you're able to sell your work now and start building a customer base, improving your art, and figuring out product lines?

I would really do some soul searching on how important "tradition" is compared to actually getting out of the job your in quicker and working in the garage making pots and selling them instead is.

I wish my post didn't get screwed up, but c'est la vie. When I finally get back in the garage this spring we are gonna have to hang out. I have been doing some really hard researching and idea jotting down during all this cold weather and I think I am going to push my "that is fired in oxidation?" look even further. So just a heads up that if you do decide to go with oxidation I am around to share anything I discover with whoever wants to know. I personally am biased now towards oxidation and cone 6. The repeatable results are so important towards gaining skill fast and development is always better when your pipeline to results is 24 hours later. 

 

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36 minutes ago, Joseph F said:

Would making pots now using "fake" celadons and other glazes that look very similar to the traditional glazes make you 95% as happy as making traditional ones do? But instead, you're able to sell your work now and start building a customer base, improving your art, and figuring out product lines?

 

This is where I use my wife for feedback.  I once showed her a black glaze that I'd spent weeks and weeks perfecting, and from a potterly standpoint it was quite amazing and her response was "Pretty. Looks like your other black glaze. Are you spending all your time perfecting a glaze that only your potter friends will appreciate?"" At some point it's good enough to sell, and you can spend time on the more potterly things when you have free time. We do need to feed our ceramic souls, but we also have to eat.

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