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tperez

How to start a path toward making pottery a career?

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Hi... so I’m a 25 year old who has been slowly been struggling towards a college degree. Overall I’ve done poorly, largely due to struggles with depression(which I’m now receiving treatment for) but also due to lack passion/drive for what I’ve been studying. 

 

However I think I’ve found something I am passionate about: pottery/wheel ceramics.

 

I’ve been taking weekly pottery classes at a local art center and it’s all I can think about.  I spend all of my spare time reading and watching videos about ceramics. I’m also a lover of quality teas, particularly those from China and Taiwan, so my focus has been on creating Chinese/Taiwanese-inspired teawares. While I’ve been learning fairly quickly, I certainly understand that I have a lot to learn. 

 

 While I’m not fully ready to commit yet, I’ve become more and more entranced with the idea of becoming a professional potter. I understand that it will take a lot of work and is generally not the most lucrative profession, but I think I’d be fine with living a simple life if I can have a career that I’m passionate about.

 

My question is how best to start the path towards making a career out of pottery. Should I take ceramics classes at my local college? (Their only offering are ceramics I and II classes). Should I try to find an apprenticeship? About 45 minutes away there is a clay center that I’ve been to that rents studio space, should I ask around there?

 

TLDR: I’m a young amateur ceramicist considering trying to make it into a career. Theoretically, how should I go about that?

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If you explore the business part of the site, you will see frequent discussion among people beginning to launch ceramics careers and those who have had successful careers  for decades. 

I suggest you do some searching there right away, as well as in the Studio section!

To help you get started searching, shawnhar has been at this only about four months. yappystudent has done pottery for several years but is only starting a career at it recently.  Look at their threads.

Mark C, on the other hand has been doing this 40 plus years and Marcia Selsor maybe 50 years. Min, GEP, Pres, and Callie have all been professionals for many years and give lots of guidance on the forum that you will have at your finger tips as soon as you start searching.

I noticed you referred to the appeal of a "simple life. " I don't know whether having your own business necessarily is the simplest life.  I don't know that needing to market and sell your wares alongside everyone else who is trying to do the same is necessarily simple for everyone. It fits some people's personalities well and some poorly.

Good luck to you. 

Edited by Gabby

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Welcome to the Forums.

There are plenty of people here, with near limitless information, including those, who do make a living selling their work.

So, I suggest you start off, by looking through the Forum topics, as Gabby suggested.  You may have questions that have already been asked and answered.  Use the search bar on the top right.

If you have a question, that hasn't been asked, ask away.  Like I said, there is a lot of experienced, knowledgeable posters here.

You've already started classes, which is great, as being hands on is the best way to learn, and figure out if something is for you or not.    

Keep at it, and don't get discouraged.  Nobody got good at clay work over night.  There will be frustration, there will be failure.  But there will also be a lot of excitement, and sense of accomplishment.

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Whether as a full time, income generating, business or a satisfying low income job or part time avocation, know up front it will be expensive. I took small business classes as I earned my BFA in ceramics and was able to plan out a "how to, and how much" if I were to pursue clay work as a career. I did not go that route and only returned to it a few years ago, establising a home studio after I retired.  Knowing the cost projections was very helpful--if I went in blind about the start-up and ongoing expense I would have been sorely disappointed at how long it could take for any investment to begin to pay off. 

With issues such as depression, or any health challenge, it is important to factor in the wear and tear, the known cycles, the possible practical limitations, and the obstacles any such condition might pose when trying to ignite enough fire to sustain interest and push through over the long term. It is easy to compare oneself to others who seem to be having an easier time of it and misjudge the reasons as having to do with talent or motivation (i.e. self-blame or lack of encouragement from others) rather than confronting the reality of the fallout from a serious health condition. I had an instructor who chastized me when I disclosed I was having health problems that were affecting my work but that the work was keeping me going. He told me "art isn't therapy" and suggested I should quit. I was almost crushed, but my nature is to scrape it off my shoe and say "Oh yeah, watch me", so I came through OK.  Lesson learned, support from people who understand such dynamics is crucial for channeling my passion into a steady state that is at balance with the rest of my life. 

Becoming a professional potter is no different than establishing any other career--requires hard work, time, money, ability to withstand set-backs, and above all the willingness to learn the tools of the trade (the chemistry, the techniques, the history etc.) Take the best, most comprehensive courses/workshops you can find. Also check to see if there is a local or regional Potters Guild where you are and join it. 

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Hi @tperez and welcome to the forum!

I've moved this topic into the Business part of the forum, because I think it might get some more views over here, and I think this could be a really good thread.

I've had my own battles with depression, and have definitely found being a self employed potter is a lot better for my personal mental health than trying to work for someone else. But that is largely due to the causes behind my particular case of depression. Being self employed in any capacity can be beneficial in terms of having flexible hours, but extremely unforgiving and stressful if you don't have the wherewithal to make, but you need the product to have an income. Add to that the fact that ceramics really does take years to get good enough at to have a *long term* viable business, starting a pottery business is definitely a huge undertaking. Depending on your triggers, it can either be really good for you, or set you back horribly.

My suggestion for a first step is to get good at making pots. This part is going to take a really long time. It's like playing a musical instrument: there is no substitute for practice. Obtaining some good technical education is a must. If you're looking at colleges, do some research into the program to make sure you're going to learn what you want to learn there. Not all of them are created equally, or have the same focus.

In terms of business resources, have a look at people who have successfully made a living doing what it is that you wish to do. Write a simple business plan. This is for your own purposes, and not the bank. You need a rough guide for what you want to do. 

Mea, one of the members here, writes a most excellent blog on the ins and outs of her job as a full time potter, and if you go back through her archives she speaks extensively on how she sets her business up. The whole thing is worth reading, but her Art Festival Plan and theHourly Earnings Project are good places to start. 

Some online business  and marketing courses that are geared towards creative businesses are offered by Marie Forleo (B-School) and Mei Pak (The Creative Hive). 

I have to leave this post right now because timing, but I'lltry and write a bit more later.  

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18 hours ago, tperez said:

My question is how best to start the path towards making a career out of pottery. Should I take ceramics classes at my local college? (Their only offering are ceramics I and II classes). Should I try to find an apprenticeship? About 45 minutes away there is a clay center that I’ve been to that rents studio space, should I ask around there?

 

TLDR: I’m a young amateur ceramicist considering trying to make it into a career. Theoretically, how should I go about that?

I am a few months ahead of you on this path and like you I have found it is something I am passionate about and want to make a living at it. I've received a ton a great feedback from the folks on this forum so shout out to everyone here.

 I think you should continue to take classes at the local art studio and absorb all you can until you feel you have outgrown that. Practice as much as you can and view it as goal oriented practice. Set daily goals for yourself and stick to them, if you didn't reach your goal, do it again. About 30-40% of everything I throw is cut in half, inspected and thrown in the bucket to recycle. Small, attainable, short-term goals, small steps that move you forward in the big goal of "career". The studio that rents space is what I am doing and they have classes as well, I am taking my second beginner wheel class from a different instructor and will take another from yet another instructor after this one, helps me find my own ways that work for me by being exposed to different techniques and styles of throwing, shaping, etc...

The goal should not be making a career out of pottery, but rather becoming a master potter, at least to me, that's what I am doing, and the selling aspect is falling into place faster than I really want it to. I'v e already been roped into a booth at an arts festival in 3 weeks and agreed to put some of my stuff in the studio's booth at the weekly farmer's market.

 - Good luck! 

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On 7/18/2018 at 3:49 PM, tperez said:

Hi... so I’m a 25 year old who has been slowly been struggling towards a college degree. Overall I’ve done poorly, largely due to struggles with depression(which I’m now receiving treatment for) but also due to lack passion/drive for what I’ve been studying. 

 

However I think I’ve found something I am passionate about: pottery/wheel ceramics.

 

I’ve been taking weekly pottery classes at a local art center and it’s all I can think about.  I spend all of my spare time reading and watching videos about ceramics. I’m also a lover of quality teas, particularly those from China and Taiwan, so my focus has been on creating Chinese/Taiwanese-inspired teawares. While I’ve been learning fairly quickly, I certainly understand that I have a lot to learn. 

 

 While I’m not fully ready to commit yet, I’ve become more and more entranced with the idea of becoming a professional potter. I understand that it will take a lot of work and is generally not the most lucrative profession, but I think I’d be fine with living a simple life if I can have a career that I’m passionate about.

 

My question is how best to start the path towards making a career out of pottery. Should I take ceramics classes at my local college? (Their only offering are ceramics I and II classes). Should I try to find an apprenticeship? About 45 minutes away there is a clay center that I’ve been to that rents studio space, should I ask around there?

 

TLDR: I’m a young amateur ceramicist considering trying to make it into a career. Theoretically, how should I go about that?

You need to absorb all the knowledge you can from wherever you can find it. I suggest multiple sources.College art programs vary widely from learning to open jars of glaze jars (thats about all you will learn) to a more hands on approach of making things from scratch like kilns and glazes and molds. Good programs are hard to find .Meanwhile while learning all you can across the spectrum of ceramics -spend endless hours learning to throw well. Start with easy to throw stoneware clay .Learn gas firing, electric firing ,raku firing ,all firing. Learn to make glazes fire kilns and all the while hone those throwing skills-the local art center is just a  start, as you will will need more knowledge in the long run.Work for a potter  or two if you can find that work.

Learn other skills like plumbing and electrical and building as those will make it easier on your later even if clay turns sour.These skills  all come in handy for potters.

Its not a simple life and its as lucrative as you want to make it.It just takes more time and work to get going than most want to put in to it.Its really not for everyone. If its your passion-its not work and you will go far. If you ask how long it will take well it may not be for you.

good luck

Mark

I have posted a lot of threads over the years on how to make it work-Use the search at the top of the main page to find posts .

Good luck

Edited by Mark C.

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Many or even most people who want a creative business (art, craft, writing), work at that initially alongside a job that provides them an income stream or a partner who provides a stable income stream.  Mark  in his post suggests learning electrical, plumbing, or building in case clay doesn't work out as a full-time career. I would say build skills in something else also, including if possible finishing that college degree, so you can work at something that gives you a paycheck while you work on your pottery.

Many younger people on this forum and elsewhere who aspire to making their art or craft their livelihoods hold another day job while they do this.  The job may be close to their field of primary interest or far . My sister, who would in her ideal world be a novelist, wrote a novel alongside being a technical writer. A good friend of mine paints and sells her work through shows and the occasional gallery but continues to work as an event planner. shawnhar above has a fulltime day job and his wife runs a shop.

One of the forum members, Dirty Roads,  hires multiple employees at various phases of her production.  She had a thread recently, probably in the business section, in which she talked about having a fair amount of turnover of employees.

If that sort of job has a lot of turnover, that suggests you might, at least in some parts of the country, get a job as part of a potter's production line if that interests you and if your health allows you to commit to that sort of responsibility. She is somewhere in the south. You can look her up. While that sounds like hard work, it may for awhile offer an inside view of what the business is like

Edited by Gabby

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I worked as a decorator and  in my studio with any spare time I might have.    I would show and sell my work at galleries.   I owned  a  Wallpaper,  Paint and Blinds retail store for 20 years.   I also have a degree in Ceramics,  my current plans are to start a online business.   The current sales tax situation has me questioning a on-line business.    I will have to wait and see  what happens with that issue.  You have probably noticed that most potters end up working another job until they get there finances in order.  I could get a teaching job easily,  there is such a shortage of teachers that anyone with a degree can apply in Kansas.    I was a dental lab technician for 5 years and have a lot of what I learned in my work.  Even decorating  gives you knowledge you use in clay such as balance, line of design and flow.    Denice

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You and half this boardB)

You don't mention how you are set financially. If you mean start making pots and eeking out a living right away, I would guess wishful thinking unless you really don't need much money for a few years. May be wrong, but not many do that. It really does take a long time to be able to make nice pots that people will buy in any quantity and mostly its $20-$100 pots so you have to sell a bunch to add up to a living. I think the most worn path is treat it like a second full/part time job and go at it. It will all work itself out if you are both any good at it and remain passionate about it. This board, the web and tons of books, workshops etc will provide all the help you need as you go.

I think my best advice would be to spend as much time as possible actually making pots. Learn to throw, slab building and study design. Figure out your own studio as quickly as you can because dabbing at it a few times a week at someone else's will put the process in slow mo and you will spend more time dreaming than doing. A studio can be put together with an old kiln, old wheel, dough pin and a few hundred bucks of tools, bats and such for cheap or decked out with 15-20k of brand new everything. The pots are the important thing. You're new and need a few thousand hours of work just to get to square one as a pro. think of anyone you know in a band, takes a lot of practice to get past just being OK..

I do wish you luck! I am twice your age and then some. I have been at it for going on a decade (with a long break the past year while moving to a new home/studio), quit the day job for a couple of years and tried, failed and now back to part time. Like you I want to get there eventually and will just keep at it.

And even if you never go pro its a fun hobby.        

Edited by Stephen

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One thing I would add is that pottery definitely becomes a passion and if you battle depression it might really be a great thing in your life regardless of whether you do it for a living or not. The deeper you get you will realize that there are just a ton of directions to explore and they are all both fun and involved.  

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I've never had a problem producing an income from pottery.   The first year was mostly learning.  Actually, it's one of the easiest businesses I've owned.   I don't explore much on the artistic side.     Started a full line jewelry business to go with the pottery.   I stick to free standing retail, since it's a business model I have done well with in the past.

Not sure how people go about making a purely creative pottery business.   I just find pieces that work and produce them over and over.  Experiment with color, but stick to 5 to 6 best selling colors.  This Christmas season, I will pare down to 2 to 4 colors.   Half my sales are November/December.

The economy is BOOMING.  I'm seeing 50% plus sales increases this year.   I don't expect that to extend to November & December, because my sales were close to cap last year.    In most businesses I've owned, you see exponential growth for a few years from tweaking.  After that, you set "plan" to about 10% growth.    Only way I saw exponential growth was going back to that old product/market paradigm.    New products/same customers always seemed to work well for me.  This year the jewelry did expand my customer base somewhat by appealing to the more local market.  Before, my business was 70% destination.  Now it's around 50%.

I think it may be more of a business than a profession.  I have seen numerous failures over the years and fail basically falls down to a few reasons:

- People can't produce enough to make a real living.

- The items they make are so STUPID or dull that almost no one will buy them.  They are not listening to the customer.    Some potters don't really have a realistic grip on their product.  If customers aren't buying, they are either at the wrong venue or the product is just wrong.    I recently walked through a wholesale show that I went to last year.   I had close to a 100% prediction on who would be back this year.   I saw new potters this year with the same lack luster products.  Probably because I come from a successful retail back ground, I KNOW what will sell and mostly what will not.   You've got to listen to what the customer is buying, not to just what they are saying. 

- Potters can't figure out the distribution for their product

-  They don't have the personal  finances to make it until the business cash flows.   And they under estimate the upfront financial investment.

I would start this part time, mostly as a hobby and hone your craft.     Pottery is a decent part time hobby business, as long as you can put the money up front to get in to it.   Recently someone came to me, wanting to know how to make an extra $500 a month.      I'm not sure I can recommend any business that can do this in the beginning.      Most people will tie up more than they profit. 

Edited by DirtRoads

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great post above. I am giving up on trying pottery from boxes approach. I know GEP and Mark (and plenty of others here I'm sure) have made it work but I just don't see it for most folks in the areas I've been in (NW, South). It's not just me, it really seems like all the pottery booths I interact with do light sales at all the shows I've done. We sell pots but once you back out expenses its just no where near enough for even a meager living.

Mark said early on he struggled to find the right mix of shows and shops. He made it work but by his own account it took many many years. Average/low-end local shows just don't produce anywhere near the sales you need and high end road shows are so hard to string together and the fees are so high that the risk is huge and you need 9-10 5k+ profit shows to make a living. With $6-700 booth fees and road cost you can be into a show a fifteen hundred/two grand. First 50-60 pots are just to cover being there.

If you're established then its the cost of doing business but on the way up a couple of misses and you're screwed. Its not just the money your out but the time of doing 2 three shows like that. I know the old pros will say patience and it will gradually increase but I just think for the average Joe you are just going to resign yourself to  just being a struggling hobbyist with no real chance of success.

I think a retail location is the better approach.

  

Edited by Stephen

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@Stephen, don't forget that @DirtRoads had many years of experience running successful retail operations before she opened her successful pottery retail store. It's another one of those things that takes years to learn the ropes. It's not automatically a "better alternative" to fairs. Dirtroads runs her business on private property where the local regulations allow her to do so. Most retail shop owners need to sign a commercial lease, which is far more expensive than art fair booth fees. You will probably need to sell a lot more pots before you break even. 

I know a potter near me who was doing well at art fairs, but opened a brick and mortar gallery in order to stabilize his income and lessen the labor. He closed the gallery after about a year. It turned out to be more work, and less profitable. He's back to doing shows only, and doing great. 

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12 hours ago, DirtRoads said:

- People can't produce enough to make a real living.

- The items they make are so STUPID or dull that almost no one will buy them.  They are not listening to the customer.    Some potters don't really have a realistic grip on their product. 

There is a big wholesale-retail show in my region. I still do the retail part, but haven't done wholesale for a few years. My former wholesale buyers will visit me in my retail booth (hoping I will change my mind). They are depressed by what they see in the wholesale show. They can't find new artists because the new ones are charging too much for work that isn't sellable anyways. There are a lot of naive voices out there telling young artists to overprice their work. And not enough voices telling them to figure out the real market value, or if it's marketable at all. And for some of them, the fact that they cannot produce their work fast enough for wholesaling makes them price their work higher! NO! That doesn't mean your work is worth more. 

For anyone who is starting out, I think the most common mistake is to think they can leap frog to the top. Anyone who is at the top knows it didn't happen that way. It was a slow climb up a mountain, one step at a time. 

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Hi GEP, ya know I can't argue that you and others make your living with shows. No doubt its largely due to your skill as a potter and your patience in developing your show line up. I personally have never ever seen a booth that was remotely running at a thousands of dollars pace. I've seen some busy booths but not that busy. I know they are there, you and mark and others attest to them but I am convinced that it is absolutely wishful thinking that MY path to making a living in this business is in that direction at least in any reasonable time frame. 

I have no idea if area of the country matters but Mark has shows from CA that are thousands of miles drive so he must have had to swing his net wide and do a lot of crap shows to end up so far away from home to make his line up work. It's a catch 22, to repeat that feat and find 10 shows that do 7-8 grand a pop, you can't have a full time job and do shows that far away, other than maybe a vacation week here and there and then even if you locate a couple that work for you its not like you can quit your job on the basis of to net 5k shows.  I guess you could then not do those two great shows you found and try some others. Also even when you find these great 8k shows absolutely no guarantee you will get back in consistently.  Mark talks of many years of starving and you have mentioned you had a business that you ran parallel to pottery.

Foe me and people like me I just don't see the show route as anything other than some extra dough here and there. They are a blast to do but that isn't how I will make it in this business. All business models are complicated and retail is no different but ya know pottery won't be in boxes 98% of the time so there's that ;-)

Now better pots will help no matter what route I take.    

 

Edited by Stephen

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12 minutes ago, Stephen said:

Now better pots will help no matter what route I take.    

I've never seen your work, so I'm just taking a stab here. This is what you should be focusing on, rather than trying different business models.

You recently tried to enter the wholesale market, and it didn't pan out for you. Those buyers are experts and you should trust the feedback you got. Which is that your pots do not meet their standards. Maybe you should invest in some honest and expert feedback on the appeal value of your work. @DirtRoads does consulting on this. Or you could take @shawnhar's brave example and post your work here so your forum friends can pick it apart. 

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Ya know I guess you can discount what I'm saying that way and better work is what I will always work toward.

No I didn't really try to break into the wholesale market. Just before I failed at finding any of these great shows, I sent a letter out to about 80 random gift shops in the Dallas area and no the response was not enough for me to continue without a day job. I do doubt very seriously if anyone with any particular pottery knowledge even saw my letter. But it was a shot :)  

I do respect your work and get that you make a living selling it at shows. My post isn't about my work though it's about my opinion on a good route to selling pottery in enough numbers to make a living. I don't think either your path or Marks will work for me and I seriously doubt it will work for very many people. 

My work aside, I just don't think making pottery and putting it in boxes while you hunt around for 9-10, 7-8k shows is a reasonable approach to making a living in pottery if you currently have a full time job and that even includes if you think 10-15 years is enough time to do so. Now if you have someone else paying the bills, have money or have a job or business with tremendous flexibility, maybe.

I will also say that if you have crappy pottery then probably none of the routes will work out very well. 

Edited by Stephen

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I am not looking for a career or a steady income, even a meager one. I don't want to (really can't) do  what has to be done in order to do shows/fairs, nor do I care for galleries with their outrageous cuts. I'd probably change my tune if I made pieces of a quality truly worthy of the gallery world, which could be priced so as not to lose money on the deal, but I don't reach that standard (and at over 70 I am not looking to travel the road to get there).  I also have a deep-seated aversion to the high-end business/social "art world" , having been exposed to it in the past.  Consigment feels like thrift-store-level thinking and I wouldn't even consider it. I like selling directly from my own website, and via word-of-mouth, but am finding that the current need for what is called "fusion marketing" , to generate substantial and steady traffic/interest, is way above my pay grade (translation: exceeds my energy level and I can't afford to purchase integrated services). I am blessed to be happy and motivated to hold my own, for my own satisfaction, and still make a dent in the cost of output.  

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I know starting your own retail (brick and mortar) for pottery is brutal-most fail. The overhead is just to high.I cannot count the failures.

Its the start up costs these days that can eat you alive. I started slow not with a plan. My 1s glaze scale was a piece of wood with two plywood squares nailed to that wood beam balanced on a nail with some known counter weights.A used wheel and a kiln made from salvaged bricks with homemade pipe burners.I did not order any stuff from any online store back then. No new gear at all. A few chemicals bought far away(12 hour drive RT)made going by to elsewhere .A few years later If I sold 250$ at a small event I was stoked.It was a different time.

I did any local event and slowly figured out which did better from trail and error. Still NO PLAN-just doing it.Meanwhile I was putting work in shops on consignment -tried a few co-op shops-I did what I had to to pay the bills.Just barely.

My big break was getting out go my county and doing SanFrancisco area fairs. That was about 12 years into the pottery for money thing-sell no plan.

I found the shows that I did well and those I did not.-no shortcuts even in these modern times. I think of it as the school of hard knocks-you have to do that to succeed .

Last weekend I did my 25th year at a show out of state(I no Longer even do SF shows)I was called an institution by my neighbors. Now what this means is I have been there so long doing it.

Learn what works where-develope a line of work-refine this line-keep at it -stick to it -you will have setbacks-stick it out.Be patient.

Keep cost down as much as you can from the start

Good luck-if it was easy everyone would be doing it

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Before even thinking about it as a career you should spend at least a year minimum with almost all your free time working on your craft. Running a business of any sort is difficult, particularly with no previous business training. I can't imagine trying to run a pottery business while learning to be a potter. Sounds like a nightmare. Pottery is probably one of the hardest hobbies I have ever had, and I have had a lot of hobbies :blink:. Still to this day I am unsure of how things will turn out and it can be a nightmare when you open a kiln full of things you were planning on making money with that are just not right.

With that being said it is also one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Creating something that people will use every day and that becomes a part of their daily routine is just fantastic. If you spend a lot of time on your craft and you excel, the selling part just comes naturally. People will want your stuff, and you will know when it is time to sell it. Don't listen anyone who says, hey you could sell this! Those people are morons, no offense those people. Only you know when your making a good product that is ready to sell, because it will be something that happens once you have enough experience. When I first started here, I posted videos of myself throwing, I posted pots cut in half, and I asked questions relentlessly. The people here are happy to help in any way possible as long as you are upfront about what your after and have a bit of skin in the game of learning, we will help. 

If your goal is to throw pots on the wheel, the best advice I can give on learning is to just get a wheel as fast as you can. If you have to work extra hours for a month to save up to buy a wheel, do it. That will just prove your commitment to how much you want to work as a potter. You won't really make any leaps and bounds learning to throw pots until you have your own wheel. You need 10+ hours a week to get to where you need to be to even make decent pieces. Just as an example I bought a wheel and 100#'s of clay and I threw the same exact same bowl shape for 6 months before I was happy with a rather crappy bowl at the time looking back now. But just being able to throw every single chance I had free time, and then ball those pots up and let them dry up a bit and re-wedge them gave me tons of confidence to know that I could be a potter.

Just an interesting story: 

I went to a talk by a master potter who had been throwing for 30+ years, the translator asked him a question from the audience which was, "Do you think you are very good at throwing those types of pots?" The master potter instantly shook his head no, as if he knew he still had a lot to learn.  He truly felt this way, you could see it on his face. I think the more you learn in this field the more you realize how much you don't know. 

Best of luck to you, and make sure you get on and post lots of questions as you learn, don't be shy, put all ego aside and focus on only learning.

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I fear the original questioner drifted away. He or she was hoping being a potter and making a modest living at it would be simple. I think the replies here showed pretty quickly that gratifying as the work is, simple would not be the word for making it work as a livelihood.

I doubt that "if you spend a lot of time on your craft and you excel, selling comes naturally." I think there are many fantastically talented and diligent people for whom selling is anything but natural, as well as people who are naturals at selling and sell things that are not of high quality.

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I guess I should probably be clear that I don't think art shows are a bad thing to do.  Finding enough art shows that will both sell $7-$8,000 worth of pots and let you come back every year is what I'm balking at as a workable plan if you currently have an average full time job and want to switch over to pottery. I'd look at everything else and just do shows for exposure and some extra dough.

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I think maybe not enough is said about small shows being good in the beginning, particularly if you have not experience running other businesses. They teach you lessons that can be scaled into larger shows, and as you find your sweet spot of what sells and to whom, they allow you to build up enough capital to grow your business. They allow you to learn about all the hats you have to wear, and about professionalism. They teach you how to be answerable to only yourself, how to build schedules, how to forecast stock needs and project income. They allow you to experiment with your branding and find what works, and what doesn't. If any given show doesn't work out, you are out the time and effort, definitely. But you don't loose your shirt, generally, on a $150 table, and even learning that something doesn't work is at least a step towards finding what does.

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