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Any new potters have a good first or 2nd year?

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Depends on what you mean by good...Last year I made a bunch of bowls for Christmas gifts. One of the recipients bought 13 bowls for giving this year. I sold some pieces at my summer veggie stand last summer. This year I made a bunch of bud vases for Christmas gifts and sold half of them. Since this is primarily a hobby, I'm making enough $$$ at this point to pay for my material expenses. I also made a donation of a trio of Horsehair Raku pots to a local PBS TV station for their annual art auction which retailed for $120 and they sold them for $350 and I got 6 minutes of air time for that. So, I would say that it was a successful year. Currently I am building inventory to sell at a couple of local farmer's markets this spring. Looking forward to that enterprise.

JohnnyK

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In the first year that I launched my pottery business, which I did part-time while still holding down my full-time day job, I grossed about $6000 in sales. I was pretty stoked. Of course that’s not anywhere close to a breadwinning income, but for the first year I consider it “good.”

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I had a great 1st year, (9 months). I met the majority of my personal goals, set up a tiny studio in my house, learned to fire my little 2.6cf kiln to good result with the few glazes I chose to start with, just reached the point where I can throw a "decent" mug in under 3 minutes, and I did $2,300 in sales. Half of that was the 4 weeks in December leading up to xmas at a small local farmer's market in a school gymnasium.

Overall I am very pleased with my progress and looking forward to 2019, but it's gonna be a slog, luckily my wife has decided to sell her business and help me pursue my dream of being poor. :D

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17 minutes ago, shawnhar said:

I had a great 1st year, (9 months). I met the majority of my personal goals, set up a tiny studio in my house, learned to fire my little 2.6cf kiln to good result with the few glazes I chose to start with, just reached the point where I can throw a "decent" mug in under 3 minutes, and I did $2,300 in sales. Half of that was the 4 weeks in December leading up to xmas at a small local farmer's market in a school gymnasium.

Overall I am very pleased with my progress and looking forward to 2019, but it's gonna be a slog, luckily my wife has decided to sell her business and help me pursue my dream of being poor. :D

I think this is a great account, particularly as you were so dejected at the beginning it seemed. 

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In the first year I posted any pottery income, I grossed about $3,100 from August to December, with December accounting for $2500 of that. The following year I did just under $14,000. I think I profited about $200, in part because I was still hauling pots back and forth to an arts centre and paying $50 per kiln load. We are a dual income household, and this year (year 4 for me) I've finally been able to start pulling a little money out of the business to use towards the household. I have never run a business before this one, so my learning curve has been steep, but I've enjoyed it immensely. 

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I haven't been selling anything this year, just making lots of gifts and stuff for home.  But from all the mugs, vases and jars I gave out as gifts, 8 people have asked me for commission work.  Still not comfortable selling my work, doesn't look good enough to me, and I'd hate to promise anything while I'm still firing with a weed burner.  But I have an electrician coming on Friday to give me a quote on installing a breaker and outlet for my electric kiln.  Once I have that puppy all dialed in i might start taking people up on their commission requests!  Hope to make a little money in 2019 to at least buy some new elements and to pay for my clay!

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Since what I have is essentially a self-indulgent hobby business (overarching a drive to be creative) , it's hard to quantify  "a good year", if that is specific to dollars and cents. I consider my first two years ('15-'16) as equal to one, due to setting up the studio and spacing out ceramic goals in a time frame that included lots of non-clay work/activities in the mix.  The first good year for me ('17)  meant having the cost of clay and supplies covered, generating money for other organizations through my donations to their events, turning out some work I feel good about, and becoming willing to adjust my future planning based on lessons learned.  Last year ('18) was the second good year--no added debt to equip/run the studio,  establishing stronger connectedness with others who work in clay (including this community), being of some assistance to the local potters guild, attracting some repeat customers, and possibly finding a way to a participate in some craft shows next year (in a way that works for me).  

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18 hours ago, liambesaw said:

I haven't been selling anything this year, just making lots of gifts and stuff for home.  But from all the mugs, vases and jars I gave out as gifts, 8 people have asked me for commission work.  Still not comfortable selling my work, doesn't look good enough to me, and I'd hate to promise anything while I'm still firing with a weed burner.  But I have an electrician coming on Friday to give me a quote on installing a breaker and outlet for my electric kiln.  Once I have that puppy all dialed in i might start taking people up on their commission requests!  Hope to make a little money in 2019 to at least buy some new elements and to pay for my clay!

Good luck with your new kiln!

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First year after graduating from school with my BFA I worked for a community ceramics studio and grossed $14,700....which wasnt cutting it. After taxes I made half of what was considered minimum poverty level at the time.

I thankfully connected with an older potter who needed help and we began to share studio space, etc. A year or so later I founded my business and my first year of being an self employed potter I grossed sales almost 5 times as what I made working for someone else. Granted, my expenses were nearly 55% of that, but gotta spend it to earn it, especially as a young business.

Since then, Ive increased my gross sales by about another 50-70% annually, and my expenses are going down each year by 5-10% where I hope they will bottom out around 30-40% of my gross sales. Successful as a first year startup? Yes. Doable without the help of my mentor/studio mate and spouse? No way.

Like others have stated, success is extremely personal; did you sell enough pots to pay for your materials, or sold enough to retire? Did you get into the local craft show, or accepted into the top 5 shows in the country. I know plenty of ceramic artists whose work is impeccable, but sell as much or less than what I do making well crafted "production pottery".

 One thing that is true about any business, especially startup businesses, even more so in the arts, and (IMO) particularly in ceramics, is that it isnt for the faint of heart. What we do is emotionally, physically, and financially difficult, even when you are technically and physically proficient, and even more so when you are still learning.

At the end of the day, are YOU happy?! That is the only success you should be concerned with. Unhappy artist, makes unhappy work!

One thing I have to constantly tell myself is to take baby steps, and one step at a time. Its easy for my to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work there is to running your own ceramics business!

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