Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
scottiebie

How Many Exclusively Make A Living?

Recommended Posts

I don’t think the number has ever been counted, or can be counted. My best guess is there are a few hundred of us. This is based on the number of potters I see at art fairs that I know are doing it full-time and exclusively, extrapolated out for the whole US. 

It is my opinion that those who have day jobs, and run an art business as a part-time business, are still legitimate professional artists. Having a day job is how MOST of the professional art world works. As long as you are turning a profit, enough to sustain your business as long as you want, then you are a professional artist.

Edited by GEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd say over half of the full time artists I know personally were independently wealthy before going full time.  That's the way to go! Might be a symptom of my area though, a lot of gazillionaires live here.  The amazing thing is, they make a lot of money from their art too, so it's not like they needed to be rich to start.

I think having a good, well thought out plan is imperative for success in any business endeavor, switching to full time you're placing your livelihood in your hands and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm really glad I didn't find clay until I was well into my 30s.  I would have thought it was perfectly ok to not make more than 20k a year, no health insurance, no savings.  Pottery is an excellent hobby that more than pays for itself.  Reinvesting the clay sales while working a regular job, buying property, 401k, SS benefits, makes for a realistic full time effort at the end of your life.  Any time we are talking about people, there will be exceptions and I'm sure there are people who started with nothing but their talent and built an empire.  Pottery isn't a studio and some brushes and paints.  It's an industrial facility that doesn't build itself.  Further, until you penetrate the "your name as part of the value" world, the returns are limited, especially for functional ceramics.  I just don't see how you can spin it up on it's own.  Plus, if you do, you'll probably be controlled by the market you build and have no real room for creativity or fun.

Change my mind.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
30 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

I'm really glad I didn't find clay until I was well into my 30s.  I would have thought it was perfectly ok to not make more than 20k a year, no health insurance, no savings.  Pottery is an excellent hobby that more than pays for itself.  Reinvesting the clay sales while working a regular job, buying property, 401k, SS benefits, makes for a realistic full time effort at the end of your life.  Any time we are talking about people, there will be exceptions and I'm sure there are people who started with nothing but their talent and built an empire.  Pottery isn't a studio and some brushes and paints.  It's an industrial facility that doesn't build itself.  Further, until you penetrate the "your name as part of the value" world, the returns are limited, especially for functional ceramics.  I just don't see how you can spin it up on it's own.  Plus, if you do, you'll probably be controlled by the market you build and have no real room for creativity or fun.

Change my mind.

 

Can't change your mind, only because you have to learn to throw before you can throw pots to sell, and that is a hobby.  

The only exception to that is probably someone who is not a Potter, but hires experienced potters to make a specific product line.  That's more business and less Potter though.

I'm working on my pottery wad and when I have enough capital to invest in myself I will buy a larger home with property to expand.  Once I get there I will not make dentures anymore.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are trying to figure out if its possible to earn a living making pots, the answer is yes. There are many people making a living within the realm of pottery and a lot of people that make and sell enough pots to make what they need to live on. Now the tricky part is figuring out where you fit in and if you can make a living doing it. My partner is full time and I'm part time with a good day job. works for us.

Are you already into pottery or are you just checking it out?  

Edited by Stephen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, CactusPots said:

Further, until you penetrate the "your name as part of the value" world, the returns are limited, especially for functional ceramics. 

I don’t think functional potters need to be famous. What matters is building a good reputation among the customers in your immediate sphere. This involves good design, making pieces that function as they should and last through daily use, providing reliable customer service, etc. This is how you turn customers into repeat customers, and how to get these customers to tell all their friends about how much they enjoy using your pottery. 

 

2 hours ago, CactusPots said:

Plus, if you do, you'll probably be controlled by the market you build and have no real room for creativity or fun.

My current line consists of about 40 different designs, Although most of my time is spent producing these designs, whenever I have a new idea I want to explore, I can always make time for that. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Blue Cross health insurance is $830 a month.  I've been in different businesses for 30 plus years now and have never been w/o health insurance.     I've only had the pottery business 8 years, but it totally pays my health insurance and all the living expenses for me and about 30 animals.   As for living on $20K a year,  I spend more than $20K a year on animals and donations to animal causes.    Now, I do have a jewelry business along with my pottery business.    But just because I am more interested in jewelry than pottery.  I could make it totally just on the pottery, but would not have as many employees.

It's not the "pottery" that does people in.   They can't handle the business end.    Pottery can be a fairly profitable business.     I've  watched people flounder in and out of specialty retail store businesses for 30 years now.      And yes, most are epic fails.   But, someone is going to be successful in a pottery business.   It's not even that difficult.

Oh yes, I'm getting ready to put in another 40 foot Graceland building for more retail space.  (Damn it, wish I had known this was going to be as successful as it has been or I would have put in a nice building from the start ... but no, this is a business that has grown from a single 24 foot building in 8 years).   @dhPotterhas actually been to my little business, so he can verify that it is actually here and I do have the employees.

Don't lump everyone into the "epic fail" category because you can't do it.

Edited by DirtRoads

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/31/2019 at 11:24 AM, scottiebie said:

What's the percentage............etc.

Knowing the percent of FT potters selling pots for their sole income tells you exactly nothing.  That does not tell you anything about the people's quality of life,  income-related levels of personal satisfaction,  whether they have a new Mercedes they can count on, or an old Chevy Nova that craps out twice a month. It tells you nothing about the standard of living.  As a group does that sole income provide for good health care or does a percent of the percent go without? Does making an income from selling pottery assure that they have excellent dental care or is there a high incidence of no dental care at all.  Percentages tell you nothing useful about all the other variables of personal situations.  Even if a numeric value could be determined with any validity, that would still not shed any meaningful light on your personal odds of "making it".   I'm not being critical or trying to be funny--just interested in what it is you are getting at. So the question, to my mind, is what is the real question?  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aye that LeeU!

...an', just pots - as in pottery only - or include related good and/or services, e.g. instruction/classes, firing other's work, publishing books, speaking engagements, workshops, etc.?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I make enough from my work to cover my expenses.  I tried making a living off of my work years ago but it didn't work out.    I  didn't enjoy working with the clay very much when it became a real job.  I was making money but I didn't like  making the production functional pottery.    I prefer clay to be my creative outlet.  Denice

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, Denice said:

I make enough from my work to cover my expenses.  I tried making a living off of my work years ago but it didn't work out.    I  didn't enjoy working with the clay very much when it became a real job.  I was making money but I didn't like  making the production functional pottery.    I prefer clay to be my creative outlet.  Denice

I can relate to this sentiment. I still enjoy clay, but it is a job and I no longer seek it out as a creative outlet anymore. I find other ways to satisfy my creative needs now. I have been blessed to make a decent living off of clay but I no longer do it for pleasure, it is the way I make a living now. The best things are the hours worked and being your own boss. After 25 years  I've  got it down to a well oiled machine leaving my afternoons free to do as I please. I'm trying to find someone to take over for me now but it will hard to transition to a real job or just retirement after what I'm used to. 

Edited by ErikL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, LeeU said:

Knowing the percent of FT potters selling pots for their sole income tells you exactly nothing.  That does not tell you anything about the people's quality of life,  income-related levels of personal satisfaction,  whether they have a new Mercedes they can count on, or an old Chevy Nova that craps out twice a month. It tells you nothing about the standard of living.  As a group does that sole income provide for good health care or does a percent of the percent go without? Does making an income from selling pottery assure that they have excellent dental care or is there a high incidence of no dental care at all.  Percentages tell you nothing useful about all the other variables of personal situations.  Even if a numeric value could be determined with any validity, that would still not shed any meaningful light on your personal odds of "making it".   I'm not being critical or trying to be funny--just interested in what it is you are getting at. So the question, to my mind, is what is the real question?  :)

This type of speculation also isn’t very useful. The useful statistic is that among people who try to launch a full-time business, 80% will call it quits within five years. These are businesses of all types, not just art businesses or pottery businesses. So most businesses will struggle and fail. But for those who can makes things work past the five year point, and then some, are probably not struggling or poor or unhappy. 

Besides, successful small business owners are unlikely to buy flashy cars like a Mercedes, or an unreliable car like a Chevy Nova. We buy reliable and affordable cars. Read The Millionaire Next Door. 

Edited by GEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ya know I think you missed LeeU's point. I agree with her that the stat is not useful because of all the reasons she said. yes it is a business but it is also a passion to many who do it and that makes a difference in how its approached and the sacrifices and time demands that an all-in  potter might put up with may well be much different than businesses like plumbing, air conditioning or Real Estate etc. I failed at trying to go full time but I was willing to go to much more of an extreme trying to salvage it than any other business I can think of. If driving a Nova was all it would have taken I be a Nova driving potter today B)

  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the businesses that make up the 80% failure rate are restaurants, and plenty of them are launched with passion rather than business smarts. And plenty of them push themselves past the point when they should have stopped. Potters and artists are not special in this regard. 

And you misunderstood my point about cars. Successful business owners do NOT drive Novas. And your choice of car alone would not have saved your business. The point is that someone who picks a reliable and affordable car probably applies good money skills to all of their important decisions. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ha ha, yeah cars are a favorite comp but just don't agree with it.  I was being sarcastic but actually I know a very successful person with extreme wealth that drives a a beat up 1992 quarter ton  pick and I know many instances of successful small business owners who drive very nice and expensive cars because they like to drive them and they also make brilliant business decisions but your point is a good one in that a good understanding of finances obviously enhance business decisions . A few business courses will help as well because beyond being frugal and understanding financials, marketing, project management, inventory control etc will come into play.

There are a lot of reasons businesses, any business, succeeds or fails and LeeU's point is knowing how many potters make all their income from pottery is pretty useless and I agree. The amount needed is extremely subjective and the range of people, needs and yes business acumen are so varied that the number would yield nothing meaningful for what I believe the OP was really asking, which is what are my chances of success at making a living in pottery. LeeU and I both more or less asked the same thing, "define success". I think the question is spot on. Someone wanting to make their living making pots will have to thoroughly evaluate THIER circumstances and make some decisions on what success will look like for them and then come up with a winning formula to get there. 

My partner makes all of her income from making pottery. Also her business is over 10 years but that information does not seem useful to anyone trying to determine if this business will work for them other than to say she does. It's real easy to look at a business failure as a reflection of business ability, I mean they failed right? But 30 years of experience tells me that just is often not remotely the case. I will agree it is sometimes the reason but it is far, far from being the most common reason. Also the flip side of this debate is to define failure. A kid out of school living at home can withstand a longer runway than someone with a family and all that entails.

  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To me, being successful with pottery would be a range from barely scraping by to 100,000 a year.  If I was confident I could hit anywhere in that range I would pull the trigger in an instant. I will find out more this winter and coming year, as i plan to actually do shows and add that to my schedule.  Right now, online/word of mouth sales are few and far between but pay for my clay.  

I wonder what the success rate for getting a small business loan is on potters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, liambesaw said:

To me, being successful with pottery would be a range from barely scraping by to 100,000 a year.  If I was confident I could hit anywhere in that range I would pull the trigger in an instant. I will find out more this winter and coming year, as i plan to actually do shows and add that to my schedule.  Right now, online/word of mouth sales are few and far between but pay for my clay.  

I wonder what the success rate for getting a small business loan is on potters.

I wish you much success! Many people here seem to have a grasp on what it takes to succeed with clay. Pick their brains for as much info as they are willing to give. 

I don't know about small business loans, but you might approach your bank for a line of credit now while you still make good money and then use it as needed to help your pottery business? Just a thought...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, liambesaw said:

I wonder what the success rate for getting a small business loan is on potters.

ya know I bet it is pretty much zero. I'd recommend forget debt and bootstrap your business. Debt is a really bad thing for most businesses when starting out. There is smart debt but I can't imagine it would apply to an early stage art business. When the part time business is at the scraping by level you can start thinking how full time will kick it forward. Debt really should be for specific investment with a planned return on investment not getting off the ground, such as an equipment upgrade that will then increase productivity, that sort of thing. Just my two cents. 

Edited by Stephen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think a potter should stay out of debt. Work with what you can afford . As you grow so wiill the budget . The thing about pottery full time is starting out your income is all over the board-did the wholesale order come in or the show was flop. Until you get established and that will take more years than most want to put in. I have seen many on this board come and go and thats been in only 6 years trying to make it in clay. I have personally known a few potters locally who tried and gave up as well.Its not for most.

As in most small businesses the failurer rate is very high  as Mea said and in clay I think its higher.

I also think most think they can make what they want and money will follow and thats just not true. If I made solely what I like I'd be  flipping burgers today instead of clay work.

I make what others want and am ok with that-finding a path that fits you is the hardest part.I make salt pots for fun and not for sale and only if I;'m all done with production work.

Clay can be a job and clay can be fun and clay can be hard.

Part of me  is still is in awe that folks pay me to be in the studio-it just  took a very long time to be super successful at this for me.

Edited by Mark C.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

 

 

I also think most think they can make what they want and money will follow and thats just not true. If I made solely what I like I'd be  flipping burgers today instead of clay work.

I make what other want and am ok with that-finding a path that fits you is the hardest part.I make salt pots for fun and not for sale and only if I;'m all done with production work.

Clay can be a job and clay can be fun and clay can be hard

I couldn't have said it better! I believe that's the most important part to be successful. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, Stephen said:

ya know I bet it is pretty much zero. I'd recommend forget debt and bootstrap your business. Debt is a really bad thing for most businesses when starting out. There is smart debt but I can't imagine it would apply to an early stage art business. When the part time business is at the scraping by level you can start thinking how full time will kick it forward. Debt really should be for specific investment with a planned return on investment not getting off the ground, such as an equipment upgrade that will then increase productivity, that sort of thing. Just my two cents. 

Yeah, my point with that question is that a bank would laugh you right out to the curb because they know they'd never see that money again, haha.  Just emphasizing the toughness of the pottery game.  

Then you see people like piton pottery, John Schmitt and Matthew Kelley all building new studios and you think holy cow, off of pottery?!  But no, their real jobs funding it, they just don't mention that part haha

So I need to get me a real job so I can fully fund a studio, haha

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't feel that way if I were you. There are plenty of people making a living in pottery so it's there for whatever you want it to be. Starting part time seems to make a lot sense if money is an issue. If your pots are not selling in any numbers working 3-4 hours a day there's no reason to believe they will sell that much better if you are working 8=10. Part time gives you time to work through the process and figure out what will work for you. Shows, online, selling studio time, wholesale, consignment,retail are all area to explore and none of them require you be full time, although selling studio time might be tricky part time.   

What do you mean fully fund a studio? Are you planning to rent a place or a home studio?

Edited by Stephen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.