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I'm considering full time production pottery


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#1 luhps

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 04:29 PM

So I'm getting ready to set up a full time production studio.
And I've calculated I'd currently need 16K a year to survive.
I know its an odd number, but i'm not going to post all my financial information as to why this is the number.

Can that be done? to me that comes out to about 350 a week in pottery sales.

I'm dedicated, young, and full of energy, but the reality of making that much a week seems daunting and possibly out of reach on what is essentially and artists salary.

I've considered a second part time job, but the minimal amount of income that it would pull in would seem almost not worth the effort and that taking a full time career would be the way to go and just push the pottery back to being a part time hobby.

Any advice?

#2 Chris Campbell

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:09 PM

That 16 K is net income?
Do-able ... but before any other comment could you clarify a few of your plans.

Questions :
Do you already have your studio and equipment?
Do you have a line of work that covers several price points?
Do you know if you want to do retail or wholesale?
Have you got your production process and glazes nailed down to the point of repeat ability?
Are you easily discouraged by setbacks or do you just get up and try again?

Would you mind posting images of some of your work in a grouping?

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#3 luhps

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:40 PM

Questions :
Do you already have your studio and equipment?
I do, everything from glaze chemicals, kiln, a few wheels, shelving, bats, everything but a slab roller and an extruder, but my work rarely requires those, so i'm not sure i'll even bother with them
Do you have a line of work that covers several price points?
I believe so, i'm still learning the pricing end of it, but i've actually created a few equations that seem to cover most everything. I need to run a few more time based tests to get conclusive answers as to weather my pricing is accurate, but it seems to put me in the realm of what most potters are doing, a few of my items are priced higher, a few lower.
Do you know if you want to do retail or wholesale?
Either works for me. I've started to approach various business. I'm fine with making mugs with labels to just trying to mass sell my mugs / bowls / etc
Have you got your production process and glazes nailed down to the point of repeat ability?
I believe so. All glazes I use are from simply repeatable formulas (i make mass batches so I dont have to make them often). My repeat ability seems to be fairly sufficient. It possibly needs some refinement, but that will only come with time, but I seem to have a nack for it without even using measuring tools.
Are you easily discouraged by setbacks or do you just get up and try again?
I'm not sure. I'm a very very calculating type person, the hardest part i'm dealing with for all this is the unknown. I can only calculate what I believe will be most of the outcomes for up to the next two years, and I don't like the fuzzy sight of it all.
Would you mind posting images of some of your work in a grouping?
Sure, i'll see what I can come up with. Right now working with a photographer for my site to make me some nice pictures, my photography skills are lacking. but I'm sure i could get something up.

#4 GEP

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:42 PM

If you only need 16K per year, then a pottery business is definitely doable. Knowing how to live frugally and knowing exactly how much money you need is really useful.

Having one part time job is a good idea. But adding another part time job would take too much time away from your studio.


In addition to all of Chris' questions, I would add, are you already selling your work, and does it sell well? If so, then that's a good sign. If not, then you should try it before you make the investment in a full-time studio.

Mea
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#5 Mark C.

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:03 PM

A few questions-as I think it very doable

About your outlets-are they set up and selling now (wholesale or retail or mix?)
Or is fairs or a mix? Or are you starting fresh

Can you keep at it ?do you think its work or is it fun??? I still cannot believe I get paid for this myself

Are you good with paperwork? This seems like an odd question but with time you will see what its about.

Do you live near a large market for sales?? City tourist area etc?

Mark
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#6 DirtRoads

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 10:29 PM

I set my bare minimum break even point at $24K in retail sales per year. In October I will have been doing this two years and I have added one full time employee and sales for 2012 have already exceeded $24k, but with an added employee expense. I project at least 60% of my sales will be in the 4th quarter. I moved to my retail/prodution/living location one year ago. Opened the retail shop last November.

It took me almost a year to start cash flowing. The business has been cash flowing since December 2011. (exception: I used my real estate account to buy a L&L kiln) I needed time to build a line and get a decent level of inventory. You have to allow for the time waiting for shows.

How long do you think it will take you to build an adequate level of inventory? I sell most (75%) of my wares in my small retail location, which is located on a major hwy between 2 small towns and is 9 miles from a casino. I have ebbs and flows in sales. At the end of May I did a complete assessment and found I had sold 80% of my yearly production, with 40% of my sales in the month of May. I am really trying to build inventory for 4th quarter, as sales for the pottery is following the same slaes pattern of retail gift stores. Last December I sold every piece I had and every piece I could make. I only sell retail, no wholesaling so I can push product to consumers at a wholesale price without the problem of alienating wholesale accounts.

The biggest limitation I face is production. I now have one full time worker and we put out a minimum of $2000 of finished product a week. (more if I doing a lot of jewelry) I use a cost based pricing strategy. I will share these numbers with you: (its a cut and paste and the table divisions didn't space. There are 3 sets of numbers for 3 different product categories.

Serve Ware, Larger Items------Ornaments/Crosses------ Jewelry
Cost of Clay 6%--- 2% ---- 1%
Cost of Glazing 10% --- 3% --- 1%
Electricity to run Kilns 5% 2% 1%
Labor Output Clay $400 Day $600 Day $900 Day
Glazing Output $500 Day $700 Day $900 Day
Assembly Time 0 ---- 0 ----$2500 Day (only on jewelry)
Finished Product $450/day $650/day $720/day
Labor Ratio to Output Value 17% 12% 10%(basically i have 4 days making, 1 day assembly)
Findings 0----0---- 5%
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
Gross Margin 38% 19% 18%

*Owners Profit (labor) 20%
**Profit Margin for Business 15%
***Operations Cost 20%
Advertising/Promotion (shows included) 5%

Net: 35-55% profit on gross production (35% serve ware, 55% ornaments/jewelry)

* If you don't have labor, this will even out as your production output will be less.
**A competitive profit margin is 15% in today's market (20% used to be the standard)
** Standard for production business ... I am seeing that this cost can be lower for a home based pottery business, around 10% or even lower. But I think this could be consumed on kiln expenses at a later date.

The biggest challenge for me is production. Sticking to quotas and getting out product. You have no time leverage at all. I've never had a "manufacturing" business before and don't particularly like the production limitation of inventory. I yearn for the old retail days when I could order more than I could pay for in 30 minutes. We are getting slightly faster and producing more. (glazing output has gone up to $600 a day now) I have no idea how these numbers stack up to industry averages because I have not seen any. I ran my retail stores completely on sales to cost ratios and I find these numbers acceptable. These numbers are the ones I calculated in May.

Good luck with your decision.

#7 luhps

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:33 AM

If you only need 16K per year, then a pottery business is definitely doable. Knowing how to live frugally and knowing exactly how much money you need is really useful.

Having one part time job is a good idea. But adding another part time job would take too much time away from your studio.


In addition to all of Chris' questions, I would add, are you already selling your work, and does it sell well? If so, then that's a good sign. If not, then you should try it before you make the investment in a full-time studio.

Mea


Yeah, I'm good with paperwork. I figure anyone who can do there own taxes can pretty much handle any paperwork after that.
If I could make more then 16K a year, I would be happy, but this is the least I can make to survive based on some outside incomes I have.
The 16k Is also based upon a big mockup of projected costs I will have that may prove to be to high (or low)

I do sell some of it, I haven't been pushing for the last 6 months since i've been in limbo about weather to go back into software engineering, or shoot for ceramic glory. The show's I have done, I seem to do very well at.
I seem to have a natural talent for vending my wares and chatting people up without making them feel like I'm forcing stuff down their neck

#8 luhps

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:37 AM

I set my bare minimum break even point at $24K in retail sales per year. In October I will have been doing this two years and I have added one full time employee and sales for 2012 have already exceeded $24k, but with an added employee expense. I project at least 60% of my sales will be in the 4th quarter. I moved to my retail/prodution/living location one year ago. Opened the retail shop last November.

It took me almost a year to start cash flowing. The business has been cash flowing since December 2011. (exception: I used my real estate account to buy a L&L kiln) I needed time to build a line and get a decent level of inventory. You have to allow for the time waiting for shows.

How long do you think it will take you to build an adequate level of inventory? I sell most (75%) of my wares in my small retail location, which is located on a major hwy between 2 small towns and is 9 miles from a casino. I have ebbs and flows in sales. At the end of May I did a complete assessment and found I had sold 80% of my yearly production, with 40% of my sales in the month of May. I am really trying to build inventory for 4th quarter, as sales for the pottery is following the same slaes pattern of retail gift stores. Last December I sold every piece I had and every piece I could make. I only sell retail, no wholesaling so I can push product to consumers at a wholesale price without the problem of alienating wholesale accounts.

The biggest limitation I face is production. I now have one full time worker and we put out a minimum of $2000 of finished product a week. (more if I doing a lot of jewelry) I use a cost based pricing strategy. I will share these numbers with you: (its a cut and paste and the table divisions didn't space. There are 3 sets of numbers for 3 different product categories.

Serve Ware, Larger Items------Ornaments/Crosses------ Jewelry
Cost of Clay 6%--- 2% ---- 1%
Cost of Glazing 10% --- 3% --- 1%
Electricity to run Kilns 5% 2% 1%
Labor Output Clay $400 Day $600 Day $900 Day
Glazing Output $500 Day $700 Day $900 Day
Assembly Time 0 ---- 0 ----$2500 Day (only on jewelry)
Finished Product $450/day $650/day $720/day
Labor Ratio to Output Value 17% 12% 10%(basically i have 4 days making, 1 day assembly)
Findings 0----0---- 5%
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
Gross Margin 38% 19% 18%

*Owners Profit (labor) 20%
**Profit Margin for Business 15%
***Operations Cost 20%
Advertising/Promotion (shows included) 5%

Net: 35-55% profit on gross production (35% serve ware, 55% ornaments/jewelry)

* If you don't have labor, this will even out as your production output will be less.
**A competitive profit margin is 15% in today's market (20% used to be the standard)
** Standard for production business ... I am seeing that this cost can be lower for a home based pottery business, around 10% or even lower. But I think this could be consumed on kiln expenses at a later date.

The biggest challenge for me is production. Sticking to quotas and getting out product. You have no time leverage at all. I've never had a "manufacturing" business before and don't particularly like the production limitation of inventory. I yearn for the old retail days when I could order more than I could pay for in 30 minutes. We are getting slightly faster and producing more. (glazing output has gone up to $600 a day now) I have no idea how these numbers stack up to industry averages because I have not seen any. I ran my retail stores completely on sales to cost ratios and I find these numbers acceptable. These numbers are the ones I calculated in May.

Good luck with your decision.


Thanks for the very detailed post!

This is some good information.

Seems like if I'm pushing for the right venues that I should be able to make my 16k, or even hit a 20k mark. I'm trying to keep my expectations low for the money end of things. I still study Software Engineering out of nervous habit incase things don't work out.
I may take on some simple part time job for the first year while I try and get things rolling along.

#9 GEP

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:04 AM

luhps,

I don't say things like this lightly, but based on everything I've heard from you so far, I think you should shoot for ceramics glory.

Of course no one can guarantee your success, but I think you're going to be fine no matter what happens. Therefore you have earned the right to go for it.

Mes
Mea Rhee
Good Elephant Pottery
http://www.goodelephant.com

#10 luhps

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 08:43 AM

luhps,

I don't say things like this lightly, but based on everything I've heard from you so far, I think you should shoot for ceramics glory.

Of course no one can guarantee your success, but I think you're going to be fine no matter what happens. Therefore you have earned the right to go for it.

Mes


I love the optimism.
I've been creating spreadsheets of projected monthly expenses vs what I would like vs what I can actually fill in at this time that calculates projected possibilities and outcomes.
I've got issues with not being able to predict the future i guess.

I'd like to think I've earned the right, I think the scariest part is that I've been a worker drone for so long, the prospect of having to do literally everything on my own is somewhat daunting.

What I really need is a partner in crime, alas, none seem to exist right now!

#11 Chris Campbell

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 11:07 AM

I hope you will post an image of several different pieces of your work ... Would love to see it.

Chris Campbell
Contemporary Fine Colored Porcelain
http://www.ccpottery.com/

https://www.facebook...88317932?ref=hl

TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#12 DirtRoads

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 09:35 PM

I would really consider those questions Mark C bought up.

Exactly where are you going to sell your wares?

When I was first getting into this, I compiled a list of possible shows. Look at craft versus art shows.

And the question of retailing versus wholesaling is big. I'm not a big fan of trying to do both, although a lot of potters seem to do both well. I do think wholesaling is more competitive and you have to be more precise in your output. Recently I worked for a friend potter at a wholesale show for Mississippi based exhibitors ... and there were something like 18 potters there (http://www.mississip...ttery_Stoneware). I do see quite a bit of pottery that is not priced to sell at a traditional 2X mark up because it does not really have the perceived value at the retail price. If you have retail stores or gallery accounts you can not sell below a 2x mark up without alienating those wholesale accounts. I like the quicker turn I get by pricing at less than retail prices. Also, I've found that consistency is not necessary. Pieces I would have discarded have sold at the marked price.

IMO it is a lot easier to skip the wholesaling for a period of time.

Look at all these people doing pottery full time. (just look at those 18 in Mississippi that wholesale and I know at least 20 more potters just from this state that weren't there). More people are going to make this a career. ONE of those people might as well be you :rolleyes:

One more point: I found I needed additional kilns. I fooled around with a few substandard models. Buying a good production model kiln was an essential move. So evaluate your kiln situation carefully.

On that $16K .... I think it is feasible to sell $16k a year (and more) but not necessarily feasible to sell $1200 every month. You will have to plan for ebbs and flows of cash flow. You will have to keep a supply of clay/glaze all the time, especially in your low sales months so you can stock pile for events or seasons. Even now I would not want to 100% depend on monthly sales to fund my business or myself. I can depend on yearly sales ... but not monthly.

#13 luhps

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 08:59 AM

I hope you will post an image of several different pieces of your work ... Would love to see it.



This is a recent img from a small venue I had, sorry it's so huge.
Posted Image

#14 DAY

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:17 AM


I hope you will post an image of several different pieces of your work ... Would love to see it.



This is a recent img from a small venue I had, sorry it's so huge.
Posted Image

Judging from the photo, your line is "nothing special". Please do not take that as a negative revue. There are literally thousands of potters out there making and selling- both retail and wholesale- similar pots/bowls/mugs. As is Target, Pier One, and too many other import venues!
There is a saying is advertising "Sell the sizzle, not the steak". If you can do that, usually at retail shows (you say you are good at interacting with the public), then it is quite possible to meet your financial goals.
After 25 years at this I still look forward to going to work each morning. I hope you can do the same!



#15 luhps

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:33 AM

I would really consider those questions Mark C bought up.

Exactly where are you going to sell your wares?

When I was first getting into this, I compiled a list of possible shows. Look at craft versus art shows.

And the question of retailing versus wholesaling is big. I'm not a big fan of trying to do both, although a lot of potters seem to do both well. I do think wholesaling is more competitive and you have to be more precise in your output. Recently I worked for a friend potter at a wholesale show for Mississippi based exhibitors ... and there were something like 18 potters there (http://www.mississip...ttery_Stoneware). I do see quite a bit of pottery that is not priced to sell at a traditional 2X mark up because it does not really have the perceived value at the retail price. If you have retail stores or gallery accounts you can not sell below a 2x mark up without alienating those wholesale accounts. I like the quicker turn I get by pricing at less than retail prices. Also, I've found that consistency is not necessary. Pieces I would have discarded have sold at the marked price.

IMO it is a lot easier to skip the wholesaling for a period of time.

Look at all these people doing pottery full time. (just look at those 18 in Mississippi that wholesale and I know at least 20 more potters just from this state that weren't there). More people are going to make this a career. ONE of those people might as well be you :rolleyes:

One more point: I found I needed additional kilns. I fooled around with a few substandard models. Buying a good production model kiln was an essential move. So evaluate your kiln situation carefully.

On that $16K .... I think it is feasible to sell $16k a year (and more) but not necessarily feasible to sell $1200 every month. You will have to plan for ebbs and flows of cash flow. You will have to keep a supply of clay/glaze all the time, especially in your low sales months so you can stock pile for events or seasons. Even now I would not want to 100% depend on monthly sales to fund my business or myself. I can depend on yearly sales ... but not monthly.


Yeah, I've realized I will eventually need some more kilns, or at least a larger one. From what I can tell in talking to others, the 16cuft oval kilns seem to do pretty well for production. But I need to have the inventory request for that before I purchase something like that.

#16 Chris Campbell

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 09:35 AM

You could meet your $$ goals with those wares.
One question though ... Is there a good reason for the casserole lids to be so high? It looks like a person would have to move their oven racks down in order to fit it in most ovens.

Chris Campbell
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http://www.ccpottery.com/

https://www.facebook...88317932?ref=hl

TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#17 luhps

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:53 PM

You could meet your $ goals with those wares.
One question though ... Is there a good reason for the casserole lids to be so high? It looks like a person would have to move their oven racks down in order to fit it in most ovens.


Those are just lidded jars. even without the lid, those would be to tall for an oven.

#18 luhps

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:56 PM



I hope you will post an image of several different pieces of your work ... Would love to see it.



This is a recent img from a small venue I had, sorry it's so huge.

Judging from the photo, your line is "nothing special". Please do not take that as a negative revue. There are literally thousands of potters out there making and selling- both retail and wholesale- similar pots/bowls/mugs. As is Target, Pier One, and too many other import venues!
There is a saying is advertising "Sell the sizzle, not the steak". If you can do that, usually at retail shows (you say you are good at interacting with the public), then it is quite possible to meet your financial goals.
After 25 years at this I still look forward to going to work each morning. I hope you can do the same!



lol, I know it's not really special, I don't do much to jazz it up. It's just two clays mixed in a few different ways to get some fun effects. I'm really shooting for the everyday wares venue. I'm not so into the art side as much as the functional side of thing.

#19 Mark C.

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 06:16 PM

Even thou you did not answer my markets question I still think if you only need 16K that will work out very easy for functional forms -thats all I make as well but I try to sell 6- 7 times that much each year.
Good luck with the new career in clay.
Mark
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#20 luhps

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:07 PM

Even thou you did not answer my markets question I still think if you only need 16K that will work out very easy for functional forms -thats all I make as well but I try to sell 6- 7 times that much each year.
Good luck with the new career in clay.
Mark


Sorry for not answering the Markets Question.

Right now I'm still looking into venues. I've a few regular one's, but not many at the moment. I've a few items I have down that are standard, but I'm still working on my full glaze pallet and have just barely figured out what I believe my mug handles are going to be. Experimentation seems to set me back a bit. Just unloaded a kiln of some test mug styles, don't like any of them. 20 mugs in the crapper. But it has narrowed my search!




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