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Selling Yunomi's

yunomi teabowl tea cup

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#1 phill

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 04:31 PM

I love making Yunomi's. I don't call them that, I call them cups. But the shape is the same idea, a tallish cup form with a trimmed foot. Anyway, I love sitting down and throwing tons of them off the hump. I also love trimming them. There seems to be something pure about this particular shape and I enjoy it immensely. 

 

My problem is this: people in Minnesota don't know what to do with it. They know what a mug is and will buy one blind. But it's like having to pull teeth to get people interested in cups. I use a cup WAY more than a mug. Yet I find that most people enjoy their glassware and don't intend to include any ceramics with their cold drink lineup. 

 

It seems like only coffee, tea, and hot cocoa can be drunk from a ceramic vessel. Anything cold like soda, milk, juice, or water, ceramic cups tend to fall by the wayside to glass. 

 

I have thought awhile on this and believe it may have something to do with people wanting very SPECIFIC uses for things--too general and people don't really want it. Think about all the one hit wonders like French butter dishes, apple bakers, ring keepers, etc. The general public seems to adore these things. But you show them a cup and they are like, what the *ell do I use this for? Perhaps the ingenuity of potters is biting me in the butt?

 

Does anyone else experience this? I am an educator at heart so I am always trying to teach people pottery things but no one seems to like ceramic yunomis/cups. It is always disheartening how many cups I have leftover from a sale. All my mugs go really fast, but I'm lucky to sell a few cups.

 

PS - this does not include the cup form that is similar to glassware, like something that I might call a "dinner cup." I am specifically talking about the traditional yunomi form. I will post a picture too so there is no confusion :)

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#2 JBaymore

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 04:36 PM

It is really all about selecting and cultivating your market segment.  I make and sell tons of yunoimi.  I have developed a market that understands and uses that form. 

 

If you make $100 cups with handles (call them mugs) ... and try to sell them in the wrong market (where the $20 cup is king)... they won't sell either.

 

So likely you have to move out of your current market... or spend years in education of the exsisting pool of people trying to get them to use them (possibly with limited results).

 

best,

 

.......................john

 

PS:  Plural of "yunomi" in Japanese is "yunomi". 


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#3 phill

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 05:14 PM

PS:  Plural of "yunomi" in Japanese is "yunomi". 

 

Haha thanks for the correction. 

 

Selecting my market...

Quite frankly John, I am accepting all areas of any market right now. I can't seem to find a plethora of any particular one market anywhere. 



#4 neilestrick

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 06:16 PM

I sell a ton of small cups. By small I mean 3/4 pounds of clay to make them. They are much smaller than my mugs, and I sell them pretty darn cheap because they only take me about 90 seconds to throw, 90 seconds to trim, and about the same to glaze. So I can make about a dozen per hour start to finish. They are fast and easy and mindless. I sell them at $10 each, which is way cheaper than I would normally sell anything for, but that makes $120 per hour! I originally started making them for kids, or as bathroom cups, but most people buy them for wine and other things. I often sell 30+ at an art fair, so they cover my booth fees. The price point makes it easy for people to buy them on a whim, and the often buy a matching mug or pitcher, or buy a whole set. It's a win-win situation in my opinion.

 

As for yunomi, one of the problems I often see is that people price them way too high. While potters understand that they hold a special place in Japanese culture (and I am in no way saying anything negative about that) Americans do not hold the same reverence for them. And therefore they should be priced accordingly. They are less work than a mug, so price them less than a mug. You cannot force cultural preferences. The yunomi you have in the picture is very nice, however to the average American it is just simple cup, with no cultural significance or history. Plus as you said it is not a familiar form. So if your mugs are $30, that cup will probably not sell for more than $20 unless you have a market that is educated about Japanese pottery.

 

Beyond that, like John said, you'll have to find your market. It's a difficult thing, and you often have to alter your production to satisfy the market you have. I have made lot of glazes and forms over the years that just didn't sell well, including yunomi, no matter how much I and my potter friends loved them. When you get right down to it, we are producing and selling a product, and so we must be very aware of our market. You can either educate them or cater to them. But if you do it right, you can do both, which they really love- something familiar that is still very unique and new and exciting. So try to figure out a way to make that yunomi appeal to Minnesotans. If I may be totally blunt, and I in no way mean that your pot is bad, there's nothing unique about that yunomi in the photo. It appears to be well made, balanced, etc, but there's nothing that makes it stand out from others. It's just simple white cup that would be nice to drink out of. In this world there needs to be something special about it for it to sell. Different glaze, different shape, etc. There's nothing about it that says YOU made it. Anyone could have made it. Make it scream PHILL!!! It doesn't have to be bright or splashy- subtle is good. But it has to be special.


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#5 GEP

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Posted 14 November 2013 - 10:16 PM

Agree completely with Neil, and my experience is the same. I sell a lot of cups with no handles, but they are called "cups" and they cost less than the mugs. Even at a national level show, like an ACC show or something of that ilk, you will sell a lot more cups than yunomi. Those are very educated crowds, but still an American audience.

Give it a shot phill, call them "tea cups" and price them lower than your mugs. You will have lots of takers.
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#6 Kohaku

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 10:03 AM

It is really all about selecting and cultivating your market segment.  I make and sell tons of yunoimi.  I have developed a market that understands and uses that form. 

 

Any chance you could expand on this a bit? Was there a pre-existing body public in your area that was interested in a Japanese aesthetic, and was it just a matter of making them aware of your work... or did you slowly (through marketing and outreach) teach people about what you did and why? How broad is the geographic base... and what percentage is 'distance-based' (people who primarily buy through internet connections?

 

I guess that's a set of inter-related-but-separate questions. I'm still working through this stuff myself, though, and really interested in other people's experiences.


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#7 JBaymore

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 11:46 AM

Kohaku,

 

The answer to most of your questions is ......."yes".

 

So... let's say you want to make... spark plugs.

 

Seems like a good idea. Maybe it is an easy item to sell. There are gazillions of cars on the road that need spark plugs.

 

But then you look a bit closer. And you discover that the specs for the spark plugs in different cars are often different. Hum..... what to do?

 

So you then see which cars share the same spark plug specifications. Your research shows that there are 10 major models from 2 major manufacturers that share specs. You then go further and research what part of the total automotive market share that those 10 models hold. You find out that it is 25% of that gazillion autos pool. Bingo.... likely very viable product.

 

More market research shows you what the sparkplug competition is charging for their sparkplugs. A cost analysis of you own operations tells you that you can produce the plugs for an amount that allows the business to "work". Even when slightly underselling the competition (price advantage). And you have an idea that produces something that the other sparkplug producers don't too (feature advantage). The unique feature of the sparkplugs you'll make gives a car a slightly better gas mileage (benefit advantage).

 

That analysis gives you a few thoughts on a potential marketing plan... you have three distinct avenues to pursue in selling the product. Good business.

 

Off you go to make those sparkplugs. And from your general viability research you know exactly where to market them as well.

 

Once that core endeavor is working, you can expand production into the second biggest market segment that you found for general sparkplugs. And so the business grows.

 

BUT.... now let's say that what you REALLY want to do is make sparkplugs for Ford Model T's. (Great analogy for handcrafted clay tablewares in this world.....particularly yunomi.) You have a passion for Ford Model T sparkplugs. They consume your every waking moment. Hum........ still sparkplugs... but a VERY different market.

 

The same kind of analysis has to happen. From that analysis you will find that the market is very small. Nothing like the first scenario. So you know that you will not sell a lot of units. So you know that the price per unit is going to have to be high to support the viable business.

 

But in your research you find that the people who own and drive these Model T's are FANATICS about their cars. And for the most part they are very affluent (have to be for this hobby). And they are willing to PAY for quality and such. You also find that they belong to things like antique auto clubsm subscribe to antique auto magazines, attend annual antique auto rallys, and so on. And you find that there are a small number of part suppliers that even are dedicated to sell to this small market.

 

Again... some business analysis takes place on production methods and costs... and you know what you have to charge per piece to make the business work. And you have already established whom you are going to sell to, you've established the "price sensiitivity" issue is not all that high, and you have found the core distribution network possibilities.

 

So you start attending those Model T conventions, you study the mechanics of the engines, you also go learn about cutting edge sparkplug technology (so that maybe you can add something the to original plugs that is better... but cannot be "seen" by the purists), and so on. You educate yourself to be an "expert" at Model T sparkplug design.You write some articles for those magazines. You lecture at some of those conventions.

 

In the process.... you meet a LOT of people who are tied into the serious Model T world. Like in any business endeavor... networking is THE most powerful tool there is. You've begun building your marketing base. And you have begin to build your credibility.

 

Off you go to make fewer sparkplugs than if you took the first possible sparkplug making route. And bnecause of your vast knowledge of the Model T culture, technical demands, and enthusiasts desires, you make KILLER Model T sparkplugs. In the end, you might just find that your overall gross income, your personal paycheck, and also your profits (if you dont understand the difference between thos three things..... take a class) are higher even though the total volume sold is WAY is lower.

 

 

This is all really "Business 101" stuff. Everyone who wants to work for themselves (including artists) likely should take at least one basic business class that covers stuff like production analysis, liability, insurance, accounting, taxes, marketing, employees, law, and so on.

 

best,

 

...............john

 

PS: I've been studying Japanese ceramics, art, history, culture, language, martial arts, and so on since the late 60's. I'm a late career full time artist. So... I make and sell a lot of yunomi by now. :)


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#8 Kohaku

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 12:10 PM

That was a lot more.... lyrical... than I had any right to expect! (I'm fighting the urge to head off to my studio and crank out a bunch of auto parts).

 

Your right that it's all material taught in Business/Econ 101... but I still find that the real-world applications are challenging. For instance- I'm convinced that 'Raku water features with wildlife imagery' (like designer Model T spark plugs) are an item with a definable niche market... but I'm not quite there in terms of zeroing in on the exact locus.

 

Thanks a ton for the ideas... that was an amazingly enjoyable read, given the limited time you must have had to crank it out!


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#9 phill

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 03:04 PM

Agree completely with Neil, and my experience is the same. I sell a lot of cups with no handles, but they are called "cups" and they cost less than the mugs. Even at a national level show, like an ACC show or something of that ilk, you will sell a lot more cups than yunomi. Those are very educated crowds, but still an American audience.

Give it a shot phill, call them "tea cups" and price them lower than your mugs. You will have lots of takers.

 

So....things seem to have gotten twisted a bit from my original post, which means I did a bad job describing and probably left out some information.

 

I call my yunomi "cups." I don't call them Yunomi. I titled the post Yunomi because I was trying to market to all of you so that you might be interested in reading this post. I also used the word yunomi because I make my cups in the same form as what you would see in your mind's eye as a typical yunomi. Yunomi, cup, whatever, this is really beside the point. 

 

My main point is that I can't sell this form very well. I price them around $10-12. I always think, man these should fly off my shelves. My mugs are generally $15. Mugs are much less fun to make, and I might price them higher this year. 

 

Perhaps pricing has something to do with my work, but I have been up and down the scale to the very extremes and nothing seems to change or make a difference. 



#10 phill

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 03:18 PM

If I may be totally blunt

 

please do

 

 

 

 and I in no way mean that your pot is bad, there's nothing unique about that yunomi in the photo. It appears to be well made, balanced, etc, but there's nothing that makes it stand out from others. It's just simple white cup that would be nice to drink out of. In this world there needs to be something special about it for it to sell. Different glaze, different shape, etc. There's nothing about it that says YOU made it. Anyone could have made it. Make it scream PHILL!!! It doesn't have to be bright or splashy- subtle is good. But it has to be special.

 

wow I love it! thanks for a great critique. I will think about this in the back of my head as I make.

 

a bit where I am coming from:

I think that part of the makeup of an artist is going against mainstream. This isn't necessary or true in every single artist, but I know myself and know that I am always trying to "enlighten" people and teach them other ways, ideas, points, etc. Right now mainstream seems to be, in my opinion, very individualistic and sometimes downright zainy. There is so much art being produced that I don't think people know where to go anymore. Any direction seems to have been lost during/after post-modernism in my mind. Everyone wants a voice and an opinion, and to be validated for it. I think this is hogwash and unwarranted, I think we don't deserve nearly as much. I like making quieter pots as those seem to speak to me over a longer period of time than something I really try to make my own with a splash of this and a splash of that. I take a lot of ques from traditional Japanese and Korean pottery and some of their ideals. 

 

...just some thoughts to your comment, Neil. Thanks for the guts to critique. I very much appreciate it!



#11 neilestrick

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 03:49 PM

Quiet pots are the best. And my customers love quiet pots. Subtle is refreshing when you're at an art fair filled with bright gaudy stuff. But don't confuse quiet with plain or bland. There has to be something in the details that makes the pot stand out from the rest. They have to find something new in it every day when they look at it.

 

My current perspective about selling comes from art fairs, which is where I now sell the greatest percentage of my work. I totally agree that there is a lot of zany crap that shouldn't be justified with a place in the shows. Just because it is unique doesn't mean it's good art. Or even good craft. But there will always be customers that flock to that stuff, thinking that different, or whimsical, or kitchy is automatically good. Heck, if it got into the fair it must be good art, right? But most people, when it comes to pots, still appreciate a reference to traditional forms, be they Japanese, Korean, Chinese, English, American or whatever. And they may not have a clue what the reference is, they just find it familiar and comfortable. For me, the key for sales is to make it familiar, but still unique.

 

Experiment with the size of your cups. I'm finding more and more people don't want the gigantic mugs they were demanding  a couple of years ago. Even if it gets away from the size that a traditional yunomi would be, you'd at least still essentially be making yunomi and doing what yo love. Often, being a purist doesn't pay. You've got to find that compromise between making what you want to make and making what sells. If I had my way I'd make nothing but teapots. But they are a hard sell to a culture of coffee drinkers, and tea drinkers who are always in a hurry. I can sell one or two at every show, but they wouldn't keep me in business.


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#12 JBaymore

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 05:00 PM

Speaking to Neil's point of :

 

They have to find something new in it every day when they look at it.

 

I just posted this image of the nature of a lot of the yunomi I make: http://community.cer...ite-inclusions/

 

They are "one of a kind" and they are not inexpensive.

 

best,

 

..................john


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#13 neilestrick

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 05:49 PM

Speaking to Neil's point of :

 

They have to find something new in it every day when they look at it.

 

I just posted this image of the nature of a lot of the yunomi I make: http://community.cer...ite-inclusions/

 

They are "one of a kind" and they are not inexpensive.

 

best,

 

..................john

 

Beautiful, John! I can see why those are not inexpensive- you've got multiple labor intensive firings. And you've also got the right place to sell them at that price.


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#14 phill

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 10:14 AM

There has to be something in the details that makes the pot stand out from the rest. They have to find something new in it every day when they look at it.

 

For me, the key for sales is to make it familiar, but still unique.

 

Experiment with the size of your cups. I'm finding more and more people don't want the gigantic mugs they were demanding  a couple of years ago.

 

Often, being a purist doesn't pay. You've got to find that compromise between making what you want to make and making what sells.

 

Thanks for all the advice Neil! I appreciate it!



#15 phill

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 10:16 AM

Nice yunomi John. I was wondering how potters get those granite shards to melt down. 



#16 JBaymore

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 10:44 AM

Nice yunomi John. I was wondering how potters get those granite shards to melt down. 

 

Thanks.  Long firings held at high tempertures or multiple firings.  Or both.

 

I was inspired to try this idea by a young potter I met on the outskirts of Mashiko in Japan back in the last decade or so.  His pieces are more rocks than clay.  Some are literally translucent where the rocks have melted.  He is almost a glass artist ;) .  Beautiful wabi-sabi type materiality-related work. All about fire and clay and the genesis of the object.  Right where I "live".

 

So I started seeing how much of my local granite I could get into the body mix.  Still haven't maxed it out yet.  It is a bear to work with though.  High failure rate.  They are either good or trash.

 

best,

 

.......................john


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#17 JBaymore

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Posted 16 November 2013 - 10:45 AM

Thank you, Neil.

 

best,

 

.......................john


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#18 Bob Coyle

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Posted 17 November 2013 - 11:55 AM

Nothing I make is functional,  and so people buy for just what looks good to them. Many have told me they buy for gifts. My incised electroformed pots are a labor intensive undertaking and I sell most for less than $100. Lately I have been playing around doing a fake pit fire on bisked pots... kinda fun and easy. People seem to really go nuts over them especially since I am selling them for $20-30.

 

It sounds like a lot of you potters sell low end and high end ceramics in the same show. The feeling I get ... especially if the customer is buying a gift... is that they will buy the cheap stuff rather than the better pieces,  since they both look good to the average buyer. 

 

I guess I am selling apples verses oranges like Phil's Yunomi's. versis his mugs.

 

When you are doing your marketing do you take this into account?  Do you think I should just stick with one form of ceramics?



#19 Wyndham

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Posted 17 November 2013 - 02:29 PM

The public sometimes needs to be told what function you made the piece for. I make Brie baker, that hold a small round of Brie cheese.One can wrap the Brie with pastry dough and also a compote of fruit & nuts. So I make a little card describing what the different recipes and uses for the baker. It works well for cornbread, a small quiche and other dishes. The customers like the fact they can give this as a gift w/recipes .

 

Why not explain that your "cup" works fine for a winter chili or Moose stew or just some chicken soup on a cold winters day. A little card you can print out on your computer with your name and address can also help sell more "Cups". yunomi, just trying to help,

Wyndham



#20 JBaymore

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Posted 17 November 2013 - 03:00 PM

Many a yunomi has been sold as a "Bourbon Bowl".  ;)

 

best,

 

....................john


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