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BluEyeDirt

Advice For Planning A Life/career In Clay

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Hello and thank you for your time.

 

To begin, I'm currently a student at a community collage or for many of you 'junior college' somewhere in the US. But I am quickly reaching the end of my time there in the 'shallows' of my higher education and so must declare a major then transfer to a 4 year college. My problem stands not in my devotion to learning ceramics but my parents attitude towards the whole Bfa. They think, both having extremely practical rolleyes.gif careers Civil Engineer and Tech. Writer, this path leads without a doubt to my destitution and a painful life of a failed artist.

 

Now, to be clear---- I am not planning on a cake walk to my first million dollars as potter/ceramist but I can not resign myself to a life of waking to a dismal florescent-lit existence pigeon-holed behind a desk with my greatest professional hope being if the office repeals it's no live plants rules when it comes to our cubical rights.

 

So, my question for you all is- What do you suggest to a young person desirous of becoming a potter/ceramist when he is drawing up his life plans?

 

I need

-Success stories

-routes in education

-ideas for professional development

-encouragement?

 

 

I know I am not alone in my need, this topic may help the new wave of mudlovers pass more successfully into the coming decades.

 

 

tongue.gif

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Back in the day, my parents also refused to fund my art college dream so I ended up getting

a business education ... I got one year of advertising which was as close as I could get to art.

I worked in cubes for ten years ... did my art at night and on weekends.

 

I have been a full time studio potter for twenty years ... But, I also have a husband with the real

job with health insurance and retirement benefits. My studio is self supporting but realistically if I

were alone in this ... It would not be fun.

 

Full time self supporting potters work harder and keep longer hours than almost anyone else.

They have to be at it 24/7 ... If you are not making, you are glazing & firing. Spare time spent marketing,

shipping and keeping up your Internet sites. If you are lucky and can get a teaching job with your

Mfa ... Forget the Bfa ... Then you will spend more precious hours on that as well.

 

My business experience came in very handy for running my business. I also lecture on the Business

Aspects of pottery. So for me, I more or less made it work out.

 

What I did miss out on was all the theory and art history ... The nuts and bolts of design and concepts.

Yes, and the group dynamics of being 20 and loving what I was doing.

Ironically, in later years both my parents were very proud of my artistic success. Go figure!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I had thought of getting my degree in something 'more in demand,' like business or what have you but it have to be something other people's lives wouldn't depend on because I'll be awfully detractedbiggrin.gif.

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From my experience working as a professional designer and a potter, and from teaching in college level design programs, artists who DON'T have their parents approval are more likely to succeed. To succeed as an artist of any stripe, you need a solid foundation of belief in yourself. And you need to be a fighter. Figuring out how to pursue your goals without your parents support is good training.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, the kids whose parents are pushing them into a creative career, and fully enabling them with financial support and lots of undeserved compliments, have no chance. I've seen it many times!

 

Having said that, when a young adult declares that they want a non-conformist self-employed lifestyle, parents have the legitimate right to be concerned. It's very risky, and your chances of success are much smaller compared to more traditional career paths. You need to go forward with a realistic sense of the risks involved.

 

I also have parents who refused to pay for college when I declared I wanted to study art and design. So I took a free ride at a public university and studied design. Lucky for me perhaps that I didn't discover clay until after college, so I didn't get distracted.

 

Just like Chris, I worked full-time at my other career, while developing my pottery life in my spare time. Yes, sometimes it was like having two full-time jobs, but having a "mainstream" professional career has been nothing but beneficial to my pottery work. I think my professional skills, especially good communication skills, are better than most studio artists. This is the downfall of many aspiring artists, a lack of people skills. And don't discount the importance of a comfortable financial situation. Struggling with money is pure hell. I see lots of artists who fall short there too. My "other job" allowed me to afford lots the pottery education over the years, and while I was developing my work I never had to make artistic decisions based on financial pressure.

 

So that would be my recommendation... go for it! But also make plans for how you will support yourself until your establish your clay career. Your life will involve some form of cubicle-like environment, so choose one that you can live with.

 

Almost 20 years after college, I've never asked my parents for money!

 

Mea

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I don't have any advice on an art career per se, as I am not a professional artist, but two people that have some advice on artmaking, and educating artmakers, are Ted Orland and David Bayless.

Orland and Bayless collaborated on a book called Art and Fear , and Ted Orland went on to write a sequel of sorts called The View From the Studio Door.

Both books talk about making art, what keeps us from doing it, and how we can continue to do so in the face of indifference, from all corners: teachers, parents, friends, fellow artists, the public. They also have quite a bit to say, in the latter part of Art and Fear, about art education.

Whenever I get into a creative rut, I read Art and Fear, and it usually recharges me, it might be of some help to you in the future, too.

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Interesting discussion. Thank you for starting and sharing. I have the similar path as Chris (still paying for original non-art undergrad loans) - Chris, your comments are all too familiar. Many benefits of a business background in today's professional artist lifescape...but I do miss the lost years of creating. But again, I think my art journey has given me a FURY to create and to forge ahead at a pretty determined pace.

 

My simple advice is to fuel your passion....in classes, workshops, techniques, degrees, apprentice opportunities, marketing classes, web design, etc. Honestly, your level of passion will determine your future success and "doing what you need to do to get by."

 

And I definitely appreciate the camaraderie and supportive fellowship/mentoring of other artists. Amazing wealth of knowledge, experience, and inspiration out there!

 

Best wishes!

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I don't have any advice on an art career per se, as I am not a professional artist, but two people that have some advice on artmaking, and educating artmakers, are Ted Orland and David Bayless.

Orland and Bayless collaborated on a book called Art and Fear , and Ted Orland went on to write a sequel of sorts called The View From the Studio Door.

Both books talk about making art, what keeps us from doing it, and how we can continue to do so in the face of indifference, from all corners: teachers, parents, friends, fellow artists, the public. They also have quite a bit to say, in the latter part of Art and Fear, about art education.

Whenever I get into a creative rut, I read Art and Fear, and it usually recharges me, it might be of some help to you in the future, too.

 

 

Art and Fear is a great book.

Marcia

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Being a professional artist is something that you have to be driven to do. There will be obstacles and problems galore. BUT....... anyone who is self employed will face many of the exact same obstacles. There are many people who are self-employed and quite successful. Many fall by the wayside. You need to look in the miirror and know if YOU can be sucessfully self- employed. In ANY field.

 

Those the persevere and get up every day and go to WORK will succeed....and those that are not able to keep the focus when the times are difficult will soon fall by the wayside. The danger in working as a studio ceramist is that you don't take it as seriously as you would take a so-called "real job". You have to approach each day like you have a real S.O.B. for a boss. Get going and get it done.

 

Being an artist in America is not a sure path to quick financial riches. But if it truly is your passion, it is a sure path to satisfaction and richness of life. I know so many people that are affluent beyond my wildest dreams, but are miserable. They envy the hell out of me and what I do. They wish they could be me. Money does not buy happiness.

 

You (and your parents) can waste a lot of money on an education in a field that will not make you very happy but might make you some money......... or you can use that funding to get a good jump start on a lifetime career that WILL make you happy and will probably allow you to live a somewhat "normal" life. It may be a harder working life than some other people's, but there is nothing wrong with working hard for what you get.

 

However, if you or your parent's measure of a good sucessful life is mainly owning a Mc Mansion, a new Lexus, and taking yearly trips to Aspen.....well that will not be so easy. But if you gain wa (harmony) from showing a good body of work, from doing an honest day's work, from positive feedback from your clients, and like the simpler pleasures.... it is all certainly within reach.

 

I feel it is possible to put together a life in the arts that is reasonable at a financial level, and very affluent in a spiritual level. You just have to work very hard at it. Hard work won't kill you.

 

best,

 

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

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You get a job because you need money. That's reality, and there is no more than that to it. You do something someone else needs to get done, and they pay you for it. Me? There isn't anything on the planet that I can do for 40+ hours a week year-round and not get sick of. Including pottery, or lying on the beach drinking margaritas.

 

I have a lot of life experience, very good career-in-Washington DC jobs, minimum wage office temp jobs, minimum wage fast food jobs, fun art jobs that don't make much money. And I make and sell my own art, which is fun but doesn't even begin to support the family-- but I don't need to support the family right now, I have a spouse who does that.

 

The one thing you don't want is a job you hate. So don't apply or train for "cubicle" jobs if you can't stand being in a cubicle for more than 10 minutes. Cubicle jobs do have the advantage of being climate controlled. If you ever have a work-outside job (like picking blueberries, which I did one summer), you will appreciate the advantages of that.

 

There are career options other than cubicle jobs or pottery. Just make sure that whatever you do, you aren't operating under the assumption that your parents are going to be your source of income for the rest of your life. I guarantee you that isn't going to happen unless your parents are idiots. Think about it... how long would YOU support an adult who shows no interest in making enough money to support himself?

 

Here is why your parents are less than enthusiastic about your plans to live at the poverty level. Living at or near the poverty level can be a very ugly experience. Glazes, clay, studio space, kiln-firings, enough space to store your finished work, and a camera to photograph the work you plan to sell all cost money. And there are a lot of other things you can't have if you have no money: health care (suppose you slip on some ice, break the arm you use to throw pottery, and can't afford to get it X-rayed or set? or you get strep throat or worse and can't afford to buy the antibiotics?), a roof that doesn't leak, clothes that don't come from a thrift store, a date that your date doesn't have to pay for, a computer & software that isn't several generations old, phone service, the ability to pay your heat/water/electricity bills, a car so you don't have to live walking distance from a grocery store and you don't have to use public transportation to get your art to an art gallery (imagine carrying boxes of pottery on a crowded city bus because you can't afford a car or shipping), and... the ability to buy a decent quality interview suit if you need it.

 

Eventually, you may decide that getting to spend your life making art isn't worth the trade-off. Or maybe it is worth the trade-off. Finding this out sooner rather than later would be a good plan.

 

Maybe before you spend more time and money in school, you should take a couple of years off from school and try supporting yourself as a potter. You don't need an MFA to do pottery as a career, you need to make large quantities of competent pottery. You need access to a studio, you need to make a body of quality work, you need to learn how to handle your own finances/accounting, and you need to learn how to do the sales / marketing work and do it.

 

Write a formal plan for how you are going to set up your pottery business. Figure out how much pottery you need to make to support yourself, and how you are going to make that happen -- how much time, how much materials you will need to accomplish that plan. And set a deadline for when you will stop and go back to school if this isn't working. For example, if by Jan 2013 the pottery profession isn't bringing in enough money to support you, this will be very obvious to everyone. Hopefully including you. Then finish your education, and pick a major that will result in a career that (a) brings in enough money to support you; and (B) doesn't have you doing something you hate.

 

BTW: If you "hate" everything except pottery, the problem is you. Find some things to cross off the list of things you hate.

 

There are plenty of jobs out there that don't require being in a cube. Drive a truck or a bus or ride an ambulance as an EMT. Be a forest ranger or a policeman. Wait tables at a restaurant, or be a chef. Electricians, plumbers, and tile intallers don't spend their lives in cubes. Neither do surveyors, housing inspectors, real estate agents, prison guards, daycare personnel, or bricklayers. Pick something you "hate" less, and make yourself do it. And... continue to do pottery as a hobby on the side. Maybe someday your work will sell well enough that you will be able to quit the job that you do because you need money to live on.

 

"Art Teacher" is one job that doesn't have you in a cubicle for the rest of your life. While teaching art is VERY different from making your own art (you MUST like students, and you MUST have reasonably good people skills), that is a support-yourself job that a lot of people who are "called" to do art choose.

 

Good luck. If you really want to be a professional potter, do it. Now. Do it while you are still young, and you can still change directions if it doesn't work for you.

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Here are some things to do:

 

Learn something about running a small business. Take enough accounting so you can handle your own finances, especially the tax (sales tax, and income tax) part. Take a course that teaches you how to write a business plan.

 

Learn about copyright law and intellectual property. There is an "educational purposes" exception to the copyright law-- some designs you can copy for purposes of doing a project for a class cannot be used as designs if you're selling your work. Getting busted for copyright infringement is not something you want, learn the law. The US government copyright office has a website with all that stuff on it. It's kind of slow going to read through it all yourself, you might find it easier to take a class on copyright law and/or intellectual property if your college offers it.

 

Do some teaching to find out whether you like teaching. You could test it by trying to get a job teaching ceramics (or other art) at a summer camp.

 

Try to get a job at an art gallery that sells ceramics. That will help you figure out the selling angle.

 

If your college has student art fairs, and student art shows, participate.

 

Learn how to photograph your work.

 

Find some access to public studio space. Not only is it cheaper than setting up your own studio, you learn alot from working with other potters.

 

Find a couple of local weekend art fairs. Your teachers should be able to help you find art fairs where you are likely to get in. If you're not ready for that yet, that would also be a good thing to know. Apply to get in, and spend the weekend selling your art. If you do this with a friend, it is not only more fun (and more convenient if you need to get lunch or use the bathroom), but it enables you to spend some time walking around the art show talking to artists and seeing what they are selling.

 

Spend time looking at pottery in stores in your area. Realistically assess whether your work is better, worse, or about the same as that showing in the local pottery stores.

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Evenif you go the art route in college - take buseness courses- it's important to know and eaasier to get started. I've been advocating buseness of art classes for years - why reinvent the wheel as they say! enjoy whatever choices you make and you'll come back to clay what ever you decide.

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Go for it! I had ceramics as my major when I was in college but because of life (not parents) I wasnt able to finish and fell away entirely. Now almost 5 years later (see Im still young :P ) Im making my way back and slowly building my studio up. I know my advice isnt much amongst all these established potters, which Im glad to be around and benefit from, but I hope youll take it to heart. Id say do what my prof did in college and go for a art teaching degree to help and benefit from but most schools now a days have cut art sadly.

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I can only speak in general terms but I think the info. could be helpful. A few years ago I started a small business doing my dream job, 3 years later it has become more like any other job I have had.. it becomes boring and I get tired of doing the same thing all the time and although I still enjoy it let me tell you life is not the way I thought it would be. I have had friends who have started their own dream business and more than a few have failed, its hard to stay motivated when you work for yourself and what was once your dream can easily become a nightmare.

 

You have to ask yourself if you can deal with crazy customers, make things THEY want you to make and not always what you want to do, can you take the time to pay your bills (both personal and for the business) keep up on all the taxes, do what it takes not matter what to keep everything going... list goes on and on.

 

Its also not a bad idea to get a degree in something else that is more desirable in the work places and work hard on the art side in your free time.

 

Ok now that I gave you all the Debbie downer stuff.. You only live once! make the most of it, have fun and be passionate!

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Here's my background for the context of my comments: I'm 46 and a computer programmer. I was encouraged by my parents toward money and not art. I have a passion for creativity and I wish I had the fine arts education but have found life challenging as a programmer and could not imagine the amount of challenges as strictly an artist. So, with that said, here's my thoughts:

 

Choose carefully... Making art and selling it are two entirely different creatures. I find that selling art/production art takes a lot of the joy out of it for me. I recommend you determine which type you are before choosing and loosing out on a business degree. Also, unless your education is paid for up front, the cost of repaying student loans can cause failure even for those with best business degrees. You are at a tough crossroads of planning your life and wish you the best in happiness and financial security! ;)

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So far our success story would have to be based on our site. It doesn't produce much yet but it is growing at a constant rate. Marketing and selling on different market places online can also make you a lot of sales. Sites like eCrater, Etsy, BluJay, Ebay and mane other marketplaces will bring you more money. Buying high quality bisque and selling it painted also makes a lot of money. You can view our site for a source of high quality wholesale ceramic bisque.

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I learned to throw in HSthen on to collage-took 5 years straight thru to get BA in art from HumboldtState, Ca

 

I had a quest oflearning everything I could in ceramics not just what I liked. As to myparent-the whole family was teachers from collage prof(in art) to elementaryschool teacher (sister)

 

I choose a different pathto make pots-it really choose me-I never thought about like you are doing itjust evolved

 

Bought home when I was 19to be able to build kilns on property- (mother helped co-sign) paid for thingsas I went never got much into debt-paid off the house in 20 years withroommates for rent help-built my career as a functional potter as that was whatI liked and still is-making work to be used every day for folks –selling it forreasonable cost has kept me making good money all these years sincegraduating in 1976.Started doing shows when in collage-got my work into a fewgalleries on consignment-dabbled with wholesale some-over the year I droppedthe wholesale stuck to shows and consignment galleries.

 

Now 36 years later 9 showsa year now with 5 outlets-(galleries to BAGEL SHOPS-monthly checks) keeps me making and selling about 130-150 K a year in gross sales with about 10-11 tonsof porcelain per year-I’m slowing down as I age as I used to do up to 15 shows ayear-working smarter now-Still it takes more work than many would ever dreamof-but I still get paid to make pots-the same dream I had as a kid

 

Granted I sold out longago and make things I personally would never use and glaze them in colors Inever liked but the one thing I have learned is there is no accounting fortaste-yours or you customers

 

I make what folks want tobuy and use not what I want to make myself all the time-this is a key point oneneeds to consider to make money with functional pottery.

 

The path I would choose isthe one that feel right for you

 

I do not feel making1,000s of pots is work-a lot of people do

 

I in school tried to learn it all (in terms of clay) many only stick to what interests them

 

I never had a plan-nowadays this concept is often overlooked

 

I learned from teacherswho had real world skills-they could formulate glazes and build kilns-they camefrom great functional programs like Alfred’s before art ceramics took over mostcollage ceramic programs-back then it was functional ceramics that was king-yesI learned to make art with clay but that is not going to be a money/supportivecareer-you can maybe get a ceramic job teaching-and that’s a big maybe but itwill not make you a living at an art show-it can be a hobby as extra income-butthe teaching career world has a very narrow amount of jobs and you must love toteach otherwise you are just taking up space and we all have had that teacherin life

 

I would find the fewdinosours left teaching who know more than how to open a jar of commercialglaze with skills you want to learn

 

This alone will be the hardest part as my Alfred friends say even that place is gone the way of artceramics

 

Good luck with the quest

 

Mark Cortright

 

www.liscomhillpottery.com

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Hello and thank you for your time.

 

To begin, I'm currently a student at a community collage or for many of you 'junior college' somewhere in the US. But I am quickly reaching the end of my time there in the 'shallows' of my higher education and so must declare a major then transfer to a 4 year college. My problem stands not in my devotion to learning ceramics but my parents attitude towards the whole Bfa. They think, both having extremely practical rolleyes.gif careers Civil Engineer and Tech. Writer, this path leads without a doubt to my destitution and a painful life of a failed artist.

 

Now, to be clear---- I am not planning on a cake walk to my first million dollars as potter/ceramist but I can not resign myself to a life of waking to a dismal florescent-lit existence pigeon-holed behind a desk with my greatest professional hope being if the office repeals it's no live plants rules when it comes to our cubical rights.

 

So, my question for you all is- What do you suggest to a young person desirous of becoming a potter/ceramist when he is drawing up his life plans?

 

I need

-Success stories

-routes in education

-ideas for professional development

-encouragement?

 

 

I know I am not alone in my need, this topic may help the new wave of mudlovers pass more successfully into the coming decades.

 

 

tongue.gif

 

 

I originally started out in math/science, a liberal arts background in a Community college. Poor grades and flunking out brought me to a year of general studies and then a transfer to the school that my girl friend transferred to. Their best fit for me was in the Art Ed dept. I had always been interested in drawing and painting, even though I was not very good-just interested. A semester of probation, and 2 years later I had a BS in Art Ed. Back then the school put a major emphasis on studio not pedagogy. While getting my Masters credits I often dreamed of going the full time route, quitting and getting the MfA, but stuck with the teaching doing art on the side. Family responsibilities took president at the time. I worked in both flatwork and ceramics for many years, and still do some flatwork. In the end, now that I am retired, I make pots I am interested in doing, I have a good retirement income, and can enjoy life without financial hastles. Over the years I have done the shows, done one man exhibits, entered local juried shows and done well, but for me teaching was the profession, but because it was teaching Art. I have come to not regret a bit of any of it, and never really had to work a day of my life as I loved what I did.

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It took me a couple of tries to get my degree in Ceramics but between times I always had a job that involved some kind of art. I was a dental lab technician for 6 years to be good at it you needed to be artistic, at lunch the lab techs would work on jewelry projects. I was a interior decorator for 20 years it allowed me to have a loose schedule, I could take classes or attend a seminars whatever I wanted to schedule in. S Shirley on the forum has a degree in graphic design and is a technical illustrator but she also has a nice gallery\store and a large studio. I volunteered teaching art at my son's schools and figured out that I really didn't like teaching. I got involved in making dishes for handicapped children and discovered that I really didn't care for production pottery, even now I may make the same piece 5 or 6 times then I'm ready to move on. Unfortunately it takes a while to figure your self out, all you can do is try to make the best decision you can and don't be too surprised if you find yourself heading off in a different direction. Denice

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O.K., I'm going to have to weigh in as well.I am at the other end of my career-the retirement end. I did it all. Went to art school- my parents were working class. My dad drove a laundry truck, my mom was a nurse. They asked, "What are you going to do with that?'[art degree.]My dad was artistic, but never caught a break-lived through the depression and was overseas in the war for 5 years. The helped me out with tuition by allowing me to live at home. I made pots in art school. My two profs were from Alfred and RSDI.Both great potters. I worked as an artist for 5 years, sold pots all over. Drove a cab, taught art at the city gallery, Parks and Recreation, Adult Ed. I was schlepping clay up a flight of stairs and came upon a beautiful art room in an older school. This is when I realized that I was teaching all the time anyway, and could support myself more easily with a steady job. I went back to school and got my B.Ed. Have been teaching art for 26 years. Been making pots for 37-since 1975.

The teaching job has paid for a house, cottage, two vehicles, and my beautiful studio that has heat in the floor.

My advice for you is to get all the skill traing you can. I apprenticed in England and in Scotland at production potteries. I worked hard for my dream.I think I am still living the dream. I have never worked in a cubicle, and no one tells me what kind of plant I can have on my desk. You can't see my desk for all the artwork on it.

I didn't take a business course. I hire an accountant once a year. I sell my work retail from my studio, and also wholesale. I go to two craftsales a year and have studio sales twice a year. I have three teenagers to support, who will all probably go to university, so I won't be retiring anytime soon. It's the life I have chosen and I have no complaints. I did not get famous like I thought I would, but I am well known in the city where I live.

Good luck with your dreams.

TJR.

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I had to deal with this issue, too. I started college as a Math major, then went into Graphic Design, and eventually landed on Ceramics and Photography for my BA. Went on to get an MFA in Ceramics. My dad always had issues with me being an art major because he wanted me to be financially successful, and he didn't know enough about art to know if that was a real possibility. All he knew was 'starving artist'. I can't blame him, though. You always want your kids to do better than you. He finally came to terms with it when I won a few awards and was accepted into 3 grad schools. He just needed that validation from an outside source.

 

I made a few bad decisions during school, although I didn't know it at the time. There's a huge disconnect between making pots in school and being an actual potter. School teaches you technical and aesthetic skills, but that's about it. It does nothing to prepare you for the reality of being a business owner, which is exactly what you will be as an artist. I made mostly wood fired pots in grad school, but once I got out I didn't have access to a wood fired kiln. So I went back to firing gas, and eventually switched to cone 6 electric. Cone 6 was not really an acceptable option in grad school, although it should have been pushed as the standard, because that is the best option for most people setting up their first studio. So keep the big picture in mind as you go through school. Learn as much as possible, but think about coming out of school with a body of work that you can produce and market on your own, knowing that space and money will be limited.

 

The best bit of advice I ever got was from my undergrad ceramics professor. I was having a hard time deciding whether or not to switch my major to ceramics, mostly due to the financial issues. I had not idea how a potter could make a living. He said 'If you're passionate about it, then you'll make it work'.

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Sorry to disappoint you,but you do NOT just need success stories,

it will give you very unrealistic expectations.

The fact is that many people fail to make a living out of it. It is very hard.

You have to supplement your income. Do not give up your ambition to be an artist, but get an education

which brings home the bacon too. You will never be sorry.

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