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Advice For Planning A Life/career In Clay

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#21 Pres


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Posted 13 January 2012 - 09:12 AM

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 Posted Image 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

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.

Posted Image

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.
Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . . http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/

#22 Denice


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Posted 13 January 2012 - 10:14 AM

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

#23 TJR


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Posted 13 January 2012 - 01:20 PM

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.

#24 neilestrick


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Posted 13 January 2012 - 01:45 PM

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'.

Neil Estrick
Kiln Repair Tech
L&L Kilns Distributor
Owner, Neil Estrick Gallery, LLC

[email protected]

#25 Frederik-W


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Posted 14 January 2012 - 02:10 AM

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

#26 teardrop


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Posted 14 January 2012 - 09:31 AM

Any/all businesses face the same risks of failure. It's a tough row to hoe, as my Grandpa woulda said.

Other than a full blown career and lotsa letters behind yer name....are there any of you here who dabble in the "business" more on the "hobby" level....retaining the fun factor and making sales here/there....not as a careeer/full-time gig...but as a way to be able to create and use yer head as well as to make a few bucks on the side? (i, e...people not dependent on the $$$ for a liviing)

I wasn't the "Art" major in the family...my brother was. He was too weird for me at the time (70's) and I gotta say...had very little talent as an "artist". Definitely NOT the right choice. It took him nowhere. Because he was so engulfed at the time and because we are so different...I steered as far away from the craziness of "Art" as I could. I wish NOW that I woulda followed my own interests into it all.....but I chose "science" instead and became a Geology major.....then the oil/gas market crashed and I moved to Colorado to ski and party and never used the degree....

NOW I wish I had the Art degree...

as far as a "business"......Art-based or otherwise..... I wanna try to get "something" going.....but I've had the retail/mom & pop storefront before...and I know full well that i DON'T want to set myself up ever again to be dependent on sales for an income to pay rent/utilities/insurance/etc. However, I would like to be able to make a few bucks here and there to toss in on the kiln and the clay and all the other fun stuff that ya need to take a peice of work from clay to glaze/etc.

Definitely enjoying hearing about the experiences of others....but yeah.....not everyone is/has been successful and not everyone has a formal education (in art or business..or both!). Except the School of Hard knocks, that is...... (I have a Masters here in MANY feilds!)

if anyone else out there is wingin' it like I am (LOL), I'd love to hear yer take on all of this

good luck, all
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Dr. Seuss US author & illustrator (1904 - 1991)

#27 Lucille Oka

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 11:01 AM

The original link I placed here has changed so I edited this entry.
Try this site for a different view of a profession in ceramics http://www.ceramicindustry.com
I highly recommend this periodical. It is very informative.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life".

#28 Nightshade



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Posted 23 March 2012 - 03:01 PM

If you have the opportunity to get an education, do it. I agree with others when they say to get a degree in something that would go hand in hand with a pottery career. I was only able to attend Columbus College of Art and Design for one year, due to lack of $. How I wish I could go back... But in going there, it's all art, nothing else. Most of the people who graduate had a hard time of getting a job straight out. They had to work at other jobs until something opened up, or they just had to go back to school for something "practical". I think that you could major in one area that's "approval material" and minor in ceramics. It's a lot of work but can be done. It'll give you the insight into ceramics, but still a good degree in your other field of study.

#29 Tao



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Posted 24 March 2012 - 09:25 AM

It's great to read so many successful stories about pottery. Here's my. I now got my mfa and a full-time ceramics teaching dream job (not easy but I did it). For me, passion is my drive. If you have a passion with what you do, it will take you anyway you want to go. But, I wish I could go to different states or countries to learn more pottery when I had a change (single). I would work for very little or no money just to have a place to stay and practice pottery. You won't have time once you get your dream job. Because other challenges will come - family, establishing your work and helping students. Best,

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