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Factors In Determining A Successful Pottery Business


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#21 Colby Charpentier

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 12:22 PM

 

maybe before going to apply for welfare.

maybe we should stay away from this sort of subject.

 

 

For the purposes of keeping the forum pleasant, yes... But these are issues that absolutely need to be addressed, and happen to be especially relevant to those with ceramics education. During my undergrad, there were students taking advantage of assistance, where it wasn't always convincing it was needed. It hurts to see that while working the hours it takes to barely provide for myself in the art industry.

 

The real kicker is that one cannot turn down work in this field because it's underpaid. There are too many carnivorous students willing to work for less, not understanding they can't provide for themselves by doing so. I was working in a glass studio when the RISD class took a tour, and there was a student who offered to do cold-working for this artist for free. While I understand networking and working for high-profile artists is exciting and important, **both** employees and employers need to have enough respect for their relationship to pay for labor. Anything otherwise, wholly undermines the accessibility of the art industry. 

 

The relevance to the OP is how short-term decisions to cut corners heavily impacts the industry down the road. Just some thoughts.



#22 Wyndham

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 02:18 PM

I was not trying to be unkind. The fact that in a 6 month period, I have had 20+ people  inquiring about work only to fulfill paperwork requirements for different type of assistance, quite depressing.

I live in a section of NC that has high unemployment, high, high-school dropout rates and a diminishing pottery tourist market.

It really doesn't matter the deeper causes of these issues, because we have to deal with our daily reality in a very slow economy.

What this means for us is to try and keep the retail doors open for those that still come by and scramble for other markets.

Show cost have gotten very high and considering the downtime from production, wholesale is more profitable than shows.

Cost of clay, glaze, and firing have gone up, but there is a ceiling to the price we can charge for a coffee mug(universal example).

If you are not aware of the economy around you, you may make a major financial mistake in your biz plan.

Wyndham



#23 Mark369

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 08:35 PM

I think a good non pottery book that would apply would be Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace" now called "The Total Money Makeover."


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#24 DirtRoads

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 04:07 PM

I keep thinking about this:

 

Stephen, on 17 Jun 2014 - 11:44 AM, said:

 

I think one thing that many may do is vastly underestimate the time (2-3 years 30+ hours a week- this is beyond the 10-15 years as a serious hobby) and money (10-30k) it takes to setup a working studio, develop 20-30 beautiful, professionally made forms AND lay in 6-700 of these forms for initial inventory BEFORE selling anything. Not to mention developing an accounting system, designing a professional show booth and the needed tow vehicles to transport to and from shows, website, etsy and a hundred other odds and ends. Then when you're all done you need to wait until January so you can apply to the following years shows, wait for the 50% of those you hopefully will get into and send in the 10-12k in fees. Although I am sure Mea is right about the year of income in the hole on an ongoing basis I think its more like 2 years of living expenses when opening (beyond the first year of show fees and expenses). Its not that you are not going to sell anything your first season but its going to be an uphill battle because of no repeat customers and no history of what sells and what doesn't to determine product mix.  

 

Obviously one could start out by simply renting a $50 space at a local farmers market and cart a few boxes of pottery to spread out over the white table cloth covered folding table but its going to take a lot of staying power to grow that into a middle class income.

 

You add up those numbers... and you're looking at around $75K.   You would need some "special circumstance"  (as defined by J. Baymore) to make it.

 

Also, as pointed out, entry level wages are just too low in this industry.    Saving up for a business start up would be strained.

 

I would still like to crunch this into a causal model and see what variable best explains success.   My guess is that it would be tied to $$$, in start up capital and financial support for living expenses while you are building the business to a point where it will support you.



#25 Chris Campbell

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 08:32 PM

>I would still like to crunch this into a causal model and see what variable best explains success.   My guess is that it would be tied to $$$, in start up capital and financial support for living expenses while you are building the business to a point where it will support you.<

 

What explains success in having a pottery business that can support you? Here's what I think.

 

1- TALENT - There is no getting away from the fact that you have to have talent. Not just talent in making but talent in editing your work, finding your flaws, working to improve a form, years of finding new ways to express the forms you make. You cannot just flog work that looks like the last workshop you took ... you have to have your own voice that brings a piece to life then you have to keep it fresh and alive for years.

.... BUT ... I bet a lot of people on this forum know someone more talented than themselves who gave up, left pottery behind for a hundred different reasons. It was too hard to keep working at it, they heard too many "No's", they were rejected from a show, they made and sold but could never make money ..... so talent alone does not take you very far down the road.

 

2 - STAYING POWER - Again I put this before money because there is no substitute for the kind of determination and stubborness that leads to success. These people pop back up like punching dolls every time life throws a curve. Maybe not right away, but even after their studios burn to the ground or blow away in a hurricane, they get back up and start again. They know they might get knocked down again but they get back to work. There is nothing else they want to be doing so they keep their focus and do it.

 

3 - FOCUS - Yes, they know what they want and will do whatever it takes. Gotta teach? Done. Gotta re-build? Done. Gotta make it in blue? Done. Gotta call galleries for re-orders? Done. Gotta work a second job to keep the bills paid? Done and Done. These are flexible people who are not so set on a certain idea that they cannot change or grow in order to pay the bills.

 

4 - I don't know quite what to call this because it goes beyond multi tasking. In today's North American studio environment we expect that same potter to be able to do it all ... bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, sales, billing, etc ... all in addition to producing the wares.

 

I know many of these people but sadly for us they don't spend much time in forums and share their experience. They lurk when they have time but you don't often see them posting except perhaps to their own blogs or facebook pages or websites.

 

Whether working alone, with a partner, in a group studio ... whatever ... I admire them. They make me proud to be a potter.


Chris Campbell
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TRY ...   FAIL ...  LEARN ...  REPEAT


#26 GEP

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 07:01 AM

I keep thinking about this:

 
Stephen, on 17 Jun 2014 - 11:44 AM, said:
 
I think one thing that many may do is vastly underestimate the time (2-3 years 30+ hours a week- this is beyond the 10-15 years as a serious hobby) and money (10-30k) it takes to setup a working studio, develop 20-30 beautiful, professionally made forms AND lay in 6-700 of these forms for initial inventory BEFORE selling anything. Not to mention developing an accounting system, designing a professional show booth and the needed tow vehicles to transport to and from shows, website, etsy and a hundred other odds and ends. Then when you're all done you need to wait until January so you can apply to the following years shows, wait for the 50% of those you hopefully will get into and send in the 10-12k in fees. Although I am sure Mea is right about the year of income in the hole on an ongoing basis I think its more like 2 years of living expenses when opening (beyond the first year of show fees and expenses). Its not that you are not going to sell anything your first season but its going to be an uphill battle because of no repeat customers and no history of what sells and what doesn't to determine product mix.  
 
Obviously one could start out by simply renting a $50 space at a local farmers market and cart a few boxes of pottery to spread out over the white table cloth covered folding table but its going to take a lot of staying power to grow that into a middle class income.

 
You add up those numbers... and you're looking at around $75K.   You would need some "special circumstance"  (as defined by J. Baymore) to make it.
 
Also, as pointed out, entry level wages are just too low in this industry.    Saving up for a business start up would be strained.
 
I would still like to crunch this into a causal model and see what variable best explains success.   My guess is that it would be tied to $$$, in start up capital and financial support for living expenses while you are building the business to a point where it will support you.


My "special circumstance" was another good paying self-employed occupation (graphic design), which provided me with financial stability and a flexible schedule to spend time on pottery when needed. Yes it felt like having two full-time jobs for several years, but I would do it again.

This is my advice to anyone who wants to be self-employed in any field ... keep your steady income and start your business at the same time. Do both until the business becomes a viable real business. If you aren't willing to work that hard, you probably shouldn't be self-employed anyways.
Mea Rhee
Good Elephant Pottery
http://www.goodelephant.com

#27 JBaymore

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 09:58 AM

Between Chris and Mea there........ its about covered.

 

best,

 

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


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Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#28 BBPottery

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:24 AM

This discussion is great.

 

I'm trying to figure out how to get started as a potter for real.  I'm waiting tables now, plus spending all my "free" time at a small community studio trying to produce a body of work I think is good enough to develop into a real inventory.  I've also got a ton of student loan debt, and live very very frugally.  

 

The two reasons this dream is even possible for me: waitressing part time brings in as much income as working full time for minimum wage, and my spouse has a great job and is very supportive.

 

It's still going to be a long uphill battle.  I hope to have enough work to start selling at my small local shows late this fall.

 

The small community studio is also pretty limiting.  I've had to double check with the studio managers every time I want to use a clay or glaze that they don't mix in their studio, and any mixing or testing there is out of the question.  I also only have one small shelf to store all my tools and work in progress, so any high volume or large-scale production is difficult.

 

Hopefully, I'll be able to buy a used kiln and turn my basement into a studio this winter … but that will require the stars to align in a number of ways.  Still, I'm enjoying every second in the studio and look forward to returning every day, so I must be on the right path.  It'll be all worth it in the end.



#29 Stephen

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 11:36 AM

If monies an issue then you might consider starting at home with a used kick wheel (they are very cheap and often free on CL) and a Raku kiln.

 

http://www.ian-grego...o.uk/kilns.html

 

Toss in a folding table and a few buckets and you have a home studio. You can build a Raku kiln for cheap and there no wiring or other cost and you would have some freedom outside the community studio to explore :-)



#30 BBPottery

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:50 PM

If monies an issue then you might consider starting at home with a used kick wheel (they are very cheap and often free on CL) and a Raku kiln.

 

http://www.ian-grego...o.uk/kilns.html

 

Toss in a folding table and a few buckets and you have a home studio. You can build a Raku kiln for cheap and there no wiring or other cost and you would have some freedom outside the community studio to explore :-)

 

Yeah, I've already got a kick wheel.  The issue is clearing out space to put it because basement is shared with another tenant in the duplex and they use it for storage.  There is also a dryer plug in with a vent which would be perfect for an electric kiln.  I've kept an eye on craigslist, and used ones are periodically listed for $150 - $400.  All the other furniture and equipment I could easily find second hand or piece together from friend's garages.

 

I'm really not interested in raku firing at all.  I'm not sure I could build a raku kiln for much cheaper than I could find a used electric one, so I'm content to wait till I can get the equipment I want.



#31 Stephen

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 02:20 PM

fair enough, be sure and check the kiln you buy to the electrical socket first though. They do make 240 kilns that run off a dryer plugs but I don't think you can count on it with most of the used kilns out there and the vent will need some work to pull double duty as well. Be sure and surf on used kilns on this forum for some great input before you buy. Things like changing out elements and such all factor in. A $150 kiln might need $500 in work making it more expensive than the $400 kiln that needs nothing. 

 

this is from the Paragon website:

 

Can I plug a kiln into my 10-30 dryer outlet?

The 10-30 outlet is not approved by UL or the NEC for continuous loads such as kilns. The 10-30 power cord is designed for dryers. To use a 10-30 circuit, the wall outlet would have to be changed to 6-30.

 

 

These guys carry this kiln designed for a dryer plug:

http://www.bigcerami...amic-store.html

 

good luck!



#32 BBPottery

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:14 PM

Thanks for all the advice Stephen!  I'll definitely do a lot of research before I buy a kiln.  This forum has already been a great resource for me getting back into pottery.



#33 Mark C.

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 03:36 PM

I started out the hard way-you know the starving artist just barley making it work-selling just enough for hand to mouth-no loans no help for ma or pa.

school of hard knocks separates the wheat for the chaft

This is not done much anymore as every one seems to want a safety net-working without a net made me strong and made me think more on what will make it work and how to stay on the wire without falling.

It took some years(5-10) before I would even call it successful-since those days clay has been good for me

To be in business for 40 years means its working well or at least for me.Whatever I make sells and goes away fast.

This all takes time and its really not for most as its still hard work.

Mark


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