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Member Since 08 Apr 2010
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#89304 Going Price Of Mugs

Posted by GEP on 22 July 2015 - 10:31 AM

Here's something I've learned about underpricing: Underpricing only hurts the underpricer. It does not affect anyone else. So don't worry about what others are doing.

I've found that underpricers might hurt you temporarily in a small event where everyone is underpricing except for you. You will stick out, and not in a good way, according to the audience who attends events like that. But still in the long run, it doesn't hurt you, because you have the power to choose not to return to that venue. And that is not the audience you need to win over.

If I am in a large enough event, even if there are other potters who are underpricing, I've learned it does not affect me. As long as there are enough exhibitors with professional-level prices, I will do fine. Because this type of event will attract real pottery customers, the type of audience you want to win over. They do not shop based on price.

On the flip side, if you are new to selling, don't feel pressured to charge more than you are comfortable with. The right answer is different for everyone. The first mugs I sold were $16, at events where "student-grade" work was accepted. I didn't ruin the handmade economy.

The cautions about not underpricing are for experienced professionals, who are making expert-level work. And from my point of view, the caution is only about not forgoing any of your rightful income, and has nothing to do with hurting other potters or the handmade economy.

#89247 Going Price Of Mugs

Posted by GEP on 21 July 2015 - 02:41 PM

Yeah, if you are next to a booth selling mass produced anything you might as well just grin and bear it the rest of the show because it probably is not the right crowd for handmade pottery and you are unlikely to sell much.


Exactly, and handmakers need to accept this as our responsibility ... to choose venues where everyone involved (organizers, exhibitors, customers) are committed to handmade work. If you find yourself in a venue where your neighbor is selling mass-produced goods, that's not the neighbor's fault. They have the right to make a living however they see fit. It's the handmaker's fault for not doing a proper amount of research into the event. Been there done that! 

#88892 Going Price Of Mugs

Posted by GEP on 14 July 2015 - 09:35 AM

It's been a few years since I've done a wholesale trade show. But I recall that the going price for a medium size, professional-quality mug was $12. Which translates to $25 retail. Many potters were willing and able to sell at that price. The key is to be able to produce them very efficiently. So for some potters that price point works, and it leads to a high volume of sales.

I wholesale large mugs for $17 ($35 retail, though some of my galleries sell them for more). At the tradeshows I could still find buyers, but not as many. Some buyers would bluntly say "I love your mugs but I know I can't get that price."

These days I do not attend trade shows anymore, and only solicit orders from my existing accounts. Of the accounts I have left, most of them are in northeast metropolitan locations, where $35-$40 for a handmade mug, of any size, is normal.

#88824 Going Price Of Mugs

Posted by GEP on 13 July 2015 - 09:58 AM


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#88254 Members With Etsy Stores?

Posted by GEP on 04 July 2015 - 08:19 AM

I've always found John Baymore to have the most insightful perspective on this subject. And he expresses without putting the less than art less than 100% handmade down. I really think he should establish some classification scheme. He should put us all into categories. Lots to be learned from different groups but a classification would facilitate that. I would like to know exactly where I fit into all of this.

Yes, John brings a very well-thought-out perspective, and his thoughts are important. However, this forum should not be trying to put people into categories. I believe that every successful artist and/or business person is charged with defining themselves. Then living up to their own standards with integrity. No one gets to decide that for anyone else. All of us who are seeking income from our work fall somewhere between art and manufacturing. It doesn't matter where. The differing points of view are great! I think many art communities (online and otherwise) suffer from a lack of differing perspectives, sheltering themselves to their own detriment. I don't want anyone to leave this forum because they felt like they were being categorized.

Although I do think it's appropriate to use the term "Baymore standard." But what I understood about John's words is that the Baymore standard is not about the degree of handmade-ness. It means "do things the way you think is right, then be honest about it to your customers."

#88203 Members With Etsy Stores?

Posted by GEP on 03 July 2015 - 10:10 AM

As to Amazon trying to jury in truly handmade ... Good Luck to them. I was a jury member for a website trying to do this and it was a nightmare. Every single tiny niche of the craft world fights for its own definition of hand made and trying to place a line somewhere is impossible. Last one in wants to lock the door on anyone who is different.

I don't know, my early prediction for Amazon is that they will succeed at this. I do believe it is possible to define guidelines for what is considered "handmade." Not that it will be easy, but Amazon might be smart enough to do it. In the experience you describe, it sounds like there were too many artists involved in the deciding. Self-interest can be removed from the situation. My question is, do they want to? They might eventually decide there's not much money to be made here.

#88200 Members With Etsy Stores?

Posted by GEP on 03 July 2015 - 09:18 AM


I'm really glad you chimed in on this thread. You gave us a view of Etsy that most of us haven't seen. I still think that grype's depictions are more realistic. However, the same can be said for those who choose the art festival route. The majority of festival potters are making a side income, alongside another job or a supportive spouse. Only the exceptional few are rocking out the big incomes.

My personal feelings about slip casting ... if someone is designing their own forms, then slip casts the heck out of them to generate more volume, I'm all for it! I do have a problem with someone who purchases molds that somebody else designed, then refers to it as "my work." It's not their own work. If they are doing a great job with surface treatments, that's another subject altogether, and they should call themselves "illustrators" rather than pot makers. There is nothing wrong with calling oneself an illustrator. It is a worthy profession of its own, one that most potters have no clue about. I just don't want that type of work to be confused with those of us who are developing forms, and dealing with a much bigger universe of technical issues. At the same time, I am realistic enough to understand that most consumers do not care about these differences, and I shouldn't expect them to. So my approach is to choose venues where I don't directly compete with anything other than strictly handmade.

Lorrie if you feel like people look down on you for slip casting, just know that this type of judgyness happens at all levels of the craft world. These days I do some shows where I'm pretty sure other ceramists are upset that I brought so many items under $100, because they were hoping the show would contain nothing but collector-level Art pieces with a capital A. We are all somewhere on the same spectrum.

I heard that Amazon was launching a competitor to Etsy, with a stricter definition of handmade. I'm very curious to watch how it goes. I sort-of understand why Etsy went down a path towards mass-produced and imported goods. The strictly handmade economy probably wasn't big enough to sustain them or their ambitions. Amazon, on the other hand, can probably afford to subsidize a strictly handmade venture. But will that make sense for them in the long term?

(ps, I'm adding this thread to the FAQ section about online selling. Lots of great info here, and lots of differing perspectives, all valuable.)

#87376 The Potter's Cast, Episode 119. Featuring Me!

Posted by GEP on 18 June 2015 - 01:12 PM

I have an exciting announcement. I was featured on one of my favorite podcasts, The Potter's Cast. My episode is #119. You can find The Potter's Cast on iTunes or you can listen via their website, http://thepotterscast.com/119


I talk a lot about the outline for my "art festival success formula" which I will be blogging about in depth in the coming months. In fact, most of the episodes focus on pottery business development issues. It is a great resource for any potter, at any stage in their career development. 


Hope you enjoy it!



#87268 "i'm In A Spot Now Where Demand Exceeds Supply"

Posted by GEP on 16 June 2015 - 07:27 PM

I'm in this spot too. I'm not exactly sure how I got here. I feel like I've been playing inventory catch-up for 10 years. I have taken many steps over the years to increase production. But the more I produce, the more I need. These days I am cranking it out at speeds I couldn't even fathom a few years ago ... 4 or 5 glaze loads every 2.5 weeks. I'm still playing catch-up. Three big shows coming up in July, and probably won't have quite enough. Oh well, if I sell most of my stock that will still be a juicy month.

This year I tried hard to cut back further on my wholesale work. I told all of my accounts in January that I would not be available for wholesale for the first six months of 2015. I recently put together my 2015 wholesale catalog, and it's a one-pager. I'm only offering the things that are super easy to crank out (no more pitchers, no more casseroles). The catalog clearly says "limited delivery dates available in September and November." I thought that by making my offerings scarce, some of my accounts would lose interest. After all, there are lots of talented potters who they can turn to instead. I mailed the catalog out last Friday, and my September delivery dates are already sold out.

I have no interest in an overall increase in production this year. So I will probably cut back on fall shows instead. Last year I did 14 shows, this year I will probably end up doing 12.

#87239 Feel Like I Am Hitting A Brick Wall - Perhaps You Have Experienced This?

Posted by GEP on 16 June 2015 - 09:06 AM

One of my favorite podcasts these days is called Startup. It gives an in-depth and brutally honest look at the process of starting a business. I learned a new term called "The Trough of Sorrow" which is apparently very common. It's what happens to a new business owner after the initial burst of energy and optimism has worn off, along with the novelty of the "idea" of the business, and replaced by the realization that the road to success is much longer and more difficult than you imagined, and possibly some financial problems.

You can google the term Trough of Sorrow to get some good advice about it, and to take comfort in knowing how common it is. After a quick google search I found this terrific piece: http://blog.idonethi...-trough-sorrow/ I'll just jump to the best line which is "grit and perseverance are far more important than talent."

I did not go through the Trough of Sorrow with my pottery business, because it was the second business I started. I took it slowly, and did it alongside my other business which provided a good income, therefore I never felt any financial pressure or hurry to succeed. I DID experience the Trough of Sorrow with my first business, the graphic design practice. About a year or so in, I experienced a catastrophic computer failure and lost weeks of work. I felt despondent and foolish, and unsure that I could handle the responsibility. I strongly considered quitting and going back to the regular-paycheck world. But I chose to persevere.

#86728 Shows And Contests

Posted by GEP on 08 June 2015 - 08:28 AM

There is no one comprehensive list of these things, but there are several helpful resources out there.

I think bciske is referring to Juried Art Services (http://juriedartservices.com). All of the shows and exhibitions that use JAS for their application platform are prestigious. You can cruise their website, or I believe you can sign up to receive email notices about upcoming application deadlines.

There's also Zapplication (http://www.zapplication.org). Zapp is the most popular application platform. They list hundreds (maybe 1000s?) of shows. The website has a good search engine so you can find shows in your area. I would not sign up for their emails because there are simply too many shows on Zapp for that to be worthwhile.

Art Fair Sourcebook is another good collection of show listings (http://artfairsourcebook.com). You can subscribe to their comprehensive service, or you can sign up for their emails for free. I get the free emails and have occasionally found some good shows this way.

The shortcoming of all of these listings is that they are national. Very few of their listings will be close enough to your location. So they will only help you so much. By far the best resource for finding new shows is to develop a network of festival buddies. If you do a lot of shows, this will develop naturally.

#86583 Engaging Children - Special Pricing

Posted by GEP on 05 June 2015 - 11:11 AM

I learned a long time ago that when I'm at a show with a lot of kids in attendance, I'm going to have a bad show. So I avoid the shows that are meant to attract kids, and I don't try to attract kids myself. I have also learned that parents who bring their kids to "grown-up" art festivals are already doing a great job of teaching their kids to appreciate art.

I will never forget this girl I met once. She was 6 at the most. She came into my booth with her mom and a younger sibling. They looked around. She pointed to my small elephant figurines and asked "How much does this cost?"

"Those are $20 each."

In the most gracious and respectful tone I've ever heard this question, she said "Would you be willing to accept less for it?"

I couldn't help but smile. "No, but I really appreciate how nicely you asked. You did that much better than an adult."

She was not bothered at all that I said no. She kept looking around, then asked "Do you have anything that costs less?"

I pointed out some small dishes that were $10. She picked one up and looked it over carefully, then put it back. Again, this wasn't offputting at all. She was very respectful.

So ultimately she decided that the thing she wanted was too expensive for her, and she was ok with that.

At this point, they had spent enough time in my booth that the mom had picked out a nice pot to buy. Then the mom said "I'll take the little elephant too."

Obviously that mom is doing an awesome job. I feel comfortable leaving this responsibility to the parents.

I see a lot more value in trying to attract young adults, in their 20s and 30s, to buy craft work. Those customers have much more potential to become big-time collectors in their 40s and 50s.

#86519 Basement Studio Lighting

Posted by GEP on 04 June 2015 - 09:56 AM

When I renovated my basement two years ago, I went with High Output Fluorescent bulbs/fixtures. These are not the same as regular fluorescent tubes. I balked at the price at first, a two-bulb fixture is about $60, compared to $20 for a regular two-bulb fluorescent fixture. But standing in the Home Depot I could tell how much brighter and smaller they are. My main space is about 15 x 25 feet, and two small High Output fixtures makes the space incredibly bright. I have another area of the basement where I store finished pots, and pack/ship, and one High Output fixture is plenty of light for that area.

When I have the basement lights on at night, and go outside for some reason, the light coming from the basement windows looks like a UFO. Good thing my two adjacent neighbors know it's a pottery studio. Otherwise, I'm sure they'd wonder the heck I was doing in the basement.

#86491 Congratulations Mea!

Posted by GEP on 03 June 2015 - 08:51 PM

Thanks oldlady! I didn't announce anything about it here on the forum, because the article is an adaptation of a blog post that I did post here on the forum. http://community.cer...ct-a-follow-up/

CM does pay for articles, but not enough to register on the graph. But that's ok, the publicity has tons of value. I still meet people who remember me from the article I wrote four years ago.

I have another piece of media publicity coming out in about a week. I'll announce it here when it's done.

#81649 It's Too Big..she Said

Posted by GEP on 14 May 2015 - 09:27 PM

I make oversized mugs, and I regularly hear customers say "it's too big, the coffee will get cold" and I just shrug and say "not if you chug it as fast as I do."