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Member Since 28 Jan 2013
Offline Last Active Nov 10 2015 10:02 AM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: "i Covered Expenses ....."

09 November 2015 - 01:28 AM

Hi Mark,  I wasn't talking about hours in the way you mean, I was posing an example of someone trying to figure out what a normal 40 hour job making $20 bucks an hour would look like from selling pottery at shows.


I do know you do really well at shows and it’s hard to hear the numbers you toss out and not feel like the situations hopeless. I try to remember that you are who you are and have 40 years of building up to those numbers, at least I assume you had to build up to it. I do know you are in your sixties so that means you started out in your twenties and I am assuming you had much the same road to travel as we do in figuring this out.


Right now 8-12k seems completely out of reach but it was our first full season with what were probably a bunch of crappy shows that we picked from festivalnet.com. They were supposed to all be juried but in reality didn’t seem so.  We are trying to go to any that we can to preview and will try a whole new line up this year and drive further if we have too.


Feedback was always good and our sales really did seem as good or better than anyone else around us and we matched up reasonable to anyone who would talk numbers so I don’t think others were doing big bucks and it was simply no one liked our pots. I am not one to ignore the obvious and would have no problem facing that fact if that was the vibe and at the end of the day we have confidence in the pots.


We also had a number of follow-up buys after most shows from folks who bought and wanted more as well as folks who picked up a card and then ordered the next week so that spoke well for the quality.


So yeah, will hope to at least earn more than we spend doing each show (the original post), learn what we can at every show we go to, improve the quality of shows, improve and change up the work and try to keep a good attitude at the same time. The good news for us is that we don’t need to hit those kinds of numbers, 2500-3k for an average show with an occasional breakout would work just fine and we would likely do a dozen of those a year and work to add other revenue streams to that. I am not looking at any of this as loosing my a## though. If I was opening a pizza parlar I would probably think like that but this is not an investment, not really. If it was about money we would have never embarked on this in the first place.


Aside from low revenue though, we had a great year and a wonderful time at every show. met a lot of wonderful people and I think added a lot of long term customers. We have a non-pottery project sidelining us for Nov and Dec so seeing what x-mas looks like for us will have to wait a year. 

In Topic: "i Covered Expenses ....."

08 November 2015 - 05:48 PM

Well I think some of the issue with new potters is not really thinking through what success looks like.


As an example let’s say you need to make a 42k salary ($20 an hour on 40 hour week) selling pots at shows and for the sake of argument you can do one show each month and your expenses beyond yourself is 10% and your extra employment contribution and health insurance adds another 15%. Let’s further plug an average $1000 show cost.


In this world that's $65,000 worth of pots a year and $5416 worth of pots you need to sell on the average at each show if shows are all you do. That’s to have the same take home as a job paying you 42k a year.


No matter what level your work is at I would guess that very very few reach that mark consistently in the beginning and may never hit consistently over their careers. The ones that can both hang on until they reach it, or develop additional ways to sell enough pots to do so, make it and those that don't have to add in a job or reduce their income needs. Like John pointed out, this I think is where folks get disillusioned and quit if they really didn't think it through and understand the level of success they need to reach to make a living selling pottery strictly at art shows.


I think most potters don't reach this level of success and have to make the hard choice to reduce needs to live on a more realistic modest potter’s income or continue pottery as a sideline.

In Topic: "i Covered Expenses ....."

06 November 2015 - 03:38 PM

Hi Mea,

Hope your season is going/went well. I cannot begin to thank you for your various posts on the business of selling pottery. I think anyone even remotely considering pottery as a business should include your earnings project and fine art show post must reads.


A year or two of dough will certainly make life easier. People can live very very cheap if they want to though and then perhaps a part time job to make up the difference? If you can get your sales at least to the point of exceeding the cash in to the show and pottery by $8-900 bucks a show then you might be able to eke out a living doing a bunch of shows while you get things rolling. If someone I guess spends years toiling away at getting everything perfect it will probably go smoother but the time you waited would have passed as well and in life we only do two things, die or grow older, so there’s that.


Lots of options. I will say though I think our product is fantastic and dozens of people agree at each show and while it wouldn't be a great living, If I had too, I could do it and not be miserable. I can remember living cheap and stretching a buck a long way back in the early eighties. My wife and I used to take in a free concert in the park and then go to a fajita place for $1 margaritas and $1 fajitas. You make do, if you want too. I think the key here is that while it can happen, it is unlikely anyone will just start making much money consistently at this when they start out so you are either going to need to keep the day job for a while or cut expenses to the bone and be willing to work a lot of hours and do a lot of shows.


I won't go near the quality or level of improvement anyone needs because presumably anyone doing pottery as a business feels their work is of high enough quality to be doing so and at least some of the people in their life space agree with them.


Ya know I think the blog post is great and I do agree that folks should be honest with themselves in regards to understanding a balance sheet and the quality of their art BUT I also say to not take these types of posts as a barrier. While many successful people did it pragmatically, many more did it against all odds by bootstrapping it from day one. If you are going to make a living in pottery though you need to be clear with yourself the difference between wants and needs :-)   

In Topic: "i Covered Expenses ....."

06 November 2015 - 01:11 PM

great blog, thanks!


I think a lot of people think 50% wholesale cost is steep but for many the cost of retailing it themselves at shows is going to be in that same neighborhood, or higher, until they figure out the right mix of shows.


Still though, just to defend this attitude a little for those of us starting out.


There is a point where the 'cash in' passes the raw expenses of being there and you start paying toward the myriad of other cost. When I say out loud, as I have, that at least we broke even, I meant that we didn't actually spend more cash to actually do the show, not that it was a success or a true 'breakeven' scenario. This is our first full season and we are obviously going to be spending a lot of donated time at shows trying to figure this out and find the right mix. So far we have always exceeded this number and that means that even our worst show was financially a neutral event and helps by providing exposure, gaining new customers and all the other positives that come from selling your work directly. This number pays zero toward anything else and in effect its like giving away 35-40 pieces of pottery. Even that has an advantage of keeping the inventory moving and us making new work continually. Until we can find a dozen truly good shows for our work I think we are going to be doing lots of these and consider the process a good one, as long as the shows do not become a cash drain.


We have two numbers, $500 and $1000 would be typical. A local show (inside an hour’s drive) cuts show expenses in half so once the till passes $500 the show is actually providing something toward the business. A 3 day show takes us 5 days as we go the day before and come back the day after. Using our RV this number is closer to a grand. I don't count any non cash expenses at all for this number and also don't count food.


We will likely go back to shows close to or exceeding $1500 and might even do a couple of lower ones that seem like they have potential. I guess I'm saying that while I totally get how to read a balance sheet, this is just not that kind of business when you start out because it just takes time, think multiple years, to figure it all out and simply having a show not further drain your cash is actually a victory.

In Topic: Packing Methods For Show

06 November 2015 - 11:52 AM

very nice and seems really stable.  I think having the wide to narrow design is certainly the way to go. Will definately consider your design, Thanks!


My biggest advice is making sure the display sits true with zero movement. We went through some heavy duty wind at a few shows this year and it was clearly a big deal having a strudy display system. At one show I was literally behind the tent holding it in place as 50mh gust blew through. The tent was going nuts but the interconected and bolded display racks sat like a rock and nothing even rattled. It really is weird to see the first time it happens because with the tent going bonkers you expect to have pottery start rattling and falling over but on a sturdy rack it just sits still while the wind blows through, or at least it has so far :-)


...on a totally differnet note incase someone doesn't know (I didn't at first) be sure and open a gap between the top and sides on all 4 sides when you get wind gust. On ours I just pull the velcro free and the wind opens the gap and can move through. At one show a tent became a short lived balloon and ended up in the bay.