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Member Since 28 Jan 2013
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#122759 Are Farmers Markets A Good Place To Sell?

Posted by Stephen on 22 February 2017 - 06:13 PM

Last summer in an attempt to get some exposure and cash moving we did a couple of dozen farmers markets in the northwest.


These were large markets like you mentioned with large populations in the surrounding area. depends on what you think is worth it. We started out in June when most markets open in this part of the country doing 3 markets a week, Thursday, sat and sun around our regular show schedule. all ran for 5 hours and it took about an hour and a half on each end to setup and breakdown. So that 2 people for 8 hours. After a month we dropped the Thursday market as it rarely topped $200 and the other two settled in between $250-$350. We brought about $3000 in inventory to each and had full booth setup with three display racks and a table.


Berry bowls were hard to keep stocked and mugs and spoon rest were easily half the sales, the bigger the better. I do believe if we did them this year we could work them up to $400-500 through continued building of repeat customers and getting better and better at know what sells. Not sure if those numbers are worth it to you or not.obviously if you count the labor for us to go do it they are a bust but its cash between shows, exposure and they are fun. The customers you do have, at least where we were, are super nice, Make sure you have something like square set up as that's important so that folks with just a few bucks for vegies and flowers can pop a few mugs on their card. We gained some regular customers in the process and also got some orders here and there.


Definitely bring a lot of low priced under $30 stuff but we did sell some more expensive pots here and there.


Oh and yeah $22 mugs were a hard sell. We dropped price to $18 at one point and they started moving. Hand Painted mugs however sold just fine for $28. Not sure much higher would have worked but we don't look for volume on those anyway.

#121488 Youtube Video Potters

Posted by Stephen on 30 January 2017 - 08:34 PM

I remember back in mid eighties my wife and I, having little money, in Houston would take $10 bucks, go to a free concert in the park with a picnic and then stop at a place called 2 pesos on the way home and have a few $1 margaritas. If ur broke u just figure it out.

An old kiln, cheap used wheel, some clay and youtube and ur in business, like oldlady said (that always feels disrespectful :rolleyes: ) everything else can be pieced together on the cheap.

#121453 Youtube Video Potters

Posted by Stephen on 29 January 2017 - 11:27 PM

Ya know I started this post as hopefully an archive resource for maybe a beginner who was cash poor and in need of help but in the process picked up some good names and have found myself watching several videos again after a few years of not watching any, thanks everyone for the contributions.

I do disagree on the critiques of Simon Leach's videos though, I found his videos to be great but I watched dozens of them not just one so I am judging them overall.

#121264 To Blog Or Not To Blog ....

Posted by Stephen on 26 January 2017 - 12:26 PM

I think it really matters the intent.


I read a number of them and often think they lose focus and become more of a journal with little purpose or information. One of the reasons I do not use my name here is that I want to shape my online business voice in a very tight controlled way BUT I am trying to build a business that will not only pay my bills but provide growth someday and become established and respected. Blogs and forum post can dilute that message with way too personal information or business insights that are less than professional. 


So I suggest deciding up front If the blog is a chronicle of a personal journey being shared with et all OR is a business blog that is championing you and your business, highlighting exciting news and building excitement for you and your work. If you make this distinction from the beginning I bet it is more fun to write and more fun for the followers to read. 


I would guess both approaches will build sales and relationships.  

#120677 Wholesale-Know Your Limits

Posted by Stephen on 16 January 2017 - 08:59 AM

Hey supply shops might work for pipes but I think their main customers are the PYOP shops and I think they would be a bad fit from what I know because its model is built mostly around events such as birthday parties so the supply shops might not be very interested. If they aren't you could try to go directly to studio potters who hand paint. There are some who buy tiles and such to paint and they become a good customer.


Since you say thousands I assume you have a good mold situation and now can cast them pretty quick and want to ramp up some more. Not sure how many pipes other potters are going buy but it might not make much of an impact. I can think of lots of end markets for finished pipes but not sure who the end market for bisque pipes would be that would generate any real numbers.  


Good luck! Let us know what you find.

#120376 First Glaze Firing

Posted by Stephen on 10 January 2017 - 07:06 PM

thank you oldlady. an interesting fact i learnt when reading mark hewitts book on the NC potters, some used glass to fix the cracks on the handles. 


chilly now you bring up a whole different aspect of the conversation. 


for the middle east region (like that video posted from the BBC) i literally accepted glass as ground glass just because of the importance of glass historically there, plus from my own cultural background. as a child in india i mixed ground glass mixed in egg to the string which we used for kite fights. 


'ground glass' i dont really mind. glass or silica or sand. interchangeable.


but when you melt 'chunks' of glass on pots that's when i get interested. what i am discovering here i guess is the thinness of application. vertical drip is different than thick horizontal layer.


i remember  seeing a potter gather beads of glaze from her (i think) kiln and use them on her pots. she found errant beads which looked like glass beads. if i remember its on vertical surfaces. very successfully. 

It does look cool and it does appear to work but glass and clay are not compatible. Spectrum said in no uncertain terms that it is not a question of if it will fail, it is a question of when it will fail and there's a very good chance someone will be using the pot in some fashion when it does. Spectrum is one of the largest art glass suppliers to glass blowers and glass fusing artist with every incentive to sell glass glass to potters and I can not imagine why they would not embrace the market if it was safe to do so. 

#118413 Just Dreaming ...

Posted by Stephen on 14 December 2016 - 10:02 AM

To me it sounds like a great plan but maybe an end game instead of a start. One problem I see is that you are building the business goals around the property instead of the location around the business plan. It seems you are ready to take your home studio to the next level and when this property became available you molded this desire around the property. 


I started a company over 20 years ago now and over the 10 years I ran it we moved 4 times when it made sense, The spot we opened in was a 1500' office/warehouse with one private office and little entry area I put 3 cubes in and the last spot was a 7000' one with conference room and decked out suite of offices and loading dock. My point is that we progressed through growth cycles, getting and paying for what we needed at the time.


For a small owner operated studio I think like Mark C states, debt is your worst enemy. If you don't have deep pockets It will eliminate your ability to handle downturns in revenue and put you in a position of always having to worry about closing your business. Renting until there is plenty of cushion keeps you flexible and expenses down as its much more common to over buy than it is to over rent.  


Why not channel this desire, research and write a realistic business plan that fits you and your current financial abilities and just keep molding it until it works. Another thing I think you might not realize about a big project like you mentioned will likely be the end of you pottery work for the foreseeable future as executing such a space would definitely be all time consuming for the lead.


Check out Whitney Smith's blog. She has lots of great stuff on her business. She runs a small pottery in a small 6-800ish rented space in Oakland, has an assistant I believe and makes and sells her pottery everyday instead of managing a larger effort and has been successfully doing it for a long time.


A very good friend of mine who once owned a very large business said to me 'stay small you will last longer' 

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#117484 Am I Screwed?

Posted by Stephen on 29 November 2016 - 11:55 AM

Hey guys, all is well. Glaze stayed put with no runs, fired deep red as expected without any glaze flaws developing. I'm a happy potter as I've got three back to back Xmas shows starting Saturday and could ill afford to lose a load.


The cones by the way fired deadon 6 with the 7 slightly bent so the 47 minute hold at cone 5 registered a tad over a full cone of heat work. That surprises me as I expected to see the 7 at least half bent if not all the way which would have left me wondering if it approached 8. 


When I compare this firing to a cone 5 with 20 minute hold and controlled ramp cool down I can see no real difference. So the extra 20 minutes does not really seem to hurt or benifit with this particular glaze and the entire load was firebrick red. I guess I stayed in the parameters and all and all a pretty sturdy glaze.


Thanks for all the input and encouragement everyone, really appreciated and you all made me relax a bit about it and just wait and see b4 getting too bummed.  

#116485 Centering Kiln On Stand

Posted by Stephen on 16 November 2016 - 02:01 PM

Yeah I know :rolleyes: , to my credit though I did tell myself I was being silly and it was fine, just needed you guys to agree with me :-)


Mark  I couldn't agree more. On the 1027 we bought over the summer I popped for the rolling stand and that one is really cool, it has huge iron bars that go all the way out and then bent up to essentially wrap the kiln in it. Makes it rool great but also really provides righteous looking support. After using that one this little stand looks way to small and flimsy to do the job.


Thanks everyone!

#115076 Chawan, Yonomi, Tea Bowl, Tea Cup, Mug.......

Posted by Stephen on 25 October 2016 - 12:40 PM

when the mind makes the switch. As cliche as it is, I know a bowl when I see one.


Yeah ditto on just roll with the parameters whatever they are. That's the way the real world is too. There's always something about why your making a pot that is going to establish some parameters and if you ever do this professionally you will always have either self-imposed or requested boundaries. 

#114434 New-To-Me Refurbished Kiln Overfires. Where To Go From Here?

Posted by Stephen on 08 October 2016 - 12:02 PM

When we need a turn around for a show we occasionally run loosely packed bisque and glaze loads (prob half full or even less sometimes) in both a 7 and 9 cf kiln and have not noticed any problems or cone differences.

#114388 Wedging Clay

Posted by Stephen on 06 October 2016 - 06:54 PM

ditto on the slam, my partner/mentor gives me a side look every time I take a sliced chunk and slam it on the studio floor a few times b4 forming clay balls. We never discussed it and I think she just accepts it as a weird ritual. She wedges :-)

#114312 Wedging Clay

Posted by Stephen on 04 October 2016 - 11:41 PM

To begin with, just use the clay out of the bag. When you develop scrap that you will want to re-use then you MUST wedge it to get the air out.

What I've been doing for production for a few years now and not having any issues. We have a de-airing pug mill though so just use the reclaim out of the sleeve as well. I do lightly wedge and cone up and down several times. But like Bob said just go with what's right for you, once you figure THAT out.


Where I have a good routine your's might be different based on all kinds of things including the clay body and the environment everything is used and stored in.


It is confusing and can be maddening when you are starting out. Change something and often your routine will have to be adjusted.


That's why old potters live in the same house for 50 years using the same wheel, kiln, clay and green glaze they started with in 1976 and go into a tizzy when the owner of their supply house dies of old age, retires or worse yet turns it over to their kids who have been waiting in the wings wanting to change everything for years.


Just remember when it comes to pottery, change is bad! 

#113796 Multiple Clay Explosions In Bisque

Posted by Stephen on 26 September 2016 - 09:21 AM

wow, only had one piece explode in the 7 years I have been doing pottery. My sister in-law had carved a head once that exploded because she didn't hollow it out but that's it and we (two) of us are production so a lot of pottery. We use porcelain and let everything sit for a few days getting bone dry and bisque, no candling but I am on an electronic.


My 2 cents though is If you have not had this problem I wouldn't start fussing with your routine that has stood the test of time, that will drive you crazy and seems like it would be unlikely to be the problem if your stuff is bone dry when you put it in. If you change something external and it makes what's really happening not occur then you are going to doom yourself to some odd routine. There was a poster on here I recall that solved a similar problem by some month long completely unnecessary drying routine and she is now convinced that pottery is THAT fussy. It is fussy but not fussy. I vote for the new sitter being screwed up. Can you take it back? 

#113757 Do You Like....?

Posted by Stephen on 25 September 2016 - 09:43 AM

I am noticing more and more that the loose and fun stuff tends to sell the fastest but without the tight matching stuff sales would really suffer. I work on doing a mix and like both. But I don't have that many forms and do a lot of mugs and tumblers and those are easy to do this way. One of the reasons I love making and selling pottery is that pottery lovers are all drawn to different types of pottery and that makes it so much fun and interesting.


I do keep everything very functional but like LeeU I am trying to leave some handmade look and feel to my work. I don't always do the last rib work to smooth the surface and remove every non functional blemish. I also often leave the trim lines for some surface character under the glaze. I also have found myself less and less throwing to gauge or using profile tools and that makes them a little less structured and more fun. 


I also am really working on establishing a good medium weight. I don't like heavy pottery and I don't like super light (feels machined to me and I think others). My mentor told me when I started throwing that what I was going for was my initial thought when I picked up a pottery piece being no surprise and 'just what I expected'. After a few seconds the brain adjusts and a heavy mug doesn't feel that heavy and a light mug feels heavier BUT when you first pick it up that initial reaction is the sweet spot. Off topic but weight was mentioned by a few :-) 


Anyway make for yourself to your own tastes and there will be plenty of pottery lovers who agree and to the ones that don't, 'hey, they are not your audience' and some other potter will please them. BUT if I didn't like making mugs I still would or I would starve.