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Stephen

Member Since 28 Jan 2013
Offline Last Active Today, 11:40 AM
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#71613 Production Potter Productivity

Posted by Stephen on 10 December 2014 - 01:10 PM

I am also the type that constantly runs the numbers and beats up processes. I spent many years constantly tweaking the process flow for a group of a couple of dozen very dedicated employees for a non-pottery related business in order to maximize our output and I would caution to make the process a group effort, use a relaxed non-threatening approach and above all be inclusive.

 

If your frustration with your production schedule is too much of a frontal assault to the group you are either going to lose some good people and/or demoralize many of the ones that stay and really change the dynamics of the effort. The feeling that no matter how hard you work it's not going to be good enough will burn through people so fast. I've seen it happen often and even if they don't quit they grow to dislike their jobs and the overall atmosphere takes a hit for everyone.  

 

I heard a very good business speaker once advise an executive who is structuring the work day for employees to constantly ask themselves if they would work there and then modify their approach until they can honestly say yes. That advice has served me well and I think the folks that worked for me both produced the upper level of our capabilities AND enjoyed doing it.  

 

It's very easy to extrapolate numbers such as John's example of some of his good student throwers throwing a form every minute and then ramp that out as 60 an hour but hey first off those are throwing challenges and I assume not to be processed as product. Secondly he did not have them doing that 2-3 hours at a time day in and day out.

 

Mike I wish you the best of luck. I am sorry that you stopped posting here a year ago. I always only try to post on a topic that I think I can actually contribute something useful to the discussion. I only have the best of intentions with my post and like to try and contribute to the few forums I follow because I know its important to have an active membership for a forum to continue and thrive.




#70718 To Sell Or Not To Sell? That Is The Question

Posted by Stephen on 25 November 2014 - 12:44 PM

Hi Ria, you could just step up your game and start attempting very complex projects and forms. The output will go down and if you really push yourself you will likely have less making it all the way through in the beginning and new and different stuff to gift once ou master the new forms.

 

U could also start taking up other aspects of pottery like making your own glazes and maybe even dig/mix your own clay. Having the luxury of time and money can open up lots of interesting opportunities.




#70303 Pitfalls And Must Haves

Posted by Stephen on 20 November 2014 - 12:40 PM

Agree with the above and I would suggest if you are going to be selling regularly throughout the year then set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) Then just make sure you always put the ',LLC' next to your name on checks and when writing invoices or correspondence.

 

The LLC notation declares to the world that liability stops with the business and you as one of the principles are not personally liable so they are doing business with you understanding this. There are tons of internet resources on this so surf around and get familiar. It may seem complicated at first but its not and a single individual can set one up as well as a group and it is a great alternative to running a sole proprietorship when it comes to any business selling a product of any kind. You will likely have a state filing each year and taxes to pay but only need to add to your federal return if you exceed a certain dollar amount. last year that was $400.

 

You can likely do it all online in a couple of hours at your states corporation portal and simply file an annual report, pay an annual fee and file some specific reports if some things change (such as your address or business name etc.)

 

Also keep in mind that the IRS will not allow you to write off expenses beyond revenue offsets if your business is considered a hobby business so if you are just operating a side business to pay for your supplies and direct cost and are not trying to grow a business concern then limit your deductions to revenue.

 

here's a link on that:

http://www.irs.gov/u...-for-Deductions

 

Good luck, I hope you make a bunch of dough ;-)




#70298 Overcoming Insecurity

Posted by Stephen on 20 November 2014 - 12:19 PM

LeeU It sounds like pottery has been really something positive in your life. Thanks for sharing, u are an inspiration.  

 

When not walking in the same shoes as someone who is troubled about something it seems so easy to just tell them to pull themselves up by the ol bootstraps but anyone who has hit a rough patch knows it does not work that way. You have to get there and sometimes that means a lot of work.

 

Not a big fan of critiques. I know that makes the educators here cringe but they just do not seem to be that valuable. Look when you are asking another artist to weigh in on your work anything other that "that's great" stings so I don't want to put them or myself in the situation to start with. I don't need anyone to tell me my crappy work is crappy and if like it then I don't particularly care if they do or not, I'm the one in charge of my art.

 

As an alternative I am trying to be really engaged with pottery and what others are doing so my own opinion about my own work has more merit. Besides if you pot very much at all you have to start selling and when you start selling that is when you start getting the one opinion that does matter above your own, the customers. 




#70231 Overcoming Insecurity

Posted by Stephen on 19 November 2014 - 03:55 PM

You might also consider adding a bunch of small stuff to your mix. An hour of work per mug makes them expensive (or should) and in smaller close to home venues that likely means the sales are slow, not because the work is not good but simply because small local venues don't sell like the larger fairs do. The small stuff will help counter that and get some much needed cash into your box while you wait for the more expensive items to sell. If you search here you will see recommendations like spoon rest, soap holders, simple jewelry and the like. Basically anything on a less grand scale that you can make cool and sell for under $20 and you will likely ring up more sales for those pesky things like food clothing and shelter.

 

Maybe you use Diesels decal suggestion to transfer some of your beautiful art to less expensive items and then markup the strictly hand painted ones a lot. Kind of like working the 'original' versus 'print' angle that painters and photographers do. I would think a hand painted mug like you are doing should be pricey, is it?  

 

Good luck and don't let the business side of things deflate you. There is a solution to that, u just have to keep trying different things until you find the right combination and then boom you're on easy street with the rest of us.

 

I hope you didn't take offense at the fantasy recommendation. Your drawing seemed loose and fun and somewhat fantasy inspired, at least to me, and themed events like ravenCon supposedly get huge crowds of folks with money to spend and if you arrive with beautiful pots adorned with drawings that match the events theme I bet you would do really well.

 

Lots of other similar things for your art as well like hand painted beer steins at Oktoberfest events or the Scottish games in western Washington. How about animal events? I know a few avid dog show folks and if they go to a show and see anything painted with their 'breed' it is snatched up. Keep in mind these are people that have the kind of money to blow hundreds of dollars on a weekend of walking their dog in a show for a blue ribbon to add to their collection of blue ribbons.    

 

Anyway just some suggestions, sorry you feel panicked that is an absolutely horrible feeling. Sounds like you need some successes to even things out in your life, good luck working through it! 




#70221 Pride ... Is It Really A Sin?

Posted by Stephen on 19 November 2014 - 12:33 PM

2 me its the 'process' that charges me on a daily basis. I really dig that. With he right music and the work going well I get in a zone that is really cool. Even when I was cutting everything in half I didn't care, just check it and move on. It's just some mud so if its bad toss it and grab another ball or slab of clay.

 

Pots have so much to go through that I don't get too attached until its time to open the glaze kiln, then I'm primed.  




#70104 New Potter: Advice Appreciated!

Posted by Stephen on 17 November 2014 - 05:43 PM

I think Rebekah makes a great point about hours. I think using hours over years when talking about building your skills as a potter makes a lot of sense because intense hours of practice really does make so much difference. 

 

It seems to me that averaging much more than 10-12 hours a week in your home studio on a continuous basis is a lot for someone juggling relationships, a household, a full time job and all the background getting to and from hoopla of life. Sure there is the occasional 20-25 hour weekend stint but there is also the 3 weeks that go by when you can't get into the studio because life gets in the way. If I'm right then 5-600 hours a year is about what a serious non-pro potter with a home studio would spend on pottery and that's 5-600 hours really spread around with a lot of starting and stopping. If you're using an outside studio it's probably more like twice a week for several hours and that would be more like 300 hours a year of work.  

 

On the other hand I think most full time working potters put in north of 50 hours a week and likely close to 4,000 hours in a year. That means it could take 6-8 years as a serious side artist to hit the hours that a pro puts in one year and probably much more to match the benefit the pro gets from 4000 intense hours.  

 

Whitney Smith ( an Oakland, Ca potter who writes a great blog by the way and talks a lot about the business side of pottery in her blog post ) advises folks to not go pro while their pots are still getting dramatically better from one month to the next. I always thought that was really spot on advice.


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#70082 New Potter: Advice Appreciated!

Posted by Stephen on 17 November 2014 - 12:27 PM

Well you are already a working potter selling pottery so I think a lot of what you are asking for is not really advice but rather validation. Whether your good enough to start selling does not really matter anymore and 8 months in is not really the time to be having these thoughts unless you are wanting to slow everything down and just want to hear that. Your post didn't really sound like you are burning out and people are buying your pottery but if you are having 2nd thoughts then yeah hold up and get your bearings before pushing ahead. You didn't take up a hobby, you opened a business and that means you are spending time and money on a business and really should get that part figured out before doing anything else or switch gears and just turn it back into a hobby with a review down the road.    

 

Based on these first 7-8 months you should have some general benchmarks to work from in projecting where you are going. Use this experience to forecast the next year, not a gut feeling or loose goal, but real numbers with reasonable assumptions going forward. Net income dollars are different in all the venues you listed so figure out the details and spreadsheet all of this at the very least. Surf on business plans and write one and learn how to plan what you want to happen and then how to review that each year with what did happen. Most of your questions beyond "am I good enough" will need to be answered by you with your unique experience and a business plan is the place to prepare to work out the answers to these questions. 

 

The right time to quit the day job will answer itself if you do this right and you may be working almost full time at potting while your still have the other full time gig as well. Don't spend the extra overlapping funds, bank them because when you do make the jump you will need them.  

 

Your assumption that once you blow the full time gig your revenue will double or triple is likely not based in any type of reality. It could happen but I doubt it will happen. More likely the business revenue will just have a better upward trend as the new time starts having an effect and that means you have to walk through it with financial worksheets and projections to know when the time is right t make the move and exactly WHAT you are going to be doing after you make this transition. If you are not making what you need monthly the day you quit then you will need to use savings to bridge the gap and you had better be doing a very good job with your projections if those savings are limited.

 

As an example, you indicated 36k net which works out to be $3000 a month over expenses. If you are netting $1500 a month when you quit your day job and you are projecting your net will grow to the needed $3000 once you are working full time (more work, more shows, more wholesale etc) and the ramp up from $1500 to $3000 is over a year that would work out to a large shortfall the first month and a zero shortfall the 12th month. Add up the monthly shortfalls and that is the cash you are projecting to lose while your new full time schedule gives your pottery business the extra production to reach the revenue you need. What if it takes 2 years to get all the way to a breakeven monthly revenue, can you handle that?  

 

Never look at a new business with any wishful thinking when it comes to revenue. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

 

Good luck!   




#68726 How Quickly Do You Get Rid Of Failures?

Posted by Stephen on 27 October 2014 - 01:17 PM

I've never actually had a pot not come out spot on but I suppose I might have to smash the first one that doesn't work out. ;)




#68283 Well Said

Posted by Stephen on 21 October 2014 - 11:22 AM

I would think having this on their Facebook page, website or hanging in their booth at an art fair is meant is to either reinforce the attitude or create it and I would not find it out of place at all.  Handmade pottery is a niche market sold mostly to those that appreciate it for what it is and the backstory of the artist is certainly part of what it is.

 

Doing a blog is also a way to accentuate that the pottery is made by a real person. I think one of the reasons that good potters seemed to have done fine through the down turn is that potters enjoy a nice slice of the art/crafts market as many of their buyers might have turned it down a notch on other types of artwork but kept buying pottery because its both decorative and functional. It's/We're special ;-)

 

Look if I sold pizzas It would be because I was passionate about pizza and they would be made with nothing but the best and most expensive ingredients and my pitch would need to essentially be "come buy a really expensive pizza from me". While I agree with Carl that a perfectly fine mug can be had at target for a fraction of what most potters charge for a mug, I disagree that they are not better, I think they are better in almost every way. However they do not hold coffee any better than a machined mug and if your potential customer does not know the sentiment above then hey it might sway them your way by getting them to read it and maybe open their wallet. Not everyone at the fair, on the Facebook page or website has come over to our side so we have to entice/encourage them to stay and buy something.

 

If this had been called delusional in another area of the forum I might not have responded but Phill posted it in business so I had to challenge his view and hopefully get him to re-think his opposition to using such blurps. In order to sell art I think it is so important that modesty and the need to sound a certain way needs to be well thought out because selling pottery is selling and this blurp on a facebook page I would see as something toward that goal. I think either Mea Rhee or Chris Campbell pointed out in one post how much it mattered to be in an upbeat mood at the worst of shows or what little sales you are getting will dissipate.            

    

I think another great place for something like this is on the bag or box that a customer takes with a purchase because they may well be giving it to someone and we should be trying to market to that person as well because they too may be new to what we do. 


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#68176 Well Said

Posted by Stephen on 19 October 2014 - 03:59 PM

I'll bite. In what way? It struck me as a good sentiment.




#68108 Every Once In A While,

Posted by Stephen on 18 October 2014 - 05:23 PM

now you guys have 2 wheels, fantastic! Congrads on the great find.




#67847 Fast Drying Tiles

Posted by Stephen on 15 October 2014 - 11:39 AM

and there ya go, $550 bucks and ya have a 2x2 foot fast tile drying system for tiles :-)

 

http://www.heatinggr...-panel-heaters/

 

or possibly 2 $35 seedling heating mats:

 

http://www.homedepot..._-203357025-_-N

 

still cheaper, a DIY option. 2 18' rope lights are $25 and if 100 degrees is applied to each side of the drywall it might just dry in a 24 hour cycle.

 

http://www.vegetable...s-seed-starting




#67606 Setting An Electric Kiln Outside

Posted by Stephen on 11 October 2014 - 11:54 AM

Yeah you cannot pull an owner permit for building or electrical and let anyone else do the work. Marks idea does sounds much better than a tarp.




#66619 Banding Wheels

Posted by Stephen on 25 September 2014 - 02:25 PM

Thanks again everyone.

 

I went with the Darice stainless steel sculpture turntable. We do have a 12" Shimpo and it is certainly a great choice. I wanted to try a cheaper alternative since I us having a few more of these in the studio at different workstations.

 

The Darice has a stainless steel top and cast iron base.  It's supposed to be in on Monday so I will update this post once I check it out.