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GEP

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    Silver Spring, MD
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    biking, jogging, cooking and eating, veggie gardening, baseball (Orioles)

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  1. A serious pursuit in ceramics, whether you do it as a business or not, is not something where you choose what type of potter you will be. “You don’t choose it. It chooses you.” Some people like the idea of being a potter, then find that the reality is not what they were expecting. Be careful about getting your impressions from Instagram or Reddit. In my experience of being part of the professional craft world (and not just seeing it on social media) is that the high volume functional pottery folks are the ones making a livable income. The low volume decorative folks are making a side income. That doesn’t mean that NONE of the decorative folks are making good money, some of them are. They have something in common, which is decades of experience and a long term steady growth of reputation and marketing. It takes a long time. The high volume functional folks who are making a good living have also been at it for decades. It takes that long to develop that kind of skill and speed. I have seen countless beginners try to start out making “expensive” pots thinking they can take a short path to being successful and making an income. It doesn’t work. Period. Anyone who says otherwise is pretending to be someone they’re not. Or trying to sell you something. (Pay me $$$$ for my secrets to craft business success! Or something like that. Again, be wary of social media messages.) Me personally, I am a high volume functional potter. I didn’t take this route because it was more profitable. It suits my personality and my artistic values.
  2. I have never actually used Etsy, and have not been following its recent changes, so if Callie says to avoid it, then listen to her!
  3. You’ve asked some very broad and generalized questions that are difficult to answer. The best way to answer these questions is through experience, so my best advice is to move forward with your plans and see where it takes you. I would start with Instagram and Facebook accounts, these are very easy to initiate. Start posting photos of your work on the regular basis. Consistency is really important. You don’t need an e-commerce website to start with. You can simply include in your captions “DM me to arrange a purchase” or something along those lines. An e-commerce website is a much more complicated project compared to a social media account. You can tackle this when the frequency of your sales makes it necessary to give your customers an easier purchase process. It doesn’t really matter what platform you build your online store (Etsy, WIX, Square, Shopify, etc). They all come with costs, in one form or another. What’s important is how effectively you can drive traffic to your store. Doing local in-person markets is also extremely important in terms of developing a following, so I encourage you to keep those plans! As for pricing, that’s a question that many sellers struggle with, including experienced pros. There is no quick formula. Basing your prices on the amount of time spent on your decorating techniques is not a valid method. This doesn’t have any correlation with market value and sellability. Figuring out the correct pricing for your work is a long term process. Start with prices that make sense to you, then adjust them up or down based on actual sales metrics. It will take a couple of years at least before you feel this out. Start small, be humble and flexible, and see where it takes you! Good luck, and congratulations for having the courage to start!
  4. Just to add some more possibilities: You might have a failing relay, therefore one section of the kiln isn’t heating correctly, therefore it takes much longer to finish the firing. Have your recent kiln loads been different, ie more dense? A kiln load with 8 shelves will take much more energy to fire than a kiln load with 4 shelves. I usually get about 130 firings from a set of elements and TCs, but only half of them are cone 6 glaze firings. The other half are cone 04 bisque. So 60-ish glaze firings is a reasonable life span, especially if you are doing slow cools and holds.
  5. After mugs, it’s small bowls that you can eat out of (as opposed to bowls large enough to serve things in). Cereal bowls, noodle bowls, salad bowls, etc.
  6. It takes years for a ceramics business to get off the ground and to start to turn a profit, let alone a livable income. Don’t quit your day job! Do this new business on the side until you get a better handle on how to work it.
  7. It varies, depending on the size and scope of the show. For a good 1-day show, maybe 50 items. For a good 4-day show, maybe 250. This answer does not apply to anyone but me. For everybody else, the answer will depend on your experience level. No. Attendance does not always correlate with sales. Attendees and serious buyers are not the same. Or sometimes a show will have great attendance, but your work does not fit in, for various reasons. The “other method” that works is to go back to shows that you have done before. You can estimate your sales based on past sales at the same event. If it’s a quality show, your sales should improve as you continue to do it. For some shows, after several years it might run its course, where you have saturated that market and your sales start to decline. There really isn’t another reliable way to do it. I wholly endorse what @Roberta12 said … for shows that you have not done before, it really helps to visit it in person before you apply. You can gain so much insight just by being there and observing everything.
  8. I have been spending a lot of time and energy replacing my Gerstley Borate glazes. The new ones are coming along, but they just don’t have the same glow and magic. I am trying to push the limits of “how much boron can I get away with?” The good news is that switching to Fabi Talc in place of Texas Talc has been seamless.
  9. In my experience, self-supporting cones can stick to the shelf if you overfire them just a little. They’re not supposed to, but it happens! As @Bill Kielb said, if you kiln wash your shelves, this is not a problem. I do not kiln wash my shelves, so I have had to chisel off some stuck cone bits. My solution to this is to use cone plaques, the kind that have holes in one side for holding non-self-supporting cones at the correct angle. I use the underside that doesn’t have holes, put kiln wash on that surface, and place my self-supporting cones on them. Any small piece of old or broken kiln furniture will work too.
  10. Another soy wax user here. I much prefer it to paraffin. Not only does it smell less, it melts to a more liquid consistency, therefore makes a straighter line on your pot. When you dip a pot into melted paraffin, the top edge of the paraffin can be wobbly and uneven, because it starts to solidify against your pot too fast. Note that it’s possible to by the wrong type of soy wax. There are some soy wax pellets that are formulated to stay soft when cool. Those do not resist glaze very well. Make sure to use soy wax FLAKES (looks like you have the right kind, @Snickerhaus Studio), and that the flakes are shiny and hard at room temperature.
  11. For most of the 20+ years I’ve had my basement studio, I’ve been using the same 3 base recipes. A dry matte, a semi-matte, and a glossy base. I have 1 variation on the dry matte, 2 variations of the semi-matte, and 2 variations of the glossy. Which equals 5 total. Which means I totally agree with your goal to keep 5 glazes. I also agree with @Marilyn T that having fewer glazes is beneficial to you, in terms of artistic growth.
  12. I like to say “even potters need a hobby,” and mine is bookbinding! I make hand-bound notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals. I love paper, cloth, adhesives, and sewing. My graphic design training taught me about pages/sheets/signatures, so I get to use my previous career’s knowledge.
  13. Agree that everyday functional pottery sells much better than sculptural or decorative ceramics. But “functional” alone will not automatically sell, there are plenty of functional wares out there that don’t sell well. It also needs to be pleasing to touch and hold it. And it needs to be correctly priced. Not too high OR too low. And it helps a great deal if it is stylistically original, i.e. customer does not look at it and think “I see a lot of pottery that looks just like this.”
  14. Based on simply looking at your photo (which is not very scientific), the glaze appears to have been applied too thickly to me. Over thick application is a common cause of pinholes. Perhaps the thing that has changed recently is the amount of water you are using? Do you measure for specific gravity? Another common cause of pinholes is underfiring. Sometimes a 5 degree higher firing can solve a pinholing problem. Perhaps the real issue is that your elements or thermocouples need to be replaced, and therefore your kiln is slightly underfiring? A firing with witness cones can answer this question.
  15. Yes. And if possible, let someone put them through a dishwasher 5x/week for 10 years! No formula can give you more information than that.
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