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Stephen

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  • Birthday 10/02/1960

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  1. A good managerial accounting prep book might be a good read. Financial accounting is all about the financials for outside consumption but managerial accounting better deals with the reality of people making and shipping a product. A lot of folks do it here with shows and you do it with your retail location and those two venues I think may cause a more finite sell through but wholesale and wholesale retail (selling from a wholesale production process at retail prices) can scale and I think in just about any area of studio pottery you will find a half a dozen companies doing it with studio pottery methods. Not saying everyone or anyone really should scale and I get it may be too much of a hassle to grow and add employees but if the pricing is right then it becomes a marketing issue on how many potters can be employed. Just like any other manufacturing company as long as a net net is achieved over COGS then what you sell caps what you make. The only way an incremental addition of labor only pays for the labor is if the pricing is off or unobtainable. As an example, If you check out the marketing mug potteries (they have a stamped logo or marketing badges on them) you will find probably a half a dozen companies that have 30-40 employees and while some do slip casting, a lot of them throw, handle and badge just like a one man operation does. They just do a lot of them and the jobs are broken up into teams. Ditto for art tile companies. Check YouTube and you can see videos of a lot of their studios. Rows of Skutt 1227's and/or car kilns and rows of potters wheels with guys throwing to gauge, buckets of glaze with waxed pots being dipped or tiles being hand extruded, hand cut and hand painted. The difference seems to be that they have developed a national market of private companies and government entities that want these handmade pots over cheap few dollar imports.
  2. I buy the dish moving pouches at Lowes/Home Depot (about 50 cents a piece but last a long time) and come in small and large size. They may have a medium but have only seen and bought the two. It was a few hundred buck investment to start but just did it once and now just add a package or two here and there to replace ratty ripped ones from time to time. I wouldn't stress too much about it though. We've done dozens of shows (one day and three day) and have only had a couple of damaged pots and none in a long time and we pack and unpack as fast as possible. Just make sure they are wrapped with something. MarK C turned us on to using cardboard squares in divided boxes over bubble wrap for mugs and we put those boxes in plastic bins (weather better). Can stack two and three layers of mugs really fast and used that method with zero issues. Ditched it lately for the pouches on mugs too because bigger mugs became a problem. Bubble wrap worked fine for years but we found it to really made breakdown take longer. Now we just slide into pouch and stack. Have to be careful on weight though because boxes will hold a lot of pots packed that way. It probably takes two of us half an hour or so to pack a few hundred pots this way.
  3. Factories in china are turning out pots with the same "flaws" on every 6th pot. While no one wants to have bad pots on the rack I think you have to be very careful about tossing pots that just have characteristic blemishes from being hand made.
  4. As you start gathering your information and prepping for your next show I would take a look at inventory and try and determine where your revenue is going to come from. Ours usually comes from about 50% mugs/tumblers and perhaps a quarter comes from under $15 items. The rest comes from an assortment of platters, bowls, vases and other higher end pots. We use Square for checking out both credit cards and cash so we have a good record of everything in one spot. I would recommend checking them out. I bet you will be surprised how little difference running the booth is than your market shows. Good luck!
  5. seeing it sooner is never worth messing up a load over. I've always turned vent off when cracking the lid and removing plugs since it will draw in the room air.
  6. Hey way to go! Now you have inventory, sales and stats. Your next show is just replacing the pots you just sold and a few more 'new' forms to try. I know hearing about $7000-$8000 shows from others can be really depressing but I think very few potters do that kind of dough and the ones that do have spent many years finding the right line up of shows that work out that well for what they make. Ya know I think all stats are important right now so you can keep track of whats working and what's not. I would try if possible to find out from one of the show folks what they estimate the attendance was so you can have something to use for future comps. Sounds like you did about 50 sales and that means there are 50 or so folks that like pottery and liked yours enough to buy and today all of those folks have your pottery proudly in their house. No one buys a $20 mug unless they really like it. Now it's just a numbers game and product fit. If you get the sales up to 100 and your average up a bit it more than doubles but the expenses don't and that dough looks better, right? I think you also got a taste of the fact that at these types of shows small items seem to be really popular and I think most of us try to have a number of small grabs as it will be most of the sales. The bigger, pricier stuff just moves more slowly. Don't forget to have fun!
  7. I think it will make a huge difference in the potters you talk to and the expenses they have beyond labor and how organized their studio is for doing a project like the one you mention. Many potters work from a home based studio and do not have employees. The primary cost for this type of potter is labor and studio time. If the studio time is available, meaning the schedule is not full with higher margin jobs, then your job is going to be looked at from a time standpoint with a set material cost. It also will matter how complex you want the bud vases to be. Can they be flat bottomed or do you want a foot on each? Can one glaze be used or do you want a white/clear liner glaze and a different one on outside? Solid or additional decoration? Short for three cut flowers or tall? We do a monthly show from a home studio so a job like this would be no different than the economics of some of the smaller forms we do for spec, such as small condiment bowls, spoon rest etc and carry on our rack. Granted there is a lost leader attitude about some of these pots but we price all of our work based on a minimum amount per hour for labor, cost and profit so if we carry it we make a profit on that item for the most part. While customers don't buy based on time to make, we certainly price with time as a factor. We price our studio time at $50 an hour to cover all of our cost including raw labor. Of course the economics would be totally different for a pottery with a lot of additional overhead to consider. We did have a retail location last year and the foot traffic was not enough to justify the location and had we stayed for a lease renewal all of our prices would have had to be increased to pay for a host of additional cost such as clerks, advertising, insurance etc and we decided to switch gears and do a very popular monthly local show instead. We live in a tourist town so this works as there new customers at every show. Good luck with your project, I wouldn't give up on it too quickly I think all the answers here show that there are a lot of answers to your question. Pottery is not something that a business can just order more of when they need inventory so everything is based on having to produce the pot and the playing field varies widely from how fast the potter is on the wheel and in other production aspects and the overhead they have to cover beyond labor cost.
  8. We use the 9 and perfectly happy with it. Not sure I would want to drop from 25 ibs to 14 but not sure I wouldn't either. Like you said it comes down to feeding clay in more often, mixing and then pugging out logs of clay. Our 9 seems to be built very sturdy and fit for pro use and we have had it for over 10 years. The 7 looks to be made just as well but you might call the company and ask them if its of lower quality than the 9 in addition to being smaller. The way we pug is to accumulate scrape in buckets (with plastic trash liner and lid) and when it builds up to a few of those we process it. 10 years ago that was often but now we produce a lot less scrape so it takes a couple of months to have enough to reclaim. We are not hobbyist but not particularly high volume either, doing a dozen shows a year these days. I just put some tunes on and feed the mixer and pug. It's just kind of a continuous process until all the scrape is done. With the 9 I fill it up, mix and then pug out about 4 or so 18" clay logs and then repeat. If you had the 7 then I would guess that it would be 2-3 logs in between filling. That's the decision I think you are making. I can go through three 5 gallon buckets of reclaim in 5-6 cycles of this process and a 7 would be about twice that I assume. I don't know if the extra mixing might wear out the motor faster though and another good question for the company rep. Not seeing any wear on ours after over a decade of moderate use. It takes about an hour or so for me to process the 3 or so buckets but we stopped putting dry clay in. That always meant longer mixing times but the reason we stopped is that if we used the clay fairly quickly we found small chunks of clay. Mixing longer or letting it sit for a longer time probably would have fixed it as well but just keeping wet scrap wet and slaking the occasional bone dry reclaim both fixed it and keeps the mixing time short. Not sure the size difference but that might make a difference as well. I built a 6x2 foot cart with a Formica counter top and would love it to be smaller and take up less space but we use a 600 foot garagio and space is a premium. I bet you will be happy regardless of which one you choose, they seem to be a great company with well made machines.
  9. I wouldn't feel that way if I were you. There are plenty of people making a living in pottery so it's there for whatever you want it to be. Starting part time seems to make a lot sense if money is an issue. If your pots are not selling in any numbers working 3-4 hours a day there's no reason to believe they will sell that much better if you are working 8=10. Part time gives you time to work through the process and figure out what will work for you. Shows, online, selling studio time, wholesale, consignment,retail are all area to explore and none of them require you be full time, although selling studio time might be tricky part time. What do you mean fully fund a studio? Are you planning to rent a place or a home studio?
  10. ya know I bet it is pretty much zero. I'd recommend forget debt and bootstrap your business. Debt is a really bad thing for most businesses when starting out. There is smart debt but I can't imagine it would apply to an early stage art business. When the part time business is at the scraping by level you can start thinking how full time will kick it forward. Debt really should be for specific investment with a planned return on investment not getting off the ground, such as an equipment upgrade that will then increase productivity, that sort of thing. Just my two cents.
  11. Ha ha, yeah cars are a favorite comp but just don't agree with it. I was being sarcastic but actually I know a very successful person with extreme wealth that drives a a beat up 1992 quarter ton pick and I know many instances of successful small business owners who drive very nice and expensive cars because they like to drive them and they also make brilliant business decisions but your point is a good one in that a good understanding of finances obviously enhance business decisions . A few business courses will help as well because beyond being frugal and understanding financials, marketing, project management, inventory control etc will come into play. There are a lot of reasons businesses, any business, succeeds or fails and LeeU's point is knowing how many potters make all their income from pottery is pretty useless and I agree. The amount needed is extremely subjective and the range of people, needs and yes business acumen are so varied that the number would yield nothing meaningful for what I believe the OP was really asking, which is what are my chances of success at making a living in pottery. LeeU and I both more or less asked the same thing, "define success". I think the question is spot on. Someone wanting to make their living making pots will have to thoroughly evaluate THIER circumstances and make some decisions on what success will look like for them and then come up with a winning formula to get there. My partner makes all of her income from making pottery. Also her business is over 10 years but that information does not seem useful to anyone trying to determine if this business will work for them other than to say she does. It's real easy to look at a business failure as a reflection of business ability, I mean they failed right? But 30 years of experience tells me that just is often not remotely the case. I will agree it is sometimes the reason but it is far, far from being the most common reason. Also the flip side of this debate is to define failure. A kid out of school living at home can withstand a longer runway than someone with a family and all that entails.
  12. ya know I think you missed LeeU's point. I agree with her that the stat is not useful because of all the reasons she said. yes it is a business but it is also a passion to many who do it and that makes a difference in how its approached and the sacrifices and time demands that an all-in potter might put up with may well be much different than businesses like plumbing, air conditioning or Real Estate etc. I failed at trying to go full time but I was willing to go to much more of an extreme trying to salvage it than any other business I can think of. If driving a Nova was all it would have taken I be a Nova driving potter today
  13. If you are trying to figure out if its possible to earn a living making pots, the answer is yes. There are many people making a living within the realm of pottery and a lot of people that make and sell enough pots to make what they need to live on. Now the tricky part is figuring out where you fit in and if you can make a living doing it. My partner is full time and I'm part time with a good day job. works for us. Are you already into pottery or are you just checking it out?
  14. If I had a manual kiln I would follow Hulks advice and add a pyrometer so I could watch whats going on in the kiln temp wise and add a cone pack he mentioned with one cone below, one cone dead on and one a cone number above the target. The thing is the time changes as the elements wear out and since the kiln is manual you have to make the ongoing adjustments or I guess just wait until a load gets under-fired. Amazon has some thermocouple type ones and I saw one at Sheffield. https://www.sheffield-pottery.com/Paragon-Kilns-DT2-7-Digital-Handheld-PYROMETER-p/pdt27.htm?_vsrefdom=adwords&gclid=Cj0KCQjwocPnBRDFARIsAJJcf94YqOp_8-vCHkflwMR0It2bS4a6BHV2qhyUTRoueHuU7BDLr46u2QYaAqXQEALw_wcB
  15. Ya know i guess I would say it can become involved and if you do go the recipe route then that's going to probably mean a lot of additional materials and expense. If you enjoy that aspect of pottery it can be a lot of fun though . If you can keep it more simple then you will likely save money and you do have a lot of control over the final look and that's cool. One thing I think you might want to keep in mind is that once you go down the road with the choices you make now and put them in production for a number of years it does become tricky to change. The company we use for commercial is Clay Art Center in Tacoma, Wa and buy most raw materials from them and Seattle Pottery Supply. We've been dealing with Clay Art Center for a really long time and still have both glaze and porcelain shipped to Texas by the pallet. Have loved working with these guys and have a few dozen buckets of glaze in production. We could buy porcelain in more local for about 45 cents a pound and pay closer to 70 cents having it shipped. Glaze also has about a 20-25% shipping add-on. We do this because we have been using both for so long and have no current issues and thousands of pots out in peoples homes with no complaints. Our home kitchen is full of pottery seconds we use every day and have for over 10 years and everything is holding up just fine. Sure at the end of the day we might have some of the shipping $$ in the bank but on a per pot basis it just is not worth the hassle to use to try and switch everything, not even close. A one pound coffee mug going from 70 cents in clay and glaze to a buck is just not a big deal. We would have to spend half a day and drive several hours round trip to go to pick it up so there's that to consider as well. If I were in your shoes I would establish a local supplier IF you like what you find, otherwise I would buy or make what works well for you and deal with the added cost of shipping if you have to. Have fun!
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