I encourage all new potters to think of their web presence as the most critical marketing arm of their ceramics. But it's not for everyone. Read on...
You've learned that you need to invest in certain things in order to make pottery...a wheel, a kiln, slab roller, pug mill, materials, a place in which to work. None of these things are free, but they are the best investment you ever made, because you are either making money or have the potential to make money off of those investments you put in to your tools and work place.
You probably also have spent a certain amount of money on books, classes, and workshops over the years. You didn't think that any of these expenditures were bad because you were investing in the expansion of your talents and abilities. You are a better potter for having spent that money by investing in yourself.
So in that vein I suggest you think about your website in terms of another investment in you and your sales, and put some time and a little money towards it. As I told someone who contacted me back channel after my previous post in this thread, I'd rather take 85% of the revenue from a sale than the 50-60% that I was getting at galleries and street fairs. Websites are not free. But, they are very cost effective. And, all things being equal, I'd rather be at home on the weekends rather than sitting in unpredictable weather at a fair. I love seeing people and getting feedback in person, but I get enough feedback from my web customers to know that my work is highly valued. And over the years a lot of local business has come my way also due to the fact that I have a website that is optimized for my location. So I still get plenty of feedback from direct interaction with my customers.
Stamp your web site address on the bottom of each piece of pottery you make in clearly legible type. You'd be surprised how many orders come in that way. Customer Sally buys a bowl in Olympia from your site and gives it to her best friend Mary in Boston for Mary's birthday. Mary loves the bowl and thinks they will make great gifts this year at the holidays. She turns the bowl upside down and sees your website, takes out her phone and places an order. Then she sees you also make chip and dip platters and...Right? (Make sure you have a website set up before you stamp your pottery of course.)
Another good strategy: Test your glazes for lead and cadmium at a lab and post the results on your web page. (Do not take the ceramic supplier's word that the glaze is food safe. Test them yourself, it's your responsibility to know exactly what is in your glazes. There are many threads in the glaze forum on this topic. Commercial glazes...well I don't use them. Makes my life simpler. If something changes, I know about it, because I made the change, or I found out that a material had changed and I made adjustments for it in my glazes.) For this reason I also do not use encapsulated cadmium stains or inclusion stains. Makes it a lot easier to market "Cadmium Free" if you don't have to explain that actually, you do use cadmium in some glazes but they leach in acceptable levels that are food safe. You probably just lost a customer. I recently learned when putting together a glaze class series for my local clay guild that only India and China even make these stains as no other country in the world has safety regulations set low enough to allow the process to occur due to the extreme toxicity the process involves. So there's that too.
You'd be surprised how many people out there are buying pottery from potters who spend the little bit extra to test their glazes and put the results up on the site so they can be verified by your potential customer. It shows that you care and customers appreciate that. Test every glaze that you use that comes in to contact with food in your ware. Using a lead/cadmium free liner glaze is a good strategy. Tony Hansen at Digital Fire tested some commercial glazes. Individually he found some of them were in fact food safe, but when overlapped with another commercial glaze that was also food safe, guess what? It was not food safe. So, find out what you are selling and give your customers confidence that you are providing healthy dishes to eat off off and drink out of.
I disagree with Mark a bit about the the time it would take to get your web business attracting good traffic. Kings Fortune in a post above outlines some strategies, and I've given you a couple in my posts on the topic. And though I specialize in making mugs, there is no reason why selling other pottery items will not be successful. If your stuff is any good, and if you have excellent customer service skills, you can make a great on line business that provides you with a decent income. I started my website ten years ago as my hobby business, and two years after that I quit my long career in the printing industry to make pottery. I am not a computer expert, and I really feel that if someone like me can have this success, anyone can.
Bottom line, if you don't have a website, ask yourself why you have not done this yet. If you spend the time and invest in it, down the road you are going to work less for the same amount of money. In my book this is not a bad thing. If you set up your own domain name and get your own site, rather than the etsy route, and optimize it for organic results, you are in a much better position to have your pots seen by many more customers than if your site is only known to your customers. Maybe etsy is better at this (organic search results) now, I checked it out ten years ago and decided then to go with my own domain name which is a brand name that people can remember.
And, if you like doing the street fairs and galleries, take no offense. Clearly, a potter like Mark and others on this forum have this sales channel wired. They have no reason to change, and after all why should they? If it ain't broke... You have to do what is right for you and fits you best. I'm all web. Others are all galleries and fairs. Others mix the two. You'll find the right balance for you.
Making a living as a potter is a hard life, and any timesavers are a real godsend. A website can be a timesaver. It might allow you to cut back some of your time, if nothing else. A 50 hour work week is better than a 70 hour week for the same pay though, right? Or a 35 hour work week instead of 50. You get my drift. The more profit you reap from each individual sale, the less you have to work for the same money.
One other thing, I hardly do any social media marketing any more since I'm pretty busy all the time from web sales. Another time saver for me, though up until about 4-5 years ago I did a lot more marketing on Twitter and Facebook and had some good results there. I was pretty active for 4 or 5 years. Then I did an experiment and stopped for a while to see if my sales would go down. They kept going up so I figured I didn't need to spend time there anymore. I think I was getting a lot of people seeing my website address on the bottom of a mug they got as a gift. My best sales representative is my work. And it should be yours too!
Okay, over and out. My complete $.02 on web sales.
Have you done smaller craft shows?
Is this a one time try out thing or will you want to do it on a steady basis?
How much $$$$ do you want to invest in equipment?
A lot of things you can chose to rent or buy so it is important for you to know whether or not you even like doing multi day or large craft shows before you sink a lot of money into it.
Also, is it indoor or outdoor?
Here is a link to an article I wrote on craft shows ... it might or might not be useful to you.
I'm also a newbie, not only to clay but also to the forums (although I have been lurking for a good while, now.)
I took ceramics classes 30 years ago and picked it up once again just this spring...and wondered why I ever stopped. (Oh, yeah...I was young and broke and not brave enough to step outside my comfort zone!) So, I'm at square one, learning, practicing...and making an awful lot of bowls...
Hi, hello, good evening or morning to you all wherever you are in the big wide world.
I thought I'll pluck up the courage and say hello and let you all know how much I enjoy reading the topics and your posts. I feel like I'm in heaven skipping from one discussion to an other, discovering more every time.â€‹I've been living in the UK for the past 9 years but originally from Hungary. I started my friendship with Mr. clay four years ago and it was love at first sight. Needless to say we can't stay away from each other too long. Joke aside.....
â€‹I attend to a class once a week what I really enjoy and my teacher is fab, always there to help if needed. I am constantly on the wheel but equally happy hand building as long as I can play with clay. I managed to get hold oâ€‹f a wheel last year and a second hand front loader kiln which I had the elements changed this week. So I am in a process of having my little corner set up. Its all really exciting and awfully terrifying at the same time. I am fairly confident and have a good foundation but there is so much more to learn and so many things to consider. I am sure I'll get there one day with lots and lots of practice and dedication. I enjoyed my journey with Mr clay so far and looking forward to the challenges ahead.â€‹
â€‹I'll be around with a few questions or might even join in sharing my experiences I had so far. One thing for sure, I'll be around reading, taking in all the knowledge and information's you wise people share.
â€‹See you around
I am the clay studio manager for a local art center. We recently got a new Skutt 1227 with 3 phase hookup. It works great. I am also familiar with L&l as we wore one out after many years of service. They are also a fine kiln. We got the Skutt because our local distributor gave us a good deal on it. For most situations the 1227 might be a little big. I have recently begun doing Macro Crystalline glazing and a good controller is an absolute must. Both kilns have one. This topic was discussed on another forum that I am on and it was about 50/50 with no one having anything bad to say about either but all have their own preferences. I plan to build a studio in my home this summer and will probably end up with an L&L as a supplier has a great package deal on a smaller L&L and the wheel that I want. My choice would be based on which one I could get the best deal on. You can't go wrong with either company.