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Zach

Startup Cost

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I'm wondering if anyone has a conservative estimate on initial costs to start a small home based business. I'm looking as a basic setup: Wheel, Kiln, Glazes, studio supply etc. Thanks! 

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Hi Zach... I am a newbie here, and still new in the pottery world (this is my third year selling my pieces full time) I am in the process of setting up a new studio for myself and just put in my order for new equipment, here's what my costs were...(estimates, I don't have numbers in front of me) Skutt kiln (w/shelves and posts) $4,200, ventilation for kiln $600, wheel $1,200, slab roller $800. Someone else might be able to give you a better idea on glazing costs, but I just mixed up a rubbermaid bin of each of my four glazes and they cost around $100 each and will last me a couple months. If you aren't planning on making too much you could always just buy small containers of premixed glazes that would work just fine and they aren't very expensive...you could get a couple different colours for under $100. Basic tools aren't very expensive either, an intial $50 would get you the basics that you would need easily. You will want a couple tables and shelves for prepping your clay, and drying your pieces. Depending on whether you can find those used somewhere or have to buy new the price will vary obviously.

 

Now keep in mind you can buy used and get everything much cheaper...I bought my first small kiln used for $500 and my wheel for $250 and that worked fine for what I needed it to then. If you are only looking for the bare minimum you could get away with doing it pretty cheaply. I just thought since the costs were fresh in my mind still I'd share so you have an idea of the costs if you were thinking about buying new! I'm sure some of the more experienced members might be able to offer you better advice!

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That is very helpful. Where ddi you find a used wheel and kiln? I've looked online likes craigslist and also school surplus and there isn't really a whole lot of selection though I imagine that changes constantly. 

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Somebody gave me a free kiln, which I took as a sign that it was time for my own studio. As I recall, I gave myself a $5000 budget for everything else, and I spent most of it. I bought a wheel, slab roller, kiln vent, kiln furniture, tables, lots of shelving. I spent a lot on an electrician to install the kiln circuit, and punch a hole in my wall for the vent. I stocked up on glazemaking tools and raw materials.

 

Down the road I gave away the small free kiln and bought a larger one. Then later I bought a used pug mill, a second kiln, and a second wheel.

 

I did this in the basement of my house, so the space was essentially free. If you don't have available space at home, you need to factor in rent too.

 

Also, when I did this I still had another full-time occupation, so I didn't need the pottery studio to provide a livable income. If your pottery studio is your only income, you also need to have enough capital to live off until your pottery starts to make money, which could take a few years.

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Guest JBaymore

Also, when I did this I still had another full-time occupation, so I didn't need the pottery studio to provide a livable income. If your pottery studio is your only income, you also need to have enough capital to live off until your pottery starts to make money, which could take a few years.

 

 

That is some of the most important advice in this thread.  :)

 

 

best,

 

........................john

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That is very helpful. Where ddi you find a used wheel and kiln? I've looked online likes craigslist and also school surplus and there isn't really a whole lot of selection though I imagine that changes constantly. 

 

I am in Canada and just checked local online classified ads, that's where I found both. They can be hard to come by but I wasn't in a hurry when I was looking and was able to take my time. Is there a potters guild where you are? I know I have seen for sale ads run by our local guild...might be worth a try contacting a group in your area and seeing if they know of anyone that is selling?

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Somebody gave me a free kiln, which I took as a sign that it was time for my own studio. As I recall, I gave myself a $5000 budget for everything else, and I spent most of it. I bought a wheel, slab roller, kiln vent, kiln furniture, tables, lots of shelving. I spent a lot on an electrician to install the kiln circuit, and punch a hole in my wall for the vent. I stocked up on glazemaking tools and raw materials.

 

Down the road I gave away the small free kiln and bought a larger one. Then later I bought a used pug mill, a second kiln, and a second wheel.

 

I did this in the basement of my house, so the space was essentially free. If you don't have available space at home, you need to factor in rent too.

 

Also, when I did this I still had another full-time occupation, so I didn't need the pottery studio to provide a livable income. If your pottery studio is your only income, you also need to have enough capital to live off until your pottery starts to make money, which could take a few years.

 

I second this... I worked random part time jobs for the first two years of selling my pieces, as I wasn't making enough money to justify quitting everything else to do it full time. The first year of doing pottery full time was rough...I am lucky my husband works as well otherwise I don't know if my business would have made it through that year. By the second year of working at it full time I was making enough to support myself, so it can happen in a short period of time...but do be careful and have a plan for the first couple years and the slow times. I don't know about others but cashflow can be tricky for me...alot of budgeting/planning ahead is necessary for me to make it through January/February/March when sales are the lowest and again in September/October.

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I built a kiln while I was a caretaker on a religious estate I'm upstate NY...1971 Catenary kiln out of bricks found in an abandoned boiler in the woods.http://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/gallery/image/3489-marcinykiln71small/

made 2 Bendel Propane burners.I did buy silicon carbide shelves from the factory in Perth Amboy, NJ. In my pickup squeezed between semis at the loading dock.

my first home studio was in a basement in grad school with an oil kiln catenary in the back yard made of used $.05 bricks. Oil burners from the campus dump. next was one in the basement in Philadelphia with the kiln wired in the garage.

I agree as well. I set up my home studio while teaching full time. Built a rammed earth studio in 1978, an oil burner kiln, slab roller, wheel. Electric kiln.

it is good to do all this while some regular pay check is coming in.

Marcia

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I did it while in collage (1971-1976) with very little money. It was a long time ago.When money went further .

I dug bricks from milll dumps, bought everything second hand except my wheel.

Built my own kilns and converted an old building into a pottery studio-I rented a spot out to another potter as well for 25$ a month for extra income for 3 years.

As well as renting a room out for some extra money to make my house payment which was  lot back then $154 a month

I took extra jobs at school called work study which pain a small wage-fired kilns cleaned the ceramics lab made glazes mixed clay while studying ceramics full time.I come for a gas kiln background

 

 

 

Graduate of school of Hard knocks

with a BA in Art

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90% of businesses fail in the first year because they don't have enough cash to keep them open while the business grows.

 

Don't forget the cost of having the electrical work done for the kiln. That can range from $100 to $1500 depending on your setup. Get lots of quotes.

 

Also check with your municipality on the  rules about home businesses. In the 'burbs where I live there are a lot of rules, like the business can't take up more than 25% of square footage of the level of the house that it's on. Lots of rules about roof and wall penetrations, signage, and customers coming to the house, too. Basically, they don't want the business to impact the neighbors in any way.

 

Also check with your insurance company regarding your kiln and the business in general. If it's truly an official business, then you should have business insurance. Your homeowners policy may not cover anything business related. I would set up the business as an LLC- it's cheap and easy to do in most states. Business liability insurance is also pretty cheap in the big picture.

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Neil,

Mine electrical for my kiln shed was for three electric kilns and cost $1500. had to get a separate meter and a separate line from the transformer on the street. I am glad I did because I have no problems with running my big oval with a 100 amp breaker.

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I spent $18,161.15 before making a cent. But what I am doing is different from a home studio. There isn't much of a used market and shipping to Alaska isn't exactly cheap. I do get a nice 1000 sq ft place for $1050 a month.

 

If kiln, wheel, glaze materials, clay, tables, and shelving are all new -- except to spend around $10,000.

A used kiln and wheel will save quite a bit.

Buying smaller quantities of commercial glazes is possible (but more expensive in the long run)

Don't skimp on work tables and shelf space!

1 ton of clay is a good start.

(OK, the 10k estimate is more of the luxury liner budget for most potters.)

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I built a home studio in my trailer's big bedroom-about 12x14, moving myself into a single bed in a tiny spare room.  The kiln and two work tables, as well as the compressor and a few other big items live on a previously screened-in back porch. I paid to have the screens removed and replaced with heavy duty clear vinyl rated well below 0 (NH winters-even today, June, it is only 53 degrees!!!) 

 

I bought the best/most functional equipment that I could afford. and I bought new. A lot can be saved with a used wheel/kiln, but I had some personal reasons for my decision. I now have everything one could possibly need for a small enterprise, including a table top slab roller (arthritis in the wrists). I have lots of shelving but no room for mixing and storage, so I use commercial bodies/glazes. I had a sink put in and I paid to have the proper electrical installed, plus insurance.

 

All in all, probably at least $9,000 over 2 years time. The biggest ongoing expense is shipping on the types of clays I want. In this rural NE location, there are no "local" suppliers and I don't want to go in on someone else's big order when it is not a body I like to use. Even subtracting for the "luxuries" like a good banding wheel, the slab roller, the compressor, & going with a larger kiln (talk to Neil-I love the L&L I got) I think coming in under 10K is probably actually conservative. 

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I am currently awaiting my first glaze firing to finish in my new home studio. I bought everything new, I've never seen anything promising used (always models I'm not at all interested in, usually really old) but I know several people who do have their equipment used and it works great and was cheap. I (with some assistance) have spent almost $9000 on my business just this year. This includes the electric work, the kiln, kiln furniture, wheel, table, shelves and lots of odds and ends that add up.  I still want more things like a sink and a slab roller. This figure doesn't include things like my website or packaging or craft show supplies or photography equipment or most of my tools etc that I've purchased over the years, those will be fairly unique to what you hope to be doing anyway.

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May I suggest working toward learning many of the skills needed for being a potter-learn plumbing and electrical and building skills along with throwing and glazing

This will ultimately lower costs in the long run

It works out well for me but I also like to learn what makes stuff work especially mechanical things .

Working with a plumber for a few years as well as an electrician  and a house builder also helped .

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We've spent 6 grand this month alone just adding a couple of additional pieces of equipment. I would guess 3 years in on building a full time production studio we are probably approaching 20-25k in just equipment and probably a few grand in shelving and such. Show tents and things like that are also considerations.

 

It's all new though and includes things beyond the basics like a peter pugger (3500), bluebird mixer (1500, we don't use) a recirculating cink (1500) and 2nd kiln and three wheels for 2 throwers, computerized router... bla bla bla. Hell you will be amazed at how much the little hand tools can add up to in the beginning.

 

We also maxed out the 550' garageio and built an 300' additional studio building with 200' deck, wired for 220 with box and heating. No plumbing though, hence the recirculating cink and that was another 20k in materials and wiring (built it myself).

 

Problem is there really is not a reasonable way to answer your question. You can put a great studio together for a grand with just a little effort and make better pots and make more money than us, or not. It is not the equipment, it's the pots and your marketing acumen. Never forget your selling pots that cost several times what folks can buy off the assembly lines and that's a marketing challenge not to be taken lightly. I'm an equipment junkie and like new for the long game but they are just tools so I'd recommend going real slow and concentrate on building revenue streams with your pots and then just buy what you need when you need it.

 

In the IT world we always say wait as long as you can and then buy as much as you can afford so it last a long time. Always served me well.

 

If I had it to do over again though I would still buy everything I did but the bluebird. Bought that 5 years ago intending to do our own clay. I got over that kick after a few loads and there it sits in the corner gathering dust. Still harbor thoughts of mixing colored clay with it. About once a month I threaten to sell it but have yet to follow through. It seems I love to buy the stuff but I hate selling things second hand.

 

But hey if ya got the dough go for it, there is some really cool stuff out there and a lot of it really does make life easier.

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Guest JBaymore

I Bluebird still making them?

 

I have a Bluebird "clone" from about 1977.  Had a sculpture grad student at Massart (where I was working at the time) look at the one we had at the school... and make me a copy.  Looks pretty much identical.  It has seen a lot of clay over the years.  Starting to show its age.  I might buy another one.

 

best,

 

...................john

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It is hard to be exact on start up costs because I have been accumulating my studio pieces since 1970. I bought my first wheel in Cambridge in 1971 and built a kiln with free bricks from the woods from a deserted boiler.In Montana I had a complete studio with an oil fired kiln and 12 silicon carbide shelves, and a Peter Pugger in a rammed earth studio I built in 1978. When I moved to Texas, I built a studio and kiln shed, new separate wiring, two new kilns, built new raku kiln. I already had a Soldner mixer, desiring pug mill, slab roller , 2 wheels, a test kiln, scale chemicals, my tool shop. I left a gas kiln to the University along with chemicals that would be easier to replace than move 2000 miles.

 

 

If anyone is interested there are several used kilns for sale on the potters attic on Facebook.

Marcia

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