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tperez

How to start a path toward making pottery a career?

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2 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I think maybe not enough is said about small shows being good in the beginning, particularly if you have not experience running other businesses. They teach you lessons that can be scaled into larger shows, and as you find your sweet spot of what sells and to whom, they allow you to build up enough capital to grow your business. They allow you to learn about all the hats you have to wear, and about professionalism. They teach you how to be answerable to only yourself, how to build schedules, how to forecast stock needs and project income. They allow you to experiment with your branding and find what works, and what doesn't. If any given show doesn't work out, you are out the time and effort, definitely. But you don't loose your shirt, generally, on a $150 table, and even learning that something doesn't work is at least a step towards finding what does.

This may be the best boiled down approach to this I have yet to read-it hits all the points as one starts out and grows slowly into a full timer.Great description Callie.

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On 8/9/2018 at 7:29 PM, DirtRoads said:

I've never had a problem producing an income from pottery.   The first year was mostly learning.  Actually, it's one of the easiest businesses I've owned.   I don't explore much on the artistic side.     Started a full line jewelry business to go with the pottery.   I stick to free standing retail, since it's a business model I have done well with in the past.

Not sure how people go about making a purely creative pottery business.   I just find pieces that work and produce them over and over.  Experiment with color, but stick to 5 to 6 best selling colors.  This Christmas season, I will pare down to 2 to 4 colors.   Half my sales are November/December.

The economy is BOOMING.  I'm seeing 50% plus sales increases this year.   I don't expect that to extend to November & December, because my sales were close to cap last year.    In most businesses I've owned, you see exponential growth for a few years from tweaking.  After that, you set "plan" to about 10% growth.    Only way I saw exponential growth was going back to that old product/market paradigm.    New products/same customers always seemed to work well for me.  This year the jewelry did expand my customer base somewhat by appealing to the more local market.  Before, my business was 70% destination.  Now it's around 50%.

I think it may be more of a business than a profession.  I have seen numerous failures over the years and fail basically falls down to a few reasons:

- People can't produce enough to make a real living.

- The items they make are so STUPID or dull that almost no one will buy them.  They are not listening to the customer.    Some potters don't really have a realistic grip on their product.  If customers aren't buying, they are either at the wrong venue or the product is just wrong.    I recently walked through a wholesale show that I went to last year.   I had close to a 100% prediction on who would be back this year.   I saw new potters this year with the same lack luster products.  Probably because I come from a successful retail back ground, I KNOW what will sell and mostly what will not.   You've got to listen to what the customer is buying, not to just what they are saying. 

- Potters can't figure out the distribution for their product

-  They don't have the personal  finances to make it until the business cash flows.   And they under estimate the upfront financial investment.

I would start this part time, mostly as a hobby and hone your craft.     Pottery is a decent part time hobby business, as long as you can put the money up front to get in to it.   Recently someone came to me, wanting to know how to make an extra $500 a month.      I'm not sure I can recommend any business that can do this in the beginning.      Most people will tie up more than they profit. 

Great reply! 

Thank you

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There are a lot of questions to answer here.  First off, where do you make work?  Ceramics requires a lot of space and investment.  If you are dependent on someone else to do any part of the production, you are vulnerable.  If you establish a studio at a rental property, you are vulnerable.  Sure, you can't protect yourself from life's ups and downs, but crack the hard nuts first.  Make product any way you can, but don't be dependent on the income.  Reinvest the returns on the next piece of equipment/studio.

In one month, I will be a full time potter, with a fully functional studio and orders waiting for me.  25 years of ceramics, 40 years from initial goal of craftsman lifestyle.

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On 3/27/2019 at 10:55 AM, CactusPots said:

In one month, I will be a full time potter, with a fully functional studio and orders waiting for me.  25 years of ceramics, 40 years from initial goal of craftsman lifestyle.

So it's been a month, are you full-time?

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I'm giving my 2 weeks notice tomorrow.  My last day is May 10.  33 years with one job.

I'm loading for firing now.  Trying to gauge if I have enough done for 2 back to back firings, but I've never done that before.  The kiln must be full, I don't know if I'll get a second or not.

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Back to back firing, it's a whirlwind isn't it!  I can do 2 glaze loads from a bisque if I have bowls or vases in there.  If it's all mugs I only get 1 glaze load per bisque, and since I only fire on the weekends it means back to back every weekend!

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My loads are all "planters" not glazed on the inside.  I can stack 2 or 3 a lot of times.  Makes for a lot of product, but just looking at the bisque on the shelves, it's hard to say, "well, there's a load".  I try to get ahead so I have some cushion, but I'm always lacking small stuff, or tall thin, or short wide or something.  I have come up with a lot of tricks to load a kiln.

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I have extruder dies for soap/sponge/business card holders if I need to stuff.  I'll extrude a bunch and store in bin boxes just in case.  Luckily(?) I have a tiny kiln so it's easy to stuff full haha.

Edited by liambesaw

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