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Creole

Understanding Pottery for Business Collaboration

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I am a florist interested in collaborating with a local ceramic artist to build a customer retention strategy for hotels. I'm here because I have a vision for the strategy but I understand very little about pottery and before approaching artist at my local ceramic shops I'm doing some research. I need a small vase that holds only 3 stems of flowers. In my mind it's short and small but the artist can certainly have artistic freedom.  The important part to me is it needs to be able to hold 3 stems. I would buy them no less than 50 at a time. I'm looking to collaborate with someone who is an artist but business minded. I want to scale my own business so i want a vase that's easy to make, relative to pottery (I understand I have no idea how easy or difficult this would be), hopefully it won't be time consuming for the artist. 

I just bought a little creamer from a local spot for $5 that is about 8 inches in diameter and two inches tall. $5 would be too expensive to allow the hotels to invest in our strategy. Im hoping because it's always a bulk buy and i am going out to get us the business that the artist would otherwise not have, we can strike up an agreement on a price that is mutually beneficial. I want the artist to have his/her own artistic freedom to create this pot and be business minded as to how he/she can make it scaleable because I will expand out portfolio. I will have contracts with these businesses so this would be regular money for the artist. I want to work with someone creative but also business minded, so I can collaborate with them on how to make this work together.

 

My questions are:

1. How long would it take an artist to make 50 small pots at a time? and what is the process? 

2. Knowing the price of ceramic supplies, what is your educated guess of how much the supplies would cost the artist to make this? what are the supplies?

3.Given an idea of how little the pots can actually be, how many could fit in a kiln and how long does a kiln take to "fire" them?

4. if you wanted to add a color to the pots or a glaze, what is that process? what is the cost of this material?

5. If you're an artist what do you make of this business proposal? 

I sincerely thank you. and apologize if I said anything in an insensitive way. I'm happy to have this forum to come to before I approach the artist locally because i certainly do not understand the process, I just have a business I'm building and am trying to figure it all out.

 

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2 hours ago, Creole said:

 

My questions are:

1. How long would it take an artist to make 50 small pots at a time? and what is the process? That depends...on the size and shape of the pot...

2. Knowing the price of ceramic supplies, what is your educated guess of how much the supplies would cost the artist to make this? what are the supplies? That depends...on the size and shape of the pot...

3.Given an idea of how little the pots can actually be, how many could fit in a kiln and how long does a kiln take to "fire" them? That depends...on the size and shape of the pot...and the size of the kiln

4. if you wanted to add a color to the pots or a glaze, what is that process? what is the cost of this material? If you wanted to use the pots as vases that would hold water and also stand up to the wear and tear, they would have to be glazed, so That depends...on the size and shape of the pot...

5. If you're an artist what do you make of this business proposal?  As an artist, I would pass on the proposal.

I sincerely thank you. and apologize if I said anything in an insensitive way. I'm happy to have this forum to come to before I approach the artist locally because i certainly do not understand the process, I just have a business I'm building and am trying to figure it all out.

Quote

 

 

Welcome to the Forum, Creole...I hope you find what you want here...and would like to relate a story regarding scale...I met an artist who was visiting out here from somewhere in the Midwest. He was a very successful potter and had a lucrative business going and was apparently pretty well known in his area. He told me that Costco had approached him to supply them with a particular size of pot of his design. He was blown away at the idea of being approached by Costco for the project but turned them down when they said they wanted 50,000 of the pots within a 2 year period. He felt that the order would put him out of business because he was used to getting a certain price for his work and for him to scale up and produce what they wanted at their price would cost him too much in money, time, and creativity.

I think in your case, you might be better off going to a pottery manufacturer with your proposal...

I'm curious about what  Mark and the other production potters here would have to say...

Good luck on your venture,

JohnnyK

Edited by JohnnyK

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creole,   the problem that business owners have when thinking that they are offering a good deal to a potter is that a potter is not a factory.   it costs the same amount to make your small vase as it would to make something a potter could sell for 5 times as much as you would even consider.    to scale up would be very hard for the average potter and costly to his/her normal business.

i also suggest you find a factory to make whatever you like.

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1. How long would it take an artist to make 50 small pots at a time? and what is the process? 

If they are thrown they could be done in a few days-that is thrown -they still need to be fired twice-bisque and glaze fires

If you want thousands over time depending on the form (a simplke vase ) than slip casting would be more cost elective .

2. Knowing the price of ceramic supplies, what is your educated guess of how much the supplies would cost the artist to make this? what are the supplies?

This depends on the form and if there are handles and what color

3.Given an idea of how little the pots can actually be, how many could fit in a kiln and how long does a kiln take to "fire" them?

Kilns are all diffent sizes and not knowing the form its immposssiable to say how many can fit in sat=y my 35 cubic ffot kiln and firing takes about 10-12 hours and a day to cool

4. if you wanted to add a color to the pots or a glaze, what is that process? what is the cost of this material?

Its called glazing 

5. If you're an artist what do you make of this business proposal? 

I would steer clear of this as your price points are way to low for me to be involved.

This kind of work can be farmed out in china if its a large enough order.

The troble with this whole deal is you have a idea and no knowledge of ceramics and you want hard numbers

Think of it more like this I am making small vases and want 3 roses to sell in them and I need at least 50

I may have more orders later so we might scale up

I had a slip business and we made 1,000s of aroma therapy lamos for 10 years-the price point was way north of your 5$ price point-hand thrown wares cost more than slipware.

I do not know how much they cost how long they last and but need them to cost 25 cents can you do that?

How large a cool space do I need to keep them and how ofen do they need water? Can I sell them over say a 3 week period?

How do I ship them?

 

As I said the problems with small orders like this (and 50 is a small order ) is these type of things have never panned out for me in my 40 years of pottery.

I was approached by a local new restaurant for dinnerware-they baoked at the price.I also told them thier time frame was unrealistic. I refered them to another potter who they also turned  them down

They went with heath pottery in SF which cost more than either of us local potters.They learned the hard way about hand made items

one last note -I made small table flower vases for a small cafe once locally-about 20 pieces -I took 1/3 off my retail price for that. I do not recall what they sold for as it was 25 years ago.

I think you need what I call a hungry potter who is looking for work.

 

Edited by Mark C.

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Hey Guys, thank you so much for your responses. I came in telling you I really don't know a thing about pottery, I just had an idea and came to be educated. You have been so helpful.

I would love to work with a creative mind to figure out what would make this worth their time financially and what creative routes can we take to make this a reality.  The question is HOW can we make this work? Even if it's not the traditional route. I see a beautiful thing we can build. Anyway, thank you.

 

 

 

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Hi Creole, lots of great information above. I  make bud vases and sell them in my Etsy shop.  The going rate for my vases is $35-$75 on average, with wholesale buyers receiving a 40% discount. I don't mean for this to be a sales pitch, just an example of real world pricing. There is a shop called Honeycomb Studio that you might want to check out. She makes slipcast vases from molds, which are at a lower price point - retail is about $16 each, but I'm not sure if they can hold 3 stems. I guess it depends on the size of the stem. She does offer wholesale pricing. 

50 pieces would be a nice sized order for me, but I am a part-time potter. For others it will be a small order. Based on the guidance on pricing you offered in your opening post, you would probably have more luck finding mass-produced vases that you can buy in bulk. Handmade pottery is definitely going to be more expensive. Good luck!! 

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Hi Creole, and Welcome!

So I actually have some experience working in flower shops years and years ago, and from what I remember of glassware invoices, I don't think a business minded, professional potter is going to be willing or able to provide vases at the price point that you're used to. You might find either a slipcaster, or a non-professional potter who will be willing to do it, but most business minded potters will need to charge more. I'm going to gently suggest that the $5 you paid for your creamer is wildly under what you should expect to pay for a very simple and small pot with a single glaze colour, even wholesale, from a professional who wheel throws. Someone selling a creamer for $5 either is trying to get rid of them, they haven't done a cost analysis on that item and aren't paying themselves at all, or they are in a position where they don't care if they make money on each individual piece.  You need to consider that in the scenario you're describing you are paying for someone's skill and ability, not just time and materials. I would not touch this deal as offered. I can't meet this price point without loosing money, and at that level of quantity, it would take away too much time from more lucrative income streams.

That said, if you're willing to make some modifications or think outside the box, I think there are still creative ways to collaborate with an artist to create an item you like.

Handmade pottery is enjoying a certain luxury image right now, and I'd play on that to your proposed hotel clients. You may need to educate them on the value of having exclusive designs that have been sourced locally, and how that enables them and you to provide decor that is more botique in nature.

-find a pottery, like Heath or East Fork to purchase wholesale from. They're already set up for the size of production you're talking about, and have options ready to go. Again though, the price point will be higher than glass.

-many retailers like Crate and Barrel or Anthropologie will licence an artist to create designs for them, and have them produced overseas. Perhaps if you could find the right factory and an artist willing to work with you, this could be an option. They'll likely expect larger orders than 50 vases at a go, though. This idea may need some playing with in order to work if you're looking at a small scale, but if you eventually wind up needing larger quantites (like that aforementioned Costco order), that could be a route to explore. I know that Anthropologie spends a certain amount of time educating artists on the process of how to do this, so you'd have to either educate yourself fully about the process, or find an artist who has done this sort of thing before and rely on their experience.

- If you can find a mould maker in the US to make moulds of the artist's work (paying the artist a design fee and the professional slipcaster for the production), that might work on the smaller scale you're talking about.

-perhaps instead of buying lots of vases for each new customer of yours, you could invest in a larger order  with an option to replace breakage, and rent them out to your client as part of a floral maintenance sort of package, or for things like wedding rentals. If it were me you were approaching, this is the scenario I'd be most willing to take on.

I'll describe my process for others to be able to use:  I can't take on US clients. I don't live there. I'm relatively small, and I'm in the position of being able to take on an order like the one I just described, but if I was much further along in my business, I'd be too busy, like Mark. I have worked within successful bespoke business models before (stained glass), and I have good communication skills and a willingness to educate my clients on what is and isn't possible without confusing them. When I do work like this for folks that want corporate gifts or other branded items, I meet with them in person for an initial consult. I let my potential client know there is a one time design fee paid in addition to the order(s) themselves. This is to cover any new materials I have to buy to do testing, and to compensate for some of the time I have to take away from my production to do this. I will show them glaze samples in person, and explain that while I aim for uniformity in these instances, with all hand made items there will be some slight variations that are to be embraced as part of the handmade aesthetic they're coming to me for. I aim to outline what they can expect from me, and what I'm able to provide as a service, and in what time frame. They will be choosing from my existing selection of glazes.  Custom colours are not an option: it takes too long to develop them and test them properly. With my personal aesthetic, I would steer them towards a simple design, likely with a white glaze, but that could change depending on input I recieve in that consult. I will sketch out a few design ideas on the spot based on what they tell me they want.  I'll then go home and produce 1-5 designs for the client to choose one of to go into production.  Depending on the order size and the time of year, I'd say 6-8 weeks for initial local (in province) delivery once the design was finalized. Likely I will deliver sooner, but there is a cushion there in case Things Go Horribly Wrong. If I'm approached in the last quarter of the year, I'm not able to take on a project like this until after Christmas because I do a lot of shows at that time.

 

Hope that helps. Keep us posted!

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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.  

Edited by Stephen

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Everyone, thank you SO very much for taking the time to write your responses. I found value in every single one of them and there's no doubt I have a better understanding now than I did just a day ago. I'm really thankful and happy I found this forum. The heart of my business is connection and It's really touching to see a connection like this online between strangers. 

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