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Hi. This is my first December ever in my ceramics business, and even though there won't be any art shows, I'm confident in online sales (a man can hope).

Any advice on this? I don't know how many of my pieces should I make. I intend to work hard this low months to stock the most popular pieces, and also on my web presence and social media. 

But since I started this year, I lack the practical experience that art shows give.

Statiscally speaking, hopefully there would be a boost in sales, but what do you experienced people think? 

Thanks in advance.

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Yes, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas generally brings a boost in sales. People are buying gifts, but they are also buying for themselves. And yes, now is the time to start building inventory for December. I hold an open studio in early December every year, and it is always my biggest grossing weekend of the year. If I compare it to the other “big shows” on my schedule in a typical year, it grosses about 33% more. (of course, this is not a typical year, and this year’s open studio will be virtual, so my expectations are more fluid.)

If this is your first year, the number of pieces you should make is “as many as you can.” Having stock leftover is not bad, and it will take you a few years before you get a good handle on how much can expect to sell. 

Edited by GEP
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I would say that if this is your first year in business, I wouldn't necessarily judge subsequent years by what happens now, other than to celebrate any wins. 2020 is the year of weird stuff for sure!

I think this is a good year to build any systems for online selling that you'd like to continue with in less tumultuous times. If your strategy will be to build your audience online, be sure to begin funneling them towards your email list right from the get go: algorithm changes are constant and buying your followers back from social media platforms is a nuisance, expensive, and time consuming at best. Newsletters don't have to be complicated, and more of your audience will see them than a social media post.

If you're focusing on online for marketing, any investment in understanding photography is probably a good thing. Farming out your product shots is also a good thought if you're not inclined towards doing it yourself. Good photos make a huge difference.

In my first couple of years, I made half my income from pots in November and December, so I definitely second the "as many as you can" number for how much of what to make. Normally for a Christmas booth you'd want a good selection of sizes and price points.  I think this year, focusing on items that are in a similar size range for shipping purposes is a better plan. Mugs, bowls, ornaments, luminaries, small jars, that kind of thing. In the first few years of your business, you'll spend a lot of time figuring out what people are liking and what they're not. I found it very useful to have the Square item library feature to be able to track and categorize the items that I sold, but I was also selling almost exclusively in person. I don't know what payment gateway you're using online, but somehow tracking exactly what you sell will give you good data for making next year's production lists. It's also really useful to make some observations in the moment about what's working and what isn't. It helps for planning in the next few months. 

 

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I find our local sale increase right after we do our first wood kiln firing.

I just did my first wood kiln firing and it has increased our local interest a lot.  Were doing a parking lot sale this weekend.

My daughter with downs syndrome sells 95% of her stuff online.  She post her stuff every other Friday at noon, she's sold out by Sunday at noon, and everything gets shipped Tuesday.  She spends 25 hours a week working on pottery, 8 hours a week on her store listing, 8 hours a week on social media, and around 8 hours packing and shipping every other week.  The first year we paid someone to work with her on the social media and the store listings.  If we would not of paid someone to teach her how to deal with the internet stuff it would not of worked out.

 

I would make as much as you have room to store.  If you bisque your pottery I would do it as you go.  That way you are able to change up the color paterns biased off whats selling at the time.

 

I spend the beginning of the year in mass production, start firing the LPG kiln around July load after load, and early fall switch to the wood kiln.  Our local sales increase the week after every wood firing.  I sell to a few interior designers and they mostly buy in the fall and spring from what I have found, but with a stock of stuff raedy to fire I can get them what they want with a short lead time.

Between my 3 kids they run a LPG kiln load every 2 to 3 weeks.

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On 9/23/2020 at 9:15 AM, GEP said:

Yes, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas generally brings a boost in sales. People are buying gifts, but they are also buying for themselves. And yes, now is the time to start building inventory for December. I hold an open studio in early December every year, and it is always my biggest grossing weekend of the year. If I compare it to the other “big shows” on my schedule in a typical year, it grosses about 33% more. (of course, this is not a typical year, and this year’s open studio will be virtual, so my expectations are more fluid.)

If this is your first year, the number of pieces you should make is “as many as you can.” Having stock leftover is not bad, and it will take you a few years before you get a good handle on how much can expect to sell. 

Hi Mea, I'm a big lurker of your blog. It is like a bible to me in terms of the monetary aspects of the pottery business, and I'm really grateful for your effort into sharing your valuable knowledge. I'm also a graphic designer like you, but I prefer the studio life, so it is very handy to me. 

Thank you very much for your reply. I'm gonna make the best I can while having my dayjob. Pottery life is kinda tricky. Today was not my best day throwing, but tomorrow is going to be another day. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I would say that if this is your first year in business, I wouldn't necessarily judge subsequent years by what happens now, other than to celebrate any wins. 2020 is the year of weird stuff for sure!

I think this is a good year to build any systems for online selling that you'd like to continue with in less tumultuous times. If your strategy will be to build your audience online, be sure to begin funneling them towards your email list right from the get go: algorithm changes are constant and buying your followers back from social media platforms is a nuisance, expensive, and time consuming at best. Newsletters don't have to be complicated, and more of your audience will see them than a social media post.

If you're focusing on online for marketing, any investment in understanding photography is probably a good thing. Farming out your product shots is also a good thought if you're not inclined towards doing it yourself. Good photos make a huge difference.

In my first couple of years, I made half my income from pots in November and December, so I definitely second the "as many as you can" number for how much of what to make. Normally for a Christmas booth you'd want a good selection of sizes and price points.  I think this year, focusing on items that are in a similar size range for shipping purposes is a better plan. Mugs, bowls, ornaments, luminaries, small jars, that kind of thing. In the first few years of your business, you'll spend a lot of time figuring out what people are liking and what they're not. I found it very useful to have the Square item library feature to be able to track and categorize the items that I sold, but I was also selling almost exclusively in person. I don't know what payment gateway you're using online, but somehow tracking exactly what you sell will give you good data for making next year's production lists. It's also really useful to make some observations in the moment about what's working and what isn't. It helps for planning in the next few months. 

 

Hello Callie, thank you very much for your kind words. 

Yes to everything you said. Currently I have my online store and a IG page.  I'm planning to build a solid web presence via SEO and my blog, but it is a long path. It is OK, I was no expecting a blast in sales when I launched my website the last week, but it did pretty well for me being a total amateur. Also the people who bought was very satisfied with the product, so it is an indicator of doing things right. Slowly, but steady and constant.  And got comissions, so I'm happy that people is seeing some value in my work.

I need to open a FB page to promote via ads. The people with money definitely is in FB.  Instagram is cool, but I find that most of the following are young adults, so I need to retarget my focus group to people with more acquisitive power. Need to learn more of marketing, but I know that mail is a powerful tool. 

I'm going to participate in a virtual show organized by my arts college. Unfortunately because of COVID, I lack the socializative aspect of sales, but I think it would help me to promote my project. Also I'm gonna participate in a exposition in november, so another promo shot I'm excited to try. 

I'm building a collection of pieces that I'm able to make by batch. I tried the unique pieces path, and it is exhausting to take pictures of each one, and listing them in the webpage. I'm gonna make micro flower pots, planters, stuff for art like watercolor pots and ceramic jewelry. I think that for a start is fine, as I lack the experience to make functional ware. I'm gonna leave the unique aspect to artistic pieces, that I'm able to sell when art shows come back. 

I see that pieces like sculptures are hard sellers, but pieces like planters and a specific type of flower pots are really popular. Haven't got a public review of my ceramic jewelry, but the kind ladies who had used them had helped me to refine the product. 

OMG. Just when I was typing this, the Woocommerce app informed me of a new sale. So exciting!

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3 hours ago, saltedfire said:

I find our local sale increase right after we do our first wood kiln firing.

I just did my first wood kiln firing and it has increased our local interest a lot.  Were doing a parking lot sale this weekend.

My daughter with downs syndrome sells 95% of her stuff online.  She post her stuff every other Friday at noon, she's sold out by Sunday at noon, and everything gets shipped Tuesday.  She spends 25 hours a week working on pottery, 8 hours a week on her store listing, 8 hours a week on social media, and around 8 hours packing and shipping every other week.  The first year we paid someone to work with her on the social media and the store listings.  If we would not of paid someone to teach her how to deal with the internet stuff it would not of worked out.

 

I would make as much as you have room to store.  If you bisque your pottery I would do it as you go.  That way you are able to change up the color paterns biased off whats selling at the time.

 

I spend the beginning of the year in mass production, start firing the LPG kiln around July load after load, and early fall switch to the wood kiln.  Our local sales increase the week after every wood firing.  I sell to a few interior designers and they mostly buy in the fall and spring from what I have found, but with a stock of stuff raedy to fire I can get them what they want with a short lead time.

Between my 3 kids they run a LPG kiln load every 2 to 3 weeks.

Hello Saltedfire, thank you very much for your comment. Storage for me is kinda tricky, as my studio space is tight, but as my pieces are little, I'm gonna find place for them. 

Your experience is really inspiring! I hope I can live from ceramics one day. 

Regards, 

Edited by Tabathos
typo
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3 hours ago, Tabathos said:

Hello Saltedfire, thank you very much for your comment. Storage for me is kinda tricky, as my studio space is tight, but as my pieces are little, I'm gonna find place for them. 

Your experience is really inspiring! I hope I can live from ceramics one day. 

Regards, 

I will admit that I have 7 employees and the lowest paid is $12.00 an hour.  Most of us are family members.  The capital investment to build the building came from selling my grandfathers assets, but from year 2 we were making a profit.  With COVID-19 we did not lay off anyone,  but we cut hours of a bunch of our employees to 32 hours a week (still getting full benefits).    We will make a profit this year, but were only buying consumables.

Inventory storage is tricky in any business, but can be a necessary evil and a lot of the new thoughts on inventory control say other wise.

Good luck to you.

 

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