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Ok i'm thinking of jumping all in with the pottery. I'm so done with my current job I have to do something new. Now what i want to do is pull my retirement funds and build a new house, studio,all the equipment,newer nissan nv 200,and still have enough cash to live for a year and a half. That said do you think a year will be long enough to get things off the ground? I'm just a bit gun shy on pulling the trigger on this because its a major life decision.

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that depends entirely on things you cannot control and your skill level as a potter.   this has been discussed before and the general consensus seems to be "go slowly, do not burn bridges, have a second person earning elsewhere and good luck".

yes, it is a MAJOR decision.

 

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8 hours ago, dirtball said:

still have enough cash to live for a year and a half. That said do you think a year will be long enough to get things off the ground? I'm just a bit gun shy on pulling the trigger on this because its a major life decision.

That doesn’t sound like a solid business plan actually. Most plans for small businesses start small and grow through time and experience because they have some advantage or perceived advantage with respect to the rest of the market. The advantage could be unique artful ideas or any number of aesthetic things backed up by a labor commitment to work 24/7. Proficiency will have a place as well, but most gain this through experience. Why not start smaller and explore and learn would be my question.

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9 hours ago, dirtball said:

That said do you think a year will be long enough to get things off the ground?

No. It takes much longer than that to develop a sellable body of work, and an audience that is paying attention to you. 

It does sound like you are in a stable financial position though, so becoming a potter is doable. Just give yourself 5 to 10 years (depending on your current skill level), and have a financial plan to cover yourself during those years. This will probably involve keeping a paycheck job for several more years, which doesn’t have to be the one you currently have. 

I don’t think it’s necessary to build a new house. Can you make a studio space where you live now? Or buy an existing house with usable studio space? And you don’t need a new-ish big van. A used minivan is perfect for a potter. Keeping expenses low will be a big factor in whether you can make this work. 

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you have not indicated where you plan to do all this.  if in the US, location is important.  are you planning to retail in a shop on your property or some other way? read Dirt roads profile and see what it takes to make an exceptional living.   very exceptional.  read recent posts indicating how hard it is to find a venue these days, as well.  

it helps if you are a natural scavenger and plan to find useful things almost anywhere at any time.

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Yes i do have a plan and I've been making pottery for 27 years so the skill level is there . I have seven months to get a business plan together and refine my pottery offerings before i have to make a decision.  It has been years developing glazes . I just have to build a 10x10 craft show display.plus learn about etsy, shipping, and advertising. Now I  believe it can be done plus I plan to have a small part time job to keep me sane. I'll do more research. 

Edited by dirtball
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No matter what experience one has it will still take a long time to build and audience of buyers for your work. I consider mywself a sucessfull potter after 47 years but I have a huge group that likes the work after 40 plus years or galliers that can sell the work and I have a long track record with them or Markets (orgainic )that  the work sells well at.This all took lots of time and I mean years and years not measured in months measured in decades.Doing shows for 47 years taught me alot and consignmet sales since 74 has given me some insights in this as well. Doing whole sale about 1/3 of my business also has helped. I likethe spread  of income so its not all one way. this paid off big in coved times as well 

I have written some paths to follow in Ceramic Monthly in terms of income streams .I cannot give advice on Etsy as my entire experience  there has benn to buy one 3 d topo map.

I would plan on slow approach. making a living with pottery is a hard thing especially if you need to fast. I cannot tell you how many I have seen try and give up. Its  usually never about the quality of work its all the other factors .

You can make a good living at this but finding that path takes alot of failures. No short cuts.I do not want to sugar coat this. Ihave given lots of advice on how to get this going to Many folks over the decades.It all takes time.Pottery chose me not the other way around and thats why for me its worked out.

 

Edited by Mark C.
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Measuring experience in years doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Measuring in “pots produced” is more meaningful. You mentioned above that you need to acquire a studio space and equipment. Whose equipment have you been using up until now? If you are using somebody else’s studio, or a community/classroom studio, there was probably a limit on the volume of pots you could produce. 27 years of making a few dozen pots per year does not put you on the cusp of making a good income with pottery. I’m just assuming your output level of course, I could be wrong, based on you saying that you need to get a studio and the equipment. 

(I once had a pottery student who had been making pots for 15 years. Turned out she had very little command of throwing, and her bad habits had been ingrained for so long, she couldn’t unlearn them.)

Which brings me to my next question. Do you think you can make 2000 pots per year?  That’s about my current output, and some potters do far more than that (Mark C., for example). Many very talented potters fail on this issue. Will you enjoy the volume and repetitiousness? Or will it make you as unhappy as your current job? To expand what’s been said above already, production speed and consistency also take years to develop.

(It wasn’t until I did wholesale pottery for several years that I developed that kind of speed.)

What have you been doing with the pots you’ve made in the past? Even if it’s a few dozen pots per year, they need to go somewhere. Have you done any commerce at all? Even if you are gifting it, you should already have an idea if people like your work and want to own it. What is your sense of the demand for your work? 

(Long before I ever considered starting a pottery business, my friends and co-workers were lined up ordering my work. The community studio where I made pots had an annual holiday sale where I could sell just about everything else.) 

After I moved on from the community studio and put together my own, it was still 8 years before I could quit my previous job. I’ve met lots of aspiring potters over the years who thought it could be accomplished in months rather than years, not one of them has stuck it out. 

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@dirtball If you don't do it will you regret not trying? 

Limit your financial expose where you can.

Maybe hold off on a new vehicle and look for a good used one.

Do you have a garage that you can convert into a studio? Maybe rent some space if you don't.

You mentioned retirement funds, does that mean you are retiring and will be able to collect Social Security and/or a pension? (nice to have a steady income flow)

Or are you planing on raiding your retirement funds? (Bad Idea Don't Do It)

Plan for the best and expect the worst. There are worse things than a failed business venture. With the proper planning you can recover from a failed attempt, many have.

There is only one way to find out if you can succeed... that is by doing it.

Good Luck

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@dirtball 

First of all, welcome to the forum, and I hope we can help you out with your end goals, and figure out something that will work. There are a number of successful, full time professional potters here, and their advice is well worth listening to.

There is so much about this that I'd like to address, and so very much of it will depend on where you are in North America. I second Oldlady's words about your location mattering. For instance, I don't know any potters in Alberta that own one of those cargo vans that a lot of the artists in the US seem to use. Our market here does bear some similarities to the US and some principles do cross over, but there are also some very significant differences.  For instance, we don't have the massive outdoor fairs of the US, and even in the absence of a pandemic, there aren't enough of them to hit one every week of the year. You need to make sure that the information you're getting is actually applicable to your circumstances. Local economic situations will come into play. 

I started my own business full time about 6 years ago, when the price of oil crashed and the province went into a bit of an economic tailspin. It strangely wasn't a bad time to begin a business, but I second, third and fourth the opinions stated already that building a pottery business takes longer than advertised by any of the marketing gurus will lead you to believe. And under no circumstances would I touch my retirement savings to do it. If you've been making pots for 27 years and you started when you were 20, you're in your late 40's. Don't mess with your nest egg!!

When I went professional after 15 years of making pots haphazardly where I could after college, I had a wheel, a small (11x11')  studio, some glaze materials and other small sundries, and about $700 CAD saved up through doing things like paid surveys. That money went towards booth fees for some Christmas shows and a cheap tent for the following outdoor season. The list of things that I didn't even know how badly I didn't know it was staggering! For the first 2 years or so, everything I made went back into the business. 6 years in, I am now beginning to draw a small but regular monthly salary from my earnings as opposed to uneven windfalls. (I recommend reading "Profit First" by Mike Michalowicz to set up cash flow management.) 

I'd also like to note that almost everything I was ever taught about building an art business by academia was entirely wrong. Almost. The advice about starting a mailing list right away was definitely good. 

14 hours ago, dirtball said:

I have seven months to get a business plan together and refine my pottery offerings before i have to make a decision.  It has been years developing glazes . I just have to build a 10x10 craft show display.plus learn about etsy, shipping, and advertising

There is no "just" learning to build a display, plus Etsy shipping and advertising. It is an ongoing, constantly changing process. 7 months will get you into the experimentation stage, where you're beginning to gather information about what works for you. And while it's a good idea to keep the booth design ideas in the back of your head, I wouldn't jump on that too hard until crowds are allowed again.

Your time will be better spent defining your business goals beyond "I want to make  money from pottery." There's nothing at all wrong with that, you just need to get really specific about who you want to serve and how you want to go about doing that. You need more than a paycheck to stay motivated when you get to the point where you  move from your pottery being a creative outlet where you get to make whatever you want to making things for the market you've chosen. It's still fun and creative and a great job that I really enjoy, but you're not the only one with something at stake anymore.

 

 

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Right now is definitely not the time to jump into a new career in pottery. The pandemic has thrown everything about our livelihoods into disorder, and there's no end in sight yet. And even if we do get back to 'normal' soon, it's going to be a different normal, and we don't know what those differences will be yet. Nor do we know when the economy will get back to normal or what people's spending habits will be.

You basically have three ways to sell pots- in person at art fairs and other gatherings, online, or in galleries/shops.  Art fairs were cancelled for the most part this year, and we don't know if they'll happen next year or not, or if they'll be any good if they do happen. Just like all small businesses, the future of galleries and shops is in question right now. Many will close before the pandemic is over. It takes years to build up a following to be successful at online sales. Just putting your work on Etsy does not mean you'll sell anything. Search 'blue mug' on Etsy and you'll get 135,000 results. Etsy is great as a shopping cart, but worthless as a method to drive sales.

I would say this is the worst possible time to try and start a pottery career. Maybe in a year, but more likely in two years. Take that time to start building up your business as much as possible, but keep your current job.

 

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Hello thankyou guys for your input  I'm reading more about this on your profiles.Im going to move from a big ceramic community to a smaller town . the place where i live is kinda meca for pottery in Canada i was the lead carpenter on the pottery museum rebuild.That being said i can definitely build the booth.I have a small studio in my garage now and I transport my work to fire it.Now i have an idea for a product that will sell for 15 dollars and id have to throw 5000 a year to around 50k and when i did the math i could scrape by on 24k a year. Im really tired of my job so I have to do something different also having a boss is no longer for me. My work ethic is very good because i wake up at five am and return home at five thirty and i have thrown fifty mugs in  one sitting . Ever since i was seventeen I wanted to make my living as a potter so i'm betting every thing on myself. If I do this ill have a house thats paid for so whats the worst that can happen I go back to a job I dislike but will have no pension .Hmmm it a big choice to make Im most worried about having a marketing my work. If you have more words of wisdom it would be greatly appreciated.

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Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund.

Plus there are usually large penalties for pulling money out of retirement early.

I don't think anyone should be selling any handmade pottery for under $20, unless it's very small or very simple, like a spoon rest that you can crank out by the hundreds without thinking.

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@dirtball

It has already been said but you are not taking the advice, but once again “all or nothing” is not a good way to do this. Keep you job and start the pottery business on the side. Build it up slowly. 

You will still have a boss ... yourself. Being your own boss has a lot of pitfalls too. Also, you will still need to work well with show organizers (lots of rules to follow when doing shows), gallery owners, and most of all, CUSTOMERS. 

Having carpentry skills to build a display is not the hard part. The hard part is to design a display that is visually effective and also logistically easy to transport. It takes a lot of trial and error (a common theme in this thread). My display evolved a lot for many years before it began to work well. 

19 hours ago, dirtball said:

Im really tired of my job so I have to do something different

This is not a good head space from which to make a major financial decision. A pottery business is not the answer to this situation. The best answer to this situation is to find another paycheck job in the same field with a more compatible boss. Take a deep breath and slow down. Being a potter, and being a professional potter, are two very different things. The notions you have expressed indicate that you don’t understand this. If being a professional potter is your lifelong dream, then pursue it with a positive head space and a plan to succeed. Don’t just jump off a cliff and hope it works out. 

Edited by GEP
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One thing to remember is we all want this to work out for you. Even if that advice is not what you want to hear. I think there are not enough of us full timers in ceramics anymore. All of us bring a different experience to the table for you to succeed .We have helped many folks before you and really do know what it takes. I would pay attention to the advice and see what you can take away from it into your own life. I have mentored a few potters who wanted to make it with clay even a Canadian. (she passed away a few years ago) We want this to work for you.

Edited by Mark C.
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5 hours ago, GEP said:

Having carpentry skills to build a display is not the hard part. The hard part is to design a display that is visually effective and also logistically easy to transport. It takes a lot of trial and error (a common theme in this thread). My display evolved a lot for many years before it began to work well. 

Bingo. My display has changed a lot over the years. After 10 years I've finally got a setup that's very adaptable to changes in my work and the market.

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Hey I've decided Im quitting my job and putting my retirement into a tax free savings account. Ill find a different job that i can devote more time to pottery.  

Now with my display I'm going to build it out of baltic birch and laminate and will have a Scandinavian feel .Ill post the build when i build it . 

thankyou all for your advice. 

 

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On 10/12/2020 at 2:26 PM, neilestrick said:

Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund. Do not spend your retirement fund.

Hey Neil, I had a question on whether or not you would suggest that someone spends their retirement fund.  Thoughts?...

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