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Hello all... This branches over several threads (I think)... I'm at a crossroads of sorts:  Of figuring out where I want to go with pottery.  I started last year after a 20+ year hiatus and my learning curve is now dropping.  I did 4-5 shows last year and sold a decent amount of pieces.  I'm looking at the pieces coming out of the kiln and they're just okay (glazes need some work, but forms are good).

My questions:  What is the difference between production potter and hobby potter?  Is there a definition? If you are a production potter do you still get to play around with things that intrigue you?

Second question: What do I do with all the pieces that are taking up space/not really all that great/flawed/overall uninspiring?  

I guess I'm looking for "big picture" advice and direction.  



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I'd say a production potter has designed a line of functional pots, has developed durable glazes that fit those pots, and makes those pots over and over again.

A hobby potter is someone making hobby pots.  Doing pots here and there, no real set design or style, just making what they want and selling it occasionally.  One of the ways I can tell if someone is a hobby potter or a production potter is to look at their mugs.  If theres not a stack of mugs 100% identical in form on their shelves, they're a hobby potter!  The mug is like the backbone/money maker and you gotta make hundreds and hundreds a year to keep up with selling them.  When you make that many, you get good at them fast.

So I'd say overall the difference is consistency and volume.

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Hi Rippity!

Might go with a continuum from Hobby to Production - I like to think I'm well over to the Hobby end, from center that is, with a definite interest, many aspects, Production. From there, more than one axis on that, maybe, a landscape, or matrix, for there's role of income generation, sheer tonnage, piece count, target market, art<>craft, utility, equipment, skill, speed, precision, tradition, material, process, and so on... that may factor in one's definition o' either.

Perhaps place Isaac Button type over toward the Production end.

"Other" work, use them, break'm, drill and start plants in them.

Edited by Hulk
forgot to say Hi!
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I'm going to add a third leg to Hulk's continuum.  You could be anywhere between the 3 legs. 

A studio potter in my estimation, is closer to a artist in that they may not be concerned with volume the way a production factory is.  It's harder to use the "hobby" label on serious studio featuring all the necessary tools and a 20+ year investment in time.  There are lots of reasons why the income from the process may not be required for necessities, not related at all to lack of skill or dedication.

In My Opinion (since I'm not one), a production potter is in fact limited in the amount of new directions their work can take.  Must not mess with the market's expectations.  Especially functional (kitchen) ware, which must meet relatively narrow parameters.  Those 100 mugs Liambesaw is making can be done (by him) in the amount of time of 1 sculptural or mainly aesthetic piece.  If the criteria is which is easier to sell, that's a no brainer. 

So IMO (again) the criteria for production potter is related to income stream.

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I don't consider myself to be a production potter, despite doing 15-20 shows per year, because I don't spend the majority of my time making pots, and because I don't make a large volume of pots. I think part of the definition also comes down to how you make your profits- is it through volume or through selling fewer pieces at higher prices? It depends on how much time you spend on each piece. Is the focus on streamlining and simplifying the process to maximize output, or are you willing to spend 30 minutes decorating one mug because you know you can get a high enough price for it to justify the time? I consider myself to be in the Small Batch Potter category, but the label really doesn't matter.

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I know someone that throws production for a pottery business a few days a week and when she is working there,  she is certainly a production potter, but it doesn't pay much and most of her time is spent throwing her own work and doing shows, commissions, custom orders, teaching classes, etc... I would not call her a production potter, but she is definitely a full-time potter. That's what I hope to be someday, a full-time potter, which does not necessarily mean "production", at least in my mind.

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I'm a production potter down to only-8 tons of clay a year now as I slow down

(My questions:  What is the difference between production potter and hobby potter?  Is there a definition? If you are a production potter do you still get to play around with things that intrigue you?)

Its not a grey area-I make pots to sell and that is most of the focus. I am not keeping them or attached to them-they are pigs going to market if you will. Yes I care about them and want them to be the best they can be but they will be somebodys baby not mine .

Yes I still play around but not on production time-I have a salt kiln and do my fun work thru that meduim not my porcelain production line.Most of my play time comes with glazes and making new ones or tweeking old ones-that is ongoing now for 45 years as I like the glaze and fire part -I'm called a fire potter ,most or mud potters loving the throwing -I need a canvas to glaze so I throw pots.With a Hobby potter the volume  of work is low and the forms all all different. If you are asking you are not a production potter-at some point you know thats what you are.

I can still make whatever I want but I need to make my line of work and can add to it or subtract from it but the line is my focus.Like today mugs bowls and spoon rests about 150 pots thrown drying in the sun-unload two glaze kilns in afternoon-fun right-you know when you are not a hobbist.That was so long ago I cannot recall what it felt like.

For me hobby means all for fun no making 1000 mugs or 30 of every form . The booth is a hodgepodge of whatever you like to make. You have another job for money or your partner does and you are playing around.Pottery is not for income or if it is you are just trying to offset costs

(Second question: What do I do with all the pieces that are taking up space/not really all that great/flawed/overall uninspiring?  )

First let me say this and belive it -there is No Acounting for taste-your worst pot (unispiring) is someones favorite-so sell it- flawed ones break and trash thats why they are flawed and should not be sold . Its very clean and simple.

Hobbists worry over wares Full timers do not-hammer time or sell time -flawed =hammer. Not flawed=sell. You do not like them but they are 100% fine=sell

Clean out that crap with new eyes and move on-the trash can is your friend

Hope this straight talk was not a shock -today I just unloaded a overfired small kiln load about 1/3 went into the trash can(bloated). Time to make more pots-move on as I said.Just a blip in in a production potters week.

Edited by Mark C.
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I consider myself a production potter. But whenever I have a new design idea I want to explore, I can always make time for it. I only work on a handful of new designs per year, and only half of those will ever make past the exploration stage. The vast majority of my time is spent making the established items in my line. All of these designs were developed with a lot of thought, I feel really good about them, and I enjoy making them. There have been times when, for various reasons, I stopped enjoying making certain past items. When that happens I stop making it. I have never forced myself to make something I don’t want to make, just because it is a good seller. That would defeat the point of being an independent artist. Why take the risk of independence if you’re just going to trap yourself? The repetitiousness of production pottery means that you must take good care of your body and your psyche. Making things you don’t want to make would be hard to maintain. Of course, everything you make must be a productive seller too, but that needs to be reconciled with design and desire too. 

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Oh my goodness, you guys! Thank you so much for the thought you put into your portion of your two cents here.  So very helpful!

GEP, you nailed my fear of pigeon holing myself and not being fun or artful...and giving myself the freedom to be an artist first.

Mark C, your advice was perfect and to the point. I have been told by family and friends that I am too hard on my own pottery.  I think that's good to a point-- and I think that's how I was able to sell so many.  I too, have looked at others' "garbage" and been enthralled.  What I don't sell I will smash with a hammer!

ShawnHar, I love the idea of being able to teach, be my own glaze master in my own studio, and sell the stuff I've made; thanks for that vision.

Neil- I like how you didn't put a judgement on taking a lot of time on a single piece ( vs volume), because frankly, sometimes that's where the art comes in. 

Cactus and Hulk, I like the visual of the three- legged stool.  That gives me something to think about,

"Small batch potter" I like I wasn't looking to define myself as much as to get a grip on thought and

Liam, I am working on consistency; I think being able to recreate is the hallmark of a good potter.  Thank for your thoughts.

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How about a professional potter?

" Production" pottery not Art??? Well Art and Design are key to great selling"production " pieces imo.

Makes one want to pick it up, interact with its shape , texture and balance.

Professional in that we evaluate our pots anddiscard ruthlessly the ones whicvh don't make the mark.

Hobby...just that, not sleeping, eating drinking , absorbing ceramics, time to natter and shoot the breeze with other


Gets you bad?

Get professional, quit the hours on the phone etc etc

You'll know when it hits you for sure, as will your family.

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