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RuegerPottery19

New Potter: Advice Appreciated!

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Before you can make $36K, you need sales. And, to make sales, you need inventory. So, $36K profit requires about $72K sales; and to make $72K in sales, you'll need about $144K in inventory. If you don't have inventory, you can't make sales and you can't make a profit.

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Before you can make $36K, you need sales. And, to make sales, you need inventory. So, $36K profit requires about $72K sales; and to make $72K in sales, you'll need about $144K in inventory. If you don't have inventory, you can't make sales and you can't make a profit.

 

This is not quite the math that exists for me. For every show, generally speaking you should pack twice as much inventory as you plan to sell (so your booth does not look picked over and empty near the end). But the leftover pots become inventory for the next show. So no matter what your gross sales goals are, you only need to produce about a half-a-show's worth of inventory more than that goal.

 

When I am between shows, and at the end of the year, I typically have about half-a-show's worth of pots on hand.

 

Also, for this year to date, my COGS is only 25% of my sales. (Again, this is to date, I still have two shows left and no big expenses left.) At 25% COGS, if OP wants to net $36k, he only needs to sell $48k.

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As far as inventory I like to have more than a shows worth-usually 1 1/2 laying around-the exception is the small stuff. As thi sells so well-I'm always working on more.The last 10 years I try to have a large area of built up pots some priced and boxed-others unpriced for outher outlets. I have found if you can always have stock your sales really go up-in my case some retail(myseld-some consignment and some wholesale.

Orders get filled right away and since all venues have full stock that increases sales. I realize that this takes a huge effort but once you pass the tipping point on building up stock its easier to mantain this balance.This was a key to really increaing my sales overall.

If my van is not at least 1/2 full and I do not have at least 1/2 a vans worth ready to go I'm slacking.Lately I have a fluxuating pile of 10-20 boxes ready to load any time of year.

Mark

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Makes sense. This fall I have been pushing just to have enough product for shows. Definitely hoping to build up a good assortment of extra pieces between January and April or so, since I don't have any planned shows in that time period. We will see.

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I love the vases you have pictured at the beginning of this post.

 

Some constructive criticism:

The items you have on etsy will have a very narrow audience. If you are looking at becoming a production potter. It might help to pick a target audience,Target an age group, or a subculture like Yuppies, Hippies, or Hipsters.

You might try some metal pumps or pumps that look like metal instead of white plastic, they will look more natural and not so dollar store plastic. Try some other form of lettering on your beautifully made personalized cups. Stamping with under glazes might be an idea. Your work will need to be more uniform, people like to buy and add to complete sets. Group your work into a series. People like a couple of design choices and a couple of color choices. You have some cool designs to start with, But you need to group them together. If it's not so easy that you puke, it won't fly. One last thing, If you have some items that can be produced by others rather than just yourself, you will have some security if something happens to you.

 

There is a lot of very good advice in this post. I will not knock your Idea of doing this full time or try to discourage you from doing so. If you are motivated, motivation will take you a lot further than anything else. People that make a successful business fly, often do it in less time, but they usually are frugal business people first and lastly a potter. If you are a frugal business person who is motivated to sell pottery you'll do fine.

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If this post should go somewhere else, feel free to move it. I figured I would just post it here since I started the thread. 

 

Okay guys, here is a new leaf design I have just started experimenting with. The picture on the top was done first and has been glaze fired. I am not super happy with the kind of drab green on the leaves, so I have to keep experimenting with that. I'd love to have a little more pop.   Also, the line through the middle of the leaves was just a reference line for my test piece, so ignore that. I was a little hurried when I did the leaves, but you get the idea. 

 

This brings me to the bottom picture, which is a larger greenware piece I just finished with a similar design. However, I have made several modifications. For one, I actually took the time to do the leaves right. Second, instead of doing the stems vertically, I have wrapped them around the piece, to add a sense of movement and visual interest. I feel it works much better than the vertical stems on the mug. 

 

1. Do you like the lightly stained rawish clay look in-between the stems? I feel it really helps to make the leaf pattern stand out. But, it isn't completely raw, which was too tan-ish without a light rub of stain. 

 

2. What do you think of the design overall, especially the revised version on the greenware piece?

 

Thanks for your feedback!

 

Apologies for the pictures: Not the best quality

 

post-64327-0-08709900-1417140957_thumb.jpg

post-64327-0-40976400-1417140966_thumb.jpg

post-64327-0-08709900-1417140957_thumb.jpg

post-64327-0-40976400-1417140966_thumb.jpg

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This is only my opinion of course ...

 

With the first piece the design and glaze are not working together ... I cannot see the connection.

But ...

Your second piece is very alive and exciting even in this early stage ... I find the surface design to be very interesting and I like the way you worked in that horizontal line. If I were you I would make several more right now while the inspiration is in place ... there is nothing as exciting as following an idea by making a series.

 

Do not glaze them though until you have a clear direction on what you want to say. Great work.

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Rueger;

I like how the flowers are upside down in the first jug, and they bulge where the form expands.

2.You have an arbitrary line above the blossoms that is not needed.

3.The rutile blue on the rim is too strong for the colour of the blossoms.

4. The blossoms could be brighter.

Second pot.

1.Great line. Nice and thick and flowing.

2.This pot is just crying out for an application of white slip and then scratch through with some scraffito.

3.Your leaves are kind of amateurish. I think you have to look at some leaves and get your line flowing.

4.Get a newspaper, a bottle of India ink and and bamboo brush, and make a few hundred leaves. Then go back to the pot.

5. Your cut rim does not relate to your design. Can you repeat the line of the rim in the design somehow?

TJR.

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Chris - I understand what you are saying about the design and the glaze. Any ideas on what would work? I'll definitely be tweaking for awhile. Thanks! I am heading down to the studio here in just a bit to throw some pots. 

 

TJR 

 

Second Pot

 

1. Thanks!

 

2. White slip and scrafitto could be a really good look. I'll definitely consider it. 

 

Thanks guys. Keep it coming. 

 

3. What specifically do you find amateurish? They certainly are not perfect. In some ways, they are not meant to be. If I was trying to perfectly duplicate leaves, I would have added vanes, etc. But, I am trying to work in my bark-like texture that I enjoy doing into the leaves and do something unique. But, I'll definitely take your thoughts under advisement and check out some leaves. 

 

5. I might be able to repeat the line. I don't know. The idea was to suggest movement and flow. I feel like both the rim and the design do that. Now, they might not mix together well, but that was the thought. 

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Chris - I understand what you are saying about the design and the glaze. Any ideas on what would work? I'll definitely be tweaking for awhile. Thanks! I am heading down to the studio here in just a bit to throw some pots. 

 

TJR 

 

Second Pot

 

1. Thanks!

 

2. White slip and scrafitto could be a really good look. I'll definitely consider it. 

 

Thanks guys. Keep it coming. 

 

3. What specifically do you find amateurish? They certainly are not perfect. In some ways, they are not meant to be. If I was trying to perfectly duplicate leaves, I would have added vanes, etc. But, I am trying to work in my bark-like texture that I enjoy doing into the leaves and do something unique. But, I'll definitely take your thoughts under advisement and check out some leaves. 

 

5. I might be able to repeat the line. I don't know. The idea was to suggest movement and flow. I feel like both the rim and the design do that. Now, they might not mix together well, but that was the thought. 

Rueger;

Maybe amateurish was the wrong word. I know, or I think I know that you are goingfor a more stylized look of "leaf.'

If you are serious about decorating, then you need to develop a "vocabulary of images that you can draw upon.

In my own work, I use a fish motif, a swirling circle, spirals, banding and patterning. My designs have come from thousands of hours of decorating pots. I have long moved away from the real fish, but I am always looking at images to paint.

Check out my youtube video

tomrobertsinplainviewwinnipeg

You will see me painting a fish on a jar. Hard to do with a camera stuck in your face.

As Simon Leach says, keep practicing.

Tom Roberts

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I like the tension between the flowing lip and that straight line across the pot ... the leaves as they are now also suggest pods or seeds ... No easy answers for you today!

TJR has a strong design aesthetic with clay surfaces so he sees things I don't.

 

You have so many interesting glaze choices ... surf through Google pottery images until you see what is catching your eye.

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I like the idea of carving to create surface interest and texture. If you want to go down that road, you should look up potters who are known for carving effects. They tend to make their own carving tools, so their cuts have a dynamic and refined shape. Unlike the basic u-shaped or v-shaped grooves with rough edges that most store-bought tools will create (which your pots currently have). Also, I agree with Tom that your leaves (or any motif you choose) need to have a more stylized "look." An all over leafy motif is pretty common, so you need to make yours distinct.

 

One note of caution about carving. A potter who is well-known for her carved pots once admitted to me that she sometimes wishes she had not picked that as a look, because it is very time-consuming, slows down her production rate a lot. This conversation was very helpful to me, as I had just begun using carving in my work. Now I choose to limit that approach to about 10% of my work, which I have designated as my "fancy" line.

 

Tom's approach to brush-stroke decorating (nice video!) is smarter for a production potter because it is much faster. But if you watch the video, you can probably tell how much practice it takes to become proficient.

 

Finally, I really like the shape of the bottom pot. The proportion of height and width, the very subtle hourglass shape, the wavy cut rim, is all very pleasing. The mouth of the vase looks ready for a bunch of cut flowers. (The bottle forms you showed us earlier are "look at me" pots, whereas this one is a "put me to work" pot.) I almost think this pot would be better without the carving.

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One note of caution about carving. A potter who is well-known for her carved pots once admitted to me that she sometimes wishes she had not picked that as a look, because it is very time-consuming, slows down her production rate a lot. This conversation was very helpful to me, as I had just begun using carving in my work. Now I choose to limit that approach to about 10% of my work, which I have designated as my "fancy" line.

^  "Production rate" is what destroys any chance of making a real living for many of the potters I know.     I like this 10% rule.   I call it playing time.   Every week I make a few time consuming pieces and put an equivalent price on them.   These pieces sell but not fast.    You need to be getting your stuff in front of the buying customers.   Figure out your 80/20 split ... i.e. 80% of your sales generally come frokm 20% of your products/colors.   I get rid of pieces that don't hit that 20% mark.   So now I have an entire line of mostly sales producers (sort of blows the 80/20 now).

 

Also, I'm guessing your wife works?  Can you get health insurance through her job?   I pay $550/month for health insurance and it's going up 15% soon.   Do keep in mind health insurance is a tax write off, as are a lot of other things.    Looking at Gep's $50k a year production to net $36K is probably a good number.   Remember you have lots of write offs. 

 

Gep:  What % do you allow for selling costs?  Or is that included in your COGS?    I've always found your numbers to be somewhat inline with mine.   My estimate of $72K yearly is probably high for solo production.  That suggestion of $144k ... well I am going to have to disagree on that amount.   If you pay attention and get your 80/20 down, you will have a lot higher sell through.   Last year I had 100% sell through.    Due mostly to the fact that I have a free standing retail location that blows out during Nov/Dec.   (Key word here:  GIFTS)

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 Gep:  What % do you allow for selling costs?  Or is that included in your COGS?   

Yes my selling costs were included in my 25% COGS. Interestingly, my selling costs are by far my biggest expense category (this includes show application fees, booth fees, my display, travel, and credit card fees). It is twice as much as I spend on materials (clay, glaze, equipment, supplies). I guess one way to look at that is to be grateful that pottery materials are cheap.

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Also, I'm guessing your wife works?  Can you get health insurance through her job?   I pay $550/month for health insurance and it's going up 15% soon.   Do keep in mind health insurance is a tax write off, as are a lot of other things.    Looking at Gep's $50k a year production to net $36K is probably a good number.   Remember you have lots of write offs. 

 

 

I read through all three pages on this thread and over and over my "mom" voice kept shouting in  my ear, "do you have insurance, do you have a plump saving account, does your wife have a great stable well paying job with good maternity leave/benefits, and are you willing to eat beans and rice for a few years, and will she not get pissed when she is working 9-5 so you can follow your passion?"  Most artists and potters that I know have more than one job.  They may teach pottery, or run a gallery, or teach art in a school, or have a studio, or or... you get the picture.  Most have other forms of income.  I personally work two jobs and I choose not to give up either of them because I love them both, but not everyone wants to work two completely different professions and make pottery as well :)  I will caution you that often when you have to produce enough pottery to make a living, it stops being a calling/passion or way to express yourself, and becomes a J O B. That was an epiphany I had when someone ordered 12 dinner plates and I was in the middle of trimming them.  Personally I like pottery too much to allow it to become more of a job and less of a vehicle to channel my artistic energy.  More power to the people that can successfully balance the two AND manage to live off the income from pottery alone.  Clay for me allows me to make a nice side income, but I can still work a job that has benefits, and have time to ride my bike, play golf, and go to the beach and not spend all my weekends setting up tents and selling pots.  Geez, I guess I'm just a hobbyist that sells her work.  Best of luck whatever road you choose and I will say after 33 happily married years, always put your relationship and family first.

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This is a minor point, but all this talk of health insurance makes me want to shout AFFORDABLE CARE ACT!  Unless you and your wife have a sizeable joint taxable income, you can likely get some subsidization on your health insurance premiums.  (And that net taxable income can be handily reduced with legal but generous business expenses. (For example: Driving to the store for groceries?  Pick up a tube of epoxy and write off the mileage...)  The beauty of being self-employed is that darn near EVERYTHING you do can be written off to reduce that taxable income.  

 

My husband's job doesn't offer paid health insurance coverage for me, so I've had to buy my own health insurance for the past 30 years.  Despite the fact that I'm healthy with no pre-existing conditions, my health insurance premiums were nearly unaffordable, but they dropped by 60% after I paid a visit to Healthcare.gov, where I filled out an application and got a hefty subsidy.  AND I chose from much better policies than I could ever have considered before.  ACA - the artist's friend!! 

 

Jayne

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Hey everyone, I know it has been awhile since I posted, but I have been busily working away on several new lines of pieces, loosely based on the four elements. I have finalized my designs for earth and water, but am still working on fire and air. Anyway, since you guys were so helpful, I thought I would post some images and see what everyone thought. Thanks! 

 

Platter: "Earth"

 

Platter: "Water"

 

Vase: "Water"

 

Vase: "Earth"

 

Two-handled vase: "Water"

 

Covered Jar: "Water"

 

Tea Set: "Water"

 
 

 

 

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I like the look of the platters, the raised leaves, combined with the "antique looking" glaze, work well together. I do find that bit of white glaze, that is dripped/ splattered, to be a bit unnecessary. A touch of white, could make things pop, if it were applied differently. What if the rim was glazed white, and the middle portion and leaves were glazed, as they are now?

 

The second platter, I really like. What are the white spots meant to symbolize, rain?

 

I very much like the form of the jar. I also like the contrast between the smooth surfaces and the more organic.

 

The Tea Set is probably my favorite. It has great texture, and a very nice organic look overall. My question would be, is it meant to be functional? The handle seems like it would be a bit awkward, when someone went to pour.

 

Nice body of work though. It seems like you are finding your voice.

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hey you have been busy, work looks great. Did you cut the day job? 

 

The only thing I would mention u may want to consider with the relief sprigs is that they are harder to take care of (dusting and not damaging by knocking off a piece) and many folks may shy away from buying them because of this.

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Benzine

     Thanks for your thoughts and critique! I actually like the runs of what is technically a "clear" glaze on the first platter. The clear over the brown is what gives it the antique look. So, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one. :-)

 

Yeah, the drips are actually a real light blue, although it is hard to tell in the pictures. They were loosely modeled after rain or water rivulets of some kind, when combined with the wave texture to stimulate a sense of movement.

 

Believe it or not, the tea pot handle is actually really nice for pouring, at least in my opinion. It feels good in my hand and you have to move your wrist a lot less to get the tea flowing.

 

Stephen,

 

  I have been busy! Thanks for the affirmation. I have not quit the day job yet, but I did cut back to part-time and am doing pottery fully part-time now as well, instead of just whenever I have time. 

 

Yeah, the leaf pieces are certainly a little more fragile. However, I did do my best to keep the leaves from extending too far from off of the platter. I guess we'll see what people thing once my first set of shows come around! 

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Some of your designs look very breakable. This is a silent killer of sales.

Tall skinny things can get knocked over.

That extra long spout and high handle on your tea pot look breakable.

Sooner or later, those leaves on that dish will chip.

People love to look at them, but are reluctant to pay to take them home. This is important if sales are your goal.

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Chris, 

  Good point. I'll have to think on that a bit. Have you known potters who focus on more fragile pieces that still do well sales-wise??? I mean, I'm really happy with the pieces in general. I could certainly widen out the bottoms a bit on some of the skinnier pieces. 

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