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How Many Sell Ceramics For A Living?


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Lurker here- just thought I'd post to offer what I hope is encouragement. 

 

At the risk of sounding yuckily braggy-- I started a pottery business in the 1980's and when I sold it to a large giftware company seven years ago, it was worth eight million dollars.  My business was a hybrid of pottery & ceramics, and I continue to keep a finger in a variety of muddy pies: I wheelthrow pieces that are slipcast by major ceramic companies, I design tabletop and functional giftware for large corporations, I run an etsy shop in my spare time... I could go on. Mostly i just want to assure you that it is possible to make not only a "living," but a really good living at pottery. 

 

When I first started out I did much of what Terry describes doing above.  I hit a point in my life where I experienced both great financial hardship and also discovered a deep and abiding addiction for clay.  Failure was not an option for me.   I started selling my clunky imperfect items on a blanket on a sidewalk in Brooklyn.  I had to sell enough of my items to feed myself, pay for my housing, and to be able to afford to make MORE stuff.

 

What this experience did for me is prevent me from lapsing into any sort of self indulgence. For example,  I certainly could not afford to make large artistic pieces that a gallery may/may not want to buy.  I HAD to make things people wanted: even if that meant not always making what I wanted.  I had to be responsive in the development of my products- I had to be disciplined in the use of my time, materials, etc.  Think for a moment if every thing you had was taken away from you and all you had was six bags of clay and the ability to turn them into something that would allow you to live.  That is how it was for me:   I learned to never name the well that I wouldn't drink from. 

 

I think another thing that was instrumental in my success is that I learned to love the business aspect as much as the making aspect-- and to bring creativity and curiosity to those aspects as well.  I met so many talented amazing artists on my journey- but many of them detested the marketing & selling aspect involved in making a living from their work.   Building a business from the ground up can be so exciting if you are passionate about it. 

 

 One of my favorite quotes has always been: "There are many who are far more talented than I am, but few more determined to succeed."  Like anything you dream about, or wish for, hard work is required.  But know that what the future may/may not look like is entirely dependent upon what you want it to look like!!  You can have ANYTHING you want-you just can't have everything. 

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As long as Social Security isn't shrunk too badly against the cost of living, my rent doesn't go up, and no financial tragedy visits itself upon me, I hope to contribute to paying for my surviving and thriving through ceramics. I do have a passion and some education for small business as well as for art. We shall see......my kiln was wired in yesterday! I have 50 lbs of clay to work with to test things out, and then I shall get on with it!  

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