If you want to have a successful experience selling your work, starting a community studio, or taking on a large project for the first time, it helps to have a business plan. If you want to be a full-time studio artist, making and following that business plan is essential. Forming one is a step-by-step process, and you can tailor it to your interests and build in creative approaches to implement the plan.
Forming a Business Plan
The first thing you need to do is to ask yourself what you want the business to be. What best fits your personality, creative drive, and skill set? What drives and energizes you? Is it making and selling your artwork? Would you also find it fulfilling to teach workshops or collaborate with others? Do you want your studio to be a community resource, to help other artists advance their work or careers?
Next, you’ll need to identify your market and determine your strategy for engaging that audience. For example, can you identify who will buy the work that you want to make (or attend your workshops, or rent studio space from you, etc.)? Can they afford the prices you need to charge to make a living? What are the most effective venues for promoting and selling what you do?
It’s also important to figure out how you will support yourself and finance the business during the startup phase as well as to project your earnings and expenses for the first five years. Do you plan to keep a second job for a while, use savings, rely on crowd funding, or find investment partners? If you’re not overwhelmed yet, visit the Small Business Administration website (www.sba.gov) for more information on crafting business plans.
Implementing a Plan
Once you have a plan, there are many creative ways to realize your goals. The artists featured in this issue have taken many different approaches based on their interests, locations, and formative experiences.
Some are collaborating with others on joint ventures, like the Leach Pottery staff that Roelof Uys leads (page 38). Each person is involved in making and firing the work, building a sense of shared responsibility and respect. Joseph Sand learned a great deal about how to be a full-time potter from various apprenticeships, and decided that relationship was integral both practically and philosophically to his business plan (page 28). Terri Axness partners with other artists and hosts annual Raku workshops at her rural studio (page 80). This event fuels her creatively throughout the year and strengthens her regional clay community.
Full-time potter Mark Cortright has relied on a variety of income streams, from large art shows to consignment and wholesale orders, to make a living for over 40 years (page 45). He shares ideas for evolving a list of products from year to year, as well as ways to reduce costs, including coordinating with other potters in his area to buy materials in bulk.
Moving to the digital realm, Edith Garcia explores the ways that both established and emerging artists are using crowdfunding to finance specific projects, form a virtual network of support, and get feedback on new work (page 42). Calandra Beller Diesel shares tips for working with social media influencers—bloggers with a large online following who are potential buyers of your work—in a way that is mutually beneficial (page 20).
The Long View
A crucial, but often overlooked aspect of maintaining successful business working with clay is to take care of your body and mind. As full-time artist Sunshine Cobb explains in her new book, Mastering Hand Building: “If you are thinking about making a career in ceramics, strive for balance, take care of yourself, exercise, and make time outside the studio to refresh and energize your body and mind. I promise it will serve your studio practice well and help sustain a long career.”
Having a long career in clay requires finding creative inspiration, building a sustainable practice—financially, creatively, and physically. We hope this issue will provide some insights on all three.