1 Installation view of Forrest Sincoff Gard and Jeni Hansen Gard’s piece Commemorating Columbus, on view at Roy G Biv Gallery (roygbivgallery.org) in Columbus, Ohio.

While we’re all fascinated with the idea of life as a full-time artist, our annual focus on working potters helps to explain, through multiple artists’ perspectives, what it actually takes to make that career path possible. If you’re considering working as a studio artist as your first, second, or subsequent career, or ramping up production in the studio as a source of supplemental income, we hope that the experiences this year’s artists share will help you on your way as you form your business plan.

When we think about people who work as full-time studio artists, we often don’t realize that many people who have chosen this career rely on multiple income streams throughout the year. This includes selling their work in different ways (galleries, online, studio or pottery tours, ceramic or craft fairs, local farmer’s markets, etc.); but it also includes teaching workshops and classes; administrative tasks; marketing and promoting work on social media; collaborating with other community members (chefs, non-profits, other artists) to build a base of interest and support in ceramics at the local level; and more.

2 Detail of plate titled Old North Columbus. 1, 2 Photos: Kaitlynne Phillips.3 Detail of plate titled Park of Roses.4 Detail of plate titled Worthington Farmer’s Market, Branstool Orchards.

The solutions that the 2018 Ceramics Monthly Working Potters found to problems or obstacles they faced as they started out and developed their careers are based on evaluating their strengths and interests and reacting to specific experiences. Analyzing your situation to find your own preferences will help you figure out not only whether you’re suited to relying on your work as a main income stream, but also what type of environment might be best for you.

The questions that these artists had to address included determining whether they could work long hours over a sustained period of time, and whether solitude or a group setting for their work spaces would be more beneficial. They also addressed whether their location was permanent or might change, and if it allowed for retail traffic or for supplemental income through teaching and workshops. When evaluating their strengths, they considered whether they could (or wanted to) manage all tasks, or needed to hire people to help; and if they needed to pursue a residency, apprenticeship, or work as an assistant potter to gain more skills and contacts. They also evaluated their existing overhead, the loans they needed to take on to get started, and how these would affect their income requirements.

5 Detail of interactive element of the installation, with paper plates decorated by visitors to the gallery.

Our associate editor, Forrest Sincoff Gard, is also moving to a new phase in his career as an artist, where working in the studio and directly with the community will be a larger part of his daily routine. While we will miss the perspective and knowledge of the field he brought to his work on the magazines for the last four years, we’re excited to see what he makes during his upcoming residencies and how he expands on his interests in social engagement, education, and building community. Good luck, Forrest!

-Jessica Knapp, editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists