Ceramic Arts Network: Did you come to pottery from a different career? Tell us about your journey to a ceramics career.
Ian Pike: I served in the British Royal Navy for 35 years, including 2 years on the Royal Yacht Britannia. During that time I came across pottery at an evening class and was hooked. When I left the Navy I ventured into full-time ceramics. I had previously made small quantities of mugs, bowls, and plates, which I sold to my fellow workers at 50 pence ($0.69) or so. My family also suffered some fairly rough Christmas presents. They did, however, appreciate that all were hand-made in red earthenware.
I was asked to make a plaque giving a house name and number. This proved relatively easy to produce a reasonably professional look. A few orders followed this and I decided to explore the market. I placed a very small advertisement in the Ideal Home magazine at an extortionate price just for 3 months. I offered a bespoke service with a colored sketch full size to be sent and agreed before I started work. Price to be agreed according to diameter.
Business took off! After the first advertisement I was so inundated that I doubled my prices, but slowed nothing down. I doubled my prices again and that stemmed the flow slightly. I never advertised again. I made plaques for births, weddings, as well as the house name items. I promised individual pieces with no two alike, as I altered small aspects in each one. Seven years after the first advertisement I received a telephone call order from a lady in New Zealand who had seen my add in the old glossy magazine in a dentist’s waiting room!