It can be hard to get a ceramics business off the ground, or any business for that matter. So when we were filming Sights & Ceramics: Portland, Oregon, we asked the proprietors of Mudshark/Portland Growler Company/Eutectic Gallery how they developed their successful businesses. Check out Sights & Ceramics: Portland, Oregon to see the rest of this interview and the full episode of Sights & Ceramics: Portland. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
7 Expert Tips on How to Start a Ceramic Business
by Kris Vagner
- Take things one step at a time. If something doesn’t work, change it.
- Get an intern. They’re invaluable. (Check your local college for intern programs.)
- Get an extra mop bucket and a good shop vac. “We didn’t know we’d be cleaning so much!”
- Get a Peter Pugger or other pugmill. It’s a game changer. “We’ve always provided free, recycled clay for members, and now we can do it efficiently.”
- Keep in touch. Make friends with other artists in your community, and work together.
- Keep a high profile. Use social media to its fullest.
- Ask for help when you need it. The Wedge owners were shy about that at first, but asking friends, family, and colleagues for help and advice turned out to be the best thing they’ve ever done.
The Learning Curve When Starting a Ceramic Business
It took time to establish enough momentum to be sure the studio could stay in business, especially during the first two years. Samantha and Sutter Stremmel had a lot to learn, and one of the first things was how to balance their ideals of cooperation and community spirit with the realities of running a business.
“I consider myself more of a business guy that owns an art studio, as opposed to an artist who’s trying to be in business,” Sutter said.
Samantha credits the clientele with some of the Wedge’s success. She explained, “We’re not a co-op but it feels like we are, the way people take responsibility and have pride in it.” The attitude in the studio is exactly the mix of self-sufficiency and collaboration that the couple had hoped to achieve.
Samantha said, “Every member brings something unique to the studio and offers something special by being there.” And it doesn’t hurt at all, she said, that “sometimes people clean up before they’re even asked.”
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