Artist Q&A: What Does It Take to be a Successful Potter?


Ceramics Monthly: What do you think it takes to make a living as a potter?

Robert Briscoe: Obviously, to make a living as a potter, you must first care passionately about making good pots. Developing the skills to make good pots is the prerequisite to making a living. Once you have that, you need the same skills as any other entrepreneur if you want to support yourself through your art. You need to be efficient in the studio, identify and nurture your audience, manage your money, and, most importantly, preserve your passion.


  • Understand the need to maintain the treacherous balance between efficiency and aesthetics.
  • Continually invest in yourself as an artist—equipment, training, time, tools, space.
  • Recognize when it makes sense to hire another person to get something done. (My example
    is photography.)
  • Be disciplined in the studio (seasoned with fun as appropriate).

Identifying and Nurturing an Audience

  • Acknowledge that you must sell your work to live.
  • Explore different ways of marketing to find the mix that will work for you—wholesale, art fairs, Internet sales, galleries, studio events, workshops, teaching. Recognize that this will change over time as the world changes.
  • Acknowledge the importance and the cost of marketing—you either embrace this role or you pay someone else to do it for you. Same as cleaning.

Managing Your Money

  • Acknowledge that choosing to be a potter probably means accepting a lower-middle-class lifestyle. Most potters don’t make six-figure incomes.
  • Understand the appropriate use of debt.
  • Embrace the role of being an accountant or hire someone to do it. But, even if you hire it out, you must understand the numbers and how they impact your studio.

Preserving your Passion

  • Do it for yourself. Recognize the joy in this choice.
  • Take on projects that carry you forward. Learn to say no to opportunities that distract you from your path.
  • Trust that it will work.
  • Find or build a community that supports you.
**First published in 2017.
  • Reader L.

    Yes! It certainly can be an addiction, especially when your clay body takes on unique forms.

  • Jane M.

    Thanks Bob, I definitely agree with you. Being a potter is definitely trial and error sometimes and I think your advice about hiring other professionals to do photography or accounts is very helpful to those starting out. Us potters are trying to multi task, thinking of the object, making the object, promoting the object, selling the object …can’t be good at everything! Jane McCulla Diamond Harbour, New Zealand

  • Donna E.

    Bob, you are spot on with your guidelines. These suggestions are valuable for anyone who wants to own her own business. I wish I had had such an inclusive list when my students would ask if making a living as a potter was a possibility.

  • Joanne G.

    Thanks for your advice and observations Bob. You give very wise advice, and clearly have a balanced and realistic approach to making a living as a potter, and at the core of it all, maintaining the passion. At the end of the day nothing will work if you don’t at least keep connected with your sheer joy working with clay. Is it an addiction I wonder?
    Sydney, Australia

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