Creative Idea Helps a Potter Get Through School and Start a Ceramic Business

Supporting oneself as an artist is not exactly easy. In fact, ceramic artists are the hardest working people I know. It takes a whole lot of motivation and sacrifice to get a ceramic business off the ground. Clever marketing strategies don’t hurt either!

If you’ve been brainstorming ceramic business ideas or have been looking for advice on how to start a ceramic business, today’s post is for you. In this excerpt from the March/April 2017 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Sarah Wolf explains how a great marketing idea, similar to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, sometimes called a farm share), helped her get through school and remains an important part of her ceramic business. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. Check out this post from the archives for more great advice on starting a pottery business.

 


 

A Strategy for Paying for Art School Helps Pottery Business Succeed

by Sarah Wolf

 

I started the Mug Club about a year and a half ago to raise money for my art-school tuition and it rapidly evolved into a key foundation of my budding ceramics business. Besides providing periodic revenue, the Mug Club cultivates one of the most valuable things a business could ask for: ongoing connections with my customers. For over a year now, the Mug Club has been perpetually sold out with a cap of 50 members, though I am gradually opening more spaces.

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How It Works

The Mug Club is like a wine club or CSA (community supported agriculture). Members pay upfront for a year’s subscription, which buys four mugs (or four pairs of mugs) to be received over the course of the subsequent year. I make and distribute Mug Club mugs each March, June, September, and December, and each season brings a new mug design.

It’s a Win-Win

Beyond building a base of loyal customers and a sense of community around my business, the Mug Club is simply fun. It’s fun for me because I get to create new designs, knowing that I’ve already sold them, and then practice putting them into production. This has helped me grow as a potter and a designer. The Mug Club is fun for its members because they get the surprise of receiving a new and different mug each season, along with the satisfaction of supporting a small business.

For more interesting studio tips, download your free copy of Workshop Handbook: Knowledge and Techniques for the Pottery Studio. 

Comments
  • Fabiola F.

    How much would you charge for your mug club, 1 year (4 mugs) “csa” style membership?
    What rates have you found to be successful?

  • Ceallach O.

    I have the same thing in the fiber arts space. Typically, the normal price of a product times 4 and shipping, all in.

    In that space, they also will add some “charms” or small items that complement the main product. In this case a small container of tea to go with the mug. A coaster might work also.

    Collaborating with someone for curated tea and fiber coasters or the like is also a great additional value proposition. Essentially, the customer pulls it out of the box and is ready to use it….just add water.

  • Ceallach O.

    Another thing that some businesses that do this run into is with the banks. I know of one company that has been doing this for year. People sign up and all the billing is done upfront on the same day. The bank fraud alerts were flagged due to a spike in normal activity and froze the accounts. The business owner worked with the bank who could not understand the idea of a subscription for curated yarn. The company wound up moving to a different bank, presumably with a frank discussion at account open. It was a really big deal, and I know that the bank lost some additional customers due to that.

    Something to be aware of, not a show-stopper.

  • Angeline L.

    I am loving this idea. And the idea of incorporating mugs or ceramics with fibre arts is wonderful since I do ceramics and my daughter does fibre arts. A following for both of us, support for school and other things. Hmmm….

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