For many of us in the Ceramic Arts Network community, making pottery is something we wished we were doing more often. We work hard to squeeze studio time in each week while juggling full-time jobs, family, housework, sleep. We probably all fantasize at one time or another about opening developing successful pottery careers.
So I thought I would repost this excerpt from an issue of Ceramics Monthly a few years back. In this post, ceramic artist Diana Fayt shares her trials, tribulations and triumphs of making a living as a potter. So if you are thinking of taking the plunge to full-time pottery, read on for some expert advice on developing successful pottery careers. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
Advice for Those Seeking Pottery Careers
My career as a potter started fifteen years ago, soon after I graduated from the California College of Arts (CCA), though I only began to make a living from my ceramic work in 2005. Previous to 2005, I always had a secondary job(s) waiting tables, as well as teaching ceramics and art. After twenty years of that schedule, I got tired of being spread thin and decided to make a go of it with my work full time. Now, when I look back at those years, I wonder how I did it all. Flying solo has been incredibly satisfying and has also had its lean, mean moments, but somehow I always manage to make it work.
Making a living from my work was something that found me slowly. For many years I was really hesitant to give up the security of another income. Becoming burnt out from wearing too many hats at one time and the feeling of never being able to focus completely, was a key motivator for me to pursue my work full time and make a living from it.
Making Pottery Careers Work
I sell my work through a multitude of venues. I have an online shop where I sell directly to customers. This has broadened my spectrum of buyers to a world market. It also helps to supplement my income, since I can sell my work for retail prices. I love having direct contact with my customers as well. The relationship aspect of selling my work, without a middle person, is really wonderful and I enjoy knowing where my work is going. I participate in a couple of local craft shows each year, and I host annual open studio and holiday sales (for more advice see this post on open pottery studio sales). I sell my work in galleries and participate in as many shows as I can handle. I find showing my work really helps it to stay fresh. In the past, a large part of my sales were from wholesaling my work, though that model is really tough to pull off with one-of-a-kind handmade work. I find the time it takes to make the work, handle all the details that must go into creating a wholesale line—like keeping up with communication and paperwork—is far too much work and really does not pay off.
In 2005, I decided to start writing a blog, (http://dianafayt.blogspot.com/). At the time, there were only a few blogs covering the topic of ceramics, and I thought it would be fun to give people a glimpse into what was happening in my studio as well as provide a dynamic aspect to my website. Doing this was, by far, the most advantageous way to promote my work. Because of the blog, I was able to share what I do with a much broader audience than if I was only showing my work in galleries and at craft shows. It also expanded my community of fellow potters and ceramic enthusiasts, as well as people in the design world. Selling on Etsy and promoting my work via design blogs has resulted in a great amount of exposure that I may not have received otherwise, including giving my work international attention.
The internet is a really wonderful tool for potters and artists to utilize to promote themselves and their work. However, this does not come without working at it. Managing an online shop, writing blog entries, keeping up with correspondence [and staying up to date on social media] can take up a lot of time. I think, in today’s world, it is foolish for artists not to take advantage of the internet. I know many potters who are not tech savvy and find it difficult to transition into the digital world, but an online presence would go a long way toward growing an audience for their work.
If I were to advise someone about pursuing a careers in ceramics, the first bit would be to remain flexible yet focused. Though my work stays consistent, I find that I am constantly re-inventing myself in order to make a living with it. I do my best to keep an open mind about this. There really are a multitude of possibilities out there for one to have a career as a ceramist. Being too precious or limited in ones thinking can kill that dream.
Are you a successful full time potter? Do you have additional advice for those starting pottery careers? Let us know in the comments below!