Workshop Handbook: Making Clay Tools

Learn techniques from the pros in this FREE PDF!

Welcome to your workshop! Whether you enjoy throwing, handbuilding, glaze testing or all of the above, we’ve pulled together several things for you to try out once you get back to your studio.

If you’re familiar with Pottery Making Illustrated and Ceramics Monthly, then you already know they’re packed full of practical information, projects, and techniques you can use. The articles in this 2018 Clay Workshop Handbook provide a sampling of some of the great content you’ll discover in each issue.

Enjoy your workshop!

Check out this excerpt:

Pricing Work

by Mea Rhee

1 My typical 10×10-foot display. In one end of the booth, I display my lower-priced everyday wares, stacked densely with lots of quantity. In the middle, my mid-priced items are displayed more loosely. On the other end, my high-priced items are displayed with lots of white space in between. An organized display allows customers to quickly understand my line of work. If I have something they like, they will find it, whether they are shopping by item or by price range.

Pricing is a subject that many potters find confusing, especially new sellers. It’s not supposed to be easy, and there’s no formula. Proper pricing can be figured out over time. This is my approach.

Strategic Pricing

When I’m offering a new design for sale for the first time, it will start out with a low prototype price. If sales are poor, the item will be eliminated (hey, I thought an individual pie dish was a great idea, nobody else agreed). If it sells well, then it will go through a feeling-out process to arrive at the right price. I will keep inching up the price, sometimes even in the middle of a show. In my experience, sales will screech to a halt when I’ve overshot the right price. Even if the increase is only by a few dollars, it’s funny how sales will stop cold. When I notice that happening, I will back the price down to the last price that sold well, and call that the sweet spot. This process takes several shows, sometimes up to a year.

Price Analysis

If a new design makes it this far, then it progresses onto another level of analysis. Does the sweet spot price match the amount of material, labor, and kiln space that this item consumes? Sometimes the answer is no, and therefore the item is dropped, even if it’s a good seller. An example of this is my now discontinued personal teapot. Its sweet spot price was $48, but that was not enough to make its complicated production worthwhile—the pot consisted of three parts that had to fit together, and one of them was prone to breaking.

Once a new item has made it through all of this vetting, and is officially added to my inventory, that doesn’t mean its price is carved in stone. I pay close attention to trends in my sales, and I’m always open to tweaking my inventory planning and my prices. It’s an ongoing process.

Are you getting the sense of how long this takes? It’s okay to make broad guesses at first. With time and experience, the answers become clear. It’s just like learning how to make good pots, there’s no substitute for practice and repetition. Be prepared to put your work out for sale a lot and over a long time period, in order to gather enough data to make the right pricing decisions.

2 Display your prices in plain sight. This shows respect for your customers, by not making them work too hard to find this information, or wasting their time. I use small ceramic nuggets to display my prices. They’re attractive and functional; I get many compliments on them.

Price Comparison

Should you compare your prices to other potters’ prices? I say don’t, because this can mislead you. Every potter is at a different point in their own career arc, and you simply don’t know enough about somebody else’s life and business to make a comparison meaningful. I rarely look at other potters’ prices, only sometimes out of curiosity. This never compels me to change my own prices, because I feel confident that I’ve figured out my prices correctly. And, I’ve seen inexperienced potters try to base their prices on other potters’ prices. It never works out the way they hoped. But, so-and-so sells lots of $35 mugs, why can’t I? The new seller isn’t factoring in the endless qualitative differences in the work itself, or the other potter’s business development.

Final Thoughts on Pricing

Everyone has the right to choose their own prices. Respect that boundary, and defend your own. Don’t let anyone tell you that your prices are affecting other potters. This is complete baloney. Why? Because pottery customers aren’t shallow people. They shop based on quality and appeal. Price is a factor in the final decision, but not in comparison with other potters. Pottery customers will buy your mug or not, based on its merits and price. Then they will buy another potter’s mug or not, based on its merits and price. Nobody says, “This is the mug I want, but I’ve decided to buy this other potter’s mug instead because it’s cheaper.” When I’m figuring out the sweet spot prices for my work, I’m not searching for the going price of pottery in general, but rather I’m determining the value of my work. If I’ve done it correctly, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what nearby potters are charging, whether it’s more or less.

Mea Rhee is a full-time potter based in Silver Spring, Maryland. To see more of her work, visit http://goodelephant.com.

Zen Glazing

by Irene A. Lawson

Do you love obsessive decoration? If so, learn how to apply intricate underglaze patterns to large round platters.

Pricing Work

by Mea Rhee

Determining the right price for your work is difficult. Knowing what questions to ask and what data to collect from sales can help you make a more informed decision.

Forming Coils

by Priya Thoresen

Coils don’t have to be round and uniform. Thoresen explains how to make flat and triangular-shaped coils and the situations in which each type can be used.

Beginning of Exploration: Bruce Cochrane

by Jessica Cabe

Over the course of Bruce Cochrane’s 40-year career, his ever-evolving work has always been rooted in an enthusiasm for handmade pots.

David MacDonald: Influence, Commitment, and Integrity

by Andrew Buck, EdD

MacDonald’s mentors played a significant role in his decades-long career of teaching and making patterned vessels that reference his East- and South-African heritage.

The Different Uses of Potter’s Ribs

by Jared Zehmer

There are a lot of ribs to choose from and even more ways to use them. Here’s guide to get you started.

Homemade Texture Paddles

by Matthew Krousey

Make your own texture paddles and and discovera whole new way to alter your wheel-thrown pots.

Firing on the Rim

by Brenda Danbrook

Bisque-firing pots vertically on their rims has many benefits, including saving space in the kiln.

Emerging Artists’ Recipes

Recipes shared by several of Ceramics Monthly’s 2018 Emerging Artists.

Chums, Chucks, Feet

by Robin Ouellette

Substituting or trying a combination of fluxes in a glaze recipe is a simple experiment with wide ranging results.

Noel Bailey: Inspired by Nature

by Andrew Buck, EdD

A subtle sense of landscape-inspired luminosity and movement carries through the form and surface decoration on Noel Bailey’s utilitarian pots.

 

Download the free guide right now, and become a better ceramic artist tomorrow. That’s our promise to you from Ceramic Arts Network!

Best regards,

Jennifer Poellot Harnetty
Editor, Ceramic Arts Daily

PS: Remember, the artists featured on Ceramic Arts Network are among the top ceramic artists in the world today, who excel in everything from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. When you download one of our free guides, you get the best possible advice available and you become a part of our community – enjoying our artists’ stories, gaining inspiration from their work and finding confidence to try new techniques every day!

PPS: Even if you’re not brand new to clay, this guide is bound to have some tips in it that you’ve never heard before – and remember, it’s absolutely FREE, so why wouldn’t you read it today?

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