Becoming a full-time ceramic artist is a daunting task, especially when making functional work. The medium walks the fine line between craft and fine art—a constant conversation in the field of ceramics. As someone with a BFA in ceramics, I have found myself straddling this line from the moment I took my first class to now navigating a world of artist’s statements, gallery exhibitions, retail shops, and online sales. You would think giving a piece of art a utilitarian function would increase its value, but in reality, a mug has a much different perceived value than objects such as paintings or sculptures. And yet, I remain loyal to my conviction that function is a vital part of my work. I’d be lost if my art couldn’t hold my morning coffee. My process is labor intensive, time consuming, and revolves mostly around making detailed, one-of-a-kind pieces—a process that cannot be scaled or sped up without losing the heart of it. 

Pricing work can be tricky when battling that perceived value versus the actual value of the work you put into it. To support myself by making handmade ceramics while staying true to the work I am drawn to make, I decided to find another stream of income that ideally would not take away from my making time. Patreon, a subscription-based platform used by artists and creators, filled the gap by providing an extra stream of income. 

Patreon Tiers 

I discovered Patreon from illustrators I follow on Instagram. I saw them thriving by offering memberships to receive not only their physical artwork, but also a myriad of other rewards such as digital downloads, access to their sketchbooks, podcasts, and even vlogs of their studio practice. With Patreon, artists set up tiered pricing with different rewards (1); higher tiers receive unique rewards in addition to the rewards of the tiers below. 

1 Patreon allows for customized pricing and tiered membership levels.

Early Birdies 

At this point in my career, my work was selling out within minutes of putting a batch for sale in my online shop. This led me to create my first, and most popular, tier: early birdies. I saw the opportunity to provide early access to my shop updates for customers who could afford to pay a little more while giving myself a small, but much needed, increase in my profit margin. I created a $5 tier that receives a full day of exclusive, password-protected shopping. Before every update, I email my mailing list (which consists of my entire audience as well as current patreon members) the details of the upcoming shop update. The email includes a link to my Patreon page to garner new members ahead of the update. Even as my shop updates become less frenzied, this early access still gives my early birdies the first pick of my more popular one-of-a-kind pieces (2). In creating this tier, I realized that some people just want to support the artists they love even if they are not purchasing work, which is just as valuable as it is heartwarming. 

2 Hassmann can contact specific membership tiers and alert them of shop updates in advance of a public offering.

Pinch Potters 

After the success of early birdies, I created a tier for tutorial videos (3): pinch potters, since a common way for ceramic artists to supplement their income is by teaching their craft. Clay is such a fun and unique medium that many people want to learn, and a huge portion of those who buy handmade ceramics are people who love to make pots themselves. My process is not one that is widely taught at an advanced level, I have worked hard to develop it, and I had the desire to share my process and felt it held value. I did not love the idea of hosting people in my studio, especially because it is a room in my house, and I was not interested in taking time away from my own practice to teach at a community studio. Since I was already using Patreon for early access, it only made sense to continue building on that platform, thus, began my tutorial tier, $15 for a new video every month (4). Using Patreon, as opposed to teaching in person, allows me to use the work I am already making as a tool for teaching the global audience I have amassed through Instagram. 

3 Hassmann offers a membership level for people interested in monthly video how-to tutorials. 4 Hassmann offers a membership level for people interested in monthly video how-to tutorials.


Since starting my Patreon I have found many benefits I had not expected, especially providing a reliable monthly income. My process works best with a shop update every other month. This timeline allows me to fill my kiln with work of a quality that meets my standards. During the months without a shop update, the Patreon income assuages some of the uneasiness that comes from only getting paid bimonthly. As an added benefit, making and editing videos is a fun, new creative challenge that adds variety to my skill set. Pinching pots takes a toll on your hands, so it is nice to have a stream of income that gives my pottery muscles a break. Ceramics is unpredictable and unforgiving; many things can go wrong at any point in the process leaving you with less work than you had planned to sell. The stability of making videos creates a cushion for when firings go wrong. Overall, Patreon has become a valuable and exciting avenue to grow my business. 

Courtney Hassmann received a BFA in ceramics from the University of North Texas in 2016. She now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she works as a full-time artist making functional ceramics. To see more, or to join her Patreon, visit

Topics: Ceramic Artists