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random thoughts on pricing and making a living

updated fri 30 jul 10


Ellen Currans on thu 29 jul 10

Just my opinion and it applies only to functional pottery.=3D20
I know very little about ceramic art or sculpture.

Pricing is local. The same mug by the same potter can be sold
for more money in some places than it can in others: big, more
sophisticated cities versus small towns; college connected, long
running craft fairs versus Saturday markets; in a highly regarded
gallery versus your own back yard sale.=3D20

Work by a well known potter will sell for more than very similar
work by new potters. It takes time to be known and for your
work to have a following. Mugs sell themselves once you have
learned how to make a good one that people love and simply
must have for every cup of coffee, even when it is in the dishwasher.=3D20

Selling well has a lot to do with making pots people want to buy.
(Just think about that for awhile.) In tough times they have to
REALLY want to buy, and usually they want something they
need or can really use, or that lifts their spirits in some undefinable

You are not obligated to price your work to support
the prices other potters may be asking. If you are a beginner=3D20
your work probably isn't worth the higher price anyway. Perhaps
their $40 mugs aren't worth $40 either. Be a bit humble in=3D20
pricing at the beginning and raise your prices as your work justifies
it. It is really hard to lower prices on the same work when the
public has become accustomed to certain price points. Earlier
purchasers will feel cheated, and others will wonder why you
are underselling your own work. =3D20

Making lots of (well thought out) pots and selling them is the key
to making better and better pots. There is nothing wrong with selling=3D20
beginning work to people who want to buy it. We do not live in a
society that supports us while we break up everything we make for=3D20
years and years. Keep working on your skills so that you =3D20
become the potter who can easily make many pots efficiently and
quickly..., rather than just the few we all hover over as beginners. =3D20

Very few potters make big money or become famous, but many
have managed to make a good life. Expect to live carefully and frugally.=3D
Appreciate spouses, partners, friends and family who support=3D20
what you are doing. Learn as much as you can from those with
skills to teach you because the more you can do for yourself the
less money you will need to pay out for services.=3D20

Older potters are not looking down on beginners when they give
advice about making your own clay and glazes, or learning to weld.
They are sharing with you hard won information that has made it
possible for them to succeed. We are all free to go about our
clay life as we wish. Make our own or buy glazes, stop for a $3.50 latte
every morning or make leaf tea, dig our own clay or never recycle
ready made. It is our choice. We get to choose the parts we
like and ignore the rest, and perhaps we succeed...... or not. =3D20

Potting part time does not mean you are not a serious or good
potter. Starting late in life does not mean you are not a serious
or good potter. Using low fire glazes in an electric kiln does not
mean you are not a serious or good potter. The size and beauty
of your studio (closet, garagio, where ever you work) does not
mean you are a good or poor potter--we all start where we can.
Firing in the more esoteric kilns or having your work in the magazines
does not necessarily mean you are a serious or good potter, nor do the
degrees behind your name. Eventually, the work speaks for itself.

Most of us have missed some part of the necessary education for
being a potter. Hopefully, not as badly as the art teacher Logan
has been asked to help. It is up to us to learn what we need to
know to succeed. I am appalled at how many potters do not bother
to read books or magazines and keep them around to refer back to.
The wealth of information available to us is mind boggling. All the
glazes and techniques and firing schedules and tools to make are
available in abundance. Skip a few high priced workshops and buy books.=3D2=
The more you know about the craft the better able you will be
to survive tough times. Many good potters who were setting the
rules for show or guild entries some years back, are now doing
something else because they could not adapt their way of working
or selling to make enough money to live on.=3D20

Ellen Currans
Working in clay for over 50 years through all
the stages of novice, part-time, workshop junkie,
wheel in the kitchen corner, lugging pots and
kids to fairs for many years, easing my studio
into a bigger and better space from time to time,
selling comfortably and then selling all I can make,
and now trying to scale back my work to adjust to
some kind of semi-retirement at 77. But not
quitting. There is always something new to learn. =3D20