search  current discussion  categories  business - misc 

business update from a lurker

updated tue 1 feb 00


Kathy Mccormick on sat 29 jan 00

Hi all,
I'm a lurker who every once in a while feels an obligation to post a note so
I feel like I'm giving back a little of the wealth of information that I
receive. Last year I posted a note (to which a few people have recently
responded) on my experiences with making a living from pottery and thought I
would just briefly update my progress without repeating too much of what I
said before. In case you don't want to read further, my basic message is:
find something you love to do and then find a way to do it for a living. It

Now I don't want to mislead anyone... I do not in any way earn a wonderful
living from this stuff financially, but I wouldn't give it up for anything I
can think of. And it helped to have put about ten years in to a career in
the corporate world in order to build a nest egg from which to start. But my
past four years in this business shows that you can make it even if your
pottery isn't quite up to being featured in Ceramics Monthly!

The past year has had its ups and downs, the biggest down being the death of
my father. I am now officially an adult orphan, but that's a subject best
left for a different discussion group! The silver lining (I'm a real
Pollyanna) is that now I can devote the majority of my time to my business
whereas before I was only able to work at about 1/2 speed due to the care he
needed in his final years. The ups for the past year included taking some
risks and learning from them.

The risks were to 1) reduce the number of shows I was doing and trying to
sell more at the ones I kept, 2) using a local home and garden show to help
create a mailing list and 3) holding a studio sale.

The first risk paid off marginally. As it turned out I wasn't able to keep
production up enough to really make this work given the downtime I had last
year, but I think the concept is still correct. For 2000 I will still keep
my show list pared down and increase my time in the studio.

The second and third risks were also marginally successful. The Home and
Garden show was in the spring and was one where retail sales are not allowed.
So I set up a booth that primarily highlighted ikebana flower holders and
tabletop fountains and spent the weekend demonstrating flower arranging. I
took about 50 orders and that more than paid my expenses for the show, and
more importantly generated a mailing list of around 250 local interested
customers. I used that mailing list for the studio sale that I held in
October and will use it for many years to come.

I talked a fellow potter into joining me in the studio sale to help defray
the cost of the mailers. I also handed out flyers at a local show that I did
in September and had signs on a busy nearby street. So it was pretty cheap
advertising and I was pleasantly surprised by the traffic it generated. Of
course Mother Nature was very generous that weekend and I'm sure that made a
huge difference. Sales were good but not terrific. Definitely worthwhile
but certainly in itself didn't make or break the year. For 2000, I'm
thinking of trying to build this into a larger event with more artists
opening their studios. Fortunately there is a good network of artists
through our local Artists Guild so it probably won't be hard to get it going.

In addition in 2000, I'm going to build the wholesale side of my business.
It's another way to support my goal of staying home more and working in the
studio rather than being at a show. I genuinely enjoy shows because of the
interaction with customers and other artists, but I think I would enjoy them
even more if I could do 10 shows instead of 20!

I also took another risk for my 2000 art fair applications. I now have Adobe
Photoshop and am using that to create a common background for my slides. We
all know that jurying is really about the quality of slides and not nearly
as much about the quality of the work. So I scanned in photos of my best
pieces from last year, used Photoshop to cut out just the image of the piece
and then pasted it on to the common background. I also did a little bit to
adjust glare and the like since I'm not the best photographer, but I resisted
the temptation to actually alter the image of the piece itself. And a local
film processor turned them into slides for me. Who knows how the juries will
react to these slides, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The finished
product looks pretty good to me. I'll let you know if I get into any better
fairs as a result.

Well enough for now clay friends. Keep the wonderful information flowing. I
have used many, many ideas from this list.

Kathy McCormick
Midland, Michigan

Veena Raghavan on sun 30 jan 00

Message text written by Ceramic Arts Discussion List
> In case you don't want to read further, my basic message is:
find something you love to do and then find a way to do it for a living.

Hi Kathy,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am hoping to have my own
studio by the end of the year, so it was of particular interest to me. I
have been doing pottery full-time for a few years now, but have had to work
in a privately owned group studio. This is expensive and confining, so it
is hard to really build up a business. I am hoping that, once I have
control over everything I do, I will be able to pace myself, concentrate on
certain areas, and be much more productive. Reading your experiences on how
to build up the business side was very helpful.
I was also interested in your description of what you did with your
slides. I hope you will not mind my contacting you in the future to ask you
more about this.
Good luck in 2000. Hope everything works out for you.
All the best.


Veena Raghavan

Chris Campbell on mon 31 jan 00

Kathy ( and all ) -

I read your post with great interest. I have been potting full time for
twelve years now and have seen myself in some of the things you are doing
now. I want to send these suggestions along to save you time in the growth
cycle of your business.

The number ONE suggestion to you is to get in touch with the Rosen Group
who will be holding a Crafts Business Institute Workshop in Baltimore on the
week-end of May 19 - 21. The price is very reasonable and if you get with
them in time you can apply for a full or partial scholarship to attend free.
It is worth every second you spend there. You will learn more about the
business and advertising side of working in the crafts world in those three
days than you will in three years on your own. E- Mial address is : This workshop will jet start you into another level of
professionalism whether you decide to wholesale or not.

Also, take a look at "" on the internet. You need a
password to get onto the site but they will give you a temporary one with a
quick phone call. This is a wholesale site where the artists pay a reasonable
fee to present their work and the galleries join for free. This site has
provided me with a reasonably priced and most successful marketing venue.

Keep building on the Home Show. This can provide you with a friendly and
profitable day that you will actually look forward to every year. If you
really listen to what your customers tell you that day you will have your
work cut out for you for the next year!

Congratulations on taking the plunge! There is no greater joy than
actually being able to do what you love every day.

Chris - in Carolina - now we are getting freezing rain on top of the foot of
snow and if one more Canadian relative calls to laugh ..... cabin fever