Whiskey pitcher, 12 in. (30 cm) in height, anagama-fired stoneware.
Ringed pasta bowl, 8 in. (20 cm) in diameter, anagama-fired porcelain with wadding decoration.
The quiet life of the country potter is a myth. The romanticism of a simple life, spinning forms and firing with wood, has faded to be replaced by a richer reality. I live in a log home in rural Wisconsin. We have ten acres of land, three wood kilns and a joyous life filled with beauty, but that life is anything but quiet and serene. This may be a result of my personality as much as contemporary society, internet connectivity and the cost of living.
My personality is such that I don’t outsource well. I like to be involved in all aspects of my work, including making work on the wheel, designing clay bodies and glazes, building my own kilns, taking slides and designing my web site. Doing it myself has also aligned well with my marketing approach: low overhead and high rate of return. This approach does demand lots of time.
I have been making pots as my primary source of income for eleven years. Some of my income comes from teaching workshops, building kilns and creating websites. About half of my pottery income comes from galleries. The other half comes from local and internet sales. Given the consignment percentage, this means I am selling about twice as many pots through galleries around the country compared to those I sell locally and through my online store.
Promotion of my work includes maintaining my website, mailing out announcements, writing articles and entering shows. At the core of all my promotion is the artwork. The work comes first. I am always striving to make the pottery better, more clear, more articulate. Second in importance are good images. We covet that which we see. These two priorities form the foundation on which all other promotion springs. Good writing helps, but it can only speak to qualities in the work.
My market is varied. I often sell to local people who get excited about the process, people who are delighted to be connected to their everyday ware. I was selling work at the Art School at Old Church sale in Demarest, New Jersey, this past December and one of the volunteers asked me “Do you know who likes your pots? Potters.” I think there is some truth to this, as I make pots that speak about clay and its behaviors, and most potters love clay.
I grow my market by saying “yes” to opportunities and requests, by offering my skills and being on the spot with good images. Several years ago I set myself the task of publishing an article a year, as an inexpensive way to advertise my ideas and work. Until now, I have focused on the ceramic journals, but I have come to believe our community would be better served by reaching the larger public. Words have the power to introduce people to the passion and range of exploration that exists in contemporary clay as much as images.
The importance of introducing new people to clay was reinforced when
Recently I have
The surfaces that I love are based
I think about how to maintain myself and
The apprenticeship program I
My life enriches my pottery as pottery enhances my