Things have changed, as they always tend to do. Once upon a time, this would have been the issue in which I would be writing about all the upcoming fairs and festivals, where the bulk of most professional clay folks’ income was generated. While that still holds true for some, it’s a progressively smaller part of how makers make a living. The mix of selling modes is ever more complex, sometimes requiring separate marketing efforts for each, as if having one marketing plan was not enough of a challenge. Those looking for the right mix for themselves might take a look at several features we’re presenting in this issue, where working potters share their successes and failures, and even give a bit of advice for those starting out. These Working Potter articles begin on page 34, and I think there is something there for everyone—even the seasoned professional.
If you are a working potter—which in one sense I suppose most of you are, since every potter is defined more by work than by income or method of livelihood—then you probably have gained some experience through those efforts that you wish you would have had years ago. It’s not unlike most professional endeavors where there is no replacement for experience. Even so, I’m asking you to share your experience and the resulting advice with our readers (just send an email to the address above). Because we have gathered what we think is some pretty good information from working potters in this issue, it seems like a good idea to ask you for this feedback and content while the kiln is hot, so to speak. So, regardless of whether you’re coming off of a spring studio sale, ramping up into summer sales season, or planning early for fall and holiday sales, keep us in mind as you make your observations this year, try new marketing tactics that work and don’t, and learn lessons for the first—or fiftieth—time.
Clay folk tend to be good life-long learners, and even if our own studio processes are well established, it seems we never tire of learning how the rest of the field approaches the same problems and challenges. This stretches all the way from studio set-up to techniques to business. And, of course, all of those things affect one another, so they’re really not separate issues when you’re looking at the big picture of making a life in clay.
For those of you just starting out, whether pursuing pottery, sculpture, or mixed media with clay, we are not leaving you out. In fact, this really is all about you; even though there is no replacement for experience, advice from those who are experienced is a close second.
And we also have an opportunity for those folks who are just finishing school and beginning their careers. We’re closing in on the deadline for our annual Undergraduate Showcase on June 24. This feature will go to press with the September issue, just in time for school to start back up, and it’s always exciting to see how well our educational institutions are preparing the next generation of studio ceramic artists. So if you are an undergraduate (graduating seniors welcome), or if you know one, tell them to get their images together and send them in. — Sherman Hall, editor
A view of the editor’s studio from the potters wheel. Each wall measures about 15 feet in length. Since space is at a premium, placement and flow of material through the studio is important—sometimes at the expense of visually pleasant organization.
1] Greenware shelves, 2] Plaster wedging bat, 3] Digital scale for clay an glaze material, 4] Clay storage beside and under table, 5] Shelves for glassware, 6] Glaze buckets stored under glazing table 7] Bisqueware storage and staging area, 8] Glazing and handbuilding tools storage, 9] Dry materials storage.