There is currently at least 14 inches of snow on the table outside my window. Its like winter just totally kills my productivity! All I want to do is stay inside where its warm, and it really limits the activities you can do in general. In addition, spring is the start of the sale season for my pottery, and this will be the first year that I’m ready to sell my work all summer long! Usually this time right before spring would be the perfect time to really produce a lot of work- but the snow has stopped me from getting to, or staying at, the studio multiple times this month! I’ve been spending my days off thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in this first full year of my career, but before I go over my goals for the future, I wanted to recount my progress from last year.
Last year I started working at the studio in April, and had my very first sales experience in early June at the studio Seconds Sale. Seconds are pieces that aren’t perfect enough to sell at full price, just like how bruised apples are often discounted or sold in bulk. For potters, it can look sloppy to include seconds in normal displays, even if they’re separated in a “Sale” section. Imperfect pieces most often end up donated, smashed, or as in this case, sold cheaply in large quantities with other potters’ seconds! Since I’d only been at the studio part time for a month and a half, and hadn’t made anything in over a year before that, I just put everything that I had in the seconds sale! I set my prices a little high just to see how it would go, and while I could’ve sold more if my prices were lower, I still made over 100$ on each of the two days!
By the end of August, I had built up a reasonable inventory of pieces I considered good enough to sell at full price. I contacted a local farmers market and was able to set up a booth one saturday per month for the next couple months. My first day at the farmers market was amazing! I made over 300$ in less than 6 hours. Unfortunately my second and third experiences were less profitable, with one on a very overcast, windy day, and the other during labor day weekend. This was a perfect way to learn that holiday sales can go either way, mostly based on location- if I had been in town, where people spend their days off, I would’ve sold way more than I did at a small-town farmers market, where people go to run their errands. By the middle of October its getting pretty cold here and my window of opportunity to sell outdoors is almost completely gone.
My next sale was an amazing opportunity to sell my pottery with 4 other artists at my studio at the 2014 Maryland Christmas Show. It went fantastically! It was my first view of what its really like to rent a booth at an event and work a sale for 6 days over 2 weekends. Luckily the event is right in Frederick so I could go home between working the booth- I saw tons of people from all over the country, sleeping in their cars or renting rooms for the whole 2 weeks! It was pretty exhausting even living so close to work a show for that long. I made a good bit of money though, and I sold nearly all of my inventory! I went in with 6 boxes of pottery and came back with less than one full box.
Since the Christmas Show, I’ve been working in the studio making more pots, practicing new techniques, and teaching classes. I teach a children’s class of my own, and now I’m also helping out with one of the very full beginner adult classes. Teaching is honestly making me learn so much more than I expected for it to! I really enjoy teaching and it is a great source of extra income. In addition to my usual studio duties I’ve also started loading and running the kilns almost every day. It can be exhausting but again, it is such an amazing learning experience! I helped load and start kilns during college but being the only person in charge of doing all the steps, without someone checking your work, is a whole new responsibility. I now feel capable of running my own kilns (when I have them one day!) without worrying too much about complications from my inexperience.
Finally!! On to my goals for the upcoming season.
My most important order of business is researching and applying to sales opportunities. I’m currently applying to the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival. This is a juried show- meaning I have to send in a sample of my work, and then IF I’m chosen, I can rent a booth space and sell my work. This festival isn’t until September, which is good, since I want to take some of my best work there if I’m accepted. I would like to make it to at least 3 big sales like this between May and October, with scattered smaller events throughout the summer. The Bethany Festival is perfect for me this year because while it is far away- I’d definitely have to pack up my work and spend the night at the location- It is also in a very familiar area to me, and I would even have a place I could stay for free just minutes away from the festival. I really hope it works out!! I also want to continue teaching my children’s class, and maybe even start teaching my own adult class!
I was given 2 bags of clay for my birthday this year, one of porcelain and one of black clay. I’m nervous to start using them because I worry that I’ll love them so much that I won’t want to stop using them! So, I’ve decided to learn how to recycle my own clay and try to make it more worth my while to buy clay. I have access to all of the leftover porcelain from other students in the studio- its very wet, and a mixture of a few different types, but I think it could be recycled into usable clay. Id like to start working in porcelain as much as I can, since the clay I’m currently using, while not BAD, definitely isn’t the most beautiful clay body. Its good for practicing and for making more rustic- style pieces, but it would be nice to have something sleek and beautiful like porcelain to make some of my more decorative pieces with.
As for techniques I’d like to improve, it is mostly based around making matched sets. I’d like to be able to make sets with ease, from cups and bakers to lids and mixing bowls. This involves measuring, weighing, and most importantly practicing. I know that I can get there and have already made a ton of progress in the past few weeks. I also want to make some really big pieces- showpieces to take with me to events as an attention grabber! I think doing a lamp would be really fun and right up my alley.
Now heres something a little different- I’d like to get back into painting and drawing. For a while I’ve been wanting to do a charcoal series of locations around Frederick. I’ve done one in the past that turned out pretty good, and I think making many could be a really lucrative idea! Not only would the locals love it, the exploding tourist industry in Frederick would go crazy over it too. I really do love drawing and I’ve missed it since I started my pottery. To get this started I need to take pictures around Frederick, which I will start to do as soon as it gets a little warmer. Once I have my drawings I’ll try to get them in the galleries or shops downtown, or possibly even sell them in the Pottery Shop. If I make it into any of the galleries I might even start doing more paintings!
So thats my general plan for spring! Every year since graduating college has taken me miles farther than I expected to be, and that was without coming up with a plan of action beforehand! What are your plans for this year?