Every aspiring potter will ask themselves the following question: can I make money making pottery? It is a very important question since oftentimes, there are instances where they wonder if they can make money with this, and they may wonder if there is a chance, they can take back what they’ve spent on the hobby.
Ceramics and pottery do get expensive, and while it can be a hobbyist activity, some people may want to quit their jobs and do this as a job. As a word of advice, I don’t suggest doing that right away.
But here is the reality of it, and what you need to know about making money with pottery.
The Reality of Making Pottery to Sell
Here’s the reality: it’s hard work and you won’t make a bunch of money right away. Pottery is an investment, and oftentimes, you’ll realize shortly after you begin that you probably won’t come out in the black for a while.
The reason for that is the following:
- You have to spend money on materials
- You have to spend money on tools
- Oftentimes, beginners don’t make money with this, since they tend to not have the skills to stand out
But there are ways to make money with pottery, and the best way for you to do it is to figure out for yourself whether or not this is the right option for you. I do suggest that you research before you begin.
Creating Your Niche
Creating Your niche is the first step to really creating the pottery you want to make. How do you figure out the niche though?
The best way to do it, is through research, and below, I’ll tell you what you need to be looking for when choosing a pottery niche:
- Research what people want
- If you can do wholesale, find a wholesaler
- Figure out how much effort you’ll need to put into it
- If you want to make unique pottery, then consider what people want from the market
- Consider different designs that people will want from your items
Researching the market is essential for potters, since many times, they don’t even realize that they’re doing something wrong until it’s too late.
Figure out the Quantifiable Portions
If you plan on becoming a potter for a living, you need to understand your quantifiable portions. Oftentimes, people think about what they need to make per hour to create a market value for pots.
But, that’s the problem, that isn’t the way to do it. That’s because of the following:
- You’re going to obsess over numbers
- You’ll focus more on the amount you have to make rather than the pot value
- You will then look at your value in a different way
- You can look at different pottery avenues in this way
The best way to go about determining the value of not just your pottery, but how much you’re going to get out of it is to separate the sales into portions, and from there, subtract expenses from the sales, and then divide it by hours, rather than focusing on how much you should be making, you get a good idea on what your pots will net on average.
The Wholesale Route
Personally, if you have space, going wholesale is going to be your best friend. Why is that?
Well, wholesaling allows for the following:
- You can do simple designs and get them out the door
- You’ll always have consistent work and customers
- For the time you spend with it, it nets a decent amount of money
- It doesn’t involve too much of the creative process
However, the last point is my major problem with that. If you’re going to make money with pottery as a viable living, wholesaling is a wonderful option, but it comes with the downside that you’re going to make a bunch of things you don’t want to for the most part.
This can get boring, and if you’re in it for creative fun, this might not be for you. But do realize you’re going to make a lot of money and have consistent work in this fashion.
The every day and Décor Route
Here’s the thing: this is the perfect one for the creative bugs out there, who want to make money with their pottery, but also don’t want to just quit and go wholesale
It has the benefit of the following:
- You’ll make consistent money if you’re doing this
- You’ll get to be creative with the pieces
- They oftentimes are more aesthetic and make you feel proud
- They are good for those who like to spend time creating items people will like
But, here’s the problem, lots of times these aren’t profitable at the get-go. Some of the downsides are the following:
- While they can be wonderful, and your reason for being in business, they aren’t profitable right away
- If you want to make side cash, these are good, but in the long run, they’re not super profitable
- Oftentimes they aren’t as much in demand as the wholesale ones
Think about it, more people want to buy pottery items that are used for everyday life, right? While some everyday items are bought in bulk, a lot of the fancy décor ones aren’t, which is probably the major downside to this.
If you want to make money on a part-time level, and you want to keep the creative vibes going, personally, this is my favorite route. But if you’re planning on actually making money with this, then you’re going to realize soon enough that they will take a while to take off, and you’re not going to be nearly as happy.
And behind door number three, we have the art festival. Art festivals are good for those who want to profit off of their creative works, but here’s the thing, it won’t net you a ton of cash.
Some of the pros of art festivals are the following:
- They are wonderful for unique items, and also for those who want something super creative and different
- They allow you to network with others
- They can be quite fun, and good for getting your name out
- If you have a specialty design, they can be wonderful
- If you like art festivals, they can be great
- Sometimes they are good because they have contests where you can make money for work
But they come with one huge disadvantage: they make the least amount of money compared to others. The reality of it, these call for stupid long hours, and if you’re someone who doesn’t want to spend all their time doing this, then I don’t suggest it.
The cons of this also include the following:
- You’ll be sitting at a show all day, and oftentimes you could spend it working
- You have to do a lot more work on the business end, including email blasts
- There is a chance that these are more likely to break since you have to pack and transport
- You may not even get the sales you want
- They oftentimes take forever to put up and take down
- You oftentimes are spending money on parking, food, and booth fees
- If you’re using a POS system, you need to pay those fees
- If you’re not using one, you have the disadvantage of selling without any card readers, reducing the effectiveness of your business
So, here’s the reality: you’re not going to make a bunch of money at art shows and festivals, big or small. Where you could be making 30 bucks an hour, you could be making half that at a dinky art festival.
These are good, however, if art is more of a hobbyist thing, and you want to make some extra dollars for your hard work. Again, this is up to you.
It Isn’t Just Pottery, it’s a Small Business
If you plan on making serious money with pottery, then you should realize it isn’t just going to be the pottery making that you’ll need to do, but it’s also a small business.
What that means is the following:
- You should have some knowledge of how to run a business
- You’ll need to realize you’ll have to market it on social media and other places
- You may need to do email marketing and campaigns to get traction
- You’ll need to spend time putting together a website
- You’ll have to network with others and get the name out
So, it isn’t just working at the kiln, it’s an actual business. Now, if you plan on just selling at art shows, then it may not require as much work but do understand that if you want to make money, you’ll need to treat it like any other business out there.
Work for Others
One way for those who are serious about getting into the pottery business but don’t want to start on their own is to work for others. Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to not only learn different techniques but also make some money.
Some of the benefits of apprenticeships or working for others are the following:
- You don’t need to spend money on supplies or items
- You can learn from others, which is a great way to get an understanding of the craft
- It can be fun, and you’ll get to become a better potter
- You can learn the business side of this as well
If you’re curious about making money, but you don’t want to deal with the potential problems that working for yourself has, then I suggest getting with someone, and working for them before you do anything else.
Keep the Overhead low
One way that you can make money as a potter, is of course to keep the overhead low.
What I mean by that is the following:
- Don’t waste electricity by leaving the kiln on
- Use the exact clay amounts and glaze amounts needed
- Don’t try to excessively make too much, unless you’re going to use it
- Keep everything rightfully rationed for every project
- Don’t overuse your resources
This can be hard for a lot of people since they oftentimes think that being a potter means that they can just use whatever they want. But you’ll realize that with that mentality you’re going to end up losing a lot of money, so make sure that you keep that in mind.
Learn Mechanics Beforehand
Finally, if you haven’t spent time learning the mechanics beforehand, you should do this before you begin to make money with pottery. The reason for that is that people are going to want you to make these and to make them fast.
If you don’t know the mechanics, you also won’t get better.
Some of the ways you can learn the mechanics include the following:
- Study beforehand
- Work on the techniques
- Learn new techniques
- Know how to apply glazes and slips initially.
- Work on trying to improve the nature of your glazes too
- Get help from other potters
This is an integral part of it because mechanics need to learn beforehand. If you don’t know what to do with the piece before you begin, you’re going to have some major issues.
A lot of potters will start thinking they’ll make pieces easily, but once they get started, they realize they don’t know what they’re doing, which is a shame. But, if you do learn the ropes beforehand, you’ll be happier, and you’ll be able to build a much better, more helpful pottery business for everyone.
Build a Better Business!
Here’s the reality of making pottery for money: you can, but it’s not something that’s done easily. It takes a long time to master the techniques, and even longer to get the name out, and if you’re someone who is doing this for monetary reasons, then you’ll want to go the wholesale route.
But, if you’re thinking of doing this for creative reasons only, then go to a show, see how you do with that, and go from there.