It's common knowledge that in order to make a living as a full-time potter you have to do production pieces. Everyday household items that have mass appeal and can be produced quickly and inexpensively. I've resisted this path partly from pride, boredom and lack of time (especially recently). Who wants to make the same dull thing over and over and over? Craig likes making mugs and bowls but not me! I love making my little friends with occasional housewares mixed in. But not everyone's in the market for cute bird houses or banks. And Craig rarely gets into the studio these days. What's a potter to do?
After abysmal internet sales over the summer (granted, I've let my inventory dwindle) and only one show scheduled for the fall (too much other stuff going on) I've been feeling that I've got to shake things up.
When I look back over the last year or so in my pottery business the message as been there: Do production pots. Crystal clear, plain as day. But I'm stubborn. I'm gonna do it my way. If I make it they will come (and buy it). Right.
"How's that working out for ya, smarty pants?"
--Wee Little Devil on My Shoulder
Sunday Craig and I went to the Peters Valley Fall Craft fair. There were more potters there than usual so loads of inspiration. I got to talking with this one fella who wasn't having a very good weekend. He had done the show last year and did pretty well but this year he hadn't even covered his booth fee ($$$). His items were primitive sculptures and wall masks. He pointed to another potter down the row from him who he said was doing very well. That guy was selling.... you know it: mugs, bowls, platters, etc. So this guy (I can't believe I never got his name or a card!) said he was gonna try again next year but he'll have one side of his booth with housewares and the other side with his art pieces.
So my clarifying moment came on the way home when Craig and I were discussing this and the prospect of doing such a big show. I think seeing the sharp contrast between the success of the two potters at the show really drove it home for me. Sometimes I can be a little thick and it takes getting whacked over the head with something like the side of a barn before it sinks in enough to register. If I'm gonna be a profitable potter and grow my business I need to conform and do production. (heavy sigh)
The truth of the matter is if your market won't come to you, you need to go to your market. This doesn't mean I'm giving up on what I love to make. It just means I need to focus more on what people are more likely to buy. I'll just have to work my quirkiness into the dull stuff to make it more fun for me and my customers. I have to remind myself that as much as I love when others love my little characters I get just as much pleasure out of someone loving one of my mugs. There is a very personal connection between the maker and the receiver when something you've lovingly crafted with your own hands gets passed into someone's loving and appreciative hands.
Now, where did I leave my glasses?