Wednesday, March 05, 2008

1000 True Fans

Thanks to BoingBoing, I found interesting article that seems applicable to ceramic artists.Kevin Kelly's thesis is that one approach to make an good, steady living is to build up a base of 1000 "True Fans."
from Kevin Kelly's article:
  • A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
Each of these True Fans will spend, on average, $100 per year on your work. You end up with $100,000 gross annual income. After all the expenses (taxes, insurance, materials, show fees, etc...), you end up with a solid living.

1000 fans probably seems like an overwhelming number. But if you look at as 1 person per day for 3 years, that's a little easier. Or maybe you have 500 True Fans that spend $200 per year. And it's possible that you aren't selling directly to that group. You can have super loyal fans that are buying your work through galleries and shops.

So how do you do it? I think the best possible way is to make direct connections with the buyer. It makes a lot of sense for potters. You're making work that is meant to connect the maker with the buyer. Your artist statement, wording on your website, the writing on your Etsy shop can have a more personable tone to help establish that connection. The time that you spend meeting with customers at your studio, art fairs, gallery openings, workshops, classes, wholesale and retail shows are invaluable. And of course, a blog is a great way to connect with people :)
After you connect with people that really love your work, you'll have to figure out ways to maintain and build up those relationships. Special sales and discounts. Early alerts to sales, personal emails, etc...

As a full time potter in the year 2008, I definitely get the questions (often from other artists): how do you do it? how do you make a living as a potter? This is an interesting way to look at it, and is an interesting approach to your business if you're looking to build it up or try to
make it more stable.

I hope you take some time to read the article. Kelly goes into quite some depth and looks at different scenarios and ways to gain True Fans. What are your thoughts?

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ask a Potter: Photography

I regularly get questions emailed to me about clay, kilns, the business of clay, etc... I have decided to start a series "Ask a Potter" where I answer some of these questions on PotteryBlog.com that I think will be interesting and helpful to other readers. Please feel free to share your 2 cents and join in on the dialog!
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Who takes your photos? What kind of camera do you use?
-Diane in Georgia

My "professional" images are taken by Guy Nicol in Chicago.
His studio is also at Lillstreet Studios. If you're not in the Chicago area, don't let that stop you, you can ship your work to him.
I have been using Guy for my photos for the last 7 years, and his work is amazing. He specializes in studio arts such as ceramics, jewelry, fibers, etc... I've used the images he taken to apply to shows as well as promotional materials (postcards, business cards, etc...). Some of Guy's images of my work published in exhibition catalogs, 500 Cups (2 images), 500 Pitchers (2 images) and Ceramics Monthly.

Some examples of photos that Guy has taken for me recently:




I do take lots of photos myself that are posted on this blog. I got a new digital camera early last fall, the Canon PowerShot A570 and I've been really happy with it.

I would say the photos that I take myself fall into 3 categories - personal, studio shots/ works in progress, and images for online selling. I've been dabbling in online selling for a while trying to figure out what outlet I think is best. I'm finally ready to jump into the Etsy pool (more on that to come!) and easy, high quality photos are a necessity.

Below are some photos that I have taken with my digital camera:

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Simple Tweaks to a Better Wheel Set-up

I have seen too many potter friends suffer with back problems over the years. It's made me be very conscious about the health of my back and my efforts to stop any problems before they begin. Every potter who throws at a wheel has a different set-up. Although mine is based on a pretty traditional set-up, I have tweaked it enough to be both a more efficient work space and back friendly.
You might notice that there is a 2nd wheel in the background. I have a throwing wheel and a trimming wheel. I love being able to move back and forth between the two wheel and not have to clean up and change the set up. I keep either my Giffin Grip or my foam bat on my trimming wheel. I have it set up in the corner of my studio so I do not track any clay trimmings around my studio.

I know many potters who throw standing up to alleviate any potential back problems. For me this just creates another problem from being on your feet all the time. I think the most important thing I can do is to constantly change my tasks (throwing, trimming, wedging, decorating, glazing, paperwork, cleaning, etc...) and my sitting and standing positions throughout the day. Sometimes I will even give up efficiency for this.

Another thing that I did to help keep my back happy is to get a new throwing stool. After a ridiculous amount of research, I found this great stool from Creative Industries. It's totally adjustable- both the height and the tilt. It tilts your hips into your work so your back can stay nice and straight. This has made a HUGE difference for me. I also put my non-pedal foot on a brick to keep me balanced and symmetrical.

You might have also noticed from the picture the mirror in front of my wheel. I started doing this a couple of years ago and it has also made my throwing life much happier. It took me about 2 days to get used to it (I had to remember to look up!). It stops me from constantly cranking my head over to the side to see what my piece looks like. It also makes a huge difference in the forms that I thrown. I can see exactly what is happening by looking straight ahead. You can make sure that each piece you throw actually has the shape that you think it does. The result is that both me and my pots have better posture. My back and neck are straighter and my pots end up having more lift.

I feel like I've lost a lot of time over the years looking tools on the other side of my splash pan. To stop this problem from continuing, I built this little shelf on the right side of my wheel. All the tools I use regularly are kept right there- nice and easy for me to find. (The mini-Altoids tin is perfect for a pair of bat bins). The tools in the picture are on the list of "clay tools that I cannot live without." (I'll talk about that in another post.) This little shelf mean less bending forward trying to search for the clay covered rib that has slipped under the splash pan.... My throwing bucket sits right in front of the shelf also for easy access (I'm right handed).

I realize how much I miss my tweaked space when I am teaching and do not have this set up.
A couple of (cheap!) things that you can do, even if it's in a shared space, like a classroom:
  • Tilt a standard throwing stool by sticking a 2 x 4 under the back 2 legs. You can even drill into the wood about 1/4 - 1/2 an inch so the stool won't accidentally slip off the wood.
  • Get a mirror. A hardware store, thrift store or Ikea are all great places to find a mirror. The just lean it up against whatever is in front of the wheel- shelves, a table, a wall. You'll really see a difference in your throwing, and your back might be a bit less achy.
  • Keep your tools and water bucket on a stool next to your wheel. You can keep the stool clean by putting a bat on top of the stool, and tools and bucket on top of that.
update (10/29/07)- a post from John Zentner about his standing wheel set-up on his blog pots and other things.

update (10/30/07)- another great post from Anne Webb at Webb Pottery about her favorite tools and her wheel set-up.

update (10/30/07)- an article from the archives of Studio Potter magazine on back problems and potters.

update (10/31/07)- a post from Jeanette Harris about tools that she can't do without.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

A tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 3)

Here is the next installment of my tour of clay blogs. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to see the community of blogging ceramic artists expanding. There are bloggers from all over the world, at different stages of the profession. They're making high-fire and low-fire pottery and sculpture in every type of firing process imaginable. A little something for everyone. I just did a quick count of the total number of clay blogs that I have visited collectively on the 3 tours- and it's 44!
Enjoy!


Ceramic Focus: Ceramic Arts and technique blog
This is a site to get lost in and end up following link after link and ending up in an exciting place. Lots of images (and links) of work that is on exhibition around the world





Webb Pottery:
Art and Pottery Blog and Studio Journal
You have to check out Anne's clay mixer! Beautiful work and a thoroughly interesting blog.






Ambrosia Porcelain
"We believe in creating beautiful, functional objects that bring happiness to your daily life."
What perfectly named work. These pieces make me happy.




Sandwich Mountain: The Adventures of the Little People
More work that makes me really happy. This blog by Mel Robson and Kenji Uranishi is fantastic. They each have their own personal blogs with really interesting work (click on their names to get to them). There are some exciting things happening with clay in Australia!







Smokieclennell
: Tony Clennell
A brand new blog, but already with regular postings. I'm looking forward to reading more!




The Pondering Potter: Renee Margocee
"exploring the life of a clay artisan in the 21st century"
This is another fairly new blog, but I anxiously await Renee's honest and thoughtful posts. I first came upon her as a guest blogger on One Black Bird and I'm happy to see that there is more where that came from!






Strange Fragments: Shannon Garson
Another Australian potter! I'm still digging through the archives finding one great post after another. Right now the line that's hanging in my head is: "Make your work for yourself."
We all need to be reminded of this! (read that post!)




musing about mud:
Carole Epp
Anyone who is making work out of clay needs to read this blog! Carole is keeping us all informed about what's going on in the ceramics world from calls for entries to spot lighting new and exciting work from different artists. And her pots are gorgeous too!





Little Flower Designs
:Linda Johnson
Linda calls this her "inspiration blog" and I love that idea. It's a great way to share that part of the process.




Peppa Studio: Where Beautiful Things are Made by Hand
More happy porcelain pots! There are some stories of the challenges of working in a community studio. I think there are a lot of people that can relate. I can't wait to see more of the little plump blackbirds.







Colorado Art Studio
: Cynthia
Cynthia is a super blogger. She has everything here from studio updates, to tutorials, to suggestions of books to read and music to listen to. Thanks Cynthia!





I love the photos of inspiration and the pieces they inspired. (Like this.) The imagery is stunning throughout this blog. And I'm intrigued by the little snippets of life, like the shot of the Boggle board.




I think this blog wins an award for the best name of a clay blog. Another blog with stunning imagery! It's no wonder that Josie is making the pots that she is making when I see the environment she lives in. I've mentioned this before, but I'm endlessly fascinated by how our surroundings effect our work. I think people are effected by it in different ways, but in general potters (and 3-D makers) are more effected then others. Perhaps because we're thinking not just about the forms - but how they function and interact with the user and live in their new environment.


Christa Assad
A fairly new blog by Christa, currently documenting her latest adventures: starting a new job, moving to a new city, and setting up a new studio. I'm looking forward to what's coming up next.




Clean Mud: Jeffrey Guin
Most potters have at least a touch of pyromaniac in them, and I think that Jeffery has a little more than most! He's self described as "unfocused," but for readers it just means that there's a little bit for everyone. If you wanted to learn about raku, this is the blog to read! He also has an offer to trade a pot for $20 that's go towards food in the local food pantry. Take a look and maybe take him up on it.




Anne Murray:
"Currently studying design and ceramics at Glasgow School of Art"
Another new blog with an interesting and different perspective - that of a design and ceramics student. Anne is already posting regularly and I hope it continues.





Firing Log: Ancient Kiln / 21st Century Logbook
Yet another great ceramics blog that I cannot believe that I didn't know about! I'm diving into the archives and loving it. The title of the blog is fantastic, and I can't wait to listen to the podcasts. Again, something that I can't believe I didn't know about. I spend much of my day in the studio listening to podcast after podcast - but they aren't usually clay-centric because there aren't too many of them out there.



That's enough for today!
I hope you enjoyed this tour, and don't forget to check out the previous tours:
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 1)
Tour of blogs about ceramics and pottery (Part 2)
And as always, let me know what else is out there if I've missed something.

If you're new to reading blogs, or if your regular sites to visit have expanded out of control, I suggest some sort of reader like Google Reader, which is what I use.


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Friday, August 10, 2007

Tour of blogs about pottery and ceramics (Part 2)

This is an update (a long overdue update) to a previous post about clay blogs. When I first wrote about blogs that focused on ceramics, there weren't too many out there. I am so happy to find this time around that there are a lot more now! I didn't include ones that I listed before. And these are in no particular order. Enjoy- and please let me know if there are more out there for the next time around!

one black bird by Diana Fayt
A wonderful blog that I just discovered. (I don't know how I've missed it all this time!) Great posts by Diana and guest bloggers. It's been a lot of fun reading through the archives.




A Potter's Journal by Ron Philbeck.
Great photos of Ron's work in progress. I love the how-to posts as well as the studio updates.



The Pottery Blog by Jennifer Mecca
Jennifer writes about her day to day life in her studio, balancing her family life with her clay life. This is why blogs are great- you can share your personal experience in a way that you can't through a book or a more formal publication.






Davistudio: Modern Table Art by Mary Anne Davis
"Seeking to stretch ideas about peace, art, design, function, value, culture and making." And lots of happy pots!





Lurearts Ceramics
by Pam McFadyen
A fairly new blog- but I think there will be some interesting things on the horizon, like her new Tool Talk series. Keep 'em coming!



This Week @ St. Earth
A weekly update for what's going on at St. Earth Pottery in Fillmore, IN. I love reading about other potter's work cycles. And I think one of my favorite parts is listing the music and podcasts of the week.




Douglas Fitch Blog
Maker of "country pots." When you see the beautiful photographs on his Douglas' blog, you can see how the landscape effects his pots. Something that I think about a lot as an urban potter.




Bluegill Pottery by Vicki Liles Gill
A nice (and fairly new) blog that has a lot about the business side of pots, and some how-to's and other studio updates.






Sister Creek Pottery by Gay Judson
"The occasional musings of an overly-enthusiastic-senior potter who recently found her way to the potters wheel."
One thing that I really like this blog is
that Gay writes abouts the ups and the downs of making pots!


Design Realized by Julie Rozman
A new blog by a Lillstreeter (def: someone who works at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago) which documents her thought process and her new ventures into selling her work. Keep it up Julie!





Jeanette Harris: A Clay Engineer's Blog
Jeanette's blog is hilarious! In addition to the humor she has some great info including documentation on her glaze testing, and reviews of books and videos.






Wirerabbit Pots by Taylor H
Taylor has great tutorials - directions on how to make things like plaster bats and terra sigillata. Great information illustrated with helpful photos.



Soderstrom Pottery Blog
"A Minnesota potter, trained in Japan"
Check out his wind powered kiln :)






this artist's life - day to day in the clay studio
by Whitney Smith
Most recent posts have been about Whitney's residency in Japan. An unusual perspective and thoughtful posts.





Karin's Style Blog - Looking at the world with a designer's eye
I love this blog! Karin's work is beautiful and she has endless links to other makers and designers from around the world.







Whip-up: handcraft in a hectic world
This is a group submission site that is about all things handmade. A must visit often site!
See this page to learn more.







Tara Robertson Pottery
A great photo tutorial on pit firing. I'm also enjoying reading about Tara's venture into Etsy.






Well, I think that's enough for now... I hope you have enjoyed this tour. I have thoroughly enjoyed researching this. I have discovered some really exciting new blogs to subscribe to!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Soda, Clay and Fire: a new book on soda firing

It is finally here, Gail Nichols' new book on soda glazing: Soda, Clay and Fire. This book is based on her research from her PhD in Material Science on Soda Firing at Monash University (Australia). I just got my copy from Amazon (click on link to order)- so I don't feel like I can actually review it yet. But I wanted to share with you that it is finally out in print. There is still so little information published on soda firing/ glazing- this literally doubles the number of books published exclusively on the topic.



Also, in my neglect of my blog recently, I have not mentioned on here that 500 Pitchers came out in the spring. I was lucky enough to get another 2 images published in the latest publication from Lark Book's 500 series.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Study of Continental Clay Bodies

I have recently done a little study of the high fire clay bodies from Continental Clay in Minneapolis. I made teabowls out of each of the clay bodies, and fired one in c. 10 reduction and one in soda (also c. 10 reduction). They are both glazed in a luster shino glaze which shows off the differences in the clay bodies beautifully. The c. 10 pots are glazed both inside and out with the shino glaze (left). The soda pots are glazed on the inside, and on the rim (right). There are 9 clays that I tested in total- so keep scrolling down... Enjoy!
**be sure to click on the images to see a much larger image and really see the details.**

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Potter's Mark: Signing Pots

I just got a new stamp with my signature to sign the bottoms of my pots with. I ordered the stamp at NCECA, and it arrived in the mail last week. Todd Scholtz, owner of claystamps.com was set up at the Brackers Good Earth Clay, Inc booth.

He had me sign a piece of paper to get the right signature. I think that I wrote it about 40 times to get the feel and look that is most consistent with how I usually sign my work. The 10th signature ended up being the one that I used.

He then scanned the chosen signature into a computer and resized to my specifications. He then engraved the stamp and added a nice wooden handle. I am really happy with the results. It stamps beautifully- wet, leather hard, and even a little past leather hard all come out clearly and easily. If I want another stamp- smaller or larger, I can have the same signature, just resized. If you have some other sort of mark, it would work as well- whether you have it as a digital image already, or you have Todd scan it in for you.

I've tried to figure out a good signature stamp for years. I don't like the chunkiness of a clay stamp for my signature, and the fragility always worried me. Rubber stamps are easy to have made, but they aren't deep enough or firm enough for stamping the bottom of a trimmed, leather hard piece. This stamp seems to be a good alternative.
Take a look at the results:

The flashing from the soda kiln on the bottom of this plate could not have been any more picture perfect!

I have always felt that it is important for me to sign my work. Here are some thoughts on signing or not signing pots...
  • It is an historical record of the maker. There are lots of books about the marks on old pots. I'm not saying that my mark is going to end up in a book, but the idea of being able to figure out who made a pot, a print or a painting is still interesting to me. Having a clear and identifiable signature would make that much easier.
  • I own several pots by different potters that aren't signed (or it's hard to make out). When I bought them, I remembered clearly who made them, but as time has passed, some of those names have left me. If I wanted more work by the same artist, I'd sort of have to wait to come upon it again at a gallery.
  • Ceramics Monthly has started including the stamp or mark of each of the ceramic artists that are featured in their magazine. This seems to be some sort of recognition of the importance of the stamp even in contemporary ceramics (as opposed to the historical documentation that I talked about above).
  • The Potter's Council is asking for potter's to send in their marks to create an archive of stamps and signatures. They can be sent to: Jennifer Poellet, 735 Ceramic Place, Suite 100, Westerville, OH, 43081.
  • Over time my signature or stamp have changed and evolved. All clearly are by the same maker, but it is a way that I can sort of "date" my pieces, without actually recording a date on them.
  • I come from a family of artists, and the bold signature of MURPHY is something of a common occurrence on our work. Here is my dad's signature (Jim Murphy) from one of his paintings:


I think that this blog entry will be the first of many about signing work. There is much more to talk about. I'd love to hear your ideas about signing or not signing pottery, or what your method is.

If you'd like to sign up for the Pottery Blog mailing list, go here. You'll get automatic emails when I write and post a new entry. As always, it is a private mailing list- no information will ever be shared!

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

500 Cups, Lark Books


500 Cups, cover, Lark Books

This February, Lark Books has released it's newest book is the "500" series. I am lucky enough to have two images in it.

page 110


page 351

My Lillstreet soda firing partner in crime, Gary Jackson,
also has an image in the book.

page 265

This series of books from Lark is beautifully done.
Inspirational for the potter and visually gratifying for the collector.
I also enjoy (and own) other book's from this series:


If you'd like to purchase the book
directly through Amazon...

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