Tag Archives: photographing pottery

Behind the scenes…

*Just a reminder that my Etsy Holiday Sale is LIVE through Dec. 18th! Get 20% off your whole purchase by using coupon code JINGLE at checkout.  Plus, $5 shipping per address. Not including custom orders.*

I had a shop open on Etsy for years before really adding anything to it. (Sound familiar to anyone else?) I was intimidated by the process and overwhelmed at where to even begin tackling it.  I knew that I really needed to have my whole process figured out before really diving into it.  I wanted to make sure that all my customers would have the very best experience shopping for pottery online.  I know that buying pottery online is hard.  It’s 3 dimensional, tactile and really personal.  Part of selling one of a kind items online is that you not only want to represent them in the best light, you want to represent them accurately! You don’t want someone to receive their box of pottery and be surprised at what they find inside (unless it’s a happy surprise)!

I thought I’d share a bit of my behind the scenes part of the process. It might help you if you’re starting to think about opening a shop.  Or if you like to shop on Etsy, you might find it interesting to know what an independent artist goes through to sell online! No matter how organized you are, it is a lot of work! But by doing a bunch of work up front, you’ll save yourself a lot of time later.

Before I even think about listing anything, I make sure I have a good supply of boxes, bubble wrap and other shipping supplies.  More on that later.

  • I pick out work to list after a firing. Mostly limited to what ships easily and what photographs easily.
  • I measure work (HxWxD, plus volume when helpful) and write on note card; place with each piece.
  • Using my DIY photo booth, I photograph work in order that the pots are on my “Etsy shelves.” I aim for no fewer than 3 images, and up to 5.  Which can easily mean 10 or 15 photos of each pot.  I try to get as many angles as possible of a piece, use a ‘prop’ if it helps, and perhaps a group shot.

What is my Etsy Wall, you ask? They are a set of shelves that I keep almost all of the pots that are either listed, or about to be listed on Etsy.  These pots have been photographed, measured and are ready to go out into the world! It’s conveniently located next to my photography area and across from my desk.   
Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery - Etsy wall of pots

  • After photographing the work, I upload the photos to my computer and edit them in Picasa (free photo editing/ management software from Google). I crop into squares which work best on Etsy because nothing gets cut off when the photos are made into thumbnails on the site.

Editing photos in Picasa for Etsy
This next part is really important!

  • I write/ edit descriptions for each type of piece and keep in one (long) Google Drive doc that I aptly titled Etsy Descriptions. Descriptions are both personal, descriptive and specific. I include care instructions, measurements, key words, etc… A new description for each piece and its variations.
  • I then piece everything together to make an Etsy listing. Etsy has a great tutorial on making listings.
  • Once listed, I mark everything that is up on Etsy with a piece of blue masking tape to note that it is live. It’s an simple low tech way for me to keep track of what’s listed. I also want to be sure when I have customers in my studio to shop, that I double check anything that has blue tape on it to see if it has just sold if they want to buy it.
  • Then I post the new listings on social network sites- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc… I don’t think you can really rely on Etsy alone for people to find your work, you really need to assume that you’ll only get traffic from your advertising via social networking and blogging.  That’s my approach. I use it as a shopping cart system for my website, blog and Facebook page.  Anything else is a bonus.
  • And again, I make sure I have everything I need to quickly ship before I post anything. I ship in 1-3 business days- but I try to ship the day I get the order whenever possible. I use the USPS and free Carrier Pickup to ship.

About a year ago I started using double walled corrugated boxes.  They are incredibly strong.  I don’t have to double box with them.  I don’t worry at all about pieces surviving the rough and tumble shipping journey anymore! Here is a photo of my pieces bundled up before going into their boxes. I’m going to do a separate post about packing for shipping another day.Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery Etsy2

So that is my process in a nutshell. The key, for me, has been keeping all the parts organized. My descriptions are very looong. I’d rather be too wordy than leave a customer with lots of questions.  I want to create a really full “image” of each piece for everyone viewing my work online. It’s hard to buy tactile, 3-D work from a 2-D computer…. but I try to make it as good of an experience as possible!

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery travel mugs

Do you have any tips to share about posting on Etsy? Or do you have any things that you particularly like to see/read when you’re shopping on Etsy? I’d love to hear from others!

a pottery studio tour: my sunny basement studio

My studio is really clean at the moment. So before I started making a mess again with throwing, trimming and glaze mixing, I thought I would snap some photos and share with you. I absolutely love looking at other potter’s work spaces, and I know I am not the only one! I’ve been sharing some studio photos here and there on Facebook, but I realized it would be nice to have them all together.

And so our tour begins…

My studio is in our basement. But it really doesn’t feel like it, it has lots of light and plenty of space. We bought our house 3 and a half years ago. It was a condemned duplex that was a foreclosure that had been empty for years – but the reason why we fell in love with it was the space… and also that it is a brick house. How could I resist a house made of clay. Even though we saw the house in the middle of a bitter Minnesota winter without any heat or lights, we somehow we saw the potential in it. And long story (very) short: we renovated the whole house and built my dream studio. Every pipe is new and 51 of the 54 windows (yes, you read that right!) were replaced. There was no surface untouched. The studio was the last space that was built out. And I’m still making changes here and there. After renting studio space for so many years, I had been planning my dream space in my head. And it is such a joy to be able to work in this space that is actually mine.

That was a slight side-track. Back to the tour. You have to walk past the laundry room and our pantry and then you’ll find my studio door. Right inside of it is a wide hallway that I turned into a display area. As you might have seen in a recent post, my display just got a make-over. I still have some more to do on it, but you can get the idea. This hallway leads into what I call my “clean room.”


The clean room has my display, my kiln, my desk, my photography set-up and packing/ shipping area as well as a sink.


The kiln (an L&L which you can read more about here) came with 1 more ring on it, but when I was pregnant I couldn’t load it so I took off a ring to make it a little shorter. It’s still quite large. And now that I am working fewer hours than before (life with a 1 year old!), the slightly smaller kiln is great.


This weekend my husband helped me put up some new shelves in a couple of places in my studio, including above my desk. It’s awesome to have this additional space. I recently got a laser printer to start printing some decals that will go on my pots (more on that in a future post!) and I finally got it out of the box this weekend so I can start printing!


I usually refer to these shelves as “mug shelves.” My glaze test tiles/ samples are on the top shelves. The rest are filled up with pots fresh out of this weekend’s kiln!

And this area is my photography area, packing and shipping area and, of course, the sink. The photography set-up folds flat against the wall and then opens up when I use it. The next photo shows it opened up. I’ll write a more detailed post on the set-up soon. It’s pretty great being able take photos so easily. When I was building the space the 2 things that I knew were easy to overlook or cut for lack of space was photography and packing and shipping. I tried really hard to incorporate good set-ups for this. I wish I had even more space for boxes and packing materials- but there were limits. I’m still trying to figure out ways to stash extra bags of peanuts and bubble wrap.


This is the photo set-up opened up. There are lots of adjustments that can be made depending on what’s being photographed.

The next room (just past my desk) is the glaze room. It’s where I store dry materials, mixed glazes and my homemade spray booth.

The countertop is nice and easy to clean when I make a mess when glazing or mixing up glazes. It was just stock countertop from Home Depot. I got it during a 20% off sale. All the shelves were built to fit my buckets. The buckets on the right usually are under the counter, but I’m in the middle of replenishing my glaze inventory after the last 2 firings.

This is my homemade spray booth. There is usually a filter over that opening, but I threw out the last one that was clogged up with glaze. I’m hoping that I can remember the details of things like the exhaust fan enough to share with you a bit of a tutorial on a DIY spray booth – it’s been 2 years since it was built! It’s not fancy – but I like it so much better than the commercial booth that I used to use (which had such a weak exhaust fan). And it was way cheaper to build than to buy!



There used to be a wall that split this space into two separate rooms, but it’s so much better opened up. Lots of light and great cross-ventilation. The other room is where I make pots. Throw, trim, decorate, hand-build…


If you look up on the left, that’s the top ring for my kiln! It has a nice place to, literally, hang out until I decide that I want to go back to the bigger kiln. Below it is a ware cart. The canvas covered countertop is 14 feet long, if I remember correctly.


And this last space also got some sweet new shelves this weekend! On the left is my throwing wheel and on the right is my trimming wheel. It’s great having separate spaces so I don’t have to clean up when switching back and forth between throwing and trimming. I ended up being offered to buy a used Brent C from another potter for next to nothing. At the time I didn’t even have space to use it, but I knew it was a deal that I couldn’t pass up. So I bought it and stored it until I had space to have 2 wheels.

You can see the bat storage under the wedging table- I love how organized and accessible they are. And I just put up some hooks on the wall to store my foam trimming bats.
If you want to see how to make a foam bat, I have a tutorial on how-to make a foam bat here. And here I wrote about making the splash pan for my trimming wheel.

And that’s my studio. Thanks for joining me on the tour! I feel so lucky to have this space. It’s really a joy to work in. Having a studio at home has made it possible for me to work while I have a little one at home.