Earning a Living


Yes, today I would like to discuss the forbidden topic – money.

Photo credit: Photoxpress.com

Each year I try to come closer to turning a profit (i.e., have my revenue exceed my expenses) on my pottery.  I figure this is critical if I am to make a living from this thing I love so I can do more of it.  As I planned for my 2010 sales year, I added a few outdoor craft fairs to my selling strategy.  The first one was to occur this last Saturday.  Unfortunately, it was canceled due to rain.  I sulked the rest of the day, after I unloaded the car.  While sales were certainly not guaranteed, the promise of no sales was tough to take and got me thinking. How do professional artists handle these hiccups?

While sulking, I realized that I was fortunate that the canceled show doesn’t affect my ability to make next month’s mortgage payment.  And I understand that if I was making for a living, I would have far more sales venues in my schedule, i.e., diversify my revenue streams. Of course that is the catch-22, day job makes it difficult to do many more sales.

But what am I doing here?  Why am I talking about money?  I know the old saying – “making art for art’s sakes.”  Yet I have bills to pay, no benefactor in sight, and would love to make pottery my full-time gig.  So I think a lot about making a living as a potter.  I admire those that are able to do so and have dreamed about doing it myself.  But as life has changed over the last 6 or so months, I have realized that making pottery my sole income source is not realistic (it probably wasn’t before, but my eyes are more wide open).  I won’t go into the boring details, but moving south to Floyd, VA and setting up a studio and a road sign, is just not an option.

This has been a really difficult pill to swallow.  But I am getting more comfortable with it as I start thinking outside the box about making a living from the things I love. (Or is “outside the pot” more appropriate)? While I might never be able to earn my entire living from pottery, I can change my life to have greater flexibility so I can make more and better pots.

This brings me to my question for the week.  How do you make a living?  Whether a potter or an artist in another medium, where does your revenue/income come from?  Common sources include:

  • Galleries
  • Home/studio gallery
  • Commissions
  • Wholesale
  • Craft Fairs
  • Online sales
  • Teaching – classes or workshops
  • Spouse/family
  • Other

I know this is a subject we don’t talk about in polite company, yet we all benefit from an honest conversation about these financial realities.  I’m not asking for secret sales strategies by any means.  At the end of the day, I still believe it is about the pot (although I am open to being proven wrong).  Yet a potter can make the best pots in the world, but will never pay the bills with them unless they get out and sell them.  So I’m curious, how do you sell yours?

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About Claytastic

Health coach. Writer. Teacher. Artist. Living an amazing life with MS. Interested in bringing peace and beauty into people's lives.
This entry was posted in Journey Toward My Passion, Pottery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Earning a Living

  1. I’ve been a potter for more than half my life. It has always been a struggle financially and physically. The passion I have for it has always outweighed the unstable income and uncertain future. I, too, came to a realization that i would have to change course if I were to survive and still do what I love. Back before it became trendy, I fell in love with tile. I realized people don’t call up and order $1000 worth of serving platters and sushi plate……but they do spend that much on tile.

    I do miss the whirring of the wheel, the zen of giving life to a lump of clay. It was hard to pack away my pottery stuff to give full focus to tile. Am I being realistic that I will ever use all those 50# bags of Gerstley Borate that I stockpiled in 2000?

    I am blessed to get up everyday to do something I am passionate about. I sell only from our website. I don’t do shows anymore. We make tiles per order so I am not making product that I hope will sell. It has taken many years to get to this point. As I said – I am blessed.

  2. Vicki says:

    Unfortunately I can’t offer any super-helpful advice, as I am also an artist who is in the beginning stages of her career. But I currently sell from an outdoor art show (tent-style) and an indoor gallery show where a partner and I rent the gallery space for two weeks in December in a nice little downtown area. That’s only two shows a year, so if one were cancelled I’d be SOL, and as it is the sales barely cover my yearly expenses. But I am also in a position where, as you say, my next month’s rent does not depend on sales. My income comes mostly from engineering contracting work, or graphic design work.

    I am interested to hear what other artists have to say, as I am constantly wondering how people go about making a living at this! Thanks for the post.

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