27 Feb Making a living from ceramics
Making a living from ceramics is just as challenging, yet rewarding, as any other creative business. The idea of living from your art is one of the most exciting and liberating careers anyone could ask for. At first, it can be scary and confusing, but there are a few simple steps that you can follow to bring your ceramics business to life.
Step 1: Make lots and lots of pots! (literally) This is the most enjoyable step of the journey. Before you start thinking about marketing and social media, you need to dedicate some time to the products themselves. The beginning is all about perfecting your technique, finding your style and experimenting! It doesn’t matter if you focus your ceramics on dinnerware, ceramic jewellery, vases or all of the above, the more you make, the more you’ll understand your brand and what you want to specialise in.
If you think you need extra help and tuition, enrol yourself onto a weekly or monthly course – 137° offers an exciting calendar of events and classes.
Step 2: Photographing your ceramics: This is one of the most important stages in creating your small business. Once you have an amazing collection of ceramics that you want to present to the world, you need to photograph them in a way that elevates your work and gives it the justice it deserves. Nothing is worse than when a poorly lit photograph decreases the beauty of your work, so in order to fix this, you have two options. Either you spend some time learning how to set up your composition, lighting, props and practise your photography skills (which can be a great learning experience), or, you solicit the help of others and bring them into your team.
Collaboration is very important, and can save you so much time. Ask your family and friends if they want to help style and photograph your work. Perhaps you can borrow a digital camera from someone you know! The bottom line is, if you need help, just ask for it! Once you have hundreds of photographs, use a program like Adobe Lightroom to store and edit your images. Adobe Lightroom is one of the best photo editing programs available and it is very easy to use and does some rather amazing things. You can purchase a monthly photography subscription for around 12€ per month. Now you can have fun experimenting with your photography and achieving that ultra professional look and feel that is going to help sell your work.
Step 3: Online shop. Making a living from ceramics requires the possibility of your work to be seen by everyone across the world. A good idea would be to create your own online shop. If you’re quite technically minded, then designing your own website with a platform like Squarespace could be the best option for you. However, Squarespace offers many templates as well as guidance on how to create your website. Look for a monthly plan to enable advanced e-commerce tools for your shop, et voila, you’ll be processing orders in no time!
On the other hand, sellers often choose a website like Etsy, which is dedicated to supporting creative, independent sellers. Etsy has millions of customers that seek out unique, hand-made products, so ceramics are a perfect fit for this platform. The listing and transaction fees are very low, allowing you to maintain a high profit for your goods. It’s very simple to use, and they offer great support for their sellers.
Step 4: Social Media. This may be one of the most daunting stages of the process, but having a social media account is really going to help you market your ceramics, build a fanbase and drive customers to your online shop. It cannot be denied that Instagram is the leading social media platform at the moment, it offers users several tools to reach out to an audience which can really optimise your brand growth and sales. One of the key things to remember about an Instagram page is consistency, when people view your page, they expect high-quality imagery, so it’s important that your aesthetic has a rhythm throughout. This might be in the form of a particular colour scheme, or it might be ruled by composition and perspective. However you choose to display your work, keep this tip in mind. Use the stories tool to show behind the scenes snippets of your work, and why not record a Q&A session to connect with your audience on a more personal level.
Step 5: Collaborate with local & independent businesses. Here’s the chance to step out of the digital world and communicate in the good old fashioned way, in person. Making a living from ceramics can be a lot easier once you actively seek out selling opportunities. There are a lot of ceramicists who generate a large percentage of their revenue from selling work to other local and independent businesses. If your products are functional, like mugs or plates, arrange some time to meet with local coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Seek out those quirky little concept stores that sell all kinds of unique gifts, these places are great for selling plant pots, jewellery, dishes and cute little coasters. If you really impress them, they might even commission you to make a unique collection exclusively for their venue.
On the other hand, the more aesthetically driven ceramics could find a better home within hotels and galleries. Also try reaching out to local interior designers and home-staging companies, they are always searching for decorative art and may offer to buy your ceramics or hire them for a set period of time.
Step 6: Be Generous. One of the best things about being a ceramicist is that you never have to buy gifts for anyone, because you can make them instead! A great way to introduce a friend, family member, or prospective customer to your work, is to offer them a small piece of your talent. Not only will people see how amazing your ceramics are, but they will cherish the fact that you gave them something for free. Most importantly, when others see your free gift, your contact can recommend your shop and direct them to your social media or website!
So…what are you waiting for? Good luck!
Written by Freya Saleh