Thursday, April 17, 2008

curious and swaggering

When I started this blog, it was going to be a record of my day to day in setting up and running a small pottery studio. It seems to have evolved a bit to include a lot of stuff about other aspects of my life. For a while I was feeling like this needed to be kept out of my blog and then I realized that all these other aspects of my life are really important to my work as a ceramic artist. I quit teaching school specifically so that I could spend more time with my family and doing the things I love to do. This led to working towards setting up my own studio all with a schedule that permits me to be with who I want and doing what I want, when I want (with clay drying schedules taken into consideration of course). I find that I need to remind myself of that whenever things get a little crazy in my studio and I keep thinking that I need to do more and be more. I have even been working on developing a little swagger. More of a metaphysical swagger than an actual swagger.

So this brings me to the point of this particular post. I feel like I have been a little lazy regarding my blog lately. I love to take photos, taking them almost everyday. This makes posting photos of what is going on in my life and studio simple, however, I have been neglecting to post much in the way of dialogue regarding studio life and ceramics in general. I think this is because I have these brilliant, long running dialogues in my head but they seem to happen when I'm in the bath or lying in bed, nowhere near my laptop. I have taken to writing down the point form ideas for blog posts in my daybook and have yet to flesh them out for you. Trust me, I do have a list of topics that I want to discuss.

So first up for discussion is the idea of marketing yourself and selling your wares. I opened my doors on Dec 1st 2007, so I am just at the beginning of figuring it all out. I have seen a lot of different systems and I have slowly started developing my own. Most of my ideas have come from watching what other people are doing and how that seems to be working for them. I try to have regular shop hours as this works best for me and customers. I have to be on a regularly planned schedule or I don't get as much done. I am much more likely to go for a walk or go out for coffee with friends unless I have a schedule to adhere to. So here are the parts to running my studio:

I wrote a business plan and created a cash flow before I even opened my doors. This is a REALLY important step. I refer back to my business plan and cash flow often and add ideas as I learn.

My winter schedule has been Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur, Sat from 12-5pm, closed on Fri and Sun. My summer schedule will be Mon through Sat 12-5pm. I am often in my studio by 10am starting to work, but I leave myself the option of noon as I may need to run errands, go for coffee, go to yoga etc.

I make all work in my studio by hand, most is thrown on the wheel, the rest is hand built. I make my own glazes with the exception of the bright red, orange, purple and lime green which are commercial glazes as I have not been able to accurately produce bright colours like these at cone 6.

I use stoneware (plainsman, m340, m370, m390) and porcelain (plainsman, p300, laguna Frost).

I teach handbuilding and throwing lessons on Wednesdays. My current session ends in May and I will not be teaching again until the fall as summer is busy.

I have two 'open house' shows in April and December showcasing new work and these have been very successful.

I participate in the Christmas Craft Show in Golden and I will be trying to add another Christmas Fair for next year.

I am going to participate in the summer's Farmers Markets in both Golden (Wednesdays 2-7) and Invermere (Saturday mornings).

I am operating out of my former garage which has been turned into a working gallery/studio. My kiln is in a separate building out back. My house and therefore gallery are located on the main street running through town, so I get a lot of tourist traffic. My open studio includes my gallery space at the front so that customers can watch me at work.

I have two distinct bodies of work: one functional (sold in my gallery and Jita's cafe) and one more sculptural and artistic that reaches completion on about a two year cycle. These collections concern themselves with feminism and media thus far. They have shown in local galleries and two pieces have travelled with a group show through the Kootenays.

I have a website, this blog and an Etsy site.

I use vistaprint to make business cards, brochures (to leave at the Chamber of Commerce), and flyers announcing sales/openings. I am a Chamber member, am going to be in their next shopping brochure and I advertise in the local newspaper and magazine in the issue running up to April and December open houses.

So, this is what I am doing so to run my business. I have learned a lot from other business owners as well as bloggers. Thank you so much! Now I want to know what you do? How do you sell your stuff? Do you schedule your production? Do you have a website and an Etsy site? Which is more effective? I know a lot of you are lurking (google analytics rocks!) so come out and tell me what works for you, how do you do it?


Michele said...

Congrats Cheryl! Sounds like you are on your way to having it all. I have just begun potting. It's something I've always wanted to do and since I've begun, realize more and more how very much I would love for this to be a career.

I look forward to hearing more about your day to day business and also how you got started. I'm not at a university. I'm taking classes from a local potter. Suggestions on reading materials would be extremely helpful.

Much success to you...

Michele said...

I forgot to say, I love your work.