My Holiday Sale officially ended on Sunday. I still have a few orders that I am finishing up for folks. In years past I would have had my last firing in the salt kiln just before Thanksgiving and would not have fired again until late February. The ways in which I sell pots has changed over the last few years. I want to talk a bit about that and hopefully get some discussion going here on the blog.
Since 1996 I have held 4 sales per year here at the pottery. These sales were my main income for the year. I could make enough at a sale to get by for 3 months. For many of those years I had low expenses, no health insurance, and my world pretty much revolved around pottery. When I started making pots I wanted to be the 'town potter' selling pots for everyday use at affordable prices. That's what I did. I made pots that were about form, no decoration, and fired in a salt or reduction glaze kiln. My cups were $12, bowls $15, and I think the most expensive pot was $80. I built up a good following of locals and had successful sales at the studio.
I started doing craft shows sometime around 2000 or 2001. I had held off on this because I never had a lot of confidence in my work and was afraid to be seen out in the world. I never did loads of shows like many craftspeople do. The most I did in any given year was probably 10, plus having my 4 home sales. I never made very good money at craft shows. My brown, salt glazed pots did not grab the average person's attention and get them into the booth. I was not idle at shows. I am an active talker to customers, friendly, but not pushy, excited about my pots. I think being passionate about my work and talking about it really helped me sell pots to strangers. This was unlike my home sales where people knew what to expect when they came here, I pretty much educated my home sale customers over the years and got them excited about my aesthetic.
Work sold on consignment to a shop or two followed. This usually meant that I was getting 60% or 70% of my retail price and the shop kept the rest. I was never to keen on consignment and I am not now. I'll talk more about that later.
I really avoided wholesale for a long time. Of course my pots were way to cheap anyway but the real reason was that I didn't know how to form a relationship with a gallery owner and I was worried that I did not have a consistent enough body of work to take wholesale orders. I was firing my salt kiln every month often experimenting with new clays and slips. My home sale customers appreciated this variety, but I wasn't sure a gallery would.
I learned in time that all craft shows weren't created equal and that I had to pay attention to which ones were successful for me. It turns out that here in NC there are several pottery only shows and those have been the best for me. I belong to a pottery guild in the Charlotte region that holds two sales a year, these have been good too. I did the American Craft Council show a few years in Charlotte. It was a bust. Eventually this ACC show was discontinued in Charlotte.
Okay that's a bit of back ground. I don't want these posts to get too long so I'm going to break them up. Part 2. Later will talk more about how I feel about selling pots presently.