If you told me a year ago I would be selling my own ceramics at amazing markets and online, as well as winning a scholarship to Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) I would have spat my G&T out laughing so hard.
In 2018 I was newly graduated and absent of any clue of what to do with myself after a brilliant three years studying a degree in illustration. I was aimlessly painting and drawing incredible living creatures when my dad suggested that I go off and join an evening pottery class… so off I went and it changed my life.
Are you wanting to start selling your work? Here are a few very important things I’ve learnt along my short path so far…
It has to be more than just a hobby
First of all, whenever others ask me how they can get started, I say, ‘find a hobby you take so seriously, you can’t stop thinking about it’. Doing something you love and are endlessly interested in is the most important thing in life, your efforts and love for the subject will shine through your work.
Make time for your craft
With juggling three part-time jobs, being in the studio every day and looking after all of my animals (which I have more of than you may assume), I have definitely learnt to use my diary. My timekeeping has got to be good otherwise my whole day ends up being a disaster and I hate wasting time.
Practice and learn from others in your field
Someone whose work inspires me is Olivia Lochenech Gill, a self-taught illustrator. Now I certainly wouldn’t say I am self taught. I owe a lot to the studio I attended evening classes at in Margate, but I do spend a lot of time watching other potters and artists on Instagram and YouTube – there are many ways to learn a skill if you have enough patience and drive. Research and drawing underpin everything, as well as a desire to be constantly learning.
Surround yourself with positivity
I make a conscious effort to surround myself with the encouragement I need to get me out of bed every morning. I am a big worrier; Earlier this year I cut out a very negative environment and concentrated on everything in my life being positive and it’s made such a difference to my wellbeing and my craft.
If I am having a few down days, I drive into the depths of the countryside with my dog, Ginny, switch my phone off and walk for hours just looking and listening to the creatures that surround us – it really works.
Budget and know your worth
I think this has been one of the hardest things for me, but it’s not too difficult, I promise. You can get so wrapped up in making something you’re proud of, you forget to jot things down in between. For example, if you’re making a set of mugs – collate all of your costs together. Literally everything: clay (wet weight), glazes, your time (very important), electricity bills, etc.
This method of working out prices has proved invaluable to me. I’ve found that if something isn’t selling but people love it I re-evaluate what I am spending the most money on – is my clay or glaze too expensive?
Never do things for free unless you’re sure something great will come out of it. Unless customers are makers themselves it can be difficult to make someone understand the value of the item and your value as a designer-maker. Don’t do it for free ‘just because’ – trust me, it’s not worth it.
Get to know your customers
I love doing markets where I get to meet and talk to like-minded people, as well as meeting customers – you very quickly understand what they like and don’t like. Take notes but don’t take it to heart – you cannot please everyone! I think to myself every time I make something ‘would I buy this?’ I always go to non-creative friends for their opinions, too. But keep in mind, do it for you. Your customers want something that you have made, not what they’ve made.
Use social media to keep in contact with your customers and network
The use of social media has become important to me. I use it daily to update followers on my progress in the studio, if I have any events coming up and use it to ask for their opinions too – people love when you involve them in making your pieces. Plus, I love to support others with their work. Watching how they work and bouncing ideas off each other is great, especially when you work predominantly alone.
When using social media, be aware of how people will perceive you; that follower might be 3000 miles away but you may well have an impact on them in some way. Building ‘you’ as a ‘brand’, is a nice way of feeling and looking established, so be new and fresh with your naming – keep it catchy, people like catchy.
Put your mark on every piece
Don’t forget to make your mark on each of your pieces. Some work you can tell is a ‘you’ piece, but it’s important to stamp or put your initials on to it too.
What is so beautiful about ceramics and pottery is that your work will be around for longer than a Greenland Sharks lifetime… that’s pretty cool. So make sure you’re credited for it.