Talking with successful potters

August 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm (Business story) (, , , , , , , )

Success, of course, is often in the eye of the beholder. So for this experiment I’ve defined it as “people who have managed to make a living from pottery” as that is my end goal. Pottery all day, every day, except maybe Sunday and Saturday and then its pottery as needed on those days. Clay clay clay clay clay glaze clay glaze!

Why yes, I AM just a little nuts for my craft. Thanks for asking. *hugs a giant pile of nice squishy clay*

So, as part of this goal I am taking the Business Fundamentals class at Mercy Corp NW. Since business is my weakness the class has been great for me. One of my assignments was to e-stalk a “competitor.” Now, if you’ve ever interacted with potters, you’ll noticed that we aren’t very competition driven. Sure, we enjoy our juried shows, but when we get together its a community, not of rivals but of like-minded people; we all benefit from the support we give each other. It helps that we’re in a field that driven by individual creativeness. So instead of just e-stalking my competitors (which is fun) I’ve also decided to go and ask them about their business experience, and then (With their permission of course) share it with you!

So with out further exposition I present to you my first e-stalked ceramic artist: Charan Sachar!

Reason for stalking? I love his Bollywood inspired style.
Dancing Divas

The colors and the slip trailing get me all giddy inside, proffessionally speaking.
Butter dishes gallore!

Within the last year Charan has quit his day job and managed to get a lot of attention to his work, including a feature in NY times.

Q: You have 30 seconds to describe your business to a stranger in an elevator, what do you say?

A: I make handcrafted pottery inspired by Indian fabrics and embroidery. My love for color, pattern and Bollywood shows in my work. Side note: “The mention of Bollywood usually brings a laugh and is good ice breaker.” Then I always mention that I do local art shows and also sell online, giving them my business card.

Q: What type of business do you run? (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, ect.) Why did you choose to structure your business that way?

A: Sole Proprietorship. When I started, like many other crafters, it was a hobby that was turning into a business. I didn’t have initial intentions that this would be my sole source of income, but would loved for that to happen. I am glad I am in that position now. Currently I am the sole person running the business, so sole propritorship seems like the right business structure for me.

Q: What is your typical daily schedule?

A: Wake up around 6:30am. Light exercise while I make my tea and oatmeal. Sit with my tea and oatmeal and sit in front of computer, checking emails, stats for shop visits, going over calendar for orders scheduled. This can go on till 10am.
I keep a daily and a weekly calender. This way I have goals to complete that day and goals that I need completed that week. This all feeds into completing goals of the big calendar of the year.
From 10-noon, I would work in the studio, then lunch.
Then 2-5pm back in the studio with email checking always in the background.
5-8pm watch TV, have dinner.
8-11pm– Back to the studio and then sleep.

Q: I read that you spend 70% of your time on business, and 30% in the studio. How does that 70% break down for you?

A: The 70% comprises of all the administrative work that does not involve my actually making my product. It is hard for me to break it down as to how much time I spend doing what because it changes significantly daily. Below is a list of things that I consider administrative work.
This includes email correspondance, creating promotional ads, checking stats on what ads work in getting traffic to my site, facebook correspondance.
I try to have at least one entry a month in my blog, sometimes that is more.
Contacting galleries for wholesale, payment, delivery schedule and getting traffic to my wholesale site also takes up a lot of time.
Packing and shipping orders really adds up when business is good.
Calendar updates, scheduling what to make and when to make it. This takes up time but I believe is very necessary to be efficient while working in the studio. With only 30% of time spent in the studio, I need to be effective to make full use of that time.

Q: What have you found to be the most successful way of promoting your work?

A: I believe any opportunity to tell my story proves to be the best way to promote my work. Blogs, facebook, showing progress in the studio of new work etc.. all have proved to be very effective. As artists we are selling our stories, so any channel that helps you tell your story, is great for promotion.
I do invest in Google and Facebook ads and they get me sales too, but all those ads come at a cost.

Q: Have you ever considered getting someone to do some of the business work? If so, in what field (book keeping, accounting, marketing)? And why that field? If not, why not?

A: I would have to say marketing. I do enjoy that part myself too, but it is time consuming. I can land up spending hours on the computer learning and trying new ways of marketing my work and getting new customers. It would be something I would like to work with someone to learn more and make it more efficient.

Q: Who are your best customers? (General , nonspecific)

A: 98% of my customers are women and the 2% are men who are buying for the women in their lives.
People who are fond of fabrics, color and pattern get immediately attracted to my work as well.

Q: Have you ever had an unhappy customer? How have you dealt with that?

A: Haven’t come across an unhappy customer yet, touch wood. Once there was a breakage in shipment and I gladly replaced the item at no additional charge. The customer was thrilled and has purchased more after that. Good customer service is always important.

Q: Who’s ceramic works do you like? Who’s business do you admire?

A: I am really fond of Ginger Steele’s ceramic work (www.insomniapottery.com) Her use of pattern and construction techniques really fascinate me. And then salt firing just enhance the look of her work even more.
It is really hard for me to pin point whose business I admire. It is hard to get insights into the actual workings of a small business owner to know how effective and profitable their business model is. Best is to keep your eyes open and see everything as an opportunity to learn.

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