Downsizing? Upsizing? Staying the Same?

The economic downturn has affected many individuals in the ceramics industry, but everyone has a different story to share.

I talk to a lot of people in my business as a gallery owner and ceramic artist. Some are acquaintances from back in the day, when I first started making pottery 40 years ago; others are associates from a not-so-distant past as a ceramics manufacturer. While it is always nice to catch up, it is also interesting to find out how individual careers have developed-or not. How has business fared for everyone? The story is never the same. It is usually more interesting than I expect, and people often share some fascinating back-stories. But one constant remains: the economic downturn has affected all of us.

What I hear most often is that many ceramic artists and potters have downsized their business because they are not selling nearly the volume of work that they used to. They are making less work, trying to find local markets, and-as a result-some expenses have decreased. Some potters have stayed at the same level, hustled more, cut their prices, “wheeled and dealed,” and have made it work on whatever level they can. Others are still on the craft fair circuit and are finding ways to make it profitable. A few have even increased their business. Why?

If their work is unique, not mainstream, then their market share will continue to grow. In fact, I received a phone call today asking about my consulting services to help expand the caller’s business into a RAM pressing operation for dinnerware. While we may be at the end of the recession, I think we have a few more years to go until there is really a substantial uptick in the ceramics market.

What I see as a gallery owner is that my customers are very selective about their purchases. They are interested in work that is special, different, not mainstream. The work has to be exciting rather than mundane. It must move them in a very special way by creating that “Aha!” moment. Whether the work is useable ceramics or coffee table art, the responses I have seen are visceral. That is just my view from my gallery and what my clients are purchasing.

No matter which scenario has been your choice, the most important thing is to keep your eyes on the prize. We are so very lucky to be able to do what we love to do, yes? So quit complaining and get back to work!


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