When I first started making pots, it took me forever to make one thing and most of what was fired found it's way into the dumpster. As I got better, I began making pots faster and faster, and fewer of them ended up in the landfill. After a year, I was making far too many pots than I could personally use or even give away to family and friends. So I began selling pots so they wouldn't multiply like tribbles and take over my house. It also makes sense to sell pots since we hope what we've created will bring pleasure to someone else.
But I've also experienced a great deal of push back from the places where I've made pots. It seems like you'd get more support from potters guilds and art schools, but that's not been the case for me. Just the opposite, in fact. Everything is fine as long as you're struggling to make a few pieces. But if you get prolific at all, even when you're staying within the allotted amount of clay, you're watched with suspicion. I remember coming into an art school studio one morning and the director had written on the whiteboard "We're not here to support your retail dreams." The worst thing is when you've produced a few dozen cups and bowls and someone says (loudly), "Hey, you're like a production potter!" That cursed word "production." Don't say that too loudly. It might mean you're intentionally making pots to sell. I understand. Some people really do take advantage of community kilns and that should be regulated. But can we also acknowledge that some people who are taking pottery classes are going to become prolific, will schedule sales, and will produce more work before those sales? Instead of fighting against that, community kilns should think of ways they can encourage the growth of potters, promote their work, and take a certain cut of it to help their bottom line.
Following are some things I've learned about selling pots that I hope will be helpful to you. First, make a commitment to sell your pots. This can mean something like signing up for a craft fair or a sale through your potters guild. Don't wait until your pots are perfect before making the commitment. When you commit to sell your pots they'll start to get better because your mind will be focused, you'll have a goal to reach, and a limited amount of time to reach it. I talk with potters all the time who are planning on doing a sale "next year" or "next time." When that next time rolls around, they're not going to participate but loudly proclaim they'll do it "next year" for sure. Procrastination is the biggest obstacle to selling your pots, that and fear, fear that maybe you won't sell anything, that everyone else's pots will sell because they're so much better than yours. Put all that aside and make the commitment to a sale. Second, bring only your best work. Don't surround your great pieces with lots of mediocre stuff. You're developing a reputation, a brand, that will attract collectors over time, so don't put things out that detract from your reputation, only things that build it up. I found out early on that when I tried to sell bad pieces, my good pieces suffered. It was hard to sell a large bowl for $150 when I had a similar bowl next to it for $20 with a nice crack in it. You may think you're wasting money by throwing things away, but just the opposite is the case. If you want to charge good prices for your work, you need to put only your best work on the table. Third, find out about pricing by visiting local sales and looking at stores online. And don't look at the high end stuff. Start with examples that are closer to yours in quality and find out what sorts of prices are being charged for that. Also watch at sales to see how quickly certain items sell at what price points. It's easy to put a $50 price on a mug, but that doesn't mean you'll sell it. Start lower and charge more as you get better and you create more demand for your work. The most I've ever charge, and sold a piece for, was $350. I've one that twice. Almost everything I make sells for $200 or less. I know people who sell ceramic sculpture for quite a bit more than that, but that's not what I'm making. I also have an interest in making at least some things at a price point that anyone can afford. That's why almost all of my small cups and bowls start at $15. My dream is not to sell my pieces at stratospheric prices to a few very rich people. Well, I wouldn't mind selling some of my pieces for absurd prices to those with more money, but I don't want that to be my only clients. I also had an interesting conversation with a local wood turner whose work is in museum and is very expensive. He told me that he made less money as he charged higher prices. As he put it, he "choked off the market" for his bowls by making his prices so high for a small clientele. Once sales slowed down for these people, he was stuck since he couldn't lower his prices to sell more pieces to those with less money. Also, keep a close eye on what sells and at what price points. When I first started making and selling small bowls and cups about a year ago, I was charging $20 for them. My sales were not that great so I dropped the price for most of them to $15 and they started selling well. Fourth, learn how to market your pots. One of the most essential things to learn about marketing is how to take good photos of your pieces. It's not that hard anymore since even most smart phones have fabulous cameras. Get on Instagram and share photos of your pieces. Start following people and commenting on what they share. I know this will sound like humbug to some of you, but you can get more bang for your buck from this than any other method for marketing your work. Get business cards and start handing them out. I use Zazzle or Vistaprint. Build a data base of contacts and stay in touch with them. I have an always growing email list that I contact about sales by sending them images of about 20 pots that I'll be offering. Sometimes people will contact me to buy pieces before the sale even begins. I don't bug them about every sale I'm in but only those where I'll have a large number of things. Make contacts in radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. They may not be willing to cover your personal sale, but they will often be willing to cover group sales that your potters guild is putting on.