Starting off slow and steady, I wonder if I can run this race?
Summer is in full swing here in Taos, and businesses pick up this time of year with tourism and locals getting out to the shops for gifts and souvenirs. With paperwork for our storefront signage still in limbo, foot traffic to my little studio and viewing space is mostly few and far between, but every now and again someone pops by to pick up a little something.
My online sales are mostly non-existent, but it’s a great way to share what you do with anyone you meet who is interested.
“Here’s my business card, take a look at my website,”I might say, “Oh and if you’re in town, you can see my sculptures in a few galleries here and in Park City, UT! Have a nice day!”
So what does it take to make a living as a clay artist?
Honestly, I have no idea, because I’m not doing that yet, but I speculate and come up with theories every day. I suppose there are many ways really, but being a potter and clay sculptor I rely quite a bit on the bread and butter sales of the very accessible functional objects; cups, mugs, bowls; affordable, portable, intimate. As one who is easily intrigued by the allure of other mediums, I paint and print and sew and sculpt when the spirit moves me as well. You could say I have multiple small bodies of work and sketches and watercolors could all be offered for sale at an accessible price too.
Many people I know and meet often want to support me in small doses and I am more than happy to oblige! I love experimenting and exploring visually and feel gratitude and connection to those who respond positively to what I come up with.
For years I worked in a restaurant to support all my habits and desires to play with visual mediums. I was always told to “up sell” our customers, try to get them to buy the more expensive steak, or wine, or add an appetizer or dessert. Knowing my own budget and designs for eating out, I simply wanted the customer to have just what they wanted. Nothing more, but also nothing less. I was happy to let them know exactly what their options were, but I’m not pushy nor a great saleswoman perhaps to a fault. I like think my guests appreciated that.
I worked at a lovely restaurant that accommodated everyone from the locals and regulars to the out of town guests, from visitors looking for a quick inexpensive meal to lavish 6 course dinners with multiple rounds of wine, cocktails, and aperitifs. I met with warm and positive reception to my service and hope to carry that into the business of making and selling artwork.
But without people requiring a meal of handmade pottery multiple times a day relying on regulars or drop-ins can’t be the only way to make a buck. So far I’ve placed my work in a few locations about town and online. I price relative to my peers and with respect to my costs and time. I gig as often as possible, trying not to have a committed schedule anywhere other than my studio, catering, housesitting, petsitting, and sitting a gallery. I peddle my wares plugging my websites on social media, blogging here, and making donations to various causes.
Thanks to my donations of 12 bicycle bowls to the Empty Bowls event here in Taos, a guest sought me out at my studio just the other day to purchase some mugs as well!
Advice to aspiring clayers that don’t want to go the academic route, and simply want to make a living creating and share their craft: put yourself out there however you can. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way!