Kicking Prejudices to the Curb

Well, I’ve been lucky with own premises in the past for workshop and business activity. But out here now–  on the top left side —  for several years, I’ve been trying to get a measure of what kind of ceramics sell in my area. I’ve work in various outlets which take 50%, and thank you very much for those opportnities.  It doesn’t take a lot of mental heat to work out that places like that will be served with edgey and out there pieces which warrant that 50%. Domestic or utilitarian ware just can’t take that 50% hike. Think about it. If you’re asking $30 for a pho bowl and buyer’s kids load the dishwasher regularly as a family chore — does it take that much imagination to dial back a bit and charge a more resonable price like $12 and sell twice as much? I think not. Pile high and sell ’em low. I do realize that some potters live in Hell’s Armpit because they can woodfire, live a “free and easy” life, ready access to tenured professorial work at a local uni, and so on and so forth with an A board outside on the hi-way to attract passing customers. Many potters spend a lot of money on transport costs and will be charging  crazy prices  for a mug to break even. But, not all of them will be of, for example,  Warren MacKenzie’s  acknowledged stature combined with the kudos of being one of the last of Bernard Leach’s American apprentices. I’m not talking about a 2 hour audience with BL, but a hands-on daily slog in BL’s pottery at St Ives for two years which is well documented in various books and journals.  WM should be awarded a Knighthood, actually; but that’s another blog. 

I eschew the Street Fair, will not do Crafte Faires.  But I caved and sent in an application for Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market for this summer. I was accepted — only potter.  My 3rd Saturday was a couple of days ago. I am just gob-smacked about how much fun it is; and, frankly, how profitable. We trade from 9 to 1. Manager rings a bell to start and end the selling. Last Saturday, I was so rapt and in the zone of chat with someone that the closing bell was a complete surprise. So, first Saturday someone asked about Yarn Bowls. My immediate thought was Lady, I’ve got my heart on a sleeve spread out on the tables here. Everybody wants something they don’t see. Through the red mist I composed my face, dialed back and asked this woman to please repeat what she was looking for. Yarn Bowls.  Okay. Here’s my sketch book, sketch one for me. She did, bless her. I love to knit, but at the end of the day in the studio, I’ve not got the “eyes” to knit anymore. I had a couple there last weekend. Sold. Plain simple pieces are being bought by folks who would never dream of walking into an art gallery. I’m not being patronizing, it’s a serious observation: a young  mum  — with 4 kiddies under 8  in tow —  buying a present for her husband, but taking much time and delight in choosing just the right mug (my price $8 + tax). See attached image.  Me joining in the chat explaining bodies and glazes and showing how the differing bodies show up the same glaze in a new light. So my point here is that I’ve completely had a Damascene Moment about outside selling. It seems to work at the moment, and frankly keeps me interested in making pieces which I know will be attractive to the FM mileiu.  Just trying to read and gauge my market. As we all should be doing all the time.

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