Even in modern society, with all of our advanced technology, crafting art with our hands is more important than ever. It connects us deeply to what it means to be human.
But living as a full-time artist is extremely rare today. Too often, artists are defeated by the fact that art can’t always exist unless it’s priced and sold.
“I always say to artists, ‘Don’t to be an artist unless you really really really really really have to.’ Because 99% of artists don’t have money. They have to make an enemy out of envy. Or it will eat them alive.”
Art becomes more valuable when famous artists die.
Some of the world’s wealthiest collectors are known for using art as trading cards of wealth, just like stocks and bonds. Stock traders have even been known to “short” the art market just like housing, automotive industry or anything else. (The Great Contemporary Art Bubble BBC Documentary)
Some galleries have even been accused of buying work from their own artists, only to prop up prices.
Museums give everyone access to society’s best art, but they only show a tiny selection of what exists. They are the gatekeepers to prestige and perception, yet overflowing with art. Most of their art lives in underground storage.
What’s the solution?
How do artists support doing what they love– making art everyday?
For me, the answer always comes back to something simple: focusing only on what you can control.
That means making as much pottery as I can (about 2,500 pots per year), pricing each piece of art appropriately, and selling it to enter the world right now.
Showing your art to the world can be terrifying. These are our babies! How do you put a price on something you poured your heart and soul into?
Figuring out your art serves people is scary, but it’s a worthy pursuit, because the need is great.
“Fear is the greatest problem for us potters. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being accepted or rejected. If we can work without it, work for the joy of working, then we are free. Because we are no longer working for money, for fame, or for mother, but for ourself.”
“The challenge is to do the thing you have to do because you’re in love with it and can’t do anything else. Not because you want to become rich or famous but because you will be unhappy if you can’t do it.”
There are far easier ways to grow a business than by selling pottery, but few are more satisfying. Potters use their bare hands to craft gorgeous vessels that are only finished after literally surviving a trial by fire.
Making a living as a potter means letting people eat and drink from your gorgeous art, while respectfully receiving currency for your creations. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to live in our globalized society.
“Plenty of people can make great work. Not everyone has the dedication to make it, and to make it work. ~ Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller
Here is a list of 5 potters from different parts of the planet who are especially skilled in the art of pottery business.
Potter Tama Smith and her husband Jerry craft and sell pottery with gorgeous, abstract glazes inspired by the North Dakota landscape. Millions of people drive by on I-94 every summer, see their pottery billboards and stop to buy pots on the way to and from the Rocky Mountains.
Shiho San (Mr. Shiho) has lived in the small town of Shigaraki, Japan for his entire life. He welcomed me into his studio last year to sit cross legged, sip espresso and hear stories of his rise to the top of Japanese Tea Ceremony prestige. We browsed his personal gallery, held $5,000 tea bowls and touched a $70k vase.
Devotion to natural materials (digging clay from his backyard, using traditional Korean kick-wheels, firing with only wood for 10 days straight) forced him to endure years of strife in his early career. Shiho San caught a break by selling tea bowls from the trunk of his car to a generous, influential Buddhist monk.
Tokyo skyscraper galleries were vying for his art within a few years. Over the decades, his art would grace the some of the most prestigious galleries atop the tallest skyscrapers in Tokyo.
Visit this Northern Minnesota studio anytime year round and you can buy a pot from an outdoor shelf. Simply leave $30 in his money jar and be on your way.
Oddly enough, someone new to ceramics could easily mistake Dick’s art for Shiho Kanzaki’s. Both make specific types of wood fired pottery inspired by the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
What do the vastly different prices say about the quality of their curiously similar art? Absolutely nothing.
Both potters mastered their craft, then worked for decades to create symbiotic relationships with their communities. Both charge and receive what they need in order to thrive.
Dick’s rural studio has been planted near Lake Superior for 30 years. The kiln, studio and his home feel native to the land, like they sprouted up with the trees. This fall, my girlfriend and I were lucky to experience and film a kiln unloading, which happens only four days per year:
Tomoo Hamada is a third generation potter, grandson of famous potter Shoji Hamada, who was a Japanese National Living Treasure. Tomoo and his father Shinsaku Hamada live and work in Mashiko, Japan.
Mashiko pottery was largely established by Hamada pottery, and now 350+ pottery studios attract people to spring and fall pottery festivals. Each festival draws 3-500k people to Mashiko to buy pottery over just a few days.
Hamada Pottery is set up as a museum with a calm, self guided tour of the gorgeous grounds. The tour ends with a pottery gallery. After buying three small plates, Tomoo welcomed us into his studio for tea and a pottery trimming demo.
Hamada Pottery also uses tech savvy means of connecting with people. Tomoo friended me on Facebook and showed me video from his wood-firing on his smartphone, while standing next to a kiln that was still warm from a recent firing.
Firing salt kiln at Hamadagama-pottery.
Ayumi Horie is an online pioneer potter. About 10 years ago, she launched an online store that has consistently, successful sold high-end coffee mugs to customers globally, almost instantly after posting her new pots.
She founded “Pots In Action” (potsinaction.com) in 2005, which uses crowd sourcing to help potters and ceramic artists connect with and educate the public about rich ceramic traditions.
Her efforts to organize online communities around pottery give people deeper reasons for supporting her body of work and pottery catalog. Other potters have referred to her as the “Queen of Social Media” and it shows in her high quality videos that help people relate to her pots through making food:
Bonus Entries: What is your favorite business or organization and why?
ENDED: Thanks for participating everyone! 3 anonymous winners were chosen and we emailed them for their free pottery and books. Plus, we even chose one more person from the comments to win another bonus Cosmic Mug. Congrats, Kristin!
Why are Joel’s mugs called “Cosmic Mugs” anyways? Wikipedia says, “Cosmic is anything pertaining to the cosmos” and the cosmos “is the Universe regarded as a complex and orderly system; the opposite of chaos.”
Our Universe is vast and mysterious, far more mysterious than what human beings can comprehend. But the cosmos also defines anything close and familiar in our modern, complex society, like a cup of coffee.
These “cosmic quotes” tell about just some reasons why Joel Cherrico chose to model the cosmos with clay and fire:
Every Cosmic Mug is crafted with this purpose in mind. Joel’s goal is to give every owner of a Cosmic Mug the chance to touch, taste and reflect on the Universe every morning by doing something as simple as drinking a cup of coffee.
Joel brings the cosmos into your home by choosing glazes that are made up of the same elements that are found in the outermost galaxies in our cosmos. Check out this early video below where Joel was first beginning to develop the ideas behind Cosmic Mugs a couple years ago:
Spirals are seen throughout the Universe and are at the foundation of Cosmic Mugs, which are formed by twisting clay on a pottery wheel. Scientists don’t know why spirals are so common, but like most things in the Universe, it is a mystery waiting to be unraveled. Read more about why spirals are so common in our Universe in this Discover Article.
One of Joel’s newest pieces in his Big Jars and Wall Platters collection brandishes a spiral as a stunning Cosmic Wall Platter. Joel modeled it after what astrophysicists have determined about the Milky Way’s spiral shape, with subtle textures and colors that are entirely an expression of the art.
Do you have a favorite quote about the cosmos? Share in the comments please!
“Watch the stars in their courses and imagine yourself running alongside them. Think constantly on the changes of the elements into each other, for such thoughts wash away the dust of earthly life.” – Marcus Aurelius, quoted in “The Daily Stoic”
The Ceramic process is almost like magic. Clay, water and earth elements change through fire to create gorgeous coffee mugs.
“As cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson has explained, the cosmos fills us with complicated emotions. On the one hand, we feel an infinitesimal smallness in comparison to the vast universe; on the other, an extreme connectedness to this larger whole.” – Ryan Holiday, quoted in “The Daily Stoic”
Have you ever wondered why I call them “Cosmic Mugs” (cosmicmugs.com) instead of “galaxy” or “nebula” or “stellar” mugs? Art is complicated, and “cosmic” seems like a better word to convey all the complexities inherent to pottery vs. factory made mugs.
If you’re wrestling with ideas in your own art or struggles in your own life, you might benefit from stoic ideas too. This giveaway that my friends at The Daily Stoic are hosting is a great way to get introduced:
Stoicism sounds boring, but the benefits in my life and pottery career have been remarkable. This giveaway has a bunch of amazing “stoic” items and it’s a great way to get your feet wet in how these ideas might be able to help you:
No, I’m not getting paid to say this, I’m just a huge fan and have seen remarkable benefits in my own life and business. If you are struggling with anything, then I just thought you might benefit stoicism too. Here is what I find most useful and valuable:
What resources or tools help you get through tough times in your life?
Leave a comment below before Monday 8/28/2017 telling us what resources or tools have helped you get through tough times in your life. We’ll pick the best comment and send the winner one World Record Pottery Planter, ($179 value: $159 + 20 average packing and shipping) shipped almost anywhere globally, totally free!
To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment, or the moderator will not approve your comment or include you in the giveaway. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Please allow up to 48 hours for your comment to appear. You must also be on our email newsletter distribution list to qualify, so please make sure you are okay with receiving our email newsletter before you leave a comment. We will pick winners before the following Wednesday around 2pm Central and you will receive the pottery shipped to you nearly anywhere globally, totally free.
*This is a guest blog post, edited by Joel Cherrico and written by Macy Kelly: CSB/SJU Marketing Intern at Cherrico Pottery. In this post, Macy addresses the ways we practice being eco-friendly at Cherrico Pottery.
I’ve never met anyone who loves getting a box filled with packing peanuts. We know, they make a mess. At Cherrico Pottery, it’s important that we deliver your pottery as safely and as eco-friendly as possible. That’s why our peanuts are 100% biodegradable. Sustainability is a fun challenge that we take on in multiple parts of the Cherrico Pottery process.
100% biodegradable peanutsto secure and protect the pots in boxes. They not only decompose in water leaving no toxic waste, but they are FDA compliant and made with “static-free organic starch.”
During Kickstarter, we used over 1,000 egg cartons to ship 1,000 pots. Egg cartons can always be requested via email during the checkout process in place of the biodegradable packing peanuts. When a shipment from Cherrico Pottery arrives, you will see the logo hand-painted on each box. This is because there is no point in branding with paper stickers or stamps on the boxes when we strive to be as unique and real as possible, while keeping the artistic vibe alive.
In The Studio
Joel sacrificed natural gas kiln firings and Copper Red Glazes, even though he used to get gorgeous results. You can view and learn about them in these three blog posts:
His business model is devoted to long-term environmentalism. Gas kilns are easier to load and can produce beautiful pottery in bigger batches, but natural gas is a non-renewable resource. It doesn’t give opportunities to utilize free solar energy raining down from the sky. Electricity does. The electric kiln is not more environmentally friendly currently, but solar energy has the power to change that.
Kiln placement is another simple, smart choice that saves energy. Joel’s kiln is located in the middle of the studio, so it doubles as a radiant heater all winter. He also dries pottery using the heat of the kiln, saving energy and money every time he fires by being able to turn off other heaters.
Saving energy can be simple and beautiful, even with an act as simple as bringing pots outside to dry in the sun instead of using fans.
After taking a three day workshop from Steven Hill Pottery, Joel learned how to successfully apply up to 8 glaze layers on one pot. In this video, you can learn some of Steven Hill’s process too.
Cosmic Mugs have 4-5 layers of glaze each, but Joel chose not to purchase steel spray guns that Steven uses to get his magnificent colors. Spray guns require energy to fill a compressed air tank, as well as a spray booth to catch the airborne glaze chemicals. Instead, Joel created innovative ways to get similar effects simply using brushes.
Businesses aren’t required to use environmentally friendly materials or donate anything, ever. Cherrico Pottery has shipped worldwide to 16 countries, so we think it is only right to explore how we can help make the earth a better place. All of these donations are impacting the world in positive ways:
Monthly membership and occasional larger donations to The Planetary Society: planetary.org
Monthly membership and occasional larger donations to The American Craft Council: craftcouncil.org
Our goal is to break ground on a new pottery studio that supports future pottery production with 100% solar fired pottery. This is a ridiculously ambitious goal, but not out of reach. If Tesla can debut an entire product launch on stored sunlight, then it must be possible to power a kiln.
To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment, or the moderator will not approve your comment or include you in the giveaway. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Please allow 24-48 hours for your comment to appear. You must also be on our email newsletter distribution list to qualify, so please make sure you are signed up. Joel will pick one winner Friday around 6pm Central and you will receive the pottery shipped to you nearly anywhere globally, totally free.
*UPDATE 4/28: ENDED. Congrats Holly, Liz and Kelsey and thanks so much to everyone who participated! Did you know that the word, “solar” was mentioned on this post/comments about 27 times and the words “recycle” and “recycling” and “recyclable” were mentioned about 275 times WOW! I hope you had as much fun reading these comments as I did. – Joel