5 Potters Who Embody The Art of Business

“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.”

~ Warren MacKenzie, qtd. in The Studio Potter, 1990. Referenced in “A Potter’s Journey, Part Six: Growing A Profitable Pottery Business”

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.

Prairie Fire Pottery

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.

Wall platters and mugs inspired by the North Dakota Landscape made by Tama Smith, head potter at Prairie Fire Pottery

“Any potter can make cups and bowls. Your surfaces will set you apart.”

– Tama Smith, Prairie Fire Pottery

20+ years of potting full-time in the North Dakota Prairie draws people in to hear their story and buy pots, including me. Their business was so captivating that I even worked out there for a spell.

Learn more about Prairie Fire Pottery in this American Craft Council authorship, “A Potter’s Journey, Part Six: Growing A Profitable Pottery Business” or from blog posts I wrote during my two week stint working as a production potter in their studio:

Studio Guest and Production Thrower at Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, ND

Looking Back on my Pottery Trip to Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, ND

Shiho Kanzaki

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.

Shiho Kanzaki signing a book personalized to me, and then showing us his 50 year old bonsai at his studio in Shigaraki, Japan.

Dick Cooter Pottery

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:


Hamada Pottery

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.

This gigantic pot welcomes visitors to the train station in Mashiko, Japan. At Hamada Pottery, Tomoo generously gave us a trimming demo on his traditional Korean-style kick wheel.

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.
塩窯の窯焼きのクライマックス、塩投入です。
高温で塩が一気に気化して、柚子肌のガラス状に溶けて器に付着して釉薬になります。

塩釉焼成はドイツの手法で、濱田庄司が1950年代にヨーロッパ視察の際にこの技法を知り、日本で初めて益子の濱田窯で挑戦したことから始まります。

技法は参考にしつつも、ドイツの装飾的な塩釉作品とは違う日本ならではの釉薬と炎の作用する力強く味わい深い表現を庄司は行いました。

私の代になり、登り窯から単室のアーチ窯で焼くようにしました。アーチ窯の方が耐久性も高く、塩もコントロールしやすいですね。

窯出しが楽しみです。

Posted by 濱田友緒(tomoo hamada) on Monday, July 3, 2017


Ayumi Horie 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.

Ayumi also helped organize “Handmade For Japan” (handmadeforjapan.org) which used art to raise over $100,000 for post-disaster relief during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, giving the fund entirely to GlobalGiving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami relief fund.

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:

Ramen Making -part 1

Making ramen and making pots. The 1st of 5 clips from my new ramen video. Stay tuned for the next four! Edited at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, music by Lullatone. Online sale coming up Nov 1.

Posted by Ayumi Horie Pottery on Friday, September 22, 2017


Pottery and Book Giveaway ($509 value)

Thanks so much for reading this far. Please feel free to enter this giveaway, inspired by some of the most notable pottery of the Cherrico Pottery business: Cosmic Mugs and Guinness World Records pottery, as well as 3 copies of one of Joel Cherrico’s favorite business books: Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday


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!

Mugs, Mountains and A World Record Attempt

ALL Kickstarter pottery shipped worldwide to over 15 countries! COOL!

Image 2, Cherrico Pottery Packing and shipping, Cosmic Mug, USPS Post Office Pottery

Ready for new types of cosmic and mountain pottery? I’m back in the studio busing out new art. Here’s a snippet of the best Instagram pics of new pots:

Image 3, Cherrico Pottery Mountain Pottery, Mountain Cups
Image 4, Cosmic Pottery, Asteroid and Moon mugs and cups, Cherrico Pottery, 2016

New pots will all be available when our new online store opens in just a few weeks. Our email newsletter will announce when all pottery is available, as well as offer you discount coupons for the new pottery.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy training for the pottery Guinness World Record. The record for “most pots thrown in one hour by an individual” is 150.

This Monday, March 7th, 9-10pm CST is my first attempt at Brother Willie’s Pub, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN, US. Can’t be there? Download the Periscope App on your smartphone or tablet, follow @cherricopottery and watch it live! DISCLAIMER: It’s just a first attempt, I definitely might fail…but we could also make history.

Image 5, Cherrico Pottery Guinness World Record Attempt, Most Pots Thrown in one hour by an individual, pottery world record

After we got to the moon, we didn’t keep advancing a space frontier. You’ve got to keep advancing a frontier and then there is a new headline to report on. Not, ‘Astronauts go to the moon, again.’

– Neil deGrasse Tyson, qtd. in StarTalk Radio, “Cosmic Queries: Colonizing Mars with Bas Lansdorp”

Tyson_-_Apollo_40th_anniversary_2009

Photo credit: photographer Caitlin Brutger, statistician Carson Sievert and potter Ciro Di Ruocco.

New Pottery: Cosmic Ambitions, Japanese Traditions

The first Moon mugs and asteroid cups have emerged from the kiln…

Moon Mug and Asteroid Cup, Cherrico Pottery

Plus, remaining Kickstarter pottery has been thrown. Most pots are glazed and ready to fire, but I must procrastinate for just a couple more weeks. I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Japan to visit traditional pottery studios, Tokyo galleries and Mount Fuji- all before building my own studio.

Renowned potter Shiho Kanzaki is welcoming us in for a tour of his studio. We’re also visiting Mashiko– a famous town of over 20,000 people who are mostly potters!

New Pottery: Online Store Revamp

We hired skilled photographer Julia Echart to redesign our online store. In 2-3 weeks, we will have a new body of artwork on our gorgeous, new website, with discount coupons given only through this email newsletter. 

Detail Shot, Cosmic Mug, Photo by Julia Eckart, Cherrico Pottery
Photo by Julia Eckart

Thanks so much for following along! We’re excited to build a new pottery studio this summer, inspired by historical Japanese studios. Check out the links below if you want to learn more about how Japanese pottery techniques inspired my career over the past 10 years.

Links:

Learn about my version of the Japanese Nuka glaze.

Learn how Japanese wood fired pottery inspires my art.

Learn about historical wood firing techniques that we practiced in the College of St. Benedict wood kiln.

Kickstarter Pottery in Process

Cosmic Mug Processs Shot, Cherrico Pottery

My Japanese Tools and Techniques

Japanese Pottery Techniques, Cherrico Pottery

Mount Fuji Mugs (Available Soon)

Dual Image for Emails, Mount Fuji Mug, Cherrico Pottery

“When you try to be good, you look like someone trying to be good, and the result is that no one believes in you. The problem is to deal with these things without becoming hyper conscious or over intellectual…The challenge is to do the thing you have to do because you’re in love with it and can’t do anything else.”

– Warren Mackenzie, potter, qtd. in the 1990 issue of The Studio Potter, told by Gerry Williams, editor of The Studio Potter Journal.