Cosmic Mug Giveaway, Laughing Squid Feature, and Mainstream Art Ambitions

Artists all over the world struggle to find ways to avoid attaching the word “starving” to their job title. For ceramic artists, this often means going to graduate school, becoming a professor, and building networks in academia. Recent industry polls (from the NCECA blog) show how 50% of ceramic artists are academics. Non-academics support their art by selling their wares, working part-time, and pairing with community art centers or galleries. These are all great options.

But are there ways to support art making that we haven’t yet discovered?

Our plan is to utilize the internet to face the “starving artist” fear by forging new paths that would not have been possible until recently. By trying to explore every possible connection through the internet, and then focusing on the few that succeed, we discover new ways to get pottery into people’s hands.

In case you haven’t seen the Facebook posts, Joel is giving away one Cosmic Mug each month to help spark interest in his new work. You’re reading this, which means you’re probably on the mailing list and automatically entered in the monthly random Cosmic Mug giveaway! If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll receive an e-mail asking for your address so we can ship you a free Cosmic Mug at absolutely no cost to you. And the first winner is…drumroll, please…

Subscriber #255: r******** YAHOOOO! CONGRATS! Thanks to everyone else who signed up! Keep your hopes up for your chance to win the next monthly Cosmic Mug giveaway, posted at the end of May.
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Social media sites and blogs let us creatively market pottery at extremely low costs. More popular blogs expose Cosmic Mugs to people who might never have seen them otherwise, like the Laughing Squid feature that got 1,000+ social media interactions.

Laughing Squid, Cherrico Pottery, Facebook, Cosmic Mugs

We think it would be awesome to get Cosmic Mugs featured by mainstream media, where millions of people would see what beautiful handmade ceramics look like. Talk show hosts and their guests so often drink from boring, mass-produced coffee mugs. Wouldn’t a Cosmic Mug look cooler?

From left to right: Bill Nye (THE SCIENCE GUY), Boring Mug, and Chuck Nice

The internet allows us to build a network among celebrities. A few months ago, we started communicating through Facebook to people at StarTalk Radio. Their host, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, has six Cosmic Mugs in his office right now! The radio show has since evolved into a TV show, airing every Monday on National Geographic Channel.

StarTalk collage
StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson airs on Mondays at 11/10C on National Geographic Channel

#1 New York Times Best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss podcasts through the Tim Ferriss Podcast, and he also launched a killer, new TV show this week: The Tim Ferriss Experiment. Oh yeah, Tim also owns a Cosmic Mug!

Tim Ferriss, the Tim Ferriss Experiment, Copyright 2015

This week I am writing a letter to Bill Nye the Science Guy and sending it along with a Cosmic Mug and an issue of American Craft to the Planetary Society in California. We joined the Planetary Society, and we hope they will like the way Cosmic Mugs bring distant wonders into our hands, allowing people to experience the feeling of space.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with becoming a teacher or professor to support yourself as an artist – many of Joel’s greatest inspirations are teachers (shout out to Ben Carter – innovative educator and podcaster who you pottery people will love.) But we’re devoted to exploring new ways to find success in the ceramics field by teaching indirectly. Connections that started online have already brought Joel’s pottery into the hands of over half a dozen celebrities and astronauts: Neil deGrasse TysonTim Ferriss, Bryan CallenJoe Rogan, Brendan SchaubBuzz Aldrin, & Mike Massimino. Monday a Cosmic Mug not only goes in the mail to Bill Nye, but also to Matt Mullenweg. He created WordPress, which not only runs my website, but 23% of the entire internet!

Our global vision is to reach a tipping point that causes pottery to enter the mainstream eye. Stayed tuned…

American Craft Council, “A Potter’s Journey: The Search for 1,000 True Fans”

This is the final post in, “A Potter’s Journey” for American Craft Council’s website. I’m so thankful for the opportunities they gave me to share the trials and tribulations from my roller coaster career as an emerging artist. Please consider supporting American Craft Council to help more artists build platforms for successful careers in the arts. Without further ado, part eight of A Potter’s Journey:

“A Potter’s Journey: The Search for 1,000 True Fans”

The Search for 1,000 True Fans, American Craft Council, Cherrico PottertyAn artist named Sebastian Schuster also wrote a great blog post about my pottery, which you can read here:

“On Making A Living”


An Emerging Artist’s Experiences with Art Festivals and Individual Sales: Are They Worth It?

During a time when soaring gas prices and economic hardships are commonly discussed across national media, what role do artists play by selling their handmade works? How much value do local, handmade objects hold in comparison to machine made, globally shipped goods? Should artists participate in art festivals and single day sales? Are these shows meant for crafts, fine art, or both? Are they profitable for the artists? I constantly ask these questions in regard to my own career.

It’s also important to note that my experiences reflect only shows that I am able to attend as an emerging artist, early in my career. While I have not been accepted to more prestigious art festivals and nationwide craft shows, my hope is that this post gives a bit of useful information to young artists who want to begin showing and selling their work publicly.

My short answer is yes! Absolutely these shows are worth it. Depending on the show, these events can provide low cost, low risk opportunities to generate short term cash and connect with new art lovers.

But when do they become too much work for the money generated? At what point do the comments like, “I like this, but $30 is too expensive” and “Well, do you have any in blue?” cause artists to stop attending shows?

In 3 different conversations with 50+ year old potters, they all said the same: “About 5-10 years ago, it was common for me to have a $1,000 day at an art festival, but not anymore!” Over the past 5 years (since my sophomore year in college) I’ve done over 50 different shows. I’ve never had a $1,000 day at an Art Festival.

My Experiences with Art Festivals and Individual Shows:

Most shows involve bringing my pottery, shelving and sometimes a wheel and clay to demonstrate and show/sell work for 1-3 days. The average space is 10′ x 10′ with booth fees ranging from free up to $425. Here are the types of shows that I’ve done, in no particular order:

  • 1-2 day Art Festivals, locally and across Minnesota and Iowa
  • Art crawls, gallery events, studio tours
  • Outdoor music festivals
  • Indoor theater productions, conventions, showcases and expos
  • Local farmers markets
  • Individual shows at site specific venues, like college campuses, wine shops, wedding reception halls, and home shows

Some shows are better than others, and it takes time and hard work to figure out which shows to pursue and which to avoid. Here is a selection of 10 different shows that have shaped my career. I’ve included helpful notes and sales figures:

  1. Market Monday: Sartell, MN farmer’s market. 19 individual shows since summer of 2012, alongside food vendors, often demonstrating with my pottery wheel. Cost: about $20 per day. Sales: low of $0, high of $550.
  2. Bo Diddley’s Show/Sale: St. Cloud, MN, indoors in a small restaurant, December of 2012, throwing demo, no other vendors. Cost: 4 free bowls for the owners. Sales: $35.
  3. Women’s Showcase: St. Cloud, MN, 1 day, large setup of my best pottery, next to other local businesses, no other individual artists. Cost: $80 (if I remember correctly) Sales: $61.50.
  4. Celebration of the Arts: Avon, MN, 2 days, large setup of my best pottery, with $5-10 cups and mugs, about 30 artists, 5-7 potters. Cost: $50. Sales: $677 in 2011, $652 in 2012.
  5. Millstream Arts Festival: St. Joseph, MN, 1 day, large setup of my best pottery, about 30-40 artists and musicians, 3-5 potters. Cost: $80. Sales: $794.36 in 2011, $241 in 2012.
  6. Backroads Pottery Tour: St. Joseph area, MN, 2 days, large setup of my best pottery, throwing demos, all potters, 2-3 at each venue, 5 venues. Cost: $50. Sales: $639.10 in 2011, $1,040 in 2012.
  7. Duluth Art in Bayfront Park: 2 days, large setup of my best pottery, about 30-40 artists and musicians, 3-5 potters, consider 3 days time and travel expenses to Duluth. Cost: $325 in 2011, $425 in 2012 (double booth, throwing demos). Sales: $1,648.24 in 2011, $1,163.25 in 2012.
  8. Pottery at First Avenue Wine House, 2012: 2 days in July, Cedar Rapids, IA, outdoors (HOT!) large setup of my best pottery, no other artists. Cost: no cost from the generous owners and family friends. Sales: $4,330.32
  9. Iowa Holiday Show/Sale, 2010: 1 day, late November, large setup of my best pottery, premier showing of my work right out of college, event hall for music shows and wedding receptions in Cedar Rapids, IA, called Gatherings, no other artists. Cost: $300. Sales: $4,339
  10. Iowa Holiday Show/Sale, 2011 & 2012: 2 days, large setup of my best pottery, in Marion, IA at a small coffee shop called Mr. Beans, in their small conference room, no other artists. Cost: 2 large serving bowls for the owners. Sales: $2,725.51 in 2011, $1,678.60 in 2012.

Important Takeaways: 

  • Sales can decrease in consecutive years, even if your artwork improves.
  • Sales around Christmas are not necessarily higher.
  • Throwing demonstrations do not seem to help or hurt sales.
  • Always consider your time, even if you don’t give it a dollar amount. If I sell less than $300 in a day then I probably won’t sign up for a show the next year.
  • I recommend experimenting with prices. Since January 2013, I’ve reduced my prices from $25 per mug and $85 per serving bowl to $10 per mug and $25 per serving bowl only at the Sartell Farmer’s Market. Sales have been over $500 at 4 monthly farmers markets so far, compared to a $309 high previously. I keep high prices at galleries, coffee shops, and my online store, and reserve these venues for my strongest pots. At the market, I bring my 2nds, 3rds and 4ths…I think that even if a pot has qualities that I don’t like, it has the potential to enrich someone else’s life. Customers seem to understand the “what you see is what you get” model of discounted prices only at certain shows and certain times in my career. 

There are lots of other ways to sell: online, through galleries, retail stores, whole sale, commission based, and creating innovative business models. It’s important to note that sales through my innovative business model developed for the Local Blend coffee shop have been higher than all art festivals and galleries combined, and equal to my individual shows and sales. I expect sales at Up Cafe in northeast Minneapolis to be equal or higher than the Local Blend sales in the coming months.

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My hope is that this post gives a bit of useful information for emerging artists that are one the fence about selling their work to the general public. Be open to all opportunities for showing your work, but I encourage all artists to develop innovative ways to show and sell. I’m convinced innovation brings the highest level of success.