Saturday, August 15, 2009


Just last week I listed this teapot on my Etsy page and posted the picture here

The cold hard realities of life rarely let me forget that I make pottery to make money to support my family (and the dogs and cats are endlessly thankful). But I'll bet you that if you could congregate all of the potters who, like me, run small, single potter shops, and asked them:

"So, is this pottery thing just a business? Are you in it for the money?"

....after we stopped laughing at the notion of " it for the money", we'd most likely answer that we're in it for the living. And even if we didn't make money from the pottery, we'd most likely still find a way to keep our hands in clay.

And that difference of perspective between the joy of clay and the necessity of business is also evident in the way I like to sell my pottery.

For over thirty years now, I've chosen to sell all of my pottery at art fairs. Sure, most of the reason for that is the fact that art fairs have always been the most cost effective way to market pottery. But an equally important part of that choice for me has been the face-to-face contact between me and the people who are choosing my pottery to take home with them.

That personal contact is both gratifying and educational. The feedback -- both positive and negative -- helps me improve my pottery in ways that less personal marketing could never do. And that personal contact helps to reconfirm that a livelihood chosen with something in mind besides simply "business" was a worthwhile choice.

And so it was that when trying to decide whether or not to venture into internet sales, the choice was not all that simple for me. I could see the sense of a market expanded into areas of the country to which I've never yet traveled (for art fairs). And last year when gas went over $4.50 a gallon, I could certainly see the wisdom of being on the road less.

But I wasn't sure how much I'd like the impersonal nature of the whole internet thing. It just struck me as odd to make such a hairpin turn down the marketing highway from personal contact to nothing more than words and pixels on a computer monitor.

But it hasn't been exactly as I expected. Though I never meet the people who now live with the pots I make, I do get feedback. I do hear what folks like and don't like in the pots. And I've come to know a few people across the country -- people that I'd never have otherwise met.

Through a paypal glitch caused by neither of us but requiring further communication, I had the pleasure of talking to and further "meeting" my best Etsy customer, Doreen. From that brief but friendly phone conversation I came away knowing that my pots were in a VERY good place, indeed.

And now (my long-winded introduction coming to a close) I've had the further pleasure of great "feedback" from a customer who found a very special way of showing me my pottery in its new setting.

Nancy McKay bought the teapot (pictured above). Nancy is a very talented photographer who graced me with more than just a written post thanking me for the pot. She added beautiful, artful photographs (below) of the teapot in its new home. I think I could grow to like this new internet marketing.

Thank you, Nancy!


  1. ...thank you for my new Wren Teapot...i'm enjoying a pot of earl grey as i type this...& thank you for this lovely IS fun & rather unexpected to "meet & befriend" talented artists such as yourself...and then have the honor to grace your blog...and...THANK YOU for connecting...not only through your stoneware but also in the way you see, feel, express & write...your blog is with your ceramics, it leaves me wanting...more...

  2. sometimes i thing the nice photo that nancy took is precisely the type of photo that works better on etsy instead of the sterile shots over a merged background like mine are.

  3. So far I've tried to do a little of both -- a little journalism and a little art. I try to make my representation as clear as possible. From a practical standpoint, above almost all other business considerations, I don't want to deal with returns. I figure if I make my photos as accurate as I can, I'll avoid that as much as possible.

    But I've also tried to show some things in their context -- more like a magazine than a catalogue (or maybe as a Williams Sonoma catalogue might present the things)

    And, of course, if I don't have five useful images, I use the dogs. That's just good dog sense.

    Nancy sent me images of a pin she bought earlier. I plan on using that when I start listing my pins again.

  4. John,
    I'm so happy to hear that sales by way of a means other than art fairs are working out for you. Gratified collectors who express this make it all worth while boxing thing to ship! We ship our work and our soul and they see that!
    Peace John!