[Clayart] About a marketing plan

Vince Pitelka vpitelka at dtccom.net
Sun Jan 8 10:42:52 EST 2017


I may have told this story before.  When I was working as a mechanic for the City of Arcata, CA and wanted to set up my first home studio and build a kiln around 1974, a small group of potters with a studio in Freshwater, just inland from Eureka, decided to upscale to cottage industry in a pretty big way.  Gary was a master mold-maker, and Beth was a fine potter.  They needed larger facilities, and secured a building in McKinleyville, CA.  I met them when I bought a lot of used firebrick from their studio in Freshwater.  So, they started Overland Stoneware, specializing in coffee and tea accessories including mugs, teapots, coffee pots, coffee filter holders, cream and sugar, etc.  They expanded really quick, put in a full production recirculating slip-casting operation, and a couple of big car kilns.  Beth made the originals, Gary made the master molds, and they hired a lot of locals to help with the labor.  In no time they were going great guns, selling at gift shows and kitchen shows.  But then something went wrong, and I do not know the details.  As their production and sales were soaring, they seem to have lost interest in the creative side of things, and that is death for any business, no matter how large or small.  They never designed new forms and surfaces to expand or evolve their product line and keep their customers interested.  Their products saturated the market, moving outwards in concentric circles from point of origin, until there was no market left.  I was scaling up my studio when they went out of business, and I bought some equipment at their close-out sales.  

I was very sorry to see them go, but learned a valuable lesson that has been reinforced through my own studio experience and that of other craftspeople I have observed over the years.  Anyone setting out to be a professional craftsperson needs to evaluate potential markets, choose ones that are realistically accessible and personally satisfying, diligently create work for that market, but constantly evolve and develop as an artist.  Tat might involve seeking new markets appropriate to that evolution and development.  Some potters find a good market and remain devoted to that clientele as their work evolves and changes through their career.  With others, the work changes so much that they must seek a different market.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft
Tennessee Tech University
vpitelka at dtccom.net  
https://sites.tntech.edu/wpitelka/






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