How to Start a Ceramics Business

by Kay Tang; Updated September 26, 2017
Shelves with ceramic dishware

If you have the creative talent to produce original ceramics, you can start a pottery business in your home. The market has few entry barriers and start-up costs can be kept to a minimum. However, after you've saturated your circles of friends and relatives with pottery, you'll need to step forth into a competitive market. By keeping your production process simple and efficient and by marketing in a smart way, you can grow a profitable ceramics business.

Research Before the Leap

Assess the expectations of the market you're targeting before you leap into it. On the one hand, if you're selling handmade wares, you're looking at a small niche of potential customers. On the other hand, targeting the market for functional ceramics, you'll be contending with mass-produced pottery. You need to determine if people will actually buy your expensive hand-crafted soup bowl or head to a retail store to purchase a machine-made bowl. Balance these considerations with the products you're passionate about making. Take the time to research and identify the market that suits your product line. In general, many potters will produce "guaranteed-income" ware to pay the bills and then make pottery that expresses their aesthetics, according to the website Ceramic Industry.

Streamline Product Lines

Instead of creating many product lines with a fixed price range, create a limited product line with a wide price range to balance sales opportunities. If you want to expand a product line, make different types of objects within that line, such as goblets, plates or bowls. Customers tend to look for sets, not individual pieces. A full dinnerware set -- soup or salad plate, dinner plate, lunch plate and cup -- can dramatically boost sales. Avoid time-consuming traps, such as custom orders for individual pieces or making replacement items. It's impossible to replicate another potter's techniques. In addition, rely on reputable suppliers that provide reliable customer service. If your supplier delivers a bad batch of glaze or clay, monitor how the problem is resolved. If it's not to your satisfaction, find another supplier.

Simplify the Production Process

To maintain consistency and minimize defects, simplify your production process. Keep glaze and clay body formulas simple, rounding off formula numbers. For example, if you're using 45.2 percent flint in a glaze, just use 45 percent, advises Ceramic Industry. Certain ingredients, such as dyes, coloring oxides, stains, binds and suspension agents, require that you use the exact amount. Even tiny changes in the cobalt oxide used can produce very different results. Situate your equipment for efficient production, such as putting your clay near the wedging table. Then, put the table next to the pottery wheel. In comparison to fossil-fueled kilns, electric kilns tend to produce more consistent results and you don't have to consider innumerable fuel and air mixtures.

Market and Sell Smart

You can sell your ceramics to retailers as a wholesaler or on a consignment basis. In addition, you can rent a booth at craft shows and trade fairs. One of the most effective routes to market and sell your wares is to invite customers to a kiln opening at your studio. In a festive atmosphere, customers can buy warm pots emerging straight from your kiln. The less handling, the fewer broken pieces. Develop an e-commerce website for your ceramics or online storefront on an arts and crafts marketplace, such as Etsy or ArtFire. While many potters tend to shy away from digital technology, managing an online shop is a cost-effective way to dramatically extend your reach and boost the sales of your ceramics.

About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.

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