Friday, August 19, 2011

Math is Tough



Sometimes I agree with Teen Talk Barbie: math is hard. Or not so much hard as immutable, inexorable, and scary. In fact I didn't even do the math, except in a most general way, before I quit my job, because if I had I am certain I would have been intimidated out of taking the step. Sometimes it's necessary to burn the boats.

But now the boats are smoking hulks, and I need to make my new situation work. So I figured out how much, in clay & glaze materials & propane, each firing cycle costs, how many firings I can do per month, and how much income I need to replace.

Skipping all the overly personal stuff about what my precise income needs to be, I determined that I need to take $1100, wholesale, of salable ware out of each kiln load. My last load added up to about $750, or would have if everything had been salable, which it wasn't and it never is. We have a gap of about $400 between ought and is. I am at this time selling every single item that comes out of the kiln: for the last 3 or 4 firings, every single piece has already had a destination - a sold destination - when I loaded it.

First thing I notice: I need to charge more for the big pieces, big bowls and platters especially. They have a high failure rate and they occupy kiln space inefficiently; I can make twice as much, or more, money from a shelf full of mugs as I can a shelf full to serving bowls. Bowls are also magnets for little bits of debris that would bounce off a casserole or mostly likely miss a mug altogether. But I can't change that yet, since I am filling orders the prices of which are already set.
What I can change: I just purchased (from Ebay) some kiln shelves that fit my space better. I was still using the old shelves from my old kiln, because I couldn't afford all new furniture on top of the expense of kiln building. But these were a bargain & will increase the two layers on which I can use them by about $100 each. So there's half the problem solved.

I also need a few new stilts; I need some 6 inchers, I've only got soaps & half soaps, and not many of the halves. I also have a few bits of broken kin shelves to act as spacers. I've got about one million soaps, so I don't even have to buy brick, I jist need to get down to INFAB in Lewiston and get tehn to cut my brick. I think I can fit another layer in, doing that; that's around $100 depending on what is on the layer. So that's 3/4 of the problem, also for short money.

Which leaves a $100 gap. I have a couple of ideas - miniatures? - and of course there's always the ol' price increase option. I could also try to replace some of the income through classes & workshops, which seems like cheating, somehow, but whatever works. I am stone out of things to cut back on, so increased frugality is not an option.

Anyway. This is just the beginning of the math process, so I am sure other ideas will occur to me. I wonder: do other potters do this, or is it more seat-of-the-pants?

I am not tempermantally well-suited to seat-of-the-pants.

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