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.
Lori Keenan Watts (aka me) is a potter, gardener, and avid reader from Augusta, Maine. Though I started my university education in surface design for fabric, clay quickly grabbed me by the heart and redirected my creative impulses. I have been a potter for over 25 years -- hard to believe. The most valuable years of my ceramic education were spent in graduate study at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, under the tutalage of Dan Anderson and Paul Dresang.
My aesthetic is guided by my love of the material itself. What fascinates me and makes a pot compelling for me is the clay-ness of clay: the squooshiness that becomes the adamantine solidity. I also like patterns, unexpected proportions, and when the flame comes along and dissolves part of my careful decorating efforts! I am obstinate about this aesthetic, to a point which might be called pig-headed, but hey, if you don't like what you make, why bother?
My happy little family also includes my husband, musician and photographer (and author of the book Alewife) Doug Watts; five cats; and a turtle, all foundlings and rescues of one stripe or another.