Is There Money In Pottery?

Pottery is one of the oldest art forms, with evidence of pottery production dating back over 20,000 years. For most of human history, pottery was an essential craft necessary for storing, cooking and transporting goods. While pottery is no longer an absolute necessity today thanks to modern inventions, it remains a popular artform and potential career path for many.

In recent decades, interest in handmade ceramics and pottery has seen a resurgence. With this renewed popularity, more people are exploring pottery as a full-time or part-time career. However, succeeding as a professional potter requires dedication, skill, business savvy and a thorough understanding of the economic realities of the industry.

This article provides an overview of pottery as a profession in the 21st century. It examines the startup costs, ongoing expenses, income potential, and overall viability of pottery as either a hobby, part-time endeavor or full-time career.

Pottery as a Full-Time Career

For those who decide to pursue pottery as a full-time career, a typical day involves a mix of creative work and business operations. According to The Pottery Wheel, “A large part of a potter’s day involves running their pottery studio.” This could mean managing a rented studio space, or overseeing their own business premises.

The creative pottery work itself involves tasks like formulating clay, throwing and hand-building pieces, adding embellishments, and firing finished wares. But full-time potters also have to handle activities like marketing, bookkeeping, packing and shipping orders, sourcing clay and other supplies, and general studio upkeep and maintenance.

Many full-time potters sell their work through their own websites or galleries, at craft fairs and shows, or on sites like Etsy. They may offer classes or demonstrations as well. The specific day-to-day tasks can vary, but in general, full-time pottery involves a mix of business operations, creative work, and interacting with customers.

Part-Time and Hobby Pottery

Many people take up pottery as a hobby or part-time endeavor rather than as a full-time career. Pottery can be an enjoyable creative outlet and a way to produce beautiful functional items for personal use or as gifts. According to the Ceramic Arts Network Community forum, most potters make their primary income through other means and do pottery on the side

Part-time potters generally sell their work locally at arts and crafts fairs, farmers markets, and through online platforms like Etsy. Many find the costs of clay, glazes, equipment, and kiln firings manageable as a hobby they are passionate about. While supplemental income is possible, most hobby potters do not rely on pottery sales as their sole livelihood. Pottery as a side business allows for creativity and connecting with others who share a love of the craft.

Startup Costs

Starting a pottery studio requires significant upfront investment in equipment and materials. The largest expenses are usually the kiln and pottery wheel.

Electric kilns suitable for firing ceramics can cost $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the size and features. Gas kilns tend to be more expensive. According to Reddit users, a medium-sized electric kiln adequate for hobby use costs around $5,000 [1]. More advanced potters may want multiple kilns for bisque and glaze firing.

Quality pottery wheels range from $400 for beginner’s wheels up to $1,500 or more for professional models. Aspiring potters should budget at least $1,000 for a wheel with adequate power and stability for throwing pots [2].

Other essential tools and supplies like wedging tables, pottery tools, clay, glazes, and shelves can cost $500 to $2,000. Dedicated studio space, whether renting or building out a room, adds significantly to startup costs.

Ongoing Expenses

Running a pottery studio comes with regular ongoing costs that must be budgeted for in order to maintain profitability. Some of the major recurring expenses include:

Materials – Clay, glazes, tools, and other consumables represent a significant portion of ongoing costs. Most professional potters estimate spending $200-500 per month on materials.

Electricity – Operating electric pottery wheels and kilns consumes a lot of energy. Electric bills for pottery studios typically run $300-800 per month depending on usage.

Equipment Maintenance – Pottery equipment requires regular maintenance and occasional repairs which cost money. Budgeting $100-300 monthly for maintenance helps cover these unpredictable costs.

Rent – Those running a studio outside the home need to account for monthly rent payments. Rental rates vary greatly by location.

In addition to the major costs above, expenses like marketing, insurance, cleaning supplies, internet, etc. also add up. Careful tracking of expenses and adjusting business operations helps potters maintain profitability through lean operations.

Pricing and Marketing Your Pottery

Setting the right price for your pottery pieces is crucial but can be challenging. Many factors go into pricing handmade pottery including materials, time spent, expenses, artistic value, and what the local market will bear.

A common formula used is to calculate the cost of materials plus an hourly wage for your time plus overhead expenses, then double or triple that wholesale price to reach the full retail price. Your hourly wage should be reasonable based on skill level and local rates, often $15-$50 per hour. Most potters price work from $25 for small pieces up to hundreds for large sculptural works. Check prices of other local artists as a guide.

Potters have many options to sell their work including art shows, craft fairs, online shops like Etsy, consignment in local galleries and gift shops, open studio days, Pop-Up shops, and custom orders. Reach potential buyers by having a strong social media presence and professional website showcasing your best pieces. Offer promotions around holidays and consider collaborating with other local artists. Under pricing work can diminish perceived value, so have confidence that handmade pottery is worth a fair price.

Income Potential

The income potential for potters can vary greatly depending on several factors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for craft artists like potters was around $30,000 in 2021. However, salaries can range from less than $20,000 for hobbyists and part-timers to over $60,000 for experienced full-time potters with an established customer base.

Profit margins for finished pottery pieces typically range from 30-50%, but can be higher for very skilled artisans. Factors like the complexity and size of pieces, materials used, and uniqueness of the design play a role. Marketing and selling skills also impact income potential.

The top earning potters typically have 10+ years of experience, sell high volumes, and market themselves effectively. Well known pottery artists can earn six figures from commissions, teaching workshops, licensing deals, and selling their work in galleries and retail stores. But it takes time to build up the skills, reputation, and customer base to reach that level.

Building a Customer Base

Building a loyal customer base is crucial for any pottery business. There are several effective marketing strategies potters can use:

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow potters to easily share photos and videos of their work. Engaging with potential customers online helps build brand awareness and allows potters to directly interact with their audience. Using relevant hashtags and geo-tags can help expand reach. Potters can also run paid ads on social media to boost visibility (Expert Clay podcast).

Participating in local art and craft fairs, festivals, open studio events, and pop-up shops gives potters valuable face-to-face time with potential customers to showcase their work. Setting up an eye-catching booth display and having promotional print materials on hand can maximize sales at these events (Ways to Promote Pottery).

Asking happy customers to share photos of how they use and display purchased pieces provides authentic word-of-mouth marketing. Potters can repost these photos on their own social media pages to showcase their products in real home settings (Ways to Promote Pottery).

Collecting customer emails through a signup list or newsletter allows potters to maintain ongoing communication with patrons. Regular updates about new work, promotions, or studio events encourage repeat business.

Future Outlook

The future outlook for pottery careers seems positive. According to, the job outlook for manufacturing potters has been steadily increasing since 2004, with vacancies nationwide increasing by 9.81%.

Another report from Zippia states that potter jobs are in demand and projected to grow 6% from 2018 to 2028. This growth is likely driven by market trends like the popularity of handmade and locally produced crafts. As consumers continue to value unique, artisanal products, there should be growing opportunities for potters able to tap into this demand.

However, potters who rely solely on selling their work may face challenges as noted by Illinois WorkNet. Diversifying income streams through teaching classes or workshops could help mitigate this issue. Overall, the positive job growth forecasts point to an expanding market for qualified pottery professionals.


While pottery can be a rewarding career path for some, building a sustainable business solely around pottery can be challenging. The costs to get started are relatively low compared to other small businesses, but profit margins on finished pieces are often thin. Pricing work competitively while still earning a livable income is one of the biggest hurdles. Most professional potters supplement their income in some way, whether through teaching classes, selling at craft fairs, taking on commission work, or maintaining a separate full-time job.

However, with persistence and business savvy, some potters are able to be self-sustaining. They build up a loyal customer base for their work, focus on efficient production methods, and leverage opportunities like online sales and social media. Rather than aiming for high volume at low prices, they target specialty niche markets that appreciate quality craftsmanship. Over time, an artist can potentially earn a modest income from pottery alone by cultivating multiple income streams, controlling costs, and continuing to expand their reach and skills.

While pottery may be better suited as a part-time endeavor for many, those with dedication, ingenuity and good business sense can discover creative ways to generate income from their artform. With realistic expectations and some business acumen, pottery can become a fulfilling and viable career path.

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