The Artist Roadmap

The Tale Of Two Potters

Potter making ceramics.

When I was at art school, I spent a summer working in an art cafe, which was a small gallery space combined with an eating area. 

I loved being there as I got to interact with the artists, help them sell their work, observe what sold, as well as serving food and drinks to art lovers.

There were a number of painters, illustrators, potters, printers and photographers there, but one observation of the way two potters worked stayed with me.

One particular potter had been a ceramic artist all his life, his work was technically brilliant and you couldn't fault it.

The other potter was a novice, learning his craft for the first time after switching from a career in teaching. His work was raw, rough around the edges, but had a certain charm.

Now if you'd asked me which potter was the more successful in terms of sales, you would expect me to say the potter who had spent a lifetime perfecting his craft. However, it was not so, and was in fact the other way around.

This baffled me as a young artist, and I was determined to find out why. I watched people come in, fall in love with the younger potter's work and buy it on the spot. Whereas the older potter's work rarely sold. 

I listened to people talk about what they loved about the work they bought and finally worked out what was happening. It seemed to boil down to two things - colour and practicality. The younger potter had chosen popular colours, very minimal design with touches of turquoise and sea green. People loved these colours. The older potter used purple, reds and blacks, colours that were now quite dated and not seen in many people's homes. 

The younger potter also made items that people could use, such as mugs, plates, bowls and jugs. The older potter's work was more decorative than practical. I saw people buy the mugs and bowls as gifts often.

Of course there was price to consider too - the younger potter acknowledged he was still learning and relatively new to this, so his prices were affordable. The older potter had much higher prices and these were elevated further alongside the younger potter's work.

It was interesting to observe, as the older potter was well known and sold his work through galleries, and his work though technically brilliant, was created using glazes that weren't as popular anymore. The simplicity, practicality and popular colours of the younger potter's work made it fly off the shelves like hot cakes.

I think as artists we need to be aware of trends in terms of colours and styling, depending on what you create. Although the work must first and foremost come from us, it can't hurt though to see what's out there and what your audience respond to. This can be used as a useful tool to tweak the work we want to make and see more success as a result.



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