I started making pottery in junior high school when I accidentally fell into it as an elective arts course. My high school arts teacher was incredibly knowledgable and impactful and allowed me to come in during my free periods to continue expanding my curriculum. I learned many foundational skills in high school including working with colored clay, raku firing, integrating metal and glass with clay, and plaster molds. After high school, I took ceramic courses at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and at Santa Monica College.
I grew up as a child of immigrant Indian parents who came to the US like most immigrants – in search of opportunity and a better life for their children. I was taught that job and financial security was very important, and starting a business or being an artist is very risky. So instead of pursuing a career in the arts, I ended up in the non-profit sector working for public health and environmental organizations.
While working at an environmental non-profit, my partner got a job in a new city. We ended up moving to Austin, Texas, where he encouraged me to start my business and I began an apprenticeship under Jennifer Prichard, who does residential and commercial ceramic art installations. She was instrumental in helping me navigate working in a professional studio space and expanding what I had learned upon in school. I went from having 3-4 part time jobs to slowly building up my business to a point where I was able to sell to enough shops and boutiques that I could go full time for myself. I started by blind emailing shops I liked and asking to be in their store. I had a ton of rejections or no responses, but kept at it until I had enough shops that took a chance on me. And then we moved again!
The Bay Area brought many hard facts to light including how I could survive in such an expensive city doing pottery. I once again worked part time while working out of a studio in San Rafael. What allowed me to go full time was increasing my production output and selling to more and more shops across the nation. I was constantly working, even on the weekends and was trying to make as much money as possible to prove to myself that I could be a successful business.
After a year a half, we moved again to Long Beach, where we are now settled. I went from having a home studio, to a commercial warehouse studio, and now back to a home studio. COVID also brought many changes to my business - when my wholesalers had to close up shop and there were no shows to participate it, I went fully online selling directly to customers and I realized during this time I didn't want to expand in the way I thought I wanted to.
In all, my business path has changed many times over the past decade. What I love about running a pottery business is that there's something new to learn every day and I'm constantly growing and challenging myself. I've been very risk-adverse and have been very frugal about spending money. I first opened a bank account for my business with only $2,000 in it and told myself I wouldn't spend more than that. I bought my wheel and my first kiln used on Craigslist. After 3 years, I finally splurged on my L&L kiln when I felt like I absolutely needed it. I have partnered and expanded my ceramics and pottery community to have access to knowledge and equipment I wouldn't necessarily have otherwise.
I'd recommend making a business plan if you want to start a pottery business to set goals and see if your financials make sense for your situation. Reach out to the small business community in your city and see how others have had success or what they would do differently. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. I believe working together lifts us all up.