search  current discussion  categories  forms - misc 

mugs and work and optimizing freedom

updated tue 28 mar 00


elizabeth priddy on thu 23 mar 00

The pottery company where I threw production
made a load of money and did in fact wholesale
the mugs for 2.50. They also wholesaled the
pitchers for 7.50. The pitcher and the mug
only differed in size and work making by about one pound of clay. They couldn't
as many per box or kiln either. But that
difference didn't make the extra five bucks per.

The difference in the five bucks was in the
mind of the consumer via the retail purchaser.
The mugs were profot-loss leaders, close to
cost and included in $50,000 orders (I am not
exaggerating this figure). The customer bought
the mugs to go with the pitcher. The overhead
on the building etc. were all distributed over
all of the ware produced, not just the mugs. The
mugs produced money for them or they would not
have paid me to throw 100-125 of them per day.
(And I probably couldn't throw over 30 in an
hour if I had not had that job, btw, that is
one good way to cut the extraneous activity
out of your throwing...)

The $5 per hour worker (not turners, and not the owners of the business) put the
once dipped them and dry footed them. It is
all about production design, whether this way
of making and producing work for specific costs
will work for you (or not).

Most people do a lot of work that a rational
decision would dictate be performed by cheap
hired help, even if you only hire that unskilled
labor to come and help you one or two days a
week for cash. High school kids would much
rather work for a potter than flipping burgers
and $6 bucks is $6. You don't have to be as
industrial as the place I worked to farm some
of it out and I bet that is what Warren McKenzie
does. I will bet you one new gold plated dollar
(if I can ever get my hands on one) that Mr.
McKenzie does not make a habit of hauling clay,
packing boxes, waxing feet, and any other
activity that he is not specificly interested
in performing. If he doesn't enjoy it, he
probably doesn't do it.

If you work smart, you will only be doing the
work you love. I teach. I teach kids. It
cuts into my earning potential and that is ok.
I also am not interested in mass production and
selling right now. That also is a decision that
I have made that cuts into the money making
aspect of work. But if I needed to hump my ass
out there and make the money I want to have, I
could and I could do it without wasting my time
or working for someone else doing THEIR thing.
That knowledge gives me peace of mind and allows
me the freedom to do what I want.

I could move into a higher tax bracket tomorrow
if that is how I wanted to spend my time. All
of us could, potters are people with options.
We all have to make choices and one can be to
break your back doing work that you are
over-qualified for. But don't complain about
it as if it is a burden pressed upon you, you
pick the loads you carry, whether you
acknowledge it or not. I think Mr. McKenzie
has picked a great one.

And a little detail from above: BEING a potter
or a baker, or a wall street typhoon is not a
rational decision, it is subjective and not
something anyone else can do for you. As is
the type of potter you are. These decisions
are so personal, that they are barely worth
discussing, much less debating.

Elizabeth Priddy

(in the process of re-working my business plan
to accomodate the back-surgery I had three years ago and that I am healed as far
have to retool your whole freaking life and even
that is a joy when it is up to YOU instead of
someone else's decision! Pleased as punch that
I decided to optimize my freedom at a very young

Clay: 12,000 yrs and still fresh!

On Wed, 22 Mar 2000 13:19:38 Ray Aldridge wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>With all due respect to Elizabeth, because I have great respect for her
>views, and even though I'm pretty cautious about making absolute
>statements, I'll say flatly there are no American potters who can wholesale
>their own mugs at $2.50 and make a living wage.
>If I recall, Elizabeth's figures were based on being able to throw, handle,
>glaze and fire 60 mugs in an 8 hour day. Perhaps I've misunderstood her,
>but she left out many of the costs associated with making those mugs. The
>only cost she mentioned was the cost of clay. But there are also the costs
>of glaze and firing, as well as the capital costs of the equipment used.
>If we say that those costs amount to .75 per mug, then our pay rate has
>dropped to about $13/hour. Not bad, you say? She also didn't add the
>overhead costs of running a studio-- rent, utilities, insurance, printed
>materials, regulatory costs (licenses, etc.) cost of buying and running a
>vehicle, etc. Let's say we're very frugal and those costs only amount to
>$20 a working day. Now we're down to a little more than $10/hour.
>But there are many other things a potter running an independent studio is
>required to do besides making pots. Clay has to be moved in and prepared,
>glazes have to be developed and mixed, the floor has to be mopped,
>equipment and studio have to be kept in good repair, and so on. I just
>spent a couple days building racks for a new booth. I estimate that for
>every hour spent in production, I spend at least a half hour doing other
>things that need to be done. Now we're down to $7.
>Still possible, you say-- a hard life but a satisfying one? Sadly, it gets
>worse. One major cost Elizabeth didn't mention is the cost of selling
>those 60 mugs. Even if you have folks lined up outside your door waiting
>to take them as they come out of the kiln, it still takes time to talk to
>customers, pack pots for transport, do the paperwork, etc. If we figure
>two hours to sell 60 mugs, then our hourly pay has dropped to $6. And
>remember that as independent business people, we have to take care of our
>own health insurance and retirement, and pay taxes on that tiny smidgeon of
>money, including self-employment taxes, which at least burger flippers
>don't have to pay....
>It's just not possible to live and support a family on that kind of money.
>I don't care if your name is John Henry, you ain't gonna beat that steam
>engine down. We can't compete with factories on price-- that's why the
>potters of yore went out of business when factories began producing
>domestic ware. It wasn't because they weren't skilled potters, because
>they could make a lot more than 60 mugs a day.
>So we have to compete on some other basis than price.
>At 09:08 AM 3/20/00 EST, Elizabeth wrote:
>>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>>We are not using the smae terminology. I was
>>referring to the price of the clay itself, not
>>the clay article. Oddly enough, it comes out
>>about right acording to your formula. As the
>>price wholesale for the mug I came to was about
>>two dollars and 50 cents. And my clay weight
>>is just shy of a pound, your two dollars, plus
>>the fifty cent handle, so about $2.50!
>>Elizabeth Priddy
>>Clay: 12,000 yrs and still fresh!
>>On Sun, 19 Mar 2000 11:41:12 Marcia Selsor wrote:
>>>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>>>I remeber 27 or so years ago there was an article by a potter who said
>>>he priced pieces starting at $2/pound wet then added .50 per handle or
>>>.27/pound is a huge drop comparatively speaking for 25 years later.
>>>elizabeth priddy wrote:
>>>> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>>>> The standard price for clay is about 27 cents
>>>> per pound before shipping, and I make mugs with
>>>> 3/4 of a pound, no trimming on the feet for
>>>> mugs, just a perfect flat bottom due to my
>>>> tile bat system.
>>>> Roughly a quarter or a little
>>>> less, depending on how I got the clay
>>>> to my studio/shipping.
>>>> I won't say where I buy it as my current
>>>> supplier is a louse and I am about to switch,
>>>> but the catalog price on the clay I am
>>>> sampling is also in the range of 27 cents per
>>>> pound at the ton quantity, which is how I buy
>>>> it.
>>>> By the same calculation of cost, assume that
>>>> the clay cost is twice that, 50 cents per; the
>>>> cost of a mug is not significantly changed as
>>>> that plays into that extra 2 bucks I factored
>>>> in for fiddling with it.
>>>> Mugs are loss leaders, in retail terms, to me.
>>>> As Mel indicated, they bring you customers,
>>>> your other stock keeps them and makes the
>>>> profit.
>>>> ---
>>>> Elizabeth Priddy
>>>> email:
>>>> Clay: 12,000 yrs and still fresh!
>>>> On Wed, 15 Mar 2000 14:48:52 Terrance Lazaroff wrote:
>>>> >----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>>>> >In a message dated 3/14/00 2:18:58 PM Eastern Standard Time,
>>>> > writes:
>>>> >
>>>> ><< Elizabeth >>
>>>> >Where do you buy your clay. I take it you use a pound of clay per mug.
>>>> >Where can you find a pound of clay for 25 cents?
>>>> >
>>>> >Terrance F. Lazaroff
>>>> >St Hubert, Quebec.
>>>> >
>>>> --== Sent via ==--
>>>> Share what you know. Learn what you don't.
>>>Marcia Selsor
>>--== Sent via ==--
>>Share what you know. Learn what you don't.
>Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware

--== Sent via ==--
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Ray Aldridge on mon 27 mar 00

At 06:19 PM 3/23/00 EST, Elizabeth wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>The pottery company where I threw production
>made a load of money and did in fact wholesale
>the mugs for 2.50.

>The mugs were profot-loss leaders, close to
>cost and included in $50,000 orders (I am not
>exaggerating this figure).


After I wrote:

>>With all due respect to Elizabeth, because I have great respect for her
>>views, and even though I'm pretty cautious about making absolute
>>statements, I'll say flatly there are no American potters who can wholesale
>>their own mugs at $2.50 and make a living wage.

I'm glad Elizabeth agrees with me. An individual potter who isn't taking
$50,000 orders probably can't afford to make very many loss leaders.


Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware