A potter, or pottery maker, is a craft artist who uses their artistic talents to create pots, dishes, vases, and other types of artwork. Most create functional pieces that are meant to be put to everyday use. However, they can also create pieces that are decorative, and meant to be appreciated purely as works of art.
The history of pottery is a long one, going back to prehistoric times. Thanks to its strength and durability, pottery can survive for thousands of years, and archeologists often use these surviving pieces to study past cultures.
A potter can train for decades to become a true master of the art of making pottery. But, even then, these artists never stop learning and improving.
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A potter uses clay to create works of art. There are a wide variety of clays to choose from, each with their own unique properties. The clay a pottery maker chooses depends on what they want the finished product to be like.
Many different tools are used in this profession, including carving tools, molds, pottery wheels, and kilns.
After molding clay into a desired shape, the pottery maker places it in a kiln, a specialized oven that dries and hardens clay. After the piece has baked in the kiln, it is removed, painted, and then glazed.
Along with making their works of art, self-employed potters must learn to sell those pieces to consumers. They do this by opening their own store fronts, selling their work through consignment shops and craft fairs, and displaying their pieces at art galleries. Learning to promote themselves and their art is an important skill for these artists. Their level of success depends on their ability to build a reputation in their field.
An individual doesn't need a formal education or a degree in order to be a successful potter, especially if they are self-employed. However, many seek a formal education in order to learn new skills, improve existing skills, or increase their job prospects.
Potters looking for training have many options. Many take informal, non-credit pottery classes and workshops given by pottery studios, art centers, craft fairs, high schools, and community colleges. A class or workshop can last anywhere from a day or two to several months. Most classes or workshops focus on individuals at a specific skill level, be it beginner, intermediate or advanced
Some also pursue a formal education. To earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ceramics, an individual must complete a 4-year program at an accredited college or university.
An apprenticeship is another way to train as a pottery maker. An apprentice works with an experienced master potter, who will teach them not only about pottery making, but also about the business aspects of being a craft artist. Apprenticeships can last for up to 3 years.
There are many characteristics that can help an individual find success as a pottery maker. Chief among them is basic artistic ability, which can be developed and refined over time. Creativity is another important trait. A professional artist must be able to constantly come up with ideas that are interesting, appealing, or unique. And, because they must work with their hands, they must have a great deal of manual dexterity.
A pottery maker must also be good with people. These artists spend a great deal of their time interacting with potential customers, gallery owners, coworkers, and fellow artists. Having good interpersonal skills will help them sell their work to buyers. It will help them build relationships with those who can help to further their careers.
Sales and marketing skills are also important. A craft artist has to be able to promote themselves and the art they create. They must also learn to judge what kind of pottery the public might be interested in buying at any given time.
Many potters are self-employed, and can usually set their own hours. They make money by selling their works to individuals via art galleries, craft fairs, and personal studio show rooms. Some also sell their wares online.
Typically, self-employed pottery makers have an art studio in which they do their work.
Besides self-employment, there are other employment options. Many work as instructors, teaching pottery making classes and workshops in schools, colleges, or private settings. Some work for various private sector industries, like pottery manufacturers. Pottery makers, especially those with some type of formal education, can also work in art galleries, art museums and art foundations.
Many craft artists teach art to others. In order to teach art in an elementary or secondary school, an individual must usually have a teaching certificate and a bachelor's degree. Teaching in a college or university requires an advanced degree in fine arts.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salary for a craft artist, as of May 2010, was $26,930. Craft artists that worked for industries that sold pottery and ceramics reportedly made an average of $40,700 per year.
The median hourly wage for craft artists, including potters, is about $12.95 per hour. However, it's possible for a pottery maker to earn a great deal more than that as they build a reputation and become more established in their field.