A potter, or pottery maker, is a craft artist who uses their artistic talents to create pots, dishes, mugs, vases, and other types of artwork. Most potters 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. A potter can train for decades to become a true master of the art of making pottery; forever learning and improving their craft.
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 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 potter chooses depends on what they want the finished product to look and feel 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 the clay. After the piece has baked in the kiln, it is removed, painted, and then glazed.
Basic artistic ability is important, and can be further developed and refined over time and practice. Creativity is also important, as a professional artist must be able to constantly come up with new ideas that are interesting, appealing, and unique.
Along with making their works of art, self-employed potters must learn to sell their 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.
A potter must also be good with people, as there is a great deal of time spent interacting with potential customers, gallery owners, co-workers, and fellow artists. Having good interpersonal skills will help sell the potter's work to buyers, help them build relationships with those who can help to further their careers, and help to promote themselves and the art they create.
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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 at a college or university level requires an advanced degree in fine arts.