Business ideas: Pottery

Thanks to the recent ceramics revival, “pottery mania” is gripping the nation, making 2016 the perfect time to launch your own pottery studio or classes…

Move over baking, in 2016 it’s all about pottery.

While BBC2’s Great British Pottery Throw Down may not yet have reached the same heights as the much-loved and now very well-established Great British Bake-Off, the commissioning of the show is just one of many indicators the nation is falling in love with ceramics all over again.

Pottery’s capital Stoke-on-Trent has seen substantial investment over the last couple of years – the Middleport factory where Throw Down is filmed was the subject of a £9m restoration from the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and more recently the World of Wedgwood reopened thanks to a £34m revamp.

So, how can you make the most of this pottery revival? Well, if you’ve got a creative flair and a passion for people, turn your hand to a pottery wheel in 2016 and start your very own pottery studio, where you can create, sell, teach earthenware skills and run a café on the site…

Starting a pottery company: Why it’s a good business idea

There’s no pretending the notion of a pottery-based business is particularly new or disruptive, but while some business ideas we share are centred on brand-new technologies, many represent an old trend becoming in-vogue once again.

And pottery is most certainly a shining example of the latter.

More than 150 years after the height of British ceramics production, and nearly 50 years since the pottery phenomenon that swept the 1970s, pottery is not only back with a bang but it’s becoming, dare we say it, cool.

The high street is once again rich with ceramic offerings. The hugely successful Emma Bridgewater brand boasts £17m annual turnover and thanks to the likes of Grayson Perry, coverage in Vogue and openings such as the Centre of Ceramic Art at York Art Gallery – not only are pottery sales up but appreciation has spread to fine art and fashion.

Back for the fourth time in November 2015, The British Ceramics Biennial is the perfect example of the nation’s renewed vigour for pottery. Barney Hare Duke, the artistic director behind the festival, told The Guardian “There is a revival of interest and a realisation that so much is going on across the board […] it is a reawakening, because pottery has never really gone away.”

Pottery-related business opportunities

The first, and most obvious opportunity, is to start your own pottery studio, where you can create, display and sell your own work.

As an interim measure, it’s easy enough to convert part of a garage, where a pottery kick wheel, tools, and a ceramic kiln will fit fairly easily, with some shelving providing space to keep your works cool and dry before you glaze and fire them.

According to handmade marketplace Etsy, ceramics was one of their top home trends last year, and while there are some big players in the market, like the aforementioned Emma Bridgewater, there’s still plenty of opportunity for boutique brands – especially thanks to marketplaces like Etsy and notonthehighstreet.com. If you’re keen to turn a hobby you’re passionate about into a viable business opportunity, this could be a great way to get started.

If you do want to hire a studio, they don’t come cheap, so to maximise the space and satisfy a clearly growing demand, offering some form of pottery classes as an add-on seems a sensible move.

Unlike baking which can be done easily from the comfort of your own kitchen, not many people will have a pottery kiln to hand so if they’re feeling inspired following Throw Down they’ll need somewhere to go.

Nelson Sivalingham, founder of lifestyle subscription marketplace Wonderush, says pottery classes were the most popular activity on the site in 2015. “Pottery is a great way to get creative whilst being hands on and it’s still something that most people haven’t tried. We’re encouraging more and more pottery enthusiasts to share their passion and teach others as there is definitely a demand for it.”

Additionally, following last year’s assertion that there’s a growing demand for cafes with a twist, you could even consider turning your studio into a part-café, like Northcote Road’s popular Battersea Pottery Café. This way you’ll have a number of potential revenue streams to help cover your costs.

Insider opinion

Rachel Byass has recently seen a huge uplift in her pottery business Fired Art Designs:

“Christmas sales of the Pottery Wheel Experience were up 500% this year. Since the programme [Throw Down], it seems to be on everyone’s bucket list,” she says.

Byass adds that many pottery studios are multi-faceted and believes it’s a good business opportunity:

“Today’s pottery studios and cafés are modern, in-vogue places to meet and have fun. Most sell add-ons such as their own finished pottery, baby hand and foot prints, gifts, cards, craft kits and coffee and cake. They’re quirky cafés where you can relax and create a masterpiece.

“Setting up costs of a pottery shop or a mobile business at home are also moderate. And you don’t have to be an artist or even have any pottery experience. A good business plan, two to three days intensive training along with people skills will make you your own pottery business owner in no time.”

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