My Accidental Conversation with a World Famous Potter


Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend! I have been looking to find a custom pottery joint for a personal project for a while now, so what did I do yesterday?
I called up some potters.
For most of these places, there was a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of like 500 or something which was too much for me, besides I only wanted one.
But I finally found a janky looking website without an MOQ advertised, I gave them a call. When I say janky, I mean this:

Come to find out about 45 minutes later, I was on the phone with a world-renowned potter.

Here’s what we talked about:

First, I gave him the lowdown on what it was I was looking for: just one custom piece. Simple as that.
He immediately said he didn’t have the capacity and that he charged over $250 an hour, so he wasn’t the guy I was looking for. I was surprised thinking to myself “all that for a mom-and-pop shop?”
Then he got to the line that made me laugh, he said “Look, I’m 67, it’s 9 in the morning, and I’m sitting on the porch with a coffee in my hand with nothing better to do. So, let’s chat.”
In 5 minutes, he gave me more information on how to just do this myself than I could’ve found from hours of Googling. He knew the ins and outs of ceramics like nobody I’ve talked to (I don’t talk to potters often though).
I was enjoying the conversation enough to keep prodding.
Me: “If you’re so strapped for capacity, why haven’t you thought of increasing your space and hire people.”
Him: “I just do this for fun, this isn’t my job. I worked in tech for 25 years and just retired, pottery is my hobby, but it’s been cool to see how successful my website is getting.”
Me: “How many monthly visitors are you getting.” (at this point, I was thinking that maybe I could offer to revamp his site to look better for some $$)
Him: “We’re getting around 2.7 monthly visitors”
Yep, 2.7 million visitors to that janky looking site a month. This was a frame breaker for me. If I got 2.7 million visitors to over the course of my life I would be happy.
Me: “Uh, what? Where is all that traffic coming from.”
Him: “Well I was early on YouTube, so that drove traffic”
Me: “That’s driving ALL the traffic?”
Him: “Well I also have a few pieces in the MET and have made some items for President Biden for personal use, and to gift to foreign Prime Ministers.”

Me: “There it is. How much do you charge for that kind of piece?”
Him: “The one for the Japanese Prime minister was $90k.”
Blah, blah, blah.
Anyways, by the end of the conversation I somehow had 5 lbs of 181 Stoneware Clay being sent to my house, in return for me to send him what I make with it.


My takeaways


After the buzz wore off, these are the takeaways I landed on:

  • It never hurts to pick up the phone and ask
  • Hobbies/passion make for the best businesses
  • People are more willing to help than you think
  • Don’t judge a book (website) by it’s cover
  • Generosity rocks
  • Become a potter

from, matt

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