Careers in Pottery

Explore the types of jobs you could pursue in pottery. Read about education requirements, potential salary and the job outlook to see if this is the right career choice for you. Schools offering Ceramics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Potter?

Potters design and shape dishware, vases and other decorative items from clay using a potter's wheel and other special equipment. They also paint and glaze clay works to give them a hardened, professional finish. Some potters work in their own independent studios, while others work for companies and hand-produce pieces according to predetermined specifications. They must be familiar with how to operate a variety of different equipment and various artistic techniques. Depending on if they work alone, they may also be in need of some general business and record-keeping skills. The following chart gives you an overview of several career options in pottery.

Craft Artist Potter Self-Enrichment Education Teacher
Education RequiredBachelor's degree helpful Vocational training, Associate's degree helpful Associate's degree
Field of Study Ceramics, fine arts Ceramics, fine arts Ceramics, arts education helpful
Key Skills Creativity, color and design, manual dexterity Critical thinking, attention to detail, manual dexterity, consistency Communication, leadership, organization
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all craft artists)* -2% (for all potters in manufacturing)* 14% or higher*
Median Salary (2014) $30,720* $29,930*$36,680*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Do I Need To Be a Potter?

While formal education is not necessarily a prerequisite to working as a professional artist, many individuals elect to pursue post-secondary education. A 4-year bachelor's degree program in ceramics should allow you to build necessary pottery skills and create pieces in a studio setting. Most major universities, and many private arts schools, offer fine arts degrees with specializations in ceramics.

Your studies will likely include a core curriculum, as well as art history and critique. You will also invest considerable time in studio projects working in your chosen specialty. You may also be required to assemble a collection of your work that demonstrates your development as an artist and showcases the techniques, themes and quality of your pieces.

What Sort of Skills Will I Need?

As a potter, you should have a strong willingness to work with your hands. Because you will often craft pieces in three dimensions, you should also have a sense of space and proportion. Finally, patience and a love of the art will be assets to an aspiring potter.

Will I Need Any Materials?

Pottery does require some investment. Most potters require a potter's wheel, or a rotating tool that aids in the formation of various types of pottery. In addition, you will need access to a specialized furnace, known as a kiln, to harden your pieces. You will also need an appropriate work space that can handle some messiness and will allow you to store your tools, as you will be working with clay and other materials that require mixing.

Due to the many operating costs and specialized items necessary to working as a potter, many choose to rent out space in local workshops. Nevertheless, potters also convert spaces in their homes, like garages, to studios.

Where Can I Work?

Many potters are independent artists that supplement their income with separate employment or by taking up various functions within the art community, such as teaching ceramics part-time. You may sell your pieces in galleries or through merchants. You may also take work by commission by crafting dishes for local businesses or individuals interested in your artwork.

There will be significant competition for exposure in art galleries, and income from selling artwork may vary. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary of craft artists, including potters, was $30,720 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You could also seek a job as an industrial designer. This position, which requires a bachelor's degree, involves developing designs and plans for various types of manufactured products, such as toys and appliances. The industrial designer must think of how a consumer would use the item, how it should look and feel, and how much money it would cost to make. You could also become a multimedia artist or animator with a bachelor's degree. These creative professionals create the animation and visuals for movies and commercials. Another option is a job as a jeweler and precious stone worker, which requires a high school diploma. These professionals work with precious stones, appraising their value and using them to make jewelry.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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