Should a Potter Create a Brand?

So you are a potter or ceramic artist… Should you create a “brand” for your pottery?

If you are like I was, you are probably thinking:

I’ll let the work speak for itself…” or

Brands are big companies…” or

“I just want to make pots!

And there is a chance that you’ll be just fine even if your “brand” never gets another thought. But… what if you want to attract the people that are really interested in you and your work? What if you want to clearly communicate the unique things that are important to you? What if you want to make stronger connections to current and potential customers?

Then you may have to start thinking about your brand.

What is a Brand?

A lot of people aren’t exactly sure what “brand” means. Some people think a brand is a logo. And you can’t blame them since originally, a “brand” was an image burned into something to let everyone know who owned it.

So you may be thinking, “That’s perfect, I stamp every pot I make with my own mark to show that I made it!” Some people add their signature instead. And that is a good start. But think about this: would somebody know you made a pot if it didn’t have your mark or signature?

pottery stamp

Here’s an even better question: could a potter have a strong brand without signing or stamping their pots? And inversely, could a potter that marks or signs each pot have a weak or nonexistent brand?

Yes, and yes.

Now days a brand is a whole lot more than the logo or mark. Going back to the origins of branding, some people focus too much on the visual part. The important part is that the brand is supposed to mean something. Branding is all about creating meaning. The meaning is what will attract and connect with people.

brand connection

There is still some gray area. The word “brand” can refer to multiple things. You may think of companies, product lines, or products. The word can be both a noun and a verb. But for the sake of this article, we will think of a “brand” as the meaning that people get from you, your business, or your pottery. Let’s think about an example of a mug.

The Meaning of a Mug

Brands (or companies) offer different kinds of meaning that people can connect to. Think about some of the reasons someone would buy a mug.

Basic Function

On the most basic level you need something to get a hot liquid to your mouth instead of using your hands or drinking right from the coffee pot. But if that is the only reason you have for buying a mug you can go get one at Walmart for about $2. Some people will only connect with this meaning of basic function or convenience. And that is just fine. These are not the kind of people we are trying to attract to our handmade pots.

boring mug

Supporting a Cause

You could also buy a mug to support a cause. Maybe your local food bank is having a fundraiser or a company will donate clean water to people that need it when you buy their mass produced mug. These are good reasons to do something but what happens to the mug? It probably gets lost in the back of the cupboard because the meaning in this transaction comes from helping someone. Not necessarily because you like the mug.

This kind of meaning can be a nice attraction for some people but it shouldn’t be the ONLY attraction if you are selling handmade mugs. It works better if someone buys a mug because they like the mug AND they know they are supporting a good cause.

Attraction to the Mug

The best reason for someone to buy a mug that you’ve made is because they like the mug! There is something that they connect to or attracts them to your unique handmade mug. Purchasing your mug not only validates your work and you as a creator, it also shows that there is something about your mug that people can connect to. And, since you are putting part of you into your handmade pots, they are also connecting to something about you.

Branding for Potters

For potters, ceramic artists, even designers and artists the meaning we are trying to create is a connection to the actual creation. This connection is often based on emotion or feeling. What does a customer or potential customer feel when they see your pot… touch your pot… use your pot?

how do you feel about pottery?

The specific feelings are what connects people to your work! That is what you need to emphasize to make a stronger connection and attract the right kind of people. If you can consistently deliver these specific feelings when someone comes into contact with your work and your business there is a better chance those people become not just customers, but fans of your “brand” for life. Creating a brand is simply emphasizing specific feelings and connections.

What If I Don’t Create a Brand?

What if you think this is all just a bunch of fluff and decide not to actively create a brand for your pottery? Well… that depends. Some people just seem to naturally create things that consistently evoke specific feelings and connections. And if you make nice pots you’ll probably eventually find people to buy them.

But for most of us, it isn’t easy. If you don’t start to create a brand yourself, it will be left to chance. Potential customers will be left to think, maybe even guess, what meaning they should get from your pottery. They may be getting mixed messages and when there is confusion, there are a lot less sales. Creating a brand is simply shaping what another person thinks or feels about you and your work.

So, Yes, a Potter Should Create a Brand

It may sound a little strange because of what the word “brand” has come to mean to many of us. I think of huge companies, or worldwide product lines. Or going to the grocery store and seeing 642 different “brands” of toothpaste. But if you think about it, all those different companies are just trying to stand out from all the rest. They are trying to emphasize the things that will help them get noticed by the people that are most likely to connect with their products. As potters that are selling pots, aren’t we trying to do the same thing?

Remember, we are just emphasizing specific connections and feelings to consistently attract the kind of people that will buy your pots. So the real question is: Why wouldn’t a potter create a brand for their pottery?

How to Create a Brand for Your Pottery

We are offering the Branding Crash Course made specifically for potters and ceramic artists. See the course!

It covers all the basics of finding and emphasizing the meaning in your work so people can find and connect to you and your work.

Branding Crash Course Title image

If you aren’t quite ready for a complete course but running a pottery business is something you want to explore, sign up for the Pottery Business email list below. You will get an email when new resources and opportunities are available.

In future articles we will explore why your pots are not for everybody and why your marketing isn’t working. We will also cover how to know if you’re ready, some of the benefits, and basic steps to start creating a brand that connects with people.

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