Ceramics designers (a.k.a. ceramicists) work with clay, porcelain, bone china and stoneware to design and create pottery items, sculptures, homeware (i.e. tiles and flooring), tableware and cookware. These artists don’t just make these pieces, however; they also glaze, paint and decorate the finished products.
Ceramics designers tend to be employed by manufacturers of ceramic products or work independently as freelancers. Apart from carrying out hands-on ceramics design and creation activities, these guys research designs and new materials, build and promote a creative and vibrant portfolio and liaise with clients, other craftsmen, museums and galleries.
In order to drum up trade for their creations, these people will display their work at craft fairs, exhibitions and trade shows. Some ceramics designers aren’t involved in the production process and therefore focus all their efforts on design. If this is the case, they’ll spend their entire professional life drawing and building scale models.
Salary & benefits
A ceramicist’s earnings can fluctuate and are entirely dependent on the individual maker’s network, reputation, level of experience and client base. If you take the freelance route, then your earnings will be completely reliant on the number of commissions you receive.
Ceramics designers that are just starting out may earn between £12,000 and £16,000 per annum. As you gain more experience and build your reputation, you may earn up to around £40,000 a year.
The majority of ceramicists work on a freelance basis and only a small amount work as salaried designers with companies such as Royal Doulton. Consequently, many ceramicists may have to take on additional ‘day jobs’ to supplement their earnings.
Salaried ceramics designers tend to work regular office or shift hours, while freelance ceramicists work according to their own schedule.
Frequent travel is also necessary for independent professionals, in order to promote their ceramics business, as well as enhancing their personal and professional reputations.
Academic qualifications in art, design or ceramics tend to be the basic requirements for salaried ceramics designers, along with natural talent, creativity and imagination.
It’s not essential for freelance ceramicists to obtain a degree. However, these courses are ideal for helping you to refine your technique and build your own style.
To thrive in this profession, you will also need to develop a strong knowledge of the technical tools and methodologies required for a career in professional ceramics design. You will also need a certain amount of commercial awareness and an aptitude for business management in order to grow your business.
A professionally-presented design portfolio and evidence of previous experience through internships or participation in contests, art shows or craft fairs can provide an extra edge to a budding ceramicist’s CV.
Training & progression
Ceramics designers can advance their skills through experimentation, participation in theoretical and practical courses and by gaining more hands-on experience.
Some companies may conduct structured training programmes, tailored towards the individual employee’s educational background and aptitude.
Advanced qualifications, such as postgraduate degrees or certificates, are offered by institutions such as the Craft Potters Association and the Crafts Council.
Above all, though, building up your practical knowledge, experience and design portfolio is the best path to success.