Linden Hills Pottery is a popular studio in Wisconsin that creates functional and decorative ware. We spoke with co-owner William Kaufmann about their origins and success.
ABI: Tell us about your pottery studio and the work that you produce.
WK: Simple acts can have profound outcomes. It was a coming home gift for my wife Cynthia Mosedale, after our youngest was born—a Fuchsia plant. From that gift came the fuchsia design, our first floral pattern on the porcelain clay body I was experimenting with in the early eighties. For the next ten years, people stood in line to buy those pieces. It was shocking. This was the beginning of Linden Hills Pottery.
I never thought it would end, but designs, patterns, lines of work eventually fade—the reasons are many. And we moved on to create a colorful, lively kind of work that became a natural extension of our collaboration together. A new visual language developed within this work; elements that were in front of us all the time. Color and form, design and composition changed. Fortunately, we never patronize each other’s work. An artistic disagreement can be interesting and saucy, while marketplace issues can be tested. Learning from failure is so important! Today, that process continues to drive my interest in clay and working as a team.
ABI: What methods are you using to sell your work online?
WK: The marketplace has been one of our biggest challenges. Art fairs have always been an important part of our sales strategy, but it is not the stable arena it used to be. The pottery is our only livelihood, so we are careful about our business decisions—numbers do not lie. We use shows not only to sell items off the shelf, but also to drive traffic to our website.
Today, that site, hosted by Weebly, is critical to our success and has become an essential tool for customers finding us. We take email addresses whenever possible, and encourage people to like us on Facebook. We also use Linked-In and Pinterest. One of our best tools is icontact, a professional emailing site that maintains a customer list several thousand strong. Emails are taken onsite in excel and exported directly into the icontact database and organized by show, city, or state.
ABI: How have you experimented with social media? What have been the results?
WK: We have tried online advertising through Facebook, which holds promise, but requires time and experimentation to use correctly. A new market possibility opened recently when we were invited by Pottery Barn as featured artists over the holidays—it was quite successful. We limit wholesale and gallery sales. The market is there, but the question is: How does it fit into artistic goals and also studio organization? It is important to give up ideas that do not work—not only in the studio but also in the marketplace.
Every aspect of the pottery, from the artistic creation to the sale of a piece is affected by persistence and discipline. Without both, success would difficult. And, do not under estimate the power of small acts.