(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the pottery/ceramics sector
For very many years the ceramics industry was dominated by the major potteries in and around Stoke-on-Trent. These produced a wide range of traditional tableware, gift items, tiles and so on for both home and export markets.
However, during the 1960s and 70s consumers began to turn away from these traditional items, perhaps inspired by travel to Mediterranean countries and exposure to more colourful and informal ceramics. In Britain many small pottery workshops were set up, producing hand crafted pots and experimenting with different clays, glazes, shapes and firing techniques.
There are now very many craft potters producing individual, hand thrown items which are both functional and decorative. There was plenty of demand for these items during much of the 2000s. In some cases, hand-made craft ceramics sold for hundreds of pounds. Unfortunately though, the late 2000s and early 2010s saw the economy nosedive, and people cut right back on their spending - particularly on non-essentials like ceramics.
2013 saw the start of an upturn in the economy, which strengthened in 2014 and the first half of 2015. The economic recovery slowed again, however, in the second half of 2015 and into 2016. The uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June 2016 led to the economy continuing to perform poorly in the second half of 2016 and throughout 2017. Little change is expected in 2018 and 2019. With increasing inflation due to the fall in the value of the pound and the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations, consumers have been tightening their belts. With less money in their pockets and declining levels of confidence in the economy, consumer spending on non-essentials has suffered. You'll have to decide whether:
- there is sufficient demand to support your business, either in your area or nationally
- you will be able to compete against other pottery businesses as well as ceramic imports - although the increased cost of imports due to the fall in the value of the pound may help UK potteries as imported goods become less affordable. Don't forget that people can buy all types of ceramic product online
Be aware also that you'll have to comply with strict health and safety legislation that regulates the ceramics industry.
Keeping up to date with developments
The Craft Potters Association (CPA) represents the interests of ceramic artists in Great Britain. The Association operates a studio ceramics gallery in London (Contemporary Ceramics) and also publishes the Ceramic Review six times a year. Contact the CPA at 63 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3BF.
The British Ceramic Confederation represents larger manufacturers of ceramics in the UK. Contact the Confederation at Federation House, Station Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2SA or visit their website for more information.
The Giftware Association may also be relevant to some pottery businesses, particularly those located in tourist regions.
The Studio Pottery website has a wealth of news, articles and resources for the studio ceramics sector and aims to link potters with galleries and collectors.
Craftbusiness is a trade journal for the crafts industry and includes coverage of a range of topical issues.