John-Michael Forman | Episode 806
Forman Pottery is the accidental business of ceramicist John-Michael Forman. Since 2010 John-Michael has been crafting functional stoneware in the foothills of Southern Appalachia. John-Michael and his wife, Hannah live in Chattanooga, TN with their sons, Eli, Peter, and Abe.
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Do you have a throwing calendar?
What do you mean by a throwing calendar?
What I mean is do you have specific times of the month or the week where you say these are my mugs days, my bowl days, my basin days?
That sounds awesome and I wish that I did. But I don’t. (laughter) I have a weekly calendar. I have a big white board with just utter chaos on it that only I understand and my former employee. But I chart out my weeks and so I will have 20 pragmatist with this specific logo, 5 kettle with this specific logo, that will be Tuesday, and then you know, 10 dinner plates, 12 salad plates the next day. That sort of thing, but it’s just week to week.
When you have a customer that wants to order your logo mugs do you have a set up fee knowing that you have to buy the stuff from the stamp company and so on and so forth?
Yeah, I do. So I charge thirty dollars. It’s basically twenty dollars for the logo stamp and I charge a ten dollar graphic design fee because I always have to do some kind of tweaking and I do a proposal of different renderings of the logo which takes a little bit of time. I stay competitive against the big guys buy charging a pretty low amount.
How do you know what your production needs are going to be for the next week?
So I do mostly custom orders and I am typically a few months out with them. So right now any new orders go in toward the end of March that I get so I always know months ahead of time what my production needs are going to be.
You mentioned staying competitive in your pricing. Is that how you came up with your pricing structure, looking at what other production potters are doing?
Yeah, so that is at the beginning when I was…not so much with logo mugs, just for stuff in general, I looked at Etsy. Whenever I needed to know how to price something, I would see for a mug this person is charging fifteen, this person is charging thirty, this person is charging twenty, why don’t we just go with twenty. You know, averaging out kind of what people were pricing. So I have always looked around to see what other people are charging for stuff. With the logo mugs, the two big companies doing it in the Midwest have crazy low prices. I don’t charge enough for the logo mugs and that’s okay. Because I want to keep them affordable because a lot of people are doing them as retail items.
What is the time you allow yourself to spend on each mug? Thinking about your stock mugs.
That’s a good question. So I timed myself recently, I haven’t added up all the components, prepping handles and all of that, but throwing…I have it up on my board, so my current time for throwing a mug is a minute and 25 seconds. So I am just flying through them as fast as I can when I am throwing.
How has the pandemic impacted your production pottery business?
Well, I was at home with my three children for about four months while working full time, while my wife was also working from home full time and so the beginning of the pandemic, it was something. It was one of the most stressful times of my life. In addition to all of the stress of those first few months. I was trying to parent at the time. My twins turned three right at the beginning of the pandemic. So I had twin three year olds, they were my responsibility and our newborn was up with my wife while she was working every day. But I had these twin three year olds in my studio five days a week while I was working. And it was crazy. There was a lot of rules made. The boys played with clay a lot which was cool. There was a lot of sweet stuff and it was a rich time of life in a lot of ways be also extremely stressful because my workload did not slow down at all.