How has running a handmade business changed over the last few decades?

My guest today – Christine Tenenholtz – is an Albuquerque, New Mexico based ceramic artist who has been crafting her line of colorful stoneware out of her home studio since 1996.

Originally from Illinois where she received her degree in fine art photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Christine moved to Arizona in the early 90’s and began working in clay in earnest. Working under the name Red Hot Pottery, Christine has created a line of colourful stoneware sold primarily in gift galleries and in her Etsy shop.

After moving the New Mexico in 2016, she continued to stretch her creativity into new explorative work which she happily shares with her followers on Instagram.

Her handmade stoneware functional ware is widely recognised for its striking combination of dynamic glaze combinations inspired by the landscape of the American Southwest, and her unique carved garlic graters are wholesaled across the country.

In this episode we discuss her business history, her successes and challenges (including some challenges she’s faced with Etsy search) and much more.

You can listen to this episode below, or on your fave podcasting app!

Brand your Craft

Does your handmade business have a strong brand identity?

Or are you just treating your creations like commodities – trying to compete on price, and failing to stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Creating a strong, unique brand identity is fundamentally important if you want to make your business stand out from the others in your niche.

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Highlights from this episode:

  1. Christine started on Etsy 2007 selling her pottery, but she’s been a full-time ceramicist since 1996.
  2. Check out Christine’s work here.
  3. Based on a customer request, she made a custom yarn bowl and sold the two spares in her Etsy store. These became her most popular item and the demand continued to grow.
  4. In 2010, Etsy included Christine’s yarn bowls on a segment on the Today show and her pieces became huge sellers.
  5. Within a few years, Christine was making more than 50% of her living from yarn bowls and was #1 on Etsy search pages. But in 2015 this suddenly and inexplicably stopped and it took several years for her to rebuild momentum.
  6. Christine picked up a wholesale account during this time which helped regain the lost income. 
  7. “Have diverse sources of sales. If one dries up then the others keep the boat afloat.” {Christine}
  8. Christine also designs and sells pottery for her local airport which required careful product development. These pieces are stackable for easy carrying on a flight and have the town’s name stamped on the back making them a perfect souvenir. 
  9.  “Think about how you can make a particular product for a particular market in a particular situation” {Jess}
  10. Instagram is a huge component of Christine’s non-wholesale business.
  11. Over time Christine has become more comfortable sharing her authentic voice and style.
  12. “It okay that not everyone likes you. That’s the point. You want to find those people that love you.” {Jess}
  13. Christine has set up her business to a level that keeps her as the only team member so that she is comfortable and does not have to keep someone employed.
  14. “You don’t have to be in business to enjoy your creativity.” {Christine}

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