What does a potter make per hour? Dinnerware set: Final Results

I know it’s been a long time for those results on the dinnerware set for my family… but you know business gets in the way!  So here are the results,  and the total time it takes to make 15 dinner plates and 15 dessert plates. (actual set came to 12 of each)

There is a little pin-holing on some of the plates… the flow of the glaze just isn’t the same as on a vertical surface.  The glaze just didn’t move, so the resulting thickness left some pin-holing.  So the out of the 30 plates originally thrown, three really bit the dust.  I did get my intended set of 12, because they are not totally up to my standards I might not want to look at them everyday in my kitchen. So I might just put them on my seconds table at my next sale!

dinnerware stack

dinner set 1


12 hours:  throwing and trimming

12 hours: loading, firing, unloading bisque firing

1 hour: glaze testing

5 hours: glazing, (does not include making the glazes, which I tend to forget in my total calculations often) Remember there are also two layers of glaze, and resist design.

45 hours: three glaze firings, loading and unloading included (one glaze firing cannot accommodate 30 plates.  I have plate stackers, but can only fit eight at a time)

If you want to see the detail of each step, look up dinnerware or porcelain place settings, in tags and categories.

Notice I italicized the firings for those of you who think that should not be included, because yes I can do other things during that time, I do not have to sit in front of the kiln, stare at it, and stoke it like a wood firing.  But I do have to be present and turn up switches, and make sure the studio doesn’t burn down!

So if we include all the time calculated above it took a total of:  75 hours… that would be approximately 3 1/4 hours per plate.  If  I charge $40 per dinnerplate, and $30 per lunch plate, I get an average $11 per hour. Porcelain clay is 60 cents per lb.  A dinner plate is 4lbs… that’s 2.40 per plate.  Glaze is hard to calculate per plate, but lets say 50 cents per plate.  Firing cost is approximately $25 per kiln load, so lets again say 50 cents per plate, that’s a $1.00.  If I substract $3.40 from $11 I make $7.60 per hour… hummmn… a BFA from Alfred University, plus 25+ years of experience… Now you will know why I don’t make dinnerware sets for customers!!!


24 thoughts on “What does a potter make per hour? Dinnerware set: Final Results

  1. I think that this should be mandatory reading for all customers who complain about prices. It really puts it into perspective. Great post. And a great dinnerware set! Lovely.

  2. 7.60/hour… wow! actually i would have guessed lower. i’m afraid to do this myself and am sure i would be lower if not in the negative.

  3. Interesting reading! I noticed, Lucy, that you didn’t subtract any other real costs that are involved in running a business, such as cost of running your studio, (heat, mortgage, etc), printing postcards, web fees, show fees, etc., etc. from your hourly wage. I would think that to truly know what you are being paid per hour, you’d have to add up all business costs and divide by # of hours you work and subtract that too. Yikes!

  4. Hi Lucy! Great blog… and a lot of time spent to make your dinnerware set. I was surprised that you made $7 per hour! I will appreciate your plates next time I see you at the Greenfireld Farmer’s Market. – josh

  5. Wow, this is a really interesting study. I think taking the time to do this is a good way to get a true sense of the effort that goes into a quality handmade object. And it seems like the more you know about what goes into your work, the easier it will be to determine your prices and to figure out what makes the most sense to make. Lovely pots, too!!

  6. Wow, Lucy! I am amazed by this! And to think that they will just end up on a seconds table? Well, in the photos, anyway, they look lovely. Thanks for this. I have been reading this series of posts like a good story that comes out in chapters — like Dickens used to do. . . It’s been fun coming along for the ride.

    I hope you are well!

  7. Lucy this is so informative!

    I just read this post and noticed that you were subtracting some per-plate costs like from your per-hour cost. Small problem: let me explain…

    The math teacher says that your units don’t match and this is like subtracting minutes from miles travelled on a road trip. If you make a pit stop for 15 minutes, you wouldn’t subtract that from the miles you travelled on your journey.

    Likewise, you need to subtract the cost of clay and cost of electricity from the retail cost of the plate *before* you figure out your per-hour cost.

    Let me know if you have questions. 🙂

  8. Hi Joel, No I don’t have a photo, but if I remember in the next couple of days I’ll take one and get it to you! I don’t remember where I got them from… I think Sheffield pottery. I fire to cone 6, and yes they do go up to cone 10!

  9. Pingback: Plate Setters « Lucy Fagella Pottery

  10. Beautiful dinner set!

    I am not trying to be argumentative, but ya know in my opinion you just can’t put down the time like you have and get meaningful numbers. You will have overlapping hours and so many things that are being counted incorrectly that at the end of the day what you actually bring in and what these calculations claims you bring in will just not remotely match-up and as such become worthless as a way to make decisions. BUT if it does work for you then that is what counts! good luck with everything and again beautiful work.

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