Following A Profit Path | Sophie Moran | Episode 669


Sophie Moran | Episode 669

For over twenty years Sophie Moran has set up studios in sheds, shops, potteries, and warehouses around the northern suburbs of Melbourne and is currently based in a collective, creative space in Brunswick. Sophie calls myself an urban potter as there is usually concrete beneath her feet and her clay comes in a bag. Sophie explores notions of nurture, individuality, and community in what she makes, while maintaining that primary functional purpose.


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How do you define success?

That’s a good question, isn’t it? Personally, for me, I think it’s just strongly acquainted with happiness. I feel I have been successful because I have been able to continue to do what I absolutely love to do and that’s probably my proudest achievement. That and making good pots. I am quite self-critical so for me ambition or my goals or the way I want to reach success is in making good pots. So when I feel like that is happening, one I am able to make pots and two that they are good, that to me feels like success.

Do you have a business plan that you have followed or that you have kind of honed over the years?

I would say no, would be the main answer to that question but I feel like over time I have become better at choosing what’s working for me and what isn’t or at least accessing. So I can tell if I’ve gone down a  certain path if it’s not feeling great then I am good adapting and finding another path to go down.

So you are adaptable is what you are saying.

Yeah, but I do feel like, especially now. I think maybe when you start to get a bit older and you start to plan for the future or not even plan for the future but just..I think now I crunch numbers more. I am aware how much I make in a day, like how much I physically make in a day, so I am starting to bring a lot more structure into my work now than I have before.

How do you determine profit margins, like where your profit margins need to be? Do you think in terms of percentages?

There’s that formula isn’t there? In regard to pricing I think the first thing that has helped me is the fact that I moved from wholesaling to direct selling and so when I price my work I always say to myself, How much would you wholesale this for? Because I think if you don’t do that you totally undervalue your work. And you also undervalue all the non-making work that you do. So I have made sure that from this point on, that even though I sell directly it is never cheaper than what it would have been in retail, in a retail environment and then also that I am gradually increasing my prices. I think for a very long period of time I never increased my prices and that was a confidence thing, whereas now I feel more confident in slowly increasing my prices each year. I know that value in them and I know the place where they sit in the market a lot more.

I just want to clarify something. Does that mean that you base your pricing on would I make money on this at wholesale?

Yeah, pretty much. Your instinct is to say, Okay, this cup is going to be forty-five dollars, and then you think, Well, if I was wholesale selling that, that would be twenty dollars. I know how much time went in to that cup. That’s just totally undervaluing the cup.

What is the formula you use?

I don’t know if I can necessarily remember it. I had it written on my studio wall for a number of years. It’s something like, material plus time times two is your wholesale price. Times two is your retail price. So it is sort of taking into account your materials but also the amount of time, but obviously for that you have got to think of giving yourself an hourly rate and that’s something I have never been good at doing. Sometimes I feel like it’s just better not to look. (laughter)

How many hours a week are you putting into the studio?

A lot. I have an eighteen year old son, so I am just coming out the other side of trying to balance parenthood and maker. I love him to bits, don’t get me wrong, but suddenly the world has opened up for me. I am not structured by school hours and all that sort of stuff. My studio is away from home so I pretty much set myself, almost nine to five studio time. And when I am there, I am grumpy if someone talks to me, basically. (laughter) I hardly take breaks and I’m very driven when I am there. But then outside of that there’s email marketing and Instagramming and you know and answering emails, so yeah, I work quite long hours. But I love it so it doesn’t feel like work to me.

How do you divide up your day as a maker?

Again, I think my practice has changed more recently. There are always so many things happening at the same time, isn’t there when you are a potter. So I might do a morning of throwing and then an afternoon of turning the pieces I threw the day before. Then I don’t know, I do feel sort of dictated by the environment so sometimes there’s the panic of things drying out too quickly or not quickly enough. So I think a lot of time is spent moving things from one place to another. A little bit of structure and a lot of responding to what needs to be done at the time.


The Craftsman by Richard Sennett


Instagram: @sophiejanemoran

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