@anotherseattleartist, aka Katie Marks, is one of the few ceramic artists who has figured out how to be wildly in-demand using digital platforms. Her current successful business model is as follows: make a batch of work, announce it as an etsy sale via various social media platforms, and then sell out in fifteen minutes or less with mostly mugs ranging in price from $75-$125. But it’s Marks’s recent sales strategy that is really impressive- a tactic that drove the price of her cups up SO high, it has many of us in the pottery community wondering… what in god’s name are we doing wrong?
Last week, on May 24th, 2016, Marks attempted a sales strategy she had never tried before – an auction where her Instagram followers commented their expediential bids for a mug directly on a post. This auction was a way give people who missed the previous day’s sold-out-in-5-minutes etsy sale a chance at owning one of her in-demand mugs. People immediately begin posting their bids on Instagram, and within 15 minutes the highest bid was $260.
Comments started to flow in:
“260$ for a mug? Wtf..” said Instagram user @affectia.
“Bwahaha look at this” said user @kimjongkill.
But as these people expressed their shock at this huge price, fans stood up for Marks. This fostered some fascinating conversation and questions around value, craftsmanship, and uniqueness.
In a way, the fan’s comments are incredibly flattering to all potters:
“Lol this is so much more than a mug…It’s beautiful functional art” said user @llgemini.
“$260 for that mug is what it’s worth in my book! This is a one of a kind piece of functional art! A delicious beverage being drank out of this is like heaven!” said user @ohhhhkelly.
Within our ceramics community, we often see huge popularity among certain artists who are mediocre at what they do but have skyrocketed into some kind of prom queen status among their peers. Marks has managed to enchant the people who matter in her role as a “maker/business.”- she’s appealed to the customer rather than the classmates. For someone with an impressive number of Instagram followers and wildly successful etsy sales, Marks does not appear to reside within the “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” philosophy that many potters embrace in the contemporary pottery culture. And for that, she is a smart business woman.
The fans standing up for this mug-maker champion her as an artist that changes their everyday lives with the work she creates. Meanwhile, the confused ceramic veterans see a gross mass of overly sappy comments and one tremendously over-priced, possibly not-very-functional, mug.
Why is it that these two groups perceive value so differently?
Is it a guise to say that this auction gave people “another chance at buying work” seeing as only about ten of her 53k Instagram followers could even afford to bid on it? Do artists have to trick the viewer into thinking their work is good/worth something? Is this smart marketing or tricking the viewer?
Marks’s pottery lacks the functional craftsmanship and carefully considered elements that traditionally determines quality in ceramics, yet she is more successful at selling than the top percentile of skilled potters. Her sale was wildly successful, more so than mainstream potters, which makes us the minority in the “what is good” argument. It makes me wonder if my perceptions of quality are exclusive to the contemporary pottery community while the mainstream view, millions of people, actually have a different aesthetic preference.
The auction nearly quadrupled the regular price for a Crystal Mug by Marks.
The winning auction bid was $420.
Do you think the mug was worth it? Join the conversation in the comments!