Jeff Rottman | Episode 303
As a full time Studio Potter since 2003, Jeff Rottman has developed a community studio with 32 members and launched a pottery tool company which is reaching across the globe. Jeff’s entrance into being a studio potter started with a loss of a traditional job due to economic downturn. Jeff was energized by the cooking shows of the Food Network along with the melodies of Johnny Cash (Drive On).
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When you are looking at a new idea how do you know if the market is ready to buy that product?
That is a great question. Especially doing art fairs, I was so excited once, I thought, I want to make this maple syrup set. I was thinking every bed and breakfast is going to buy one and it just bombed. I thought they were great, so the only way to know is to put it out there and see. So I have gotten into just making a few and testing the waters first.
You have three distinct businesses you have been marketing, how do you grow your business through marketing?
I try to have a good feeling for what the market is interested in and what people need or want. I have learned over the years that if I’m the only person doing it it’s not always the best thing. So definitely looking for the need. I am the second child so I am definitely the mediator and hospitality is kind of my joy. So I always looking to see how people react to see what makes them tick and what interests them.
Why do people buy your pottery forms?
I feel like it’s a price point that is on the lower end so anyone can afford them. They can try them out without a huge risk. My hope is that it makes them successful quicker and makes them better at what they are doing.
How important is it for you to have a support team working with you?
I think a support team is definitely key. Obviously the biggest support I have is my wife and family. That is the support that I am concerned about the most. I definitely have a good group of people working for me now. Jeff Ham is working with me now and is really taking off as a potter. I also have Allisa Westenbroek-Koster who does social media. She does a great job with the social media piece but she is out in Boulder,Colorado. and we just hired a recent college grad Chelsy Billin and she’s been doing great too. It is definitely about who is around you that makes things all work out. So I am really grateful and blessed to have the people around me that I have.
What is the bigger risk or challenge you are facing right now in your business?
I have been trying to be financially conscious and not go into debt and trying to do a lot of it on my own without loans. It is hard being small and and facing these big financial obstacles that kind of occur. Thankfully it has worked out really well. I have been really fortunate that the pace has been good. It seems that I have to have trust and faith that it is all going to be okay tomorrow.
Which form is your favorite one?
Maybe I can answer two. My favorite one is the 6 by 14 size, which is kind of a longer rectangular size. It works out for so many different pieces. So that is probably the one I use the most. But I am really attached to the Mud Tools rib. It is my favorite tool and you can see that I altered it and cut it in half. I use the circle in the middle for an edge rounding tool. It doesn’t wear out and lasts a long time. I like yellow. Yellow is my color.
What is something that you are afraid of? Some people are afraid of heights etc. what’s the thing that kind of freaks you out?
I think the thing is I am definitely claustrophobic. A friend of mine had a sailboat that I could have stayed at during a show but I was thinking: I can’t be in this. Just looking out the window and thinking I am not going to fit through this window. So claustrophobia is my biggest fear but I admit I am kind of glad to have an easy-going personality so I can withstand the storms that we have as potters and makers.