Up till now, reflecting and planning is not something that I've done much of in my business, but as Mystery Creek Ceramics grows I am struggling to keep the key information top of mind and relay that information clearly with a growing team.
In the past I have been so busy doing all kinds of projects that I haven't taken time to reflect, plan and set goals—I would simply jump from one project to the next and then onto another.
2024 is a new year and because I think it is much more fun to set new year's resolutions for my business rather than myself I have set some resolutions/goals for Mystery Creek Ceramics.
I will discuss these resolutions and the clarity of thinking that they have led to for me in a blog post next month but to get started we needed some data.
As business school taught me (in my brief time there) goals are not useful unless they are measurable. So to set measurable goals I have to start with data I already have, analyse it and use that as a starting point to set goals.
There has also been a cool trend with some of the ceramic artists I follow to do an end of year data report, so this is my version of that. I admire these artists for putting that information out in the world in such a transparent way and showing you the cost breakdown of running a ceramic business.
The data report I most enjoyed reading was from Joe at @oldforgecreations. It’s a post on his Instagram account called ‘2023 in the numbers’, my favourite part is his graph showing the number of pug mills owned. Go check it out and follow him, he is an amazing potter that shares generously.
Anyway onto the data...
I find this data fascinating and would love to hear what you think about it. I will be using it to guide our product decision-making and designing processes throughout the upcoming year.
Let's start with what we are known for - nerikomi striped work:
This colour breakdown is taken from our petite dishes and then averaged with two of our most popular products so it gives us a fairly accurate representation of what colours were purchased most in the nerikomi striped range throughout 2023. This is our most popular range by far and has the most items in it as well—currently sitting at nearly 30 different pieces over the range.
Here is a pie chart showing you the percentage of each colour sold. The tiny unlabeled sliver is red sitting at 2%.
No surprises here, rainbow (we refer to rainbow as a colour in itself) comes out on top by miles!
Now what is surprising is that before I crunched this data I would have told you that these were our popular colours from most to least:
- Rainbow - Yay got that right
- Dark Green - still on the money
- Dark Blue - here's where things begin to go haywire
- Black - a solid standard neutral, right?
- Red - what was I thinking?!
- Then roughly similar quantities of Pink, Turquoise, Light Green, Mustard
- And orange trailing behind
And wow! How wrong was I?! Gotta love the data.
There are some things influencing this data that won't make it 100% reliable. Purple and mustard were only added to the range around the middle of the year so they have an unfair disadvantage. But even with this handicap they are really showing their strength so I will have to keep an eye on them this year.
We have changed the surface glaze on the black and dark green and this gave them a slow start to the year but a real boost towards November in their new shiny glaze. This is a material problem that we have overcome and I will go into some depth on this in a blog post coming up.
Pink and light green both changed colours early in the year and I believe the new shades are much nicer and this will have pushed them up in the rankings.
I am so disappointed in red. This data may make me re-evaluate red, I thought it was a strong player in the colour range but I might have to discontinue this one altogether.
Natural always surprises me, I think we are known for our use of colour when compared with other potters in the NZ market and bam natural sneaks up on me as our 4th most popular colour.
Different regions in Aoeteroa have different preferences for different colours and this data is not taking that into account at all. Maybe next year as I collect more data I can drill down into region by region. Maybe again, it'll prove that my perception is wrong!
Alright, onto the next stage; items of pottery sold:
Ok now this one I predicted a little better, though some of it still surprised me.
I would have told you we dont sell many small nerikomi mugs and here it is popping up in the top 9 items. The unlabeled segment is pasta bowls sitting at 4.2%. The thrown range making an appearance with the tall mug at number 4 in the ranking and the wide at number 10 (not shown) is a surprise. What gets me about these items is that I have tried to expand this range several times with bowls and they have flopped; maybe 2024 will give me another chance to resurrect this.
The petite bowl is our smallest item and it's great to see it reigning supreme. We fit so many petite bowls into our large nerikomi slabs so it's fantastic that these sell so well.
The large mug is the king of our collection. I would have to say this 300ml vessel was the first product I began producing in the range and it continues to do the hard yards for us (soon I will chat to you about mug size …apparently we aren't quite getting it right).
This graph is also not fair to some of our recently released products that have been added with the store opening up. Earrings are proving very popular but have only been part of the range for 3 months. Our new line of skinny vases is on fire but they have only been around for four months and our new mug styles are flying off the shelves, yet have been around for even less time.
So to summarise I have a few key takeaways:
- My perception of what is selling is not accurate and I should always ask the data before I make decisions during production and design
- Red is on the out, rainbow is in
- I should continue to design awesome colourful products without overlooking the more natural tones that I can make as well