I would suggest when you first start your collection, to just get everything you like. Don’t worry about having a theme or a color scheme. Just buy what speaks to you. There is nothing like living with ceramics to discover what pieces really get the most use. Which vases hold your flowers the best? What kind of coffee mugs do you like to drink out of? What plates make your food look the best? You may find that the ceramics you like to look at are impractical for your life. And that’s okay because you still have pieces that speak to you.
Once you get serious about collecting, you’ll want to learn the history or process of the pieces you acquire. This is a good way to know if you are paying the right price and it gives you a sense of expertise. Many times dealers will know about the pieces you love, or sometimes you have to do research online. Either way, you’ll find that certain stories speak to you louder than others, your collection will evolve and this is where you can start narrowing down your acquisition process.
Here are some places where I have found great pieces both vintage and contempoary:
Yes. Thrift stores. I have found 1960’s vintage Heath Ceramics from thrift stores for less than $3. While those deals are rare, they do happen. Thrift stores are also good for finding vintage pieces for really cheap. It’s a good place to start learning the history of some of the ceramic makers of the 20th century. Sometimes you’ll even find handmade pieces, though, like many things you find in thrift stores, you’ll just have to live with not knowing the story behind them…except that the new story is that you found it in a thrift store!
Flea markets are so much fun to go to. Sometimes you’ll get really knowledgeable dealers who know the history behind the pieces you find most interesting. These dealers usually also know the value of the pieces, but the prices are usually reasonable and the dealers are usually up for negotiating.
I like estate sales because that’s usually where the antique shops, flea markets, and online shops get their best deals. Estate sales are usually straight to the source in terms of price and value. The downside of going to estate sales is that you have to go early to get the best pieces because you’ll be competing with dealers for those most coveted finds. The upside is if you go late, you can possibly find gems at a fraction of the price.
The benefit of going to antique shops is that you usually have an extremely knowledgeable dealer who is passionate about knowing the history and value of the pieces. The downside of going to Antique shops is that the dealer knows the value of the pieces and charges accordingly. You can find museum-quality pieces in antique shops, you’ll just end up paying museum-quality prices for them.
Craft fairs are excellent for finding both new and established talent. Most likely you’ll find an up and coming ceramicist looking to get their names established. Going to craft fairs is great because you can actually meet the artist personally and get the story behind the work first hand. It’s also good to establish a relationship with the ceramicist if you are interested in commissioning work.
Open studios are harder to find out about. It’s usually after you’ve established a relationship with the ceramicist, or already know about them as you follow them on Instagram or are on their mailing list. The benefit of going to open studios is that you can likely find one of a kind pieces or seconds that are not usually up for sale.
While design fairs do not focus specifically on ceramics, you can find design focused ceramicists at design fairs usually. You’ll have to look for them, but usually there is so many other interesting things to discover at design fairs that it’s worth it to go even if you only find one ceramicist you like.
You can find anything and everything online. The good thing about finding ceramicists online is that you are not limited to geography, you can find ceramicists all over the world. On Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy, even eBay. The downside to this, is that you have to pay for shipping which can sometimes be as much as the product itself.