I’m not sure I want to to answer this because while I don’t want to discourage anyone who wants to pursue an career in ceramics or in art, I certainly don’t want to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass either.
But here goes, to answer your direct questions directly:
"How do you make money off of your work?" I don’t. Yes I do sell, but I’ve never earned enough to break even with what I’ve spent on overhead. But I’m very flattered that you think enough people want to buy my work that you’d pose that question to me.
"Do you have a shop or booth somewhere?" I use Etsy from time to time, and I’ve done some local craft sales, and I have some functional work available for sale usually at a local pottery studio that I do glaze tech work for. But I admit, I’ve yet to put a consistent effort into this domain. I do show in art galleries sometimes, and I prefer selling through galleries, but I have yet to have a gallery that wants to pick me up as a ‘regular’.
"Are you ever commissioned?" Yes. My favorite part about commissions is that I know the piece I am making will have a home (other than mine). But commissions can be a double edged sword, and I don’t accept every commission that comes my way. I also know some artists who flat out refuse to do commissions because they’ve had bad experiences.
"Do you work another job?" Yes. I have a regular full time job working for ‘the man’. I also pick up extra money by mixing glazes for others.
Now to continue with raining on your parade, in the circle of artists that I’ve made the acquaintance of, I have not met one that can exclusively support themselves off of the sale of their work. They teach/do workshops, they own a studio space and create a school/gallery type thing or they rent out workspace, they do technical work for a larger ceramics studio/school, they are married or are in a domestic partnership with someone with a very good job they can depend on, they have already retired from a previous career and have incoming support from a retirement account, they have their own kiln and charge people for firing work, they have day jobs which may or may not be related to art somehow… and it’s usually a combination of these things.
Now it is not all doom and gloom. I’m sure that there are ceramic artists out there who make enough money from the sale of their work that they can really independently support themselves. I don’t know of any, but I haven’t met every ceramic artist on the planet. If you are one, by all means speak up. And in the Austin area there have been at least two teaching studios (Clay Ways and Feats of Clay) and one production pottery (Sunset Canyon) that have been in business for a long time. I’ve never seen their balance sheets, but when you’ve been in business for a decade or more, I assume you have to be profitable at least some of those years.
I think it’s really good you are thinking about this now. I’ve seen a number of people come out of BFA programs really unprepared for the real world. They may be able to do the art speak thing, but they don’t know how to approach galleries. They can write an artist’s statement but they don’t know how to promote themselves or find sale venues that caters to the audience that would buy their work. They know how to glaze a pot, but they have no idea how to mix their own glazes or how to tell if a glaze is food safe or not. Don’t even get me started on things like sales tax, price/wage negotiations, or teaching. I’ve never been to art school myself, I’m not trying to saying you shouldn’t go. But I have seen a number of art school graduates have a tough time transitioning to professional artist, so thinking about this now puts you ahead of the curve.
In a nutshell, be prepared to ‘diversify’ your income stream.
Just never judge your success or failure as an artist by how much of your work sells or the price it can fetch. If you’ve got a roof over your head, food in your fridge, and you make the art that you want to make, you’re a success. And it doesn’t matter where the money comes from.
That probably doesn’t help you much but I wish you the best of luck. And if you or anyone else has any other questions, I don’t have all of the answers, but I’ll at least be honest.