Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Customer is Always Right.....

You know the saying. The customer is always right.

Yesterday, I got a call from one of my new accounts. I had just shipped her some cranes last week. They were all of the hanging variety. She was expecting the sitting kind. I looked at the order form from the showed hanging cranes.

My response,...I will get you a dozen new cranes sent out to you in the next few days. No charge. She offered to send back the ones I had shipped to her. Nope. I told her to keep those and see how they did. Perhaps hold them for the holidays when they would surely sell as ornaments.

She was very appreciative. She offered at least twice to send back the hanging cranes. No. I would absorb that.

Why? I had the "proof" that what she wanted was the hanging cranes. But what if what she intended was the sitting ones, and there was a miscommunication at the show? That could have been my fault or her fault. At this point, who knows and who cares. I want her to love my work. I want her to enjoy working with me. I want her to know that if there is any problem, it will be handled quickly and expediently. Anna Farmery of The Engaging Brand has an line she uses on her blog and her podcasts.

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel."

I wanted her to feel good about working with me. I wanted her to feel like I am a pleasure to work with. Not a pushover. But someone who will solve a problem with no fuss or confrontation. What if I had argued the point with her? Is the potential gain to me worth the cost? Or is the cost of a dozen cranes a better investment in a future relationship with this gallery. I am betting on the later. I will try to remember to let you know in another six months to a year if the decision was the right one. Even if it is not the right one financially, it feels right to me.

The other call I received yesterday afternoon was from a local free publication that covers about eleven towns. A gallery I work with had recommend me to her. They wanted to know if I was interested in being featured in a profile in their July issue. Of course!

Those positive relationships with others can bring back all sorts of things to you. I enjoy working with this gallery that had made the recommendation, and she does a great job selling my work. I would bend over backwards to accomdate her requests. Turns out, I was one of her top selling artists last year. Wow. Who knows when, where, why or how? Or even if, really. And it is not about doing these acts of "good karma" for the payoff. Yet, inevitably it does seem to come around again.

Pause, take a deep breath, and think before the reaction spills out. Sometimes, that is all it takes to figure out what feels like the right thing for you to do, whether it is a business issue, or a disagreement with your kids or spouse.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me....A Few Days Early

I have a big birthday coming up this weekend. The one that begins with a five. Fifty. I will be turning fifty on Sunday. And you know what? For me it is easier than forty was. Forty was full of angst for me. Fifty is a big "Yeahhhh!" to life.

Those big birthdays seem to invite reflection more than the rest. Fifty is especially so for me. I remember being ten, and twenty, and calculating what year I would turn fifty. Two-thousand-and-seven! 2007! You must be kidding was all I could think at the time. The shift in centuries made it seem even more distant and foreign.

But here I am, or very nearly so. And it seems the looking back is more compressed than the look forward. It made me think of a string. Looking forward the string is stretched out......farther than we can ever see or even imagine. But as the days pass, we pull that string in to us. As we pull, the string forms a pile next to us. Tangled at times perhaps, but all right there. Compressed and visible.

Ten: We moved into the house that I now live in again as an adult. New school, new teacher, new friends. It was a neighborhood full of kids. There were plenty of kickball games in front of our house. With my family alone, we had nearly enough to get a game going. And there was lots of time drawing. My best friend at the time was my next door neighbor, Carol. I can remember the two of us sitting on the step outside, drawing. Back then, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

Twenty: I was in college, studying chemistry, at an engineering school. I think the summer I turned twenty, I was in New Jersey working for a chemical company in a co-op job. That was when I realized I was not going to be able to do this the rest of my life. Working in a lab. When I wasn't working that summer, I spent a lot of time drawing. By the end of the summer, I decided to get the degree in chemistry, but figure out something else to do with it.

Thirty: I was living in Connecticut now. I had been in Ohio for six years. Four in sales, and then two getting my MBA. I was still trying to make it work. I was back with the same company I started working with after college. And I was working for one of the best bosses I ever had. And he gave me lots of freedom to pursue my ideas. But I was also taking classes here and there. Drawing. Photography. Watercolor. And I was traveling more.

Forty: Married. Two young girls. I had left the corporate world. In theory temporarily. But in my heart, permanently. But now what. I needed to work. Not for the money as much as the satisfaction of work. Money was tight, but we were getting by. I had started my first business. Custom window treatments. I developed a color vocabulary that was broader and deeper. I played with pattern and design. I loved and hated that job. I loved the color, the design, and working for myself. I hated the custom side of it, and all that entailed.

Fifty: Finally. I am doing what I wanted to do since I was ten years old, or maybe younger. I love what I do. And what strikes me is how I always knew this is what I wanted to be and do. But I was waiting for someone to give me permission. The only person who could, or would was me. And I finally did. Hooray!! So fifty feels younger than forty did. Maybe even younger than thirty in some ways. Fifty feels more at peace.

To celebrate this major birthday, I bought myself two gifts when I visited the Paradise City show on Monday. I told my husband he is giving me one....and I am going to love it! And my daughters are giving me the other.

The first, is this beautiful pendant from Barbara Sperling. I have admired her work from my first exposure to it. I already own a pair of her bleeding heart earrings, and gave my mother one of her heron pins years ago. But this weekend she had some of her new work at the show, and I got myself a gorgeous pendant. Don't you agree??

At first, Barbara thought that it was sold to someone else, and I was going to settle for a pair of earrings. I loved the earrings, but I truly adored this pendant. She put the earrings aside for me, and I assured her I would be buying one or the other. As it turned out, the other person was not able to buy the pendant, and it was mine....... the meantime, I was consoling my loss of the pendant with a pair of earrings from Louise Fisher Cozzi. I had loved some of her new earrings I had seen at Craft Boston, but never got a chance to get a pair then. So, yesterday I did.

The top section of the earrings are a transfer, and the bottom is silk screened. Aren't they cool? And they have her signature finish of gold on the edges. And, as it turns out they might actually work with the pendant.

I am truly not as self indulgent as this splurge might suggest. Many holidays or birthdays have slipped by without a gift. So this indulgence was one that celebrates a great place in my life, and the talents of two wonderful artists. It might be another ten years before I treat myself like this. So I am just going to enjoy this.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Story

This Memorial Day, I want to take you back to December of 2005, when I received the following e-mail:

I was doing a web search looking for cranes to use as Christmas ornaments when I happened upon your site. I was wondering what the approximate size of your ornaments were, where I could purchase them and if it would be possible to get them customized with lettering.

I sent back an email asking for some more information. The next day the following information came:

"I'm looking for 12 cranes and would need them by Wednesday 12/21. I live in ........., Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis.

Regarding the custom lettering, I was looking for them to have "Bobby" and "Believe" printed on each of the wings (either on top or on bottom), preferably in gold lettering."

I agreed to take on the project. I had no galleries carrying the cranes in the area at the time, and the last sentence pulled me in. I finished up the cranes, and contacted him again to find out where they needed to be shipped and payment information.

In the next e-mail, he said he would send me a check and gave me the mailing address. He also included the following:

"P.S. I happened to review your biography on your web site and thought you may, for inspiration or just curiosity, want to know the reason for my request. My nephew, Robert Paul Warns II was a marine killed in Iraq last November (there is an incredible 5-minute video tribute on the website). Since our family tends to be a bit on the spiritual side (kind of Catholics meet Buddha) we celebrate Bobby's life and feel and "believe" that his spirit is still with us. We've adopted the crane as a remembrance of Bobby, both because he used to fold them and give them to children in Iraq (he loved children) and also because of their significance as a symbol of peace. I am really looking forward to passing out your cranes as a special Christmas remembrance.

I have never been so touched in my life as I was by this story. Some eighteen months later it still brings tears to my eyes. I never cashed the check that was sent, and I sent a few more cranes. So they made a donation to a local charity that supports people who are working but struggling to make ends meet. Bobby Burns came from an amazing family. And there are many, many other families all across this country today who are missing their loved ones. Their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, nieces and nephews. And each one has a story. Today, on memorial, remember Bobby, and all the other soldiers who have lost their lives in a war.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Professional Photography

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had George Post take some pictures of my jewelry for me a the ACRE show. It was a great opportunity to get some work photographed by someone who is very talented. I am going to put the pictures side-by-side with my photos. I don't really need to label them for you to see the difference, do I? But for clarity sake, and to give Mr. Post his full due, his photographs are on the left, or at the top of each pair, and are labeled. The unlabeled photos are done by me.

Photo by G. Post

Where should I begin?? The sharpness of the image? The intensity of the colors? A true gradient background....acheived with lighting rather than fancy paper, I should note. The other thing I noticed immediately was what a difference it makes when the piece is shot from directly above, rather than at an angle. With my picture, there is the parallex distortion. A fancy way of saying that because it is shot at an angle, the base of the piece appears larger in proportion, and the circle becomes an oval. His photo shows the piece more like it will appear if you were wearing it.

This photo is by G. Post. I have not taken a picture of this piece, and now, why bother. The colors are vibrant. The details are sharp and crisp. Love it.

Photo by G. Post

I think I am reaching the limits of focus for my camera when I take pictures of earrings. The difference in focus is striking.

Photo by G. Post
No sense in repeating the obvious. Again, focus, intensity, gradient background, parallex distortion,.....

Photo by G. Post

The difference is dramatic here. You really get the sense of depth with is photograph, versus mine.
Was it worth the money? I think so. I can see a noticable difference between the two sets of pictures....which means jurors are not seeing my work in it's best light....right? Will it help me get into better shows? I don't know. I have had second thoughts about the items I selected to be photographed. But I think on any given day, I would pick out five completely different pieces to be photographed.
You can clearly get decent results with some of the set-ups available on the internet, and a reasonably good camera. But, if you want the best, you need to go to a professional. It makes sense to be able to take some pictures on your own. But it also makes sense to get photos taken by a pro. I can recommend George Post.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thank you notes

Did your mother make you write thank you notes? If you are a mother now, do you have your kids write them? Do you write them? As an individual, or as a business person. Not an e-mail, but a real paper and pen note, sent the old fashioned way? I try to do it, but sometimes they slip for me. I have one right now that has been on my list for the last two months....late. Very late. But after I tell you this story, I am going to sit down and write it, stamp it and put it in the mailbox. And maybe a few more as well.

My nephew attends college in Vermont. He is a business major, and he just finished his sophomore year. He lost the job he had lined up for the summer, so he decided to start his own business instead. He and his friend, Ian decided to sell ice cream off an old converted school bus. They set up an independent project for the last semester, and with the guidance of a professor, set up the Short Bus Ice Cream company.

They bought the bus off of Craig's List. It needed some work, and it got a nice paint job.

The local bank provided some of the financing, along with family. The ice cream is Ben & Jerry's. They got some local publicity (above link), and used a local mechanic to do the modifications and repairs to the bus.

And, they sent out thank you notes. To all the people and companies who helped them make this happen.

So this week, they began their adventure. The first day out, the bus broke down. The alternator failed. Not only does that affect the operation of the bus, but also it feeds the electricity to the freezers for the ice cream. Can you say trouble? So, they head for the mechanic who worked on the bus in the past. They pull up the bus, and get out to calls of "It's the Ice Cream guys!" They go inside, and taped on the cash register is the thank you note they had sent to the mechanic.

They explain their dilemna, and the response is fantastic. They tell them to plug the freezer in right away. They tell them they can fix it right then. Keegan and Ian offered free ice cream, but they insist on paying for it. The whole shop is turning circles to help these two guys get their business back on the road. They ended up leaving the bus there overnight to be repaired. The shop put in a better quality altenator and gave them a great deal on it.

Did the thank you note have anything to do with this outcome? Who knows? But it probably didn't hurt. It's the good karma thing. You acknowledge the effort someone put forth and it is appreciated and remembered.

When the boys got back on the road they had a great first day of sales. In two hours they sold more than $200 worth of ice cream. And they were having a blast. According to my nephew, this is the most fun he has ever had working. I couldn't be happier for him. He has figured out that he can follow his dreams, and make something happen. (Remember yesterday's post about the impossible?) And he already has a great story or two.

After his mother told me the story I asked if he was blogging. She said she didn't think he had the I'm sharing his story with you here, because I think it is a great one. Have an amazing summer guys! You deserve it. And if you're in Burlington, Vermont this summer and see the Short Bus, buy a pop, and say "hi" to Keegan and Ian. In the meantime, do you have any thank you notes that need writing??

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Christine Kane led me to a new blog today. Christine's blog is one that I make sure to check on a regular basis. Today she led me to Anna Farmery's blog The Engaging Brand. As I explored some of her posts, I found this one that struck a chord, Steps to Achieve the IMpossible.

Anna outlined the steps you need to follow once you have a goal, or an idea. The kind of goal or idea that everyone will say is impossible. One of the things I noticed when I began work after college was how often I would hear, "It won't work." "We've tried it before." Or similar versions of those same ideas. Nothing was more demoralizing to hear. It teaches you to keep your ideas to yourself. But if I had Anna's advice, perhaps I would have made more progress.

Her first step is to make the idea concrete and public. Next is selling the idea to those who will influence the outcome. It seems that this is where most people lose steam. If they are successful in selling others on the idea, they may not know how to proceed or have the resources to do it. For years that was where I ran into trouble. This is where Anna's brilliant solutions come into play.

"Step 3 - Once you have people on board create dialogue, allow freedom of
ideas, remove all boundaries and get people to think if money was no problem,
resource was no problem, time was no problem, politics were no
could you achieve it.

"Step 4 - Do it and do it you can spend a greater amount of time on celebration and feeling proud of achieving the impossible."

I love this point of view she creates here. Remove all boundaries. Think as if..... We know the list of endless reasons why the impossible is impossible. We don't have the time, the money, the labor, it will never fly. We know them. We have lived them. But what does Anna do? She pops those bubbles with this simple, but perhaps not so obvious idea. Have people look at your idea with those obstacles set to the side for now. Brainstorm as if those things did not matter. What would you, or could you do then?

Can you imagine how differently the conversation might proceed this way. Can you imagine how much easier it might be to generate ideas, all kinds of creative, clever and innovative ideas this way?

But the step I love is Step 4. This is where so many of us make the possible into the impossible. Taking action. That is it. We know what we want to do. We know how to go about it even. But we just don't do it. We don't put one foot in front of the other, as I am fond of saying. That is all it takes. Movement. Action. I love how she instructs to take action quickly. That hesitation is the killer. Things move to the back of our consciousness and we no longer have the same energy or enthusiasm to pursue the idea. Now the idea that was possible has been proven impossible....simply by our inaction.

I am glad I happened upon Anna's advice. It is something I will try to live in my own life. I hope it helped you see the world a little differently too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


It was just about four years ago that my obsession began. And there really is no other way to describe it. I sat down, innocently enough with a box of assorted colors of Sculpey. All those colors. I was supposed to come up with some projects to help a friend out with a workshop. I hadn't really done much with polymer clay before, but I wanted to help out a friend. Little did I know what I was unleashing......

The workshop was cancelled. ...."oh, that's too bad"....and I got right back to my clay.

I would work my way through all my favorite colors first. As I got down to those less appealing colors I would figure out challenges to engage myself. I would not let myself go out and buy more clay till what I had was gone. I began scouring eBay for deals on such thing! I voraciously read every word in the two books I had,....over and over again. Soon I had to have better clay, the pasta machine, more books..... The children's book I was trying to get published, was getting pushed further and further back on my work table. Soon I picked it up and put it away.

I need to do this. Nothing I have ever done in my life has been so satisfying or engaging. I have never worked so hard or so long for so little.

But when I listen to interviews of other artists on Alison Lee's podcasts, I am fascinated by the fact that this "unusual behavior" or this obsession is the norm among so many. This need to create. This connection with the media. We are driven to express something with our hands and various materials. It is as close to a "calling" as I will ever know.

But this morning it occurred to me that our society is quicker to place value on so many other skills and talents. I recalled a project I worked on when I was getting my MBA. It was an independent project. Five of us were working on a marketing plan for a car company. As part of the plan we had to come up with an ad. My creative juices were chomping at the bit. "I'll do the drawings!", as I secretly jumped up and down inside. I spent hours drawing out the storyboard of our ad concept. Going into details far beyond what was required. I had so much fun doing it. When I showed them to the group, they were shocked. Nobody knew. No one knew I could draw. And right then, I wanted it to be my secret again. I wanted to tuck it back into hiding. The axis had shifted. I was not the same Judy they knew the day before, and they couldn't easily fit the pieces together. It was an elephant in the room....Why? How long? Why not? All questions I could not or would not answer. It was easier to get back to the project and the business questions that I could answer. And so that was what I did for quite some time. It was safer to be an MBA student than an artist-wannabe.

It took a long time before I gave myself permission to explore that side of myself. Before I gave it the value in my life that it deserved.

Now, I cannot imagine living my life without my art. I have to create. I have to make things. I have to work with color and form and texture. That MBA has been a valuable asset. I am glad to have that knowledge and the business experience. But for some reason I never thought I could have both. Be engaged in business and be creative. But clearly, I can.

I was waiting for someone else to give me permission. To show me the way. I was waiting to be "good enough", and for someone else to tell me that I was "good enough." "Good enough for what?", I have to ask now. And who is going to decide? I now know that permission, or evaluation is meaningless. When you feel that passion and drive, and you let yourself pursue it, it doesn't matter if others understand or approve. You know you are on the right path. You do it because you have to do it. And if it is the right path, other around you will eventually come to see that as well. It was not a straight line to where I am today, but each step of the journey informed where I am today.

Are you waiting for permission in your life? Guess what? The only person who can sign that permission slip now is you. So, are you going to let yourself go on this journey, or are you going to stay home, where you know the rules, and know what to expect?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Objects Are Closer Than They May Appear

"Warning: Dates on calendar are closer than they appear."

This clever variation of the phrase from rear view mirrors appears on a bumper sticker, and it seems to fit my life lately. Oooh....that was this weekend?

I will be doing the DeCordova Art in the Park show on June 10th in Lincoln, MA. It is a great outdoor, one day show. I did it last year and it was a gorgeous day. Tents are set up amidst the sculptures in their Sculpture Park. There is music, and performances throughout the day. The DeCordova Museum is a great local museum of contemporary art, with a terrific museum school.

For some reason, I was thinking that the show was the following weekend. But, it is actually only three weeks away. Which means I better get busy with my mailing, today! Last year I had kept a list of show dates and other deadlines on the white board in my office. It was a great way to keep myself on schedule. I would glance at it on a regular basis, and it kept deadlines from slipping. Looks like I have to get back to using that mechanism to help me keep on track.

What mechanism do you use to stay on track?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Production, How do You Plan Your Schedule?

When you go to a wholesale show, rather than selling the work that you have brought with you, you are taking orders. You may have some of the work already produced, in which case you just need to package it up and ship it out. But how do you know how much you can commit to and when you can deliver it to the customer?

It is something that was a puzzle to me for some time. But over time I began to sort it out. In part it came from the wisdom shared by others on discussion boards. And in part it came from my own experience in the studio. While I was getting ready for ACRE, I had a reader ask, "How do you plan your production schedule?" It was a great question, (thanks Loretta!) and one I did not forget. Since I am in the middle of filling some of those orders, it seemed like a good time to finally address it.

Rule One of wholesale. You set your schedule. You are in charge of when you can deliver the work. Everyone may want it yesterday, but buyers of craft understand that you are the factory. You are an individual who can only produce so much. And if your product is a good one, there will be demand for it, and they may just have to wait if they want it bad enough. Without this rule firmly implanted into your head, and every cell of your body (lol), you may find yourself to be an overworked, sleep deprived, stressed out artist, who is wondering what you were ever thinking when you decided to start selling your work. And every creative fiber in your body will have shriveled to a frayed and fragile thread. Not a place any one of us wants to visit.

So now you know the ground rules. You are in charge of your schedule. Where do you go from there? The next step is to get out your calendar. Start filling in all the commitments you already have. Are you doing a retail show? Block out the time you need for the show, for set-up, for packing, and for getting ready for the show. Will you need to get some inventory made? Block that time out. Will you be doing a mailing? Put that on the calendar. Give yourself a day, or half a day, to make that happen at the right time to make it effective. Do you have a vacation or other event coming up? Put that in. Start by figuring out what time is available to you to make the work to fill the orders.

So you have a calendar with days blocked out. Now what? Now you need to know about how much work you can produce in a day or a week. I prefer to look at a week. My day-to-day life needs as much flexibility as I can provide.

I know some of you are thinking, how do I do this? How do I know? It goes back to some of what we did before with the pricing. If your pricing is done correctly, you will be able to look at your day or your week and know about how much work you can produce in that time by a dollar amount. It may be $200, or $2000, or much more. It depends on how much time you have to commit to your work, whether you have assistance, and where your prices fall. This is a number that only you can determine. And it will take some experience to work it out. But fairly quickly, you will get a sense of what it is.

At the show, as I took orders, I would mark out the time needed to produce the order, based on the desired delivery date, and the dollar amount of the order. It did not matter what the order was for, as much as how much it was for, and how my calendar looked. A manufacturing facility has a production scheduler. This is the hat you are wearing when you plan out your schedule. I have orders that will ship in August, September, October and November, in addition to those that wanted the work as fast as I could get it to them. Those orders for deliver in the future were blocked out at the appropriate times on the calendar. This does not mean that I can't make the work sooner. But I know, if I have not done it before the time I have planned, I will have to do it then. And if I can get it done before then (in all likelihood), then I will be able to free up that time to fill other orders, or do some marketing to try and generate some more business.

Buyers that wanted work as soon as I could get it to them were scheduled on a first come, first serve basis. As a week filled up, they were given a date for the following week. The advantage to planning your orders this way, as well, is that you can doing your shipping for a week's worth of production on one day. As I completed the work for an order, I put it aside, with it's order form, and went on to the next order. When I had the work for a week done, I could create my invoices, call to get credit card information, and package and ship the work. This is far more efficient than going through all these steps each time you fill an order. You can stay in the flow of production till several orders are filled.

By being able to plan out my schedule like this, it has actually brought sanity to my life that doing retail shows does not always bring. I know what I am making, and how much to make. I just get it done, and ship it out, and then it is on to the next batch of orders. Or if I have time, I can go putter in the garden, or get the grocery shopping done,.....just basically try to live a normal life!

I hope this explanation helps to demystify scheduling production. It really can make your life more sane in the long run. If this is what is holding you back from doing wholesale, perhaps it is time to rethink that objection.

One more thing....don't forget to look at your upcoming schedule and see if you need to be ordering any materials to be sure that you have what you need to fill the orders. That is part of the planning process a factory will use as well. You are the factory, the scheduler, the procurement person,......etc. You can't make it if you don't have the supplies on hand.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pageant Post Mortem

Why am I even posting about this pageant thing? It has nothing to do with business or art, right? Well, maybe,.....

As I posted earlier, I was less than enthusiastic about my daughters entering a pageant. But they had their hearts set on it. After thinking about it a bit, I decided that my issues with the pageant were just that, my issues. I had to get over it and think about the fact that this was their dream, and perhaps I ought to support them in their pursuit of it as much as I do other dreams they might have. There are times to absolutely say no. But was this really one of them?

Also I had what I called "the Barbie Theory". When they were at that age that girls begin to play with Barbies, I wished Barbies did not exist. I hated the impossible physique, the clothes that were sometimes far too sexualized for 4 to 6 year old girls, who are now the primary target for Barbies. But, I also knew the more you oppose something the more you set up a battle and potentially create interest. If I let them play with the Barbies they might just get over it sooner. And they did. So I hoped, if I let them enter this pageant they will see for themselves what it is all about and move on.

It worked! Whew.... collective sigh of relief from my husband and I. Yet, in retrospect as I traveled through this pageant process with my girls there were plenty of lessons, good and bad we gained along the way.

1. There is nothing like experience to teach you the reality of something. I could have told my girls over and over, and probably still would be telling them to this day, about all the reasons why they should not do a pageant. It would not penetrate the same way actually experiencing it first hand has. The same thing has been true for me with my business. I have learned more from actually being in business, doing shows, visiting galleries, etc, etc.....more than I ever could have learned reading books. magazines, internet postings and blogs, or asking others for advice. There is a certain point if there is something you truly want to do, you need to just do it. That will answer your questions and uncertainties better than anything else in the world.

2. It is not always what you say, but how you say it. It was eye-opening to me to help my girls prepare for the interview and "question". We would do pretend interviews at dinner, or driving in the car. What I learned as I coached them is that it is often not your answer to the question that matters. What matters is how it is delivered. And the best way to come across positively and enthusiastically is to talk about what you are passionate about in life. So much like a political consultant, I found myself explaining to them how to answer most any question in a way that can get back to being able to tell the "story" of you in a few sentences. I can't say that they totally grasped the lesson, but I learned something. It was reinforced when I saw who was picked to be the finalists in each group. Often it was the girls who were the most enthusiastic and dynamic in their answers.....and often, those answers had nothing to do with the question! I found myself cheering for one girl who was a mini Oprah in the making when she was selected as a finalist. It was only a few hours later that I realized, she didn't answer the question. But she oozed self-assurance from every pore. You just wanted her to succeed.

3. Learning how to interview, or how to sell yourself are skills we all need in life, and can't necessarily learn too early. The visits to get sponsors was painful. But as I refused to talk they began to step up to the task. The phone calls got more polished. And they learned it is not easy. It takes work. It means taking a deep breath and just doing what you don't really want to do in order to get where you want.

4. Sometimes things are what you think they will be and often they are more than that. Some of the people at the pageant were right out of a made-for-TV movie. Others could have come right from a Saturday Night Live parody. Some of the mothers were very invested in the experience. Others were supporting their daughters while holding their nose at the whole idea. I was suprised to see that most of the girls were girls with dreams, but not much more. Girls who want to experience being in a pageant. They did not have the polish or the poise of the few who clearly had traveled this road before. Sometimes they looked like a before picture in a makeover. But they were there. They were putting themselves into the experience and doing their best. And for that they deserve an award. Sometimes showing up is the most important thing.

5. Our kids will often surprise us in the most wonderful ways. The best moment for me in the whole experience was watching my younger daughter on stage, clapping wholeheartedly for each girl in her group as each was introduced, or after each one answered her question. She wanted each and every girl there to succeed. She also seemed to understand that someone else succeeding does not necessarily mean you will fail. It is not always a zero sum game. And you will enjoy yourself more, if you enjoy other's successes along the way, as well as your own.

6. Just because you lose, doesn't mean it was a waste of time. The numbers of people who are not annointed winners always exceeds the annointed. If winning is the only reason to do something, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Winning can be fun, but it doesn't last all that long. We are all more resilient than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. Are you protecting yourself from failure?

Neither one of my daughters made it into the final group. (Silent cheer from the parents!) As we talked about the pageant afterwards, I asked them what they thought about it, and were they glad they did it. Neither had regrets about doing it. Neither wanted to do it again. But both felt it was worth having done. They now knew what it was all about. They knew it didn't suit them. They knew it with an assurance that can't always be gained in another way. They both had fun hanging out with all the other kids backstage. They were cheering for their personal favorites, with an insider's perspective. They enjoyed a moment in the spotlight, looking beautiful....but they were glad to get out of those clothes, and back into the jeans and flip-flops.

Pageants are history in our household now. But we know have an insider's perspective. There is more there than it seems, but it still is not right for us. And we all gained some knowledge and insight along the way.

What dream sits there waiting for you to pursue. Are you waiting for the perfect moment, or do you feel like you have to know everything and do everything perfectly before you try? Are you afraid you may not like it in the end? Maybe you won't,...but maybe you will. And you won't know till you try. And if you fall flat on your what? You get up, dust yourself off, and figure out what to do next.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Darn! I missed it! Did You?

Yesterday was Freedom from Self-Improvement Day and I missed it! I guess I can declare today a do-over for all of us who missed the announcement. You can get some e-coupons for yourself or for those you love, to get into the spirit of the day.

This holiday was declared by Jennifer Louden. She is a contributing editor to Martha Stewart's Body + Soul magazine. It seems a bit oxymoronic that someone from a magazine produced by the queen of "you can do it better", would be promoting "give yourself a break, already!" But, when I looked through the magazine in a waiting room recently, I was surprised to find out that Martha was the publisher. It has a nice balance and tone to it. I love Martha's sense of style, but it all seems "too" perfect for real people with a life to acheive.

Now why in the world would I embrace such a day as Freedom from Self Improvement? Isn't my blog all about work and doing it better? Perhaps. But I think I also want to understand and explore the idea of knowing when to look outside and when to turn inside to find the answers to the questions. At least I hope that is what I am getting at. Everyday should be freer. Freer from the external motivations to run our lives. Driven more from that deep voice within our gut which is the best guide to live the life we were meant to live.

It is hard to hear that small voice from inside when you are so used to being externally driven. It takes quiet and patience to discern. But what I have learned, is that the more you listen, the louder and truer it becomes, and the more we can find peace, grace and contentment in our lives. That sounds just so very new age-y, but it also seems true, based on my own experiences.

It is fine to have goals and ambition. But it is also important to have humility and grace. Can you let go? Can you adapt? Can you admit you were wrong without feeling a sense of humiliation and defeat? If not, you will forever feel out of balance. There is so little that is under our control. I think I have declared my motto here before, "One foot in front of the other." In the end that is often what it comes down to. Do what you are able, and have the grace to let go of the rest. Let go of shoulds, and just do what you can. Somedays you may be a phenom, and others a slug. That is okay. It is part of being the human beings.
So send a few coupons. Be sure to give at least one to yourself. And just breath............

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Sweet Spot

I was thinking this morning about "one hit wonders". How certain musicians make it really big with a song. They rise to the top of the charts. You hear the song everywhere. But within a year, two, or maybe a few years they have disappeared completely from the radar. Or their song may still play from time to time on the radio, but they are more likely to become the subject of a trivia question. The same phenomenon can be seen with writers. A best seller, and then nothing that ever makes it as big again. Actors, directors, and many other creative fields can have the same pattern happen.

On the other hand their are the Beatles, composer John Williams, director Stephen Spielberg, actors Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, John Malkovich. I am sure you can add plenty of names to the list of people who sustained their ability to perform and create at a high level, over and over again. You hear the name, and you know the talent that it represents. Robert Redford went on from acting to create Sundance, and John Malkovich also designs a line of clothing. The process of creating is like breathing for some people. How that gets expressed may not be singular.

Why am I bringing this up? I think the same pattern can happen with artists and craftspeople. We can be one-hit wonders as well if we don't avoid the pitfalls along the way.

If you look at a polymer clay artist like Kathleen Dustin, you will see a broad range of work over her career. Early on, she did beautiful millefiore canework and dioramas. She then developed the depth of surface technique that propelled her work to a new place. Her purses and jewelry were recognizable by the forms, the images and the technique. She is continuing to experiment and explore the medium, incorporating wood, badger hair, metal and other materials into her designs. Exploring the terrain, all the while, having a recognizable style and palette. Ford + Forlano are another example of polymer clay artists whose work evolved from the colorful, patterned style of City Zen Cane, to their newer which is more muted and organic, yet recognizable as the work of this duo.

I can think of several other artists who continue to change their designs, their palette, and explore new ideas. When I saw Judy Belcher at the ACRE show she had a new line of work incorporating metal and swivel elements. It had signature elements of Judy's work, yet it was going into new terrain for her. She is excited about this new work, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

Then there are artists whose focus is so intense that their design fails to evolve beyond the original concept. The artist and the work start to look tired. Perhaps there is a fear in moving away from the idea that brought them recognition and success. New work, when it comes, may not get the same enthusiastic response that the first work did. Especially if it is slow in coming. Too little, too late, to revitalize the crowd. They have already moved on to other things. It will involve a heroic effort to get their attention again.

This does not diminish the talent or skill that it took to develop the initial concept or execute it. The difference is, when the artist becomes entangled in that concept and can't move forward. It takes skill, vision and talent to reach success with any well as some luck. But no single idea has a life that is endless. Look at how many times Picasso reinvented himself and his work.

The Sweet Spot is that place between having a voice, and keeping it fresh. The Sweet Spot is not a static place. Once you get there, it moves. You need to continually reinvent yourself and your work. This does not mean a complete overhaul. But don't let your "signature" work become a ball and chain that you need to drag around. Because that is what it will be if you do not continue to feed the muse. And if you want to sell your work, you need to recognize the market will continually ask, "What have you done lately?" The "new" has an added value in the marketplace.

There is no map to the Sweet Spot. It is a journey for which we each need to cut our own trail. There is not a well worn path. What worked for one, will not necessarily work for another. But by trying to stay focused on that balance, you will feed your muse, and your business.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day bouquet

What is the first bouquet most mothers receive from their kids? One that came from them....not one that Dad bought to give to Mom.....but one that came straight from the kids?

If your kids are like mine it was a fistful of dandelions. The dandelions are presented as a most wonderful treasure in the world, waiting for the big smile and hug from Mom. I remember one daughter telling me how they looked like sunshine. I can even vaguely remember picking a handful of dandelions myself as a kid.

My yard has had dandelions bursting into bloom all week. Bright yellow blossoms. I see neighbors out spraying, digging, mowing.....attacking those yellow blossoms. My kids don't even seem to have noticed them. I can't help but wonder.....When do we make the shift? When does the dandelion go from sunshine to enemy?

The next time you spy a dandelion growing in your yard, see if you can relax about it for a minute. Try and put your childhood head on again, and remember when it was sunshine. Or maybe instead attacking them with a vengance, pick a bouquet to bring in the house and remember the first bouquet you got from your kids. Or if you don't have a yard, or any dandelions, you can go here, and get a virtual dandelion for your computer screen.
Happy Mother's Day! And the next time someone gives you a fistful of dandelions, give them a smile and a hug in return, and see it for the fistful of love that it is. You never know, it might be your last dandelion bouquet.

Ego Interference

So you are hooked on making beads, or jewelry, or pots or pictures. Whatever it is, you just love making it and your friends and family tell you to sell your work. Should you or shouldn't you?

There are many, many issues to think about before you take that step, but one important one is whether or not you can separate you from your work. Can you look at your product as a "widget" rather than an extension of your heart and soul? Because frankly, in the end, that is how the world is looking at it. Do they like it enough to buy it for the price you are selling it? Can they justify the purchase? Or if they are a buyer for a retail outlet, can they sell it? Will their customers buy it? Does it reflect their customer's taste and pocketbook?

So you have an appointment to go meet with a shop owner. You go in with your very best work. You need to be ready to answer the questions they will be sure to ask about price, what sells best, etc, etc. But, you also need to be ready to hear any feedback you receive from the buyer. You may not like what they have to say, or even agree with it. But, if you can't separate your ego from your product, and look at it as a "widget", you should not sell your work.

You may hear that your finishing needs improvement, or that your price is too high, or that your designs are not ones that will sell well for them. Heck, they might not like your color palette, or might try to redesign your line. You can NOT take any of this personally. It is their opinion. Some of it might be on target, and some of it might be just one person's opinion. With time you can sort that out. But if you can't hear what they have to say because your ego got in the way and shut down your hearing, you may miss a valuable lesson or two. And you may lose a valuable honest sounding board. Someone who will share their experience and opinions with you about your work.

It is a tricky dance we have to play when we sell our art. Part of us goes into the creation. We need to change hats when we step out of the studio and try to sell our work. If we feel like it is cutting off an arm if it doesn't go to a good home, or if we can't hear the truth about our pricing or finishing or color choices.....even if it comes over and over again.....then we will not be able to effectively sell our work.

We are selling "widgets". And like all widgets there needs to be demand in order to sell the work. And it has to be priced right. Some colors will sell better than others. If you hate purple and blue, and love orange, it might hurt your sales. If you can accept this limitation, fine. But recognize it for what it is. The market sets the rules. We need to decide if we are willing to play the game.

Not every suggestion you get is worthwhile. A high price for one store might be fine somewhere else. But if the same feedback is coming over and over again, perhaps there is something there that you need to pay attention to. Leave the ego in the studio. Sit down as a business person and evaluate your "product". Is it saleable? Can you make it saleable? Can you live with what that entails? The answer to any of these might be no. And that is fine. Just recognize what that means and be willing to accept it for what it is.

Being an artist and a business person is a mental juggling act sometimes. But any entrepreneur puts their heart and soul into their product. Until they are able to separate their heart and soul from the product when they bring it to market, success will probably be elusive. It is not necessarily about changing our product to meet the market demand. It is more about being able to accept any limitations and additional challenges that our current strategy may impose on us.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lessons from Parenting

When did parent become a verb anyway??

We all learn about being a parent from our own parents. We talk about what we are NOT going to do as parents. We repeat patterns, consciously or unconsciously from generation after generation. Nothing has taught me more about myself than being a parent.

My girls are 11 and 13. Teen and tween. Rapidly growing up into the women they will become. And as they do, I am being forced to look inward at my own experiences, values and dreams and sort those out from those of my kids.

Last month my oldest daughter attended a camp sponsored by Tufts Veterinary School....Adventures in Veterinary Medicine. When she was a little girl she loved dogs in theory, and was absolutely terrified of them in reality. She would literally climb up me when we were out for a walk and a dog was anywhere near by. This girl has come a long way. She and her friend run a pet sitting/dog walking business. At camp, she volunteered to put her hand up the bottom of a cow to feel for the baby. My frightened, timid little girl faced her fears and stepped up to the task when no one else would. I could not have been more proud of her. I could see the dream she has light up her face as she talked about each day's experience. At thirteen, she already has a good idea of what she wants in life, and is already pursuing it.

Around the same time, she got a letter in the mail, inviting her to participate in a pageant. The beauty kind. The kind that makes me shudder. She "really, really, really" wanted to do this. My husband agreed to take her and her sister to the informational meeting. We thought that would be the end of it. Nope. They were "accepted" into the pageant after an interview. Now they had to raise money to participate, and they had very little time to do so. I was still not very enthusastic about it all. A pageant. If my kids do a pageant, does that make me a "pageant mom", and all that entails?? Yuck!

But then I had to pause and remember. Way, way back when. When I would watch the Miss America pageants as a little girl and wonder. But my dreams were kept firmly in check by those around me. I was ready to repeat that pattern. But I had to ask myself, why am I so ready to support her dream of being a vet, but so unwilling to support this? Is it like Barbie? Let them play with it, and get it out of their system. By quashing this dream now, what message am I sending her? That dreams need parental approval before they can be pursued?? Is that the parent I want to be?

As uncomfortable as it has been, I have had to support her in this dream. They have had to work hard to get sponsors, and it has been a valuable lesson in sales. We do practice "interviews" with them at the dinner table. I think I am teaching my kids how to become a politician. Have a story that you want to get across about yourself, and no matter what the question is, find a way to work it around to that. We wrote a press release, and today they had their pictures and a little blurb about them in the paper. That was tempered by the light of day...."what are my friends going to think..?"

Sunday is the pageant. There is some excitement and some wondering about what they got themselves into. And I have learned a lesson. The only dreams we can be sure about are our own. And the only thing we can hope for from those around us is that they support those dreams rather than quash them. My dreams cannot about what my children do with their lives. Those are their dreams to live. All I can do is to support them as best I can, and pick up the pieces when necessary. Let's hope I don't have to learn the lesson again and again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

In Praise of Production

I often hear the comment...."I could never do this as a business. I could never stand to make the same thing over and over again." The very idea of becoming a machine, cranking out the same thing, over, and over, and over,.....again, and again, and again.......sends people scurrying in all directions.

I used to be of the same mindset.

Yes, it is true. I uttered those very same words. But now I live on the other side of them, and I have to sing the praises of production. Yes, there are times it is monotonous, and I don't want to make another crane! "No, no, please! Don't make me do it!" But those are brief and fleeting moments in the grand scheme of things. So what is so great about production work?

1. You learn. You learn lots and lots of things about the nuances of the material you are working with. Things you would never learn or understand if each time you sat down to create you were doing something different. In the 1oth piece you may learn some way to do a maneuver more efficiently. On the 100th piece you may find the piece more finished and refined than the first, without even knowing for sure how you got there. You learn subtleties about the limitations of the material, or how to work with the material, rather than against it.

2. Every job has it's production aspects. Every job is repetitive to some degree. It is where "experience" comes from. When I was a marketing analyst, I used to do market studies of various areas of the country trying to determine the growth prospects, and which industries would predominate. Every area of the country I studied was different. The competition, the industries, the product mix, etc., etc. And yet, each time I began working on a new project I began from the same place. Gathering the data. Putting it through the same types of analysis. Getting a lay of the land. From there each project diverged, but then it was back to "production"....creating a report with the same general format as those completed in the past.

3. There is comfort in production. There is something nice about just sitting down to make something you are good at making. Knowing the moves. Knowing what to expect. Knowing where to start. You don't need to reinvent the wheel each time. You can just get to work.

4. There is inspiration in production. Yes, inspiration. As your mind is in that relaxed state as you work with your material, you may find an idea pop into your head....that eternal question...."What if?" Nothing feeds creativity like daily, or near daily contact with your work. If you had to sit down and create from scratch each time, it is overwhelming. But as you work with the material each day, you will find the ideas coming to you. The incremental changes to what you do regularly each day can lead to new products and new ideas. The media gets into your bloodstream. You can't help but think about other ideas of what you could do and where you could go with the material.

5. If you are going to try and make a living, isn't it more fun to be doing it with something you love than doing work you hate? I had a "crisis" moment about a year ago. I finally realized that if I got serious about my cranes, there was a market for them. A really good market. But I wasn't sure I wanted to be making hundreds, if not thousands of cranes.

But then I realized, people would pay me to make things from clay. People were finding inspiration in my work. People were connecting to the cranes in ways I never could have seen. How could I not make the cranes? As I expected, demand has been fantastic. I could barely keep up last fall. I gained fifteen new accounts between the end of July and November. Many were re-ordering the cranes multiple times. I was a crane factory.

This might be where some of you say, ...."See, that is what I am talking about! I don't want to be a factory."

But the cranes have brought me cash flow. They have financed my first participation in a wholesale show. Nine out of the the ten new accounts from the ACRE show were people buying cranes. They have generated lots of interest from media. And there are the stories. The personal stories of connections with the cranes. The more cranes I make, the more lives I get a chance to touch.

6. Production is everywhere in our lives. The repetition we want to run from is a part of our lives. Doing the dishes. Sweeping the floor. Picking up the clutter of life. We do it, and then we do it again, and then again, and again. We may not always enjoy it. But sometimes, we may notice that time spent doing the dishes has a certain meditative quality to it. Or when we finish picking up the living room, vaccuuming and dusting, there is some pleasure in seeing the results of our labor. And soon, we will do it again. The laundry, the cooking, the shopping, and on and on. Sometimes we want to run screaming from the room rather than do that task yet again. But it is often the thought of the task that is more distasteful than the actual task, once we get started.

7. Production of a product we don't like making is the real problem. Sometimes when people make the decision that they want to sell their work at shows or through shops, they begin by looking at "what people will buy". You see the questions on discussion boards, "What sells well at shows?" And maybe they get an answer to that question, and they go off and start making the work that will sell. They don't particularly like making it, but they have been told that it is a big seller, and that is what they want,....something that will sell.

This is the production you will grow to hate. You are making something that does not come from you and your heart and voice. You are making it because "it will sell". But it might not sell nearly as well as you think it will because your heart is not in it. You will begin to resent every pen, bead or widget that you make. This is not what you wanted to be doing. You used to have fun working with your media. This is not fun. And you will resent anyone who looks at your work at a show and doesn't buy it. "What is wrong with them?" "This show stinks." Can you feel the bad karma? Pretty soon no one wants to be in your booth. Heck, you don't even want to be in your booth.

Production work that comes from your love of the material, your connection with the work, is what will bring satisfaction. Your enthusiasm will be evident to anyone who sees your work at a show. And you will hear those voices of people who connected with your work as you sit in your studio, making more.

"POP!" That was the sound of a bubble bursting. If the thought of production work is what stops you from moving toward selling your work, maybe you need to look again and rethink your objections. It may not be nearly as objectionable as it first looked.

Monday, May 7, 2007

How Do You Measure the Success of a Show?

So, how do you measure a show? The ACRE wholesale show is over, and I have signed up to do the show again next year. All in all, I would say I had a good show. But how can you measure a show?

The most obvious answer is in the sales. Did you write enough orders to cover your expenses, and make some money? A mistake some artists make is measuring their sales against their booth fee, as if that is the only expense they have in doing the show. The booth fee might be the single largest expense, but it is not the only show expense. For a show that is out of town, you have travel expenses (airfare or mileage, hotel, meals, etc). There are promotional expenses associated with the show (mailings, handouts, press kit, etc.). There may be the cost of shipping your materials. You can be creative and frugal in how you spend your money in these areas, but you can’t do a show without some additional expenses. And certainly don’t forget the cost of producing the product to fill the order (materials, labor, packaging). The booth fee is just one part of your sales expenses. Measuring your sales against only one aspect of your costs can be an expensive mistake.

But what are some other ways to measure the outcome? Here are 5 that I have come up with:

1. For a wholesale show, how many new accounts did you get? In wholesale you can’t measure the show solely by the orders written at the show. A good account will be re-ordering product from you again and again. Over and over, when I would write up an order for a new account this week, it was clear that people were looking for artists and work they could represent over the long haul, not just a one-time order. So that order for a few hundred dollars may be much, much more than that, over time.

2. What other benefits came from the show? Shows are a chance for your work to get exposure. At the ACRE show there were quite a few press people present. I brought just over a dozen press kits to the show, and left them in the show office on set-up day. When I went back to pick them remainders up at the end of the show, eleven had been taken. Not all will end up generating publicity. The half a day spent putting these together was time well invested. I already know about two publications that are interested in featuring my work. That is exposure I could not otherwise afford.

3. Post show sales. Whether it is a retail show or a wholesale show, post show sales are not uncommon. At one show last summer two different people contacted me about purchasing gifts for people who had seen my work at the show.
All those postcards or business cards that get handed out, can mean sales in the long term. I highly recommend having an image of your work on your business cards. Vista Print will print a picture on one side, and your contact info on the other. They are great looking, and better reminders of who you are than just your name and website.

4. Follow-up. The show is not over when the lights are switched off and you start packing up your work. I have cards from galleries who stopped in my booth and were interested in my work, but did not get back to see me during the show. These people are good prospects for potential future sales. Following up with a postcard or phone call in the next few weeks will keep my work in their minds. Certainly not all of them will end up buying my work, and I might even gain a few accounts without lifting a finger. But it never hurts to make that extra effort.

5. Serendipity. I often find myself scouting a show for work for a few of the local galleries that carry my work. Sometimes I see something in another artist’s work that makes me think it would be a good fit for one or more of the galleries I know. I will pass that information along, and perhaps that artist will gain a new account, maybe never knowing why that happened.

I am sure there are more measures of a show…like how well was the show managed? Was it a good fit for your work? Do the location and timing work out for you?

After you get back from a show, take a few minutes to think about the show. What were the high points, and what needs improvement? Can those improvement be made by you, or do they require someone or something else to change? If they require your effort, begin to work toward those changes. If it depends on others to change, you need to decide how critical those issues are, or if you can adapt. Not every show is a good fit for us or our work. And expecting others to change to meet our needs is often a fruitless exercise. It happens, but we can't count on it.

Be sure to celebrate the high points. Without relishing our successes from time to time, there is little point in making the effort. And, give yourself a day off to recover. Shows are draining on many levels, and you may need a day to just relax before you dive right back into the studio. This is advice I have had trouble following in the past, but followed this time. A day spent with my kids was just what I needed.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Twelve Minute Layover

I felt like a character in the movie, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" all day Saturday. I was tired and looking forward to getting home to see my family. It had been a good show, but I was ready to be home.

I had a very early flight out of Las Vegas, so I was up at 4:30. As I checked in my bag, I asked the person behind the counter about the 12 minute layover I had in Newark. Was this going to be possible?

"A twelve minute layover? That's illegal. How did you make these reservations?"

The reservations were made on their very own company website. The problem was, they changed the schedule of the first flight, but did not change the time for the second. A forty-five minute connection, became a twelve minute impossibility. Problem. The next flight to Providence, where my car was parked, was at 9:15 pm......some 6-1/2 hours later. Twelve minutes to run nearly 30 gates away, and hope the plane is still there and accessible for boarding,...... or six-and-a-half hours in the Newark airport.....which sounds better to you??

Back up reservations were made on the later flight, but this was not really an option I was relishing.

On the flight, I asked one of the flight attendants about checking as we got closer to Newark to see if it was going to be possible to make the flight. Nope. Couldn't be done. Check with the agent when I got off the plane.

I tried to maintain a balance between pushing my way off the plane, and not annoying every other person trying to get off that flight. Fortunately I was sitting near the front of the plane. The agent at the gate pointed up the hallway, and said, "Go up to security and take a right." She failed to mention that it was three concourses I had to travel, before I reached security, and then when I took the right, the gate I needed was at the very end of that concourse. I walked and ran as fast as I could, hauling my bag with my laptop, files, jewelry, camera, etc. Laptops may be small, but they are not lightweight.

About halfway down that finally concourse, my legs cramping, and out of breath, I pushed myself, all the while knowing this was a futile chase. Sure enough, I got to the gate, and saw that closed door, and a flight to Jacksonville, FL on the sign. The agent at the gate told me she tried to get the pilot to hold the flight for me, but he wouldn't do it. I had missed the flight by a minute. One lousy minute. Now I had more than six hours to the next flight.

Thus began a two and half hour ordeal to get out of that airport and on my way home.

Back and forth between customer service, and on the phone with the flight insurance people. One hour swallowed up to get a letter from the airline saying, yes, this was their fault. Next stop, baggage claim customer service to try to retrieve my bag. Forty five minutes later, I had my bag.

Then there was the torture they have installed in many airports. Instead of a counter with an agent who can answer your questions, they have these phones with short cords and low volume, to call for ground transport, etc. I tried to call several car rental companies to see if they had a car available. The problem was the phones were placed right next to a place where various announcements were made over the public address system. And the woman making the announcements wanted to make sure all those in the most furthest reaches of the airport could hear her. Problem was, she drowned out every other sound in the vicinity. I finally gave up my futile task, got on my cell phone, with it's dying battery, and called my husband, and got him to get on the computer to see what he could come up with.

Avis rocks! They were friendly, accomodating, and everything you want from a service oriented company. In addition to the letter I will be writing to the airline in question, I will be writing a letter of thanks to Avis. By 5:30 I was on the road in heading for Providence, RI. I got to the Providence airport about 15 minutes after the later plane was schedule to take-off from Newark.

It may seem silly to be working so hard to get out of the airport to get home maybe one hour earlier than I would have been able to get home on the later flight. I guess when I began the process, I never expected it to take sooooo long. And I just needed to be out of the airport. Away from the noise, and chaos. Las Vegas is a loud and chaotic place. I had had enough of the noise, and wanted to be home with my family, and in an environment that would begin to put me back on an even keel. Perhaps four-and-a-half hours sitting cramped in a plane that morning added to my desire to end this trip, no matter what it took. At least in a car, I could listen to the radio, get out and stretch if I needed to, and just feel a bit more in control of my destiny than I was feeling at that moment.

When I got home, the house was dark, but the light was on in my youngest daughter's room. I thought she must have wanted to stay awake till I got home, but feel asleep with the light on. But as I dragged my bags down the walk, I saw her and my husband in the kitchen window. She had woken up from a bad dream. My husband went back to bed, but she and I snuggled together under an afghan. Slowly the terror of the nightmare began to evaporate, and she started to nod off. It felt good to be home, and to be there for my daughter to help her feel safe again.

Pretty soon we were both heading up for bed. Home again. And in my own bed. Hallelujah!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Random, and perhaps Rambling...

The ACRE show opened yesterday, and the energy among the buyers as they first came in the hall was high. They were there to shop, and they were excited to be at this first time show. I did not expect to do much business yesterday, as it was the first day of the show. This is usually the information gathering day for buyers. Walk the show, gather information, and then go back to the hotel and sort it all out. Then it is back to the show the next day to place orders. But I was happy to have written six orders yesterday, only one of which was a re-order.

This is a picture of where I am hanging out this week. You can see it is a completely different booth than I had at Craft Boston, or any other show I have done, for that matter. I rented the hardwall booth set-up, and the shelves. I would have done some different placement with the shelves if I had more time to think it through, but all in all I am happy with the way it worked out. I have the jewelry up on the wall, and I am happy with that arrangement. It frees up floor space, and makes it easy for people to view the work. I couldn't decide what to do for a table in my booth, and ended up using one of the pedestals and the shelves. Booth layout seems to be something that is always in a state of flux.

I was talking with a customer yesterday, and looked over to see Lisa Pavelka in my booth! Yes, the real live and wonderfully kind Lisa Pavelka. She is as beautiful in person as she is on TV, and sweet as could be. I am having a blast meeting all these people! And Luann Udell stopped by briefly to say "Hello!" It was nice to meet a fellow blogger in person.

Last night Wholesalecrafts had a poolside party for the exhibitors and buyers. The only drawback was the gale force winds blowing through. But it was a chance to talk with other exhibitors, and get to know them a bit more. Judy Belcher, as reported, is a hoot. She was busy writing orders for herself and other artists from Tamarack yesterday, and got two new accounts with her jewelry.....including Bellagio in Asheville, North Carolina....a serious coup. Way to go Judy! The whole gang from the Tamarack Foundation was a fun bunch. I even got my palm read by their marketing person. I was told that I am creative and artistic, ....whew!

Time to get ready for another day. TTFN

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Road Trip...for the Pear

I was able to get the mail on Monday before leaving town, and I was happy to see an envelope from Bead&Button magazine. I had sent in three entries for the Bead Dreams competition; a necklace, a silver bracelet, and the pear. The pear is going to Milwaukee! It was accepted as a finalist for this year's competition. I had planned to bring it here to Las Vegas, but it will make it's own trip.

Bon Voyage, mon poire!
Another wonderful artist who stopped by my booth yesterday:
Judy Belcher. Yes, Judy Belcher! Live and in person. What a sweetie she is. She and her husband tried valiantly to unstick one of my banners that refused to open. She is at the show with the Tamarack Foundation. It is a state organization for craft artists and artisans. Artists are juried into the organization, and can sell their work at the store in West Virginia, and through their on-line store. They are paying to have a booth at the ACRE show to represent the work of twenty artists. How cool is that? The state of West Virginia recognizes the economic value of the arts, and actively supports it. Sadly, there are only a handful of states that have vibrant organizations to support the growth and development of craft. Perhaps it is time for me to do a bit of letter writing in my own state. After looking at the Tamarack site, there certainly is a model that can be followed.
There are other polymer clay artists at the show. I have not had a chance to meet them yet, but hope to at some point this week:
Lauren Van Hemert, Luann Udell, Patricia Kimle, Twocan Clay. I am sure there are others that I just don't know about, yet. If and when they surface, I will post their links.
Time to get ready for the show. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

My Internet Tribe

I am back at the hotel after spending the day setting up my booth. I am exhausted, as is to be expected, but I am just about as ready as I can be for tomorrow's opening day.

The best part of today has been meeting people I have "known" through the internet, but had never met in person. Here I am at a show, three time zones away from home, and I am greeting and hugging virtual strangers. But they don't feel like strangers. These are people who have been part of various conversations in on-line discussion boards. People who I liked and admired from their words and images of their I am getting to meet and talk to them in person. It is great. This is the amazing power of the internet. I had only met a few people at this show before hand. But I feel like I am among friends., not tribe.

Likewise I have had people stop by my booth and say, "Oh, you're Judy Dunn!" They go on to tell how they love my work, or they have read my postings, and I meet someone who had me on their radar, and I didn't even know it. How gratifying is that?

This is the part of doing a show that you never can know or anticipate until you do them. The wonderful network of artists that is out there. I have never left a show without making at least three or four new friends. At this show, I am already at over a dozen new friends. I am also meeting all the wonderful support staff from who have been names in emails or a voice on the phone.

I am a person who is happy working alone in my studio most of the time. But when I emerge, it is wonderful to walk into an environment that is so welcoming and wonderful.

Tomorrow is "Show Time!".....stay tuned.........

In the meantime check out some of the work of some great artists:

Leah Sturgis

Ruth Apter

Tahmi DeSchepper

Kate Tonguis

There are many, many more, but right now I am too tired to think straight. So maybe tomorrow I'll add a few more links.