Monday, April 30, 2007

Paradise Lost, Paradise Visited

Saturday I got the news from Paradise City that I was not accepted into the fall show. Not even waitlisted. For the last few years, I have been waitlisted. Patiently waiting to have my turn at this great show.

Part of the problem could have been timing. Usually I try to get my applications in as soon as possible. Why? Generally the slides/images are reviewed in the order in which they are received. Looking at all the slides and evaluating them is an exhausting task. Especially in categories like jewelry where there are far more entries than spaces. If you wait to submit at the deadline, you are likely to face an exhausted jury panel. There are no guarantees with any jury. But certainly doing what you can to make sure your work is seen in the best light possible is a wise move. If you ever get a chance to take a class with Bruce Baker about slide jurying, do not hesitate. Sign up immediately. You will gain tremendous insight into the process and lots of tips on how you can present your work in the best possible light. If you can't take the class, then get the CD.

I just zipped up my suitcase, and will board a plane this afternoon to head for Las Vegas. The convention center and my hotel are both on Paradise Road. I have the nagging feeling that I am forgetting something. But I seem to have that each time I go on a trip. Whatever it might be, it is probably not critical.

I have signed up for a photo session with George Post at the show. He will have a photo set-up there, and I plan on getting some shots of my jewelry. This may be the thing that will make getting into Paradise City and a few other elusive shows more possible. It will also allow me to see a direct comparison to the photos I have been taking. Jewelry has been especially difficult for me to photograph, and it is something that he specializes in. Time to step it up a notch.

I will try to post from time to time this week to share this adventure into new terrain. It will be a week of discovery and learning for me, and, I hope, for you too.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Taking Risks

There is a theory that some people are born risk takers. They need the adrenaline rush that each risk provides. Sky divers, bungee jumpers, and, some people even say entrepreneurs. Starting a business is loaded with risk. There are no guaranteed paychecks once a week or once a month. There is just a boat load of possibilities, and an endless quantity of work. Starting a business in the world of craft after 9/11 could be considered not just risky, but perhaps suicidal. But here I am.

I don't think of my self as a thrill seeker. There was a brief fling with the idea of sky diving in college which I never pursued. I see myself as someone who takes measured risks. Weighed in my calculations is the risk of inaction. What if I just pass, wait for another day? Part of my decision process comes from a reflection on life, beautifully written by Nadine Stair, at the age of 85. Perhaps you are familiar with it:

"If I had my life to live over again, I'd try to make more mistakes the next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would take seriously. I would be crazier. I would be less hygienic. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets. I would burn more gasoline. I wound eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I would have more actual problems and few imaginary ones.

You see I am one of those people who live prophylactically and sensibly and sanely. Hour after hour. Day by day. Oh, I have had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them. In fact I'd have nothing else. Just moments, one right after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I have been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have. If I had my life to live over. I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would play hooky more often. I wouldn't make good grades except by accident. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I'd pick more daisies. If you hold your nose to the grindstone rough and hold it down there long enough you'll soon forget there are such things as brooks that babble and a bird that sings. These things will your world compose: Just you, a stone, and your darned old nose!"

I first read this quote when I was in North Carolina, about 20 years ago, on an Outward Bound trip. I spent just over a week in the woods, backpacking, rock climbing, and white water rafting. All this from a woman who hated gym! Talk about a challenge! But that was the point of it all. The lessons I learned in the woods that week in June have carried with me for all these years. My mantra these days is "one foot in front of the other." The only way anything happens is by putting one foot in front of another.

That may seem like the most obvious statement in the world. But it has more depth to it than that for me. It goes back to that week in the woods. Part of the program was the ropes course. This is a series of cables, logs and ropes in various forms, that are climbed and crossed, up in the trees. We were all scared silly at the prospect of making our way across this course. This is the rational response to being at that height on a log or a cable, even with a safety harness. Balancing the emotional fear with the rational knowledge that we were not going to fall to our untimely death, allowed us to move, slowly and timidly, through that course, and then back to earth again.

As I crossed on a wire cable, with two thin, wobbly cables to hold for some balance, my feet shook so much the cable bounced up and down. But I managed to cross it without falling. As made my way across that cable, the shaking reduced, and my confidence built. It was simply willing one foot at at time to move. The last part of the course, before rappelling down, was a log, at more than 30 feet in the air. It was a balance beam like I had never crossed before. I did not have faith in my ability to cross that log. I could barely keep my balance walking on a curb. I didn't know if I could even take that first step. Yet what choice did I have. There were already people making there way up behind me. Turning back was just as treacherous, and too crowded. My only way out was forward. Taking that first step took more courage and strength than just about any thing else I have ever done. But I did it. And each step after that. Until I walked all the way across that log. Not once slipping or losing my step.

It wasn't just about doing something that was scary. But about the preparation that went into that scary step. Enough precautions had been taken to eliminate nearly all risk. It was just my fear that was left. Fear of failing. Fear of making a fool of myself. Fear that this would be the worst experience of my life. Instead it was one of the most powerful. It was a reminder to check in and see if that first step is possible before I assume it is too risky, too scary. Impossible.

Being in this business. Doing my first wholesale show. Doing any show! These are all risky steps. But what if I waited until the more perfect moment arrived. I could still be standing there, as I was on that log, frozen in fear. I have no idea what the show will be like. But this is true with any show I have done. I know I have done all I can to prepare for this show, and now I just need to enjoy the walk. Enjoy meeting some of my customers in person for the first time. Enjoy meeting other artists I only know from the Internet. And be open to the possibilities that may come from this experience.

I don't think of myself as a risk taker. Rather, I am someone who wants to avoid the regrets. Opportunities that I should have taken but was afraid to reach for. Some will drop, some will be out of my reach. But each time I try I will live a little more and learn a lot more.

Next time you face a big scary goal. Ask yourself, "What is holding me back?" If you know you can manage the real risks, and all that is left is your fear, maybe it is time to try and take one step forward. Lots of little steps can get you across the room. And sometimes that is all it takes.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Last Minute Inspirations

I was thinking about the new designs that I have come up with in the last two weeks, in the midst of getting ready for the show. I have heard the story of these last minute inspirations over and over again from many different artists. And it made me wonder why that happens.

This is my theory. The studio becomes the escape or stabilizing force when there is the crunch of show activity. All the preparation for a show is mind numbing. Endless details and lists. Dates to keep track of. At one point last week I could not find the information about my plane tickets. I was sure I had made reservations a while back. But I could find no evidence. Finally I tracked down the email on my old computer. For a few minutes, I was truly panicking. Then I couldn't be sure I had added the extra day onto my hotel reservation...even though I was sure I had made the phone call to do this. Sure enough, I had.

All this nit-picky, paper pushing, mind numbing work makes being in the studio a real escape. Pushing some clay around is far more satisfying than sorting and filing papers. Getting into the studio to explore an idea that had been floating around in my head for a few weeks was far more engaging than double checking delivery dates, and figuring out what a Bill of Lading is and why I need one.

I am not sure that I will be as in love with these designs in a month as I am now. I have had this "show state of mind" before. Designs that I was crazy about suddenly look less successful after some reflection, and exposure. But if nothing else, they were a necessary outlet. A way to let off some creative steam.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Sources

A few days ago I shared many of the sources I have found in the last few years to create a booth set-up for doing a show. But there is more to doing a show than just showing up with your work and display. So that means more suppliers of products and services to make that all happen.

1. Slides. Most shows have gone digital, and I for one, say "Amen." I like digital. It is so much easier to upload images with some of the on-line services, or mail a disc, and not worry about having them survive the trip both ways through the mail. But, there are still times when a slide is needed. I found a great little place called Gamma Tech. They are easy to work with on-line. I have referred them to several people, who also had positive experiences with them.

The process is easy. You upload the best quality image you have. They then convert that to a slide. You can get one copy or multiple copies. And your slides are sent out to you quickly, and are in your hands in a matter of a few days.

2. Postcards, business cards, notecards, ..... Vista Print is my source for business cards, postcards, and all the other marketing paraphenelia that are the essentials to running a business, and promoting that business. Their prices are among the best. I can design my card in Photoshop by creating a template to the appropriate dimensions, and then uploading the information. The business cards can be printed with a picture of your work on one side, and the usual info on the other.

I have also used the return address labels to create labels for boxes and earring cards. I have my logo printed in the space rather than an address, and then just trim the edges. I then have a sheet of labels that can be easily attached where needed for a very low price.

You will get lots and lots of emails from Vista Print once you order from them, but it also means that there is always a special on what you need when you need it. And there is that delete key at other times.

3. Other printed materials: With the ACRE show I have had to create some printed materials I did not need before. In the past, when a potential wholesale account requested a catalog from me, I would print out many pages of information. It was time consuming, and the ink cartridges seemed to evaporate. I could not continue to do things this way. I finally created a catalog, using PSPrint. You need to send them images in CMYK format, and the resolution must be at least 300 dpi. Now I have a 8 page catalog, with four color images, and more time for the studio. Horray!!

I have also created order forms to ease the process of writing up orders at the show. I am doing the show on my own, and I need to make it as easy as possible for people to place an order. Someone on a discussion board shared the idea of using a three part form. One copy goes to the customer at the show. One copy goes in your file, and one goes in a large envelope that you mail home to yourself at the end of each day at the show....eliminating the potential problem of orders that get lost during packing or in the return trip.
I have created a three part order form that is like a grid. Across the top is the style or type of jewelry....pendant styles, earrings, etc. Down the side is the various designs....Stained Glass, Luna Phases, etc.....and if necessary, the colorways that are available in that design. Filling in the squares are the prices. Ordering is simply a matter of circling. Totals go across to the last column, and down to the bottom of the page. The overall design was created using Excel. I used Anchorside to print the forms, and they were great. Mike helped me tweak the form just a bit, and the result is super, at a very reasonable price. And the turn around was very quick.

4. Big Pictures. One last item for the booth. If your work is for instance, large pictures can be a big help to draw people into your booth. It helps them see your work from the aisles. I have printed large scale images with MegaPrints in the past, and been happy with the results. But the pictures are large, and could be easily damaged in shipping. They have been great for local shows, but for shipping, I needed another solution. Enter They make a retractable banner stand that is easily transported, protects the banner from damage, and includes the printed banner, and a carrying case. You can see one with my vessels in my booth at Craft Boston. This was the economy version. It was a real eye catcher from the aisles. I have another one with jewelry images.
They sent a proof, and the banner was printed, and in my hands in under two weeks. Not bad for custom work.
I hope I have been able to save you a bit of time searching or hesitating. It can be a time consuming process to figure out where to go to get a product or service. When you find a supplier you like, be sure to pass the word along to others. Both parties will probably appreciate it!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More thoughts from the Garden

I'll admit it. I have spring fever. Spring is my favorite time of the year. There is so much possiblity! So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my thoughts were back in the garden this morning as I walked the dog. Two more lessons:

1. I can't grow some things. Poppies, lupines, roses. These have continually eluded my efforts. I have tried again and again. But to no avail. Roses are admittedly fussy plants, but poppies and lupines are wildflowers. They are supposed to be easy. Not for me. I have stopped trying and now just enjoy them in other's gardens.

The same can be said of many things in life. I can't skate. I can't ski on water or land. I can't play a musical instrument. I can't sculpt very well at all. I can't seem to make a list and follow it. We could go on all day long. But the point is not what I can't do.

We can spend time agonizing and beating our heads against the wall all day long about the things we can't do well. We all have a list of those. But if we life our lives, or try to grow our garden from our inadequacies we end up with a bare garden, or less than fulfilling life. But if we try and focus on what we can do well, and nuture that, our lives and our garden will be vibrant and colorful.

2. Timing can help. The best time to plant most perennials is in the fall, just as they are starting to go into their dormant phase. It seems kind of crazy at first. Why would you plant them in the fall as they approach the cold of winter? While it may be cold on the surface, below the surface the temperature is more constant year round. So while a blanket of snow insulates the plants, and provides water as it melts, the roots are busy growing. All the energy can be focused below ground level. When the spring comes and the plant emerges, it is stronger and more vibrant than it was when you planted it.

If you plant a plant or shrub or tree just as it is about to bloom you are putting a terrible shock on the plant. Think about it. Do you want to move to a new house just as you are getting ready to immerse yourself in a large project......a show, a book, a new course of study? Most likely no. We need to be able to focus our energy on the task at hand. Not be diverted by another major undertaking. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to put on it's show for us. If you put it in the ground just before or during exhaust it. You can nurse it and baby it through this period. But it requires more energy and effort on your part, and by the plant.

Going in too many directions at one time or wanting immediate results seldom results in good long term outcomes. Or it requires a lot more energy and effort to succeed. We all need some periods of dormancy. We can't grow in every direction at once. Which leads to:

3. Pruning makes a tree healthier. My brother who bought that magnolia tree is now an arborist. He showed me how to prune back that very tree so that it would be healthier. Branches that were criss-crossing right next to one another will ultimately harm the tree. They will grow and rub against one another, wearing at the bark. Or they will grow into one another. This can create weaker areas in a tree that make it more vulnerable in a storm. The tree needs room to breath. And so do we.

Sometimes we have to prune away things in our lives. We have to look at where our energy is going. Is an activity feeding us on a deep level, or is it just draining energy away from the essential work in our lives? This is the hardest question to answer, and not easy to act upon either. Pruning a tree can be scary the first time, and can be disasterous if you don't know what you are doing. Pruning back your life to what is essential to you means asking some hard questions, and making some hard choices.

I have stopped volunteering at school unless it is something that requires me to bring my specific talents and skills. I used to read to my daughter's class when they had library once a week. And I would help out in my other daughter's class once a week. But it became precious time out of my studio. And when my kids came home I was more stressed because of that lost time. What I was doing was not so special, and could be easily done by someone else. There were lots of emotions around making the choice to pull away from that....guilt near the top. But I don't regret the choice.

I regularly look at my work and try to decide what needs to go, or when something will ultimately need to go. As we grow, we need to prune back as well to stay healthy and vibrant. Doing some pruning in our lives can help us breath. And we all know, breathing is good!

So, does your garden grow??

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Where do I find...?

When you make a change in your business, it often entails having new 'stuff' to support that change. Not new work necessarily, but new marketing and sales materials, or display equipment. One of the struggles in making that change is figuring out where to go and what to get. I will share some of the my sources and suppliers.


You have decided to start doing shows. There is an overwhelming number of things to do to make that transition. The first show I did was in a school gym, and they provided a table for each vendor. And it was a real mix. Across from me was a woman selling Pampered Chef items. But there was also a fine artist who was trying to develop a market for doing murals. I did not need much more than a tablecloth, and a way to display my work.

From there I did an outdoor, weekend show. I did not want to spend the money to buy a tent, and I was not sure where I was going with this long term, so I went to the local rental store, and rented a tent. It was less than $100, and it kept me and my work dry for the weekend.
My first outdoor show. Fall of 2004. Yikes!

The next year, I decided to invest in a booth. I went to Flourish for the frame for my indoor booth. If I had to do it all over again. I would buy their Trimline booth, and use it indoors and out. The pop-up style tents may seem like a good idea, but there are lots of pictures on the web of these style tents that have gone aerial. I had my neighbor lose her roof with a strong wind at Lyndhurst last spring. I have seen the tents with the curved top roofs have the best success. They still need to be weighted and anchored down. But the water doesn't pool on the roof, and they generally better built to withstand the weather. I have a Caravan booth for outdoor shows, but I would happily trade in my indoor Flourish booth and Caravan booth for the Trimline. Flourish makes a good product, and stand behind their work. I can heartily recommend them.
You spend a lot of time at a show on your feet. And happy feet mean a happier you. And it is a lot easier to sell your work when you are happy than when you are tired and cranky. Got to AllMats and get yourself one of their interlocking mats for your booth space. They have mats that are made to look like oak flooring. I saw some of these at Craft Boston, and they look wonderful. I have a gray mat from AllMats. I use it indoors and out. For and indoor show, I cover it with some bamboo rugs. Outdoors, I lay down a tarp, and cover that with the mat. This gives me some added protection against the weather. While my neighbors were in 3 inches of water after a downpour last fall at a show, I had plenty of time to get the vulnerable boxes up off the ground.

My Caravan tent, at an outdoor show. Fall 2005. I had made the black backdrop. It was a bear to put up, and weighted a ton. This was one of the few times I had the bamboo rug down for an outdoor show.

A booth needs walls. With a tent, you get those white polyethylene walls. But are they the best backdrop for your work?? I have found that using curtains and shower curtain hooks to be the best solution. They go up fairly easily, and are often made with flame resistant materials. But you can still spray them with a flame retardant spray if necessary. If the curtains don't have loops that the shower curtain hooks can go into , I have used grommets. You can get kits at a fabric store and grommets in a whole range of sizes. Linens & Things has been a great place to get curtains inexpensively and long enough to go to the ground.

This was my booth in NYC in December 2006. The curtains are my "winter" ones...teal blue with a touch of sparkle. The tablecloths are made from that black fabric that makes up the walls in the picture above.

If I were to get a hardwall booth, I would go with ProPanels....and the knockdown variety. These ones can be reduced to half their height when disassembled....making shipping easier. And know that I have been through that learning experience, it is something that I would consider in any future purchase. This time I am renting a hardwall booth. When I looked a the cost of shipping across country....and back...and my complete lack of experience in shipping supplies for a show across country, it made sense for me to rent.

Craft Boston booth, Spring, 2007. Black walls were part of the booth package. I decided to just go with them rather than try to cover them up.

More to come...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lessons from the Garden

Part of my inspiration for my work comes from time spent in the garden. For several years I was an avid gardener. The last few years have left less time to spend fussing and planning. I have been doing Darwin gardening lately....the strong and hardy survive! Fussy plants will not make it in my garden.

Right now we have an amazing magnolia tree outside my kitchen door and the office window that is in full bloom. It is a spectacular sight. Each year, for a few days we get this golorious vision of pink. We live in the house my parents owned for many years. I was ten years old when I moved into this house with my parents. My husband and I now own the house, but I know the history in the way that few people do. I remember when my brother gave my mother this magnolia as a Mother's Day gift many years ago. It was maybe two feet tall, if that. It probably had just a few blossoms. But now it is a show stopper. It has spawned several other trees. Branches grew down and re-rooted. We passed these offspring onto appreciative neighbors, friends, and my brother...and those new trees are setting down roots, and one day may grow to be as spectacular.
Sometimes you don't know what the long term outcome will be when you put a tree or plant into the ground. But you do it because of the potential it represents. The same is true of many things in life. We don't get assurances or guarantees. But we give it a try, and sometimes, over the long haul, our results are rewarded. The rewards may be brief and fleeting. We need to enjoy them when they come, because they may not last long. But it doesn't make them any less wonderful when they arrive. They are the proverbial flowers we must stop to enjoy.

This somewhat grey picture is actually one of my flower gardens. It lies under the magnolia tree, and was the first one I began working on when we moved into the house five years ago. This picture was taken from my office window. It looks as if there is nothing much there. But if you look closely there is actually all sorts of growth happening. I love perennials. Over the winter, they will go dormant, but in the spring, little green shoots start emerging. And often, what comes back the next year, is bigger and stronger than before. Sometimes though, things do not survive the winter. Where you anticipate something wonderful, there is only a bare spot. So what are the lessons that are learned from time spent in the garden?

1. Look closely. Growth may be happening, but you just have not gotten close enough to see it yet.
These are pictures of my clemantis, and a lone daffodil I almost missed. The clemantis looks like a bunch of dead leaves at first blush, but on closer inspection there are lots of new leaves and a few buds forming. It is starting to change nearly every day. The daffodil was hidden behind a scraggly looking bush, with no leaves. I spotted the bright petals out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes we are quick to dismiss things before they have had enough time to grow, or before we had a chance to see the gem. Even the dead end paths can offer insights and opportunities to learn, or potential for new terrain to explore. Before you decide that the show or idea or whatever is wrong...look for the gems, or the emerging potential.

2. Growth can create even more growth. When a plant is thriving, in order for it to stay healthy, it is sometimes necessary to divide the plant. This means digging it up, and literally cutting it into two or three plants and replanting. The bleeding heart plant that I bought five years ago, is now the size of a large bush. I never did get around to dividing it last fall, but it has already had a baby. A new plant came up in a nearby spot in the garden two summers ago. A seed carried by the wind or a bird sprouted. I have moved it to a better spot, and now I will have two plants to enjoy this spring.

The original and its offspring in a nearby garden. Just beginning their spring growth spurt.

As we grow as artists and business people, we will have spurts of growth. And sometimes that growth will allow us to try out new things, and branch out in ways we never thought possible.

3. Timing Growing a perennial garden is a lesson in timing. My crocuses are now past. But the grape hyacyinth and daffodils are in bloom. Pretty soon the bleeding hearts will be spectacular, and the tulips will be in bloom. Everything is not in bloom all at once. Somethings will not bloom until the fall. It is possible to have everything bloom at once, but then after a spectacular show, there is nothing much left behind. It is hard to appreciate it all when it all comes together at the same time. But by planning , you can have things in bloom from spring to fall. There may be a peak time when there is more in bloom at once, but the goal is to spread it out over time.

The same can be said for our businesses or even our art. The end of the year is the peak season for most of us. But trying to develop other sales opportunites to even out the cash flow and workload can be healthier for us and our business. Likewise, trying to cram all your production to the week or two before a show, or not paying attention to the natural ebbs and flows of our creative process is not going to work. Pacing your self, recognize the need for dormant periods, and anticipating those times when you will be expected to "bloom" will help your art and your business.

5. Choosing the right spot. One of the things gardeners learn, is that in the right spot, a plant will thrive with no external help. No extra watering, fertilizing, etc. It has all the conditions it needs to thrive. For some plants that is shade, for others, they can tolerate the hot sun and drought conditions. Putting the right plant in the right place can make all the difference between success and failure. Although, even then, there are the ones that should have been fine, but were not.
When it comes to our business and our art, the same principles apply. We need to do the right shows for our work and our temperament. I can no longer do the local school holiday show. it is not the right venue for my work. Not everyone wants to, or is able to do retail shows, or wholesale shows. For some an online site, or an auction site like Esty or Ebay is a better route for their personal situation. Only you can make the assesment of what fits your lifestyle and temperament.
Likewise, not every gallery or shop is the right fit for my work. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to make something work that is not meant to be. There is a store in town that many people have suggested for my work. I had visited him several times a few years ago. Each time he decided to take a pass on my work. After the third visit, it was time for me to move on. Spend that energy pursuing other people and places. I wanted my work to be with someone who was excited to have it in their store, not ambivalent about it. Because who will do a better job selling my work? Obviously, the person who connects with it. If I held on to his ambivalence about my work, or just kept trying to convince him that he should carry my work, I could have wasted a lot of energy, and not necessarily seen a better outcome. And i might have ended up feeling less sure about my own path. Not everyone will love our work. And that is okay. In the right venue, it will thrive.

Back into the studio to "till the soil".

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day

On of the biggest inspirations in my work is our natural environment. From the time I was young, I remember being fascinated by the beauty of our world. From the smallest details of a tiny bug crawling over the amazing surface of an area of moss, to the awe inspiring sites like the rocky coast of Maine, or the otherworldly site of Bryce Canyon. But as we all know, the world is changing. We can feel it in small ways, and we see it in bigger ways too.

Today is a day to think about our own role in the world balance. What can we do to make things a bit better? Like all changes, it requires us to look at our smallest actions and think about changes. Small steps like recycling, or consolidating trips can make a difference. Supporting the work of larger organizations who are working to make our planet a more viable place for the long term is another.
I have been a Bzzagent for a while now. It means I get to find out about different products or services, and try them out and let other people know about them. A few weeks ago I had the chance to join a campaign for Earth Share. Earth Share is a coalition of environmental groups. They raises funds and awareness through workplace giving programs. They have very low overhead, and hold all their member organizations to high standards for managing overhead costs, and maintaining ethical standards. They include organizations such as The Audobon Society, Rails-to-Trails, The Nature Conservancy, The Ocean Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, and on and on. There are 400 member organizations. A donation to Earth Share can be distibuted among the member organizations, or targeted to a specific organization. You can think of it like a mutual fund of giving. You are making an investment in the enviroment. What better place to put your money?

There are lots of simple yet effective ways to support the environment and Earth Share. Here are a few ways you can help:
Subscribe to their free e-newsletter – it's an easy way to connect with the global environmental community.
Start a workplace giving program where your fellow employees can automatically contribute to Earth Share via regular, pre-tax payroll contributions
Volunteer with one of Earth Share's member organizations
Make an online donation to support either all of Earth Share's organizations or specific ones
Find environmentally-friendly lifestyle tips that will protect our planet and save you money
Purchase green products and services via the Earth Share site, with 10% of proceeds supporting Earth Share
Recycle/reuse various products, including cell phones, cars and printer cartridges
Celebrate Earth Day! See Earth Share's calendar of upcoming events and activities
To learn more about Earth Share and the various ways you can support the cause, visit
Off my soapbox. Get out and enjoy the earth today. Breathe in a little inspiration.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Side Trip

If you have not been reading Libby Mills blog, Libzoid, you should check it out. She has been working her way back into the studio after a long hiatus, and it is an inspiring story. A recent post shows some new work, and it appears she is back with gusto! Gorgeous work. Thanks for sharing your story and your work Libby!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

On Track

Don't you love tracking? There is something infinitely comforting about being able to go on-line and enter a number into a box, push a button, and presto! You find out where your package is along it's journey. Right now my cases are in Salt Lake City, UT. Hurrah! They should arrive in plenty of time before the advance warehouse deadline of April 24th.

For those of you who have not traveled this path of shipping your work to a show before, there is usually an advance warehouse that you ship your work to by a specific date. This becomes a staging area for the show. The day or two prior to the show, when the electrical wiring is being done, or the pipe and drape installed....the materials from the warehouse would be delivered to the booth space of the artist. In theory, when I arrive at the convention center, all the materials I have shipped will be sitting there in my booth, ready for me to unpack and set-up.

Today I have been working on making a list of my samples. I will then begin to make up my labels with pricing for display. At a retail show, artists may prefer to have their prices tucked away. At a wholesale show, artists need to have prices clearly visible. Buyers are there to work. They do not want to casually browse. They have a set amount of time and money. It is all about making it easier for them to do their work.

I am lucky to have a sister-in-law, Linda Ruel Flynn, who runs a beautiful gallery in central Massachusetts. It is the retail shop of the Fiber Art Center, in Amherst, MA. She began working there around the same time as my obsession with polymer clay began. It has been fun traveling a parallel path with her. She has been able to offer me some good advice and insight. And she has a good eye. I know she will be honest with me, and we all need that honest, but knowledgeable voice. Under her direction, the gallery is thriving, and she seems to love what she is doing as well.

I will share some advice she gave me yesterday in an email:
"My two cents as a buyer...Have everything clearly marked with signs...your
minimum order, turnaround time, prices. Don't make me ask for anything,
wanna see it at a glance. If you don't buy an ad in the show's book, have a
piece of paper with contact info and a small pic of your work
to hand out.
I go through a show, peruse, pick up info, mark my book, chat, go over
everything that night and the next day I pick and commit."

Wholesale is different. I know all of this in theory right now. I about two weeks I will be in my booth, living it. We'll see how things match up. I'll be sure to let you know.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Stuff

I have hinted at how frantically I have been working lately getting ready for shows. From all of this has emerged some new work that I am pretty excited about. I finally have updated my website.....very long overdue,.....and posted lots of new pictures. But here are few of my favorites......

I like how the koi seem to be swimming across the surface of these pieces.

The pod pieces were the new work that evolved out of an experiment last week. I had been working in my head about how to do some jewelry without the black frame. I have experiment to varying degrees of success with the pod idea in the past. The idea of a pod that is open, or opening is part of what appeals to me. The larger piece on the right is actually a pin with a converter to make it into a pendant.

Hope you like them!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I have my horoscope on my home page. I know horoscopes are hogwash, but they are a fun way to start the day. Today this was what my horoscope said. "You may find yourself unexpected busy today, dear Gemini. It could be that you had been planning on spending the day at home, tidying up and generally straightening and reorganizing your home environment. An unexpected change of plans could have you spending most of the day at the office, handling one crisis or another."

I don't know about the cleaning part, but today was going to be a bit of a breather to catch up and get organized before the last crunch. That was until I got a phone call this morning from my bank. It seems that someone was using my card to buy train tickets in France.....oh, that it were me! But no. My travel plans are for Las Vegas, not traveling by rail in France. And the Visa has seen some heavy action in recent days as I get ready for my show. Some of those charges, like the charge to UPS freight to ship my two containers out to Las Vegas, had not gone through yet. The containers were happily on their way to Las Vegas, and they hadn't been paid for yet. Then there are those automatic bill payments....more phone calls. And a trip to the police station to file a police report. Does it sound anything like my horoscope? Funny how that works some days, isn't it?

For the rest of you Gemini's out there, I hope your day is going better than mine, so far. And for the person who bought those train least send some pictures!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mind Games

Any time I take on a new challenge in my life there is always some excitement, ....and a bit of trepidation. There is some aspect of the challenge that scares or intimidates me in some way. It may not be any big thing in the scheme of things. But it is probably something I have not done before, and do not really know where to begin.

Doing a wholesale show across the country has had a boatload of those issues. This is my first wholesale show...I understand the differences from a retail show in theory, but there are all those niggling details in the execution. Samples, catalogs or handouts, order forms.......the list seems nearly endless. Then there is the shipping. I tried to avoid too much complication in my life and will rent the bigger stuff. But there is still lots of things that need to be shipped across country, and too many options, deadlines, etc.

I am waking up in the morning and finding myself weighing the options of a palletized or unpalletized shipment. Which things should I ship frieght, or regular ground, and which things should go to the advance warehouse and which should go to the convention center, and which should go to my hotel? Not the way anyone ones to wake up....

How did I get myself into this quandary? I simply did not let myself think about these details upfront. I put those in the "later" box. But, the bill is coming due....later is here and I have not choice but to fret and worry, and finally, decide and act. Was that foolish for me to take this approach? I guess some people may look at my head in the sand solution as the wrong way to go. I just have learned this is my way of taking on big scary tasks.

If I had to have all the answers right up front, with all the i's dotted and t's crossed, then I would probably be frozen in place. Unable to move from the safety and security of the known.

Instead, I try and focus on the thing that is motivating me to take this risk, and rack up thousands of dollars on my Visa bill. In this case, doing a wholesales show with a company I know and trust. I have had enough experience with wholesale to know that I should be able to recover my costs, at the bare minimum, but probably build the wholesale side of my business to a more vibrant base. The financial risk seems manageable. It is a chance to show my work to buyers in person....and in person is always better than a picture. And there is the added bonus of meeting some of the other artists and gallery owners I have gotten to know through the internet, or over the phone. These were the things that made me say "Yes!" to this opportunity.

I do not ignore the issues of shipping and catalogs and order forms (..oh my!). I just choice to not worry about them to the point of letting them hold me back from an opportunity. For most of my adult life I have tried to have the perspective that I don't want to look back on my life with a long list of "What if's". These issues I am dealing with right now are a real pain,...especially without the in-house expert that always existed in the corporate world. I have to figure it out.

I go to the forums on-line where other artists with experience in shows across the country reassure me with the fact that I have witnessed them doing shows from long distances and managing it. Or doing their first shows,....and actually going on to do another! I try to stay away from the discussions that are filled with worry and anxiety. I have enough of my own, thank you, and I find I just find the anxiety to be contagious. I give myself the "big girl" speech. It goes something like this," You are a big girl. You can do this. Plenty of people do this all the time. You are smart and capable. You can do this." Then I suck it up, and go figure out a few more details.

Today, if all goes according to plan, I will be shipping out two containers by UPS frieght to Las Vegas, and perhaps a few boxes by UPS ground. They may go out tomorrow. Then I can breath a sigh of relief and cross my fingers and hope it gets where it is supposed to, on time and in one piece. And if it doesn't,....I will figure that out then. In the meantime, I have more samples to make, and some new designs to play with. Now, that's what I'm talking about!

Friday, April 13, 2007


The last few weeks have been ones of extreme focus. Going from one task to the next on my "Must Do" list. Actually I am not much of a list person, so it was more like putting out fires! But the process had the feeling of constraint. I was unable to do much following of the muse. I had to tell her to go "sit down over there, and wait" too many times lately. I just did not have time to listen.

This morning I went into my studio with the intention of "productive" work. Within about 3 minutes the muse had jumped out of hiding and ambushed my plans. Thank goodness! It is amazing what 30 minutes following my muse can do for my spirit, as opposed to the plugging ahead through the "must do" or "should do" list.

I just put the beginnings of a new idea in the oven for the first stage of curing. I don't know if this idea will go anywhere,....but just pursuing these impulses, or creative surges from time to time feeds that creative spirit. I have spent many, many hours on projects and ideas that went nowhere. I have had people tell me to drop them over and over again as I continued down the path. Some of them are in hibernation. I believe they will re-emerge again when the time is right. In a way, this is my sketch book. I don't sketch out my ideas on paper, as much as sketch them out in clay. There are so many things about the construction of an idea that cannot be least by a sketch. I have to confront these issues in 3-D. Periodically I have to do a purge of these "sketches" from my studio. They are not as space efficient as drawings! But they are as instructive as sketching out an idea can be.

Sometimes our culture rewards the idea of crossing items off the to-do list more than the unfocused explorations. Yet, our creative souls needs that ability to just explore and play. To not have a "reason" for what we are doing and where we are going. Purposelessness...try saying that fast! actually purposeful. Just like a kid who is exploring the world and learning in their play, we need to play just for the sake of play. Give yourself permission to be sidetracked this week. You'll thank yourself for it!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Terrain

No sooner do I start to feel a bit comfortable with what I am doing and where I am going with my business, and boom....I have to go add some new challenges. Right now that is getting ready for my first wholesale show.

Challenges are good. They help us grow and learn new skills. We learn more about ourselves.....okay, enough with the platitudes already, right? :-) Those things may be true, but with challenge comes stress. The bigger the challenge, the greater the stress. Right now, the Stress-o-meter is right up there near the red zone.

So what is new and different. First off, just doing a wholesale show. I have done enough retail shows now that I feel relatively comfortable with the process. I know the drill, and have most of it down to a routine. A wholesale show means re-thinking so many things that I have done in the past. From my products, to pricing (yeah, that again), to displays....and this time, the added bonus of doing a show across the country. Then there is the marketing and sales materials...catalogs and order forms for instance. Things I have happily ignored, or come up with temporary solutions to, have to be addressed. I can not bury my head in the sand any longer.

I started with rethinking my jewelry designs. While the basic designs have not changed dramatically, I am thinking more about repeatability. Not exact carbon copy duplicates. Each piece will still be one of a kind. But when I sit down to do my drawings on a piece, I will have some set designs, and colorways. I will not be reaching into the ether each time for new inspiration. When I am faced with deadlines and too much work, that ether seems pretty thin! This will simplify my life and make ordering easier for wholesale customers. They will have a better idea of what to expect now, and in the future. Over time, I can add and subtract designs.

I have been selling wholesale through for over two years now. It was a great way to put my toe in the water and see if wholesale was right for me. And I found that there were many benefits. But I was able to ignore this design issue for a long time. I would just post pictures of what I had to sell. When it sold, I would put up new ones. Eventually, I got tired of how often I had to be updating images. Taking pictures, editing them, and then posting them to the site was time consuming. If it was a pair of earrings, or a small, simple pendant, I was not really covering my costs....and of course, those items were what sold most quickly.

Doing the show made me face this head on. What was I going to bring. How was I going to show a gallery what they could expect to get from me? How could I take orders? It was time for me to take the next step. I had to think about repeatability. I did not want to do transfers of my images for several reasons. The main one being that I love to draw, and doing a transfer is far less satisfying for me. And, I have never been satisfied with my results with a transfer. So, I had to come up with designs or images that had some degree of repeatability. It was far easier than I thought. I have learned which designs seem to disappear as fast as I can make them. I know what I like to draw, and can draw easily. And I have a better understanding of how various ink colors react to heat. I was ready...even though I hadn't realized it.

Here are a few images from my Night and Day series:

Luna Phases, and Sunshine.

After making up some pendants in a design, I have begun to make up some samples of that design in other forms:

What you can't see in these images are how the leaf and glitter incorporated into the translucent clay really catch the light.

Next time, the catalog thing...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Price, Is the Price, Is the Price....

One of the surprising things that came out of the pricing survey I just went through was the perception by many that the price is dependent upon where you are selling the work. In particular, there was the idea that the price would be higher if you were selling it through a gallery than if you were selling it at a show.

"I am not sure where you are, but that will make a big difference in price. As will type of show. How you place the piece will also determine the price. If I appreciate a piece I would willingly pay $30-50 for it. At a craft type show $10-14 would probably be the limit. At an Art/"One of a kind Show" it could fetch more, depends on your following,..."

"In the right high end gallery in NYC, Beverly
HIlls, Santa Fe/Taos, or Miami, I think it would easily sell for $350,
maybe more. I'm being conservative. In a gallery in a smaller city it
might be priced at $250. In a very high end competitive juried arts and
crafts show with the artist selling it in their booth, I think it might
be priced at $150. At a regular local arts and crafts show maybe it
could fetch $75."

"to sell this piece directly to the public would be $180. If sold through a store, it could be priced at $300."

"I would expect something like this to sell in a nice
artsy shop or at a gallery type show for as much as $75-125. At a
craft mall or craft fair, I'd suspect somewhat less - perhaps $50 to

It seems as if there is a perception that the price for work at a show should be lower than the price through a gallery. What is missing in this analysis? The cost of doing a show. The cost for the space, and your time. The cost of the display equipment, the cost of a tent, or similar set-up. The prices suggested above for craft shows are essentially wholesale prices, and the prices for galleries or shops are the full retail price.

Are you making this mistake in your pricing? I often hear artists say they cannot sell their work wholesale, or by consignment. They could not make enough money. These are artists who are probably selling their work to the public at wholesale prices. They are not considering their cost of selling their work on their own. Galleries are not going to be interested in working with an artist who was going to undercut them on pricing. If they found out you were selling your work to them at the same price that you were selling it to the public at shows or on the can they possibly succeed in representing your work?

I can hear it already...."but I can't sell my work at that price!" Maybe you won't sell as many pieces, or sell it as fast...but you may end up making the same amount of money, or even more, by selling your work at the right price. If you are truly at the maximum price for your work, then it may be time to reevaluate your costs, your process, or your product.

My vessels are labor intensive. This drives the price up, and limits the market for them. But there is also a limit to how many I can actually make. If I was to price the pear from the survey at $75, I would probably be able to sell them faster. But could I make them fast enough? Would I be covering my costs....even just the overhead, and selling expenses, at that price? Probably not. While there is something to be said for cashflow....there is also something to be said for the bottom line.

Remember, the price is the price is the price. Sure, different stores will mark up work at different levels. But if you are selling work to the public at the same price that you would sell it to a gallery or need to reevaluate your pricing strategy. The only people who should be getting wholesale prices are those who are buying wholesale quantities....or maybe close friends! A good relationship with a gallery can help your business in countless ways. But it is not likely to ever get off the ground if you are undercutting them with your retail prices. And you are not doing yourself a favor either if you do not recognize what it costs you to sell your work directly to the public. End of lecture! :-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Will That Pear Ever Have a Price?

You have been so patient. I have recieved several e-mails wanting to know....How much was the pear? I have not shared my price yet, because I wanted to share all this other information first...perspective if you will. But we are getting so very, very close. Perhaps today.

We have gone over all the elements of cost in the formula found in Wendy Rosen's book, Crafting as a Business. We have looked at some of those costs relative to the pear. But what do you do when you are just starting out? How do you begin to figure out what price to charge when you are so uncertain about costs such as overhead and selling expenses? Calculating your materials and labor is manageable, but what about the rest of the package?

First, make sure you have the lowest costs that you can for your materials and labor. If you are buying your materials at full retail, you will not be able to fully recoup your costs. If you are making your work, one piece at a time, from start to finish, you are going to have to revise that approach. But let's assume all those areas have been addressed. Now what? Get out the dart board, and slap on a price? Sometimes that seems to be the way we go at it, doesn't it?

A few of the e-mails I received with pricing suggestions for the pear included formulas to calculate the price.

"cost of materials + time + 10% = wholesale
(cost of materials + time + 10%) x 2 = retail"

"I personally triple my materials cost, add my hourly rate and depending
on how much of myself is in it I may double the total, then again I may
multiply by four."

Then I receive the latest issue of Crafts Report this weekend, and lo and behold, there is a piece on pricing. They quote a glass artist from Florida, Marcie Davis,

"A third, a third, and a third. Your materials equal one-third, your labor is one-third, and your profit is one-third. Or simply put, multiply your costs by three."

Finally, we can turn back to Crafting as a Business. There is a section in the pricing chapter by Thomas Mann, the reknown jeweler from New Orleans. He offers some guidelines for pricing:

"1. Labor/materials should not exceed 1/6 of retail or 1/3 of wholesale.
2. Wholesale is 3 times materials/labor
3. 1/3 wholesale is for studio, overhead, and marketing.
4. 1/3 of wholesale is profit."

So we have several approaches. Let's apply these to the pear. If you remember, I said there was about $10 of material in the piece. And there was about 5 hours of hands-on labor. This does not include time for the oven to preheat, time in the oven, time cooling, etc, etc. Let's use $10 per hour for labor.

Based on the first formula, the wholesale price would be $66, and retail $132.
The next approach gives me a price between $180 and $360.
The formula from The Crafts Report article gives me a price of $30.
And finally using Thomas Mann's guidelines, I end up with a wholesale price of $180 and a retail price of $360.
Is it any wonder there was such a range in the pricing suggestion, and there is so much confusion out there?

What price did I have on the pear at the show? $325. After doing all this research, and the calculations, I think it is a fair price. I have learned a great deal in this process. I hope you have too. But I am not completely done with this topic. I still want to write about the prices and does where a piece is sold affect the price? This was something that came up several times in the emails so I think it is worth looking at to clear up some confusion. And I may revisit the other side of the equation again...what will the market bear. Knowing what we know now, that is worth looking at again.

Thanks again to all who sent in their suggestions and comments. It was a treasure trove of information and insight.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Selling Costs and Pricing

So that poor little pear still seems to be lacking a price. We talked about a formula for calculating your price, and started to look at some of the elements. But we left off at the topic of selling expenses.

It costs money to sell your work. This is part of that old axiom, "You've got to spend money to make money." If you do not factor all of these costs into your pricing, you will be like the gerbil on the wheel. Running and running, and never seeming to get anywhere.

So what makes up the selling expenses?

Shows: If you are doing shows, you have an application fee to many shows. Then there is the booth fee, electricity for an indoor show, or even some outdoor shows. There is the cost of displays for your work. And your time. Time spent packing and unpacking for a show. Time away from the studio to do the show. If your show is a distance from home, you have travel expenses.

Marketing Materials: These range from the simple business cards, to the fancy brochures or even DVD's sent out, or handed out to help tell your story or make sure someone knows how to get in touch with you should they want to buy your work. They can be simple. They can be stunning. But you cannot successfully run a business without some investment in this area.

Packaging: If you are selling at shows, or on-line perhaps, you need to package your work in a way that compliments and protects your work.

Photography: Even if you are doing it yourself, you need equipment, skills, and time. Good photographs are essential.

Time: It takes time to create the sales materials. It takes time to maintain your mailling list. It takes time to apply to shows. To package your work if you are selling wholesale and need to ship it out. It takes time to go visit galleries, or shows or explore options on-line to sell your work. Or promote your work. All this time is time out of the studio. Time you are not working on creating new designs. Time you are not refining your skills. But time spent to help grow your business.

So, lets look at some real numbers. Since I was just doing the Craft Boston show, let's look at how much it cost to do that show.

Application fee(s): I apply in two categories,jewelry and mixed media. At $40 each that comes to $80.
Booth fee: 10 x 10 space, including pipe and drape. $950.
Electricity: 500 watts (base level) $100.
Mileage, tolls, parking: $243.
Time: Packing, unpacking, set-up, tear-down: about 11 hours
Show hours: 28 hours
Travel back and forth: about 11 hours
Total: approximately 50 hours, over five days.

So, we are looking at $1373 and about 50 hours. Let's do a minimal $10 per hour for the time, and we are at $1873 in expenses, just to do that show. The time does not include the time to apply to the show, the time to price my work, etc, etc, etc.

Are those "high" prices starting to make sense?

The other expense that needs to be figured into the price calculation is Profit. This is not the money that is left over that you pay yourself. This is the money that is reinvested in the business. The equipment that will help you be more efficient and grow your business. This is the cushion that will get you through the slowdowns in business. A healthy business generates a profit, beyond the salaries or wages of it's owner.

So now we have looked at all the elements of cost that need to be included into the pricing calculation. Next time we will look at it from the other direction. Or what to do if you do not have the history of costs to calculate your overhead or selling expenses. Stay tuned.

The Chocolate Bunny Approach to Problem Solving

Happy Easter! By the title of this entry you are probably thinking I have resorted to consuming massive quantities of chocolate in order to cope. Not quite! But at some moments that looks like the best alternative.

This is actually about the philosophical side of consuming a chocolate bunny. Huh? You didn't know I had a minor in philosophy, did you? So here is the question,.. do you start with the ears or the tail? Think about this a moment. When confronted with the decision of where to place that first bite into an Easter bunny, where do you begin? For most people, I am guessing it is the ears. There they are, sticking out ready to be nibbled. Or even just bitten off whole! There is something about the area that projects that presents itself as an obvious starting point.

But,....why not start with the tail? It is sticking out there, all cute and everything, ready to be chomped off with ease. Why is it that most of us begin with the ears? It made me think about Alison Lee's recent interview with Angela B. Crispin, a PMC artist in France. Angela shares a story about her dad and how he taught her to look at things from all different angles.

Biting the ears off first is the obvious approach, and it has the benefit of the bunny still having a nice flat base to sit on between eating sessions. But, if you start from the other end, you get to have that cute little bunny face to look at longer. Being a visual person, this would give me another reward along the way,... in addition to the chocolate!

So what does this have to do with anything? I guess what I am trying to say is, when you have a problem to solve....where do you start? Do we look at those things sitting right out there ready to be done, giving us easier access to the rest of the task or problem? Most likely yes. But, have we looked at it from a few perspectives first? Have we thought through other possible approaches and ways to solve the problem that may be just as effective to begin, but make the journey a bit different, and maybe more satisfying to us in the long run. Sometimes, turning things upside down is the right way to start.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Nitty Gritty of Pricing

You cannot price your work without getting down to the nitty gritty of the numbers at some point. You can try and fake it. But without really looking at the numbers, you will probably wonder where all the money is going.

Wendy Rosen’s book, Crafting as a Business, starts the chapter on pricing this way, “ Correct pricing separates the amateur from the professional craftsperson. As an amateur, you may simply hope to make enough to replenish materials and cover costs.” She goes on to say, “pricing like an amateur is a really good way to go broke.” Her formula for pricing is:

Materials Costs + Labor Costs + Overhead Expenses + Selling Expenses + Profit = Wholesale price.

So, let’s take a look at that pear again. Materials costs are relatively low. Polymer clay is an inexpensive medium. The cost of materials is probably around $10 in this piece, including waste.
Labor, however is a big component. This is where some assumptions went awry in the pricing suggestions people sent in. The time it takes me to make each of these vessels varies. It will depend upon the size of the piece, how detailed the drawings are, how involved the top layer is, and how much detail is added in carving and back-filling the piece. Each piece goes in the oven to cure for at least five times, sometimes more. The range of time for a piece this size is approximately 4 to 8 hours of actual time in my hands, not in the oven. This piece was about 5 hours of hands-on time, from forming the basic pear shape, to the finishing details. This time actually transpired over two days. Although I was working on other pieces during that time, the five hours represents time spent just on this piece. I could probably only make 5 or 6 in a week, working full-time plus, and not making jewelry or cranes.

One person was very close in their estimate of how long it took to make this piece.

I'm going to base my price on the assumption that you do these in an assembly line fashion and it probably doesn't take more than 5 hours (10 per week) to do any one piece once you've done a prototype..... So I'm going to say between $180 to $240 depending on the time for the artwork and amount of detail. “

The only problem was that there was no time in her calculation for running the business. Making 10 per week would not leave time to attend to the many other obligations of keeping the business up and running.

Overhead: These are defined as the month in, month out, predictable, flat costs. They include things like rent, phone, web hosting and/or access, credit card processing, utilities, insurance, etc. In my case, these are not too high, since I work at home. Last year, my overhead costs were about 8% of my total sales.

In my next post, we will try to tear apart the hairy beast that is selling expenses. Too scary and too much information for one post. Till then....

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Pear Saga Continues

This survey in pricing has been fascinating. I heard from over forty people, and all looked at the same pictures, and had the same limited information. This lack of information frustrated many. But I wanted to start there. Why? Because when you go to a show you will probably not have all the information you are seeking before you make a judgement about the price. You will see the price and react if you think it is way out of line. If it is perceived as low, you may buy it right up without asking many questions. If the price is perceived as too high, you will also not ask questions about the amount of time that went into it, etc. It is probably only when the price is within the range you think is appropriate that you will begin to understand more about the process, and examine the piece in greater detail.

Formulas exist for calculating price, and they are a good place to start. But understanding what the market will bear is also important. But, this does not mean that you need to price your work so that every person who desires your work could afford it… can’t afford to do that! It is a handcrafted item. In most cases, it is one person, in their studio, making the work. There is a limit to how much can be produced. If the price does not reflect this fact, you are shortchanging yourself.

I had the pear in question at the Craft Boston show with a price on it. For those of you who went to the show, you may know what that price is. I am going to hold off on sharing my final pricing decision with the rest of you until a later date. I want to take this journey without that distraction. First, let’s look at some of the ways people calculate prices, or assumptions made about the pear, and how that was reflected in the final price.

The range of answers, and associated conclusions was wide. I hope you can read these without judging another person’s approach or answer. Look at it as a way to get inside the head of someone passing through a show, and assessing the work. Everyone comes from a different set of experiences, and those experiences are what lead us to our conclusions. We will not all agree on the “right” answer. But I hope as we move through this discussion about price, we can start to close that range of a fair price, a bit, and that we will gain a better understanding of why one person thinks the prices on work are too high, and another gets frustrated by people's reactions to their prices.

Here are some excerpts from some of the emails I received:

I personally triple my materials cost, add my hourly rate and depending
on how much of myself is in it I may double the total, then again I may
multiply by four. In order to compete in the market, you must also
consider "perceived value

I'd say you have about $50 worth of clay in it. Add 3 hours to condition clay at $10 an hour. ($30). Then, for your creativitiy, drawing the Koi and the cane embellishments, and your originality, I'd add $100. So, my total, to sell this piece directly to the public would be $180. If sold through a store, it could be priced at $300.

I have taken into account that you must have quite a bit of clay, paints, and assorted other materials involved in this project. I'm sure you also have hours of loving labor involved. Unfortunately, unless you sell your work in galleries, I think it is very difficult to get paid for all our time. But in fairness to art and the artist, I am putting $49 on the pear.”
“I come up with a price, then I would hear my crafter friends say:"double it." And it usually works!

it appears to have some transfer work, back carving etc. I have no clue what it was sculpted over, and if that was more than a "free" find I would raise the price a bit
above this, but woud say about $45 (mind you, I wouldn't pay that, I am with your mother, and if I loved it would try to do something similar myself.....”

you didn't mention how much time you spend on the pear but I would imagine that you spent at least many hours if not days on it. The drawings on it have to be considered art. Considering that and all of the materials I would put the estimated price at $250.00 US. Sounds like a lot of money but if you don't value your work no on else will.

This looks like a fine museum piece! I would probably price it anywhere from $59 to just over a hundred depending on the market area.”

a great formula which has become my mantra:
cost of materials + time + 10% = wholesale
(cost of materials + time + 10%) x 2 = retail
I'm going to base my price on the assumption that you do these in an assembly line fashion and it probably doesn't take more than 5 hours (10 per week) to do any one piece once you've done a prototype

In my next post, I will share some information about time, details, costs, overhead, etc. We will do some math. That will fill in some of the holes that frustrated many.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Show Post Mortem

The show is over. The car is unpacked. And I have shifted gears already to focus on the next show....ACRE in Las Vegas at the end of the month. I still want to say next month....but no....I will be boarding the plane for Las Vegas on the 29th. So there is lots and lots of work to be done.
But back to Craft Boston. Inquiring minds want to did it go??? Am I right?! Well, it was mixed. On a strictly financial level, I am glad I did not have the expense of a hotel. Many artists were spending $100 to $200 per night to stay in a hotel. That means anywhere from $400 to $1000 of additional cost to be there, plus...meals, parking, etc. The general consensus seemed to be that the sales were slow. A gallery owner that I work with locally made it to my booth late on Sunday, and they said there were very few people who reported a good show.
But, I did sell more vessels here than I have at any single show before. Not as many as I hoped, but more than before. This show is also incredible for exposure. Roaming the aisles of the show are more collectors than the average show. The curator of the Fuller Craft Museum, Gretchen Keyworth, was everywhere on Thursday and Friday. And of course the staff of The Society for Arts and Crafts, who sponsored the show. I got to meet and befriend so many wonderful talented artists.
The response to my work was wonderful. Some people walk right past, of course. But those people who do enter my booth space often seemed to be drawn in. A cross between a smile and a curious expression on their faces. Is life so bad if your work makes people smile and want to come touch it?
I do not believe that it has much at all to do with the Society for Arts and Crafts efforts that the show was a slow one for many. They may want to rethink how the energy of the show is distributed. There is a big center aisle as you come in the door, and many of the activities centered around that area. It was the place to be. But, I think the softness in sales has to do more with a general softness in the market for craft, and a continued uneasiness that has existed ever since 9/11. We are at war. As much as our president wants us to go shop, there is much to be worried about. The housing market is in a slump. Gas prices are double to triple what they were when he entered office. Jobs are being outsourced overseas. Well paying, middle class jobs. I am not trying to get political here. But these things do affect people's willingness to spend. If you are not feeling optimistic about the world, is buying craft the type of spontaneous action we are likely to take?
All in all, I was happy to have done the show. It was not the best show I have done financially, nor the worst. But it was one of the best shows I have done in terms of the artists who were there, and the overall effort put forth by the organizers to make it a great show. Would I do it again? I guess that depends in part on if they will have me back!
I will be back to pricing in my next post, so stay tuned...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Pricing the Pear, the Numbers are In

I know I was completely unfair in my request for prices with little more than a picture to go from. And yet, even with the same information, we all come to different conclusions. Obviously, we all bring different experiences in evaluating a piece. Part of it is the subject person loved the koi, telling me about her own koi, and how much she loved watching them swim and play. Another expressed that the subject matter was one that did not necessarily appeal to her, but she could appreciate the workmanship.

The same thing is happening at a show. Except at a show, these thoughts, impressions and evaluations are being made in our heads. This little experiment let me get inside the heads of a few of you and begin to gain a bit of insight into this process.

Let me begin to share this information by sharing the prices, without any added evaluation. For ease of analysis and presentation, I have grouped the prices into ranges.

Price Number
Less than $50. 5
$50 to 99. 8
$100 to 149. 3
$150 to 199. 3
$200 to 299. 3
$300 to 499. 3
$500 to 999. 1
over $1000 1

The actual prices ranged from $30 to a suggestion of between $1000 and $2000. I am a huge fan of that last one!! More than half the responses were over $100.

I will share with you more pictures of details you wanted to see on the piece, and more information about the time it takes me to make a piece like this one. But right now, I have a show application due today, and a car to unload. Thanks for your input!

And the Winner Is....

Patricia R. is the lucky winner of the crane. I want to thank each and every one of you who submitted your pricing suggestions. Over 40 people sent in their thoughts and their prices. And many are curious to learn what I have learned in this process. I am not alone in my dislike of pricing, but this process has actually helped me reach some peace with my prices. I will be sharing what I have learned with you over the next days...or perhaps weeks.....there is that much to talk about in this topic. So stay tuned...