Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Which hat do I wear today?

I see that I haven't posted anything for awhile. I want to be out in the studio making pots. I haven't done that for several weeks now. But even though I haven't been making pots, I HAVE been working on my pottery business.....I've been working 10-12 hours a day on it!!

It turns out that in order to sell one's work, one must market one's work.....basically one's self. And in order to do this, a potter must wear many hats! I know this is true of many endeavors as most entrepreneurs have discovered! My husband had a family business and it was definitely true in his case! To me, the variety of skills required for being a potter seems to run a pretty wide gamut!

I decided to compile a list of some of the things I've had to learn that I didn't realize would be part of being a potter:

Brick layer, writer, photographer, stunt double, merchandiser, teacher, propane technician, chemist, editor, shipping manager, press agent, keeper of the bubble wrap, international shipping manager, menu planner, chef, customer service rep, accountant, trend setter, inventory control manager, web site designer, graphic artist, physical therapist, sales rep, personal fitness coach, self-esteem coach, psychiatrist, interior accessorizer......is that a word?

Ok, I'm getting silly with it now. I suppose I enjoy the variety, to a degree. But it is rather ironic, we think we're "our own boss" but in reality, there are many outside forces that dictate what gets done. Take today for instance. My hands are itching to get on the wheel. But I have 2 pots that need to be shipped. My studio is a complete disaster from taking inventory to and from an event over the week-end. I need to dust my display shelves and re-stock them (in a pleasantly artistic formation!) Then I really should sweep and mop the floor because I made a huge mess recycling clay on Mother's Day. This morning I've been updating listings on my Etsy site and working on tracking inventory. Obviously I detoured onto my blog and decided it was time for a quick update!!

Luckily the fact that I have an Open Studio coming up in about a month will mean that eventually I will be forced to get on the wheel and produce some new pots!! I'm pretty sure that when that time comes, I will experience a mental block and not know what to make first!!

I think what set this whole post off, was that upon entering the blogger site I was informed that I have many new interface options that I can choose from. Just what I need.....more hats to decide between.

Besides all of these choices, I really need to get my garden roto-tilled -, the other kind of dirt I like to play in! Yesterday I planted a couple of decorative shrubs. (I do like my studio entrance to look somewhat attended to!!)

So I will end this post and try to add a couple of pictures for visual emphasis 'cos I know we're a visual society!!

If I had my druthers, I'd put on my mushroom hunting hat and head off into the woods!! But not today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Clay Day

Today my sister-in-law brought her kids over to do some clay projects. My nephew is in 5th grade and my niece is in 2nd grade (or thereabouts!) Mom and Grand-pa and one of my adult nieces came too and I think everyone had fun.

Here are some shots of their creations............

There was a basket, a cat, and cat basket!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Marketing Adventures and Works in Progress

I've been working on some new pieces for my upcoming Open Studio (March 12 and 13; 11am-5pm...FYI!) I've also decided to make another attempt at online sales via http://www.etsy.com/shop/LorettaWrayPottery

I'm going to put up some photos of what I'm working on throughout this post 'cos when I read other people's blogs, I like to have some
purty pictures to look at while I scan the writing to see if I want to read the whole blog or not! So........
my first photo is a new line of mugs I'm developing. They have a hole in the handle to store a handmade spoon! The owner of a local coffee shop suggested I make these. He had a sample of a similar mass produced mug. I wasn't particularly enthused about the idea, but now that I've made a few, I'm starting to
like them. For some reason, I've enjoyed carving the spoons! It's somewhat relaxing. I may get bored with it eventually, Assuming I start selling them and have to make more!!

Getting back to the subject of selling work, for those who haven't discovered it yet, etsy (which I mentioned in my first paragraph) is an online selling network for handmade crafts. They charge sellers 20 cents/per listing (which will be online for 4 months.) If and when items sell there's a 3.5% transaction fee. I'm also paying around 3% to accept credit cards via my paypal account. The buyer pays shipping and handling fees that are set by me.

Sellers post up to 5 pictures of each item. For me, this has been the most time-consuming/frustrating part of the process. I'd rather just keep potting! Unfortunately, if I start doing a little marketing, I'll eventually be
buried under a mountain of pots!! I've come up with 3 other marketing options besides my quarterly Open Studios. I can go to various fairs and festivals, sell at local galleries, and sell online. Each has its own pros and cons.

I've got my work in a couple of galleries and I'm planning to do a few fairs and festivals this summer. But it seems to me that both of these ventures require a substantial commitment of both time and money! Besides the time and money already invested in making the product to be sold or displayed, I have to factor in the time spent packing and unpacking work, manning the booth at the fair/festival and the expense and time spent transporting product to and from the event or gallery. That investment is getting more substantial all the time with the price of gas!

Etsy seems like a viable selling alternative if I can get work to actually start selling there. The "pros" are that there's potential to reach a huge audience, but the cons are that there are
TONS of artists already on there competing for that audience. I've learned that there are ways to make ones work more visible on etsy but it requires spending quite a bit of time photographing work and then more time on the computer. But I think I've decided that for now anyways, it makes more sense than pursuing the fair/festival/gallery venue. To me, it seems like it will require less of a monetary investment, and probably less time, plus if it doesn't seem to work, I can always move on to the next venture.

I decided to try to do a little research and figure out what seems to be selling on etsy in the ceramic area. I think I made a discovery! It seems like pottery that has a specific use for other artists is popular. I'm talking about things like earring holders or yarn bowls. (An earring holder is a small jar or bowl with holes in it to store earrings and a yarn bowl is made to hold a ball of yarn and has a slot to feed the yarn through.)

This makes sense to me! If I can make work that will appeal to other etsy sellers, it seems like I've widened my market a bit. I would think that people who make make and sell crafts (like scarves or earrings) will be more likely to want to purchase hand made items for themselves. So it seems to me like I should try to make some of these type of pieces. I think they're the kind of work that should sell well in New Castle, especially in the Arts Co-op, for the very same reasons they probably sell well on etsy.

Of course I still haven't got all the ins and outs of etsy figured out! I've listed 11 pieces in the last 11 days and haven't sold anything yet. But it's only cost me $2.20 so far and I've probably spent 3-4 hours total taking pictures and p
osting items.

Having my work on display in Greenfield will have cost me $135 for the last 3 months, plus there was a $50 membership fee. I would estimate I spent $10.00 in gas to take the original work over to display and I'm planning to run over next week to rotate some new work in
. If something sells, they get a 20% consignment fee. I also provided my own display unit, so there's that investment too. (Steve put the time in on that!!) I figure I won't spend nearly that much time or money putting work up on etsy. Plus I just remembered that I actually HAVE sold one piece on etsy!! (This was about a year ago, when I first tried it, and a friend bought a piece!)

There are other ways to get more exposure on etsy that I'm still learning about, so I think I'll focus on it for
a few more weeks before I get too discouraged.

I have to say that I really don't see craft fairs as a viable sales opportunity. I will do a few local one
s just to get my name and product out there and support the community, but I'm going to be very selective about what I do. When I do the math, they just don't make sense.

Just for kicks and giggles, I decided to crunch some numbers for doing Summerfair in Cincinnati. The booth costs $375 plus $30 to apply. It's 3 days, so I would need a hotel for at least 3 nights, I would estimate a minimum of $225
. Transportation to and from would run $30-$40 (200 miles round trip.) Factoring in meals means I'll have at least $700 invested. For 2 days, we're talking 4 hours drive time, let's estimate 5 hours packing, setting up, etc. then manning the booth for 23 hours. That's a minimum of 28 hours. In my dreams, my time is worth $25/hour, but let's be realistic. If I got a "real" job with my skills and education, I'd be lucky to make $10/hour. So if we figure that times 28 hours, that's $280 plus my initial $700 estimate for expenses, that means I need to sell almost a $1000 worth of pots to break even and that's not counting the time and materials I have invested in making the pots that sell!!! I think I could find myself in the hole pretty quickly going this route!

So, we'll see if the ets
y venture pans out.

Oh, something else I decided to try making is rings......as in bling fo' yo' finguh!! I can't remember how or why I came across it, but I saw this big, gawdy, faceted wooden ring. I think it was on etsy. They were selling for 60 bucks and had supposedly been featured in Martha Stewarts magazine.
I started thinking, hmmmm, I bet I could make a ring out of clay. So I made a few. I wasn't sure how big to make them to account for shrinkage, but since it doesn't really matter what size they end up being (within reason) I made a variety of sizes and will see how much they shrink after 2 firings. They could be fun. I'm enjoying having some little hand building stuff to piddle around with too.

Ok, I think it's time to call it a night for blogging. It's pretty bad when I start losing interest in my own blog!!! I wonder if anybody actually read all the way to the end of this!! If ya did, lemme know!! ;D