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

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 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


Dennis Allen said...

Loretta, I read it all the way through.When I do shows, I end up with a half day in packing before I leave home them 2hrs set up, 2 hrs knock down, and an hour to unload at home. It does get your name in front of a lot of people and if you are doing local shows, it helps build your mailing list and promote your home sales.

Hoosier Mama Now said...

That is an excellent point, Dennis. I'm definitely taking that aspect into consideration. I'm planning to do a few small, local/regional fairs for that very reason.

AND to get my feet wet, 'cos to be honest I'm not ready to do a big show, like Summerfair anyways! The "other nightmare" that plagues me, besides not selling enough pottery to break even would be not having enough work to meet demand!! (So far that hasn't been a problem, but I can "dream!")

I really appreciate the feedback (AND that you read the whole post, you're a trooper!!!)

Evelyn Snyder said...

Yes, I read it all too. Wise estimates about the craft fair. I'm coming to decide I can only afford shows that are cheap and short (aside from my tried and true performers). My line is so different from most potters, though--the dinner sets mean many people come to shows to buy just a few things to add to their collection. Still, shows are not proving their worth in my book. My studio sales are always the best (but I don't want to be open all the time--just a few times a year so people get excited but aren't dropping by when I'm in the middle of production.

Love the rings. I'm not sure what size my finger is. I need a ring to wear at shows--will have to size when I come visit this summer. Would like a shino glaze (something smooth on the inside of course!). Hey, could you use them to test atmosphere--a market for your test rings? That would be pretty cool--always good to be able to sell tests. Didn't you make a silver ring similar to those a long time ago? I seem to remember you wearing it.

Hoosier Mama Now said...

I appreciate your input, Ev. It was actually some things you said a few months ago about what your shows were costing that made me really try to estimate the cost. I also agree that about studio sales, I don't want to be open all the time either, but I'm thinking 4 or 5 times a year might work. I wish I could find a local retailer that gets some traffic where I could put a few things on consignment and let people know they can come out here by appointment.

I think you should try putting a few things up on etsy. You might have to make it a job for one of your assistants tho, keeping things current. I think your line is consistent enough you wouldn't necessarily have to have pictures of individual pieces if you explain it in the description. I dunno, just something you might want to test.

I think I did cast a similar ring in silver.....I never realized I was such a creature of habit!!