Saturday, October 31, 2009

It just didn't work today

I know I said I was going to talk about more test tile stuff but I'm not in the mood for that.

I tried to make some stuff today and it was just a day when the clay wouldn't cooperate.  Normally I have an issue if the clay is too stiff.  The wetter the better.  But today the clay I was using from my recycled stuff was actually too wet so I ended up making more of a mess than anything else.  And most of what I tried to make went right back into the recycle bucket.

I think part of it is that I don't really know what to make.  I've been concentrating so much on getting my online shops full of merchandise that when I went to make stuff, I got stuck in my head about what I should make for the shop.

I find that I can always market the mugs.  Mugs are easy to sell.  But I make good bowls too.  And yet I find that my bowls are still sitting on my dining room table waiting to be photographed and posted.  So when I felt like making bowls today, I was thinking more about how it's hard to sell bowls rather than just enjoying making them.  That always seems to be the kiss of death for me.

Maybe it wasn't even the clay that was bothering me.  Even as I'm trying to type this, my fingers are feeling clunky and they aren't moving as easily as they usually do.

Oh well.  Just an off day for me today. 

I'm working on moving stuff from my Etsy store to my Artfire store.  I'm finding Artfire to be a better place to sell, especially since you don't have to sign up for an account to purchase there.  But all of my advertising has been for Etsy so I'm kind of starting from scratch.

So I guess today can just be summed up as "oh well".

There's a chat widget on this blog and since I'm generally online all day, you're welcome to chat with me.  Don't have to have anything to say, just say hi!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Test tiles

Ahhhhh, test tiles.  What a pain the tush.  But so necessary.

I try out so many glazes and very few of them actually look how they look on the test tiles and color charts at the store.  Especially since I sometimes use white clay and other times use a dark red. 

I didn't want to use up a ton of clay and I wanted my tiles to be easily accessible so I could see my collection at a glance.  I also wanted to see how the glazes show or hide impressions and how it breaks over edges.  And I wanted the tiles to sit vertically in the kiln so I could see how much they run and flow.  Here's what I came up with.

I use an extruder die designed to make handles.  It's flat on one side and a nice gentle curve across the other.  I squirt out my long noodles and cut them to lengths of 4-5 inches.

Then I roll over each one with a rolling rubber stamp to make impressions on the rounded side.  And just so I have more flexibility in how I display them later, I punch a hole at the end of each one with one of my kemper hole cutters. 

As greenware, they take up very little space in the kiln.  I generally toss them into a mug or something for the first firing.

It's kind of hard to see in this picture but this is one of the stands I made for the glaze firing.  It's a wad of clay, about an inch and a half round ball.  When it's leather hard, I smack it into the table to make a nice flat edge.  Then I dig out the center to create a stand for the tile to sit in.  I want the hole to be about an inch deep so that the tile doesn't topple over in the kiln.

When I'm ready to test a new glaze, I put a number on the back (the flat side) near the hole with an underglaze pencil.  The hole will be the end that goes into the holder.

Holding the hole, I dip the majority of the tile into the glaze and hold for a count of 3.  When that dries, I dip it again but only about 2 inches.  On the third dip, I just dip the top inch.  This shows me what the glaze looks like at different thicknesses and just how thick it needs to be to give me the color I want.  This also puts the majority of the glaze at the very end so if it's runny, it has more room to run before it seals itself into the holder.

As you can see, when it's fired, it takes up very little space in the kiln.  And if the glaze is runnier than I expected, it should run either into the cup holding the tile, or onto the outside of it.  It might ruin the tile and the holder, but it doesn't ruin the kiln shelf.

Forgot to mention, when I make each tile, I write down the glaze info in a little booklet.  The number on each tile corresponds to the info in the booklet so when I get the tile back out of the kiln, I can look up which glaze goes with which tile.  I also have a central database with this info on my computer in case the labels get mixed up or something later on.

So look at all the information I have on this one little tile - obviously the color and texture of the glaze, whether or not the stamped impressions will show through, what the glaze will look like given the opportunity to run, how it breaks over a rim, what it looks like on a rounded and flat surface, will it drip beyond the line it's applied to, will it look differently if the coat I put on is uneven.  And since I do each glaze in a white and a red test tile, will the color of the clay affect the color of the glaze.

Then to display the tiles, I put some velcro on the back of each one and attach it to a piece of, oh crud, I can't think of the name of that board.  Foam core, that's it!  Foam core.  They don't sit perfectly flat (they warp in the kiln a little bit) but eh, close enough for government work.

The white tiles go on one side and the colored tiles go on the other so I can quickly look over all of the colors of glazes according to color of clay the piece is made of.   

I made labels with my handy dandy label maker and labeled each tile with the glaze color.  In my database, I also have info on the manufacturer and the code number of the glaze in case they change the name in the future.  And because you never know if two manufacturers are going to use the same name.

With this display set up, it's very easy to toss them into an old briefcase and set the aside when I don't need them.  It's also easy to pick up one tile to look at it with another one to see if the two colors would look good together or to directly compare them.  And when I run out of a glaze that I don't intend to replace, I toss the two corresponding tiles into an old mug in a drawer.  That way I have the info if I want to consider buying that glaze in the future, but I'm not looking at it as a possibility for a piece if I don't actually have any of that glaze available at the moment.

Next post will talk about a test tile system for testing various combinations together which I'm stealing from a new friend of mine.

And just for good measure, and because he was sitting there waiting for me when I went into the studio to take these pics, here's a shot of Buster hiding from the rain in the studio.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Universal wish list

For those of you who are selling your work, you might want to inform everyone you know of Amazons new "universal wish list" button. 

With the holidays coming up, many people are setting up wishlists to make shopping easier for their loved ones.  Amazon is the most popular but in the past it has been limited to only products that Amazon sells.  Now people can add any item from any web page to their Amazon wish lists. 

If you think you have something to sell that people might want to put on their wish lists for the holidays, be sure to tell everyone about Amazon's universal wish list button.  The link to more info on how to set it up is here.

By the way, feel free to add items from my artfire store to your own wish lists!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Neil Patrick Harris Mug of Pure Awesome

Normally I don't just post about a product I've put up for sale but this mug is just too damn awesome not to share.  So here it is, available for sale on  [quick update - this sold a couple of days after I posted this.  And my etsy store is closing in favor of Artfire]

What does NPH have to do with a mug that doesn't even have his picture on it? I'll tell ya. The lifespan of this mug will mimic the awesomeness of NPH's career.

It starts out as a serviceable mug. It does it's job of carrying your coffee around the office. It's a little bumpy, maybe even a little funny lookin. Co-workers will comment that it's a huge, bumpy mug you got there. But you know how inherently awesome it is, so you soldier on, a fan of your mug.

But you get sick of the comments so you take it home. And it continues to do it's job. Graduating from coffee to cocoa with marshmellows. Eventually growing into the mug that holds a days worth of soup when you're sick. Such a great mug, always there to do just what you need it to do.

Then it starts to appear in the office again. You boldly proclaim the awesomeness of your mug while your coworkers scoff that it was a childish novelty that can't possibly be so great as an adult.

But then they start to realize it's true power. Your mug sets you apart. Everyone knows when they pass by your desk and see this mug, that someone bold and brazen sits there. They see the wonderful colors cascading inside the mug. You have not wavered in your fandom for this mug and now the mug itself is seen as the true meaning of awesome! And you are the visionary who saw it's potential from the beginning!

Your coworkers now bow down to your mug in the break room, for they know that when you proclaim that you get the first cup of coffee, it means you get the ONLY cup of coffee! You're pounding it 28 fluid ounces at a time! And when your mug leads you to that coffee maker, all others cower in fear. No ordinary mug can stand beside your NPH Mug of Pure AWESOME!!! World domination is imminent!!

*ahem* Excuse me. Here are the technical specs:
Holds 28 oz

5 inches tall by 4 inches in diameter

Black glaze that bursts blue randomly throughout

Nice big handle for that man size grip

Thrown on the pottery wheel, altered, fired to cone 6

Safe for the microwave, oven, and dishwasher

Are you awesome enough to own such a mug?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Religion on the Potter's Wheel

I wrote this for a religion based blog but it's certainly apropos here as well.

One of the things that makes me feel very centered, grounded, and spiritual is creating pottery on the potters wheel. Whenever I sit down with a lump of clay and allow it to spin between my fingers, the world goes away. It’s very rhythmic, tactile, and there’s a different kind of thinking that occurs when I’m doing it. It’s kind of like my brain separates into two processes. My constant inner monologue slows down and just kind of randomly pops up and flows freely while another process, one purely made up of feel takes over and guides the clay around in my hands. I don’t think about squeezing a little tighter or grabbing that tool to cut off the top, it just kind of happens.

As with any interest in life, I started seeking the knowledge of other people. I’ve read some books and have joined some pottery mailing lists online. I’ve found all sorts of little tidbits that have made my experience on the wheel more successful and more enjoyable.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that I haven’t actually been doing pottery for the last 20 years. You see, on these mailing lists, there are a lot of professional potters who have made clay their life’s work. According to some of them, you’re not a real potter unless you dig up the clay from your own backyard, study years worth of chemistry to be able to mix your own glazes, sit up for 2 days at a time to stoke the wood burning kiln that you built yourself and have a degree in welding so you can make your own tools.

Dude, that’s hardcore. I’m not hardcore.

According to the professionals on the mailing list, since I don’t make vases that are 6 feet tall, I’m not worthy. And since my pots are generally pretty simple and not deliberately out of whack in some way, I have no artistry.

Many of the professional potters encourage you to make 100 mugs all the same size and shape as a means of improving your skills. I’m sure after making 100 mugs that are all the same size and shape, I would be very good at making that particular size and shape of mug. However, I have no desire to sit at my wheel for hours to make those 100 mugs. And because I don’t have this level of dedication to my craft, I have no right to make pottery.

For a while, these guys really got to me. I would go out to my little studio, look at my clay, and my store bought bottles of glaze, and feel unworthy to make myself a bowl. It was as if all of these people were watching over my shoulder and shaking their heads in disgust because I didn’t place my fingers on the clay exactly how they think I should. I was cheating because I used a Giffin Grip to center my pots on the wheel rather than spending countless hours and countless ruined pots learning how to tap them to center. They were so insistent that things be done the way they wanted them done that they acted as though if I did not use their exact methods, I was causing them physical injury!

Suddenly my once joyous hobby was now soured by countless disapproving faces and opinions, all of whom I would never, ever see. When I sat down at the wheel, my inner monologue started quoting all of the rules and regulations of what makes a good pot at a million miles an hour. I didn’t step into my pottery studio for several months because of they disapproved and I couldn’t enjoy the process anymore.

Then I started really looking at the pots created by these experts that everyone called stunning and truly art. I wanted to see the beauty that they all saw. However, by and large, I saw a bunch of lumpy, brown piles of poo. At first, this really reinforced that I was an idiot. Why could I not see the artistry that everyone else was seeing? The thought of owning one of these pots that others so coveted was unappealing. And the sculptures, ewwwwwww! Does the world really need another pointless asymmetrical thing that looks like a sea urchin puked up its innards? Dusting that thing must require hazard pay! How would that piece of artwork enrich my life?

Then it occurred to me – None of these disapproving people are ever going to see my pottery. They’re never going to watch me create that pottery. And even if they did, if they think that lump of bumpy barf is beautiful, do I really care what they would think of what I create?

I had allowed the opinions of a bunch of faceless names on a mailing list to take my joy away from me. Just because I can’t make 50 mugs in an hour doesn’t mean I can’t make a pretty mug. I like my mugs. I make them about double the average size of what you can find in Walmart because when I drink coffee, I want a big cup. And do I really want to be able to make 50 mugs an hour? I would be spending all of my time driving around to buy more raw materials, hauling tons of clay into my studio, then loading and unloading kilnload after kilnload of matching mugs instead of enjoying that feeling of clay sliding around in my hands.

I’m back in the pottery studio now, and I enjoy it again. I don’t allow these people to look over my shoulder and tell me what I should and should not be doing and instead I simply enjoy the process again. I’ll spend about three hours at a time and I’ll make 3 mugs (of different shapes and sizes), 2 bowls, a couple of little dishes to put cat treats on, and maybe a goblet or two that don’t match. So far, drinking out of my mugs of various sizes and eating out of my bowls of different shapes hasn’t killed me. And no one has sued me for medical expenses because I used a tool to hold my pots rather than tapping to center. Once again, pottery is enriching my life in the way that I want it to.

So what the heck does this little diatribe have to do with religion? Well, religion is like art. Someone will always be happy to instruct you on how you should go about it. Like art, the reason to have religion is to enrich and improve your life. And like art, everyone has an opinion and many are adamant that their way is the only way to go about it. But sometimes, even what the “experts” most covet and what their adamant instruction is leading you to is just a pile of poo.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When Pigs Fly

Not a whole lot to say about pottery today.  Unfortunately, I don't have the brain power for much of anything.  That's because my husband I both have.....swine flu.  No, I'm not kidding. 

We're fine.  We're generally healthy people and we aren't in any of the danger groups.  We caught it right away and started meds immediately.  But I still can't believe I had to call in sick due to swine flu.  Tell me, how many employers are actually gonna believe that one?  But it's true.  We're quarantined for at least a few more days.

So until my brain approaches something close to working, here are some pics of Buster to tide you over.

This was a rousing game of "are you coming in or staying out?"
This is why I'm picking cat hair out of all of my clay.  Shortly after this, he took a nap with his butt right up against the freshly made handles.  Oh well, it burns out in the kiln.
I get kisses
and I give kisses

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More randomness

Selling tip - Amazon now allows non amazon items to be in your wishlist.  You just grab the link they provide and as you're websurfing, you click on the link and it clarifies what item on that page you want on your amazon wish list.  Now all your friends know to buy you that special glaze from the shop across the country.

Pssssst:  you can add stuff from my etsy shop to your list if you want.  here

And now back to random crap in my studio.

Shop towels.  I LOVE THEM!!  They are thicker and lusher than papertowels but otherwise function the same.  These will smear the clay off your hands pretty well when the phone rings while you're in the middle of throwing.  I get mine at costco.  And yes, this one individual does go through a coscto size package all on my lonesome.

This is an old cd rack.  When I'm throwing mugs with the insertable bats (more below) the mug and bat fit perfectly on this.  And it's easy to cover all at once with a giant garbage bag or leave to air dry.  Got it for a buck or two at the thrift store.  The bottom is cased in concrete so it don't tip over.

I love this bat system.  I mostly throw mugs and cereal bowls and I don't need 10 inch wide bats for that.  With this, I just pop a small bat into the square, throw, and then pop that bat back out and set aside.  Brilliant!  Space is major commodity at my studio so anything that saves space makes me happy.

Pegboard.  Brilliant!!  Thank you previous owners who lined a wall of my studio with the stuff.  I'm one of those people that if I can't see it and grab it immediately, it may was well not be there.  Look at all the crap hanging on my wall.

These are brilliant as well.  Pegboard shelves.  The perfect size to set a drying mug on when I need to get it out of the way.  It's a place for little things like my clay inkstamppads, or the flower pot that I'm going to do something with some day, honest!  Or to hold the random rolling pin.
I'm still trying to figure out how to do the protography for my etsy site.  This was one option.  I just ordered a table top light tent kit which comes with lights and stuff we'll see if that increases the quality at all.  Tell me, when you're shopping for this kind of thing, what do you want to see in the pictures?  What's important to you?  This was taken on my bar with a blue suede jacket toss over a shelf.  The bar provided most of the light and I put tissue over my flash to diffuse it.  They say the flash is pure evil but it was really the only way to properly light the darned thing.  What do you think?

Please comment below!  My ego is fed by your comments and it's getting hungry!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Random tips and things from my studio

So a few random things about my studio that some might consider tips or tricks.

What you're looking at here on the left is how power gets into my studio.  It was like this when we moved in.  There's a light switch which turns on power to the rest of the outlets immediately adjacent.

Odd thing to blog about I know.  But I have it here because I need a space heater in my studio but space heaters are notoriously dangerous.  And since I need to heat the studio for a while before I actually enter it, I get nervous that I'll leave it on, forget it's on, and have a burned down studio several days later.  So I plugged it into this outlet.  It only turns on when I actually have the light on.  Because the light shines into my bedroom at night, no risk of me forgetting it's on!

Here is said space heater.  It's up on a table because the power cord to reach the outlet that's on the ceiling is kinda short.  I used those wire shelving things that everyone seems to use in college to build a little cage around it.  Now I'm less likely to knock it over and I can put drying pots on the shelf above it to speed things up a little bit.

Ok, let's talk lids.  I often throw them right side up.  Use about twice as much clay as you want in the actual lid and then carve the big pad of clay off the center when you trim it.  And I roll the rim over to make it thick and strong.  I also tend to make my lids on the large side because it's very easy to shave them down once everything has dried but you certainly can't expand them if they are too small.  And I guess that's the only advice I have about lids.

This is one of those nets used to strain paint.  The top is held open with an embroidery ring.  The ring is then set on top of two posts from my pegboard.  What possible use could I have for this?

Reclaiming clay!  I scoop all of my slurry and trimmings from the reclaim bucket into this bag.  Of course it has a bucket underneath it to catch all the icky the oozes through it.  Because I don't reclaim massive amounts of clay, and this bag will hold almost a full bucket, it's just the right size for me.  And because it hangs in the air yet with a nice net around it, it dries evenly all the way around and nothing gets into it.  The day after I put the slop in, I scrape the outside of the bag to get rid of the semi dried clay that is now attached the outside.  This way when it dries enough, I just turn it upside down and peel the bag off and the bag is not actually embedded in the clay but rather sits around the clay.

I had a problem where all of my pots would get little clay crusties embedded into their feet.  My whole pottery studio is coated in a layer of clay so there's pretty much no place to put finished pots where the crusties won't attack.  So I bought some bisque tiles to set things on when they are finished.  Haven't needed to clean them yet and the crusties have stayed away.  Yay!

I hope this gives some of you ideas of how to solve the problems you run across.  More silly ideas tomorrow!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Testing testing 1...2...4

Still learning this whole blogging thing.  I guess I can just email my posts in?  Testing that now.  Sorry for the boring post.  This test is now complete.  You may return to your normal internet browsing.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vending Table

I did a vending table at an event today.  Kind of hard to describe the event.  It was kind of a performance competition in the Bardic tradition.  It was the first annual Eisteddfod.  Yeah, I don't know either, but that's what it's called.  My best friend was running it so surprise surprise!  I was one of the vendors.

Some might say the event was a failure.  Due to torrential rains, the economy, and possibly not the best advertising, I'd say that all in all about 30 people were there all day.  That includes us vendors and other staff members.  There was not a lot of cash changing hands.

And yet despite this, I walked away feeling pretty darned good about it.  A lot of times when you're vending, you're staring at the clock, bored out of your mind, just wanting to get the hell out of there.  I didn't find myself doing that this time.  Everyone was very enthusiastic about my work with the kinds of compliments that tell you they know what they're talking about and actually mean what they are saying. 

For this event, I had raised my prices significantly.  I used to be drastically underpriced and now I'd say my prices are modest but average.  Not a single person commented on my prices!  I was afraid of that "oh, I like it but I can't afford it" or "oh gee, can you let this go for $5 cheaper?"  Nope, not a single comment.  The few people who purchased my stuff simply handed over the cash, a few compliments, and seemed very pleased with their purchase.

All in all, I'm very inexperienced at vending, but here's a few things that seemed to work for me today.

1)  Levels

I was given a standard 6 foot table.  I found that by taking the leaf out of the old dining table in my pottery studio, I had an additional surface that was 4 feet wide by 1.5 feet deep and about 2 inches tall.  I took some kiln stilts and layed them sideways and put them under each side of the leaf.  This raised it an additional 2 inches or so.  This gave the table a raised platform on the back half of the table in the center.  Once I laid the tablecloths over it, it looked wonderful. 

In addition, I now had a 4 inch high cubby hole for me to put my money box, book, phone, food, extra bags, etc.  It was almost like being given a whole new table space.  In addition, I had an overturned cafeteria serving tray which was about 6 inches high under the tablecloth on one corner of the table which I put a laptop on (more on this later). 

I also had a set of 3 box-frame-shelf thingies (here) along the back of the table which gave me not only small shelves to set various mugs on, but also framed some of my showpieces.  Since they are all different sizes, they make for some nice visual variety and they embed into one another when packing up.

When you spread out pottery on a flat surface, it's all chaotic and just a mess to the eye.  You can't actually see any of the pieces.  With these little changes, my whole table looked organized, everything was visible, a few items were highlighted, and it was visually appealing.  I'm a dork and didn't take any pictures, but a friend did so I'll edit a few in as soon as I get them.

EDIT: Adding a picture! 

2)  Video - USE IT

In my real life, I'm a videographer.  So my real life and my hobby life needed to come together.  I gave up a precious square foot of table real estate to house a laptop with a video on a loop.  You can see it here.  It has no sound because I don't want to bother other vendors or listen to it myself all day.

Best use of table real estate EVER!!!  I suck at striking up conversation.  I usually rely on my best friend to do it for me because she can chat up anybody about any topic.  But she was doing other things today and I couldn't use her as a crutch.  This video did more for my table than anything else could.  It made everyone take notice of my table, they stopped at my table to watch the video, and they then asked questions about it which made me able to converse comfortably.

When I made the video, I just thought that having something moving would be a little eye-catching and it might make people pause long enough to give my wares a quick once over.  I had no idea it would be as effective as it was.  People would actually watch the entire 8 1/2 minutes of it and then talk to me about it as it played through again!  They would laugh at the snarky comments I embedded.  Then they would pick up all sorts of mugs and stuff at my table and really look at them while chatting like crazy with me.  And for those who just stood and watched, I was able to simply say "Oh, this is the finished mug that you see being made in the video" and ta-da!!  Instant conversation! 

If you clicked over and watched the video, you'll probably see that it's not the most fascinating thing ever.  But in the context of a craft fair, it may was well have been the yet to be made next Harry Potter movie.  People were just so fascinated by it!

Seriously, if you can make a video of yourself on the wheel, do it.  Totally.  Recommending it again, make a video.

3)  Trading

Very few people can go to a craft fair and walk out with more money than they went it with, usually because all of your income becomes outgo as you peruse other tables.  Trade with people.  They will probably love your work, you'll get what you want from them, and they will give you all sorts of tips and tricks to selling at fairs.  Not to mention it really tells you a lot about what people like and don't like if you can watch someone look over your stuff when they can choose to take anything they like.  You'll get a really good idea of what people are naturally attracted to so you can call it "marketing research costs".

You also build up good will with other vendors.  Be nice to them, they may be the ones who sell for you while you're in the potty and they might let you use their credit card machine if you don't have that capability.

4)  Be near the coffee

This is kind of a no brainer but for potters, this advice is ten-fold.  Knowing that this particular crowd might be more inclined to prefer a reusable mug to a styrafoam cup, the organizers let me put a bunch of my crappy mugs on the table with the coffee.  Now this not only gives you more table space to spread out on, but it also gives you a chance to get rid of all of those crap mugs that you want a couple of bucks for but don't want to sacrifice your own table space for.

I put half a dozen of my "seconds" next to the coffee with $5 price tags.  It was my first sale of the day.  A woman liked one of the mugs (one that I can only see flaws in), turned to me and asked if I was the person to pay, she bought the mug and got herself a cup of coffee.  I tossed a buck back into the "suggested donation" bucket to pay the event back for the coffee.  She likes her mug when she wouldn't have been able to afford one of my better mugs, less environmental impact, and I get the damned thing out of my house plus an extra $4!  I would have been just as happy to give the damn thing away.

If you're next to the food, people will naturally come to you.  If you're selling something that will assist them in eating the food, sales are imminent.  And if you're willing to keep an eye on the coffeepot and money bucket, the organizers will be thrilled to just let you handle it (and spread your stuff out on their table) while they do more important things.

5)  Packing it in

Bring extra newspaper.  I have no idea how, but when we were packing up at the end of the day, we had less packing material than we started with.  Theoretically this can't be possible since we didn't use any of the packing material when selling the pottery and we had less pottery needing packing material when we were leaving, and yet we ran out when packing back up.  I have no idea how that happened.

Remember those $5 mugs on the coffee table?  Not worth repacking.  While everyone is breaking down, just shout out that if anyone wants one, they should simply take it so you don't have to pack it.  Go ahead and announce that these are your crippy crappy mugs that you don't like and you'd rather give them away then deal with them anymore.  Anyone who would have bought a mug at this point has done so and has left.  Now those who couldn't afford it or were too shy can now grab one (with a business card in it) and their last impression of the day is that cool pottery person who gave them a mug.  That's a good last impression.  Not to mention, they usually can't find any flaws even though you can't see anything but them.  Now you have a group of people who are looking at what you consider crap, they love it, and wow if this is crap, your good stuff must be fantastic!  And again, you get that crap out of your house.

6)  Donate to the raffles

They had raffles at this event where anything worth less than $45 would be raffled for $1 and anything over that would be raffled for $5.  As people won, they were able to select an item from a variety of stuff donated by the various vendors.

My stuff kept getting selected.  A woman is now treasuring a vase that has been the bane of my existence since the day I created it.  Too nice to take a hammer to, but I couldn't find any purpose for it and couldn't figure out how to market it.  It was a round brown vase for goodness sakes.  How do you get noticed on Etsy for a round brown vase?  But now someone loves it.  And it's out of my house.  And she came over to my table to tell me how much she loved it and then went on to tell me how much she loves that mug, and that bowl, etc etc.

So I kept donating more stuff.  Lots of people now have my stuff and they consider themselves lucky to have it.  That's good marketing.  And I didn't have to carry it back home.

Now I know what you're thinking.  It seems like I gave away a whole lotta stuff.  Well, yeah, I did.  I don't create pottery to make money.  I have a day job for that.  I refuse to turn pottery into a bona fide business because I want to purely enjoy it.  If I collect a ton of it and someone gives me the opportunity to sell it off, swell, but that's not why I make it.

However, over the years I've become pretty good and pretty fast at making it.  My house is overflowing with stuff that is too good to throw out but not so great that I want to keep it.  So yes, I want to sell it.  So I'm investing in some long term marketing.  As far as I'm concerned, these are all just big business cards.  If you have stuff that you want gone and it doesn't really cost you anything to give it away, just give it away.  People will remember you and your name gets out there.  There's no way to calculate how this will come back to you, but trust that it will.  I really believe that my pottery is far more valuable today because of what I gave away in good marketing karma yesterday.

7)  It ain't all about the Benjamins

All in all, I took in a total of $60 today.  The organizers were unhappy about the lack of turnout so they waived all the vending fees as an apology.  That cash paid for the gas and food for the day for me and the hubby so I'd say I broke about even.

However, It was a great exercise in market research.  This is my third (I think) experience trying to sell my pottery at an event like this.  My table looked SOOOO much better than it has in the past.  I learned that the video will not only make people pause at your table, it makes them engage with you and your wares.

And I'm a flattery whore.  True compliments, and I don't mean the empty "you have nice stuff" compliments, I mean the "ooohhh, you throw these so thin!  This feels so nice in the hand.  Wow, I've never seen that style before, how did you make it?" compliments are worth more to me than any amount of cash.  And that's because I now feel like my stuff is actually worthy.  It's worth what to me is a high price.  It is good enough to stand side by side with those who craft for a living. 

I'm now excited to do my next event when before I've always dreaded it.  And if I'm excited to do an event, and will now seek them out and actually enter them, I'll eventually earn a whole lot more $$$ than I would have if I were still feeling inferior and hiding my stuff from the potential customers out there in the world.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What I've been up to

Yup, a whole year since I last posted.  You'd think I wasn't very good at this blogging thing.

As usual, I stopped doing pottery in the winter.  My studio is an unheated woodshed and while I can heat the shed decently with the space heater, the clay freezes and becomes difficult to work with.  Not to mention how unpleasant it is to be wet and muddy in the cold.

But over the summer I had another burst of creation. Of course I made the usual bowls and mugs.  I've also gotten some new glazes.  I'm loving how the two of these combine to create a cascading effect.

I've also been messing with some new carving techniques.  This mug has a lot of texture carved into the bottom half of it.  Then the glaze I chose flows over it making a waterfall effect.  I suppose it would be more of a waterfall effect if I had used a brown.  Oh well, live and learn.

And I've moved on to making almost all of my mugs "super mugs".  They each tend to hold about 3 cups.  It seems like the giant mugs are the ones that everyone reaches for and I seem to sell them as soon as I have them in stock, so, makin more!

Personally, I find hearts really cheesy.  There's nothing wrong with them, the style just isn't for me.  But I had a couple of bowls sitting there, fresh from the wheel, and I pulled out one end and pushed in another, voila!  Valentine's day bowls!

I do still like doing the other carving style and have discovered a use for some horrible dark gray glaze that I've purchased.  No matter how much I hate a glaze, I can't seem to throw it out until I've actually used it up.  And I tend to buy glazes a lot to try them out so I have a ton of glazes in my cupboard that I don't like.  But anyway, I found that if I put the gray glaze on mugs with this carving style and then clean it off, I sits in the grooves.  Then this clear blue glaze goes over it and you get a kind of tiki effect.  Yay finding uses for crappy stuff!

A friend of mine was sitting with me while I was throwing and she requested goblets.  Goblets of all shapes and sizes.  Just goblet after goblet after goblet.  These are all thrown in one piece.  It makes it much faster and the final product is better.  When I make them in 2 pieces, the top never seems to go with the bottom and it gets all wonky.  Oh, and notice the pink with the gray rim.  I hate the gray and I hate the pink, but they work pretty well together.

And I've been messing with some other new shapes and textures.

And then of course the agateware that I'm known for.  I keep thinking I'm going to stop making this, and then I make more.

So this summer was mostly spent experimenting.  Experimenting with new textures, new shapes, several new glazes, and at the moment I'm firing a little hotter than I have in the past.

I'm pretty much packed up for the winter again but hopefully I'll get out there once or twice in the upcoming months.

Oh, and I have a craft fair coming up this weekend.  Wish me luck!