Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gonna give stuff away

I'd like to see a few more fans on my facebook page so I'm gonna do a giveaway!

When I get to 50 fans, one will be picked at random for a free incense burner.  And when I get to 100, another one!

So if you're interested, become a fan of mine on facebook.  I promise not to overload your newsfeed.  I post once or twice a week.

Uga Buga Bowls Fan Page

Pics of my feet 01

Without further ado, I hereby bring you the first in a series called "Pics of my feet".

And those were some pics of my feet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Been teachin!

I'm feeling the need to blog but don't have a whole lot to blog about right now.  My studio is somewhat shut down until I can get an electrician in to look at the wiring and come up with a way to heat it.  Fortunately, I got a larger check than I expected from one of my video clients so I should be able to spring for a decent heating system once I figure out what the wiring can handle.

One thing I have done though is a little teaching.  A friend of mine wanted to make some gifts for her family and thought that pottery might be the answer.  So she came over for a 6 hour lesson.  I warned her that what she wanted to make was rather challenging and probably wouldn't happen on the first day.

However, we were able to collaborate and she she was quite successful!  For the larger items, I made the bodies of the pieces while she added handles, did the trimming, and decorating.

Now, either I'm a really good teacher, or she had some skills that she didn't tell me about.  We did a general lesson of wheel throwing and after about 2 hours of instruction, I gave her some clay and told her I was going to take a break while she played around a bit.

I had to walk away at that point.  I wasn't allowing her to fail with anything and as a result, I had had my hands in each piece she had created so far.  So I wanted to give her the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn't without me constantly there to rescue.

She did really well!  Every so often I would pop my head in and offer some advice but I didn't touch the stuff anymore.  She made a cute bowl with a nice rim. Then she made a bowl that's a little wonky, but that's ok.  When it started to fold on itself, I advised her to stop and just let it be.  So it has just a little bit of ruffle through the bottom but since she stopped at that point, it looks like a design rather than what it really means which is that the bowl was about to implode.  And she made a cute little cup when I wasn't looking!

I was really impressed.  Then she came back the next day and we did all of the trimming and finishing work.  I can't wait to see if everything survives the first kiln firing!

In other news, I seem to be getting a really big response to my chicken roaster, and I don't even have one done yet.  It's going to be about 6 weeks before the prototype is even ready for testing but I'll be sure to keep you updated on the results.  I'm assuming it's going to have some kinks to work out and it will probably take a year or so before I'm confidant that I can make them for sale.

Wish me heat!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Facebook fan page

I never thought I'd set up a fan page for myself.  It seems so egotistical!  But I'd like to talk to anyone who might be interested in my pottery and I'm told that's the way to do it.

So you see that big empty box to your right?  Yeah, it's kind of sad being all empty.  Feel free to fan me on facebook and help make that look like I'm not a pathetic loser!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ugh, work stoppage

It looks like I'm not going to be working in the studio for a while. 

I went out there the other day and the space heater wasn't working.  Tried it in a few different outlets and nothing.  My guess is that some electrical thing shorted on the inside and as a safety measure, it shut the whole thing down.  Certainly preferable to a fire, but, ugh.

I know what you're thinking - I should just get another space heater.  Well, it's not that easy.  I only have 2 outlets in the studio.  A normal one in the wall that an electrician has tested as safe and another one in the air that the light plugs into.  Both of these are right by the door to the studio which makes it difficult to fit in all the things I want to plug in where I want them to be.

Yeah, not exactly the picture of safety there is it?  Plugging the last space heater into this was an experiment.  When I turn the light off, the power to this entire outlet turns off so it was easy to make sure that the heater wasn't pulling power when it was unattended.  Thus, reduced fire hazard.
Clearly something about this plan didn't work.  Maybe it was a crappy space heater that just bit the dust, maybe it was an electrical spike of some sort, I don't know.  I do know that I'm not going to use an extension cord to put a heater in a better location.  And this is the second space heater to go kaput on me out there so I'm REALLY not trusting the wiring I've got going on.

I've left a message with the electrician to find out what it would cost to put in another outlet on the other side of the studio.  We can't really afford to spend much but if the cost of an outlet (maybe they can install some sort of safety mechanism so if it gets too hot it will cut the power?) means I can keep the studio warm and work year round, it might be worth it.

In the past, I've generally stopped work in early October and don't really start up again until April or May.  This year, I'm really wanting to keep working and have been able to work into Mid November.

And of course, there's the Buster question.  He's spent plenty of winters outside so he's fine, but that doesn't mean I want him to be cold.  My job is to spoil him rotten (I'm very good at my job) so I'd really like to provide a heated room for him to live in.

But I just can't put a third space heater out there without making sure that the wiring can handle it. 

I have a lot of stuff made and drying, probably enough for a full kiln load.  So at least I can fire that and get it finished.  But I'd really rather be working on the wheel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Etsy VS. Artfire - Market Research Experiment

* For those of you looking for tips on selling and just the highlights of this article, skip to the summary at the end.

As I get a little more serious about selling my pottery, I've started to look into venues other than Etsy.  While selling pottery isn't my main goal in life, it's important to me to appear professional in every way when I present myself to the world.

I've opened an Artfire shop just to see how it compared.  Oh by the way, this is going to be a long ass post.  You may want to grab a cup of coffee and a snack.  Don't worry, I'll wait.  Need a mug for that cup of coffee?  No?  Ok, can't blame a girl for trying.  We all settled in for a nice long read?  Ok, let's go.

In my twenties, I worked for a marketing research company.  Not the career for me, but I learned so much while I was there.  So in the spirit of what I learned there, I conducted a little Market Research on Etsy VS. Artfire - what do the buyers see?

Our players:

Me!  Yes yes, I rock.  No please, sit down.  No, no, really I don't deserve it.  PLEASE!  No applause, just throw money!

Bryan - Internet friend of mine.  In his early 20's.  We only chat every few months and it's usually brief.  Doesn't know anything about my pottery.  We've never met in person.  Zero knowledge of my preferences.

Paula - My BFF.  My biggest fan.  Insists on being present at every kiln opening and all of my rejects end up in her kitchen.  She does know my preferences on the experiment at hand so her opinion might be a tad tainted.

My Hubby - Tends to be a bit removed from my pottery hobby but loves that I do it.  Might have heard my preferences but is never shy to disagree with me so I trust his opinion.

The mission - Compare and contrast my shops on both Etsy and Artfire.  Then go to the front pages of each and try to find my stuff.

In order to show that I tried to conduct this experiment in such a way as to elicit real opinions and not just telling me what I want to hear, I'm now going to post the conversations I had with Bryan and Paula unedited.

[13:20] AlexMMR: do you have a couple of minutes to conduct an experiment for me?

[13:20] Bryan: Yes I do
[13:21] AlexMMR: Ok. I've gotten so good at pottery at thsi point that I really do need to start selling it. I've had an etsy store for a while but I'm thinking of moving over to artfire. So What I'd like you to do is to check out both shops
[13:21] Bryan: oh fun i'm all over this
[13:21] AlexMMR: tell me which one you would like better if you were shopping. Check out the main pages of both sites and tell me which one you would be more likely to purchase from
[13:22] AlexMMR: The first one is etsy. My page is and the main page is
[13:22] AlexMMR: take a minute and look around. Go to the main page and see if you can even find my products, that kind fo thing
[13:23] Bryan: ok
[13:23] AlexMMR: Then after you've experimented there, try artfire. My page is and the main page is
[13:23] AlexMMR: I'm goign to make my husband do this too and blog about the results
[13:24] AlexMMR: brb while you experiment. Potty break.
[13:25] Bryan: Etsy was really easy to find you by searching by your name....your stuff is gorgeous on here too. Looking at artfire now....
[13:28] Bryan: oh artfire by a longshot! Etsy seems very one-off, buy a bowl, never see you again....artfire invites you back, it seems. They're equally user friendly, but artfire is much better to build clientelle or to get your name out
[13:28] Bryan: Girlfriend is here. I'll be back later. Glad i caught you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, so we have one vote for Artfire.  Let's hear from Paula.

[21:57] AlexMMR: wanna take a break from the sound and help me with an experiment on which pottery store I should focus on?

[21:57] Paula: ?? still trying to decide?
[21:58] AlexMMR: I just want to quantify my opinions iwht other peoples opinions. it will also give me something to blog about
[21:58] AlexMMR: I'm running an experimetn with people. I'm sending them to each of my stores and compare. And then the front page of each site and have people try to find my stuff.
[21:59] AlexMMR: So vs
[21:59] AlexMMR: then vs
[21:59] Paula: Well the Art fire site is WAY easier. I spent about a hour and played there the other day
[21:59] Paula: Looked up bowls, mugs, color - whatever
[21:59] Paula: WAY easier and your stuff came up a lot
[21:59] AlexMMR: oh awesome
[21:59] Paula: ya
[22:00] AlexMMR: how much would it matter to you if you had to join a site in order to purchase?
[22:00] Paula: your blue ruffle bowl came up a lot as did the heart bowls and the ...shoot - the light gold mug??
[22:00] Paula: I am totally screwing up the description
[22:01] Paula: honestly - if I have to join a site to by something. unless I REALLY REALLY love the product and literally can't find it anywhere else, I would move on
[22:02] AlexMMR: ok, that's what I thought about the joining thing too
[22:02] Paula does artfire require you to join??? I didn't notice that
[22:03] AlexMMR: no, etsy does
[22:03] Paula: oh - gotcha
[22:03] Paula: ya....I'm totally liking artfire

Okey dokey, that's 2 votes Artfire.  Believe it or not, that was the brief part of this blog post.  Now we get into the research I did with hubby.  I took 5 pages of notes on that conversation.  You might want to refresh that coffee. 

You're back?  Brave soul.  Here we go.

We started out at Etsy.  He did a search for "Mugs" and immediately said "oh forget it!".  There were 7760 listings on 370 pages.  Totally overwhelmed.  Wouldn't bother looking at any of them because there were so many.  Knowing my inventory, he looked up "Mugs Carved".  My stuff was on page 2.

I asked wht he thought of the competitors.  His general impressions on the quality he would find at Etsy.  The quotes I wrote down were "definite mix.  some plain.  some amatuerish and some professional and well done.  Half look like they were made by kids.  Some look very good."

We moved to my etsy shop and I asked his first impressions.  I got a half hearted "It looks ok".  I asked if having to join a website would prohibit him from buying.  He said yes.

We moved on to Artfire.  First impressions at comparing the two?  Artfire looks like you're buying from an artist.  Etsy, you could be buying from an amateur.

Artfire front page - it shows you more stuff.  It looks more populated with product.

Did a search for "Mugs" and got 23 pages of listings.  He said he would be more likely to search through all of those pages since there weren't hundreds of them.

He really liked the "Search within the search" function and said it made things a lot easier.  At this point, we discovered that my stuff wasn't showing up.  After troubleshooting, we discovered it was because he was searching "Handmade" and Artfire has their pottery in the "Fine Art" category.  I immediately posted a plea to Artfire to move the pottery category based on this finding and then recategorized all of my stuff to be found under "Handmade".

When we did search under "Fine art" (again, the average customer ain't looking for mugs there), my stuff was on page 1 of 14.

I was very surprised at what happened when we went to my shop.  The first thing he did was click on the artist blog.  It never occurred to me that he would be the type of shopper to give a hoot about anything other than the actual product.  Then he clicked on my bio.  He felt that there was more information about the artist on the Artfire shop page.  The tabs were not only visible to him but they invited him to click.

I asked what knowing the artist does to his perception of the products.  He said that he had a better feeling about the artist [since getting to know them a little] and that purchasing would be a more personal transaction.  "I'm more likely to like what I get." 

In general, the Artfire page looks more like an actual company website as opposed to a listing on Ebay.  On Artfire, the add to cart button was easy and he expected to be able to add to cart and keep shopping.  He also liked that he could easily see the various categories within the shop to narrow down his search.

We went back to Etsy to explore the means of getting to know the artist there since he didn't see those links the first time.  I pointed out the add to cart button there.  He said it was smaller and doesn't invite you to click it like it does on Artfire.

Here are my next notes, I don't remember exactly what elicited these answers.  "If I know what I'm looking for - Artfire."  "No info about artist on Etsy."  "More artist connection on Artfire."  "Artfire looks better, pure and simple"  "[he] wants to get to know the artist so when [he] purchases a gift for someone, [he] has a story to with it"  "quality of products about the same on both sites" 

Ok, I think we can agree that this is now a 3rd vote for Artfire.

*** So here's the summary

1)  Three out of three voters preferred to buy from Artfire
2)  Etsy has so much stuff, it's too overwhelming to actually look through
3)  Joining a site just to purchase an item will prevent them from buying
4)  I need to write more tags
5)  Artist blog and bio make a connection to the customer which increases their chance of buying
6)  Pics of my studio in my blog give the buyer confidence because the buyer knows it's not just someone who took a class and is selling off their rejects but rather someone who is committed to the craft.
7)  Artfire - Buyers are not looking in Fine Art for their functional pottery!!!
8)  Artfire looks like an artist commerce site.  Etsy looks like a random listing on Ebay. 
9)  Artfire invites you to shop around, stick around, and buy again.  At Etsy, there's a feeling of buy your damn thingamajig and get the hell out!
10)  The various links from the Artfire store (blog, etc) are visible and inviting to click on.  On Etsy, you have to really want to find them to look.  This leads to a more enveloping shopping experience.

11)  Customers generally prefer Artfire.  Period.  Game over. 

Rock on folks!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New products in development

I'm working on a couple of new things.  Sadly, only have pics of one of them.

Our household is populated by 2 humans and 4 cats, plus an assortment of fish, frog, and geckos.  One cat in particular is curious about everything and nibbles on everything.  His name is Mayday.  Trust me, he's earned his name.

Far too much text without a picture.  Let's change that.  Here's the Before:

Here's the After:

Mayday is the big orange one, Jipsee if the little black one.  Jipsee tends to win these battles.

Mayday is the main reason we have no plants in the house.  He can get onto every surface we have in the house no matter how high or isolated.  He finds a way.

So one of the things I'm working on are upside down flower pots. The goals is to be able to hang plants from the middle of the ceiling so Mayday can't get to them.

It's like a regular flower pot but the bottom is cut out and there are a couple of holes on the rim.  Put some twine through the rim holes so the pot can hang from the ceiling.  I'm working on how to make these so that water and dirt doesn't then fall out of the bottom where the plant pokes through. 

A lot of plants will grow straight down while others will curve around the pot and grow up.  Once I get a couple of them made, hubby and I will try a few different plants and see if they work well.  Once we have some successful plants growing when hanging from the ceiling, I'll make some more and make them available for purchase.

The next thing I'm working on actually got an enthusiastic response from the hubby.  This is a big thing.  Pretty much the only irritation I have with my husband is that his answers to any question have zero enthusiasm.  I get a lot of "this is nice" or "yeah, I guess we could go to a movie".  ARGH!!  So when I was telling him about this new thing that I'm making and he got excited and went to the pottery studio to see it, I was a bit flabbergasted.

Yeah, I hear you.  What the hell is that???

It's a chicken roaster.  I read something about how some people cook a chicken by mounting it onto a can of beer and then the beer infuses the chicken with moisture and flavor from the inside as it roasts.

Personally, beer is the last flavor I want anything infused with.  So with this, you can fill the cup with a marinade, spices, butter, etc.

Hubby suggested I add some large handles so I did that. 
Hopefully these are large enough to grip when wearing oven mitts.

And his first comment was "Oh cool!  The pan will catch the drippings so I can make gravy."  So I molded a little bit of a spout to make it easier to pour the gravy out.

Assuming this prototype doesn't crack as it dries or in the kiln, we'll experiment with some recipes and see what works and what doesn't and then readjust the design as needed.

It will probably be about a year before we have thoroughly tested these two designs.  Of course the plants will take about a year to fully grow (or fail) in the upside down pots and we'll want to try cooking with this pan several times before I start making it for sale.  But once both have been tested thoroughly in the wild, they'll be available to the public at large!

And because no blog post is complete without a little Buster, here he is, starring in what I like to call "Anatomy of a spoiled brat".

Notice the personal heater, the little cubby hole to trap the heat, the catnip infused bed, the custom made kibble and water dishes that are always full which he can eat from will still in bed.  Yes, breakfast in bed!  The lucky little bastard!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chat all fixed

I'm not sure what happened but the chat feature appears to be working again so I added it back to the blog.

If I don't answer right away, please don't be offended.  I do get up to go to the bathroom from time to time and I also leave the computer running when I go into the pottery studio.  If you get an away message, stick around for a minute or two, I may just have walked into the kitchen or something.  If more than a minute or two go by, I'm probably really away.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Artfire forums mess

There's a whole lot of hullabaloo going on in the Artfire forums right now.  I've read as much of the history as I can get my hands on and here's my understanding of the mess.

Some sellers were becoming inflammatory towards Artfire in the forums.  As always happens in any internet forum, those who are in the mood to fight got all up in arms and started bullying those few who dared to speak up and say "cool your jets".  The silent majority simply ignores inflammatory and bullying behavior and the few who enjoy a good fight just go on congratulating each other for being so brave to "stick up for themselves" when really all they're doing is fanning the flames.  So the flames get bigger and bigger.  Artfire admins decided that this was bad for business and shut down the few instigators and then deleted the fiery threads. 

When the admins explained why this was necessary and gave a hypothetical to help illustrate why this was necessary, everyone continued to flame because they would take the words out of context and react by gut instinct (which is easy to do when you're already pissed) rather than read the entirety of the reasons.  Thus, wrong conclusions were jumped to and again, everyone congratulated each other for being quick on the flaming bandwagon.  It grew out of control, even the Etsy forums exploded with misinformation about what was happening at Artfire.  So again, the admins said "enough" and deleted the thread.

Today, various threads are popping up with people complaining about how the admins have handled things.  They claim that they are just asking questions.  And how dare Artfire shut down their questions just because they disagree with Artfire admins!

I call Bullshit.  If you want to ask a simple question of the admins and get a simple answer, you email them.  Privately.  The only reason to ask an inflammatory question on a public forum is because you want the admins to shut you down so you can point a finger at them and scream "Seee?  Seeeee!?  It's so unfair!!!!  Who agrees with me???". 

The reasonable people are emailing the admins with their opinions privately.  They want to be heard and they are being heard.  The unreasonable want to scream in public and get an army of angry people to back them up.  It's a big ego boost to have an angry mob supporting you.

The forums are now being moderated.  They attempted to allow the artisans to moderate themselves via decorum and good common sense.  When given freedom, someone will always take advantage of it and ruin it for everyone else.  They scream the loudest and believe they are in the majority because they are screaming louder than those of us who are quietly discussing the issue with reason. 

We in the USA have the right to free speech.  All that means is that if we say something the government doesn't like, they aren't going to come to our door with rifles and shove us in a box until we shut up.  It does not mean that we have the right to use someone elses resources to be jerks, especially to those people providing the resources.  Just because you have the right to speak, that does not mean that Artfire is required to provide you with the megaphone and audience.

If you want to talk without moderation, start a blog.  It's free.  You have every right to say whatever the hell you want to say when you provide yourself with the resources to speak.

Artfire forum moderation is the correct business decision.  They have every right to allow the discussions that they believe will boost business and to erase those discussions that they believe will harm business. 

If you don't like it, start a blog, speak all you want, and blast them from the rooftops if you so desire.

If you want to ask questions regarding the changes and express your disagreement in how it was handled, go to the source - email the admins directly.  They will eventually answer you.

But don't go into the public forums that they are providing and talk shit about them and then get all up in arms when they don't kiss your ass for doing so.  They are doing what they believe is best for business.  That's it.  If you disagree, you are free to leave and you are free to setup a new shop however you damn well please.  But if you're going to use their services, you're going to have to play by their rules. 

I agree that forums should be moderated.  I'm glad Artfire is doing it.  I really don't want my potential customers watching a bunch of bullies bitch and moan about how the service they are taking advantage of sucks.  That's bad for my business.

Thanks Artfire.  You're going through some major heat right now and it's probably going to have a short-term effect on the bottom line as the bitchers and moaners shut down their shops.  But it's going to improve business in the long run.

Chat got all broked

I did a windows update on my computer and now the chat thingy I had on here says I'm offline all the time even when I'm around.  So I've taken it down for the time being.

In the mean time, I'm doing some experiments with friends and family to see which online venue they would prefer as a customer.  This is going to help me decide if I'm going to keep my store on Etsy or move completely over to Artfire. 

I'll start a poll here as well.  If you'd like to contribute to the experiment, take a look at both of my shops and the main pages for both venues and see if you can find my products.  Which would you be more likely to purchase from?

My Etsy Shop      Etsy Main Page  Can you find my pottery from the main page?

My Artfire Shop    Artfire Main Page

Feel free to comment with any thoughts!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Buster Scarf

We've had some storms the last couple of nights around here so I moved Busters kibble dish from the porch to inside the pottery studio.  I used to feed the cats in the studio but stopped because the raccoons were becoming far too comfortable in there and the cats would get chased out.  But since they aren't really accustomed to looking for food there and the dish is only large enough for one serving, I've decided to try feeding Buster in the studio for the time being.  We'll see how that goes.

But today, I didn't see Buster until about 5pm.  This is odd because he's usually hanging around a good 22 hours out of every day.  But he finally showed up.  Just sauntered in like he owns the place.

After dinner, I went back out to the studio to trim some bowls that I threw yesterday.  Well, apparently I wasn't paying enough attention to the boy.  As I was trimming, I felt a couple of paws on my thigh.  And the claws started digging in.  Oh crap, he's gonna jump!

Rather than have him jump up onto my bowl and tear my leg off in the process, I picked him up intent on depositing him onto his bar stool.  He was having none of the stool!  As soon as I got him in my hands, he scrambled up my chest, onto my shoulder and draped himself around the back of my neck.

Now look at the pictures. I'll post them again.

This is not a long, lean, graceful cat.  This is a big, solid, chunk 'o' cat!  This does not drape elegantly around the shoulders.  This is not a cat that I could walk around town with, hardly noticing his presence.  No, with him around my neck, every movement I make means several pounds of fur must tippy toe to readjust his weight to make sure he doesn't fall.

I figured oh what the hell.  Let him stay there as long as he has the patience to do the balancing dance.  This'll last all of 10 seconds and he'll jump to his stool.

I was wrong.

He stayed up there while I worked for a good 5 minutes or so before jumping onto my table to look at me in disappointment.  And then my neck was really cold.

If anyone has any hints or devices I could use to hold a cat on my shoulders, he'd really appreciate it.  I don't mind carrying the weight and whenever I hold him, he does attempt to balance up there.  Maybe I need to make some sort of shoulder shelf or something.

List your suggesstions in the comments!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Agateware video

Hey folks,

Someone asked me about the video that I talked about in a previous post so I'm going to try to post it here.  I hope this works.

Woo hoo! I think it works!