A sharing of ideas, techniques, successes and failures in the volatile world of pottery and family life.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Year End Wrap Up

We tried different things this year.

We stuck with the tried and true this year.

We questioned our processes.

We were confident in what we have done.

We expanded our horizons.

We played it safe.

Basically, our biggest change is on your screen.  We became much more aggressive in cyber marketing and social networking.  From what I've been learning this is such a new avenue that there are no experts at it yet.  Scary but exciting, too.  I feel like I'm on the cutting edge sometimes.  Not that I'm doing any edge cutting but I'm learning along with the rest of the world and that's pretty cool!  I've also been trying to learn how to take e-shop stats and analytics and use them to our advantage.  Uuum, yeah, I'll let you know when/if I ever wrap my brain around that one!

Last show of the year.
We did a few more craft shows than we (I) did last year and will be increasing that number again for next year.  I'm a big chicken when it comes to shelling out the big bucks for the high-end shows but after a couple of very disappointing shows this year I think we're gonna take the plunge for at least one biggie this coming year.  Again, scary but exciting.

I've made a living in the "real" world doing bookkeeping so I've always had a to-the-penny handle on our finances.  This year I've made an effort to dig a little deeper into sales analysis.  For example, instead of just recording how much I make at a show I now record how much of each item sold. Not that I had no idea before but now it's on a spreadsheet so I can see the whole year at once and start tracking what the trends are at each show, spring vs. fall, over several years, etc.  This should help us determine where we need to concentrate our efforts more and where we need to cut and run.

As for playing it safe the most important thing I've learned very recently:  When working with glazes ALWAYS wear a dust mask!  During my last glazing session I was doing some fussy painting where I have to hold the pot pretty close to see that I'm getting the glaze where I want it.  When I went to blow some of the dry glaze away I actually ended up inhaling some of it.  NOT GOOD!  A fever, serious coughing, trip to the Dr. and I'll live but big lesson learned!  Never again will this cotton-headed-ninny-muggins glaze without a mask!  Oye!

Overall, we had a great year!  Our show sales went up 65% from last year and our Etsy sales went up 35%.  Not too shabby!  Even though we've been selling for a few years now, I feel like I've moved a little more from a hobbyist to a professional artist, at least in my mind, which is where most of my challenges stem from.  I've found people actually seeking us out which is the most gratifying feeling. 

So, my friends, as we close out 2011 
and look into the face of 2012,
learn the lessons life is always teaching,
explore your gifts,
embrace your passions,
be cautious but fearless,
do what you love and love what you do,
and most of all,
be grateful for every little thing.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Just one more push....

I've been going a little crazy (or should I say "crazier") trying to build my inventory back up for my last 2 shows.  I've learned a valuable lesson this season.  Well, several lessons.  But most importantly:  You can never have too much inventory!  The show I mentioned in a previous post was very successful and depleted my banks and birdhouses more than I expected.  I had been a little worried about the next show which turned into a poopy day so my inventory levels, unfortunately, weren't changed that much.  With 2 more pretty big shows left in the season I want to have my levels back up so I have a good variety.

Birdhouses & banks in various stages of production.

I know!  I've had all summer to work on inventory!  What the heck?  My show seasons typically run from March to June then October to December.  So in between is production time.  (I haven't been doing summer shows after the one bad experience I had that involved a 3 day festival, a summer storm, a tent that wants to be a kite when it grows up and lots of breakable pottery.  But that's another post.)  Any hoo, I'm very limited to how much inventory I can store right now.  I have a small one-man studio and a small area in the garage to store finished inventory, tables, displays, etc.  My garage runneth over!

I received several orders at earlier shows that are needed for Christmas and Hanukkah so there's just a little more pressure to get things done asap.  With the super long process from start to finish (approx 4-6 weeks) I've been trying to speed it up the last  few weeks by turning the heat up in the studio.  If you rush drying the clay it will crack so I had to watch very closely to make sure the pots dried slow enough and evenly.  Then I preheated them in the kiln for a few hours to make sure all of the water was evaporated before ramping it up to ^09 (1693 degrees F).  Luckily, my first rushed bisque firing was perfect.  Whew!

A whole bisque load with no cracks!  Woo Hoo!

Now, all that's left to do is glaze like crazy and get them fired sometime tonight so they'll be ready Friday to load up for Saturday's show.

The first layer of the glaze load.
More banks, etc.
Oh, and the second most important lesson learned:  DON'T FORGET TO BRING YOUR CART TO THE SHOW!  Doh!