10.22.2014

Wholesale vs. retail. Pie plates. Thoughts on business.

Pie plates! I've been working on a large order for a store in Seattle. They wanted pie plates and I was happy to oblige. Perfect for the holidays! We worked on some custom colors, too. Which is a nice change of pace.




For the most part, I rely on retail orders for my business. Mostly through etsy. Sometimes through shows.

This year has seen an increase in my wholesale work and has me thinking about expanding that part of my business. It is a whole other aspect that I haven't really dealt with a ton. I do have wholesale accounts and I do offer wholesale pricing. And I've been fortunate to have some good relationships with a handful of shops. But it isn't something I have pursued. 2015 will see that change.

Pricing for wholesale is depressing to me. It is generally at least 50% less than retail pricing. And still just as much work. The reward is a larger order and (in theory) more streamlined production. I recognize that I haven't priced my work correctly for this market- my retail price is a little too low to allow for a profit at wholesale pricing. And thus, I haven't actively tried to obtain new accounts.

(I place gallery work into the wholesale catagory- the pricing is similar, but is often consignment. I have no gallery accounts at this time.)


Working artists generally do a combination of both wholesale and retail. Some doing mostly wholesale, some doing mostly retail... but dipping into both worlds. It can be a tough balance. Especially when those really large orders come in and you have to set aside small retail orders to focus on fulfilling the large, overwhelming order.

Its seems that being a working artist involves an organic business plan and model. Things change, perspectives change, goals change. And as I head into 2015- I hope to be able to change my business. How, I am not real sure yet. And the first thing I need to do is revise my business plan.

How often have you changed your business plan? Do you have one? Is it actually written out? I'd love to hear some insights in balancing wholesale/retail or on picking sides and sticking to just one aspect. I'm always amazed that there are endless variations on how to run a business and how others have managed it. We often pick and chose what works best for us. And I love that, but I also think it allows us to stay in our comfort zone. And I'm all for getting out of your comfort zone. So my comfort zone is retail and what I have always done. Time to get out of that comfort zone!

Now, who wants pie?

10.15.2014

Yes, yes. I'm still here. I'm still making pottery.

Well, well, well. Look who it is. A long-lost pottery blogger. Back for another round!

It has been a busy and fun summer. Lots of hikes were hiked. Lots of pots were potted.

But let's just jump in. I had happily been enjoying my studio days outside. I put the glazing station outside and was able to enjoy outdoor glazing from June until last week. It is finally time to move it back indoors. The infamous Portland rains have started. Which means a general slowdown in the studio. Things are drying MUCH slower now.

Which is good. I'm looking forward to a slower pace in the studio and a little winter hibernation.

I'm hoping to take some time to work on new skills and explore some different areas that I've left largely ignored for the last year. Website revamp? Drawing practice? Making Kenn finally teach me to screenprint?

Speaking of Kenn, he is now the head of shipping. A much needed position. Doing it all was getting to be too much for me. So now he is head of photography and shipping. And helping me stay on top of emails. And reminding me when to go outside and enjoy the day.

Giving over job of shipping has allowed me to do some work that isn't just order fulfillment. Like finally reworking my spoons for the salt cellar. The old spoon was a little to "delicate." This new version is a bit heftier and more interesting. I really like how it came out. I made a 2-part press mold. I will have to update my old spoon tutorial to reflect this new method.



AND I took an online pattern course to learn how to make patterns in photoshop and illustrator using my own drawings. I've been wanting to gain some experience with photoshop- I often feel overwhelmed when trying to do the smallest graphic design task. This class was the perfect introduction. I learned about both programs and made good progress in feeling more comfortable using them. Plus, I got some great patterns! If you are looking to learn- I took Jessica Swift's class Pattern Camp. Highly recommend.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you are enjoying your year, too! 


1.23.2014

Update and a SALE!

First things first. If you pop over to my website- I am having a SALE on ready-to-ship items. I have lots of one-offs and some general stock available right now.

ALL 20% OFF!! Use the coupon code: ITS2014

(sale ends February 1st.)

I don't often have sales, so take advantage of it if you can.

This sale does not apply to made-to-order items or vegandish or my etsy shop. Only the available items on my website. Thank you!

I have a variety of mishima pieces, like these lovelies:



I am working through the mishima process and looking for that elusive thing that I am looking for. That "bam" that I imagine most potters are looking for. I feel like it is hiding in this process, and yet I haven't quite found it. That's not to say that I don't like these pieces, because I do. Its just to say that these are likely still going to evolve a bit.

I have been working in my new studio for about 2 months. And done my first craft fair here. (thanks to any of you that came out to Crafty Wonderland!) Now I'm in that almost inevitable winter slow-down. And the change of weather from what we are used to isn't helping.

Another part of it is that I am in the process of switching clays. I moved here with a supply of my favorite clay, but that is running out. So I've been playing around with what is available to me here. I think I have found it- but I still have more testing to do. And, quite naturally, because the new clay is different it is leading me to think about my pottery differently. I've been trying some new things and keep putting in "learner" pieces into the kiln.

I often feel like my process is mostly intuition. I feel the clay and know when it is "right." The right dryness, the right thickness, the right form. So much of process is done in this focused/unfocused state. So these test pieces, while odd or interesting to the outside viewer, reveal a plethora of information to me. Leading to more questions. Hardly ever to answers.

Here is a peek at some of the "learner" pieces I've pulled out of the kiln lately:



I will admit that I am in love with that red. And I'm not a red person. But I do think I will be adding that to my color palette!

Along with thinking about glazes and colors, I'm also pondering new forms. But mostly I'm thinking about plates. I made a fair amount of dinnerware last year and really grew to love making plates. So I've been making plates, too. The black and red (!) set is for my brother. It is a long overdue wedding gift (they just celebrated their 3-year anniversary.) The ruffles are just something lovely that has been whispering in my ear to get made. And the bottom plate is some more mishima exploration.



Thanks so much for reading! I hope that everyone is enjoying their new year and the winter season.

xo
Jeanette

10.26.2013

"Move-cation" is almost over.

First, thank you to everyone that reached out to me after my last post. I received lots of kind words and virtual hugs. It was much needed. It helped put things into perspective and helped me to move forward.

As things go, the next day we went out to enjoy the fall and put aside our fear. That morning, I woke up and announced, "I am not going to be scared for the next 6 hours." We headed out to see beautiful Multnomah Falls and hiked to the top. It felt good. It felt great. It was gorgeous. It was therapy.

A few days later, we found our place. A cute little bungalow with a garage and basement that will make for nice studio spaces. We signed the lease and moved our belongings.

Honestly, the day we signed the lease I had second thoughts. That garage was not going to be a very nice workspace. It is very garage-y. Cold and a pinch damp. But Kenn assured me that we could make it cozy. I didn't believe him, I don't have any kind of construction experience. Turns out Kenn has hidden talents. He demo'ed the old work benches and all the odd shelving. And yesterday we (mostly he) installed the installation. Today we are tackling the drywall. Again, I'm not convinced we can do it. But, I'm just going to pretend like we know what the hell we are doing.

Kiln installation should be happening sometime next week.

I'm still a bit shocked that it is coming together. But it looks like it is! There is still lots of things to figure out (no sink in garage, working with a new clay body, hoping the kiln has no trouble, etc...) Still plenty of stuff to keep me up at night. But now I know that I can move forward. And that forward is the only direction to go.


10.10.2013

Where am I? Fighting the fear, that's where.

On September 30th, Kenn and I packed our humble belongings onto a 20' truck and hauled it 2700 miles across the country. Six days later, everything we owned (except for our computer and a random assortment of clothes) was put into a 10' x 20' storage space. With a fair amount of room to spare.

Tonight, I am in the attic bedroom of one of my good friends. In the beautiful pacific northwest. In the lovely and exciting city of Portland, Oregon. But I can't enjoy any of it. Because I'm so scared.

Scared we made a mistake.
Scared we won't find a home.
Scared we won't find a studio.
Scared this is the end of my business.
Scared I'll never pay that tax bill.
Scared we took this challenge and are about to fail. Big time.
Scared that this was a mistake.

(we have been here for 4 days.)

Fear.

It is all-encompassing. And debilitating. And, well, terrifying. I want to relax and enjoy this change. We did this for a reason. We knew it would be hard. We are resilient and resourceful. But, right now, I wonder if we didn't take on more than we can handle.

Will my business survive? When I'm ready to open again, will I have customers? Did I just completely knock-over our tenuous house of cards?

And if it was a tenuous house of cards, was it bound to be knocked over anyway?

(can obamacare help me?)

And this fear, it feels so self-involved. I know there are plenty of people out there with real challenges. People living in even more tenuous homes of cards. And I want to move past it. So I'm trying. Really I am.

I have refunded and cancelled the handful of remaining outstanding orders that I had planned on finishing up once I got here. I need to let that go. I'm so sorry, but I just can't have that deadline over me. It won't help me find what I am looking for- it will just make me feel more desperate.

And I don't know when I will be open for business again.

(I hope my melatonin kicks in soon.)




If you would like to receive an email notification from me when I am working again, please email me at jeanettezeis @ gmail.com
(I really am hoping to be settled again sometime in November.)


6.20.2013

Weekend studio vacation- to go work in another studio!

This weekend, I'm headed over to Mudfire. A beautiful facility in Decatur, GA. I'm taking a workshop with Martha Grover. Three days of working and learning. I'm pretty excited! I haven't take a workshop in a couple of years.

In case you are wondering, the transition of having Kenn help with management/organization is going great. We are working well together and it has been a huge improvement for me. Orders are being processed in a more timely fashion and things are going where they are supposed to go. It is a real relief to feel like I am on the other side of the problem and that my business is doing what it should. I know longer cringe when I go to read my emails or answer questions.

I have been writing a much longer and heavier blog post about what this year has been like for me, and for those I love. But I think I will leave that for another day. Let's just enjoy these days. Have hope, my friends. It is what pushes us through to the next day- and the day after that.

Hopefully, you are like me and enjoying lots of seasonal fruits right now. If not- get yourself to a farmers market!!
(photos by Kenn- he does more than just organize my business! He takes great photos, too.)


5.28.2013

Admitting it. And "growing."

So, here's the thing:

May was full of mistakes. I shipped out cake stands with the wrong date. I shipped out cake stands with the wrong name. I shipped out cake stands late. I shipped orders to the wrong address. I glazed items in the wrong color.

If it was something I could mess up, chances are pretty good that I did.

I've refunded more money than I care to think about. I've written more apologetic emails than I care to admit.

And if you were on the receiving end of one of the emails, let me say it again. I'm so sorry.

So what went wrong? Several things. Some of which had been gaining steam for a couple of months. Some are personal and some are business. March was my busiest month to-date and getting ready for my two festivals put me behind schedule. I was overwhelmed and tired.

And when things go wrong, I generally like to use band-aids. But I think this calls for something more drastic.

Enter: Kenn.



Kenn is my life partner and best friend. We spend everyday together. He has always been a cheerleader for me and my business. Now, it is time for him to get more involved.

Moving forward, he will be organizing my emails and orders. Helping out with the online mess (which I am streamlining- more on that next time.) And just generally keeping tabs on what is going on with the business.

I've resisted this for so long. I don't really want employees and I have always considered my business MINE. No matter how messy, no matter how confusing. It was MINE. The success was MINE, and this month- the failure was MINE, too. It is time to share that load. Kenn has always been a big part of keeping me moving forward and giving me a push when needed. So now he gets to do it more often!

I expect some bumps in the road while we work out the dynamic and details. But it is already moving forward smoother than before. We bought clipboards! We've organized my orders!

I would love to hear from other people about similar experiences. Any words of advice for bringing spouses/family/friends into your work life?