Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Paper Scissors Rock Stimulus Package

For the past few months I've been hearing now and then from buyers who are concerned about the economic downturn. Many are experiencing slow sales. 
I'm so lucky that my business is doing really well - and in large part I owe it to them. I think of my wholesale buyers as partners. Their success is my success, and vice versa. So I started wondering if there was any way I could help my buyers get through this. I pondered the options for a couple of days and came up with my own little stimulus package.
I decided to offer 40 free cards with every wholesale order until March 15th.  That may not sound like much since my cards retail for only $2.50-$2.75. But do the math - that means the store will receive $100-$110 in free merchandise. That's free bonus money in their pockets. It's better for them than free shipping or a free clock, but doesn't cost me much more. And there is a benefit for me. If those buyers have never tried my card line, this gives them a chance to try it out. If the cards sell for them they'll reorder. If they don't order the cards later, it still feels great to me that I was able to help make their business more profitable. So not matter the outcome, I look at it as a win-win.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's good to be home

I got home from the Buyer's Market of American Craft on Tuesday and am still exhausted. I had a great time and a great show. Although traffic was certainly slower than usual, we were busy most of the weekend and ran out of goody bags (which we give out with each order) on the second day of the show! I had great neighbors; Watchcraft, Mark Poulin, Big Dipper Waxworks
just to name a few. It was an upbeat group and we had a great time. Fantastic meals at Dimitri's and Palace at the Ben, and our favorite yummy millet muffins from The Reading Terminal Market. 
In every aisle any time of any day there were little clusters of artists in the aisles comparing numbers. Several buyers commented on walking by and seeing those groups, or seeing artists sitting in their booths arms crossed, looking glum  - 'doom & gloom depressed' was one buyer's description. One buyer said she didn't want to even walk in to those booths because it would get the artist's hopes up and if she left without ordering she'd feel terrible. I heard several versions of this from other buyers, as well. So while it was totally understandable that reality was hitting people hard, the problem is that if they let it show it made things even worse. A show is one of the few opportunities artists have to commiserate and support each other and that always happens. But as much as we need to talk and know we're not alone, it's really better saved until after show hours. 
Believe me, I know how hard it is to act like all is well when you're worrying about paying your mortgage. I remember a show in San Francisco where I sat under the table and cried while my assistant stood next to me talking to buyers pretending my tears weren't falling on her shoes. 
For the past several years (even before the economic downturn) I've made a vow before every show to not participate in any negative fear-based conversations. It just doesn't help me in any way. At this show Loren and I promised each other to create 'a bubble of good energy' around the booth and keep each other up and in good spirits no matter how it went. 
Now of course, I can't say that's what made my show successful and I know it was easier to keep that vow because things went well. But there is nothing we can do to change the economy, so my philosophy is to choose to live in joy, not focus on what is going on, turn off the news, avoid even seeing the newspaper. Fear and worry never made my life any better. Whether at a show or freezing my buns off at my booth in Seattle, I remind myself every day that I am safe, doing what I love, well fed and have great friends. The rest is gravy. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Off to see the Wizard

I leave for Philadelphia early tomorrow morning. It's always so exciting to get ready for a show, but The Buyer's Market of American Craft is my favorite. I get to see my regular buyers, meet new ones, hang out with other amazing artists and introduce my new work. Every time I do it (and this will be my 14th show) I feel totally honored to be there. I walk around and look at all the beautiful art and still can't believe they let me in. I am simply in awe to be among so many of the artists whose work I have admired for years. These are the people whose art you have probably bought, ogled and drooled over in stores near you. And because of BMAC and other handmade shows I am lucky enough to now count many of them among my friends. These wonderful people, all passionate, talented artists are a community a world away from my other friends, and I love being around them when I can. 
Artists lead solitary lives, we work alone much of the time and these shows are a rare chance to spend time with other people who do what we do, share our lifestyle. There is a shorthand we can use with each other, a language only other working artists can speak with us. Much as I love them, none of my other friends with 'normal' jobs can know what it's like to work at home, make so many decisions, wear so many hats every day to keep our businesses alive and thriving. None of them have stood on aching feet at a show and talked to buyers all day, had to set up and tear down a huge booth alone, designed a new catalog, had to figure out how price new work, design a display, deal with PR, bookkeeping, invoicing, managing a website, all the while keeping up with production and resisting the urge to waste hours of your workday on facebook. It's a singular life, it's a crazy hard, delightful, exciting, challenging life and I would never trade it for another. And these folks, my show friends, they get it. So the show is about more than networking and getting orders, it's my community. And I can't wait to get there!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Barack Around the Clock

My very smart friend Mark Rosenbaum of Rosetree Glass called a couple of weeks ago and suggested that I make Barack Around the Clock alarm clock. I have to admit (not being as smart as Mark) that at first I said no. I just didn't think the concept quite fit in with the rest of my line. But Mark was tenacious - he insisted that I was crazy not to, and boy, am I glad I listened. 
First, let me tell you that painting the White House was NOT fun. Perspective and exact likenesses are not my forte. But I swore and sweat and pushed through it. And it came out kinda cute! The second hand image is Barack Obama's face, which appears to magically circle the White House as it counts the seconds. Hence it is literally - Barack Around the Clock.
The moment I finished the paintings I sent the image to the company that manufactures the alarm clocks for me. For the next week I eagerly (read: impatiently) awaited the samples. I had to rush order them so I'd have them in time for my next show. When they finally came I ripped the box open and I just had to laugh. 
I photographed the sample, sent out an email that morning and within hours had sold over 100 of them. And I didn't even have them yet! The first order arrived last Friday and I've already had to order them three more times. So, of course I created the wall clock as well. The response continues to be amazing. (I can tell you, Obama is good for my economy) 
I've learned from this experience. My initial resistance was unfounded. And frankly, it could have held me back. I thought a political image or theme would not fit with the rest of my work. But hey I create it all, don't I?  So anything I design is clearly going to be my style. And it still has the whimsy and humor that I love to play with in my other designs. I think it works just fine. 

I love what I do!

I spent half of yesterday obsessed with my new discovery, My good friend Cheryl sent me the link and I was instantly hooked. (between my new facebook addiction and spoonflower, I may never leave my desk again.)
This site is an artists dream. I've always wanted to design my own fabric. At in just minutes you can design, create and order your own custom fabric. Prices are really reasonable - starting at $5 for an 8" sample. $11 for a fat quarter and $18 per yard.  It's really easy and fast and it takes about 3 weeks to get your order. I created eleven designs and then had to force myself to stop. 

Now all I have to do is learn to sew.

These are the kinds of resources I love to discover. I can play for hours and justify it as work.  This UFO fabric above is created from elements of my new UFO clock shown below.