Monday, November 8, 2010

Virtual Studio Tour

I am fascinated with other people's studios and work spaces. I love to see where other artists work, how they organize things, whether they decorate their space or prefer it to be purely functional. I like to see their storage and their furniture, how they utilize the light, whether they like to sit or stand, play music, watch TV or talk on the phone while they create. Some work out of their homes, some in the living room, some have separate studios or outbuildings, others work in the garage. Many studios are  work of art in and of themselves. We all make it work and we all do it differently.
So. I emailed some of my favorite artists from all over the country to send in images of their studios for a virtual studio tour. I'd like to do a this every so often. There are so many more people I would like to include. If you would like to share your work space images please email them to me at businessofcrafts@comcast.net 


Here is the first edition.  Thanks so much to everyone who responded! 

This one is from Angela Yoder, Villa Park Hearts in Olympia, WA. When you visit her site be sure to click on 'paper art' to check out her paper buildings.


These next three are Amy Peter's Studio in Avila Beach, CA. Amy has a pretty large operation and several employees. You've probably seen her jewelry in Femail Creations catalog and in stores all over the U.S. This shows her storage, metal stamps and shipping station. To see more of Amy's process, studio and employees, visit her blog.

Next stop: Caitlin Dundon of One Heart Studio, in Seattle. Caitlin's studio is at Venuea beautiful retail space, where her work is for sale. Venue rents studio space to several wonderful artists. 

This is where Bonnie Riconda creates Calico Juno Designs. Bonnie is in Bronx, NY and has been featured in The Knot and Brides magazines, as well as many more. 

Colleen MacDonald of BCharmer Designs is right her in Olympia, WA. I was lucky enough to visit this charming little space. It's just beautiful. 


Next, we're off to visit Dee Janssen Glass in Broad Brook, Ct. 



And back to Seattle, WA to visit Joline El-Hai of Bella Luz. Joline's work is well known in the world of American Craft and is available all over the country.


 I bet you want to know what's in that glass cabinet. So did I:

Lisa Richey of Cheap Therapy makes handcrafter paper, journals cards and more in her studio in Lake Waccamaw, NC.  



Charan Sachar of Creative With Clay creates his work in Federal Way, WA. How anyone who does ceramics keeps their studio so clean and organized, I don't know. 

And another tidy potter, Tali Waterman of Forest's Edge Clayworks creates her work and teaches classes in studio. This studio is this little cottage on her beautiful, secluded property in Olympia, WA.



One more from here in Olympia. Pat Tassoni sent in these of his studio, Pat-Works. At first glance you may think that's a mess, but it's pieces and parts waiting to become one of Pat's amazing creations. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Studio Tour

I was writing the answer to Lara's great question about how to be prepared for unforeseen emergencies (see below, "Wholesale: It's Not as Scary as you Think") and it occurred to me that the easiest way to answer might be to show you my back stock. And then I decided that while I was at it, I might as well give you a complete studio tour.
So there I was snapping pictures, and it occurred to me that it would be even MORE fun to invite you to share yours, too.  I'd love it if you'd send me a picture of your studio or work space that I can share. I don't care if you work on a table in your dining room or have a huge studio with ten employees. I'll set up a virtual studio tour so we can all see each other's spaces. How fun is that? 
Here's my little tour:

My studio is two bedrooms with the wall knocked out between them. The left side is my office and painting table. (set up right now with a new beading project)



On the other side is my production area, a shipping station for the smaller orders, and stock and supplies. This table is where I assemble and box the clocks, on the left you can see all the labels. To the left of the desk are the cards and unfinished, unfolded bookmarks. 
Small order packing and shipping (large orders get packed downstairs in the shop) and small supplies
Here (just to the right of the work table)  is the closet full of finished clock faces, waiting to be assembled. 
And this what 3000 alarm clocks looks like. On the doors on the left are tiny shelves of finished bookmarks (about 1200 of them) and on the right, all the alarm clock labels.
Bins of magnets (about 1200 sets ready to ship).
 Now if you go outside, across a breezeway and open a door and go downstairs, there is the shop. This is where I do all my mounting, store boxes and other supplies and the clock back stock is here. It's also where I pack up the larger orders. I'm going to spare you the whole tour, but this is just a partial shot of the finished clocks. This wall is about twice this long and there are two full walls like this. These shelves are actually very empty because I just shipped a ton of orders. 
This week I'll be refilling all those empty spots. 
 Okay, now it's your turn. Please send (only one or two) images to: businessofcrafts@comcast.net. I'll put the post together later in the week.  And please invite your friends to send theirs too! Be sure to include your name, business name and website so I can post links!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little bit of fun

I love my customers. I really, really do. I meet the greatest people selling my work at Pike Place Market and most days I love being there. But there are days - and those of you who sell your art for a living know what I'm talking about - that make you want to pull your hair out. So, my apologies in advance to all of my wholesale buyers and wonderful customers - I really do appreciate you all so much.
But after a long frustrating Saturday at my booth, I was inspired to to find a creative way to vent. So I made this little film and dedicate it to everyone who sells their work at crafts shows. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Determining your wholesale terms






First, let me apologize for being a bad blogger. I have the best of intentions, I really do - but so many other things really have to come first and this blog always seems to slide down the bottom of my to-do list. I'd promise to be better about it, but I know it's unlikely I'll ever be a weekly blogger. There are always going to be busy times, or weeks I can't think of anything to write about, or when the topics I do want to write about seem like such a big project that I keep putting them off until I have more time. (And when exactly is that, anyway?)

So I'll just trust that you have lots of great blogs you're following and hope you appreciate that there's one that doesn't overload you with posts.

And now, on to the subject of wholesale terms:

Every artist who starts in wholesale has to start by establishing their terms, and most are confused and overwhelmed at the thought of it. So if you don't know what 'terms' means, know you're not alone and relax. I'm going to give you a simple explanation that should make this task a lot easier.

When you start approaching buyers, whether at their store or at a show, one of the first questions they are likely to ask is "What is your Minimum?"

Minimum refers to the minimum amount you require for a wholesale order. Most wholesalers have a minimum opening order – which is the first order they place with you, and a different minimum reorder. Deciding what your minimum will be depends on a few criteria. 

1. Every order must be profitable for you.
2. Your minimum opening order should create a nice display of your work but at the same time not require a huge investment for the buyer who is taking a risk on your line for the first time.
3. Your minimum reorder should make it easy for the buyer to restock and replenish their display long before they run out.

Your opening order is always larger, because you want to make sure the store carries and displays a strong mix of your work, enough to show it off and enough variety that there are choices for everyone. You also want the store to make an investment in your work. It motivates them to display and sell it well. Having a few items scattered throughout a store does not show your work well and generally doesn’t sell it as well, so small opening orders don’t serve you or the buyer.

Your reorder minimum should be smaller. My opening minimum is $200, my reorder minimum is $100. I want my buyers to be able to keep my display full and fresh without a big investment and with a smaller minimum they can reorder more often instead of waiting until they run out to reorder. In other words, if they have sold half of their first order, buying another $200 worth at that point might be too much for them. But they can easily refresh and fill out the display for only $100. And when I introduce new items they can easily buy a sampling of those to add to the line.

So, while it’s tempting to require a large minimums, remember that if you do it will not only turn away new buyers who don't want to spend too much on a new line, but it will also take longer for the store to run low which can make it look like your work sells slowly. The faster they see it disappear, the better!

Now, exactly how do you structure your minimum? Really, this is up to you.
You can require a minimum dollar amount or a minimum quantity of items. You can also require a buyer purchase a quantity of each color, each style, each item or each design.

For example: I can require that when ordering magnets a buyer must order 2 (or 6) of each design and order a total of 4 dozen. I allow my buyers to order anything as long as it adds up to my total minimum, but not every artist does. You can require that they order 48 pieces, 10 sets, or for example, a glass earring can be sold in sets of six, with the sets available in a variety of colors.

Some stores might need special consideration. I sell to several stores that only sell pet items or ladybug or horse themed items. For those stores I allow a smaller minimum since they have a narrow focus and I only have a few items that will work for them. 
When you set your minimum, figure out what works for you, and then always put yourself in the shoes of your buyer. It’s your job to make sure your policies work for them too. As I have said here before, your relationship with your buyer is a partnership. If they do well, you do well and vice versa. 

As always, if you have any questions about wholesale or any other topic please leave a comment or email me at pj@businessofcrafts.com.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Artist Reception Friday Night


Just wanted to let everyone know that the show I wrote about in March opened on August 20th.

The artists reception is this Friday, September 3rd,in 5-8pm at Childhood's End Gallery at 222 Fourth Ave, in Olympia. I hope you'll stop by if you're in the area. It's a wonderful show. It's also First Friday in Olympia as well as the opening day of Harbor Days. It should be a fun night to wander downtown.

As you may recall, I named the show Let There Be Light. The gallery changed it to 15 Ways With Light. (I still like my name better!) 

Here's a sneak peek:







Friday, July 23, 2010

One Little Bowl

It all started with one little bowl. 
Several years ago on a trip to Santa Fe I visited the Museum of International Folk Art. There happened to be a huge festival that weekend and I wandered around in awe, blown away by the weaving, paintings, and especially taken by the intricately etched gourds from Peru.  But it was in the museum gift shop that I fell in love.

It was the Huichol beaded bowls that stopped me in my tracks. I was instantly smitten with them, mesmerized by the vivid color combinations, the intricacy of the patterns created by hundreds of tiny little beads, a stunning micro-mosaic inside a hollowed out gourd.

I was on a very tight budget at the time, but I couldn’t leave without one. I splurged on one tiny little bowl, about 2” wide. I remember that when I got home I unpacked it gently and held it cupped my hands, wondering who did this? What is the story, the history? The meaning of the design? How is it done? I set it on my windowsill with a few other collected treasures.

Over the years I picked it up often to marvel at it. I became obsessed, wanting to learn this art and translate it into something of my own. A few months ago the bug got so strong I finally sat down to do some research. I read that that Huichol (pronounced wee-chol) Indians of central Mexico create their art as an expression of their spiritual beliefs. A shaman guides them on a yearly pilgrimage ending in a ceremony which induces a visionary state. Their art derives from their visions. Originally the Huichol decorated the hollowed-out gourds with bits of shell, seeds and stones to use as offering bowls to the gods. When glass beads became available, they began using them.

I then went on to read about they were made, coating the gourds with a mixture of beeswax and pine pitch, applying each tiny bead one at a time, by hand. This is my first attempt, a clumsy practice on the lid of a wooden box. I wasn’t trying to create a cohesive design – just playing with different patterns, getting used to the rhythm of applying the beads, experimenting with color.
            
Then I went on to my own little (wooden) bowl.
With just two practice runs under my belt, I decided to create some lamps for my upcoming show at Childhood’s End Gallery this fall. (see post below).  These two are made from wooden lamps each of which I decorated with about 4,000 beads . They are about 8 inches tall.
The next one started with a papier-mâché dress form.  This one is called Party Girl. She's about 18 inches tall with the shade, and I used over 12,000 beads to create her dress. It took endless hours. I secretly pray no one will buy her…
I am working on another larger bowl now and the ideas haven’t stopped coming. I dream of beading furniture, musical instruments, a birdhouse, shoes, the list gets longer by the day. I can’t stop, I’m in love with the process. It’s very meditative and I can totally see why it’s a spiritual experience for the Huichol. Of course, Peyote is also an important part of their ceremonies. I think I’ll skip that part.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wholesale: It's not as scary as you think


When artists start out in wholesale most are afraid that they’ll suddenly get overwhelmed with orders and won’t be able to fill them all. This is the concern I hear most often from beginner friends and students. Don't worry! Just take a deep breath and relax. I'm about to tell you about a simple tool that will ease your worries and help you manage your schedule. It's called a production calendar. Your production calendar is the key to preventing overload, show panic, and most importantly late orders.
To create your production calendar you'll first need to figure out how much you can comfortably produce in one week, taking into consideration how many hours you want to work as well as the time you need to keep up with all the other aspects of your business. How many hours do you realistically have to devote to production? How much time do you need to do bookkeeping, pack orders, make phone calls, do paperwork, update your website, etc, etc? You may want to take a month to track how much work you can comfortably produce in that time and then average it out.
You can calculate your weekly quota by dollar amount, by number of pieces or number of orders. Then, using that weekly production goal you can pretty easily figure out what you can ship each week and each day. Some people designate only certain days of the week for shipping, some allow a certain amount of time each day to get orders shipped. This is totally up to you.

Okay, now you have something concrete to work with! Here's the next step:
When you go to a show, bring your production calendar marked with all the orders you already have scheduled as well as any days you’ll be closed, out of town at a show or unable to ship for any reason. As you take each order you'll ask for the date the buyer needs it, and then write the name of the store on the day it’s scheduled to ship. When you reach your limit for that day, consider it closed. If another buyer asks for that ship date simply explain that it's full and show them the calendar and the dates you have available. Together you'll find another time and schedule it in. Handmade buyers are used to this, and are happy to work with you. This is how you manage your work load.
Above you'll see one of my old production calendars. I can comfortably ship 6 -10 orders a day. But when I'm at a show once any given calendar day has 4-5 orders on it I consider it full in order to allow openings for reorders that come in from my regular customers. This way I can insure that I will never be overloaded.

Production is easy to manage if you are doing online sales. You are not going to be slammed with orders the first week you sell on a wholesale site. It just doesn't happen that way. But at a show they fill up quickly because you are writing a lot of orders in just a few days. Don’t worry if your production calendar fills up. That's a good thing! It’s perfectly acceptable to tell a buyer your calendar is full and that the first open date is weeks or even months away. Some artists schedule production 6 months or more ahead of time. You can offer to write a back up order and/or put the store on a waiting list and call them if you get cancellations or have some time open up.
One word of warning: If you schedule an order for a certain date, ship it on that date. If something comes up and you get behind, don't worry, it happens to all of us now and then. But please, don't delay the order hoping your buyer won't notice. Call them, explain and negotiate a new ship date. You've made an agreement and you're a professional. Your buyer depends on you to be good to your word and will appreciate the call. I promise.
A full calendar shouldn't scare you if you've planned it well, and it won't scare your buyers away, either. It's a good thing to have your work be in high demand, it only makes it that much more desirable. When you have a waiting list it's a sign of success. Don't forget that most people who appreciate what you do understand that you make each piece by hand. In fact this is one of the reasons they love it. They know you are not a factory! 
So breathe easy, you are in control of how many orders you take and how much work you do each week. You'll come to love seeing a full calendar - it means you've got work to do and your bills are paid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Wholesale Jury - what you need to know

Thinking about getting into wholesale or doing your first wholesale show? I'm going to give you some tips that could make all the difference in whether or not you're accepted to a website like Wholesalecrafts.com or a wholesale show.
Although there are similarities, jurying for wholesale is a little different than for a retail show. Jurors not only want to see your work, but we need to see that you are experienced or at least ready for wholesale, know what you're doing and who you are. A jury wants to see that you have a cohesive line (see the post below), proven sellers, that your work is priced well for the market, that you are
not underselling your buyers, and that your terms are reasonable and that you
have had some experience
selling your work. Many will also want to see your catalog, website, and all of your printed materials to be sure they look professional.
It helps immensely if you've been selling successfully at retail at shows and/or online for some time. In fact I'd even say it's necessary (even if it's not required). This experience is important because store owners need you to tell them your best sellers, to know that your prices are appropriate and fair, and even in many cases to suggest ways to effectively display your work. If you haven't test marketed your work how can a buyer be confident that it sells? How can you? The last thing you want to do is sell work to a store and then have it sit there for months. That store will most likely never order from you again and you've ruined what might have been a long term relationship with a buyer because you didn't do your homework.
For most wholesale shows you'll be asked to list your suppliers (to prove you really make your work by hand) and your best wholesale accounts (to show you have at least a little experience). You'll also be asked to list your terms. If you don't know what terms are or how they work, terms are your requirements for ordering and payment as well as your turnaround time (how long a buyer should expect to wait before you can ship). These terms will appear in writing on any printed material as well as on your website.
If you list unreasonable terms, such as deposits on orders or all orders paid in advance, it will be clear you don't understand the wholesale relationship and your application will probably be denied. Read a book, talk to experienced friends, or hire a consultant for an hour, but learn the basics of wholesale and how it works before you jump into it. You can also look at other artist’s wholesale catalogs and websites to see how they post their terms. I will post on how to determine your terms in the future - you might want to watch for it.
As always, images are key - especially when you are applying to sell online on a site like Wholesalecrafts.com. As a juror, when I see amateur photos I assume you are an amateur artist. Keep in mind, on a website full of beautiful work from all over the country you have but seconds to stand out among the rest. Your images are all you have. Buyers can tell if you are a professional in one glance. And why wouldn't you want to show your work at it's best? (Read the last post below for tips on images.)
Another common mistake we see in jurying for wholesale is pricing. Your wholesale price should be at least half, and preferably less than half of your retail price. Artists tend to forget that buyers have a lot of expenses, from rent & utilities to staff, display, advertising and much more. They will need to at least double your wholesale prices to make a profit. Many stores will mark up 2.25% to 2.75%. Competing with your buyers by underselling them is a total no-no in the world of wholesale and the fastest way to lose an account.
Any smart buyer will check our your retail website before they order from you. Your wholesale buyers are investing in your work and it is critical that you respect them and that they know they can trust you. Every account has the potential to become a profitable and long-term relationship and it's not worth it to try and fool them. Savvy buyers and jurors will look for you online, on Etsy and other similar sites.
If you follow these simple tips you'll be one step ahead of everyone else. If you have more questions about getting into wholesale feel free to email me. You might also want to sign up for my mailing list - I do offer consulting and classes.
And if you haven't yet, don't forget to subscribe to my Hot Tips Newsletter. Every month I send out great free tips and links to resources for artists, from new apps, to places to sell your work, great sales on art supplies and much, much more! Here's a link to the latest issue.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

I spent this morning jurying applicants to Wholesalecrafts.com as well as for the American Craft Retailers Expo. If you ask jurors for any show or website, they'll tell you most people make the same mistakes, so I'm going to give you some tips to help you be one step ahead next time:
First of all: Jurors want to see a line of similar work - not a felted belt with glass earrings and a quilted pillow. You need to show us a line that represents who you are in a cohesive collection. If you can't do that you're probably not ready to sell your work, and you're definitely not ready for wholesale.
Considering that artists are visual people, I'm shocked that so many don't realize how important photography is. Everyone wants to think that their work will speak for itself, but here's the thing: jurors can't pick up your work to look closer, turn it over, see the detail, or move it to see how it catches the light. We have only the image you give us and we have hundreds to look at so you don't get much time to impress us. You owe it to yourself to make that image the best you can.
  • PLEASE, do not send images that are out of focus. I constantly shake my head in amazement at how many artists send in fuzzy images, or images taken from so far away we can barely tell what we're looking at. Most jurying is done on the web now, so remember your images will be small and we can't zoom in on them to see them better.
  • Do not send images taken on a busy background. We don't need to see your work placed prettily on branches, your work in baskets or birds nests, or your work on wrinkled fabric or sitting in the grass or on a rock. We just want to see your work. We want to see it with no distraction or competition.
  • We want to see your work close up, well it, with no shadows and no props. We want your work to speak for itself and speak clearly and brightly. The best background is a graduated background (shown below). There is a reason most professionals use it - it works.
This is the image I first used for my magnets:
Not bad, right? Most people think this is fine. And many people send in much worse. But here's what Jerry Anthony did for me:
What a difference! In this image the magnets pop, glow and float off the page. They don't look like a DIY project, they look much classier and way more valuable.
When it comes to photography, this is NOT the place to pinch pennies. Your images are one of the most important tools you have to sell and promote your work. If you are not an expert it will be worth every cent you spend to hire one. It probably doesn't cost as much as you think, and a good image will make your work look it's best, shine above the rest and tell a jury you're professional and know what you're doing.
I'll talk more about jurying soon. Next time - jurying for a wholesale website.