Wednesday, October 24, 2012


You know, you just never know when or where inspiration will hit you. I was exploring Pinterest one day a couple months ago and saw this tile wall with mugs and cups integrated into it. I thought it was so cool, I immediately wanted one for myself. Not like this one (which I could not trace to it's owner) but a more colorful and whimsical version. I immediately contacted my friend Jennifer Kuhns. Jennifer is an amazingly talented mosaic artist and I've always wanted one of her creations. She was all for it. 
Jennifer came over and talked about where to put it . We eventually decided two panels would fit perfectly inside the pass-through between my kitchen and family room. I was SO excited. 
As seen from the family room.

Next came the cup hunt. I had a few treasures I'd saved for years, favorite mugs and cups with history and meaning, but not enough for two panels. I spent the next several weekends searching every antique and second hand store in town for treasures. It was unbelievably fun. Finally, by the end of the month I had a collection I loved. I knew they could be lost when Jennifer tried to cut them in half, but resigned myself to accept any losses. 

 As seen from the kitchen

I was amazed how few casualties there were. Jennifer only lost one when cutting them in half, but of course it was one of my favorites, an antique japanese teacup. It was very old and very fragile and I knew it was a risk when I chose it, but as prepared as i thought I was, losing it did break my heart just a little. 

Jennifer worked on the mosaics in her studio so i didn't see them until they were delivered and installed yesterday. I LOVE them!
I hope you'll enjoy this little tour.

Close Ups:

And here's my birthday present from Jennifer.
 She surprised me with a  pendant made from the broken japanese cup!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I didn't think I needed a new website, but my programmer insisted on it. 

I was skeptical - after all it all worked fine as it was, right? So I wasn't all that invested. But he was positive I'd like the improvements. Every once in a while he'd tell me about his progress or report in as to why he'd not gotten to it for a while.  I'd shrug and think "That's fine, It works just fine as it is, whatever."

I really didn't get it.

Until ....the day he gave me sneak peek at what he had so far. I was floored. It was gorgeous! Crisp, clean bright, contemporary. Full of new bells and whistles. People can change their own passwords and check their order status. I can approve wholesale accounts with one click and within seconds the buyer gets an automated welcome email. They can search the site for cats or rabbits or dogs!

I created the banners for each page, sent them to him and watched it come together bit by bit.. Soon my toes started tapping with excitement. It felt so close I could barely stand it - like Santa was right there on the roof but I didn't have a chimney. I started asking him for updates all the time, and counting the days to launch.

I threw him curve balls. He had designed much of it without showing it to me so I requested changes which he'd not expected. I started telling people it was ALMOST done last fall, then again in January, April, June...'Any day now' I'd say... and the months wore on. It was an exercise in patience. He was working his butt off but once I'd seen the potential of the new site, the old site looked antiquated and outdated. I was itching to get it up and dying to show it off.

And then, last week - Christmas came. The site finally went live on Monday and I felt like a proud parent. I wanted to kiss my programmer, have a party, and show it off to everyone. 
I hope you'll check it out here:

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Gift from a Stranger

I had the luckiest and most wonderful thing happen to me recently.
Out of the blue, a customer of my friend Charan Sachar sent him a video she made about his pottery. She was a fan of his and did it as a surprise gift to thank him for his work and he was so delighted with it that he posted it on Facebook. It was fantastic! I have always wanted a video to use on my site and in promotions. So I wrote him and asked if he would email his customer and ask if I could hire her to do one for me. The next thing I knew, I got an email from the lovely Cynthia Nichols. She said she'd love to do it but thought my payment offer was way too generous. She didn't want payment.

Over the next few weeks, we edited the video together as she created it. We worked on a 3 minute version to use at my booth at shows and a shorter one for advertising. I cannot even imagine how many hours it took her. I revisited the topic of payment many times as it became a bigger and bigger project, but she refused any payment whatsoever. Then I offered to send it to my friends and advertise for her. This was her reply:

"I have been thinking about our conversation and taking on "business."  I think what I'd like you to do, honestly, is just watch for women who are working hard to try and get their small business going, and let me help them do it "just because I can."  If you think they are worth investing time in, then send them to me. 
If I can spend some hours and help a woman get a good start, then that would be something I can do to simply help.  It's the "pay it forward" since I have had so much done for me in my life.  I don't think I want to do this as a business to make money; I think I would prefer doing it as a service in love & friendship.  Does that make sense?"

Can you imagine a stranger being so generous?  How often in life does that happen? I feel blessed and honored to be gifted in this way. And more importantly, reminded that there are kind, generous angels out there, making this world a better place.
Here is the video. I love it!

Friday, June 29, 2012


And here it is - I just finished it this morning - let's see if this one fits the bill:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Many Iterations of a Frog

There are times I just know that a new design is going to be a hit and times I just create a design I like and cross my fingers others like it, too. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. The ever changing popularity of the Frog Clock has been a total mystery to me. This is the first one I did. To be honest I didnt' love it, but it was wildly popular for many years, one of my top sellers. 

Then, almost overnight no one wanted it anymore. That happens, and that's fine. I love rethinking designs, coming up with a new version is fun for me. So I created Tree Frog, a more graphic take on the little guy. 

Personally, I loved Tree Frog. It's a more modern style, the frog is central but the border is the key to it's appeal. At least for me. one wanted it. 
Now I know Frogs are popular. My Frog Alarm Clock has always been a best seller, and so have the Frog Magnets. But no one else seemed to love this little guy. So last year I tried again and came up  with Leap Frog, going back to my usual whimsical style.
Again, I love this happy guy. He just made me laugh. He reminds me of a kids book illustration, he just seems like he must have a story. I was sure frog sales would pick up again when I added him.. But again... almost no one wants him. I was (and still am) puzzled.

Now, I've looked around stores, shows and on the web, and frogs are still popular. Not the fad they once were, and not like cats and dogs and horses, but still very popular. So, I refuse to give up. This week I sat down, and here I go again. 

He's almost done. Wish me luck...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I've decided that the reason I'm so bad about blogging is that I feel like I need to make time to write a long post. (And frankly, because I hate using blogger because it is so difficult to format pictures, etc.) So I keep putting it off until I have time to write a longer article about an important topic. And as you've probably noticed - I rarely do.
So I've decided to post more often and share shorter tidbits, which is more realistic expectation, and to be honest - more fun for me. So here we go!

If you have a Costco Executive membership you may not be getting the most out of your rebate.
The thing they don't tell you when you sign up, is that with the $100 year dues they guarantee a minimum of $50 back. Here's how it works: If your rebate is less than $50, instead of spending the coupon at the register you can bring it to the customer service desk and they'll give you $50 for it. You can even get it in cash! No one at my Costco told me that when I signed up, (or anyone else I know, either) so for years I got piddly little rebates, used them at the register and was always dissatisfied. Then one lucky day a nice cashier stopped me, told me NOT to use it, but to take it to the membership desk. And to my surprise, they handed me $50 for it and explained the deal. This way your business membership costs you the same as the regular membership. YAY!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

If you are considering switching to a mobile credit card processor - this is a great article about comparing services and rates.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview: Charan Sachar of Creative with Clay

I am really excited to share this interview with my friend, Charan Sachar of Creative with Clay. Charan makes unique handcrafted pottery inspired and influenced by his Indian culture, Indian fabrics, embroidery, colors and his love for Bollywood. He has been in business for 7 years and sells his work through galleries and stores across the US, as well as at select art shows in the Northwest and online. I first met Charan in a workshop I taught and fell immediately in love with his work. At that time he dreamed of quitting his day job to do his art full time, but hadn't yet taken the plunge. He took the leap not long afterwards and has been incredibly successful. It has been so wonderfu to see his business grow over the years.

How did you get started?
Since I was a kid I knew I wanted to work in clay, but never had the opportunity to learn. It was in 2000 when I moved to WA that I took my first class and it was love at first touch. Very soon I was teaching at the same facility. With a lot of interest from others in purchasing my work, I got together with some of my pottery friends and did a small street show. That was when I sold my first piece to a stranger and realized the value in my work. Since then I have worked on establishing my line of work, creating a distinctive look and making my brand stand out. It is the support of family and friends that has helped me grow and continues to do so.

What do people not know about you or your work that you’d like them to know?
People might not know what a “process-oriented” person I am. Working in my studio is a very organized process. Of course there are days when I just I like to do anything in my studio and that counts as vacation time. But to get work accomplished, I sit in the morning with my tea and plan exactly what needs to be done, at what stages do I switch to something else, when do I cover up my pieces, when do I decorate, etc. etc. This helps me focus in the studio and be efficient and productive.

How did you name your business?
That was a tough decision to make and my wife played a big role in that. I knew in the business that my work would always involve clay and I was fascinated with everything about clay. Whether it was making functional pots, sculptures or tiles, I wanted to keep my options open, rather than defining myself as a functional potter. The majority of my work is functional but I also have a whole line of one of a kind sculptural work. I hope to add a line of decorative tile work soon too. Clay has definitely helped me bring out the creative side in me, so what better name than “Creative with Clay”

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work?
If I wasn’t having fun, I don’t think I would be in this business. I enjoy every part of working with clay, from construction to decoration to completion. The part that bugs me is the lack of space because of which I need to keep organizing my studio. I enjoy the planning part of organizing but when it comes to actually lifting the heavy boxes, moving them on shelves, I am not a pleasant person. Another thing I am not fond of is setting up and tearing down at shows. Even though I have gotten a lot better and efficient at it, I am always very anxious about it and would love it if there was a magic button for it. 

Do you have a favorite piece, project or idea? 
I would have to say at this time my newest shoes/bag that I created for the Nordstrom 
exhibit “Feet of Clay” is one of my favorites. These were on exhibit in Seattle  downtown for the month of March. Inspired by Indian footwear called “Mojari” or “Jutti”, this sculpture is made entirely of clay. It is slip decorated to emulate the look of intricate embroidery patterns often done on this traditional footwear.

Do you blog?
Yes, I do blog at I blog about the workings in my studio, new work and events happening. I like to connect with my customers through my blog. I feel people like to see how the work is created and the space in which it is created.

Do you do retail shows? If so, which are your favorites and why? Yes, I do retail shows mostly in the Northwest area. Among my favorites are the Edmonds Arts Festival, Bellevue Festival of Arts and the Best of the Northwest. Great crowds, great customers and great organizers for the show.

What advice would you give others who are just starting out? To look at this as a business, rather than a hobby. Be prepared to work on the business aspect of it which is going to cut in to your time of making your work. You can be great at what you make, but if you don’t spend the time and resources to run it as a business and sell it, it is just gathering dust in your studio.


Do you have a fun or interesting story to share about your work, a show, a customer (or anything else)? As you can see from my work, it is highly influenced by fabrics and I strive to get that look and feel in my work. I had applied to a show with one of my ceramic sculptures, which was dancing diva with a scarf wrapped around it. The show got back to me that they loved my work and would like to see the sculpture without the fabric. What they didn’t realize was that it was all clay and I was thrilled to have achieved my goal.

Charan is having a home show this week! For more info click here 
You can see more of Charan's work at
Twitter: CharanSachar

Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with a PR Expert

I've known Marlene Saritzky for more than ten years. She's smart, funny, and articulate and a dynamo when it comes to Public Relations. So, last week after struggling with a press release it occurred to me to ask if she'd be willing to share of her expertise and let me interview her for the blog.

Marlene has more then 20 years of experience. In organizations ranging from Time Inc. to Lucasfilm Ltd. she's played key roles in creating compelling communications programs and in launching major businesses. Over the years, clients and represented companies have included Two Degrees Food, Center for Investigative Reporting, Petite Miette, Paper Punk, Chez Panisse Foundation, Bon Appetit magazine, FORTUNE, Mother Jones, Common Sense Media, Lucasfilm LTD, Global Green USA and more. She's a very busy woman so I sent her a list of questions and suggested she just choose a few to answer.

What do you like about what you do and/or why do you do it?
love the exploration of it. What's the product or issue or company challenge? How do we solve it, launch it, tell the story in a compelling way?

Have you ever represented an artist or designer? If so, what was your approach, successes, challenges, etc.
I'm currently working with Paper Punk, a new building toy for "kids from 6-99." The founder, the brilliantly creative Grace Hawthorne, teaches at the Design School at Stanford. We are just launching the product, which is always a challenge. There is a lot of noise out there and we have to find the outlets that will care with the audiences WE care about.

What are some proven internet strategies for artists / small businesses?
If you are going to hire PR professional, be very clear on what your expectations are - in order of priority. Everyone wants to get into Oprah and Martha Stewart magazines, which is fine, but you have to know what they cover and when to do that.  Sending out samples blindly without the story-behind-it to tell is, well, a waste of everyone's time.

Is sending samples to an editor ever effective?
Yes, if you are very, very targeted and know exactly why you are pitching THAT specific editor.

Do you have tips on how to get press releases into print?
Press releases are really just a tool. But if you don't have anything to say, except "here we are," then chances are you will not get coverage.

Are there any great ways/tricks to getting into magazine gift guides?
YES. If you know someone that has worked them in the past, hire THEM, because they know what works. If not, buy all the magazines or look at all the sites that have gift guides and be familiar with what their criteria is. Pitching for gift guides starts in August!

Does anyone use physical press kits anymore, or is that a thing of the past? 
Not really. For artists/craftspeople, the product itself is the press kit. A sample, along with simple press materials is all you need.  Don't waste space in the box with swag or messy packing materials.

Any tricks or secrets to getting someone interested in your work and your story? 
Artists and craftspeople are first and foremost people and you might have more luck telling the story of YOU with the product as your love, your obsession, your compulsion.  You can pitch that feature story to the feature section of your local paper more than you can pitch the product.  Example from the book world. Pam's brother Tom Corwin, wrote an unusual book that chronicles the life if his dog.  The Marin Independent Journal, the local paper in his hometown, did a big feature on Tom and how the book came to be. It wasn't a book review, but a full color spread on Tom that used the book as the "hook."  It did more for the publicity of the book than a three sentence mention in the book section could have done.

Marlene Saritzky
MSS Associates (under construction)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Artist Interview: Elisa Drumm

I got to know Elisa Van Auken of E. Drumm Designs because she is often my neighbor at The Buyer's Market of American Craft.  Anyone who attends the big wholesale shows is familiar with her and her amazingly talented family. She's been in business for 25 years creating whimsical clocks, mirrors and sculpture out of wood which she hand paints with delightful designs. I've always noticed her work because it's right up my alley - bright, bold, fun and playful. Walking into Elisa's booth feels like walking into a birthday party, it's such a happy place.
Describe your business in 30 words or less 
I work with pine and MDF board as well as cast pewter and found objects. Most of the mirrors and clocks are cut from pine plank, carved, then painted and adorned. My background and education was in Textile Design, working mostly in surf wear, so my colors are naturally bright.
How did you get started? I grew up in this business. My parents are artists and gallery owners. As kids, we always tagged along to shows or worked in the gallery on the weekends. It was natural for me to choose this as a career path.

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work? I love designing new pieces which usually happens twice a year right before the wholesale shows. Sometimes I get inspired right in the middle of my production time which distracts me, but you can not turn off creativity. I hate paperwork!!!!!!

Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what are the strategies that you use to get your work in stores?

Yes!!!! For most of the 25 years I have been in business it has only been wholesale. When I did clothing I would host several trunk shows during the year for private customers. I have relied on the BMAC as my main source for sales. I used to use sales reps, but the website has taken over that area.

What is the biggest challenge of being a self employed artist? Balancing work load, finances, and family… They are all 3 intertwined. In the early stages of my career, I had too much work and had to hire people to help. My kids were young, so I wanted to make sure I saw all of their soccer games and dinner was on the table. Much of my income then went to pay for daycare and assistants. Now that they are in college it’s getting enough work to pay for their college tuitions and I am doing all myself.
Who was your greatest mentor or inspiration when you started and why? 
My parents!!!!! They have always encouraged me as well as being great roll models. Now I am collaborating with my father. I ask Dad to design a pair of “bird legs” in pewter for my new clock and I get 5 different designs. I also have great admiration for my baby sister who is really, truly talented.

You can find Elisa's work in stores all across the country. She is also on Facebook and her website is

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Artist Interview: Dee Janssen

It's always interesting for me to talk to other artists about what inspires them, how they got started, how they run their business etc. It's my favorite part of doing shows. I get out of the studio and meet people from all over the country who live the same kind of solitary, creative work life as I do, and share a common experience and world view because of it. So I've decided to do a series of interviews to share with you. I've invited artists from all over the country to participate in the series. I think this is going to be fun!

First up: DeeJanssen of Dee Janssen Glassworks.

I first met Dee in person at The Buyer's Market of American Craft after talking for years on the (now defunct) American Craft discussion board. She has been in business for nine years creating distinctive dichroic glass jewelry and jewel toned kiln formed glass plates, bowls and home decorative items.

Describe your business: 
I create a different style of glass jewelry using dichroic glass for it’s brilliant and intense colors that stand out from all the rest, adding new lines of functional and decorative glass items for the home and table.

How long have you been in business?
I started working with kiln formed glass in 2001 and went full time in 2003.  I sell my work through galleries and gift shops.

How did you get started? When I started I painted t-shirts with my original designs and designed jewelry as an accessory item from mass-produced beads and findings.  This led me to the discovery of dichroic glass beads and pendants made by different American artists. Ultimately, the lure of working with glass drew me into my current journey in the world of making my art for a living.
What do people not know about you or your work that you’d like them to know? The combination of color and texture is a prevalent theme in my jewelry as I believe glass wants to be caressed as much as viewed.  I’m incorporating this into my new functional items as well - both texture captured within the glass and texture to be felt on the surface of the piece.

How/where do you advertise?
I do some print ads with Niche Magazine or Buyer’s Guide and 1 or 2x a month on the buyer’s page on their website.

How did you name your business?
When I first started out, I had a whimsical name that I felt described my designs.  My mentors recommended changing it to something more personally identifying to buyers when I was about to start doing the wholesale shows and after many emails and tossing variations around with my spouse, I chose Dee Janssen GlassWorks.

Do you have a favorite piece, project or idea? 
My Hidden Treasures in the Chrysalis shape are my most favorite out of all my favorites. (pictured left)

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work? 
R&D is ALWAYS the fun part and playing with new techniques or materials even if they don’t end up in a product line.  The part that feels like work is the business side and some days [but not many], going downstairs to the studio can feel a bit like work.
Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what are the strategies that you use to get your work in stores?
I sell only wholesale at this time.  I attend BMAC and Niche the Show as well as maintain a presence on wholesalecrafts.comAdditionally, I do direct mailings either by email via Vertical Response or snail mail with a color postcard to catch the attention of new galleries.

What advice would you give others just starting out?
Don’t use credit cards to keep your business funded. Develop a cohesive product line in your medium and refine it.  Learn business computer programs and photo editing skills.  

What inspires you?
I'm inspired  by colors, nature & textures.

What’s the best/most rewarding thing about doing what you do?
Hearing from the gallery owners how much they like my work and how much their customers like it.

Who was your greatest mentor or inspiration when you started and why? 
Sara Creekmore and Nancy Goodenough - they have both helped me either with glass technical issues or business issues and it was their work that really started me on this journey thru glass.

You can find Dee on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @djglassworks. And if you missed her website above it's