This is the fourth year that I've held an Open House around the holidays, and it has become a thoroughly productive event for my business. Not only do I sell a lot of pots, I get to unload all the seconds that have accumulated in the past year, and float out new designs to see how my existing customers react. (new sugar+creamer sold in 15 minutes, new dinnerware was a smash hit.) It's a good way to end the year, and to gain some direction for the next year.
An Open House is very different from an art festival on many, many fronts. For starters, there's no booth fee! However, just like a good art festival will spend your booth fee on marketing and infrastructure, you must do the same for yourself. I printed and mailed a postcard invitation, and provided food and snacks for my customers and my guest artist (photographer Laura DeNardo
). Those expenses added up to $318, which is still less than the booth fee of most good-quality art festivals.
The time and labor requirements are very different too. The middleman known as my car is eliminated. I only need to move my display and pots from one room in my house to another room. Much easier. But, and this is a big "but," I also have to remove the furniture from my living and dining rooms, and thoroughly clean the place! The net result is ... setup and takedown for an Open House takes more
time than taking my display and pots to a festival site. Here is my living room transformed into a showroom, and my guest artist, Laura, with her photographs.
But, and this is an even bigger "but," here's where an Open House is far more efficient with time. Unlike the casual browsers that must be seduced at an art festival, the attendees at an Open House are already fans. They have signed up for my mailing list, responded to an invitation, and gone out of their way to a private residence with the intention of buying. This means the selling can be condensed into much shorter hours. We were open for 5 hours on Saturday, and 4 hours on Sunday. That's not even long enough to need a pee break. And compare that to the 28 hour marathon that was Artscape Baltimore.
For the first time, my gross sales at the Open House were actually higher than Artscape. After factoring in all the differences in cost and time, I earned $46.81 per hour. In other words, the Open House blew away all other forums for selling.
This is officially the end of The Hourly Earnings Project
! Looking back, I'm really glad to have undertaken this year-long exercise. I am earning a respectable wage for my work, and now I know it. Looking forward, it'll be nice to get back in the studio without a stopwatch.
I may not put the stopwatch away for good. I plan to add an online storefront, on a small scale, to my business next year. So possibly at this time next year, I will write about the hourly earnings of online sales.
Happy holidays to all! It sure feels like winter now, it is fr-fr-fr-freezing here in Maryland!
Pots from this fall's wood-firing will be for sale. I followed my own "two-month rule" that I preach to my students, which is that you need to look at your wood-fired pots for two months before you start to see them. I think I'm ready to let go of them now.
I have redesigned my dinnerware! The dinner plate is still square, though the proportions have been tweaked. The salad plate is now round, and the dipping bowl has bloomed. Trust me, I didn't undertake this redesign lightly, because the previous designs were so popular. But there were a few ideas itching in my brain that I needed to explore. Dinner plate is $36; salad plate is $26; dipping bowl is $12.
I have made jars with sculpted elephant handles for years. They have always been functionally labeled as "cookie jars." Kind-of vague. This is the first time I've made elephant jars with a specific functional intention. The large one holds a 5 pound package of flour or sugar. The small one holds 2 pounds. The rounded bottoms and wide mouth openings make for easy scooping with a measuring cup. They still work as cookie jars too. The five-pound canister is $140; two-pound canister is $95.
My new Sugar+Creamer set for 2011. The three pieces stack in any order. And the lid doubles as a spoon rest (my quirky need to have a place to put down a wet spoon). All three pieces can lead independent multi-functional lives, then come together as a set when needed. $65
I have also tweaked the design of my popular Cup+Saucer. The saucer still doubles as a lid. The cup is now a little taller and egg-shaped. And now you can add "egg coddler" to its list of many uses. $35
In case you have not received a postcard or email about the Open House, it is this weekend, December 11-12. Follow this link to get all the details
. Hope to see you there!
I admit it ... art festivals are good for my ego. I mean, I spend most of my work hours alone in a shadowy basement making pots. At shows, I get heaped with positive feedback, and these shows serve as a gathering place where I can stay in touch with my friends. Making money doesn't hurt either.
But do you want to know what causes a far more massive ego trip? Watching my students succeed at an art festival. This past weekend was the Festival of Lights at the Greenbelt Community Center, which is where I teach my pottery classes. Five of my students and I had a booth, and it was gangbusters! Near the end, the expression on their faces was a combination of delirium and shock. And I thought I might explode with pride.
Let me clarify ... these students are from my Advanced Wheel class, and their work is not what you'd typically expect of "student pottery." Not just anyone can sign up for this class, the center lets me decide who's ready. We tackle some heady issues, both technical and aesthetic. They are charged with developing a personal body of work. As you can see in the photo above, their work reflects an awful lot of skill and thought and practice. And for those who are interested, we discuss professional issues too, such as selling at an art festival.
In the photo above, Karen Arrington and Amy Castner smoothly handle customers amongst our dwindling number of pots. The other potters who participated were Karen Morgenstern, Kori Rice, and Karen Riedlinger. And the photo on the left shows how much smaller our display was on the second day. And our sales staff got smaller too (that's Kori's son Dexter).
For now, we should just celebrate. But I know some of them are already analyzing their results and thinking about next year. They grow up so fast (sniff).
There was an epidemic of birthdays in my Thursday night pottery class, including mine. So Quianna Douglas made us a cake! Birthday girls from left to right: Helen, me, Jeri aka Ginger Spice, and Quianna. In honor of Ginger Spice, it was a carrot cake. Yum! Quianna doesn't just make cakes for fun, she has parlayed her cake-making prowess into a serious business. If you want one of her cakes, get in line.