Carla Gladstone had her kitchen remodeled last year. Soon after, she realized that having a plastic bottle of dish soap next to her beautiful new sink and faucet was giving her "aesthetic indigestion," which she cured by buying a handmade Soap Pump from me. This year she added one of my Butter Dishes to use as a sponge holder, then sent me this picture. btw, the tiles in the backsplash are replica Art Nouveau tiles from New Zealand, which she found at an antique store in Kensington, Md. I agree with her that the intense colors look great with the warm neutrals of the pottery. And it tickles me to see how my pots are living out in the real world. If anyone else want to send me photos of my pots in their new homes, I'd love to see them!
After doing four shows in four weekends, I will admit with no shame that I spent most of last week sitting on the couch with my feet up, watching the Food Network, and talking to nobody except my cat Olive. Olive really dislikes the annual Open House (there she is lurking behind my display), so she gets a lot of attention after putting up with all that commotion.
I also had time to input all of my sales from the holiday season into Quickbooks, and obsess over all the numbers from 2012. This was a year of change, as I wrote about last spring. I began the year by skipping the Buyers Market trade show, and instead implementing a different plan for obtaining wholesale orders. My plan also included adding more retail art festivals to my schedule. I'm happy to report that it worked out great, on many levels. I was hoping my plan would yield 50% of 2011's wholesale orders. I ended up getting 65%. As for retail shows, I did eleven! Compared to six from the year before. OK, some of them were not great choices. But overall, I increased my retail sales by a healthy amount, over 30% more. My gross sales came very close to my 2011 gross sales. In terms of net profit, after I factor in the $3000 I saved by skipping the trade show, I came out way ahead.
Here's the best part ... I did not feel overworked! Yes, there were times when I felt very busy, but I never felt like I was out of gas. I even took two vacations this year. In 2010 and 2011, the wholesale workload was at times overwhelming. Sometimes I felt exhausted to the point of frustration, and trapped in what i call the "self-employed workaholic's dilemma" (we hate how much we have to work, but we're terrified the work will go away). I didn't want my pottery business to feel like that, and this was my motivation to make these changes.
All the additional festivals also forced me to change a lot about my festival display. It used to take me 3.5 hours to setup, now I can do it in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Basically, I just paid attention to the what was very time-consuming, or overly strenuous, or unwieldy, and eliminated them. Collapsible risers, gone. Replaced with low shelves with snap-together uprights. Floor mats, see-ya-later. Kraft paper roll dispenser, buh-bye. Folding wood director's chair that required a screwdriver to assemble, thanks for your years of service, you've been replaced. The display evolved throughout the year and I finally felt like it worked great during the November shows. Now I've got a really functional, efficient, and good-looking setup to use all of next year.
Gone are all of my symptoms of workaholism ... the pale skin, knotted muscles, and the vitamin D deficiency. Now I get plenty of rest, and I spend lots of time outdoors with my newfound passion for running. Not to mention, more running is another reason why I can get all my pottery work done without getting tired. Energy breeds energy. Balance breeds balance.
Since I don't really care about any of this Mayan calendar business, I am making plans for 2013. It's going to start with another major change. I did one graphic design project last January/February, which I've done for the last ten years or so. For 2013, I turned it down! Better yet, I recommended a friend to take over the account, and he got it. Win-win. 2013 will be my first 100% pottery year. I know I can do without the design project's income, but still I would like to parlay that time into improving the pottery business. Plans are brewing, involving both wholesale and retail. I'll write about them in more detail in the coming months. Some of them I'm still figuring out.
Happy and warm holidays to all the potters and pottery fans!
First of all, big thanks to everyone who came to my Open House this weekend! My holiday show season is now over, so I have placed some of my remaining pieces for sale in the Online Store. These pieces will be available through December 31, 2012. After that, I will be changing the way I use the store, which I will thoroughly explain when I write my Hourly Earnings analysis about the online store, right after the end of the year.
Happy shopping, and happy holidays to all! http://goodelephant.bigcartel.com
It's here! This weekend is my Sixth Annual Holiday Open House, and once again I have new designs to show off. The feedback I get from my regular customers at this event helps to shape my offerings for the next year. What do you think of these?
This is my new design for a Sugar + Cream Set. Minimal and multi-functional, two of my favorite adjectives. About 4.5 inches across. $55/set.
I have been making long, narrow, rectangular plates for many years. There were times when the rectangles drove me mad (read why), and I've dreamed of redesigning them as ovals for a long time. Here they are! 7.5in Butter Dish $15; 10in Olive Dish $22; 15in Serving Tray $50.
I have offered different versions of this idea before, here is my latest design of a reversible pot that is both a candlestand and a vase. 6in tall. $38 each.
One of the mantras of a working potter is "work faster" and I try to live by that as much as possible. But every once in a while, it feels great to spend way too much time fussing over a few pots. Textured Jars with Wire Handles, about 5in tall, $65 each.
A new form for my slip-carved illustrations, Heron Jar with Reed Handle, 8in tall, $140.
This bowl was recently pictured on this blog at the bottom of a stack of bowls made by my students. I call it the Clouds Bowl. 9.75in across, $65.
And at this year's event, I am pleased to welcome Royce Yoder as my guest potter! Royce and I have been friends for almost ten years, and he was my role model for venturing into the wholesale side of the craft industry. Preview his work at royceyoderpotter.com.
Good Elephant Pottery's Sixth Annual Holiday Open House
Saturday, December 8, noon - 5pm
Sunday, December 9, noon - 4pm
We all noticed the hedgehog at the wood kiln, before it went into the kiln. And when it emerged from the kiln, we knew it was something special. It has a little bit of black iron oxide on its nose, but otherwise all of its tones and shine were bestowed by the kiln. Last weekend at the Festival of Lights, we jokingly fought over it, trying to outbid each other for the right to buy it. Its maker, Karen Riedlinger, wasn't sure how to price it. It's such a little guy, after all. After some discussion, we chose a price that was higher than Karen was really comfortable with, but she agreed to try it and see what would happen. We placed it on a riser facing the entrance of the show, so it could act as our greeter.
When the show opened, we watched as people came into the room, made a beeline for the hedgehog, picked it up, and admired it. About a half-hour later, somebody bought it. "We should have charged more!" I said. But I was kidding, it had already fetched a very handsome price. And thus a legend was born. The cherished little hedgehog was given an important job, which it performed brilliantly for a very short period of time, and then it was gone.
btw, the booth looks spectacular, doesn't it? The quality gets better every year. When I gush about how talented my students are, I am not kidding!
Mea Rhee, the potter behind Good Elephant Pottery
American Craft Council
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