Monday, June 29, 2009

One reason I'd go to Hotlanta

I'm a big fan of chARiTyelise, who makes the extraordinary hand built textured trays and jewelry on Etsy. What I love best about her work is the unusual and quite sophisticated way that she uses color. It's bright, it's bold, but it's never garish. She's just opened a tea house in Atlanta called TahCha, and I'm captivated by the way that her sense of color and texture translated into her restaurant design. I tell you, it's just genuis!! Look at her FlickR photos and marvel at the sheer amount of color and art flowing through the room, which maintains a serene and uncluttered feel.

I also read some of her restaurant reviews, and it made me want to make a road trip to Hotlanta! Iced black tea with coconut in it. Strawberry/Lemongrass tea. English breakfast cupcake. Raspberry tarts. And the one that really rings my bell- basil lemonade.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dragonflies, symbols of joy

Here's my finished Dragonfly Mug in my Blue Sky glaze with Turquoise Waters at the bottom. These were originally designed for Gallery of the Mountains inside the Grove Park Inn here in Asheville, to be offered for sale during their yearly Arts and Crafts show in February.

When I first unloaded the heat soaked, pinging pots from the kiln, and set them on my work table to admire, a real dragonfly flew into my studio and landed, delicately poised, on my wrist. And out of the countless times I've written in my Etsy descriptions that "dragonflies are symbols of joy and transformation", this one moment when a real dragonfly came to witness with me the unloading of my stoneware dragonfly mugs shattered my world, and real joy flooded in. I mean real joy, the kind that lights a smile involuntarily, unlike the concept of joy as in when I write copy and spew out the word. It stayed on my wrist a long time, as I eased myself onto my stool to contemplate these new dragonfly mugs. Then, not wanting it to become trapped inside, I carefully rose and walked out by the hostas, where it took off in shimmering blue flight.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gender in the Arts; Gender on Etsy

Once upon a time, long, long ago when I started as a potter, there were only a handful of women in a sea of male potters. The way that men typically approach pottery was In, and what I did, for the most part, was not. The In thing was wood or reduction firing of simple, primitive, massive pots. I, on the other hand, liked thin pots with careful, intentional imagery. I liked oxidation firing in an electric kiln at cone 6, which is economical, earth-friendly, requires no chopping of wood, and uses no power tools.

Things have changed since long, long ago, and now the way that I like to make pots is In. There are more female potters, and more women in the arts. We are now 46% of all full time career artists, but we earn 75% of what our male counterparts earn. So long, long ago isn't really all that far, far away, is it.

I admit that I absolutely love how there are less than 4% men as sellers on Etsy. It's not at all that I dislike male artists- I just really, really enjoy having women drive the aesthetic bus. I love women making most of the treasuries, and dominating the discussions. Mind you, for most of my artistic life, I was the 4% minority, so I think that a bit of turnabout is decidedly fair play. And though Etsy has recently been called a Female Ghetto, I think that this is missing the point, which is that art always gestates in underground settings. By the time any art trend peaks and becomes mainstream, it is creatively dead. Etsy may be the time and place when young (compared to me) women create a new genre of art. I don't know what it is exactly, but it's very interesting to watch the flow of visual ideas on Etsy. It's not something I've ever seen before. Something new is happening.

If you have any ideas or observations about this, please comment. I'm interested.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I understand SEO!

Before the outcry in the Etsy forums that we were in peril of being evicted from Google search due to Etsy admin's malfeasance, I thought that SEO was either another atmospheric pollutant, or maybe an 80's rock band. I checked my sales (or lack thereof), convos, treasuries, craftcult, Etsymudteam thread, and when my husband explained to me what he learned from checking Google Analytics, all I heard was that people were looking at my work, and that was enough. When my views dropped, I did what I understand to stay visible on Etsy- make more treasuries, make my photos more attractive, etc.

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is a study of the way that search engines, such as Google, decide what links to show people who type in a search on their taskbar. The website that best explains how this works to a novice like me is Handmadeology. It is owned by the metal artist Timothy Adams, whose Twig card holder is pictured above. Not only did he provide the clearest, most accurate picture of why our views were bombing in Etsy, he gave the best information on how we could roll with the changes, and improve our page ranking. His Town Meeting on the changes gives very precise instructions.

Etsy has since corrected its problem, and I accept their explanation. Ironically, I now understand far more about SEO, keywords, and meta-tags than I ever did before the Forums became a boiling sea of protest and paranoia. Using Timothy Adams' advice, I rewrote my shop title and announcement, and, as a test, I rewrote the copy and tags of just one listing, which sold less than two hours later. I also had another sale the same day from someone who came to my shop from a Google search.

That business card holder, in metal twigs, is a beautiful blend of natural easthetic and technical skill. I'm now a fan of his work, his website, and his willingness to share his really useful knowledge. Thanks, Timothy Adams! You've given me an improved ability to support my family as my husband seeks reemployment. You've made a real difference in our lives! I get it now- SEO, meta- tags, and how to buddy up to the gi-normous jargon of Google.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mugs, in progress

Things are not drying in my studio, and that is never good. So today I'm taking 60 pots out into the sun *hello, sun* to dry out so that I can bisque fire tonight. The first 24 of these very Arts and Craft style mugs sold to a gallery hours after they came out of my kiln, and I'm itchy to finish some more and list them on Etsy. I love everything about them- the balance on the narrow pedestal footrim works because they are very thin and the waist is low. The arch of the handles is just right. I get this by pulling straight away from the mug, thinning the handle towards the bottom, attaching it at the widest lower point, and then setting the mug upside down so that gravity forms the arc. I also like the way that the dragonfly sits on the facets so that the gesture of the facets suggests the dragonfly wings.

I have obsessed over mugs more than any other form in my 33 years as a potter. It is the piece that I make the least profit on for my time, so a more sensible person might just throw a zillion cylinders, slap extruded handles on, and take nice vacations occasionally. But since I am not that person,I wake up nights with ideas for tweaking my mugs, and follow the muses wherever they whisper to go. It's what I do.

Monday, June 15, 2009

lilies in vases

I have forgotten what's important lately, and stopped drinking my coffee in utter lazy luxury out in my garden swing. I have instead read endless business and marketing strategies about Twitter and SEO and important topics for your blogs. Meanwhile the lilies have opened their petaled doors to offer honey and fragrance. In each place where we planted one or two now five orange and golden faces sunbathe all day, getting the whole complex photosynthetic job of being a lily done without any social networking at all.

I gathered an armful of silent, fragile blooms to put on my desk, and the dining table, and stuck a few in vases if you'd like to see them on my Etsy site, to show how the containers that I make can best be used. Which makes me wonder if the Divine also thinks of us as containers for the beauty of this world, and maybe, at least sometimes, I need to be empty and receptive.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yart Sale Schmart Sale!

Yard + Art = Yart sale, which is pretty cute, I must admit. Etsy artists are having a site wide Yart sale through June 14th. My 2 bowls, pictured above, are in my Yart sale, at a very tempting reduced price, because they are experimental shapes and not available to choose in large sets.

I'm sort of watching the threads in Etsy's forum with horror, though, as posts abound with cries of not making any sales after marking pieces below cost, or making sales on nonperishable goods and being elated just to have made a teeny tiny profit margin. YOWZA!!!

The big problem there is that most new artists or handmade makers have no established set value for their work to begin with. We are not Corning Ware; we do not have a generally known retail price, from which a discount can be taken. And so here is the market maxim:

Your work is worth what the last person paid for it. Period.

So, if you mark down a $20 necklace to $10, you just devalued every other $20 necklace in your shop. And perhaps the entire inventory by 50%.

If you are an artist without a well established set retail price for your work, and you have a 15% off sale, you are going to have a rough time convincing those same buyers and lookers that your work is worth 15% more just because it's now June 15th, and the Yart sale is over. In fact, you are probably training your buyers to withhold purchasing until the next sale.

Sales in art are not equivelant to sales in a retail chain store, because art is bought and sold with the potential to hold or go up in value. Putting your artwork and handmade goods on sale says to an investment buyer that you are not a good investment.

SO, if you are yart selling, which I am, make a clear distinction between what is available in your yart sale from your other pieces. I recommend against a "storewide sale", or moving pieces into some sort of clearance bin. It's a marketing strategy for art where you are hurting yourself in the long run.

Pieces in my yart sale section are priced lower because they are seconds, samples, or experiments. They were not a regularly priced piece yesterday and a sample today. If I discontinue a line, the very last pieces will be discounted, but that is my only exception.

As handmade makers, we can't price the way that indutry does, our markup is not as high as industrial goods and so we can't discount and market as if we are Macys or Target. The one advantage we have is the investment value of our work, and I will protect that value- for myself, and my customers, too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Staging my jewelry

These are some great shots I got of my daughter modeling 2 new necklaces. I shot them on a cloudy, windy day, so that the light is very diffuse and the wind was blowing through her hair. I intentionally left the colors soft, unsaturated. I chose a location that shows where I live and work, so that people from around the world on Etsy can see how the inspiration for my jewelry is the natural world around me. It also shows how well it looks with a simple summer dress, no make up, and wind blown hair. In others words, casual, natural, everyday female beauty.

I definitely think that staging my jewelry helps get it noticed, especially in a saturated market like jewelry on Etsy. The last one had to be reformatted, or Etsy's 'gallery' mode would chop off the pearl at the bottom, so it is not the lead photo. If you want to see them as they present on Etsy look here and here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Is Dad an Eco-Freak?

When my dad retired from his executive corporate job, he took pleasure in old memorabilia, like this mid century table radio, in the vintage shop of jessjamesjake. His house became less of the place that I remembered, where my mom entertained other business associates and their wives, and more of a showcase for objects that he found personally pleasurable. This was the beginning of his metamorphosis into a full blown eco-freak. It starts with appreciating old objects so that they are upcycled back into use, rather than contributing to the mound of waste polluting our planet.

I've noticed that since my husband lost his job, also in the corporate executive world, he has a much more value-centered approach to finding a new job than when he was a younger man. His drive to make a difference through his job exceeds his desire to simply sell his time to the highest bidder. Maybe being used up and spit out by corporations has given him empathy for how we are treating the planet's resources. He now firmly believes in the value of small businesses, helping grow the local and real economy, and developing green business practices for all companies. This clock made from recycled railroad tie plates and found objects, found in PaulaArt's shop, would interest him a lot these days. This former suit is clearly in the advanced stages of becoming an eco-freak!

At the last, most critical stage of becoming an eco-freak, a person will develop an irreversable love for anything organic and earthy in nature, such as this lidded vessel by Barbdunshee. Such objects will become preferable to ties, gunracks, and large power tools that are more typical gifts for Father's Day. We are also meeting many younger men who have bypassed traditional male interests altogether, and gone straight into eco-freakdom.

I am writing this so that some might take some of these changes in male tastes into account when considering what to buy for Father's Day. Your dad, husband, grandpa, stepfather, or godfather may already be an eco-freak!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I can't get enough of pure white lately, and I've started making these white bottles that have a second white glaze on the top which gives a textured white on white surface.

White is where I want to go in my meditations and prayers. It's where I'm at peace with everything and even myself. It's where I've given all my problems and complaints over to the Divine. White is pure possibility. An artist starts from a white canvass. A film is projected on a white screen. And so it is, I think, with our thoughts and prayers. Getting to a peaceful place is essential.