Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Whole New World

I dragged my "vintage" table, lightbox made of a cardboard box and tissue paper, and point and shoot camera outside on a beautiful balmy day to photograph some new pieces. I think I'm getting somewhere with my homestyled setup. These look pretty darn near to what I used to pay $20 an image for.

They are all tagged, described, and listed in my Etsy shop, if you are interested. I was up until 4 a.m. photoshopping, resizing, catalogueing, and uploading. Ack! When you read all those articles about Etsy's success, they never mention that you must be a near pro photographer, copywriter, language specialist, and techno whiz to participate! Or that you'll fall so in love with everyone else's work! Or that it will completely change the context you have for what it means to be a maker of handmade things.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Making a Banner for an Etsy Shop

It wasn't enough to be a potter AND a jeweler, and a mom, wife, small business owner, domestic diva, and volunteer-for-everything recovery candidate. I am now an Etsy banner designer! So, okay, I'm not hawking myself as a pro, but after a gazillion attempts, I finally like the banner I made for my Etsy shop- please check it out! It's easier to see Etsy-sized.

Here's how I did it:

I found these wonderful templates by Janet's Glass. She made them specifically for Etsy banners and offered them for the taking. Thanks, Janet!

I downloaded that to my computer, and then opened it in Photoshop.

I took out the imagery that didn't work for my shop with the clone stamp tool. Then I put photos of my work where I wanted them, by opening the photos I already had, and using the move tool.

I used the magic extractor tool on the necklace and mug. I also set the opacity of the mug at 60% so that it recedes into the background somewhat.

Then I selected a typeface, white type, and typed OneClayBead and my description. Since the template was already sized correctly, I uploaded it to Etsy, and Poof!

I am a banner designer! How do you like it?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bright SunShiney Day

Bright SunShiney Day is climbing towards hotness in Etsy Treasuryland. I chose artists from all over the globe, and invite you to visit the treasury (only up until Sunday, 10 am, March 29) and then click and see where everyone is from. The Handmade Nation is truly a global community!

I chose the title from I Can See Clearly Now (Written by Johny Nash, sung by Bob Marley,Anne Murray,Jimmy Cliff, many more):

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin?for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Expecting the Miraculous

When the mist rolls in, suddenly, with its moistly tactile caress, I pay attention. It feels like something is about to happen. Maybe wild deer will appear and speak to me. Maybe the sun will follow, riding the clouds like a magic chariot in some ancient myth. Maybe a silent inner illumination will light the places where I am lost.

I am carrying this moment around with me all day. I will respond to everyone and everything that comes my way with curious anticipation. Like it arrived, just as I was expecting the miraculous.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why Art Will Continue to Sell

"Love is Everything", by Gary Heller Photography.

You may not know it, but I am a news junkie. I read political and economic blogs, and it isn't a pretty picture being painted there, which is why art is more vital to my life now than last year. I think we all need art, now more than ever, because artists can bring qualities like faith, hope, and clarity present. Artists crack open the small ugly box that fear generates around us, and thus we breathe a little deeper, take a broader perspective, and see more possibilities.

What's wonderful about "Love is Everything" is that Heller shows us a tranquil moment in time and space where what is real and what is ideal have merged. It's a powerful visual reminder that dreams can and do become real. This is important. When we forecast our personal and political scenarios, projections, and predictions it is useful to hold open the door for the possibility that we may be transitioning into a better place.

As Mary Manin Morrissey said, "You block your dreams when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith."

Really good art gives us the imaginative building blocks to dream, design, and ultimately build ours lives anew. It lets a news junkie like me go into my studio confident that beauty is more relevant and essential now than ever before in my lifetime. Art will continue to sell because it is not a luxury. It is the receptacle of what it means to be human; to have a say in our own evolution.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

15 Going on 16

My daughter and I went shopping for a prom dress yesterday, and found one at a consignment shop. It's beautiful, she's happy, my mission as a mom is accomplished as soon as we locate absolutely fabulous and affordable shoes. It amuses me to know that 1 hour after she had all the ladies and a few customers enthralled with her waiflike Cinderella drama of deciding which dress, she was center mid on a soccer field, crashing the goal like Katrina barreling down on New Orleans.

^This is Marci last summer, shopping in a vintage store with my mother-in-law. You can see that irresistible tomboy-in-a-ballgown beauty. Such a study in contrasts. And despite the sometimes maddening drama, such a joy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

WANTED: specialists in the impossible

I named my first ever Etsy treasury You KNOW You WANT IT!!! (As Much As I Do!!). I had an unexpected reward for doing this seemingly selfless act of promoting other people's much deserving work. Besides the obvious result- the satisfaction of seeing my patchwork project online- I was so touched by the thank-yous I got from the artists. Some let me know that they had been in a bad place of discouragement, and felt lifted up by my simple act of acknowledgment. I thought about how badly we all need encouragement from time to time, how a few words or gestures can make a difference for someone else, and how easy it is to offer. I also wondered if artists are more prone to the ill effects of discouraging words, and I think this may be true.

Think of the goals that we encourage in children. A child who says "I will be president someday" is praised as if it were practical and a wise choice. Whereas a child who says 'I want to be an artist' is immediately told how impractical and nearly impossible that is. Yet there are hundreds of professional artists in every city right now, and only 44 US presidents in 200 years.

It takes more positive words to counteract all the negative ones we've recieved. I'd like to know your thoughts on this, too.

Here is some manna for any parched creative souls out there:

Art provides a healing force which aids both the maker and the viewer-
Richard Newman

Being an artist means not numbering and counting but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.
Rainer Maria Rilke

What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.
Theodore Roethke

(Please take a moment before Tues to visit and click on the artists in my Treasury. Spread a little of the good stuff today, please!)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pricing Handmade Work Successfully

Pricing art and handcraft can be as confusing as reading the small print from your stock broker....no wait....nothing can be as confusing as that. Maybe it's more like parenting- confusing because we all eventually come up with our own unique way of doing it. While my way is not the only way to do it, I'm managed to earn a fair living as an artist, including 8 years as a single mom, so it works for me. Pricing art can be maddening because art is worth what people will pay for it. But if you haven't sold anything before, how do you know what they'll pay for it????

Start by finding similar pieces in places that have a good sales track record. Established galleries, boutiques, or Etsy stores with good sales are great places to look. Note the highest to lowest prices, and find a median price. That should be your Bread-and-Butter price. Price anything that you want to make in multiples, or large sets, at that price.

When the demand for your work at Bread-and-Butter prices exceeds what you are capable or willing to make, raise the price in 10% increments, until you have the cash flow that is right for you. For instance, I want my Bread-and-Butter work to pay my yearly expenses, and leave me with half my workday to experiment, or make One-of-a-Kind (OOAK) pieces. Because I want so much free time, I keep my Bread-and-Butter prices low. That way, there is always a high demand, and I have a steady income stream.

I price my OOAK pieces (experiments that turned out really really good) with the advice of trusted gallery buyers. They live in a mysterious world- just let them do their thing!

My third category of work is samples. These are experimental pieces that are prototypes for my Bread-and-Butter line, and I price them 25-40% below retail. Here are some examples of mine on Etsy.

I said another confusing word, there- retail... I know....the whole retail price, and wholesale price is like trying to pretend you understand your kids' New Math. Galleries mark up your price by 100%- 120%. If you think you can't possibly cut your price in HALF, well, you may not realise how much time you spend selling. I know that I didn't! If you are selling wholesale for the first time, look at raising your retail prices, buying supplies wholesale, and developing production methods. Some combination of this WILL work for you. And set a Wholesale Minimum. Mine is $450. A gallery must buy at least $450 at one time to get the wholesale price. Most of my galleries order $1200 at one time, so I only have to make a few sales a month. $1200 wholesale = $2400 retail, so if you are selling on Etsy, think of the time it takes you to list, pack, and ship that much work, and you may begin to think of selling wholesale as more doable.

The above bean pot is $26 wholesale, $52 my retail (100% markup of wholesale), and $58 gallery retail (120% markup of wholesale).

I wish you great success in all your creative endeavors, especially if you are trying to find a way to make a living being creative. I will answer all questions if you leave a comment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Works

These came out of my kiln this morning, just in time to show to one of my favorite buyers. Her word for this turquoise glaze was "tranquil." I'm really liking it. The ikebana vase may have to stay on my dining room table awhile. I like to live with a few of my new pieces before they get sold. I have 1 month before I develop this glaze into a new line of work and my head is swimming deliriously with ideas.
So what do you think? I love the turquoise by itself the best, and in combo with the yellow and earthtones, but I'm not as crazy about the turquoise and white. Don't quite know why.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strategies for Success as an Artist

I thought I'd blog some of my tips for surviving and thriving as a studio artist for 30 years. As an artist running a sole proprietor business, most of the advice I got from well meaning people that did not work for me was about how to run an efficient, profit-driven manufacturing plant. As I've said in Creativity, this led me into deadening boredom. Here are some pointers that I found invaluable:

1) "Your inner artist is a child", according to Julia Cameron. That means that an artist's job is to play. That doesn't mean to just make messes (although sometimes it does) and it does mean to abandon oneself to imagination, surrender to creative impulses. Dream. Go with 'what if?' just for the pleasure of it.

2) "No matter how beautifully a puppet is dancing on the end of its strings," said Werner Erhart, "I have a sense that there is no joy in it for the puppet." If you hit a winning formula, like the piece that wins a competition, or will sell over and over, there is a strong pull to lock yourself in to making just that or things derived from that until Sales is like a puppeteer and you are dancing on its strings. Don't do it.

3) "Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business." (Tom Robbins) Believe in magic. Period.

Now here are my own daffodils and polliwogs of wisdom:

4) Learn to be very comfortable in your own skin, and your own mind. Some form of exercise and some spiritual discipline are essential, or art will never be more than another attempt to escape yourself.

5) Make a solemn agreement that you will only tell the truth in your art. This was huge for me. I actually made an inventory of all the ways I lied in my pottery: by making shapes that I knew were off center or poorly finished, telling myself that with a pretty glaze they would sell anyway. Using bright colors when my soul at the time cried out for subtle and mellow colors, or vice versa. Making work that was fast and marketable cheap, and saying I would explore a little artistic growth when I had a fat IRA (someday...)

6) At least once a year, redesign your life. Design is the context, the box, the often overlooked structure of an organization or our individual life. If your dream is huge, the structure of your current life may be too small to hold it. Design your day, your home, your studio, your family to support and facilitate where you intend to go as an artist.

7) Tell everyone off on a regular basis, eat only desserts, and run up your credit cards to the max. Just kidding! But I was serious about everything else!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

May the Sun Shine Warm Upon Your Face

Here are some incredible artists whose work inspires me this St Patrick's Day. In the colors and motifs and overall ambiance, I find great pleasure. Click, and check them out:
No.295 Fantasy Land by Deebs, anamcara by Selkie

Celtic Motif clock by Wool and Wood, The Irish Kiss earrings by Jewels by Designs

Who can resist the charm and great depth of Irish poetry, art, culture? Van Morrison, WB Yeats, and a mug of Gaelic ale, then off to a contra dance. It's a good life. I love Irish blessings, too.
Here are some of my favorites:

An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

An Old Celtic Blessing
May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows like a great peat fire.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there... I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow...
I am the diamond glints on snow...
I am the sunlight on ripened grain...
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight...
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry—
I am not there... I did not die...


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Did You See That!!??!!!

I uploaded galleries of my pottery to FlickR yesterday, and of course I had to cruise through the spectacular eye candy by some seriously talented pro photographers. I'm never content just to look, though. I've got the worst case of "gee, I could do that" syndrome. My imagination runs wild; I am now a world traveling photographer with a portfolio of soul-inspiring shots! It's amazing what confidence owning Photoshop gives. So I messed around with masking and hue changes and came up with this piece, Datura. It's an evening-blooming huge trumpet flower that grows in the faraway place of my garden. I rather like the results, even though I may never be a famous art photographer in this lifetime.

I enjoy having a memory of summer's abundance on a wet winter day. Daturas are like God's magic show- right before your eyes, these ethereal beauties burst forth from unremarkable plants with cumbersome protrusions. Voila!

Did you see that!!??!!!

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstien

That's what I'm talking about!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Magical Reverie, Interrupted

The mountains in winter draw me into a magical reverie where every almost silent rustle could be a gnome or unicorn, and I imagine myself living peacefully and blissfully as part of the natural order of things. Even though I live with this astonishing natural beauty, my life has lately been anything but magical and charmed. I've been in the slightly less blissful world of modern technology gone wretchedly amuck. Our wireless internet connection ceased, my computer crashed, and we've been dealing with Charter cable reps, who are not nearly as endearing as gnomes or unicorns. But just milliseconds before my patient husband became the latest example of Tech Rage Insanity, it all began behaving perfectly again.

This explains why I haven't posted blogs this past week. I'm back!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bee Happy

If you wander aimlessly in the yard, and stop to admire the first shocking purple of the crocuses that open their brave faces to the snowy cold, it is good to have a macro lens! My husband caught this little bee having a pollen party.

Don't tell me this isn't happiness! That its not buzzing in gratitude and praise; that it is not covering itself in grace, saturated in sweetness, savoring a sticky binge, perhaps a little drunk; like a priest who cleans up after communion.

I know there is some biological scientific dissertation on bees, but I don't believe it right at this minute. I want to watch the audacious little bee, and for a moment, drift in happy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Handmade

We're all likely to buy a wedding or anniversary gift soon. This year I'm thinking of how my spending affects our troubled economy, and I'm joining the Handmade Revolution. Think about it! In buying this gorgeous dinnerware set by JD Wolfe Pottery, or this 4 pc placemat set by Such Pretty Colors, 100% of your money goes directly to the artist, and directly into the Real Economy. 0% goes to CEO bonuses, golden parachutes, third world sweat shops, corporate irresponsibility, or any of the other depressing topics we were happy to never hear about until last October.

It's better for our planet, too. Stoneware pottery made in an artisan studio will far outlive commercial dinnerware, and it uses less energy to produce. A good fabric artist will always produce more durable goods with less waste than manufactured products.

Will I be spending more??? Will I be hi-jacked by my conscience, morals, ethics, and general soft-heartedness into doing The Right Thing? Heck, no! The 4 pc dinnerware set is $119, and the 4 pc placemat set is $35. Pretty much what I'd spend at an upscale corporate retail chain.

(The curious should know that I am not related to JD Wolfe Pottery, even though we have the same last name, and are both potters. I just ran across it on Etsy, and like the work. And I can't fill every dinnerware order out there- it's okay to spread the Handmade Revolution around. None of us will ever be Too Big to Fail.)

It's all pretty sweet. I used to just make stuff and love to shop and now I'm a revolutionary.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Magnificent Mugs

A mug is a potter's signature piece. It's where we put our design sensibilities together with our visual passion. A mug should balance well when held in the hand, the lip should be smooth, the handle should be a pleasing shape relative to the vessel. Furthermore, it should be something you'd like to see as you wake up.

I've been a potter for over 30 years, so I'm a mug snob for sure. I like having one of a kind mugs instead of matchy-matchy sets. When I set out mugs for guests, I notice how everyone studies them before choosing one. No one just grabs the nearest mug. We all feel that elusive intuitive pull toward just the right vessel, and so its important to have a variety.

The mugs I chose all have great design and visual appeal. Top left is Butterfly Mug by Jewel Pottery. I love the detail in the stamped butterfly- very cheerful. The slightly closed mouth makes this least likely to tip and spill- great for when small kids are around.

Top right is Large Turquoise Mug by Hodaka Pottery. It's a classic, perfectly balanced shape with gorgeous glazes. I adore pottery without imagery, where the interplay of glaze is enough to fascinate and invite contemplation.

Bottom left is Starry Night Mug by Di Terra. It's doodle-y art at its best. I love how the curliecues really explore the mug's surface.

Bottom right is Porcelain Cup by Stepanka. The play of glazes and stains is visually stunning. The understated whimsy in her imagery is held together by great design skills.

Which would you choose?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I named the necklace that I blogged about last week . Charisma. I had great titles suggested to me, and had almost chosen one when I wore it to a meeting last weekend and every single person there complimented me immediately! No kidding- people I was meeting for the first time said 'hello, I love your necklace.' The picture you see above is my daughter, not me- trust me, I don't generate automatic compliments like she does! Oh, to be 15 again. Without the hormones... anyway, back to my anecdote...

I proposed something that created a 2 hour discussion, and I had a feeling the whole time that I knew exactly what to say. In the end, everyone voted for my proposal- including those who had been fairly skeptical initially. Only later did I think about this necklace, and how the turquoise + copper + picture jasper + clay have properties that should allow you to speak convincingly; wisely.

So it is called charisma- A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent enthusiasm. Personal magnetism or charm.

Isn't it interesting that we don't really know how or why charisma works, where it comes from. I'm not sure how gemstones attract or hold certain properties either.

It just is that way.

Charisma is now in my Etsy store if you'd like to look.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Backyard Beauty

The snow started yesterday, its dance of white fairy dust reshaping the landscape. The curious squirrels began this morning sifting through the glittering terrain, as if the abundant acorns are actually now rare collectibles.

What a metaphor! That which we see as rare and valuable may often lie barely hidden in abundance all around us; everywhere; everyday; for anyone curious enough to search.