Friday, December 24, 2010

How to ride the trend wave in 2011

The global financial crisis was a game changer in how we spend our money. Before November of 2008, advertising was all about “more, newer, and different” without looking at the substance or deeper significance of what was being sold. Tips and trends were about how to ride a tsunami. That it would inevitably crash and devastate  lives was not part of the advertising conversation.

We were supposed to market our work to consumers with disposable income, who were assumedly seeking satisfaction by having more of what they had, or a newer version, or a different kind of it, or more of a newer thing… you get the picture. It was pretty shallow.

By the end of 2010, we can’t read any substantial forecast for 2011 that doesn’t mention values such as sustainability, simplicity, and the human connection. The very good news for artisans is that we no longer have to find a surfboard to ride the trend wave. This year we are the wave! The trend gurus are predicting that artisan, handmade goods made with sustainability and lasting quality by humans with a story to tell are It. All you have to do to market your work now is to show who you are and what you do. Make a cohesive statement in your presentation; your photos and shop copy, if you sell on Etsy.

Through ArtisansGalleryTeam, we are carefully selecting works from the pool of Etsy shops that are legitimately handmade in an artisan studio by those who bring individual vision and advanced skills to their works. Joining with others who are the real deal is going to make riding the wave easier.

Here are some trend reports worth noting:

I have been working in "ethical" for a long time, because I find humanitarian principles very important, and I hated big fashion's disregard for them. Having said that, I think the global economic crisis has made people re think how things are made, where they come from, and has led to an appreciation of small-scale, handcrafted, tangible, home-made etc.. The human stories behind the products are interesting, the big manufacturing model had become boring, impersonal & mechanical.

Ann McCreath from Kiko Romeo


 Organic Waldorf Doll By SewnNatural

IMM Cologne believes that as a result of the financial crisis people are questioning what it is they need to live well. This is leading to the emergence of simplistic, formal or severe designs that combine the basic and old with the modern and the high-tech.

Interior Trends 2011 was recently released by IMM Cologne

Natural Gemstone Cluster by ThePeachTree

Whenever we feel as consumers that the time is right for paring down, we focus on simple designs and simple, warm colors. Plain metals and eco friendly materials: wood, bone, simple and soft semi- precious stones with Earth colors and a simple palette will prevail for 2011.

Lisa Jesse (Lisa Jesse has the #1 website on Google for trend prediction)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

home business on steroids

What you see here is one day’s sales from OneClayBead and MarciG on Etsy! It’s freaking awesome and out of control! This is where we eat dinner generally. You can see the menorah and the flowers left from Thanksgiving, which are lost in the jumble. I print orders as things sell, and put them, with the correct piece, on my long table. There is typically lots of room for the 3 of us to eat, but it’s getting harder to sit down to a quiet meal. We have to push the sales down in order to set the table.
My friend Natalie has been coming over in the evenings to help with the packing. Here she is with my husband, Ken, as they make PayPal labels. Today the packages wouldn’t all fit in the car and we have to make 2 runs to the post office. This is my computer room but it now looks like UPS has set up an annex with board games, books, and a drum circle.
I’ve lost my zen a few times just living in this much activity every day. What brings me back is the feedback and notes from my buyers :
Beautiful! Gorgeous! Even better in real life! I am so happy with this and will be back to buy more! Oh and insanely fast shipping too... OneClayBead is awesome!
This is truly one of the cutest things. Thanks so much! I can't wait to give this to my friend for Christmas!
These are such beautiful ornaments. My infant daughter died two weeks after Christmas nearly 4 years ago, and each Christmas her brothers and I pick out a special ornament for her. Your doves are perfect.
The emotional connections made through buying and selling my handmade pottery are truly moving. It makes the chaos of my home a worthy price to pay.
Wishing you some joyful chaos today!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

thanksgiving table
Me, Marci, husband Ken, Mom and Dad Wolfe
We’ve eaten, walked by the French Broad River, shopped, played Scrabble and worked. This year has been so full of blessings and rich in rewards. I am grateful for my health this year, for my daughter’s acceptance into High Point University, my husband’s career success, my in law’s wisdom. There is more, actually so much more.
I wish for you:
After you sit down at the table
After you  eat and savor those familiar dishes
After you look deeply and joyfully into the eyes of those who love you :
Take a bit of food outdoors
Walk among trees, by a river, or find,  along a country lane
 some wild critter, and share your feast.
If you can, look into wild eyes.
Then touch a place of this beautiful earth, like homage to that which feeds us.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

to write love on her arms

Rachel of GetReadySetGo, has asked us to make treasuries in support of a movement that creates hope for those struggling with depression. Marci (my teen daughter and model) wrote LOVE on her arms in our listing photo shoot, and this Friday, I invite you to do the same. Our healing wishes and prayers for all affected.

These are excerpts from Rachel’s blog:

We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know that pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption. We're seeing it happen. We're seeing lives change as people get the help they need. People sitting across from a counselor for the first time. People stepping into treatment. In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline. We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take. We want to say here that it's worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it's possible to change.

                                                by SewnNatural
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone.
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.
The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings. The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships. The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.

                                                    by 3squares

The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.
The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.

Click on any image to see the artisan’s work.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First Snow

   House in Winter_20060325_13 (1) Winter in Candler_20060211_13 (1)
Winter in Candler_20060212_25 Winter in Candler_20060209_04
The first cold flakes fell silently in the early dawn, blanketing the leaves we’ve not yet raked into piles.
Each white glistening orb seems like an answer falling from heaven. My world is transformed from autumn’s landscape of loss into a confection made with spun sugar and pearls.
It is beautiful as we walk outside, but we scurry inside soon as do all our woodland friends. Time to share our stories and dream our dreams by the fire.
Here is my new glaze, Blue Ice Crystal. The first piece sold right away but I'll be using it more in weeks to come. Wishing you beauty, and the light of love that shines from the eyes of those who gather with you by candles and fireplaces, as we burrow inside.

Monday, October 18, 2010

lulubugjewelry: he(art) and mind

Lulubug’s jewelry shop on Etsy has 3568 sales in under 2 1/2 years. Her median price point is $71. She demonstrates how a true studio artisan succeeds on Etsy, and flies in the face of many of those old long standing myths that success means selling lots of small quickly assembled components. I interviewed Sue to find out how her uniquely forged path has unfolded, with the intention that we can learn from this talented artisan and businesswoman.

With 1,642,653 jewelry listings on Etsy, Sue’s work stands out because she has learned unusual techniques:

I currently work in PMC (precious metal clay) which is a relatively new material composed of silver particles in a clay binder, which you form and then fire in a kiln. The clay burns off, the particles fuse and you end up with a .999 silver object.

I had heard about PMC and always wanted to try it, so when I saw a workshop being offered nearby in 2007 I signed up for it. Much like the first jewelry classes I took, I felt like I had found my medium, and within a couple of months had set up a little studio in my living room.

She concentrates on new designs  rather than promotion of her shop, and tracks to see which ideas are marketable:


Q: How do you promote your Etsy shop?
I'm not much of a self promoter. I post most of my new designs on my Facebook fan page, I have a very neglected blog, I read but rarely post in the Etsy forums, and I'm always thinking that I should be making more treasuries than I do. About the only thing I really do consistently is renew items, usually at least 10 a day plus relisting sold items.


What I do focus on is my product development. Selling on Etsy gives you feedback on new ideas much more quickly than traditional brick and mortar sales. Using Craftcult I can see which items get viewed the most and draw people into my shop, as well as which things may not get the most views but sell consistently. I keep an eye on Etsy trends, and when one speaks to me I'll use it as inspiration for new pieces, but I don't follow all of them. Hence some new fox pieces, but no mustaches! The one thing that is certain is you NEVER can predict what will sell well. When I come up with a whole new concept, I will make 4-6 new designs and watch them closely. If they get a lot of views or sell quickly, I'll build on the concept and add more designs. If neither happens, I let the idea go, even if I love it and think it's great. This way I build up a product line of successful sellers, but I keep adding new ideas to the mix. I read the Etsy forums very regularly, and I rarely hear anyone say to work on changing your products if sales are down. For me this is the first thing to do. I've learned not to take it personally when the design I think will sell like hotcakes is a total dud! There really is no telling what is going to sell well, so I just put it out there and watch what happens, and base future designs on that information.

Sue’s response to this question reveals a great deal:

Q: Do you think that artists are born, or made?
Both! I think we all have creativity inside us, it's just a matter of finding the best medium in which to express it. Some artists will be better than others, but I think anyone who has the desire can learn the techniques and create something meaningful.

She respects the value of hard work and education while still following the call of her inner creative beacon.

Bravo, Sue of lulugjewelry! I appreciate your time in sharing this and trust that other creatives will, too.

Wishing you all a successful journey today!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


In the studio yesterday, Marci told me that she was turning her cell phone off more often. She was weary of the drama. She was happy glazing; excited about a new design. This, above all, I have wanted to impart to my teen daughter.

After some early success in the fine art world in my 20’s , I began making pottery. Fine art is so gravely serious. Works of light and joy were, at the time, viewed as useless fluff, and perhaps they still are. I was drawn to the silent thoughtless world of clay where you can be moved to an almost holy place just by how beautiful something is.

Today I ran across this quote. It is from the novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

“she knew that she had become a burden to him: she took things too seriously, turning everything into a tragedy, and failed to grasp the lightness and amusing insignificance of physical love. how she wished she could learn lightness!”

I suddenly wanted to see lightness everywhere, to go outside and capture with my camera the light shining through leaves. To feel that lightness of being is to be transparent, thin of  negativity and judgment, and allow the light of Creation to shine through.

I’m going to do this more often. it feels good.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Imagine. Dare. Dream. Make it.

Owl House Ornament

“When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image.’ –Meister Eckhart
When I stare at the chalky grayness of clay,  I use my mind’s eye to give it color. Unlike paint, glaze contains little resemblance to the final fired color, so I have trained myself through the years, to mentally try on my various glazes until I visualize the ones I want. I also choose, first in my imagination, the little embellishments like the wire twig on my Owl House ornament.
This ability to dream, to see in my mind’s eye, to explore what might be, to give birth to possibility, is a skill that serves me well in my art and in my life.
Owl House began with this feeling that this holiday season will be full of joy, magic, and everyday blessings. I shut my eyes and immersed myself in that feeling, and the image of the little owl perched in it’s snug home, staring with curiosity, emerged.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Building a Body of Work

We fall in love first with the pure act of creation. From there we chose a medium, such as clay, paint, metalwork. The pieces we make for sale are a consequence of an inner exploration, and that’s the most fulfilling context for creation. If you follow this path, what you create is a legacy that is distinctively your own, as Jonathan Fields so aptly describes. What you get if you don’t follow this path is a frustrating, jealousy producing, creative dead end of finding objects that others have made and trying to make them. In this world there is a great deal of finger pointing and reading endless marketing tips, and seeing other creatives as competition. The most threatening people of all in this world are the ones who are successful. Frankly, it’s not a satisfying place to be, and if you are a creative person stuck in this world, get out now! Put your time and energy into building a body of work!

A body of work is a clear, recognizable  path that you are taking with your artistic exploration and creations. To build a body of work,  just pick one thing that you like to make that you can make well. Make that with one invariable quality, and several variable qualities. Your same quality might be same subject matter, size, color, or utilitarian function. For example, I made these casseroles last year:



Here are some variations:

I also took the casserole shape in this direction and developed Keepsake Boxes, which is a smaller version of my casserole form, without handles.

A body of work is a path that you forge. You end up in uncharted territory, making things that aren’t like other people’s work. You begin to respect and even like other creative people, and recognize those who have also forged their own path. The challenge now is to continue to progress, to continuously move forward.

Werner Erhard once said, “Any idiot can walk a path when shown one. But out here, there is no path. The path is made by your walking.”

That’s what I’m talking about!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Garden Retreat


This is my back yard. It was a shambles when we bought the house, but we’ve built the flagstone patio area with the swing, fire pit and picnic table, planted tender new flowerbeds everywhere and spent many long evenings eating and laughing together here.

My daughter and I just finished this dinnerware set, which combines my Organic Soul with her garden Retreat.


We’ve worked hard on the dinnerware set to make the leaf plates curl gracefully, to make plates that are organic shapes but also not warped. We’ve sweated in physical labor as a family creating our retreat far more than the time we’ve spent lazily enjoying it.

Is this a conundrum, to work hard making a place of rest, or a dinnerware set intended for long leisurely meals?

The work has been a kind of joy and pleasure unlike any other. There are thoughts that come while forming clay into a poppy or planting new lilies or laying the flagstone that are as if the mind has opened and something large and full of grace steps in. Inside of the physical work of creativity I find delight, as if delight were the most serious thing possible.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

River Journey Series

My two favorite things in clay are textures, especially lace textures, and glazes that flow. The River Journey series has the colors from my whitewater rafting trips on the French Broad River, and this one captured that essence perfectly.

I may not go rafting for another month as I am still fragile, recovering from surgery. These colors still call to me, perhaps even more urgently as memories than as experiences in real time.  I think of that exhilarating moment going over rapids, scenery blurring, control suspended, and what it is to be no more than a leaf taken by a strong current. Isn’t it ironic that most of our lives are spent trying to get or maintain control, while the nanoseconds of exquisite joy occur during abandon and surrender. Perhaps this is why I layer 7-10 glazes and stack them in the kiln, never knowing what the heck will happen.

Like this one.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Creative Weddings


My niece, Cionne, was married on 6/27, under a beautiful hand built outdoor huppa in Chicago. Before I get all sentimental and philosophical, here’s a few pics of our family enjoying Chi town and the reception:

DSC_0131   DSC_0072

DSC_0274 DSC_0289

So today, Kelly and James dropped by to pick up the gifts ordered from their bridal registry. Here is the set they now own- 10 place settings of my Beach Cottage:

They shared some lovely pics from their wedding, with chic creative flourishes, all handmade, or purchased on Etsy. I am loving this trend towards creative weddings!


I loved James’ pinwheel buttonniere, purchased from rule42.  And look at the adorable handmade flower girl tutus!

I love how individual style is the rule these days. I wish both couples all the happiness that their hearts can hold. It’s such an honor to be a part of someone’s wedding- as a guest, and as the maker of their dinnerware, too!

Friday, June 18, 2010

MarciG in Seventeen Magazine

Seventeen Magazine JPEG

Marci is featured in the June issue of Seventeen Magazine, in an article on teens who started their own business. Feature writer Farnoosh Torabi found Marci’s Etsy shop, MarciG, in February, along with many other possible teens on Etsy. She took her time and answered the interview questions thoroughly, telling her story of how she started her Etsy shop as a business after getting turned down for summer jobs last year. Marci’s writing skills undoubtedly helped catch Seventeen’s interest.

Since publication, Marci has had many sales to Seventeen readers, including a mom of a 12 year old who was reading Seventeen with her daughter. She’s gotten lots of fan mail from other teens asking about how they might get started.

Besides fame and fortune, the article gives Marci a unique endorsement of her accomplishments as she applies to colleges. Creativity and entrepreneurial skills are not measured by SAT scores, and this helps show where some of Marci’s talents live. 

Marci turned 17 on May 20, and was published in Seventeen on May 29th. I hope that her year brings more happiness and success, and you must know how proud I am to watch this beautiful flower of a girl unfold.

Friday, May 7, 2010

No I Can’t

bottle trio sm4
A buyer asked if I could make 3 of a small vase that I had listed, and naturally my reply was ‘yes, I can. Oh, sure. Of course, ASAP! ‘ But after her custom order listing was up, she changed her mind. Hence ensued a long string of convos about what she did want, so I altered the original listing with very precise information about what set I would make. She bought her custom order listing.

When the set was ready, I gave her a preview in my FlickR account. Her response was that it was exactly what she ordered but she has changed her mind about the sizes. Could she pass on this set and just order another one? She would also like to send me pictures of her dining room so that I could reformulate my glazes to match her curtains exactly. I am not making this up.

There does come a time to say no, I can’t, and that time should have been before I actually felt like using more colorful language that I did.  I offered her a no-strings- attached full refund. It took 2 days to get her to agree to that!

This morning I got another fairly unreasonable request, and I actually had to stop myself in the middle of it, go back to the computer, and reply, very graciously mind you, ‘no, I can’t’.

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of saying Yes! But sometimes saying ‘no,I can’t’ is a form of saying ‘yes I can’. As in, ‘yes I can respect my own time’; ‘yes I can choose to say yes or no.’ Gloria Steinem once said, “If you can’t say no, then yes doesn’t mean anything.”  I think she was referring to sexual harassment cases, but she could have been a great coach for customer service, too!

 Bottle Vase Trio on Etsy

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Flowers: Poppies

Roxanna, of Illuminated Perfume, has organized a blogorama on the theme of May Flowers, as a celebration of May Day. Please join in the fun for daily reads from writers and artists coming together from all parts of the world with their own unique voice. I’ve chosen poppies.

Who has never marveled at the audacity of raging color, an invitation to abandon sorrow and give in to giddy happiness?

    Orange Poppy Bowl by MarciG
Who has never touched the delicate petals and thought of them as a  lace spun from the heart of magic?
         Icelandic poppy by TheFaerieMarket
Poppies are associated with remembrance, with war or peace, with the solemn sorrows of loss. And yet to me they are a call to awakening. And that beckoning towards an unreasonable intoxication, a joyful delight, is a kind of holiness.

         Felted Skirt by Ingermaaike
Each summer they open. No matter how harsh the winter, no matter how many died, they push forth and unfurl as if waving taunting bright flags. Death is not final! And sorrow cannot keep joy from showing it's face again!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Artisan Wedding Challenge

beach cottage dinnerware
The Artisans Gallery Team is having a Wedding Challenge. Our task is to create new and exciting wedding themed pieces. I decided to create a dinnerware set around my textured lace bowls, and came up with my Beach Cottage handmade dinnerware set. Within 20 minutes of listing this on Etsy, I got a 10 place setting order, and now have a Bridal Registry!
Check out our team blog all this week. We are having 24 pieces each day featured by the premiere artisans exhibiting on Etsy!
You can also search AGTEAM WEDDING on Etsy and make your own discoveries. Here are some of mine:

A Firefly Lantern by Aprilhilerdesigns, a Royal Wedding at the Castle by Intres, Ring Bearer Wreath (this one is bold!) by twolefthands, a Happy Bunnies Wedding Cake Topper by Krize.

Aren’t these great? Custom Vintage Map Cufflinks by SherryTruitt, Forever in my Heart knit cuff by KnotOriginal, Crystal Bridal Necklace by StaroftheEast, and a silk and cashmere Bridal Lingerie set by Foundrydesign.
Enjoy my finds, and be sure to visit our blog each day his week!