Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Worst and Best Show I ever did

Eight years ago I brought my Airstream to Phoenix right after Christmas. I proceded to work on raw castings for 30 straight days at the casting house I was then using in preparation for the first time I was going to participate in the Tucson show in the spring. For 30 days I ground, tumbled, polished, bagged and tagged my inventory.

I then drove to Tucson and parked my Airstream. It was raining and it continued to rain for almost a week. My booth was in a tent. I truthfully had no idea what I was doing. I had everything bagged and tagged on gridwall with a table in the front of the booth with samples. No one could see my work, especially since I had no lights.

Every morning for 6 days I woke up in tears. The total sales at the end of the 6 days were $1000. Most of those sales were to friends. I had no idea what I had done wrong. I couldn't just blame it on the rain.

What I didn't know is that I had met people that would make a difference in my future. I met Daniel Grandi who owns Racecar Casting and now does an excellent job making my work look beautiful. I met the lovely couple that owned Handfast which I purchased in 2008. Those people who saw me in that first worst show and still believed in me. Many are still in my life and definitely in my thoughts as I prepare for my 8th show in Tucson.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The entrepreneur's Christmas Break

December 31st is the end of the year for HandFast Design

Housecleaning is in order. Things that were lost are found and sometimes things I have forgotten about or didn't even know I have show up. This is called inventory. Inventory rates up there with cleaning the oven on my list of things to do. I am leaving home to go to California on Saturday so I have promised myself to get it done before I leave.

Sales tax is another area that needs to be done. I have sales tax licenses in 10 states and making sure I follow the diverse set of rules for each of them is a pain. But I want to go back and I want to not pay penalties so I do it.

Placing the order for Tucson is another calculated risk. I do not know what my customers will want this spring. Every piece I count in inventory has a sales history and then there is my gut instinct - the combination is fallible but gradually better. Metal prices are a wild card in the mix. Two years ago I sold silver at $28 per ounce costs at the show and by the time some orders were delivered silver had risen to $45 - it wasn't my best year.

Advertising needs to be designed and ordered. My budget has grown smaller over the years for traditional print advertising. Using Facebook, email newsletters, email and word of mouth seems to be getting bigger in my life. Banners for indoor and outdoor shows are designed and business cards are coordinated.

Filling out applications for next years shows - choosing which ones to do and which ones to eliminate. Checking airfares, frequent flier miles, hotel rates on websites so that I travel affordably and sleep comfortably.

Buying Christmas presents - mostly on line allows me to take a break and processing orders gets me out of the house to the post office.

Making sure the new products that I have created are perfect before I send them off to be created takes some time.

Calling customers when they need help and have questions is very important. I try to schedule a nap and occasional movie or tv program in there some times. And Pooh reminds me it is time to play by standing in front of me with his ball. While I am doing this I cook, clean, dust, paint, weed and keep myself from being bored.

This is my winter break -

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How I turned being bad into good

This is a wax that came from my effort to stay
awake during driving school.

A number of years ago I was caught speeding. You know one of those days when I was in a hurry and wasn't paying attention until a flash went off in my face and I hoped that mud was covering my license plate. Sure enough a letter arrived letting me know that I was going to be supporting the small town I had passed through too quickly. Either I could pay the money and get points or pay the money and go to driving school. I picked number two.
The way I used to stay awake in school was to scribble and sketch. I had innumerable sketches of my right hand in all kinds of positions, when I was younger I drew a lot of horses and so forth. Well here I was decades later and as soon as he opened his mouth my pen came out and I  doodled away.
 I found out many years after I left school that doodling and sketching allowed my mind to slow down so I could hear what was said while my mind screamed "boring". The sketches that day turned into the centerpiece above and an associated clasp - both called Deco Bloom.
I try to keep a pen/pencil and paper around most all of the time. Sometimes I create doodles that don't make sense and sometimes I create a poem or something pretty.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tales from the Road - Shows I have known

Those of us who sell our art have favorite shows and ones we will never visit or sell at again. We talk among ourselves and compare experiences at various shows. Some of us go to juried art shows, others sell wholesale to the trade.

Once upon a time artists set up a table somewhere people congregated, maybe added a tent, then artists got together and had small shows and the rest is history.

What most artists want is a fair break. We can't account for bad weather or other acts of nature.

  • Venues whether they are outside or inside need to have easy access to setup.
  • With the advent of Zapplication and online entry - honesty is the best policy in defining the customers and their purchase power to the artists.
  • Charging large amounts for show fees may make the provider feel that they are making more money - they are promoting turnover in the artists they bring.
  • If it is an art show - $5 bracelets and tie dye teeshirts should not be included.
  • If it is a show where wholesale and retail customers mix - make the policies clear. (Wholesale to the public need not apply)
  • Advertise wisely - where are your customers coming from
  • Make advertising available to the vendors
Shows I will never visit again are those that:
  • Overcharge vendors for space and amenities
  • Are difficult to setup
  • Lie about the possibilities of earnings
  • Limit access to my customers by either charging large entry fees or stringent admission requirements.
  • Mostly are in it to make money for themselves and show it by putting their products at the forefront or limit promotion as an unecessary expense.
  • Have large volumes of inexpensive products for sale at the show which I and other artists need to compete.
I have done high end shows in the big cities and low end shows on the beaches of California where my tent tried to fly away. The thing that keeps me coming back is the respect the show promoter shows their vendors, the honesty they speak and the possibility that the next show may be my best.

  • .

Monday, August 27, 2012

What inspires me - my grandmother's ring

When I was young I had a fascination with my Grandmother Esther's jewelry. She was a fashion plate in her day and her jewelry was different than anything else I had seen.

She had a poison ring. It was a ring whose main decoration hid a small box where poison was supposed to be held - at least that is what she told me.

The ring was old and beaten up from many years of wear but I coveted it and she gave it to me. By the time I got it the hinge for the box was broken and the ring was way too big for me. When I could afford it I took it to a silver smith and he modified it for me.

The other day I was looking in my jewelry box and rediscovered it. It is probably 80 years old by now. I still love it and didn't realize how much that ring had inspired me when it came time to design my own jewelry.

The following pictures illustrate the unintended inpiration the ring gave to my creations many years later. I used a similar style in the ring band and created my own version of the three graces many years later.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adjustable Rings in two styles and three metals for Metal Clay Designers - Coming Soon!!!

I was lucky to be next to Tonya Davidson at the Bead & Button show this year. She gave me an incredible idea. It is amazing when someone else looks at my work - they come up with amazing ideas.

The adjustable ring that I have been using for my coin rings with a simple modification can become a really awesome ring that artists who work with silver, bronze or copper metal clay can use as a base. The adjustability and durability of the ring makes is perfect for teachers and their classes, artists who sell to the public or individuals who want to make something special for themselves,

Two options are coming - a round that has a 20mm diameter and an oval that is 24 by 18 mm. Special tabs will grab and hold the clay when it is fired.

I have three photos below. One of the original ring and two of the new ring frames.

The rings will be added to the HandFast  inventory in August. Retail pricing is $36 for bronze, $60 for shibuichi (80% copper - 20%) and fine silver $100. Wholesale is available to the trade.

Email if you want to be contacted when they are available.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Virtual design to reality

My designs start out as virtual pieces existing as a set of instructions on a computer as I design using CAD - Computer Aided Design. I can look at them and cannot touch them. Using the display tools on the computer I can have them look look plastic, metal, or most any virtual material.
I can spin them and look at them in most any angle and under different kinds of virtual light.

When the waxes that are created from my computer instructions reach the casting house they are cast into bronze. I am then sent pictures of my "babies."
They try to show me the different sides of the pieces and discuss any changes that might need to be made to make the pieces work in jewelry.

But nothing matches the day that FEDEX delivers my new babies to me and I get to see and touch and photograph the real things. Sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don't. These did!
For more information