Monday, February 28, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

everything, alltogether

Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the world this week!  It's been an epic week for me: running to the post office shipping orders, shipping my work to New York for a potential Magazine feature (fingers crossed:),  being blogged about all over the place, working very hard on a glaze firing, starting on some new wholesale orders that came in this week (that Line Sheet work I did last week might just be paying off already:), and my son's birthday party and planning!  Some weeks are like this- everything, all at once.  And some weeks are a much slower pace.  For all the weeks on this journey, I am very grateful!

Some more lovely mentions:
Hija Del Sol Blog
HandMaid Liset 
Tickety Boo

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Walking the Line: thoughts on creating a Line Sheet

Ok so I'm going to start this post by saying that in no way am I an expert in creating a Line Sheet.  'A line sheet?', you might ask?   Yes, you know, a line sheet.  Not a sheet with lines on it, a sheet with your Lines on it.   Your Lines of ceramics, or cards, or knitted things, or silk-screened t-shirts, or hand-bags or jewelry... you know.  The Line Sheet you send to shops and retailers who are interested in carrying your work for wholesale.

(Insert footnote here:  There is a difference (I feel) between Galleries and Shops.  Most Galleries don't need Line Sheets to have your work in their Gallery. They might just contact you a few times a year and say we need a bunch of mugs and a couple of Teapots, some bowls.  You invoice them or it's consignment and you get a cheque a month later.  Shops and boutiques are essentially retailers.  There are some great independent shops out there that carry a variety of handmade work as well as perhaps manufactured products.  They are used to ordering through a Line Sheet.  If you make work that fits in with their aesthetic, they may want to see your Line Sheet.  This is how I came to have to make my own Line Sheet.  End note)

There is a lot of information that they don't tell you at art school about the actual business of making and selling your craft.  I've read a number of books about starting up a craft-based business, but feel as though Line Sheets were one thing that wasn't really covered.  I started asking around the studio building- hey, do you have a Line Sheet?  What's on it?  And most of the responses I got were a little vague, and, in fact, no one was really willing to show me their actual Line Sheet, which had me a little confused about the whole subject.  So needless to say, I've gone and done a little research, feel that I've made some pretty big mistakes in the process, probably turned away a few shops and shop owners because of my lack of knowledge and professionalism on this one, but perhaps could help you or even you could help me sort out the whole Line Sheet phenomenon. 

Now maybe you think I am over-complicating something that's quite basic.  Perhaps if I'd had a background in retail I would really know what I'm doing in this department.  But, if you're like me, and you've been in the Art sector or have worked in Social Work, or in Education, or were an Apple Picker, and merely spent 5 dreadful months working at a jeans and work wear store, you will not really know what the hello a Line Sheet is supposed to clarify for a potential shop owner.

A Line Sheet is quite simply a list of the items you wish to wholesale, the prices (wholesale and possibly suggested retail) that each item is, and a description of size/colour/materials.  In addition to the Line Sheet you would need to include your ordering information such as your wholesale order minimum, the shipping and handling costs that might be on top of the order cost, your 'lead time'- estimation of time to make the work, and any other considerations the shop might have before they order from you- ie, your item is hand-made and so some variation within the 'Lines' may occur.  There might be a few more things here worth noting, but for the moment, I believe that's a pretty big chunk to swallow.

The complication in making a Line Sheet that works for the shop owner is that you have to leave out all the guess work.  This is where I made most of my mistakes- it often felt like too much work to create an actual page full of images of each piece that I was prepared to wholesale and I merely wrote down a list of items with meager descriptions expecting the shop owner to go back to my website and sort through which piece fit with which description.  Not that I got any feedback from shop owners about this, but I sort of figured out after a few seemingly good-fitting shops didn't end up ordering from me after their first email of "I love your work and think it would make a great fit for my shop!".   Essentially, what you don't have time for as an independent artist and maker is also what a shop or gallery owner doesn't have time for either.  However, in this case, your the one that loses out.  Instead of the general public being your customer, the shop owner is your customer.  Just as you don't want your booth at a craft show looking shoddy, your Line Sheet is intended to 'sell' your work and get a potential shop owner excited about selling your work in his/her shop. 

Now I must say here, that people out there a little more business savvy than I would also include product number codes, and ordering sheets with style codes, amounts, and prices so that a shop owner can be checking off boxes while they are browsing your Line Sheet.  This feels a little to 'product-ish' for me.  I know that may not make sense, but as someone who makes everything with my 2 hands, by hand, I'm not super-keen on the whole 'code' idea.  The Line Sheet in itself is a bit of a stretch.  I mean, there is really a limited amount of this work I want to produce over and over again before moving onto other ideas.  Which is why it's good to up-date one's Line Sheet. Some would say seasonally, but for myself, I would say yearly.

Last, but not least, it might be a good idea to put in a plug for order minimums.  Look at the pieces you wish to wholesale.  Are they worth wholesaling to the shop owner and to you- are you both benefiting enough from the sale of your work?  What is the price range (lowest-highest) of your items?  How much of those items for wholesale dollars would fill what you would expect a shop owner would want in their store at one time.  Most shops I know are fairly small. They may not want everything in every Line that you make.  They may also want to sell your work quite fast so that their displays are always rotating and changing to catch their customers' eye.  Have your minimum order not be too high so that they feel like they have to order everything on the list in order to fill that.  For example, my minimum order is $250.  But yours might be $400.  It really depends what you make and what the average price of your work is.  I'm sure there is an equation out there somewhere for the math inclined.

So let me know what you think- perhaps I've missed something here! As an independent artist/maker, I feel that the best way for me to actually make a living doing what I love to do, means that I have to have a few different ways to sell my work.  Whether that be doing shows, selling through shops and Galleries, selling online, or even doing studio sales, all of those things together are what could carry me from January through to the rest of the year.  Perhaps one day I'll just be able to do one of those and make a living, but for now, I guess I'm willing to give it all a go to see what will work best.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

seven years ago

I can hardly believe that my baby boy is 7 today.  It's also amazing to think that I gave gave birth 7 years ago.  Having a baby is no short of a miracle.  After Johnny's birth (which took me 8 months to heal from- another story all in itself), it took a lot of courage to even think about having a second baby.  Well, turns out it was something we didn't have to plan, and thankfully, the birth was so easy (relatively speaking, of course)...and short!  I had been induced again- it was only 4 days after my due date instead of 13 with Johnny and my labour started really easy- Dean and I went shopping together, went out for dinner, I had a nap- both of us enjoying having Johnny, our 21 month old, be with his grandparents.  Anyways, I woke up from my nap and I was in full labour- we called the hospital to say we were on our way and my Doctor was waiting for us when we arrived at 11:30 pm.  Sasha was born at 12:30 am on Feb 23rd.  So fast! And after Sasha was born I sighed a big relief and said "I'm Done!".  Dean turned to me and said "Done done? or just done?"
We were both surprised to see our new, healthy little boy.  He looked so different than Johnny did- had lots of dark hair, a button nose and had my chin.  
Sasha is my artist.  He's very musical and loves to draw.  He's a funny story-teller and has an interesting slant on life, with big ideas of how things should be.  Every year he grows older I feel sad that I will miss the way he was when he was 3, 5 or 6.  Even so, I'm still done.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Collections: Lucky Clover Pencil Box

First off- special thanks to all the lovely mentions and comments regarding my colour wheel bottle vase photo!  One little bird, down home amy, and the Room6 blog.  Oh and then this little post from On a secret mission about 2 canadian bloggers, one being myself and one being the very talented Arounna from bookou.  It's made my week start out with a smile!

So here is another little glimpse into some of my hand-me-down art supplies.  This wooden pencil case- a lucky pencil case with all the 4 leaf clovers around it, was passed on to me by my great-aunt.  It's kind of the perfect case for Ink nibs and pens, don't you think? 
And the sweet little houses and the snow and trees, mixed in with all the different patterns, how lovely is that?  There is something about opening a box like this and pulling out the nibs that makes me want to write a letter.  You know, a real letter on nice stationary.  Using ink, because my writing looks so much better when I use a proper nib and ink. Have you ever noticed that?  Remarkable. 
I have a pen pal- I really should say 'had' because I'm notoriously bad for writing her back now, but I have had a pen pal from Germany since I was in grade 3.  We kept in touch all these years, she visited me when we were in grade 12 and I visited her in Stuttgart about 8 years ago.  I still have all her letters to me- most of which are in german, all of which were written with a real ink pen.  I'm quite certain it's my turn to write and so I think this might be a good place to start.  But where to start when it's been so long...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stripe Bottle Colour Wheel!

I'm ready for Spring! Are you?

This is the result of last week's epic glaze session!  Seriously fun.  So much work.  And so rewarding!  I mean, just look at them all.  I mixed up countless stains with 3 different base recipes and most of them turned out as I had hoped.  I was a bit disappointed with how much the pink stain burned out in the nearly white on white vase.  And the bright orange- wowza!  Seriously bright. Might need to tone it down a bit.  Although maybe it's not so bad after all.  Goodness knows we all need a little colour at this time of year!  Jan from Poppytalk had emailed me about something this weekend so she got a hold of the colour-wheel  image for the front cover of the Poppytalk Handmade Lookbook.  Super fun! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

New collages

I'm off to unload my kilns and will hopefully have some lovely new ceramics to show you here next week and to up-date my shop with! 
In the meantime, I thought I'd show you some of the little collages I've been working on in the evenings when the boys are put to bed.  I received a few new inks and nibs, got some new washi tape in the mail this week, and have found a use for some of the sun prints that I made with the boys last summer.  I also had picked up some vintage stamps at a craft sale (can't remember who I got them from, sorry) that had bird and flower themes so those have been fun to experiment with.  I had bought some Daler Rowney heavy weight paper at the Art Supply store and it's amazing for drawing and painting and gluing papers on.  Doesn't curl up at all.  Also amazing for pen and ink, which is want the pine needle was drawn in.  Along with some new lino stamps I had carved and the blue and white patterns from the insides of old envelopes, I just had some fun with these and am looking forward to making more.  Sometimes when paintings just seem a bit too daunting, it's kind of nice to work small and on a collage.
Have a happy weekend! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The waiting game

It's one of those days where I'm waiting for my kilns to fire and cool.  There is no immediate gratification in the land of ceramics.   I've thrown a new bowl shapes and a few new mug shapes, made a bunch of new and old glazes and now I have to wait to see what will turn out.  Sometimes this waiting game gives me a little perspective between the heavy process oriented aspect of the work and the final outcome.  Sometimes I feel impatient with it, like I want to know what I did right or wrong now.  I guess it's a little like parenting a child sometimes.  
Johnny is growing so fast.  He's up to my chin for crying out loud.  How did this kid get so big?  Seriously.  We have our good days and our hard days.  Our days when we don't worry or fret about school, where he's gentle and kind, fun-loving, telling jokes and singing to himself.  Days where he's a real pleasure to be around.  And then there are days when I feel as though everything I say comes back to my face with an anger and a frustration that comes out of left field. 
For those of you that are new to my blog, Johnny was diagnosed with a learning disability last June.  His teacher in Grade 2 was completely baffled at how he would un-learn what he had been taught the day before.  He's a bright and intelligent kid and his reading and writing in particular didn't match up.  Last fall he was enrolled in a really great Literacy program for grade 3's with learning disabilities.  It ran from September to the beginning of December, there was only 7 kids in his class, one teacher and one Orton Gillingham Instructor.  Wow, did we ever see a difference.  The confidence that this program gave Johnny was immense.  It was hard work- 30-45 minutes of homework 6 days a week.  Spelling tests daily.  Lots of practicing and reviewing.  And he really improved.  His reading went a whole grade-level higher.  We saw a big improvement at home, his stress level and happiness level surrounding school really improved.  Unfortunately the program only runs for 3 months.  Now we are back in the regular school system and really struggling to keep up.  There are a lot of holes in the way the regular classroom operates that can be hard for kids who struggle with learning ie split classes, too many kids in the class, teacher sharing, too many extra-curricular activities... all of these things are probably fine for regular kids, but for someone who needs space and extra concentration just to learn the basics, these things just distract. 
So, what to do?  I've been researching options for next year already.  Grade 4 is supposedly a big year, there is lots expected of kids in this year.  I've looked into a school for dyslexia here in our area.  $19'500.  Yeah, not likely.  For grade 4???  I realize there could be scholarships but I really don't quite think that's going to cover it.  I think it might be more reasonable to look into a combination of Orton Gillingham tutoring and getting him a laptop for school.  If the frustration continues to mount I've even thought of home schooling him for a set time.  But for that I'd have to really scale back what I do at the studio. Hard decisions. 
Really at the end of this all, I know in my heart that Johnny will be a great person when he grows up.  He has so much going for him and school is really only a small part of our lives over-all.  And really, there's spell check for when he's going to get bogged down with the whole spelling thing, right? Everyone has stuff in their life that they will struggle with, some of us struggle with it early on, some of us later.  I just hope  (and pray) that we are giving him the tools to know how best to cope with his struggles now so that later in life he makes good choices.  Really, isn't that all a parent can hope for? 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Red Espresso

Red Espresso:  Rooibos tea espresso folks.  Tastes GOOOD.  No caffeine.  Antioxidants.  My new favourite late afternoon pick-me-up.  Seriously. You should try it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Collection: Paint Brushes

A curious collection of paint brushes that were passed on to me leaving me wondering what they were used for.
On the topic of my newly inherited collection of art supplies, I wrote another guest post on the Sycamore Street Press blog about my 5 favorite 'hand-me-downs'

This interview makes me want to move to Berlin to find an apartment with beautiful wood floors.  I also love her idea of a Bread Exchange!
Speaking of bread- I visited Fredi Rahn at her home and studio on Friday.  Between being a potter, instructor and parent, she's been hosting bread making classes in her home along with making earthenware 'cloches' that act like a hearth-style oven in a regular oven.
Back to the Freunde von Freunde website (found via all the mountains)- my german is quite rusty, but their interviews and images of amazing spaces, art and studios are seriously inspiring.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Poppytalk Handmade Housewares

I'm part of the Poppytalk Handmade curated market this month and seem to be in very good company!  If you are interested in sprucing up your home in time for spring head over here!  You can check out my table or recently up-dated Etsy shop too!  I'll be putting in a kiln load of work this coming weekend so bowls will be back in stock too!

Weekend Project and a Happy Valentines Day!

Hello there! I hope you had a great weekend!  We had a few birthday parties to go to this weekend so during the days we kept things at home pretty low key.  Between making all the Valentine cards (we all pitched in) for the boy's class, baking bread, and doing the laundry, I actually managed to finish a quilt I had been making for Sasha when I was pregnant with him.  Yup, that's right.  7 years later it finally got done.   It really was a combination of not having the right sewing machine and the quilt being at my folks' place all this time because I had thought I might be able to use my mom's machine.  So years later it all finally got done.  It's quite a cheerful little quilt- of course I didn't know at the time if I was having a boy or a girl so I thought I'd go with primary colour prints.  Of course it's the size of a crib.   But no matter- Sasha thought it was quite cozy and it seems to suit his cheerful personality! 

I hope you have a great day- whether it's just a regular Monday for you or whether you are taking time to do something special with your loved one (s).  We keep things pretty low-key over here at our place, but I think some chocolate cupcakes for desert will be in order! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I just bought my first $68 mug!

Ok, ok, don't judge me here.  I haven't bought someone else's handmade mug in years- mostly I buy espresso cups for the mister in my life because I don't make those very often and the mug cupboard is filled to the brim with my seconds, oldie goldies and trial mugs that won't be making it past the studio door.  Seriously, I do not need another mug in my life.  Well, except for Molly Hatch's mug.  Yes, I think I very much DO need her mug in my cupboard because- well, HELLO!! She's pretty amazing and I've been in awe of her work for, well, forever!

Last year when this post came out in Design Sponge I scoured internet land to see how I could possibly get a hold of one of these mugs with teacups on them.  Because of a little story that goes like this:  when I was in my 4th year of Art School, I found an Arts & Crafts Movement  book (don't remember what the name was) in the library and basically fell in love with pages of hand-drawn textile, wall-paper, glassware and ceramic designs.  There were also tea-cup patterns and tea-cup designs, which were really similar to the drawings on Molly's mugs.  PLUS, my mom has a very extensive teacup collection.  So, a teacup on a wheel-thrown mug is just my kind of thing. 

Which brings me to the other topic of discussion:  the high price tag.  For sure, this mug is worth every cent.  And I know a lot of other 'super star' ceramic artists who also have $68 plus mugs that are well worth the pennies saved.  So this leads me to a recent negative gallery/shop experience about the value of hand-made mugs.

This past December I got a very unsettling email from a shop that was trying my work out, that basically said my mugs weren't worth their '$40' price tag.  The  story kind of goes like this.  Gallery owner emails to say that my work isn't selling and that everyone else's work is selling.  My mugs are the highest priced mugs in his shop and a 'well-respected' potter (who shall remain nameless) came in and said they weren't worth the price.  So, long story short, my work is no longer in said gallery.  So it had me thinking, and worrying about my prices.  And frankly, being really mad that the going rate of mugs is so low that people don't value hand-made mugs nearly enough.  Mugs are really hard work to make.  They really need to stand out from everything else out there. I mean, you don't have to spend more than $4 on a nice mug if you don't want to- just head down to IKEA and buy the whole lot of mugs there.  They will all matchy match, be well-designed and last for years.  But if you are really looking for something special- something that becomes your mug that you use daily, the one that brightens your face every time you pull it out of the cupboard and make your tea in, you will want and need to pay a lot more.  And it will be worth every penny- I guarantee it!

The icing on the cake was in January, when I received an email from someone who had bought 2 of my mugs at one of my Christmas sales.  She wanted 6 more.  She had given the 2 away to friends and each time she gave one away she felt like she wanted to take it back because she realized how special they were.  So she decided for her birthday to buy 6 of them, just for her.  When she picked them up she said to me "You've figured out how to make the perfect mug- everything you've done here is so right!  I just love them!"  So there you go- shop that doesn't value my mugs! Maybe it's not me, it's you!

Being Outside

Vernon in winter is quite lovely- beautiful snow, country barns and horses, and the occasional deer or wild quail.  Jenny and I went for a walk to town and also a cross-country ski with 2 of the 4 kids.  We had a huge snowfall on the Sunday when we were there and the roads were pretty messy driving home.
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me when about 11 hot air balloons were floating over us- by the time we had made it home and driven back out to catch a glimpse they were gone- except for the one that appropriately landed in the Landing Nursery driveway. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Well Used

A little eye candy from the collection of art supplies I just 'inherited'...there is something quite special about looking through someone's old paints, especially when they are as well-used as this paint box was.  Unfortunately, not terribly well kept- much of the paints were hard and the lids were stuck solid.  But quite fun to take pictures of! (Check out the key/knife.  Pretty cool!)
Now that I've sorted the usable (there was plenty!) from the un-usable I guess I will have to paint in oils for a change.  I've been avoiding it for so many years, mostly because of the fumes and drying time.  I need more ventilation then I have at home or at the studio for starters, and then, I'll need to think about what I would paint in oils.  Oils kind of lend themselves to a more classical subject matter- a landscape, still life or portrait.  I think the last time I did any of those was in my 2nd year of Art school, so it would be really interesting to tackle them now.  I suppose I'd be quite rusty at the portraiture bit. As I recall, getting skin tones to be accurate was always a challenge.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

House in the Woods

Here's a little glimpse of the house in the woods up in Vernon.  We visit our friends Marvin and Jenny with their 2 daughters that are the same ages as our boys.  They bought their home about 9 years ago and who have slowly, but surely, added their own personal touches to the home, renovating as they were able to.  It's a great house, with lots of views and windows to the woods outside, lovely high beams in the living room/kitchen area and their use of wood throughout is amazing.  Their table and benches and coffee table were made and constructed by Marvin by wood they had on the property and got from the neighbour.  Last year they renovated the upstairs and used another piece of thick wood for the counter-tops.  The bamboo floors throughout the upstairs balance out the dark wood of the walls and ceilings which were original to the home.  The new wood stove keeps the whole upstairs warm all winter long!  There is no shortage of wood in the interior these days.  With the pine beetle killing some of the trees on their property and around it, they have plenty of wood to warm their house, while also using the wood for their trim and furniture.  It's a very warm and cozy place- we feel so blessed to be house guests a couple of times a year to enjoy the place with them!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guest post on Sycamore Street Press

Mountain Beanbags by Little Red Stuga
When a friend has a baby, you want to help out, right?  Eva and Kirk from my favourite letterpress shop had a little baby girl about six weeks ago and various bloggers and friends have been guest blogging on the Sycamore Street Press blog so that they have time to do all the things new parents have to do- feed, change, rock and cuddle their little new babes.  So being inspired by our family heading up to the mountains, I found some lovely things online that would bring the mountains inside! We had such fun, but more on that tomorrow...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

We are off to Vernon to visit friends for a few days and I was quickly trying to organize all this art supplies, gathering some of the doubles of stuff I already have for the little girls we are going to visit and also trying to take  a few photos.  Well, Amber has decided she really likes to be where the action is, in the center of attention.  So the minute the camera came out, so did she, looking all poised and pretty with her 'white boots and scarf'. 
I'll be back here next week- hopefully the roads are good for us! We are looking forward to some good time up on the mountain skiing and snowboarding! H.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Marmalade Collection

Back when I was at college I was in a short-lived girl band called 'Marmalade'.  It's too bad it was short-lived, but the rest of our lives were before us and we all left town, ending up in various cities across the country.  Which is why this recent collection that I've received is so lovely.  Little jam jars, mostly marmalade with plaid tops and sweet old labels.  The jars themselves were used and saved by 2 artists, a mother and daughter, who have passed away (at 93 and 106...).  Somehow I've 'inherited' their art supplies and am taking some time to go through everything, finding many lovely things along the way!
Hope you are having a great week, I'll be back!