This lovely mug can be purchased on my Etsy shop. I thought it would be fun to draw one of my new listing in my shop today. Go check it out along with my other handmade items at Laughing Orange Studio.
My son Thomas and his wife live in Seattle and there is a cupcake shop there called Cupcake Royale. They LOVE cupcakes and even bought me a shirt from the shop for my birthday one year. Recently, they were home for a quick visit and we met them at the Woodstock Cafe for lunch before they flew home. Herb’s birthday had been the week before and since we can no longer celebrate birthdays together, I thought it would be a fun treat for all of us to have personalized cupcake pots with chocolate cupcakes in them at the Cafe for dessert.
Thomas is following in his dad’s curmudgeon footsteps, apparently, and is known at his workplace as the Grumpy Cat and even uses an illustration of the Grumpy Cat as his Google profile image, so it was only fitting to make his cup with the Grumpy Cat on it. Each pot was different and were super simple to make. I went to Smitten Kitchen’s site and found a recipe called the “I want Chocolate Cake” Cake recipe and it is great because it only makes enough for an 8 X 8 pan of cake, which filled 6 cupcake pots.
The remainder of the cups are listed on my Etsy site and I have 8 more in the kiln that are to be glazed. The idea is to make a special cupcake for that co-worker or birthday someone and they receive their cupcake in the pottery cup and everyone else gets the cupcake in the paper liner. It provides a simple and inexpensive gift and takes cupcakes to a new level.
We didn’t even light our candles at the Cafe…. I did mention the curmudgeon thing, didn’t I? But, the cupcakes were a hit and hopefully they are now being used in Seattle for ice cream or to hold M&Ms or something as a reminder of our short time together. It is always good to see them both.
O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail
“Hand-made treasures, locally grown goodness and breath-taking beauty around every bend”
It is official! Shenandoah County named the trail and the press release came out in February. It seems the entire county is now gearing up to launch the trail and show off our artists and agri-artisans within our county. In April, Shenandoah County tourism folks are planning a local event and are featuring many of the people who have signed up for the trail. Their partnership with the Artisan Center of Virginia is what has made the trail happen They have named the event “Gardens, Galleries, and Grapes” and it is set for Sunday, April 21, 2012. It will be from 12-5 p.m. I am going to be set up for this at Natural Art Garden Center here in Tom’s Brook. The County Chamber has a lovely window display in their window in Woodstock, VA and have some of my work displayed to promote this Spring event.
- Simply register with Virginia.org
- Click on the Trip Planner at the top of the page
- Then Start a New Trip
- You can search for Laughing Orange Studio and add that to your trip along with other really cool sites in my area.
- After you have added some neat things to see in your trip planner, you can assemble an itinerary and print it out with maps and addresses.
- Then just jump in your car and come and see me!
Laughing Orange is moving out of the basement!
This winter, I have been working on getting a building on my property transformed into a new workspace to house the studio. My basement has been where I have been working and if you have ever been to my house, you know that the basement has a low ceiling. It does have a cement floor, which is nice, because I can spray out the dust, but I have support poles in my way and have really cramped quarters.
I have a building on my property that we have used for storage for years. It is basically a story and a half and the square footage is not much more than my basement, if even bigger, but I will have one continuous room and can set things up in a more efficient way. AND it has normal ceilings which will make it feel bigger… for a while.
My permits are applied for, my contractor is ready to get to work, I am just waiting for a meeting of the town planning committee to meet so they can give me the final go ahead. At that point the building is getting a new look with metal siding, new windows and doors and a new floor. Budget constraints kept me from getting everything that I wanted but as the business grows, so can my upgrades to my space.
If you use Facebook, “like” Laughing Orange Studio and see the progress as it happens there.
Or stay tuned on this blog for updates as well…
Work in Progress
Laughing Orange was featured in a local tabloid called the Mountain Courier. Rich Follett, a regular writer for them, wrote the story for his regular feature called Work in Progress. I’ve included the text here since the paper is not an online publication:
Work in Progress
Laughing Orange Studio
by Rich Follett
In a pre-interview email, I asked Susie Morgan Wilburn for the address of her home studio. The reply came back promptly, with a bit of additional information: “You can see it from space!” Right from the start, I was aware that this would be no ordinary visit. As it turns out, Laughing Orange STudio is indeed a literal rather than a figurative moniker: the house is bright orange, whimsy fills every corner, and I am reasonably certain that, if afforded access to orbit, one cound indeed see it from space. Susie’s pottery offers a festival of imaginative and playful forms, underpinned with an essential functionality that seems, somehow, like a bonus.
Wilburn had been a ceramics apprentice for two years at Berea College in Kentucky and had been hand building pottery in her home since 1992, firing her pieces in a kiln passed down from a family member. Then, for Christmas 2010, her husband gifted her with a second hand potter’s wheel. She took to the wheel immediately, finding that her remembered skills came back quickly and easily. The Universe provided a final nudge in 2011 when Wilburn was laid off from the job she had held for more than 20 years with a printing firm. Faced with an uncertain future and limited job prospects, Wilburn began to question whether her pottery skills might not only support themselves but also help to support her family. In the fall of 2011, Wilburn was asked to make 25 bowls for the area’s annual Empty Bowl soup supper. With her characteristic whimsical flair, she crafted a small ceramic frog into each of her pieces, to be gradually revealed as the contents were eaten. Her fog bowls were a resounding success; the supply was exhausted very early in the evening and patrons were clamoring for more.
Based on the success of the frog bowls, Wilburn accepted an invitation from the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, (an organization for which she continues to serve as a volunteer) to sell her pottery at a holiday open house. In three hours’ time, Wilburn sold $1,700 worth of her art. The community had given Wilburn her answer and there was no looking back. Laughing Orange Studio was born in 2012, its name taken from the particular color of Sherwin Williams paint that makes the home studio stand out in the Wilburn’s otherwise sedate neighborhood. The inspiration for the cheerful color scheme was taken from a patch of daylilies that bloom in the Wilburn backyard each summer.
From the basement of their gaily painted Toms Brook home, Wilburn spins her potter’s wheel to create playful pottery pieces designed to enchant and to be used daily. Frogs, fish, fossils, fairies, rabbits and botanical design punctuate an endless array of mugs, butter bells, bowls, vases, and other practical household items made wondrous by Wilburn’s deft, clever hands. Wilburn’s vision is in her hands; she does not see pottery pieces in her mind’s eye prior to throwing them, choosing instead to go into “the zone” and giving her hands free rein to shape each pot directly from her subconscious. With every turn of the wheel, Wilburn endeavors to create artful objects that will be used rather than merely displayed–her chorus of ceramic frogs is joyfully chiming “pick me up and use me!”
Another successful facet of Laughing Orange Studio is the “Fairy Garden” line of art pottery designed for indoor or outdoor use. Fairy houses, fairy furniture, fairy garden ornaments, all are lovingly sculpted and hand painted (no two are alike) by Wilburn to be sold locally and shipped around the world. Lately, she has bee challenged to keep up with a rapidly growing fairy garden clientele in Australia, many of whom are placing custom orders–they can dream it, Wilburn will create it. Laughing Orange Studio has quickly outgrown Wilburn’s basement; in the spring of 2013, she is breaking ground on a project to convert an existing Victorian outbuilding into a backyard studio with increased firing capacity, a separate shipping area and space for demonstrations.
Wilburn credits her success to having ahd a strong community identity and presence prior to launching Laughing Orange Studio. She endeavors to tell stories with her pottery and to have her pottery become part of the stories that those who buy and use her pieces will tell in their own lives. It is a gift that will enrich the community—and the Valley—for generations to come.
Susie Morgan Wilburn is a juried member of the Shenandoah Valley Artisan Trail. Her pottery is available at Natural Art Garden Center in Toms Brook, Shenandoah Valley Artworks in Strasburg, Laughing Orange Studio (3397 Hillcrest Drive, Toms Brook) and online through Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop.laughingorangestudio.com
1st Annual Holiday Open House was Wonderful!
I want to thank everyone that came to the Holiday Open House. I know this is late but, I really do appreciate everyone coming and sharing my new adventure, having some snacks and getting some Christmas gifts. The weather was beautiful and the weekend was super busy but really lots of fun. THANK YOU ALL!!! I’m looking forward to doing it again next year and showing off my new space.
Google + is awesome for the main reason that I can see friends and relatives that are far away. It has a wonderful hangout option that many people can have a conversation all at once.
Subscribe to this Newsletter! I am trying to get a newsletter out quarterly just to give an update on new products and my event schedules.
Currently I’m working on:
- making, making, making lots of new items for the April 21st Spring “Gardens, Galleries and Grapes Event” at Natural Art Garden Center here in Toms Brook and the Blandy Farm Mother’s Day Event in Boyce, VA
- updating my databases and contact information. If you know of someone that you think would enjoy knowing about me or my work, please share this newsletter and the above sites to find me. Thanks in advance for helping get the word out.
- Fairy Garden Items are still all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started, there are new items for those on Etsy and Lynne Phillips, at Natural Art Garden Center, is planning some fall workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here...or contact Lynne at 540-436-3130
Please remember Laughing Orange if you need a wedding or special birthday gift. I love doing special orders and handmade items are always more special than something that has been mass produced.
In 2012 I learned:
- how to gauge my inventory
- how hard to push myself
- how to pace myself
- how to do USPS online and how to approximate shipping costs
- refining my mug design and handles
- what items I need to take to shows and what not to take
- that Etsy is not going to make me as much money as I had hoped and it is going to have to be a supplemental source of income and at Christmas I need to think more local
- to double box my packages to avoid breakages in shipping
- that this blog is a way to inform everyone what I am doing with a story but can’t dominate the process of making
- that I am closer to finding my “voice” in the clay but it will take a bit more time
- that it is okay to only make one of something
- that my customers need to buy immediately if they want something because someone else will snap it up and it won’t be here next week
- how to do an Open House
- how to use a square reader
- how to shop for the best price on supplies
- that it is almost impossible to keep the clay from migrating to my upstairs living area and that I really have to take a day a week and clean to avoid having it build up
- that I need to hang onto receipts for my bookkeeping
So, looking ahead to 2013, I am pleased to announce, first off, that I am planning on building a new studio….YAY!!! I go before the planning committee of Tom’s Brook this week and am going to present them with my idea to convert an outbuilding on my property to a studio. My hope is that they will allow me to tear it down and replace it with a new metal building that will be more efficient and will help me to have taller ceilings and more space.
I am also hoping to:
- do a show locally (within a 200 mile radius) every other month or so
- build a catalog of work, not just the few items I am making now
- keep better track of items
- keep building a local customer base…mailings, another open house, local events
- add another kiln that is larger
- work on getting my glazes to better fit the clay body that I am using
- do some glaze tests
- show the progress of my year with social media and this blog
- make a little more money….this should probably be at the top of the list, right?
Thanks to everyone that helped me in this first year. I’m realizing that I am happier now than I have been in years and don’t have to deal with anyone’s rules but my own. Happiness isn’t about money, it is about doing what you love but I realize that I have Herb and all of my friends and supporters helping me to do what I love. I just wish I was a bit younger in starting this new adventure.
Etsy just sent me an email stating that they would be offering an Etsy Gift Card this year. While I think there are many positives for the handmade site and the movement to get more involved with buying handmade, I don’t really know that this will help MY sales, per se’.
Gift cards will be the perfect present for the Etsy-obsessed shopper in your life, but even more importantly they’ll be a way for us to introduce new buyers to Etsy. Our community of buyers has grown incredibly in the past year, which can be attributed largely to people like you spreading the word and marketing your shops. Gift cards will allow us to be more aggressive in our own marketing efforts by distributing gift cards to partners and creating promotional offers.
If I am reading it correct, someone could purchase an Etsy gift card for someone for a gift for Christmas, then that person goes onto the Etsy site and shops for an item to use the gift card by entering in a code. That would be when Etsy would send me the money for the purchase, if that person shops at Laughing Orange. I am thinking that I will be looking into offering my previous customers a coupon code that they can key in at checkout for a discount on a purchase. This is a way to thank my loyal customers and to bring in money to my shop instead of someone else’s shop. However, I do think growing the handmade movement will help all artists and craftsmen.
I’m trying to think of all the things to get done now before the holidays come around and I am scrambling trying to “make” things rather than have to worry with the online part of my business. One thing that I think will be helpful to add to my Etsy shop will be a “calendar of final purchase date” so that the customer will
know how much time they are going to give me to make their item and still ship it to arrive before Santa comes. I think I am going to do a screen capture of a calendar and where I am allowed to add five photos of the item for sale, add in the calendar with the ship date on it as a reminder to them.
I need to look ahead to when to put the coupon codes into an email to send around to my base of customers so they have plenty of time to use it for the holidays. Having a black friday online might be fun so I would need to plan to have the email blast go out around the first week of November.
I also think that in planning for the holidays it would be fun to “decorate my shop” with some fun holiday images.Maybe the frog that is in the header of the logo will be wearing a Halloween costume, a pilgrim hat and a Santa hat. Want to send me ideas that you might think would be fun to see him wear?
In the past when I have received gift cards, I usually either worry that it won’t work when I get to the check out at the store or that I’ll forget that I have it. I am not one of those people that goes to the web and looks for deals before I go out shopping, however, if times get leaner, I may have to start. I have gone looking for coupon codes that I could enter at checkout online. Some work and some don’t. Some want you to give them information which only fills up your inbox with spam. That has been a deterrent in the past for me.
So as we get closer to the holidays and I start building inventory, if there is an item that you are thinking ahead as a gift for a relative or a favorite person in your life. Be sure and get me the information early so that I have plenty of time to get it to you. I’m not a planner either, but I may have to start focusing on a calendar in the future. I suppose Google Calendar is going to be my new friend.
Today I feel inspired to go to work because I attended the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference this past weekend and have to say that I have so many things on my list of things to do and add to Laughing Orange that I am certainly having to prioritize them all.
First though, I want to give a shout out to the ACV because I am thoroughly convinced that they have their act together better than any organization that I have been involved with for a long time. Sherri Smith, the executive director of the ACV is a “fireball” of energy. She and her board seem to have so many great things going that I am overwhelmed by their excitement about artists and helping artists in our state. I really enjoyed that they take a twofold approach to an artist. First, they seem to understand that an artist can be a different animal and at the same time they understand how politics work and that they need to use the approach with legislature that artists are small businesses that have a serious place at the economic table of our economic situation. Bringing these two things together involves a lot of discussion about how to bring the artisans out of their shells to participate and to also get the funding or support needed from local governments to see them as a viable resource for communities.
When I attended Berea College 30 years ago, Phyllis George, former first lady of KY helped to revive the craft movement and wrote several books to help promote craft in KY and across the US. I know that she saw the need for handmade items to be appreciated, but I also think she saw this as a way for the state of KY to bring in revenue and to help that state’s economy.
I’ve written about this before, but handmade items are not being sought after due to so many of our products being imported in from China and sold here so inexpensively. As a country, we need to put more value on handmade items, if for no other reason than to help bring back the jobs that have been shipped overseas. But more importantly, we need to recognize that mass produced items have no meaning to us. Vanessa Bertozzi, the Director of Community at Etsy was the speaker for our lunch on Saturday at the ACV conference and her talk was about the importance of handmade. She started her talk by asking, “if your house were to catch on fire, what would be the one item that you would take”, (other than other family members). My first thought was my laptop, but as she went around the room and I heard others say things like their old photos, their quilts, their grandmother’s doilies, I realized that I have all my beloved quilts hanging on the stair railings and I don’t know what I would do if something happened to those. They are irreplaceable. They are extremely special to me. They are handmade!!!
When Sherri Smith came to our county several months ago to give a talk about our county possibly getting an artisan trail, she brought up that we have forgotten how we once had to craft a bucket to carry water, forge our own tools to work in the garden, grow our own foods and put them up for winter, quilt our bed coverings and build our items from our own hands. Even myself, the queen of “I could make that”, heard this and it took me back to a time when these things were commonplace and not mass produced. Today, we go into a Michael’s if we want to make something and they have basically, put all the parts in a package for us and we are assemblers as opposed to artists or craftspeople. We have built a society that assembles kits and thinks of ourselves as being creative. To me, Michaels is a “cheater store” where people can feel a sense of creating.
This brings me to another point that I thought about and was discussed this weekend, which is, the amount of hours that an artist or craftsman will spend on an item only to have to not really be compensated for that quality item in the end. I do this all the time. I will spend countless hours on an item and get really frustrated when the Walmarts of the world take the value of my handmade item down in the eyes of my customers. If our economy is going to improve, if the jobs are going to come back to the US, we need to value our local artists and craftspeople and understand that they may need to ask a higher price than Walmart in order to survive in this new economy.
So, with all my new sources that I have been introduced to this past weekend and with my items sitting downstairs calling my name I really need to stop here and spend some hours at my craft. If you have any topics that you would like to discuss or have me discuss by way of my new adventures, please send me your comments and suggestions. I want to do more of the blogging and sometimes am hung up on what to write about. If you know that I make something that you are interested in knowing more about, let me know. I won’t promise you a kit from Michael’s but I will certainly help you with steps and processes.