Tea Sets and a Frog Pot

Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter is having a fundraiser this spring. It is a Bingo event and you can read all about it here. This is the same organization that does the Empty Bowl dinner in the fall of each year. Last year, I donated a frog vase. This year, I had been playing with making an egg tray, which I still haven’t perfected, but I had made some little cups and had 5 of them leftover. They were in one of my wet boxes and I decided to make them into a little girls tea set. I had no idea how this would turn out but I have to say that I am pleased. I also made 4 teapots when I was making the pot for the tea set and couldn’t resist making another frog pot. I thought I would let them choose which item that they want to use for the fundraiser.  Whichever they choose, I hope it brings in lots of money for them and for the shelter. Enjoy!

Looking to 2013

basementWith a year under my belt, I am pleased with the ground work that I have put into place for Laughing Orange Studio. It has certainly been a year of things to learn and what to do better in 2013.

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

old building-4

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.

 

 

Dave the Potter, a Google + chat

pottery jugs similar to Dave’s

Herb teaches elementary school in Strasburg, VA at Sandy Hook Elementary. He is the librarian there. He absolutely LOVES the children and is always looking for new ways to interact with them and engage them with books and learning. For about a year now, we have been using Google Plus to communicate with our boys and their new wives and Herb had the idea that maybe he could combine this technology in his classroom. He had gotten a book in the library about an African-American potter named Dave that lived in the 1800’s during slave times. Dave is known for the poems that he would carve into the pots that he made and many of Dave’s pots are still around today.

So, this is where I come in. Herb wanted to use the technology to let the kids learn about what Dave did by doing the Google Chat with me while I was demonstrating to them how to throw a pot. We did this for seven days straight and each day we learned a different aspect of the process in order to allow the children the best viewpoint for seeing into my basement through my laptop and Herb’s smart board in the library.

In order to do a chat with someone you first need:

  • to be in each other’s “circle” in Google. This requires that you have a gmail account and then find the other person and put that person in your circle.
  • then there is an entire menu of options on your Google page at the top offering links/tabs to
  • Once you set up a Google Plus Profile Page, which is similar to a Facebook Page, then you have the option of starting a hangout
  • There will be a hangout link on the right hand side of the page in Yellow
  • Clicking that link takes you to a page that allows you to invite others to your hangout. You will notice that a person is online if there is a green dot in the bottom of their thumbnail or if there is a video camera icon by their name in the list of names on the left hand side of your screen.
  • If you are planning on publishing your video to Youtube as we did for Dave the Potter, you will need to get code from Youtube site and register with them, otherwise this box can be left unchecked as can naming your hangout.
  • At this point, you will be taken to a screen that will activate the call to the other friends and they will come online and join you in the hangout.
The children were really into the chat they did with me and if I couldn’t hear their questions, Herb would re-ask it for them. They were not always close enough to the microphone for me to hear them properly. The nice thing about this is that because kids are so used to this technology, they didn’t see it as a technology advantage as much as a way that they could instantly see and talk to someone that was doing what the character in the storybook was also doing. Instantly, they could ask me what the clay felt like, why it didn’t fall over, when do I “paint” the pot or how many pots do I make a day?. They didn’t care that they were talking to a screen. They didn’t even see it that way. My generation is still amazed at the “technology” because we can remember a time when only the Jetsons were doing what we can now do today.
I have made some screen shots of the screens to get a hangout of your own started so you can know ahead of time what to look for and I’ve also included our final video with the children so you can see how they interacted with me. It was really a fun project to do with Herb but I was really glad when the 8 days came to an end.

 

 

Additional information on this topic:

Coupons, Gift Cards and Deals

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

Holiday deadlines

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.

Being Authentic

I’ve been reading a book by a marketing guy Eric Karjaluoto called speak human, Outmarket the Big Guys by Getting Personal and it really ties in with information that I got at the ACV Conference last weekend. One of the workshops I attended was called the The NoBS Guide to Networking led by Sarah Beth Jones, of Nary Ordinary Business Services. Sarah Beth opened her workshop with the word “Authenticity”. I guess I never really put much thought into this concept, but last night I got to a chapter in Eric’s book that really made this term come into focus. For years, in my old job, I seemed to get into trouble for being authentic. The corporate world is one of secrets and professionalism that is truly based on untruths. We were actually asked to sign a document to not reveal secrets. Thing is, in this new world, there are no secrets. With Google, you can find out all that you want to know and some that you don’t want to know. My feeling was that if I was honest with my/their customers, the customer would trust us and trust our knowledge of making their product the best that we could make it. This was something I was reprimanded for on occasion. “Don’t discuss that with the customer”….WHY? I always questioned authority because I didn’t feel the authorities really understood the situation as being real or honest. Keep the customer in the dark.  If the customer did figure something our that we were doing there was a “damage control meeting” where everyone could get their story straight. This is just wrong.

As Eric brought to my attention last night with this…

“I open my personal life to business colleagues and like the idea that they see me as “human” first and “business-person” second. I tell other studio owners our business “secrets” and believe we have more to gain by sharing knowledge than by being secretive and paranoid. The truth is, few of our secrets are that good anyway. I’d bet that few or yours are either.We tell the truth for a few reasons. First of all, our moms told us to. I’m not trying to be funny here; that influence is still hard-wired into us. It’s also easier. We’re  not forced to remember which stories we told to which people. We don’t have to worry about inconsistencies from exaggerating. Aim for transparency and just put it out there. Edit as little as possible and speak as plainly as you can. You might be surprised by the results.”

Social media is changing the way we interact with people. When I first started using Facebook, I would lay in bed at night and try to think of a clever status update. One of my Facebook friends always has a very clever one liner and it is really refreshing to see what he has written. The longer I use FB, I find that I’m not sharing as much as I did when I began using the media. While at the conference I heard comments from folks of my own generation like, “it is TOO personal”. BUT, I think that is why it works. By being yourself and adding good days and bad day comments, others see you as human and they identify with you better. I no longer share what I am having for breakfast but I will share my successes or just check in to let everyone know that I am still alive. But from a business perspective, I think that since Facebook, Pinterest, my blog and my Etsy shop all have the ability for clients, customer, fans or friends to comment on my work, critique my work or praise my work, I can benefit from this interaction.  My business can benefit from this interaction. And I am being real, honest, reliable, genuine, trustworthy and AUTHENTIC.

Sarah Beth Jones’ workshop, “The NoBS Guide to Networking” addressed how to interact with someone that might end up purchasing from you. As a business person, making contacts, I don’t like a pushy sale. I like honesty. I want to build a relationship with someone before I let them know that I am in a business that they might like or want to purchase something from. Our group in the workshop came to the very same conclusion. Building a long term relationship with someone will be better in the long run than only showing up when you want something. This is what Eric refers to in his book about being open and personal with everyone. You feel much better about dealing with someone if you know that they have an interest in you that is other than business. You develop a connection to this person and you have a voice that is heard.

Herb and I love to go to the Woodstock Cafe! Coe and Jean Sherrard are the owners and they have built a wonderful business over the past several years. They do it by knowing their customers. They say hello, recognize if you haven’t been in for a while, ask you how you are, and LISTEN to what you have to say. Because they are friendly, personable and make you welcome into their environment, you want to go back. How many times do you get this service in a Walmart or a Lowe’s or a Rite Aid? We have lost this in our society and it is really a shame.

As I go forward, building new relationships and growing my small business, I have the ability to take each new “fan” as a gift, learning from them as they learn from me. Hopefully, I can develop the kinds of relationships that will make others want to know what I have to offer and how I can help them and that I really do care about their life.

In doing my google search of some terms for this post I came across an additional article on authenticity that you might also enjoy reading…Dan Erwin’s blog about Career Development