Preparing to Rise at the Artisan Center of VA Conference



This weekend I am going to be attending my first conference as an artist. I have signed up with the Artisan Center of Virginia’s Conference in Roanoke called “Rising Beyond Expectations”. I have been impressed so far with the energy of the Artisan Center’s efforts to help the artists and craftspeople of our state. I think they are realizing that we have a population of craftspeople that can add to the economy and add to the ability to create jobs and products here in the US. The conference is going to offer workshops that I hope to gain some insight as to how to continue to grow my business and market my work.

The artisan trail that our county is implementing in partnership with the Artisan Center and our own tourism department will help both Agri-artisans as well as craft persons to promote their businesses. Many of these workshops will address some of the issues that a artisan will be confronted with to get involved with this new adventure. I am really excited to get this going and to be involved with this county wide project.


WORKSHOPS FOR EVERYONE: ….artists, artisans, agri-artisans, entrepreneurs and all who desire to take their endeavors to the next level!

The New Horizon Is A Designer’s World: An engaging Panel Discussion with James Thurman- North Texas University, Alison   Pack- Radford University & Jennifer Anderson- Hollins University.

“There is Art in Marketing” Sandra Tanner, Virginia Tourism Corporation: Marketing plans made easy and lots of great insights and tips for reaching your markets.

“The NoBS Guide to Networking” with Sarah Beth Jones, Nary Ordinary Business Services: Discuss why networking is important, where and when networking happens, and how to find your comfort zone in situations that can sometimes feel daunting.

“Etsy 101” – with Vanessa Bertozzi, Etsy: Learn how to become part of a global market place in a vibrant community of 15 million buyers and creative businesses.

“A Gardener’s Odyssey: From Clay to Food ” with Jim Kvach, Master Gardiner: Find out how one gardener managed to change clay into food where clay is abundant and top soil thin in this informative and upbeat conveyance of lessons learned.

“Entrepreneurs, Artisans and Taxes: Can we all get along?” with Dennis Peltier, EA:  Find out the answers to your burning tax related questions.

“Educating & Inspiring the Next Artisan Generation” with Alison Pack, Radford University: Through the eyes and experiences of students at the Governor’s School as told thru images and narrative in this vibrant discussion of the importance of educating Virginia youth about contemporary craft.

“The Demo – Educating the Public and Customer Service with Fun in Creativity and Affinity” with Judy Ligon, Ligon Art:  Explore the importance of doing a demo as a means to engage public in what you love to do in this hands-on workshop.

“Art As A Business” with Marc Willson, Small Business Development Association: Are you ready to sell your work? Find out how to show your work in ways to make people want to buy it and how to talk and write about it in order to make it more appealing.

“Artisan Trails of Southwest Virginia Viewshed” with Debby Loggins, Round the Mountain: After Creating fifteen artisan trails throughout the 8,624 square miles defined as Southwest Virginia was a challenge three years in the making. What’s next?

“Pricing Your Work” with Neva Bryan, Round the Mountain: Discover why pricing is important, the psychology of pricing and a step-by-step to pricing your products.

“Think It! Ink It! The Craft and Art of Printmaking” with Jennifer Anderson, Hollins University: Join in a conversation on fine art printmaking….the history, types of print and how contemporary artists make art and develop community through printmaking.

“Global, Social, Mobile, Local – How Going Green Doesn’t Mean Going Into the Red” with Helen Nunley, Pretty Good Designs: Going digital and paperless no longer means spending tons of money. Learn about some of the many choices of free or inexpensive solutions from which to choose to help you and your business “go green.”

“The Artisan Mosh Pit”: A special session where you are invited to voice your questions, concerns and suggestions for a facilitated discussion with tourism, economic development, arts and cultural community leaders.

Freshly Squeezed, from Laughing Orange Studio

This is a newsletter that I sent to a group of my friends…. If you would like to receive an email newsletter, subscribe to this blog and you will definitely be included with the next mailing… I’d love to include you in the fun!

March 2012

…news from

Laughing Orange Studio

Starting a new business means taking advantage of all the ways possible to reach buyers for my product. There are a million ways to do that these days and while not everyone uses social media, it seems, that almost daily there are new methods of social media introduced, making it almost impossible for me to even get a product made for having to try and keep up with all the computer interaction that I need to communicate with my customers. You almost need a full time person just to update all the places that need updating to get this information out there.

With this first newsletter, Freshly Squeezed, I’d like to get information to YOU so that you can keep up with what I am working on or where I may be exhibiting my work. I may show you a new product line, a technique I’m using, a new blog post, or a new design that I am trying to get out and show you a sneak peak. That said, if you would like to get an occasional email newsletter, subscribe to my blog now!

I’ve  listed the main media that I am using consistently these days below along with links for them.  All of them are ways to connect with me and find my work. Check them out if you aren’t using them already.

Please, share this email with all your friends that you think would enjoy seeing what I am doing!

Laughing Orange on Etsy

My Etsy shop, Laughing Orange Studio, is connected to my blog. If you see the product page in the blog and see something that you would love to purchase, YAY!, the links there will take you to the shop on Etsy. For now. I would love to eventually move some items to the blog’s shop but, I need you for this, I need people to know that it is there first. For now though, the link at the left will take you to the shop and allow you to see some of the products that I have for sale right now and are available for you to purchase.

LOS on Facebook

Laughing Orange Studio has a business Facebook presence and I generally use this page as a way to blast out items that have just been uploaded to my shop on Etsy. If you are a Facebook user, you can like the Studio there and get new product updates as they are available to the public.


Pinterest link

Pinterest, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a great way to bookmark items onto the web for reference or sharing. I LOVE this new site and have to really limit myself or I really wouldn’t get anything done all day. The rule is: either when the tea is empty or I reach the bottom of the page, I need to get out of the chair and start my day. The bad part is that when you reach the bottom of the page, Pinterest loads more pins….. so I have to use the empty teacup rule.

There are a ton of uses that I have discovered for this site… inspiration for my work, my garden, a good laugh and sharing or storing information in a visual way. Visual is the key here, because I am a visual person, this site is great for me.  You can follow or see my boards by clicking on the icon at the left. Watch out though, you may get sucked in and have trouble getting anything else done.

Google + link

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. Better than Skype for this reason, originally I think this was to be Google’s version of Facebook but if you want to see me work, I am trying to find way’s to maybe do workshops or “how to crafting ” with this wonderful new site. Webcam is necessary and a DSL connection. I’ve added the link to my page by clicking on the icon on the left if you would like to be in one of my circles.

Thanks for all your support in my new adventure and I hope that you will contact me in the future if you need a gift or an item for yourself.

Currently I’m working on:

  • I have Easter mugs getting ready to be fired and put on the Etsy site in the next week
  • We have put a calendar of events on the blog so that you can see events that I am going to try and participate in this year
  • Fairy Garden Items are all the rage and if you haven’t gotten yours started before Spring, there are new items for those on Etsy and I am making the miniature items for Natural Art Garden Center, who are doing workshops to help you build your own. Check out the link here…

Happy Spring,

Susie Wilburn


Trying to build an inventory of work can be challenging when I have to take the entire process into account. Time is spent photographing the images and then getting those images ready for the web. All those years of color correcting photos in the digital printing world has helped me out in this regard but it is still time consuming to go through and edit and cull out about 5 images per item. Etsy allows me to upload 5 images of the items and I usually try and shoot more than that with several views. The thing about uploading a photo to the web is that not everyone’s monitors are calibrated to mine so they may order an item and it doesn’t really look like the photo when it arrives at their house. When I worked in printing and we would hear the customer say, “but it doesn’t look like that on MY monitor”, we always wanted to say that we would just ship their readers a monitor instead of the printed piece. Things almost always look better on a monitor before it is printed. However, with pottery, I think that the real thing tends to look better than the photo uploaded to the web. The background that I have been using is a vignetted gray blend so I usually try to get that gray to look like gray and by doing that the rest of the colors should fall into place. It is easier said than done sometimes though, but it at least gives a balanced base.

If you are interested in reading a post on how to photograph work, I can certainly do that in the future.

Now you can see the finished product from the how to post on putting the decoration on the cups.  I will be adding all these items to Etsy very soon but I thought I’d do a preview here first. Look for these items to go onto Etsy tonight or tomorrow and if you are interested in them you can find them here.


New Cups and Bowls…

Have you updated your resume’?

Would you hire this woman?

I’ve never been in on the process of hiring someone for a job but I have had my share of interviews, although it has been awhile. But I’ve been around when new employees have shown up in my department and after a couple of days working beside that person you have to wonder, what did my employer see in this individual that made them think this person was a good fit for the job. Was is the resume? Because if it was, then I wonder about the validity of the information on there and if that is the best way to hire someone for a position. I understand the concept of sharing my skill set with my future employer but how do they really know that I know what I have written down. And of course, it is all in the wording of the resume’ that is key. Plus, you want it to be just the right length, not too long and try to keep it all on one page.

Five or six years ago, when I was working for Perry Judd’s, (the company that bought into Judd’s Inc.) it was during the housing boom and Perry was threatening to lay off a bunch of folks, I decided to take online classes at Art Institute of Pittsburg, in Residential Planning. It was a program to learn CAD, and interior design, kitchen planning, etc, etc. I got caught up in the whole housing boom thing and figured that if, or when,  I was given the speech by PJ’s that I would transition into home staging or something. Eighteen months later I finished up the classes, and things were starting to fall apart with the financial crisis, so that by the time I did exit interviews with A.I. Pitt,  I felt as if I had totally wasted my time and money. One of the final classes was all about marketing yourself and putting the resume’ together. We had so many revisions on these things that I felt like I had had plastic surgery and was presenting myself in a way that felt false. I think I ended up taking out things that made me feel uncomfortable and ended up with this.  We developed a skills page on ourselves and I never felt comfortable with being considered an interior designer and maybe that was where I had a problem with it. I had always worked in printing. How could I possibly convince people that I was an interior designer. With two classes involving CAD could I really design something workable? Was I knowledgeable enough to put furnishings together for a client? I didn’t feel confident enough to really go out and sell myself to do those things. So how could I truly put a resume’ together saying I could do that. See what I mean about resumes’?

So, yesterday I got an email from a friend, saying, “Have you got any ideas about what you are going to do? I’ve got some thoughts, but mind you they are only half baked at best. Let’s talk.” This is a person that knows me, has known me for several years, knows my skill set and my abilities and probably won’t require the resume’. So I’m wondering if a network of friends is really something that is more important to have at this stage in my life and career than a list of accomplishments. I have plenty of time for talk these days.

Being free to be creative…

four colors of Susie

I have worked in printing since 1980. I loved printmaking in college so I was drawn to the idea of putting ink on paper. My first job in printing after college was doing camera work for billboard signs. A small silkscreen company in Lexington, KY called United Grafix. You would walk in the front door and get a strong smell of the process. Ink, paper, dryers…. I loved it. My job there was doing process camera work and it was smelly and messy. I, along with another employee prepared large, ( I mean really large) wooden photo silk screens with the color separations that would be hauled to another building to produce a four color billboard signs. It might be a full size billboard of four colors or just a section of the sign depending on the ad or the reason for the board. Lexington Kentucky is horse country so many times we prepared billboards for the horse industry. I was pregnant with my oldest son and would stand at a processing tank of photo chemicals all afternoon hand developing ( they didn’t have a processor) large 53.5 x 60 inches pieces of film and then exposing and processing the screens. It really  is a miracle that my son didn’t have some difficulties because of the fumes I was breathing. Happily, he didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects and is super bright.

After a brief stint as a stay at home mom and another son later, I took a position at a prepress facility in Lexington, KY. At this job I had to learn the computer. Magna Graphic was a reputable prepress company that did separations for school textbook adoption. My job there was to work on a computer system called Scitex and key in commands to create pages for the books. The on the job training I received included color correction. I learned how to judge the color of images and to correct the images per the color technicians specs. I also learned, pre Photoshop days, how to do “magical” things to images to create new images. Retouching out wrinkles to make someone younger, create a prototype product that didn’t yet exist, change a person’s race, mask an image to place it on top on another image. All the things that we think of today as common practice was really a new idea then. I worked there for 5 years.

After being laid off at Magna Graphic in 1991, ( really bad management choices in the “Education year of the first Bush administration”) I was able to get work through a headhunter at a newspaper in Evansville, IN., the Evansville Courier. We had almost gone through all our savings so it was crucial that I take this new position. My boys were now in school and this meant that Herb and the boys would stay behind, finish out the school year and then join me in Indiana at that point.

The newspaper job was a real learning experience for me due to becoming the employee that needed to bring other employees up to speed on system skills and to develop commercial end of the department to do color separations for Bristol Myers Squib infant formula labels, local ad agencies and a Scripps Howard photographer doing special projects of coffee table books from the cities that had Scripps Howard newspapers. The newspaper industry was the dirtiest printing job I have witnessed. Quality was almost non existent on the newspaper side due to needing to meet deadlines and get the paper onto the news stands. The commercial work was challenging however and I liked it very much. What we didn’t like was Indiana. Too flat, too hot, too windy, too boring. We needed mountains and streams. The dirty Ohio just didn’t do the trick.

My headhunter had perfect timing. We moved to Indiana saying we would only be there for a year and after three the call came for a job in Strasburg, Virginia at Judd’s Incorporated, a magazine printer. So 10 years after the first printing job we moved to Virginia, Herb’s home state. We had a river named Shenandoah, plenty of mountains and  DC  an hour away for any cultural needs that weren’t available in the Shenandoah Valley. I had a family to care for and printing was our bread and butter giving me plenty of overtime and challenges to satisfy my creative side through my work and pay me well enough to have a comfortable life.

scanners and light booth in the background

at RRD with Scanners and light booth in background

So now 16 years later,  printing has fallen from being something I have a true passion for to a thorn in my side. The internet is taking the industry in a totally new direction. Advertisers are going to the web and in the magazine industry it is the advertising that is paying for the book to get printed. Less ads means less pages and magazine companies folding. My job has changed so many times in the past 20 plus years that it just isn’t fun anymore. And, I felt that my sales force was taking food from my table by selling my job to customers as a way for the customer to save money. If the customer could do their own color work  or page assembly then they would save money and our company could keep the printing part of the work. I became the sacrificial lamb.

Happy at my mac at RRD

And yesterday I got the speech. “With the economy where it is and our company needing to make reductions, we have eliminated your position”… I smiled. I have been expecting it for some time and am glad that I can finally get off this roller coaster and concentrate on my creativity.

My boys are grown. Herb is happy as an elementary school librarian. I have worked in printing for 20 plus years and can now take the time I need to focus on new passions. I’m not sure if there will be one in particular that I focus on but for now, I don’t have to watch the clock and that feels pretty good.