Thursday, January 31, 2008


Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, "Waterloo" by ABBA on iTunes. Only my force of will keeps all the balls I have in the air from smashing to bits on the ground... and I'm weakening. The germ-ridden little beast (otherwise known as my child) has infected me with the latest round of kindergarten yuck and I just want to go back to bed. But the mailing list awaits--as do choosing a packaging option for freight to Vegas (crate or pallet, crate or pallet?) and acquiring the choice, reviewing the studio profile the writer for Profitable Glass did on Siyeh Studio for the summer issue, writing my article for the summer issue of Profitable Glass, slumping a load that must ship tomorrow, website questions for Christian for tomorrow morning, and utzing people for money (what is it with people not aying Net 30 IN 30 DAYS?). Grumble, grumble, grumble, sniffle, grumble.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Over the Hump Or Just Over the Hill?

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, "Choctaw Bingo" by James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards on iTunes (from Live in Aught-Three). Yeah. "Too mean to die... great big ole party... still makes whiskey 'cause he still knows how... caught a great big ole blue cat on a driftin' jugline... cooks that crystal meth because the shine don't sell, you know he likes that money, he don't mind the smell..." I alsmost wish I were going to SXSW in March (Dave's annual solo vacation), and I don't even *like* live music. But for James McMurty, I would make an exception (and I don't even know of he's playing for the festival--he lives in Austin and for the five years that I lived there I didn't see him once!--my fault not his, he plays a lot).

Back to glass. Got another nibble yesterday for 400 pieces. Spurred me to create a how-long-does-it-take-to-make-X-of-these chart. You know, I can make 300 sushi pates in two weeks, without even pushing it? And when Bettina arrives I'll be able to do it in one. Whoa.

Also got all the weights of all the pieces into a spreadsheet (hate NPR, love Excel--what's the world coming to!) and used it to validate my pricing model. What do you know, it worked! It worked in a backwards kind of way, but at least I'm not giving the work away. Unfortunately, it did change the costing slightly on my product inventory so I'm going to have to adjust those numbers in QuickBooks (will the QB ever be done?).

Some of the balls I'm juggling are dropping perilously close to the ground and I need to finish them up--the mailing list must get done *today*, the website must get at least the old content moved to the new site and the new site activated by Monday with a plan for new data propagation in place. Yesterday the website piece sounded easy. After an hour of piddling with it this morning, I've hit a roadblock and am frustrated by it. Time to put it down for awhile and put glass in the kiln.

My first FedEx shipments go out Friday... here's hoping that relationship works.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Balls (In the Air)

Coffee was a frufti mocha in a paper cup (they should have used a mug as it was not a to-go order), and the music is some sort of Clash meets Hungarian Gypsies doing a Czardas (known to many Americans as Kazatskys where the dancer squats down, crosses his arms across his chest and kicks his legs out one at a time while wearing a big fur hat, a red jacket and a walrus mustache) on cd. (Actually it's "Tribal Connection" by Gogol Bordello). Live from Kavarna, Gogol Bordello on cd... I think I preferred NPR. I hate NPR.

I am posting late as I finally tore myself away from the FASCINATING website creation work I have been immersed in since yesterday afternoon. The current bit entails renaming all the pictures I have of my work with obscure but meaningful names so I can upload them and know what the heck they are in the folder without opening them. E.g., TrMRo2DNo.jpg is a picture of a Morceaux de Verre "Trout" medium round art panel in a "Nouveau" stand (shown above). It's both more and less complicated than it sounds, and thought the renaming task is a bit dull, the rest of my interactions with the Joomla content management system have been decidedly spicy!

It is turning into a week of juggling (how many balls can I keep in the air?). Yesterday at 4:30 I got a call from the corporate gift company that ordered 114 long rectangular platters for their client last month. The platters all arrived unscathed, on time and stunningly gorgeous--the client was thrilled. The client was so thrilled that she managed to come up with extra budget for the other event they had talked to me about and wanted to know if I could do 430 of anything by February 8... twelve days hence. I said I'd call her back in 15 minutes. After much measuring, head scratching and frantic calculating I determined that there was no way, no how I could do 430 of ANYTHING in twelve days. I regretfully called back and declined. And oh how it hurt! An order that size is a serious chunk of change and I did the 114 without even breaking a sweat (or getting bored--how many things can you really say you can do 114 of without getting bored?). But there are only so many pieces that will fit into the kiln, only so many firings I can do a day, only so much frit and glass I have on hand and the sum total of all of it is not enough.

Out of the ashes of my decline rose the phoenix of Bettina, the new kiln, however. I called up Denver Glass, spoke to Holly, and hammered out the specs. I am getting the same interior width and length of Bertha, my current kiln, (72 X 36) but I am getting her 12" deep instead of 9", and I am getting 4" of fiber blanket on the sides instead of 3". In addition, I am getting extra reinforcement around the sides and lid to protect against warping and a Bartlett controller instead of a TSC. The extra fiber blanket and reinforcement are so I can do melts and casting (longer, higher-temp firings) in her. The Bartlett controller is necessary so I can delay the start time of the firing--I won't be able to fire both Bertha and Bettina at the same time as Bettina is going to need a dedicated 100 circuit all on her own. So I'll load them both, program them both, and have Bettina actually start when Bertha is done. The Bartlett will also tell me exactly how many kilowatts I used in the firing--a neat perk for figuring costs. It'll be 10 weeks till she gets here, but it'll be worth the wait. I love Denver Glass Machinery.

Dee came down and helped in the studio for the day yesterday. While I puttered with Joomla and RocketTheme templates for it, she weighed all my pieces for the shipping weights chart, and inventoried all the 5-lb frit jars. When the call came in about the 430 pieces she did the math with me and then commiserated with me. So other organizational tasks are getting done--even if not by me. Though I, personally, am almost finished with the annual finances! All that remain are the material and product inventory numbers and the entry of everything bought from the personal accounts that needs to be listed in the business.

This afternoon I am doing a little promotional material work--no brochure, catalog--on cd on-line or printed, or printed price list for me this year. I am trying to go with a web key drive--like a little USB flash drive--printed with my logo on it. If I can get it done, when it's put into the USB slot of a computer it will immediately launch a web browser and go to a welcome page for galleries on my website. On that page will be a printable price list, a photo catalog, a terms sheet, an order form--everything a gallery owner needs to know to place an order. Slick, huh?*

Though I am enthralled by the new technology options, I am not neglecting the tried and true advertising methods, and this evening I'm going to finish up getting the mailing list details assembled for Stacy so she can put them all together and I can get my postcards out this week. And then there are the orders I still need to fire and ship--or sign and ship (in the case of books), and a class list to put together (still), and a swap piece to fire, and a self-portrait to work on, and an article to write... Never a dull moment (hope those balls in the air bounce when they hit!).

*The USB flash drives are too expensive to hand out to everyone who wants a little info, and the web keys--while not as pricey--only work with Windows and I just can't get behind that. Guess it's going to be the old folder and price list option for one more year... *sigh*

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Looking Like Spring

Coffee in the Alaska skyline mug, "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers on iTunes. Another week begins after a promise-of-spring weekend here in the south. The rest of the country, well the northern parts at least, are going to have wait weeks and weeks before they get lured by spring. It begins here in January.

The teasing promise of spring continues on this week with temperatures in the 60's and sunshine. Thoughts of taking the week off for mental health reasons are forgotten in the rush of endorphins brought on by warmth and sunlight. Instead, it will be a productive--one might even say prolific--week, I can feel it in my bones. And as it's Monday, it's a good day to organize the calendar for the week.

Monday, Dee comes down for the day and we are going to move, move, move glass. I'll also do a couple of kiln loads, set-up the new shipping scales, plan the work for the BMAC, and ship a book order. Something else I thought of last week that I really should have thought of before is making a weight chart for my work. Shipping has always been a hassle because I have had to get everything boxed up and weighed before I could enter the shipping info into UPS (now FedEx). But if I know the pieces that go in a shipment, and I know the weights of each piece, I can estimate the weight within a couple of pounds and schedule the shipment for pick-up before it's boxed. Weighing all the pieces and creating the chart will be a great project for Stacy. Another Stacy project is to whip my gallery mailing list back into shape before, uh Wednesday. Better get moving on that--postcards to go out and all.

And now Dee is here so I have to run. More on the creation of a good mailing list tomorrow!

Friday, January 25, 2008

UPS Holds My Package Hostage!

Coffee in the Los Angeles skyline mug, "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan on iTunes (it ought to be tangled up in brown). Back to our regularly scheduled format. Yesterday as I was at Kavarna coffee blogging my open letter to UPS, my package was still languishing on the front porch after the previous evening's non-pick up fiasco. After I finished my letter/post, I opened a FedEx account on-line and entered my package info preparatory to printing out the FedEx label and shipping it out when I got back to the studio. Then I went back to entering and reconciling last year's business data.

When I got back to the studio the package was gone! There were two delivered in its place so I knew who had taken it, but I hadn't wanted THEM to take it anymore. By 10:00 pm last night the tracking info still hadn't been updated so I was sure that the physical package had gone the way of Amelia Earhart, the pick-up request, and the original system tracking info. But apparently I am to be lucky this morning and the package has resurfaced and is on its way to Chicago. Just let them try to charge me for the pick-up... "Psycho Killer" by The Talking Heads comes on iTunes. My laptop and I, we are in sync today.

And the finances drag on and on and on. I discovered the mileage tracking tool in Quickbooks yesterday and it gave me joy (I am easily amused). Will today be the day I finally beat the paper into submission? The battle rages on with no end in sight. I am wounded, but still determinedly undaunted. I am serenaded on my way by Lowen and Navarro's "Broken Moon". Ciao till Monday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Good-bye UPS

Re UPS tracking number 1ZR516F40390285569

Dear UPS,

Today I switch to FedEx. You seem to have made a lot of changes in how you do business for the new year, and for your customers they are uniformly for the worse--1) Your new web software is buggy, 2) I no longer have a regular driver--the drivers and their level of competence vary from day to day, and 3) your customer support system is configured to provide anything BUT support.

In the four years you have been my exclusive shipper, I have put up with watching my boxes of glass bounce off an overloaded dolly wheeled by an overzealous and inexperienced driver (really), I have philosophically accepted the continual rise in your prices aligned with a commensurate decline in your services--always polite, rarely helpful, increasingly slipshod and haphazard. But today I finally reached my limit. The 30 minutes I spent this morning (on top of the hour fifteen last night) *not* getting a problem resolved by customer support or a supervisor was the last straw, I am the camel.

You redid your website for the new year along with raising your prices. It takes me a little longer to process my shipments, but it's prettier (maybe the increased prettiness is supposed to offset the decreased usability? Not a good idea, but not my call...). Yesterday at the end of a very busy day in the glass studio I entered a shipment into the system and scheduled a pick-up pick for no later than 6:30 pm. Based on the lack of reliable pick-up service I received for my shipments over the holidays, I checked at 8:45 pm to make sure it had been picked up. It hadn't. I looked on my UPS page to make sure it had been entered correctly. It had.

I called Customer Service. I *hate* calling UPS customer service. The voice response system (VRS) is one of the worst I have dealt with (only Delta's comes close)--the options never match what I need to call about, and I am not allowed to get to an operator until 4-5 tries by the robot voice. By that time I am so enervated, aggravated and stressed that it's hard not to snarl at the customer support rep. (Note: Ask your reps how many callers are cranky when they get to them, and if the number is high, re-think your phone tree options.)

The ever-polite support rep can't find my pick-up request in the system. Nor can she find my tracking number. We ditz around for several minutes while she verifies that they have *nothing*. She says I need to speak to web customer support, gives me the number and transfers me. She transfers me on the dot of 9:00 pm and I get an answering message saying the hours are 7:30 am to 9:00 pm EST. If I have a shipping emergency I am directed to press one of the buttons (who remembers this level of detail the next day?) and enter my call-back number. I do. Then I'm told someone will call me back within the next hour. I wait. They don't.

This morning I called customer service again and I am already wound up before I ever get the annoying VRS. I try to state my problem as briefly as I can as I really don't want to waste a lot more time getting this one package picked up and to the Art Institute in Chicago by tomorrow. Bottom line: The support rep can't find the tracking number or the pick-up request in her system. She tells me I need to speak to technical support. I say don't want to speak to technical support to spend more time helping UPS fix their technical problems--which are, by the way, NOT MY PROBLEM. My problem is that I want my package in Chicago by tomorrow. Why their new system failed is NOT something I wish to spend my business day helping them figure out. Please just enter the shipment again, get it picked up, and pay the difference as it will have to go next day air now instead of ground. Figure out on your own time what happened with my shipment. She can't do that (the whole just-enter-the-shipment-and-make-the-customer-happy thing).

I ask her if she can just look in a regular browser window to see the package--I would happily give her my login and password and she could see exactly what I see in all its hyper-linked glory. She says no, only technical support can do that. I repeat that I wasted an hour last night waiting for them to call me back and they never did, and I am not willing to give them any more time for, again, THEIR PROBLEM. After a bit more going around, I ask for a supervisor. The supervisor cannot see the tracking number in the system either (surprise, surprise!). She also cannot find a record of my call-back request from last night... I hear the disbelief and boredom in her voice. The front-line support staff may have to be excruciatingly perky and polite, but the supervisors are above that. Fine, whatever. I am not going to argue with her about yet another failure in their system.

I move on. I lay out in plain and simple English what I expect UPS to do to resolve this issue. I expect them to create a new shipment request, get my package picked up and off to Chicago for arrival tomorrow. She says she'll have to put a call in to the local distribution center and someone from there will have to call me back within an hour to discuss how they can help me. I explain to her that a customer support model where the customer cannot even get to someone who can resolve her problem is not customer support at all. Having to wait for someone from the local distribution center to call back--not to be able to be transferred there or given the number to call myself--is ludicrous and I am not doing it again (refer back to the pick-up nightmares in December). I am not sitting around waiting for another hour for someone to call me to fix what is obviously a bug in their software. I set the phone firmly back in its cradle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, "Get the Party Started" by Pink on iTunes. Today I tackle the last of the accounting. I am going to beat it into the ground with sticks, burn its twitching corpse, and spit on its smoldering ashes, yes I am. And I'm going to give those pet insurance people hell for their handling of Jester's claim. Today I am Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan hill. I am Harry "Give 'Em Hell" Truman. I am Amelia Earhart setting off around the world... I hope I have better luck on that last one--I'd like to be home in time for dinner.

Beyond that, there isn't much to say and the Mamas and the Papas have pretty much got it covered on iTunes: "All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, I been for a walk on a winter's day. If I didn't tell him, I could leave today. California dreamin' on such a winter's day." It's blah. There's work, but most of it is boring. The only fun things I have going are the "Let Me Call You Sweetheart Exchange" for the glassartpics group, and the self portrait with Carol Carson and some other Warm Glass people--and I don't even get to *think* about them till the accounting, curse its black soul, is done. I should've taken the week off. *sigh*

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Vacation and the Sole Proprietor

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, I would be listening to music but for some inexplicable reason iTunes feels the need to update my library for me... Ah, there we go, "Just Can't Wait" by the J. Geils Band on iTunes. As many of you probably laid odds, I am not taking vacation this week. I already lost yesterday to bookkeeping (I sorted the papers in the breakfast room into files--or put them in a pile in the office) and I still haven't even started entering data into Quickbooks. Today the sales tax report is due and to complete it I need my total sales numbers for the year. Oh boy, you can see where this is going, can't you?

Today is lost to the paper shuffle (and shipping). The order for exhibition services from Hargrove for the Buyer's Market is due Thursday--and and I don't *have* to wait till the last minute to do it, and my postcard will be ready at the printer today--need to update my gallery mailing list and get it out (there's another good project for Stacy--updating the mailing list).

But all is not lost! There is next week to pine for! If I get all my work done for the BMAC this week, get the outstanding orders done and shipped a little early, there is really no reason I can't take next week off... Or I'll just wait till the end of February when we go visit Bill and Bridget in California and Do Sonoma/Napa with them and a bunch of other friends. A couple of years ago we all went to the Paso Robles area and this year we're trying the experience again (though in Sonoma as they won't allow us back in Paso Robles... just kidding).

All levity aside, it is almost impossible to take vacation as a sole proprietor. When I do go away, I still check my email and voicemail every day for orders, inquiries, etc. If I have an assistant, I check in with her to make sure she's still on track. If it's a vacation where I am still here and I get a rush order, I will fire or ship or whatever a gallery needs. I know this is more about my mindset than the ways things have to be, but I believe a business's success is rooted in its customer service. In this very connected Internet age we expect immediate response and service and if we want to succeed, we give it too.

I have procrastinated long enough: Time to Quickbook.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Honor of Martin Luther King

No coffee yet--it's a crime--the sound of the coffee maker gurgling in the background as my pacificatory music. You have to love the folks at Intuit--at least you do if you're an Intuit stockholder. I am not an Intuit stockholder, nor am I in-tu-it, nor do I find anything intuiitive about their products. And sometimes--take yesterday, for example--they are downright annoying!

It's time to file my annual sales tax reports for Georgia and Illinois. It's not almost time, or they're coming up soon, or anything less dire. No. It's time. They are due the 20th of the month following the end of the reporting period (2007) or the first day that's not a postal holiday, if the 20th falls on a postal holiday. We have many things for which to be grateful to Martin Luther King. I, quite unfacetiously, am grateful to him today for one more day to get my accounting done.

Yesterday I discovered that I had never installed Quickbooks on the laptop. Kind of hard to do your accounting these days with no accounting software. I dutifully found the cd, dusted it off and went to install. During the marvelous installation process I am given no options for which components I wish to install. (Oh and by the way, I am installing Quickbooks 2005 for Windows on the Parallels Windows installation on my Mac. I am forced, due to the reported bugginess of Quickbooks for Mac, to use my old Quickbooks for Windows. I hate Windows.)

Usually if a software application has other third-party pieces bundled with it, it gives you the chance of installing, say, Internet Explorer 5, or Flash Player 7, or whatever. Not Quickbooks 2005. It tells you it's installing them, then it fails to install Flash Player 7 and quits. I dutifully try to manually install Flash Player 7 to get QB past its hump, but it's no longer available--support has been discontinued by Adobe (another favorite company...) and you have to install FP 9. No biggie, I think, QB just needs to see an instance of FP to continue the install... Let's ALL roll on the floor and laugh now.

Fortunately the Internet is a mysterious and powerful device whose mystery is only exceeded by its power and I find a posting on some troubleshooting forum that points me to an old support article at Intuit, which in turn points me to a file on my cd that will install just the QB application and not all the other nonsense. I'm saved! Not so fast...

Sadly there was one more piece of windows software necessary to complete the QB install--the .Net framework. I went to install it manually (from a download on the Microsoft site) and find out I need to download and install the Microsoft installer application in order to install the .Net framework, in order to install QB 2005. Gusty sigh. Oh hey, did I mention that in order to download the free installer application from Microsoft you have to first download an application from them that will check to make sure you're running an authentic copy of Windows. If you're not, nyah, nyah nuh boo boo. So I download and install the authentication software. I'm genuine (whew!). I download and install the installer app. I download and install the .Net framework. I FINALLY install QB 2005 and restore my data file to it. Then exhausted, I go drink heavily. (Actually I go eat steak and golden potatoes prepared by my wonderful spouse and drink Turley wine.)

Today I will finally enter all the data form 2007 into Quickbooks so I can file and pay my annual sales tax. (She swallowed the cow to catch the dog, she swallowed the dog to catch the cat, she swallowed the cat to catch the bird, she swallowed the bird to catch the spider, she swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don't know why she swallowed the fly, perhaps she'll die.)

Thank you Martin Luther King.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Golf Balls and Pebbles, Sand and Wine

Coffee in the Los Angeles mug, but it's a cold cup left there from several hours ago. As it happens to still be sitting next to me, I list it. the sound of little girls having a playdate is my music. It's Sunday, but if I want to take off next week, I have to work today. As I scurry around trying to get everything done so I have nothing that must be done next week, I stumble across this post from mid-summer Stranded in the South (don't ask, it's too convoluted):

"As I scurried to ready myself for the BMAC in Philadelphia, I took a break to have lunch and catch up on my email. In my Inbox was the following from my mother:

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine...

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first , " he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. Do one more run down the ski slope. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand." One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Fuse Day

Coffee in the New York mug, "Cold As Ice" by Foreigner on iTunes (segueing into "Waterloo" by ABBA, ooh baby, it's an old trash music morning!), and it's not even cold here anymore... no, scratch that, it's supposed to be only 41 degrees right now which *does* qualify for cold in Georgia, the peach state. My Montana genes must have kicked in (or my cosy sweater has), because I'm toasty!

The big order is out on the studio porch for shipping, the supplies list is done and off to the publisher (and they have already put up their beautiful new website which lists my book prominently), and I finally allowed myself to open a box from Larry at Colour De Verre (I traded him a couple of signed copies of my book for a couple of molds). I had been holding off opening it until I got the big commitments off the to-do list because I knew all I'd want to do when I saw the molds would be to play with them. And I was right. I am dying to make the blossoms today! (The dragonfly paperweight project in the book was made with a Colour de Verre mold.) Sadly I have to be in the house waiting for the dishwasher repairman this afternoon. I'll be updating Quickbooks and doing other bookkeeping tasks to finish my week.

Will I get the week off next week? It still remains to be seen. If I get all of my necessary work done and orders shipped, I'll take it. If not, I'll get a massage and a pedicure and be happy with them. Now I have an hour and a half to get today's big fuse load in (custom windows, dinnerware, the Enjoy bowl, and an order for the Art Institute--full, full, full).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Postcard Time

No coffee, no music, what's the world coming to? Actually it's too late for coffee (there was some earlier and I am a before-noon coffee drinker--I like tea in the afternoon) and I just don't feel like music. If'n I did feel like music it would be "Racing To The Red Light" by James McMurtry. That's the kind of day (life?) I'm having.

The postcard for the year is done! Like it? If you don't, it's too late to do anything about it, I dropped it at the printer 10 minutes ago. Printing. Printing is an issue for everyone in the arts and crafts field. Many people I know choose to go with Modern Postcard, or Image Media, or some other on-line, gang run printing company. (Note: "gang run" in printing does not mean run by a gang. Instead, "gang run printing describes a printing method in which multiple printing projects are placed on a common printing sheet in an effort to reduce printing costs and paper waste. ")

I am usually all about on-line servicing, but I have tried both of the previously-named companies in the past and not had good results. Yes, the pricing is attractive, but it is balanced by a lack of individual attention which for me in the past has meant that I end up getting something I am not happy with. I could pay more with the on-line company for a higher level of service, but I'd still end up with a faceless person over the phone (at best). Or I could pay more and deal face-to-face in person with someone in a local company who is looking at a proof of my card with me and addressing my concerns *personally*.

Now that the card is done it's time to move on to the suppliers list (to the publisher *today*, absolutely, positively, no more delays!!!) and the class list. I have three places interested in having me teach classes for them, time to get something to teach put together. Oh yes, and firing, and labeling the boxes for tomorrow's big shipment, and gymnastics, and ballet. Oy. It must be Thursday.

PS--It SNOWED here yesterday!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Humping Along For Hump Day

Coffee in a blue flowered ceramic mug, NPR on the radio. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Nope. Today begins with a Kavarna morning (and all the goes with it--which today apparently includes NPR, slow Internet, and a stale chocolate croissant... *sigh*). Stacy (the Assistant) likes NPR. While I share the politics, I just never got into the whole public broadcasting thing. Give me some trash satellite radio any day. I just don't feel like having my awareness elevated at 9:03 am!!

Yesterday's work ended at 11:30 pm with one last (re)slump load in Middle Ground. I do seder sets for the Jewish Museum of New York once a year (not surprisingly, a few months before Passover) and from year to year I forget the issues with them.

This year I made the small plates a little too big, and I didn't get the first set slumped enough so I had to reslump them. I made the molds for them out of a piece of ceramic fiber board and they have a sharp drop from the rim to the bottom of the plate that takes both significantly longer and a higher temp than a regular slump does. Usually I slump at 1265 degrees for 15 minutes. To get these right, I do 1275 degrees for 45 minutes--and the cold spot in the front right of Middle Ground still keeps that spot from slumping as fully and I have to turn the piece and give it another jolt (after cooling it from the first slump, of course). So this year a bit of grinding followed by fire polishing, and a bit of reslumping and all of a sudden I am late to ship them. *Sigh*. They'll go out today.

The big order will go out Friday (whoo hoo, Christmas is saved, shoes for everyone!) as will all the other current small orders. I am still on track for taking next week off--if I can get my postcard designed today, my supplies list to the publisher, my Quickbooks data entered from last February on, and a couple of class offerings to Ed Hoy's today. It sounds impossible, but I look at what I managed to accomplish yesterday and I have hope.

The word on the new website is Joomla. There will be more words soon (a template has been picked and acquired).

In addition to getting articles reviewed and ad copy in yesterday, I also applied to the Decatur Arts Festival. I had been diminishing my presence in the local art fair scene in the last couple of years, but I think I need to change my stance on those shows now that I have a big above-ground (windows make an incredible difference!) studio. After much mulling I think it would be a good idea to replace the One of a Kind Show in December with a four-day Studio Open House/Holiday Sale with some of my local artist/friends in the new studio in November. But my local retail mailing list is way out of date. To beef it up I need to do a few shows around the area during the year leading up to the show.

Looking at what there is, it's too late to apply to the Dogwood Festival (and breakdown for that one is so hellish anyway). I need to figure out if I want to apply for the Marietta Art in the Park again. It was a good little show a couple of years ago and I had decent sales (and a good mailing list return). January, the month of the eyes-are-bigger-than-the-stomach syndrome (or in this case, the ambitions are greater than the energy). Time to throttle it back and get on to postcard design.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Life Cycles

Coffee in the Los Angeles skyline mug, dog sneezes for music. Do you ever wake up and just know that today is going to be the day that you get everything done? I woke this morning at 6:30 and I just knew that I'd get the ad for the Glass Expo brochure in today, and I'd get my application for the Decatur Arts Festival in, I'd sign all the rest of the big order pieces so Stacy could box and ship them, I'd sign and ship all the book orders, I'd fuse a big window commission (or slump a big AI order--one or the other), and I 'd finally format and send the supplies list to the publisher. I would--will--do all that. And I'll raise hell with the pet insurance company for the way they handled Jester's claim, and I'll pick Jessie up from school at 1:00, and I'll wrangle the alarm company technician (again)... Was I dreaming? Did I become a superhero in my sleep? We'll see.

I am finding that everything has a life cycle. It may not be the life cycle you expect going into whatever it is, but it has--independent of you and your expectations--a life cycle. When whatever it is is done you can look back and just know that however long it took was its actual life cycle. For example, you get an assignment on Friday and it's due the next Thursday so you think it has a one week life cycle, but you don't actually get it done till the following Tuesday so its real life cycle is 12 days.

Clearly, the problems I am having with tasks, schedules, juggling, etc., can all be laid at the door of incorrect life cycle assessment. And today I just feel the end of the life cycles of many things has arrived. How does it all work out? I don't know. It's a mystery. Now off to design, apply, sign, organize, wrangle and ship. Oh yeah, and fire too. This is a glass studio, after all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Morning Does NOT Look Fine

Coffee in the Chicago skyline mug, "We Got The Beat" by the Go-Go's on iTunes. I got the beat alright, I finally got my iTunes libraries synced between the desktop and the laptop and I cleaned off over 10 gigs of space on the laptop as a result. I should just move all my music off the laptop and carry my iPod with me everywhere (plugging it into the laptop in the morning while I post). The problem for me is that I just hate to have things dangling off my laptop--be they external drives, iPods, whatever. I want a bigger hard drive. THAT would make me happy. Now I have room to install the Adobe C3 Studio software for the latest Dreamweaver, Flash, PhotoShop, Illustrator, etc. Of course it still remains to be seen whether I need all those applications now that I am going to a kinder, gentler content-management based web site.

Now for glass. It's a big week in the studio this week as I gear up for the BMAC with its concomitant annual advertising requirements (postcard design, ugh), and get all the current orders finished up and shipped out. Oh yes, and copies of the book! My publisher sent me some complimentary copies of the book that I had earmarked to send my family at Christmas. Have I mailed them? Of course not! Since I haven't written my Christmas cards yet, it's not too surprising I haven't mailed off the books either. Today, today (at least for book mailing). (Maybe I'll send Valentine cards this year instead of Christmas cards.)

Also today is a conference call (via Skype) with Christian the website guru. The current plan is to have at least the rudiments of the new Siyeh Studio content management system up before the BMAC... Four weeks from today I leave for the BMAC. So much to do, so little time. Off to dress and brush the fur off the teeth in prep for the day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Zen of Blogging

No coffee (it's only 6:00 AM on Saturday and I have hopes to get back to sleep after posting), the sound of the Spaniel chewing a rawhide bone for music. I press my palms together and bow to the four corners of the world. Rituals provide the foundation of our daily lives. They ground, center, and calm us as we forge our way through the chaos surrounding us everyday. Change is anti-ritual. In general, we humans don't like change. The act of writing this blog every morning is my primary daily ritual. When I don't do it, I get anxious--of course lots of things make me anxious so this state is neither unknown nor unexpected in any given day. Take yesterday for example: I didn't have time to blog because I had my assistant here most of the day and I was on the phone for three straight hours being interviewed for a studio profile in the summer issue of Profitable Glass. I missed blogging--not like I missed a bus, but like there was a big, gaping hole in my day. I woke at O Dark Thirty this morning and lay anxious and squirrel-caging until I finally decided to get up and center myself with a post. Blogging, my version of yoga.

It is the beginning of January, almost the middle of January actually, and there are a million pesky little things to do in the studio. I find myself picking one up for 10-15 minutes then being distracted by another which I then pick up, discarding the first still unfinished. I am not at my efficient best right now. I blame not taking time off in December like I promised myself I would do. Now myself is sullen and rebelling, but I think I have found the answer: I am going to try to take off the week of January 25. Whoa, radical. Time off two weeks before the BMAC. My work time is measured right now in countdowns to the Buyer's Market (the emails the Rosen Group sends out every week to prepare us for the show), how can I even *think* of taking time off? Simple: If I don't take time off to recharge, the results could be catastrophic. I harken back to my experience at the BMAC last year starting with the first day out, the drive there, day 1, day 3 and the final review. If I had had more emotional, physical, spiritual margin, I would have been better equipped to deal with the inevitable adversities of doing an extremely large show show in the wintry north.

Yesterday Stacy and I did an inventory of all my finished work and I may have enough left from the One of a Kind Show in December that I only have a few pieces to make for the BMAC. Huzzah! I do want to try out some new colorways incorporating opal glass, but there are few enough of them that I can squeeze them in with my current pre-show orders and commissions.

And now back to sleep for an hour or two before a full day in the studio. Got to work today if I want to take time off in a week... (does that even make sense?!?)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Still Alive

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug (fitting as I have had a software-full couple of days and Austin is also known as Silicon Hills), the credits song from the XBox game 'Portal' on iTunes. Yep, that's right, on *iTunes*. One of my recent little software acquisitions is a shareware program called Tubesock that takes any YouTube video and translates it into either an MP4 movie or MP3 audio for the iPod. I can now watch the cowboys skate whenever I want,

and I can listen to this greatest-of-all videogame songs *whenever I want*. Yeah, the sound quality could be better, but the tech is just so cool! (If you click on the play button below, wait a few seconds--the beginning of the video is silent).

Why is a glass artist nattering on about computer software? It's time for the annual laptop purge. I have 33 gigs of music on the laptop and a not-much-smaller amount of pictures. It's full. I need to move everything over to the main desktop and back it all up. But that means organizing it all uniformly so I can tell if I need to move it or not. So as I was looking for tools to streamline the process (new stuff comes out every year, some year I'll be lucky and what I really need will be available) I stumbled on a couple of very cool Mac widgets. The first, Audiobook Builder, takes audiobooks from either files, iTunes, or cd's and converts them to a much smaller, audiobook file for iTunes that has bookmarks (so you can listen for awhile, go listen to something else and come back to the same place in the book--trust me, this is a necessary when you listen to books on your iPod). The last is MultiTunes which is supposed to let me switch between all my iTunes libraries from within iTunes... I haven't made it work yet. We'll see (I'll pay for it if I can make it work--I downloaded SyncOTunes yesterday and it didn't do what I needed it to do so I deleted it and did not pay--I love try-before-you-buy shareware!).

Now for the glass artist/business news. Besides putzing around with software videos, music, etc., Stacy and I wrangled the storage and shipping options to the ground and hog-tied them. Self-storage is not a viable option. Between the lack of drive-up and 24-hour access at many of them, the cost of renting the panel van to move the stored items to them, and the cost of the units themselves, they are not a good solution for the professional arts/crafts business. A far better--though still expensive--option is All American Convention Services. They do not have a website (so I never would have found them on my own), but Champion, the exposition services company for the American Craft Retailers Expo, gave me their name and phone number.

When all is said and done it's going to cost me about $700 per year to store my booth and materials there (the parts of it I can leave there--I still need to figure out what to do about my pedestals and lights--I can't afford multiple sets). That sounds like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the cost of shipping to and from--shipping which also has the possibilities of loss, breakage and arrival delays. Making a living as an artist/craftsperson gets more expensive as you move into the bigger venues. The more big shows you do the more you spend on booth fees and services, shipping and marketing. And to succeed, you had better be sure your pricing covers it all.

Better quit messing around with fun software and get to my Quickbooks. It's time to find out if all the expenses I incurred last year were balanced by revenue. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

500 Fishes

Coffee in the Montreal skyline mug, "Cloudy This Morning" by George Winston on iTunes. Yep, back to the melancholy music. It is January after all, and I can't keep having upbeat posts that scare Bill. I think I'm mentally a couple of weeks behind of where the calendar is--probably because I fired daily all the way through Christmas and New Year's. Right now I feel reflective, nostalgic, wistful, content, slow and at peace--all at the same time. It was 54 degrees F this morning when I took Jessie to school. The morning is grey-blue and moist (it rained last night--again... what's this drought thing I keep hearing about?), and the squirrels are all busy chewing through our front porch screens (to get to the pond for water), and rooting around in my flower pots for tender shoots or forgotten nuts (crash! crash!). Winter in the south. Forsythia and some camellias in bloom. Taking J through the heavily tree-lined streets to the forested campus of the Waldorf School I can almost pretend I'm in Montana... except for the lack of snow and cold.

But this is not the time of year to to be contemplative! This is the time for forceful action and confident planning. It is time to forge into the marketing stream and grab all those fat gallery fish in my bare hands.... *sigh* I sit and diddle my feet in the water and ponder the colors of the scales of the fish swimming past. Maybe new tech will perk me up. I got a 7-port hub yesterday so I can hook up my scanner and back-up drives again. I have slides from Bart of recent work still unscanned, and I have all the images of my work to organize on a big drive (and back-up) preparatory to creating the new website and digital catalog. Ah, now that's better! Concrete, unachievable planning always makes me feel good.

Did you ever read Martha Stewart Living? The front of each issue had Martha's calendar of everything she had going for that month on the day it was scheduled (and all tasks were only allocated one day--HOW DID SHE DO THAT?!?): winterize the ponds, clean the rust off the metal garden furniture and repaint, stake the roses, fertilize the orchids, prune the fruit trees, disembowel the hedgehogs... I feel a bit like that right now--not the hedgehog-disemboweling part. I feel like I need to create a calendar of annual tasks and then I need to weave all the one-offs into it. Every year I need to create new marketing materials and revisit pricing in January--before the BMAC in February. I need to factor in the cost increases from my suppliers and shippers and my own inflationary needs. I also need to review the state of my materials inventory and tools and order new pieces as appropriate--I already know I need new diamond hand pads and lap wheels.

This year for one-off tasks I need to finish painting, moving and setting up the studio. Still ahead are acquiring the new big kiln, a shed, and a water recycling system for the lap grinder--and putting together a financial plan to pay for all of them. Time to get my feet out of the water and start grabbing fish or it's never going to happen. Two fish (orders) came in yesterday. I am going to turn them into 5000--or maybe 500.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What Makes a Successful Show?

Coffee in the Washington DC skyline mug (it's the New Hampshire primaries today, doncha know), the whoowoop of instant messages being sent and received on both Dave's laptop and mine, and the beep beep of the alarm system as it is being configured (going on seven hours now--but not continuous) for my music. Oh the check marks are flying onto the list as the tasks fly off!

So it's early January, must be time to put together a marketing strategy (including a postcard mailing) for the BMAC. Last week I got an email from the Rosen Group, Countdown to the Buyer's Market #5. They send out prep/pep emails once a week for the several weeks leading up to the show. Usually I skim them (Bad businessperson! Sit! Stay!), but this one I read and I was really impressed and motivated by the marketing suggestions contained in it. After several days of mulling it over I am still so impressed that I called them this morning and got permission to reprint the meat of the email in my post today.

Measuring Your Success at the Buyers Market

“How was your show?”
It’s a question you’ll be asked repeatedly… by fellow exhibitors, by visiting artists, by your exhibits manager, even friends and family. What will your answer be?

Setting goals & objectives
About six weeks before the show (now!), take some time to WRITE DOWN some specific goals and objectives for the show. They should be realistic and attainable. You should, of course, include your total sales goal, but think beyond the bottom line. Tradeshows are much more than an order-taking opportunity… they are a venue for developing and maintaining personal relationships with current and potential customers.

Some sample goals & objectives:

Collect contact information/business cards from 25 new buyers
Make personal contact with one member of the media
Bring 80% of last year’s buyers back to the booth
Add three new buyers from the west coast
Schedule social visits outside of show hours with two top buyers
Distribute 50 catalogs to qualified leads

Meeting your goals & objectives
You can’t just sit in your booth, keeping your fingers crossed that you’ll meet your show goals. After you put your goals on paper, write down at least one specific step you can take before or at the show to meet that goal:

Collect contact information/business cards from 25 new buyers
If you missed out on the show’s co-op mailing program, you can still reach new buyers. A little bit of internet research will provide you with the store names and addresses of retailers across the country. Give a handful of them a call, or send out your own postcards. Also, don’t discount networking opportunities at the show. Attend retailer breakfast seminars, the NICHE Awards and the show party and INTRODUCE YOURSELF to buyers. Exchange business cards. Not all business is conducted on the show floor.

Make personal contact with one member of the media
Send out pre-show press releases to targeted trade media (“Sue Smith Debuts New Ceramic Work at Buyers Market in February”). Put press kits in the Press Office in Room 304. Watch for black badges on the show floor and introduce yourself to members of the media.

Bring 80% of last year’s buyers back to the booth
Send a letter or handwritten invitation to last year’s buyers providing them with incentive to visit your booth (all returning buyers who write an order at February’s show will be entered into a drawing to win a free iPod). You should CALL all of your previous year’s buyers to see if they’d like to schedule an appointment in your booth.

Add three buyers from the west coast
Develop a special sales plan for specific buyers. When a buyer enters your booth, pay attention to the store location listed on their badge. If they are in your target area, engage them in conversation about your work and your hopes to increase your presence in their region. Offer a special incentive to them to write an order (free shipping, etc.).

Schedule social visits outside of show hours with two top buyers.
Call your top buyers next week. Invite one to dinner on Friday night, and one to breakfast before the show opens on Monday. Build your relationships. Find out what they need.

Distribute 50 catalogs to qualified leads
Don’t just hand out your sales materials like candy. Learn at least one qualifying piece of information about a buyer and get their business card before giving away any sales materials. Give catalogs only to buyers who you feel legitimately could turn into potential customers. Have postcards or other less expensive handouts available for buyers who may not be a good match for you.

Now, how was your show?
By setting specific and MEASURABLE goals, and taking action to meet those goals, you will be able to most effectively determine whether or not you had a good show. Remember, your show experience is about more than the number of orders you write on site; it’s a valuable opportunity to take steps that will help your business flourish over time.


Thanks, Christine, for a very well-written piece. Go marketers!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bob May Not Be Your Uncle

Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, "My Sweet Lord" covered by Nina Simone on iTunes (Happy HAPPY Mix!). Hallelujah, school has started again. Fired the second load of the day in Big Bertha last night at 10:30 pm which puts today's firing at no earlier than noon. That's cool--I have a full morning already. Right now there are only 16 platters to slump and the order for 114 long rectangular platters will be done with a couple to spare. Yea! (iTunes just put up "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind, and Fire--randomness feels poetically accurate this morning).

With some help from Dee last week I put the finishing touches on my suppliers list for the book. Today I am going to pass it off to my assistant (ooh I love that word) Stacy to type up and format for the publisher. As soon as I finish posting I am going to whip up an ad for the Glass Craft Expo spread...

And, before you could say "Bob's your uncle", the day took off and took me with it. I still don't have the ad for Glass Expo done, but many, many other good things were accomplished. True, not many of them were glass-oriented, but they quacked in the nature of all good ducks lining up in a row. I've often wondered what one's supposed to do with one's ducks once one gets them all in a row. Is it supposed to be easier to shoot them then, or am I just too much of a hunter's child?

I have the penultimate kiln load of rectangular platters ready to hop into Bertha when she is a little cooler, and I *have* sent the suppliers list to Stacy so she can format it. All in all, not a bad day's work. I still search for the cheapest, easiest way to get the Siyeh Studio/Elliott Metal Works boothes to the BMAC in Philadelphia in February and then on to ACRE in Las Vegas in May and then back to the summer BMAC in Philadelphia in August--whether cheapest and easiest equals shipping all the time or having two display set-ups and storing one on each coast has yet to be determined. Right now I haven't even been able to find out if the storage option exists--much less how much it costs. Better make some calls...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?

Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, "The Size of a Cow" by the Wonder Stuff (from Ren's Happy Happy Mix) on iTunes. I have become my grandmother. This morning after spraying ground coffee all over the counter and into one of the kitchen drawers, I vacuumed out the drawer (and vacuumed the counter and floor too). As I almost sucked up vacu-vin tops and other small round objects I thought of my mother telling me how her mother used to vacuum out her drawers and suck up her toys...

So the suppliers list for the book will be done and sent to the publisher today, as will ad copy for the Profitable Glass brochure for Glass Craft & Bead Expo in Vegas (done, and sent to a different publisher). I will also have completed my hotel reservations for Phillie and Vegas, and logistics queries for Phillie and Vegas for shipping and storage of displays and product. I have got to figure out if I am going to drive or fly this year to Vegas. I swore I wouldn't drive again, but I haven't figured out how to get my work out there otherwise yet. And now I have another incentive to drive--a one-piece shelf for Big Bertha (and her soon to be ordered sister Bettina). The shelf I need is 30" X 74" and weighs 144 lbs, and the distributor is in San Diego. Vegas, San Diego, Atlanta... "Hey honey, want to come to Vegas with me in April? We can make it a family vacation!"

Still hanging over my head is a class list and pricing for teaching in other studios. Who knew it would be so complicated? But figuring out a schedule that keeps the class going and doing things while there are thick pieces that have to cool in the kiln is really hard. And how much of the proceeds do I ask for? And finally, planning projects that they have kiln room for without having to ask how much kiln room they have (I am so behind in getting this list done that I really don't want to call them with anything less than a completed curriculum)... it's all overwhelming.

Today I also bug Christian about the new website. Time to get a project plan with a timeline done and deliverables assigned so I have something else to drag my feet on.

Now to close with something on the lighter side--another web book sighting. Are they trying to tell me something?? Guess everyone is trying to cash in on the Amazon affiliate business.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese, I Really Think So!

Heading off to make myself a White Montana (Kahlua, vodka and Bailey's--no cream), and listen to the music of the water as I fill the J's bath. Obviously it's waaay past morning coffee time. It was a day of glass incarnate, but I didn't have time to write about it. Suffice it to say I fused the last load of the long rectangular platters for the 114 piece order today--slumping continues on them tomorrow (59 are already completely done). I signed up to participate in a self-portrait in glass project with Cynthia Oliver, and I put the finishing touches on the suppliers list for the book! Last night as I was researching suppliers, I found many unexpected places carrying my book. I leave you with a screenshot of one.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The First Work Day of the New Year!

Coffee in the New Orleans skyline mug, the theme from Titanic on Muzak in my left ear--interspersed with "Your call is important to us, all customer care associates are busy assisting other customers. Please stay on the line and your will be answered in the order in which it was received"--oh wait, there's a beep from teh call waiting... And I managed to remain on hold, answer the incoming call from a gallery requesting a pick-up time, and get back to being on hold WITHOUT DROPPING THE FIRST CALL! That's a first--and it was an accident: I didn't push the button I usually pushed, the button that disconnects the first caller (you'd think I would have learned that somewhere in the first 87 times, but I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong).


A break from posting to do some actual working and now (several hours later) I am back to finish posting. Kiln loaded? Check. Orders shipped? Check. Deposit made? Check. Service people scheduled? Check. Miscellaneous *stuff* accomplished? Check, check, check!

Woke in the middle of the night with an anxiety attack about doing the suppliers list for the book. Vowed to do it first thing today in order to get back to sleep. 3:53 pm is not exactly first thing, and I'm still not working on it, but at least the anxiety has passed. Now to get back to it!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Coffee is brewing, the sound of it is my music this morning. As soon as it is ready, I will head off to the studio to fuse a big load, slump a small load and pack up two books to ship tomorrow. Happy New Year!

As usual, I am too in-the-thick-of-it to stop and reflect on where I've been over the past (five) year(s) and to muse on where I would like to go and where I probably am going (the same place? I doubt it). But for fun (and to read back over next new years) I am going to list the big projects on tap for Siyeh Studio in 2008:
  • Develop and maintain a coherent web presence that combines Siyeh Studio, Glass Incarnate the blog, Glass Incarnate the professional site, and FeSiO all in one place
  • Work out a photo management system and set up a permanent photo area in the studio so all new work makes it right up to the website
  • Finish the physical remodeling and improvement on the new studio (painting, shipping area, mudroom, gallery, etc.)
  • Simplify show display shipping and storage between Vegas and Phillie
  • Set up a bookkeeping system that I can update easily throughout the year so I don't have 11 months of expenses and reconciling to do the first of January
  • Add Big Bettina to the kiln family
  • Create and send quarterly mailings to galleries
  • Develop and maintain a catalog on cd with all the Siyeh Studio and Fesio work
I could go on, but I am already beginning to scare myself. Now off to the studio!