Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Takes More Than a Village (Or The Longest Post EVER)

Coffee in the Denver architect series mug, the sound of the spouse washing dishes for background music. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes more than a village to support me in my Siyeh Studio adventure. Maybe it's the recent Academy Awards ceremony that has me in such a reflective, appreciative mood, but, whatever the cause, today I thank all the people who are making it possible for me to get through the extreme growth in new directions that I have experienced since last fall. Many people have marveled to me about everything I manage to accomplish in a day, and my standard response is a modest self-deprecation and a list of all the things I don't do that allow me time to do everything else. But the time last week when Dave was off in Austin on a job interview--the two days that felt like two weeks--really opened my eyes to how much other people do on a daily basis to keep Siyeh Studio (and me) running--either for no or for very little pay (or just for love).

Thanks go out to Todd for so many things since last year--from helping with the initial field trip for the Waldorf School 7th graders last year to hitting the road with me for three, exhausting wholesale shows to kick off the year. Yesterday we went display shopping and found all the little tables and other display pieces for setting up the Hemispheres showroom in Dallas. We hit Home Depot for bright silver paint cans and drop cloths (important visual elements), a thrift store for tables that they didn't have (what they DID have was a million people shopping--it was 50% off day and the store was packed with check-out lines 10 deep), and finally the dollar store where we found tables, bookcases and a computer desk--that will all be covered with drop cloth and used to hold pieces on stands in the showroom.

Becky, the Wunder Assistant, has kept the morceaux flowing, the studio clean(ish), the work shipped, and my brain from spurting out my ears from stress when I just had too much scheduled for even an alien to accomplish. She provided technical expertise and another pair of hands for the 7th grade field trip, kept the garden watered all through the long, hot summer, and faithfully manages all the studio recycling and trash. This week she went Above and Beyond by following Dave to FedEx with the department store shipment (because FedEx wouldn't do a sameday ground pick-up at the studio) and labeling all the boxes there (Dave was the muscle needed to GET the 200 lbs of glass and metal to FedEx) as the clerk scanned them for shipment.

Bill Snell is not only a great creative business partner, but he really stepped up to the plate for me at the beginning of this year by building me a wood and steel back-wall display for two shows that he didn't even do. He also came down for a few days to help Todd and me do the set-up for the Atlanta's Mart show. It was his idea that we put together a line of small glass pieces in metal stands to better fit buyers' needs at this year's shows, and he is the one who organized a long working weekend away at their family beach house in Charleston for our two families. That weekend was the single most restful, energizing and motivating business occurrence of the last year for me.

I thank Elaine for the incredible sketches and doodles she did while Bill and I talked "business" during the weekend away. It is thanks to her proliferation that we ended up with *eight* new stand styles instead of just the one or two Bill and I had thought of. Tomorrow she is coming down (with their whole family) to do a run-through showroom set-up in my studio with Todd and me. Then next weekend she is coming down again to go to Dallas with me to set-up the showroom for real. It was also Elaine who designed and had printed the new Black Cat ArtWorks/Siyeh Studio duplicate order forms that we are using at our shows this year. She is the calm in the eye of our booth set-up storm, and the voice of reason in all our chaos.

Dee, Nancy and Sara make up the core of an artist network extraordinaire. Nancy and Sara mentored me through my first Buyer's Market show years ago, and they have provided advice, resources, support, and great dinners at the spring Buyer's Market ever since. Dee helped with the 7th grade field trip and is rolling up her sleeves to help with summer camp too. She also spent many days since the acquisition of the new studio coming down to help move things, set up and organize, fill frit, make morceaux--whatever needed to be done to keep the orders flowing out the door.

V is an old friend and my new bookkeeper with whom I am meeting again this morning to put the final touches on my studio books before sending them off to the accountant. For the first year *ever* I did not do three weeks of hair-tearing data entry punctuated by what-the-heck-was-this-for's. I don't know what the state of her hair is, but V did almost all of the entry for a year's worth of studio expenses for me over the past few weeks. She is a fully trained, certified CPA in England, but here in the US (in firm possession of her little green card) she provides very affordable bookkeeping services and unflappable calm to non-profits and flighty, disorganized artists. I am sooo lucky she took me in hand!

Dan the carpenter has put a roof over my head and propped up the floor beneath my feet--quite literally--since I got the new studio. This week--after finishing his initial recovery from double hernia surgery--he is going to climb up on the studio roof to affix the chimney caps he made for me while he was convalescing. A few months ago he came on a Saturday afternoon and put in the sidelights for me when I was working under yet another insane deadline so I could get the photos in for the Glass Patterns Quarterly article. He moved glass (not a normal carpenter job), hauled rubbish and did a hundred other things for me just because he is my friend and I was in need.

Mike has been perhaps my supporter longer than anyone else as he and Keith have been patrons of my work since the late 80's--providing much needed income during some pretty lean times. Over the years he has also donated his considerable expertise to my self-promotional efforts in ways that range from writing my artist bio for me to, setting up websites, and creating logos to gifting me with printing services. He started by TAing my Phonetics class and editing my Master's thesis all those years ago at the University of Chicago, and he still cleans up and corrects my grammar (when he can catch me) and keeps me on the marketing track.

Finally, there is Dave, the spouse of my days and the love of my heart. I have almost 14 years worth of things for which to thank him both personally and professionally, but here and now I am going to focus on the past couple of weeks. They have been rough for him. He was not prepared to be laid off, and the transition time between jobs--looking for something that will suit him and trying to keep motivated and positive while being at home (he is not good at not working)--have been mind-blowingly stressful. And, yet, during that time, instead of devolving into his navel and having a morose little poor, poor pitiful me party, he has taken on increasingly more of my home duties and he has also become another pair of hands with a car for the studio. He has run studio errands, moved display furniture, is putting together all the furniture I bought yesterday, and makes me lunch every day. He massages muscles tight from stress and exertion, and remains calm and cheerful throughout. I am lucky beyond words to be married to him.

There are assuredly people I have Forgotten To Mention, but this post is getting long. When I do think of them, I will jot a note here to remind myself how blessed I am by their presence in my life too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dragging My Way Through Wednesday

Coffee in the San Francisco skyline mug, the sound of my nasally coughing for music. Oy. My name is House, Greg House. No, I'm not a diagnostician, I just play one on TV. No wait, that's Rock Band I play on TV... I am clearly dazed and delirious from lack of sleep (no more diet coke before bed), overwork, and the Cold That Wouldn't Die.

Yesterday I remembered something I wanted to do to trick out my permanent showroom in Dallas and I'm going to SHARE. It looks like a great service and was way inexpensive. Occasionally--but not as often as I would have thought based on the price and apparent ease of installation--at the shows I do some people have cool vinyl signage affixed to the walls of their boothes. Maybe it's the company name or logo in individual letters, maybe it's cute decorative graphics. Whatever it is, it always adds a really nice, professional touch to the display.

So in my balls-to-the-wall work mode yesterday I researched various companies offering easy-to-mount vinyl lettering and finally settled on Do It Yourself I ordered "Siyeh Studio" in six-inch high letters (Tiger Rag font) and "Hot Art in Warm Glass" in three-inch high letters to put on one of my white walls in the Hemispheres showroom. There were other source options that looked good (one company has reusable lettering that costs about 50% more but it can be reused several times--good for shows), but looked like a good starting point.

Another display option that I have been contemplating for a few months and finally bit the bullet on yesterday is a monitor for showing a slide show of my complete catalog. I make just too many pieces to take examples of all of them all shows, and, yet, it is my experience that people primarily buy what they see. In the showroom where much of my clientel is likely to be designers looking for custom pieces, it it even more important to have images of my consignment work--kitchen backsplashes, livingroom over-the-mantle installations, large custom windows, etc.

I looked at many technology options for a system--from digital picture frames to an old iPod plugged into a monitor--and I finally decided upon a 19" flat screen lcd TV on a stand with a built in dvd player. It's sleek, it's compact, and--best of all--it's easily updatable technology that a chimp could operate.

Digital picture frames are nice, but there is a learning curve to using using them, they have a high size:cost ratio, and updating the images requires swapping out memory cards or sticks. The prices for the latter two have come down drastically in recent years, but they're still more than a writable dvd. Using the old iPod was great idea in terms of cost and repurposing hardware lying around the house (I'd ahve to buy a new pc lcd monitor, but it is the cheapest option in price by far), but the usability was problematic and I never did figure out how to get it all connected to work.

Given the primary initial use of the system--a permanent installation in a showroom and operated by the showroom manager without my help--a dvd player made the most sense. I haven't read the detailed specs yet, but I think I have sacrificed a little in picture resolution (I think the dvd output is only 720X480 or something like that). However when the system gets shut off and needs to be restarted--as you know it will more than once over the next few months--the showroom manager will have no trouble turning it on and pressing "Play". Another advantage to this system is that I can update my slideshow just by sending the showroom a new dvd and asking them to swap it out. Low(ish) cost, low tech, high output. And what would a picture show be without a chair? The pic at right is the IKEA piece Dave picked up for me earlier in the week to put in the showroom too.

Time to get to the studio. An order to ship, two loads to fire, and a shopping trip with Todd to get more supplies for the showroom ahead of me in the day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Too Much For a Tuesday

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug--just waiting for the job offers for Dave to start rolling in, "I'm A Believer" covered by Smash Mouth on iTunes. I blog from the iMac this morning as Dave has taken my laptop into the Apple store to have the IO board replaced... Oh I'm in withdrawal. I actually used graph paper to plan something out this morning instead of Excel (Microsoft Excel is my all-purpose drafting application... go figure).

The Waldorf School of Atlanta (J's school) has begun their on-line auction as of yesterday. One of the items I donated--a week of summer camp studying masks in various cultures and creating masks in glass based on them is up on the site. Thanks *very* much to Licha Ochoa Nicholson for permission to use the image of her Prairie Falcon Kachina Mask as the picture for the auction item. As usual I am waaaay behind and didn't have a suitable glass mask image to use for the online auction. (The photo is from the 2007 Taylor Kinzel glass show--Licha is on the left.)

It's Tuesday and I am succumbing to yet *another* cold. Actually I think this might be the same cold I had before, it's just a version that incubated and mutated in Dave while I was in Philadelphia and is now nestling back into me. *sigh* No, I'm not going to the doctor. It's a virus, there's nothing she can do but suggest lots of rest (hah!), lots of fluids (and wine doesn't count--in fact it counts against), and waiting it out.

Though I am sickening, there is no rest for the wicked or the glass-impaired. I have orders to ship today, the 7th grad auction project to continue, shopping for the permanent showroom with Todd, metal orders to get to Bill from the BMAC, and my own firing schedule for the show to complete. Thank heaven I have a currently unemployed spouse! Yesterday he schlepped 200 (literally 200) lbs of work to FedEx as they wouldn't do a same-day ground pick-up for me and the first department store order *had* to ship yesterday. Today he is mailing my showroom contract for Dallas and taking my laptop in for repair. I am going to owe him big by the end of the week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When Your Work Is Admired...

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, the sound of the Music of the Spheres wind chimes out on the deck and the chirping and chattering of birds at the feeders for music. I'm not actually sitting on the back deck as it's not warm enough for me to be out there this morning--the pond is iced over again--but the sounds from there carry clearly into the quiet house.

I didn't post over the weekend. I promised a post, and I didn't deliver. In part I didn't post because it was a tough, packed, long weekend. But mostly I didn't post because I promised a difficult post that I am reluctant to write. Why? Because a blog is a *very* public forum, and this is a delicate issue. On the other hand it's also a very real, professional issue that many artists have to confront, and what I write could help both them and me as I reconcile my feelings about the situation and attempt to move on.

But can I write from a perspective that would even close to approximate fair and even? What I write is always what happened in a given situation from *my* point of view. Any time two people disagree there are always two points of view. I could try to present both here, but ultimately all I have is my point of view and my *understanding* of the other person's point of view and motivation. I spent the weekend seesawing back and forth as to if that would be enough. Would it be fair to put out into the world an issue that I believe to have been caused by an honest misinterpretation and no deliberate ill intent and which I also believe to be resolved? My final answer is, Yes. Another friend--whose father is a lawyer--told me during the show that a contract is not created as a starting point for litigation. A contract is created at the beginning of a relationship to communicate expectations, roles, responsibilities and recourse in the relationship. It is meant to avoid confusion, confrontation and legal action.

So I write this post to lay out the important details of what happened, and to record where I believe we go from here. It both celebrates the positive, amicable outcome reached by respectful communication and honest good will, and serves as a reminder to me later on of my expectations in our continued relationship.

A friend and colleague with whom I established a collaboratory relationship a couple of years ago and for whose metal work I have made several panels of glass in my Morceaux de Verre style has had a hard year. It has been both personally and professionally tough due to death and the economy. As we sentient beings do in stressful times, he looked for something he could do to improve his situation both emotionally and economically. Through a series of circumstances including the almost accidental acquisition of a second-hand kiln, he hit upon making his own glass panels for his metal sculptures. So far so good.

A couple of other friends who are also kilnformers showed him the basics of fusing glass, and he started with what he knew he liked and wanted for his work--panels of blended, transparent bands of frit in bright, primary colors. In short, he started with my pieces. He did not set out to copy them--in fact he made some conscious changes in the way he laid out the glass so that it wouldn't be copying. He looked at the pieces I made for his sculptures, took what he liked best about them and used that as a jumping off point for the pieces he made to put in his new sculptures and to bring to the show. Unfortunately, those pieces that he brought to the Buyer's Market were still too close in style to my work. When I looked at them from a distance I had a hard time telling which were his and which were mine cut down. The situation was further complicated and aggravated by the presence of some of my work in other sculptures in his booth.

So what did I do? For once, I did exactly what I should have done. I talked to him about my issues with his new work as calmly and supportively as I could. He is my friend and a fellow artist. I fully support his need to expand his work in new creative directions and media. I appreciate that he likes the look of blended waves of transparent-colored frit on a clear base with a particular hue and color saturation--and I recognize that Bullseye frit comes in a narrow set of colors and both the thickness of the finished piece and the use of a clear base dictate to some extent the final color saturation.

However the bottom line is that not only is his work derivative of mine (it is undeniable that he started with the pieces I made for him), it is still close enough in style that the creator is not clear to my customers--who in at least one case that I know of are also his customers. He needs to continue to develop his own style so that by our next show together (the end of May) our work is obviously and at a glance made by different artists.

I think (I hope) I communicated everything in this post to him in the way a friend and fellow artist would, and I have every expectation that both he and I will be happy with his new direction in May. He has indicated that he would still like me to create large pieces for him--the ones he is making are just for his new, smaller line--and I am completely open to continuing this arrangement. Now let's hope it all just works out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crunching the Numbers for the Spring Buyer's Market

Coffee in the New Orleans skyline mug, "Gone Daddy Gone" (Violent Femmes cover) by Gnarls Barkley (from Ren's Happy, Happy mix) streaming from the iMac in the office to the Apple TV and the main home AV receiver. Technology: I came, I saw, I opened a big can of whup booty and I am the Mistress of My Domain again. At some point I'll post on Stranded in the South about the technology shifts we are making in our continuing efforts to downsize the monthly subscription budget (the economy starts at home, after all), but today is for a recap of the Buyer's Market of American Craft.

First off, why is it taking longer and longer to recover from shows? It used to be that I was in the studio the day after I got home and operating at almost full power (or is that the golden glow of hindsight?). This year it took one full day off followed by one marginal day before I got back to full strength (today). But enough whining, o to the numbers.

Before the show opened there were already rumblings that attendance was going to be way down--both from artists and from buyers. But as the Rosen Group repeatedly said, the people who came came to buy not to browse. Anyone who put out the money for the trip did so not for a tax write-off but because they needed product. And far be it from me to toe the party line, but it does seem like the exhibitors who did well at the show were the ones who took to heart all the tips and advice the Rosen Group passed out before the show. These exhibitors did targeted, personal marketing--handwritten notes or phone calls to their galleries, etc., put out new lines of lower-priced work, and offered incentives for writing orders at the show like free shipping or a 10% show discount.

Personally, my show was not very good--but I only followed one of the above recommendations (new lines of lower-priced work). Had I not had all the new work with Todd (retail $12-$70) and the new stand pieces from Black Cat ArtWorks (retail $80), I would have died in the water. I only had *one* order for my traditional functional fused work--even though I have several older pieces retailing for under $100, and only a couple of orders for larger (more expensive) stand pieces--certainly not enough to cover meals for the trip, much less booth fee.

Crunching the numbers, I had 38 orders, 61% of which were from new customers. Of that 61%, only 18% were also new to Black Cat (the rest were their existing customers). I know that presentation of the figures looks a bit sloppy, but I can't reach my spouse to ask him what percentage of my new customers were piggy-backed from Black Cat--which is the point I am trying to make. For the first time we completely integrated our work in our slightly-larger-than 20 X 20 booth. As a result, many of their current customers took a closer look at our combined work and gave it a try. It's true they only ordered the new small stands, but I'm guessing these galleries are not ones that carry a lot of glass art anyway.

Galleries heavily weighted to glass work were scarce on the ground. I am now exhibiting in the Inspired Interiors section of the show--not the Glass section anymore--so I didn't see the glass traffic personally, but I did check in with many friends exhibiting in glass and the stories were not good. I only spoke to one person who had a really good show (congrats Dee!), and she has lower-priced glass jewelry (lower priced than, say, large blown-glass sculpture). From others I heard of no orders written by Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning in the elevator at the hotel on the way to the airport I met a couple who have exhibited in glass for the past 23 years and they said it was their last show. I didn't think it was an appropriate time to ask what they had done to prepare for the show in the face of a very difficult economy.

Having 61% new orders seems like a really good thing--and it is, but it was off-set by significantly smaller sales numbers. My average sale at the February show was $450. By August it was $760. This February it was $191 and my total sales were 64% of what they were last February and 60% of what they were for last year's summer show. What do all these numbers mean? They mean if I want to get back up to where I was last year, I'm going to have to hit the phones and the mail.

Since I got back from the show I have heard from a couple of other longtime glass exhibitors and they are looking at their gallery lists and calling everyone they didn't see. In an admittedly small sample, one of my friends called 10 of her customers in one day and of them 30% are out of business, 30% ordered from the phone call, 20% recently ordered and are fine, and 20% said the pieces they previously ordered aren't moving. I wonder what I am going to find out when I start calling my customers. Better get to it.

I close with pics of the new small stand pieces. Tomorrow's post: When is it natural extension, when is it admiration, and when is it just copying? Welcome to the working Saturday...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Computer Ate My Homework

Coffee was hours ago (thanks honey for setting up the coffee maker before you left for Austin!), it was in the Austin mug in honor or Dave's job interview trip there today. There is NO music as I just got back from the Apple store and the external hard drive that holds all my Time Machine backups, my entire remaining iTunes library (the main iTunes library was lost when the hard drive on the desktop iMac failed--for the second time), AND all of my iMovies is not readable. Frankly, I really do not have time to futz around with system administration, but like it or not that appears to be my fate today. When the Apple store gets the new IO board in for my laptop, I will have to take it back in for another couple of days. In the meantime, I got yet another external back-up drive (this one firewire and USB instead of just USB) and I am backing up everything I have not yet lost--all business and personal data files and applications--to it. I also got a copy of R-Studio for Mac and am attempting to recover all the images and music files lost from the iMac. It has been A DAY.

Add to the day completing the paperwork for the permanent showroom in Dallas (and upping my general liability insurance for the studio to $1,000,000 as part of the process), chasing down the PO for the department store (and filing their eBiz payment paperwork) so I can get that order shipped, and... ack! ack! ack!

Need to take a break from the chaos and talk about one of the Hot Topics at the BMAC: The Eco Arts and Fair Trade Market slated to debut at this year's summer Buyer's Market and planned to co-run with it every February and August. I unfortunately missed the beginning of the wrap-up meeting for the artists on Monday morning, but from what I gathered during the last half of the meeting the idea of having an international arts and crafts market--socially conscious or not--in conjunction with an all-American/Canadian show was not well-received by the Buyer's market Exhibitors and--at least the "Fair Trade" portion--was cancelled for this summer. It will be interesting to see how this project, endorsed by the Rosen Group, proceeds.

The stacks of papers have not gone away and it's already dinner time. Got to order a pizza for me and the Sprout (what, you think I'm cooking? Remember last time? Breakfast AND dinner...). I'll fire tomorrow--at least the computers on the kilns work! Tomorrow, pics of the new stand pieces and a real show review with plenty of stats and hearsay.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Coffee is in the Atlanta skyline mug, there is no music as I blog from the denuded Power Mac (the desktop machine whose hard drive failed--for the second time--a couple of months ago) and there is no iTunes on it yet. I blog from it as I can't get my laptop to boot this morning--there is something wrong with the way the power cord is (not) charging the battery. I refuse to be troubled by the petty whims of the the technology at whose mercy I exist!

I am back from Philadelphia and feeling a bit... broken, myself. It's not the it was a particularly brutal show--in point of fact I think it was the least brutal Phillie show I've had. But the cumulative efforts of the past few months from Dave's work on the election, the annual Christmas craziness, adding Atlanta and Dallas to the show schedule, driving to Dallas, and setting up the permanent showroom, topped off by the emotional and mental stress of this year's Buyer's Market were just too much for me.

I woke up yesterday with no awareness of myself or my surroundings. I had shut down all mental and emotional faculties and moved like a zombie through the day. It was so bad that I managed to lose the power cord for my laptop and left my iPhone and my silver yucca necklace at the security checkpoint at the airport. I had had breakfast and was halfway down the breezeway to the plane by the time I realized I didn't have the necklace or the phone. With a panicked "I can't leave without them, you take my carry on bags" to Todd, I ran (literally) through the terminal back to security. My belongings were there waiting for me and I made it back to the plane just as the last passengers were boarding. I slept through the flight--in spite of having three very large people in our row on the plane. The rest of the afternoon at home was very low-key (I think, I don't remember it too well) and I slept 12 hours last night.

Today I *should* do things too numerous to enumerate, but I had a leisurely breakfast with Dave and the J, and now we're going to Fernbank Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaur exhibit. This afternoon I will have to address the issues with my laptop as Dave is heading to Austin tomorrow for a job interview and will therefore not be available to swap batteries with me so I can move all my data to the desktop and work on it if the laptop has to go in for repair. I will do my show review (including info from the wrap-up meeting), an update on the copying work issue, and a report on the Fair Trade show soon. Really. When I am less zombified and more eloquent.

"Ada" by The National just came from the iPod in the livingroom. My spouse loves me. He knows I need me some music in the morning.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So Much To Say and So Little Time

No coffee yet (unngh), the sound of Todd's whitenoise fan and the soft tapping of my Mac Keyboard for music. It's the last day of the Buyer's Market of American Craft (BMAC) and I am waaaay behind in posting. Not surprisingly, I am behind because I have been out networking and socializing every night and the stop and start activity on the show floor are not conducive to thoughtful posting. And if a show ever deserved thoughtful posting, it's this one.

So I put up a micro-post quickly this morning to introduce the topics to come in the next three posts, and then I rush off to the annual artists' wrap-up meeting with Wendy Rosen and her staff (the Rosen Group puts on the BMAC). I don't usually go to the wrap-up meetings, but this year I am very curious to hear how they are going to spin the launch of the Fair Trade market spearheaded by Wendy's daughter that is going to be held down the hall from the summer BMAC. (Hot Show Topic #1) While I support the empowerment of women in disadvantaged countries, I can't see any way that having a market with lower-cost foreign-made goods placed cheek to jowl with a market specifically aimed at promoting the work of American and Canadian craft artists cannot be both a conflict of interest and detrimental to the American and Canadian artists who have struggled to build a clientele from the summer show. Piggy-backing is only really good for the pig on the back...

Good thing today is typically a slow show day as later on after the wrap-up meeting I need to continue a conversation I am having with another artist who liked my work so much that for the past two years he has had me design glass pieces for him to incorporate into his work. This year--due mostly to the downturn in the economy--he purchased a kiln and is making his own glass pieces for his metal sculpture (perfectly fine) that bear an uncanny resemblance to the pieces I created for him--and thus my entire production line--(not at all fine, and Hot Show Topic #2).

Hot Show Topic #3--and the least surprising, most expected, fortunately planned for topic--is the effect of the economy on my the sales figures for the show. I have been crunching numbers since yesterday afternoon and will have that post ready to go up when the doors close and the last order is in at the end of the day.

A final note: I think I broke Todd again--this time with my snoring. I found him sleeping in a nest of all his bedclothes and pillows on the bathroom floor this morning with the door closed and his little white noise fan in with him. I asked him why he didn't wake me up if I was snoring so loudly, and he said he tried several times and failed. Oh dear. I think I'll leave him sleeping this morning for a few extra hours. Breakdown tonight is going to be brutal enough.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Neverending Day

So many days ago it feels like a lifetime, coffee was a Starbuck's iced mocha with an extra shot of espresso at the gate in Hartsfield airport. My music a few hourslater was an exhibitor services electrician talking about how bad the car show here in the Philadelphia Convention Center was. In between the coffee and the electrician was the flight from Atlanta to Philadelphia with its thought-provoking visual vignettes. In hindsight I wish I had captured them with my camera as I doubt my prose will trigger even half the reaction I had to seeing them.

The image that has most stayed with me was a view from the plane as we were leaving Atlanta. We flew over a relatively new, tidily planned, subdivision with identically sized lots and very similar boxy houses all in beige (or maybe that's just what it looked like from a distance). It had the little winding streets all subdivisions seem to have now, and a balancing number of cul-de-sacs--normal Americana. What looked to be right across the street but was probably a couple of blocks away was a junkyard. From the distance and up in the air, the junkyard with its little winding truck paths between the towering piles of trash looked just like the subdivision. Same footprint, same little cul-de-sac dead ends, same quaint charm (or lack thereof). Sadly, more normal Americana. I slept the rest of the flight, and by 11:45 am we had our luggage, were checked in at our hotel, and were at the Buyer's Market of American Craft (BMAC).

The electrical layout of our booth was screwed up (hence the afore-mentioned conversation with the electrician), but it was quickly fixed. Then we had to wait another hour and a half for exhibition services to find two of our crates that they managed to lose between their storage unit and our booth. Too bad it was the crates with the foamcore and gridwalls that went on walkabout as we couldn't do anything but wait for them--and have lunch.

The first day ended relatively early (6:30 pm) with the gridwalls and foamcore up and ebullient spirits in all as we looked forward to a pretty easy second day putting up lights and artwork. As usual, we were deluded--lucky for us we all got what wanted out of the rest of the evening so we were prepared for the next day. Bill went back to their hotel and crashed, and Elaine and Todd and I went for fondue and martinis at the Melting Pot (a fondue restaurant). I have always been amazed how people will pay more for dinner out if they have to cook it themselves--but it sure was fun thanks to Billy and Alexis (our servers).

Yesterday we followed the program (it was a set-up day) and at 8:00 am we threw ourselves enthusiastically into putting the work up in Our Best Booth Ever. By the time we finished last night at 11:00 pm, I was too pooped to post. We stopped for a bite in the Marriott hotel cafe as we had to walk by it to get to our hotels and it was still open, and then we went our seperate ways to crash.

This morning the show begins--I still have to do pricing (what else is new?), and Todd has to figure out a way to display garden stakes, but we're ready to go. Next post: dilemmas of friendship, the economy, and copying someone else's work.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Long

Chai Latte in the Love symbol mug, "Breaking the Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers on iTunes. I'm not sure if the girl referred to is Becky the wunder assistant or me, but one--or both--of us was definitely broken by yesterday's shipping. Ten boxes weighing 181 lbs with contents valued at $6,570 were frantically, harriedly, hurriedly packed and out the door for shipping by 5:30 last night--and then I filled both big kilns and fired them. I am pooped. Tomorrow is the first day of the BMAC and I need to dredge to find the energy for it. Just over a week ago I was euphoric and rested from a massively productive weekend with Bill and Elaine from Black Cat, today I drag from one chore to the next (and "How Long" by the Chili Peppers just came on: "How long, how long will I slide... "). Dave's shift in employment status and goals has been stressful for both of us--more than we expected, though we are still upbeat and optimistic that everything will work out for the best.

Focus on the positive. Today was the best start ever for the BMAC as Bill, Elaine and Dee all came for breakfast on their way to the airport to fly for Philly. Dave cooked us all pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon served with fresh blueberries and strawberries. Tonight he gets to show off his culinary skills again as we host Todd, John and Christie for dinner. Todd is staying at our place tonight so he and I can leave early for the airport in the morning (and then off to Philly too).

Now one more load to get in to fire so I can ship it when I return, and two orders to go out today. Becky is due at 2:00--hope she still lives.

Monday, February 09, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Coffee in the Atlanta skyline mug, the sound of the dryer tumbling my pants for music. As soon as I have dry jeans, I can go work at the studio. Until then, I'm in jammies and on the laptop. It's not a bad life.

In fewer than 48 hours I will be getting ready to land in Philadelphia for the Buyer's Market. I am filled with equal measures of hope and trepidation. Today I ship my new work, the Walker system, Todd's work, post cards and any other odds and sods I can think of for the show to my hotel in Philly. The drayage charges from Hargrove exhibition services are just too high to have them shipped to the show (and I'm probably too late, in any case). I'll still carry some glass on the plane, but it will all be smaller pieces. Tomorrow Bill and Elaine (Black Cat ArtWorks) are going to drop some metal pieces off in the studio on their way to the Atlanta airport where they fly out for Philly. If they can get here with enough time to spare, Dave will cook us all a big breakfast. I wonder when Dee is flying out tomorrow and if she wants to come for breakfast too...

Other big news of the weekend--BECon is on for me again! Dave was very upset that I had canceled the trip, and after a weekend of fidgeting the finances--business and personal--I found a way to squeeze it in. Dave's right--the professional development I will get out of the conference and the post-conference workshop will more than offset the up-front cost, and I really can't compare the expense for BECon with the expense of doing the Atlanta and Dallas shows. They're truly apples and oranges.

Final news of the day/weekend, I got an email from someone I know because of my book, and he was wondering when I was going to write another one. I said after the first one, "Never again!", but now I'm not so sure. I can think of three books that would be fun to do and topical too. I'm going to ponder a bit more--and I'll see how the summer camp on masks goes. It could provide a book all by itself.

Time to be off to feed the gizzard, uh, see the wizard, and prepare for the BMAC. Till tomorrow...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Snap Out Of It!

I was compelled to start the post with another movie quote this morning, I'm not sure when I'll be back to coffee and music (though coffee is in the Denver architect series mug and "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd is on iTunes). We are in the midst of the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" and the upheaval is leaking over into my posting. I feel the anticipation that life is about to change dramatically for us, and yet, at the same time, life goes on. The other gazelles in the herd look at us with mingled pity and horror as the lioness rips our guts out, and we think, "So this is what it feels like. It's not as bad as we thought it would be." in almost relief.

But in spite of the train wreck potential in our personal life, Siyeh Studio chugs along. Orders and requests for information on this year's new work come in almost daily, and the kilns are filled to capacity--when I can overcome my mental entropy enough to fill and fire them. Entropy in my mind has been my biggest challenge this week. The rational part of my brain knows that though some things will have to change, fundamentally we will be fine. But my limbic system is in overdrive and my sympathetic nervous system is preparing for full-on fight or flight. Focusing long enough to get four kilns loaded and fired, bookkeeping straightened out, UPC codes, hang tags and vendor communication managed--and get in ad copy and photo for a NICHE Green co-op--has been difficult.

Off to find my happy place, deliver glass to Todd, fill kilns, and prepare for Lee (the glassblower) to come to the studio this afternoon to fuse some blown glass pieces.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Is It Wednesday or Thursday? I'm Lost...

"When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail." " Yesterday was not a good day to overdraw the family checking account.

Coffee in the New York skyline mug, "Begin the Begin" by R.E.M. on iTunes. The studio day ended at 7:30 last night when the last kiln load went in, and I arguably should have put in one more. There will be three or four loads fired today as I attempt to fill all the Atlanta, Dallas and asap orders that need to ship before the BMAC. The loading of the kilns will fit in around dances with bookkeepers as V is coming over this afternoon to produce the order she has created from my chaos.

Though it seems really odd to--myself--put barcoded, professionally printed, retail price tags on signed, handcrafted work, the hangtags and stickers are all ordered and should arrive next week. Whew! I have reached a new level in merchandising. (I type this to the background music of my husband verbally inputting his to-do list into Jott on his new phone--need to get him a hands-free thingie for it, borg him up.)

And that's the day laid out. I have yet to figure out how I'm going to get the glass for the new mermaid piece to Philly (it's 14" X 28" and oddly shaped)--in addition to the glass for the nine new pieces we designed last weekend and the double lattice. But I'll think of something.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wednesday the Earth Stood Still

"Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it." "

John Carpenter had it right in Big Trouble in Little China and our lives right now are defined. What I'm drinking coffee in, and what I'm listening to are trivialities for other days.

Starting today, I am the sole gainfully (gainfully? really?) employed bread winner in our household, as Dave was laid off yesterday. How scary is that? A lot of people are finding out the answer to that question right now. I wish I could take comfort in the solidarity of numbers. After the incredible job he did on CNN's election project during the past three years and the video project before that, his reward was to have his position eliminated and to find himself out of a job. Times are tough everywhere, and it's no different for Fortune 500 companies.

Last night we had two ways to go, and we chose to celebrate. We shared a good bottle of champagne left over from New Year's Eve and toasted the opportunities and the pathways life opens up to us. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times--and change is always scary. Though we celebrated we are also making cautious cuts and the first things to go were Jessie's trip to Philadelphia and my attendance of BECon this summer. I was really looking forward to the Lost Wax post-conference workshop and the kilncasting sessions, but I already blew my theoretical financial wad slated for professional growth and business expansion on doing the January gift shows in Atlanta and Dallas. I just can't justify another big expense that doesn't have an immediate benefit (other than joy) attached to it. Celebrate opportunity or not, it seems an... inappropriate... time for joy alone.

Yesterday I had thought of a Kavarna day today, little did I know how likely it was! So we sit with our laptops at Kavarna sipping mochas and listening to perky new millennium pop. D polishes the resume--nibbles are already coming in (he is a genius, after all), and I polish up the ERP specs to hand over to him--this being an opportunity to get him to code it for me that I can't pass up. This afternoon, kilns to fill. And life goes on.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Too Early on Tuesday (Again)

Coffee in the Denver architect series mug, "Swamp" by Talking Heads on iTunes. That's my head, a swamp. I need to be over this cold, but it's just hanging on, filling me up every morning with cotton woolly snot. Sorry for sharing the imagery, but not sorry enough to delete the sentence.

Had another open studio date yesterday and firmed up the pricing for going forward with it. About ready to open it up to the world and put it on the website--along with the summer camp. I need a Kavarna day badly. Maybe D can swing one tomorrow...

I bought ten UPC codes and managed to get them for under $7 each. These are real GS1 codes that came with a certificate of authenticity, not just barcodes that I whipped up with barcode generating software--and more's the pity as the images are BIG and the vendor recommends not scaling them down more than 10%. Adventures in retailing... This morning I'll assign them to the products for the new dept store client and play around with printing them. Need to get the correct Avery Dennison label number from my sales rep...

Orders continue to come in, some from the Atlanta show and some from buyers who won't be at the BMAC. I can't wait to get the new stands from Black Cat so I can announce those pieces--I think they are going to be great sellers this spring/summer as we all hunker down to wait out this recession. Between the firing hiatus for Philly and the orders that are in, the firing schedule is looking pretty full till the end of the month. Whoo hoo!

Time to head to the studio and fire up the kilns--it's cold out there today.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Move Over Monday!

Coffee in the Austin skyline mug, "Get the Party Started" by Pink on iTunes. J is off to school, D is off to work, and the aquarium, coffee maker, and grinder are freshly cleaned (not together). It's 8:00 am. I should go on business retreats more often. No post Friday as I was on Sullivan's Island with my family and the Snells. It was ostensibly a booth-design weekend, but--as usually happens when we get together--we got not only a solid booth plan for the BMAC but also a new product line (hanging window panels) and a series of tabletop pieces (to add to our existing line) at a spectacular price point that we will be debuting at the BMAC. So we went from no completely new work for the Buyer's Market (we did have some pieces and colorways haven't been shown there yet, but we had them in Atlanta and Dallas) to 4-9 completely new pieces. Of that potential nine, eight glass pieces in steel stands will retail for around $80... Yes, you can say it was a great weekend.

I am a convert to the several-day business planning meetings away from home and work. I could have gone to Greenville for a day, or Bill and Elaine could have come to my studio as we've done before, but having two and a half days with everyone away from their "offices" to brainstorm, go away and think and then come back together again for more idea exchange was incalculably valuable. My batteries are recharged, and my zest and enthusiasm for what I do are renewed--after the Atlanta and Dallas shows they were all dangerously depleted. Yes, there is a pretty high cost for dropping everything else for three days, but, no matter how busy I am for the rest of this week, I still come out ahead. Now off to fill out forms, return phone calls and emails, and get this party started!