Monday, August 31, 2009

Off to Sleep

It's soooo late! Gran Marnier in a glass with a roly bottom (those are so annoying...), "Staple It Together" by Jack Johnson on iTunes. That's what I'm doing tonight--I'm stapling together a post. I am so exhilarated and exhausted by all the information flowing through my brain from the Fabulous Delores Taylor's workshop on pate de verre that I can't coherently post about it tonight. Tomorrow, I promise more. More words, more photos, more fun. I love, love, love this photo--it's so the spirit of the days!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Waiting For the Deliveries

Trader Joe's organic French Roast coffee or Yogi Egyptian Licorice tea? Decisions, decisions. I think I'll stick with the decaf and have the tea. "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor on iTunes. Baxter is all primed for the arrival of the deliveries today--yet more people to bark at and harass. He's not really a people dog which doesn't make him a good studio dog--but he's great security. I'm ready for the deliveries too, in a rainy sort of way. I thought maybe we were getting the fringes of the tropical storm in the Atlantic, but it seems to be just localized really bad weather. It's been raining heavily for over two hours and everything outside is flooded... can't wait to see the studio crawl space.

This morning I called the SBA and spoke to the same woman who initially gave me the information about the ARC program and sent me the preferred lender guide. I told her about Wells Fargo's policies and she said she knew and it's legal. Even though these loans are guaranteed by the SBA and so no risk to the bank they are still trying to get everything out of it they can. Some require ARC applicants to be their own existing customers, and some like Wells Fargo tack on their own requirements on top of the SBA's--and it isn't just for this loan program but for many government-sponsored programs. Bunch of opportunistic crooks

But onto happier thoughts. It's Friday! I have kiln loads to get to, and a photography session, and yet more never-ending paperwork to reconcile, and bills to pay, but then I have a five-day special treat as I will be in Delores Taylor's Pate de Verre workshop up at Lori's. Add to that Dave being home for the nights (maybe as soon as tomorrow!), and my world is looking pretty great. Happy weekend all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shylocks

Woodbridge sauvignon blanc in a Riedel stemless wineglass, "City of Immigrants" by Steve Earle on iTunes. It is 7:30, dinner is over and the kitchen is clean. J is playing a little WebKinz world on the office Mac while I post. Today was as full as yesterday (and the two days before) with two major differences: I am not feeding my child at 9:00 (tonight by 9:00 we'll both be asleep), and I am no longer exhilarated by how many balls I can juggle at a time and how much I am getting done. I'm just tired. Tomorrow I get to see the Niche pieces and take them in to have them photographed, I have a big glass delivery and a small packing supplies delivery scheduled, and I have the two big kiln loads to get in that have been scheduled and slipped off the plate every day since Tuesday. But that's tomorrow. I feel like being Annie and singing about it.

Tonight, however, after a few hours of chasing the ARC loan, I just feel dirty. Why is it that some people react to any situation presented by life with a "what can I get out of this" attitude instead of a "what can I do to help"? People of like minds form groups, communities, organizations and businesses, and the worst of them (let's just say Wells Fargo Bank and appropriately preface the rest of my rant) are always on the look out for way's to turn someone else's misfortune into their gain.

The ARC loan program is a Small Business Administration-backed interest-free loan program to help small businesses which have been profitable in the past couple of years but are now struggling with the downturn in the economy. The SBA has a list of preferred lenders (they sent it to me back in March when I first started looking into the program) and Wells Fargo is one of them. I figured I would call them as they recently acquired my bank, Wachovia, so I have an existing professional relationship with them. The nice young man I spoke to this afternoon asked me some qualifying questions to make sure I was a fit for the program, and said he would have the application emailed to me (and it could take a day as it had to be forwarded). Then after I filled out the application it would take 45 days to process. Wow. The wheels turn more slowly than I would have thought, but okay. I was pleasantly surprised to get the app tonight and I started reading it as I ate my dinner. It's a 25 page document. I didn't get further than the first page as I stopped as soon as I hit the following paragraph:

In addition, Wells Fargo ARC loans cannot be used to pay-down non-
Wells Fargo business lines of credit and business credit cards. (formatting all theirs.)

So here's the deal. Wells Fargo gets a loan guaranteed by the federal government. They get to collect interest on the loan for five years. It's a win-win for them, but they had to go and be greedy and not only get to make money off the government, but they had to keep all the money they get in-house to further secure their existing business debt. In essence the government is bailing out yet another large bank--this time under the auspices of helping out small businesses! It should be illegal for lenders to put this kind of restriction on a government-backed loan (and a preferred lender at that!). I wish I knew someone to call about this in the SBA or *anywhere* who would not only care but be able to do something about it. All I can do is vow never to deal with Wells Fargo again.

Even though they are not a preferred lender for the program, I thought I would give Chase bank a try. I have my business and personal-used-for-business credit cards through them (the same ones I want to pay down with the ARC loan) so maybe they'd work with me. My experience (so far) has been vastly different and I am guardedly optimistic about the possibility of working with them. Their application process is done over the phone whenever I am ready, they don't have restrictions on who the debt is to (outside the basic restrictions of the ARC program--existing business debt only), and it was my impression that it would be handled pretty quickly. We'll see when I get all my paperwork together tomorrow and call them back to actually do it.

Now a shower for me and the Sprout, another chapter of The Dark Hills Divide, and then a long, close look at the inside of my eyelids.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another Late Night...

Jacob's Creek chardonnay in the stemless Reidel white wine glass, "Bad Things" by Jace Everett (the theme from True Blood) on iTunes. No, I haven't started having wine in the morning instead of coffee--the day has flown past. J is due home soon from a playdate and before I begin all the Mommy night time chores (help J clean the bunny and hamster cages, order pizza for dinner, put away the laundry, put away the dishes, shower the J, read her a chapter of "The Dark Hills Divide" and tuck her in with Magic Treehouse on iTunes), I'm taking a breather (and a winer) to post.

It was a Good Day. I look back to my business five years ago and I marvel at all the new directions and projects I've undertaken that I couldn't even conceive of then. Today I talked with Bill at Black Cat ArtWorks and reviewed our open invoices to each other and our orders on Google Docs. Then I met with Lori Schinelli and we hammered some more on our partnership arrangement and pricing for the retail part of our KGRC. The afternoon continued with a hotshop session with Lee and Dominic where we did a couple of roll-ups for my Niche entries, and I finished the day in the studio reviewing orders to ship with Becky, preparing glass to take to Todd of Bentwell Metals tomorrow for our pieces that he needs to wrap, and firing a quick kiln load. Whew!

Tomorrow I meet with V the bookkeeper, drop the glass off with Todd, continue his training on Google Docs (I am *very* jealous that Morganica has Google Voice! I want Google Voice!!), pick up one of my previous roll-up pieces from it's current owner so I can have it photographed along with the new pieces tomorrow at Bart's (Bart's Art Photography), file my taxes, and prepare to apply for one of the new SBA economic stimulus loans. Let's face it: I am pretty stimulated, but I need some economic.

Now I better get a jump on the laundry and order the pizza--on-line. Do we live in a great century or what? Piece shown is a new experiment with the small round stand format in yet another blue series. I like both the proportions and the price point!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Organization of Collaboration

Coffee was in a Kavarna cup with some kind of Reagan-rock retro playing in the background at Kavarna, but I'm back in the studio now waiting for the kilns to cool. What a morning! (And what was I doing at Kavarna?) I was at Kavarna to get a different IP address from the address I have at home so Google would let me create a gmail account for Todd (and thus to enable me to drag him kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat). Google did not cooperate being under the illusion that I was trying to do something nefarious.

It all began at 5:45 this morning when I woke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and decided that the best thing I could do today to get organized was to organize Todd. I already had a full morning scheduled so I got up at 6:00 so I could get on the computer to create a gmail account for him and get him set-up with Google Docs (the "why" on this organizational step in a subsequent paragraph). Leaving the Sprout snoring gently sprawled on her back with her hands tucked behind her neck, elbows akimbo, I padded down to the kitchen table in my jammies, said good morning to the sleepy-eyed spaniel and the still-dozing deerhound, and commenced to internetting.

I went to the gmail homepage and dutifully filled out all the little boxes necessary to create a gmail account. But when I tried to submit the form, I got: "Google Error: We're sorry... ...but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now. We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we'll see you again on Google." I Googled (oh the irony!) this error and tried all the proffered solutions (including going to Kavarna) and nothing worked. Google hates my laptop. I finally had to create the account on my iPhone--after struggling for over an hour with it.

So why is it so necessary that Todd have gmail and Google docs and access to the on-line studio calendar? I have long maintained that collaboration is the way to effectively grow a fine crafts business, and streamlined communication and organization is the key to effective collaboration. Enter Google. Sure email (in this case gmail) is a good thing, but even better are shared calendars and shared google docs. For the past couple of months I have had a spreadsheet shared between me and Black Cat ArtWorks that details our orders (at least my orders for them--we're still working on a form for their orders for me) and soon we'll have one up with our interstudio invoices. Earlier this week I brought Becky on-board and shared the Siyeh Studio calendar, shipping calendar and class calendar with her, and also created a shared stands inventory sheet. Today was Todd's turn.

The task of computerizing Todd is more difficult than you might imagine. There are certain things he is very resistant to-and contact with the Internet is high on that list. But as our business grows, I need to be able to get orders to him without having to resort to carrier pigeon, or calling him and reading off the orders to him, or scribbling them on the back of a piece of scrap paper and handing it to him right before getting on a plane... Thursday I gird my loins and go out to his house to "train" him. For today I just read him the list of orders over the phone that are in Google Docs all bright and shiny and newly minted. *sigh* Baby steps. The account exists. He may be a camel, but he WILL drink.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Senior Moment Monday

No beverage, "Last Kiss" by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers on iTunes. Just got back from an artwork exchange with Black Cat ArtWorks in Commerce. Elaine and Katie met me today and we spent a lovely 45 minutes chatting and sipping coffee outside the Starbuck's. Adult conversation is good. Most of my time in the past week has been spent in the sole company of a seven year-old, and while she is interesting and articulate I need to talk about more than bunnies, playdates, and what she doesn't want to eat.

Worked through the weekend to get the backlog of orders done that came in to Black Cat ArtWorks while we were at the Buyer's Market and I was on vacation. Started Saturday by breaking my 48" X 36" fiberboard kiln shelf into a lot of little pieces when I lifted it to turn it over. Most of it was just over 1/2" thick--and it started out 1" thick. That's what happens when you hand sand the surface smooth for a year. On the way home from Commerce this morning I stopped at Olympic Kilns in Flowery Branch and picked up a replacement shelf. Now I'm going to move the Dyson shelf from Bettina to Bertha (with a LOT of help) and put the new fiberboard shelf in Bettina. She's deeper and more insulated so I want to be able to use her for casting (she was designed as a casting kiln) and I can't with the thick baffled shelf taking up so much room. It'll be perfect in Bertha--and might help my cold corner problem a bit.

This coming weekend starts the 5-day Pate de Verre workshop with Delores Taylor up at Lori's. There are still two spots left so if you have an interest, I have a spare room...

This past weekend I got to experience a new kilnforming joy when I unexpectedly "burned" the irid right off the back of two Bullseye clear-irid-backed pieces. After I broke my kiln shelf I had to scramble to find suitable pieces of shelf material to support the load I had to go in. I found a piece of fiberboard about 24" X 36" X 1" in the closet and used it. Apparently it was a different sort of fiberboard than I usually have (who knows where it came from) and it should have been pre-fired. About 2-3" in from all sides there was a sooty blackness on the shelf and no irid left in the corresponding glass above it. Looks like some kind of outgassing from the shelf that chemically negated the irid on the glass. First time I've ever seen that one. Had to remake the pieces and that really slowed me down.

Now it's time to get to work. There were two things I meant to post about today. One was the shelf, and I have no idea what the other was. Senior moment on Monday. Maybe I'll remember by tomorrow--and maybe I'll forget again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday? It Feels Like Tuesday...

Nothing to drink yet, but going to succumb to the lure of the roasted bean and stop at Kavarna this morning--still jetlagged from Montana (I have a really hard time adjusting to time change going east). The sound of J feeding the pets as part of her morning chores for music. We need to leave for school in two minutes then I'll be back to finish my post.

This morning it's off to the doctor (I get to see the surgeon) for a review of my leg. I hope they tell me I can do without the boot--it's hot and humid, and it chafes the incision above the ankle bone. I'm already going to have a big scar there from the way it opened, I'd like to avoid an infection too.

____________________________

Last night I finished entering in the Buyer's Market orders, the order that came in while I was on vacation, and the cancellations from the Buyer's Market. This has been a terrible year for post-show buyer's remorse--my worst ever. Three of the people who ordered from me either significantly decreased or outright canceled their orders within the two weeks after the show. Today I look at something (hopefully) more positive--my invoice accounting. It's been two months since I updated my receivables and I hope to find enough hidden wealth there to pay for my glass orders, hot shop building and property taxes. Hope is a good thing...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Out of the West, Back in the East

A Kavarna mocha in the Los Angeles skyline mug, the normal sounds of the house on cleaning day for music (spaniel whining at having been banished to the deck, the vacuum upstairs, etc.). I am up to my neck in snail mail and phone messages. I kept up with email while I was gone, but the rest overwhelms me. Can't we be done with paper mail already? They want to stop delivering on Saturday, I say let's stop delivering altogether. If it can't be done electronically without killing any trees, it doesn't need to be done at all (I can barely lift the bag of junk catalogs and other waste mail to be recycled).

It's the first day of school for the J and a short one at that, and we are still recovering from flying in from Montana late last night (highlights of our trip can be found on Stranded in the South so it's a short studio day too. Taxes to file (finally!), invoices and firing schedule to update, assistants to check-in with, and a Niche piece or two to ponder!!

we move into a season of change in the studio. The show circuit is finished for the year--no more traveling for me till next January for the Dallas Finds Temp Show. Yay! But we're not slowing down. On October 23 Siyeh Studio will officially become a Bullseye Kiln-formed Glass Resource Center. That means we will stock and sell a full range of materials and supplies for kiln-forming, casting, torchworking and blowing with Bullseye (at fantastic prices, of course), and we will also have a regular class schedule here and at Glass Inspirations (owned by Lori Schinelli our partner in the resource center). Lots to do to get ready for that.

And let's not forget the hot shop! We are scheduled to come on-line with it this month--the gas line for the glory hole was installed while I was gone and I'm heading over there after I pick up J from school to see how the kiln building has progressed. My current idea for my Niche piece requires it be done and the deadline for entry is August 31 so I have my fingers crossed.

So I'm back, I'm well-rested, and I'm full of plans for the fall. More tomorrow when I feel more like looking ahead--today I am still wrapped in the warm blanket of Montana memories and I'm going to keep it close and slow for another day.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Studio Goes On Without Me

Becky, Kay and Lee slog away in the heat of the Siyeh Studio summer in Atlanta, but I work virtually for the next week or so from Montana. There will be a few postings here (maybe) but most of the action for the next few weeks will be over on Stranded in the South. More Glass Incarnate at the end of August!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Vacation? As Much As Possible...

Nothing to drink, the utter silence (except for Mom's bird Sam calling for her) of Montana for music. Vacation is ostensibly here, but does a small business owner ever truly take vacation? Yesterday I entered the first of the orders from the Buyer's Market and Becky is shipping several of them out today. Also today I need to finish the retail pricing schedule I'm going to use for Bullseye glass, finish putting together my Bullseye order, and update my receivables spreadsheet. Much though it pains me, I am going to have to go to Quickbooks for all my accounting as I am just too big for the system I have. Now Lori (my Kiln Glass Retail Center--KGRC--partner) has been unintentionally aggressively marketing our retail glass sales so we are starting off with a bang--no rest for the self-employed, who has time to be wicked?

The wholesale shows are over for the year, and after this two-week rest, it'll be time to start planning next year's displays, planning new work, updating the website (groan), and all the other infrastructure/maintenance tasks in the studio. Unlike other years, however, a good chunk of time will be dedicated to getting the retail glass component of the studio up and going and to put together open studio and class schedules for both the new hot glass shop in the back and the kilnforming area inside. Oh yes, and let's not forget this year's NICHE awards. The deadline is August 31 and I've already planned my piece--now I just need to execute it.

Okay, a small child is waiting to get online to Webkinz world so I had best make myself some brunch and hand over the laptop.

Monday, August 03, 2009

BMAC in Review: Highlights and Low-Lifes

Nothing to drink (hate facing the restroom at the Philadelphia Convention Center on crutches), the sounds of the beeping forklifts and bustling artists packing their wares for music. So how was it? Interesting. For sheer number crunching, I have 34% the sales ($) I had last summer, but 255% the number of orders. Really. Not a typo: 255%. Of the orders, 79% are from new galleries, and only 18% of all of them are from locations outside the Philadelphia regional area. The final show of the year, and it turned out to be every bit as regional as the Atlanta and Dallas January market shows were.

Other continuing trends: shrinking artist and buyer numbers, and tighter and pickier union rules and people enforcing them at the convention centers. I am glad I missed set-up at this show as I truly might have disemboweled someone. On the first day as Bill, Elaine, Todd, John and Daniel were starting to put up the booth, the union steward came by and said our booth was over 300 square feet so we weren't allowed to put it up ourselves (I'm using the royal "we" as I wasn't[obviously] there)--we had to have two union carpenters set it up for $185 an hour... Bill agreeably informed him that we have two separate booths, two separate contracts, two separate exhibitors, and we just help each other set-up and intermingle our work. The union steward said no, we were one booth, we had to pay for the union labor and we could do nothing ourselves except hang the work--they had to do the walls, the lights and the carpet.

Well we couldn't afford the extra almost $3,000 bill so Bill said he was going t talk to the show management and if they insisted on charging us the fee, we'd have to pack up and go home. The Rosen Group and Hargrove Exhibition Services both upheld our two-contract status so Hargrove ended up paying the union vig. I wonder if it worked like a hospital billing an insurance company and they asked for one amount and took (the much smaller) what they could get. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about it.

However that was the nail in the coffin of doing one big booth together for us. First the electricians in Vegas wanted to put up the track lighting (and said they will be enforcing that "rule" next year), now the carpenters at the BMAC had to go for the squeeze. The convention center workers must really be getting hit with a decrease in shows to look so hungrily to the poor artists...

Other big news from the show: The Rosen Group will be launching a Las Vegas Show to run at the same time as the JCK and ACRE. Marvin Gaye told me that the Rosen show is targeted to be for glass and jewelry, exhibitors by invitation only, and located at the Sands (the same location as the JCK). For me, I'm doing ACRE again. Won't be the same booth layout--not even close (thank God--I don't have enough hours left in my life to spare any more for that hideous set-up), but we'll be there together again (Siyeh Studio, Black Cat ArtWorks and Bentwell Metals). We're finally shipping our whole display home from Philly and designing a whole new layout from scratch-which we'll then ship to Vegas.

And now we're about finished with break-down (I spent all of it in a chair--the first part packing glass and metal into boxes, the second part working on this review). Dee has cold white wine waiting for me back in the room. Tomorrow sees a flight home, a flurry of of appointments (doctor, leg wax, etc.) and then packing for Montana. Wednesday we are vacation bound... and I can't wait.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Goodbye Portland, Hello Philadelphia!

No beverage, almost no sounds for music--though I expect to... yep, there it is, one of the many canned messages about unattended baggage, in the interest of safety, carry-on baggage size, etc., and that's my music for the morning. I repose at the gate in the Portland airport waiting to board the first leg of my flight to Philadelphia. It has been a very interesting time dealing with Delta on seating for all the flights I have right now. Out of Atlanta they had changed my seats (and the type of plane) so that I couldn't have a seat with a place to put my cast in front of me--all of the traditional bulkhead seats were also in emergency rows so I don't qualify to sit there. The best they could do was put me in a seat on the aisle and have me hang my leg out into the aisle (in cart and passengers' way).

Given how badly that flight went, I was more than a bit nervous about today's. And, of course Delta/Northwest screwed up my seats again and put me in a window seat at the back of the plane with my cast on the very inside. Apparently they had an "equipment change" so "their computer" moved everyone to new seats on the new plane... with no regard to handicapped bookings. When I checked in on-line last night and found out my seats had been changed I called... Northwest (even though I booked on Delta it's a Northwest flight). After failing to get through the phone robot once and being disconnected once, I was a bit less than patient when I finally got a representative on the phone. As soon as I said I booked through Delta she said "I'll connect you with a Delta representative" and didn't give me a chance to protest. *Of course* the Delta rep couldn't help me because it's a Northwest-operated flight. My only option was to wait to ask the gate attendant to fix it today. That's the same gate attendant who doesn't even arrive at the gate till an hour before the flight when everyone is already checked in and all the seats have been claimed... *sigh*

Back to happier thoughts and times.

My week at Bullseye was long, exhausting, packed to the gunwales, and *wonderful*. I am officially becoming a KGRC (Kiln Glass Resource Center) at the end of this year. I will carry a full line of Bullseye glass in the studio for retail and wholesale purchase, and will also offer classes along with Lori Schinelli of Glass Inspirations (she hosted Johnathon Schmuck's roll-up workshop earlier this year and has Delores Taylor coming in the end of the this month to do a five-day p√Ęte de verre workshop (a couple of spots are still available--contact me if you are interested!). Lori will have a whole range of classes in her gorgeous studio, and I will have some in mine too.

_____________________

The flights are over, they went pretty well--at least I got a bulkhead seat on both of them so I didn't have to put my leg out into the aisle. Bill picked me up at the airport, I got checked into my room with Dee, I had some wine, Dee bought me new steri-strips and put them on for me, and I went out to dinner with Bill, Elaine, their kids Katie and Daniel., Bill's cousin Nancy, and Todd and John. And a great time was had by all--Whoo hoo. Tomorrow is the first day of the show for me, we'll see how it goes (and I will be reporting).

G'night all, from the east coast again!