This post, too, I began over a week ago, and though I've already posted twice this morning, I'm going to make it a trifecta today and be back caught up for tomorrow. The final big topic for the turning of the year is goals. What are worthy goals for the upcoming year? Let's start with analyzing the major activities and components of the studio--shows, showrooms, representation, partnerships, production work, retailing supplies, marketing, hosting events, and teaching--and go from there.
Shows: I like doing shows well enough, but I am beginning to question their value. Clearly the state of the economy last year had a negative impact on show revenue, but long-time show artists have noted a steady decline in the return on investment (ROI) for shows since their heyday in the early 90's. My comparative data (for wholesale shows) doesn't go that far back, but I do feel that big the buyers I used to see a few years ago have either cut back on the show attendance or eliminated some shows altogether. (One of my best buyers from the northeast that I met at the Buyer's Market several years ago asked me recently if I was doing the Atlanta show this year because she won't see me in Philly--the hop-skip-and-jump airfare is too high.) If I want to promote my new work to her and to others I won't see at my shows, I am going to need to do some other marketing be it advertising in magazines, or putting together a print or digital catalog/mailer, and totally revamping my website (has it been two years already?). But I don't really have the time, money, or energy to do both shows and heavy marketing.
So what to do? Well, for starters I will do only three shows this year. I am not doing either Dallas or Atlanta again (well I will be doing Dallas as I have the showroom there and I am required to be in it during major markets). I am not adding either the One Of a Kind wholesale show in New York, or the New York Gift Show, or the George Little show in Chicago. I will carefully evaluate the shows I am still doing (the Buyer's Market in February and August and ACRE in June), and I will consider not doing any of them next year.
Shows cost me about $5,000 each to do--that's almost $15,000 a year between booth fees, storage, drayage of materials to and from shows, exhibition fees, hotel, meals, airfare, etc. And I don't even count the physical and mental toll, or the lost production time in the studio. If the revenue I see from a show is $10,000 or under, then I am spending 100% of my marketing/business growth budget for less than 30% of my annual income--bad ROI. (Sit ROI, stay ROI.) I can't help but feel a little judicious, targeted, less taxing traveling to galleries combined with magazine advertising, print and digital media and mailings would cost a heck of a lot less for the same revenue received
Permanent showroom: I will end my presence in the showroom at the Dallas World Trade Center--it was a failed experiment and not just because of the environment. My business model is not geared towards working with the decorator/designer market directly and that's not where I wish to put my energy.
Representation: I am not interested in any of the opportunities that I was presented in the past year for wholesale representation of my work. While at first pass it looks attractive to have someone repping your work to stores, galleries and decorators, I would rather both make the first impression and set the expectations for the relationship myself (Control Freaks R Us). As for representation to the decorator market, again, not my target demographic. Too high-maintenance, too much effort for wholesale work. Designers essentially take the same time and effort as clients for regular commissions, but they pay between wholesale and retail as they charge their clients retail and are paid themselves with the difference. Not worth my time.
Partnerships: I love producing collaborative work with other artists and want to maintain this component of the business. I am both stimulated by their work to create new work of my own, and I'm also able to produce a lot more quality work because I am not responsible for 100% of it.
Last year brought me four new partnerships--two in my own studio, the third with another studio-owner, and the fourth with my local Community Gardens. First I have Lee Ritchie running the hotshop, teaching all the glassblowing classes, and producing all my roll-up work. I also have Brian Renoud maintaining the torchwork classroom and teaching the beadmaking classes. Both of these have been rewarding beyond my wildest expectations. I love the stimulation of other people in the studio doing their own thing--great energy, and I also appreciate being able to offer more learning opportunities and more studio work than I would be able to do on my own. Lee and Brian are both completely reliable and responsible and dedicated to growing their individual components of our teaching facility.
The third partnership with Lori Schinelli for the Bullseye kilnglass resource center (KGRC) is just really getting going now. Though I opened Siyeh Glass Resource Center in October, Lori's portion of our KGRC opens the 23rd of this month. I look forward to seeing a revenue jump from her classes (more on that under retailing supplies below).
Lastly, as part of my new Resource Center initiative I partnered with the Oakhurst Community Gardens to teach classes through them in November and December. All but one of the classes were offered in my studio/resource center, but the OCG did all the advertising on their website, collected the fees, etc., and just paid me based on the number of participants. There were a few kinks to work through, but I think we've got it down now and I look forward to teaching more for them in the spring.
Production work: Even though I love working with other artists, it's time this year to get back to expanding my own individual work not just in terms of new colorways and piece styles, but in new production series (coming this year: the mosaic series and production roll-ups!). This past year I noticed I have a skewed vision of my income because it included all the collaborative income. While I don't have to make 100% of the work in my collaborative work I also don't make 100% of the income. Once V is caught up on last year's books it will be interesting for me to see if my sales are increasing , stable or decreasing when I factor out the income from the portion of the collaborative work that isn't mine.
For collaborative work, I am also dependent on the production schedules of my partners. If they're booked for production and I'm not, I have to turn down or push back work (and, therefore, revenue)--not something I can afford to do right now. So if I spend all my energy (as I have done in the past couple of years) developing and showing new collaborative work, I am effectively maximizing sales of that work and minimizing sales of work that's 100% my own.
Retailing Supplies: Now that I have a permanent part-time employee, I like having a studio with regularly-scheduled open hours. And it makes me feel less guilty about having an employee to work on the mindless parts of my production work (and to make me consider taking on new series work that has a higher proportion of mindless work than my other series). Though the retail aspect of the business has yet to bring in any noticeable revenue I expect that situation to change when we are teaching more and when Lori is up and running and churning out those beginner classes.
Marketing: This year I am still working on marketing in the cheap. I can't afford to invest a lot (much at all) when I still have three shows to pay for and a bad year to recover from. But I will get the websites for both the studio and the resource center running smoothly and being updated frequently.
Hosting events: Last year I ended the year with two artist open houses in December and the beginning of Date Night in the hotshop. I was really pleased with both endeavors and look forward t expanding both concepts this year. It was good to have people in to the studio to shop, schmooze and nosh for the Sleigh Rides (artist open houses) and I would like to see us do another one before Mother's Day/Graduation/the summer art fair season. Date Night has been wildly popular with participants and I have expanded it to include not only wine, cheese and chocolate but also a slideshow on cd-rom memento of the evening and an after-date treat at the Chocolate Bar (through another partnership I am currently working on). Now we need to get Date Brunch in the Hotshop and Date Nights in both kilnforming and torchworking available.
Teaching: I knew I was going to love teaching glass. The positive feelings I had from writing the book, working with the Waldorf 7th graders, hosting open studio in 2008 and 2009, and teaching one-on-one were only reinforced by the workshops I did through OCG and I very much look forward to teaching more regularly next year. Speaking of which, someone called from Delphi about teaching a woprkshop or two there this year... better get on that.