Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh Let's Blog!

It's the end of the day on Monday--not my usual blogging time. The dinner has been had, the Sprout has been put to bed, and the Benedictine is being sipped. Sister Hazel sings that It's All For You leading into Marc Broussard telling me it's "Where You Are". It was a Monday almost OFF. Not quite all--I answered some email, did some planning, and made some calls--but I did keep it low key. Tomorrow Dave heads off to Austin again and I have three days of heads down work. First thing I need to do is update the answering machine with the new days and hours.

But today's post is not about tomorrow's minutiae. Today's post is about the chicks! And the buns! You've probably heard about chicks in the city. Well, I have chicks in the studio--chickens, that is. We have a small flock--seven hens: Willow, Creamy, Tuxedo, Cookies & Cream, Sundust, Nightshadow, and Pearl--and they now live in the back of the studio yard with Jessie's two bunnies. The bunnies are Jasmine and Char--1129 Charcoal Grey (she is a Bullseye bunny, after all). J wouldn't let me retroactively name Jasmine to 1429 Silver Grey--more's the pity. Dan, our wonderful carpenter built us a Bullseye play yard and coop (got to love all those empty glass crates) in the studio yard and now all we have to do is wait for the eggs... till December or so. They're young chicks. The rest of their pictures can be found on our Facebook page here.

So why did we get chickens for the studio? I'm not really sure, but it made sense at the time--and we like eggs. And our backyard was full. It's really all of a piece as Jessie runs over to the yard and lets them out of the coop every morning and feeds and waters them (she'll also be on egg collection when there are eggs to collect), and then puts them back in at night. The bunnies and chicks living together are purely the fault of the Hencam lady...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Late, Late, Late!

It seems like just yesterday I wrote I'd be posting every day again... Life, it's what's happening! This morning I sit in Kavarna poised to move full-time into a new studio direction. How exactly I will implement this new vision is still being fleshed out. Certainly the cut-back in the open hours of the studio will be a part of it, but at the same time I am looking to increase the accessibility and value of the studio for our customers. Right now we are open a lot of days a week for walk-in traffic in a non-walk-in-friendly location and have a decent-ish web presence. I need to turn that around. Bullseye has begun two new programs for education and affiliation that look like a perfect match for where I would like to be--more virtual and virtually full-time without killing myself by trying to be *really* full-time. I have said for years that I need a couple of clones of myself. Well what better way to clone oneself than through the web?

Of course as soon as I come up with a plan, Loki (the trickster), tries to throw a monkey wrench in it. I taught yesterday and two of the students really loved kiln forming and want to take more classes. I, of course, said yes there are more classes they can take, and they can also come in for open studio... Then I remembered I am cutting back on teaching and open studio this fall and felt awkward. Today I have a family group of 7-10 people coming in to do a little glass blowing with Tadashi and a little kiln-forming with me and I am a bit grumpy because I don't have an uninterrupted day (again) to spend with my family. Balance. It's all about balance.

Now I need to get this post out, have breakfast, and get to the studio to finish preparing for the group. Tomorrow's post Studio Chicks and Buns!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Coming of Age

They say (the ubiquitous "they", arbiters of life) not to make any major decisions for six months after the death of a loved one. We are now homing in on six months after my father's death, my mother moving in with us, and a major tilt of my world axis. Even before then, however, I was straining for a path, balance, satisfaction--searching for that 'click' that happens when you know you're where you're supposed to be and doing what you're meant to do. I've come close before, but the deep, resonating 'click' has eluded me. Now, after a decade of mostly reacting, jumping first and looking later, talking about building my business and slowing down with the same breath, I sit in a calm, centered place (sadly not Montana), and I see what I need to do. And I feel peace and the rumbling purr of a choice well-made and in the right direction. What can I say? I'm a late bloomer (or 50--it's the new 40!).

So here are the personal facts (note how all of them begin with "I"... get it? Personal?):
  • I like people in small doses.
  • I do not like the obligation of five or six days a week of retail, phones, lessons, date nights, classes, and people trampling around in my artistic space.
  • I really don't like being identified to said people as "our kiln-forming instructor" (talented or otherwise) instead of The Studio Owner, Empress Of All She Surveys (I only have my tongue a little in my cheek there--even Artist Extraordinaire, or Author of the best-selling (on Amazon anyway) "A Beginner's Guide to Kiln-Formed Glass" would be better than what I currently get.)
  • I like my production work and have not had any time or spare energy to develop more of it in the past two years.
  • I would like to grow in other artistic directions, e.g., the 3-D printing technique I learned from Steve Royston Brown prior to BECon this year, casting (introduced to me by Linda Ethier in a pre-BECon workshop *two years ago*), silkscreening glass on glass, pottery (glaze is glass, after all, and I am fascinated with integrating glass and clay), etc.
  • I need family time that happens naturally and doesn't feel stolen. If I have to wrench myself away and suffer great guilt when I stop working before 9:00 pm, I had damn well really be raking in the Big Bucks so that I have something to show for all my hard work in my old(er) age and wow is this one not happening!
Okay. Enough whinging about poor, pitiful me (I was going to say whining, but I really like the Aussie term). Now let's look at how I run the studio from the cold, analytical space of business and finance:
  • The most profitable activity in the studio is my production work.
  • Classes (as I have set them up) are profitable if there is only one person eating the tuition pie, i.e., if I want to do all the teaching (and if each class has at least four people in it). Otherwise classes require more time, effort, salary, and materials (money) than they bring in (a net loss). Classes that are profitable (i.e., cost more and last longer--check out the Bullseye Resource Center class lists) do not fill here. I don't know if they fill for Brad Walker, Judith Conway, Paul Tarlow, Kari Minnick, or any of the other studio owners whose businesses I admire, and who seem to be able to pull off all the marketing and community-building required for a good retail business.
  • Date Night is fun, a great concept, and a good way for someone working for me to make a living. It's another net loss for me as it is just not priced (or price-able) to share the income pie (especially when the personal cost of my space and peace enters into it).
Other factors in my decision-making process are the wishes and needs of the people who work for me. Not only do I no longer want to go full speed ahead, they do not want to either. One of them has also moved a significant distance from the studio so a daily commute for a couple of hours of work is out of the question--he needs scheduled, full days.

So it's time to give up on the Kevin Costner model of retail (if you build it, they will come), and move to something a little more 21st virtual century, and, dang it, something a little less at everyone else's whim and convenience (I'm whinging again, aren't I...). My proof on the evidence for the wisdom of the decision comes from last year's Date Night data. Last August was our busiest month ever (!), or so we thought.

However, last August we only offered 11 date slots a week. We were pretty much booked in advance all the time. I thought if we expanded our offering we would book the expansion too because we were booked so far out. Turns out that 14-18 hours a week is about the time Atlanta wants to spend on Date Night at the Glass Studio no matter how many times are available. The extra times just seem to make them feel more sanguine about getting in whenever they want so we get a lot more last-minute bookings than we used to--unsettling for the staff who don't know till the last minute if they will be working or not.

As far as the retail part goes, if I were in a shopping center or other retail area, I would feel much more obliged to be open at least five days a week. But I'm not: I'm in a 1920's Craftsman bungalow that was originally purchased to be my personal studio--not a retail/teaching space. I'm happy to run over to the studio anytime someone wants to buy something (it's not like it's a huge commute). I just don't feel the need to be responsible for being there working set hours each day (nor is it cost-effective to pay someone else to sit there twiddling her thumbs waiting for customers to show up all day every day). I am not--nor do I wish to be--the WalMart of glass open whenever οἱ πολλοί feel like shopping.

Finally, my extended time in Montana this summer shoved my face in the benefits of being able to focus on one thing at a time instead of running around flapping like a headless chicken. And I liked it. Now that I have finally come up for air for the first time since January, I am ready to winnow, to pare down, to divest, to find serenity, joy, calm and my groove again. And my decision 'clicks' down to my toes.

The result: I am changing the studio hours for fall to Thursday - Saturday, 10-5. I am offering regular beginning kiln-forming classes one weekday and one weekend day every three weeks. Glassblowing--both lessons and Date Nights--will be offered Thursday - Saturday (still tentative on those days, but it will be only three days) until the slots are regularly filled and then expansion will be done one day at a time, staff permitting. These changes take effect September 7. I feel better already.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I just finished a really long post about New Directions for the studio (doesn't it seem like there are always new directions for me and my studio?). But, before releasing it to the world at large, I need to go over it all with the staff. I am also working on a newsletter--the first since April, a fall class list, the outline for the new book, marketing materials for the production work, on-line processes for managing registration and payment for classes, materials, etc., and the Siyeh Studio (professional work) website.

After a year of no time or air to breathe, it feels good to blog again, and I plan to keep it up. Come back tomorrow! In the meantime, here's a shot on the way to Iceberg Lake this summer...