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!
- 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).
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.