Saturday, February 25, 2012

BMAC 2012 Wrap-Up

The last week passed in a daze and I never found time to post. Initially I had no time because I was trying to get new work finished prior to driving to Philly for the show--I was still grinding and polishing new glass for it at 1:30 pm last Wednesday and we were supposed to have left in the early morning. We ("we" being me, my mother and Jessie) left at 1:48 pm and got in at 2:00 am after two McDonald's meals and a marathon of driving. Then the next day was the first day of set-up. We weren't supposed to be able to unload the car or get into the hall until 3:00 pm, but fate was smiling on us and exhibitor services let us in just before 11:00 am. Then began the set-up.

This year, again for the first time, Bill (of Black Cat) and I split an additional booth for our new collaborative work. It was only a 10 X 10, and we only had five new pieces and three older pieces in it, but I was very happy with how it turned out. Unfortunately I do not appear to have taken a picture of the whole booth--just the individual pieces. I hope John got one. I also don't have a picture of Todd's best new work which was a 6-1/2 ft long 3 ft wide flat wall sculpture of a man flying (or being flown by) a kite. It was the hit piece of the show. I am going to have to check with John on that one too--I'm sure he got a good one.

Even with the additional booth to set-up--I was in glass with the extra booth next to me and Bill was in mixed media a few aisles away so John, Todd and I set-up both of the booths--we finished by Friday at 5:00 pm and we could have been out even sooner if we hadn't puttered. We even had almost everything priced--something I had never done before until the first day of the show.

Good thing we were so prepared, too, as we wrote our first order right after the show opened on Saturday, and then we just kept writing. Usually I have time to post during the show, but we pretty much wrote orders non-stop for the entire show for the first time ever! Not posting meant I didn't get to use the line I had been saving up for days (since the Princess Bride quote posts): "Hello, my name Is Inigo Montoya. You love my glass, prepare to buy."

Now let's talk about the show itself. Hargrove exhibitor services was, as always for me, very nice and accommodating. The load-in and load-out were the smoothest and easiest I have have done in Philly. I was a bit disappointed that I never saw Rebecca, the new show manager who replaced Christine. I expected her to make a point of going around to personally greet the the artists. I also saw my section rep, Allison, less than I expected to, but I have since discovered that there were only two section reps for the entire floor so I'm amazed that I saw her at all. I was also dismayed at the email that went out a week before the show stating that exhibitors were limited to two additional crossbars. Unlimited free crossbars have been one of the best perks for this show for years and many of us count on them--or at least count on finding out in a timely manner that we won't have access to them. A one-line notice buried in the weekly show email one week before the show is *not* a timely manner. Fortunately, Hargrove did not stick to this rule, and, as far as I know, everyone who needed crossbars got them.

The floor set-up itself was also disappointing--again, not unexpected with only two section reps. There were several places in our area (the back of the glass aisle) where either exhibitors never showed up or the floorplan was just weird and these areas had to be covered with carpet and furnished so they didn't look so bad. The carpet that went down was a real mismash, and the tables and chairs used to furnish the empty space lasted one day until they were carted off somewhere else. When an artist down from me asked Hargrove to provide replacement furniture, she was told that they would just be stolen again so what was the point. If I had seen the artists who took them, I would've hunted them down and gotten the furniture back--rent your own if you need it, don't make our section look like empty crap.

The new exhibitors in the back were also stuck in a horrible place where the aisle just ended and there were no curtain walls or anything--just the back of the hall and the restrooms. As I walked the hall I saw several other places where the floorplan had large open holes and some of them didn't even have carpet. With the increase in booth fees and the decrease in show support staff, I would like to see where the additional money went as it certainly wasn't to making the show look better.

Now, negatives out of the way, let's get back to buyers and sales. I again found this show to be increasingly a regional show with a majority of my new accounts coming from either Pennsylvania or from its bordering states. There isn't a good show in the west that I know about so where are those buyers going? Orlando? New York? Nowhere? Origin aside, the buyers were there, and they were active. In spite of the negatives, it was our best show ever. We took over 40 orders with an average size of just over $600 and sold 898 individual pieces. The work chosen ranged from Todd's littlest wire and glass ornaments to the large, new collaborative work with Black Cat. There were buyers for everything, and they placed good orders. There were also several good customers whom I did not see so I need to check-in with them.

Most of the orders are due by the end of May, and we don't have another show scheduled this year so I am going to have to step up to the plate on my follow-up and on-line marketing to galleries so we get reorders. Todd had such a good show that right now he would rather I didn't follow-up so he wouldn't get any more orders, but he'll get over having to work. Next task: finishing the input of orders into the POS system, sending Bill his steel orders, Todd his wire orders, and putting together the firing schedule for the glass. Also need to get an image to Merle for an ad in the spring edition of Niche magazine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Anything Can Be

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Shel Silverstein

It is Valentine's Day, and I just gave Jessie the present I bought for her back in December. It's a blue jade and silver bead bracelet with a silver heart medallion hanging from it. On the medallion I had engraved "Anything Can Be" from the poem above. When she opened it, I had a misty-eyed, uplifting moment and thought how everything would be all right for the show, it would all work out--after all, anything can be. And then I thought of all the disasters that "anything can be" could also bring to life...

Who pissed in my bean curd this morning, you might ask. The new work for the show--of course all left for last and for the last minute--has been kicking my butt and not even bothering to take my name. The night before last I was in the studio till after 1:00 am loading the kiln with the glass for the 1/2" cast glass disks on copper rods for the new sculptural pieces. When I went back yesterday morning at 9:30 am, that kiln was still annealing--not a good omen for the prospects of getting yesterday's kiln load in (though perfectly predictable had I done the math on how long the firing would take). Not having an extra day to just walk away and let it cool, I pushed it and cracked the lid (1/4") at 350 degrees (about 5:00 pm).

Thick pieces, dammed with steel molds and on mullite shelves. I knew I was risking it, but there were no good choices. I also knew that though thermocouple read 350 degrees, that was the air temp in the kiln and the glass was significantly hotter. Finally about 9:00 pm I took the pieces--still in the steel molds and on the shelves--out of the kiln. The temperature--lid fully open--read 171 degrees. Had I stopped there, I think I would have been fine, but I needed the shelves and molds from the 9" circle pieces to do another set. So I slipped the molds off and stacked the glass circles (now THAT was a stupid move--all I can say is, I was tired and thought the stack would preserve the heat better and allow them to cool more slowly). A few minutes later I heard the first, distinctive prack (a combination of a ping and a crack) and, sure enough, The lime green circle cracked starting at the exit point of one copper rod and running right through. Eventually it made it all the way across and I discovered that my discs are 5/8" thick--not 1/2". A couple of minutes later I heard another one go. It was the turquoise one. Another one, yellow, did not crack, but I didn't have the mold centered on the fiber paper so the bottom is not flat and I had to remake it too.

Now it's Tuesday morning, and I know that the pieces I put in last night--I finished just after midnight--won't be cool enough to coldwork today at all. I'm not even going to unload them from the kiln till tomorrow morning. Then I'll need to coldwork and pack them before hitting the road and driving to Philadelphia with Mom and J in tow. (No, I'm not really towing them along behind. I'll let them ride in the car--if there's enough room.)

If I'm lucky, tomorrow's post title will be "It's A Mystery". Right now it feels like more Princess Bride:

Inigo: We're in a terrible rush.

Miracle Max: Don't rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It Would Take a Miracle

It has been awhile since I posted as it's been awhile since I had time to post. Arguably my time right now could be better spent on something else--like getting ready for the Buyer's Market of American Craft in Philadelphia this week. but I am taking a minute (or 20) to post anyway.

Since I last wrote on the horrificness of January, life, as it will do, has settled back down to normal. Dave did his monthly stint in Austin. Jessie is on winter break. It was briefly spring, now it's winter again. The sun rises and sets. The birds quarrel over seed and prime bathing spots at the pond. The magnolias, early prunus, quince, camellias, daffodils, hyacinth, and forsythia determinedly bloom in spite of the vagaries of the weather. As for me, well I spend a lot of time in the studio.

In hindsight, it was probably not the right timing to add a completely separate 10X10 booth with all new work to the 10X20 booth I already need to fill with current work for the Buyer's Market. But Bill and Elaine (Black Cat ArtWorks) and I came up with some great ideas for new directions in our work together, and we committed to them before life came along with its big teeth-kicking boots. It took until last Thursday before I finally had a complete list of all the pieces I need for the show. I began firing everything Friday. Now it's Sunday, and I have so far managed not to have to drive up to Lori's studio in Dunwoody to borrow her kilns. Fingers crossed my luck holds today.

As I review what's come out of the kilns so far, I realize that the new work has two different styles/feels, and I'm wondering how it's going to blend in one booth. I am also not thrilled with the display we have determined for that booth which is based on the materials we have--white walls, white pedestals and purple carpet. It matches the black steel and bright glass of half of the new work (similar in feel to our current pieces) just fine. But we also have a french vanilla and french vanilla and dense white series of fused and sandblast-carved pieces that I just don't think is going to work there. Maybe I need to think about setting up a niche with soft grey walls and black carpet for those pieces... Oh I need at least another week to do this right, and I don't have it!

The other new work--the pieces similar in flavor to what we already do) is large (six-foot tall), three-dimensional, kinetic, and sculptural. The glass is thick (1/2 inch) and cast around copper rods so that it moves freely in the black steel frames. I am still playing with the colors and technique I want to use for the castings even though the final firing of all the pieces must happen today. This work is an interesting contrast to my other morceaux de verre pieces created from sheet, chunk and frit. When I create those pieces, I turn up the music and let the  glass fly. Tadashi watched me make a couple of pieces last night, and he said it looked like I was painting with frit. It's a very free and fluid style. I think the major difficulty I am having with the new pieces is that I am trying to be as free and fluid when I create them, but I have to carefully weigh the glass I use and balance them to make sure they'll float in the steel, moving freely.

Okay, time for posting is up, and I need to head to the studio to wrangle two new employees in their first solo flights (Linda is in for Judy who has the day off, and Fawn is teaching her first kiln-forming date). Pics and more tomorrow--time permitting.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


I wasn't going to write about what a horrible week I had last week because I looked at it as focusing on the negative and the past instead of looking to the future. But I realized this morning (as I read Dee's comment on the post from yesterday) that I would be leaving behind a couple of pretty important things that deserve acknowledgement, and, in one case, thanks. The first and most important of those is the passing of Ernie Monstrocat.

Last weekend it looked like he had a cold so we took him to the vet on Monday. The diagnosis was a sinus infection transmitted from his mouth. They gave him liquid antibiotics and a pill-form decongestant, and said he should probably have his teeth cleaned the following Monday. Because of his advanced age, they did some lab work to see if he could tolerate the general anesthetic for the cleaning, and promised to call with the results on Tuesday.

When they called Tuesday it was with the information that the lab results revealed he had incurable, advanced kidney disease. They recommended we bring him in for a few days of hospitalization with IV fluids to flush out his kidneys so that he might be able to feel better and live a bit longer. I was very nervous when I took him in Tuesday because we had already been through a month-long hospitalization with Jester that ended with putting him to sleep and horrible guilt for having put him through it all on the first place. So before leaving Ernie to several days in a cage, needles and strangers, I asked to speak to our regular vet--who had not seen Ernie the previous day.

She did a physical exam and was concerned at the 6-lb weight loss in conjunction with the kidney disease and sinus infection. She looked at his teeth and said they weren't as bad as she would have expected given the sinuses. She recommended taking a couple of x-rays before going through the IV fluids and hospitalization route because if he had another more serious issue--large, cancerous masses hidden by his still substantial bulk, e.g.--then putting him through the IV fluids and hospital stay would probably not be the best choice for him. The x-rays did not reveal any large masses, instead they showed a complete lack of right hip joint and areas on his spine and ribs that looked like bone cancer. The kidneys and liver also both looked abnormal, and everything together led our vet to believe metastatic bone cancer and nothing to be done but let him go. And the world crashed to a halt.

It was only Tuesday afternoon. Dave was having a very stressful time with his work, Jessie was dealing with serious issues at school, and Mom was coping with the one-year anniversary of my Dad's death. I had already had to deal with the Siyeh Glass website being hacked and shut down by our ISP--right as we had new classes listed and a newsletter to get out, the hard drive on my laptop becoming corrupt and needing repaired (with no back-up of the 483 gigs of data on it), and the glass furnace going out in the hotshop with multiple failure points (not just elements or relays or thermocouple, but ALL of them) necessitating in canceling the Sunday glass dates in the studio. In a larger context, it was two weeks before the Buyer's Market show in Philadelphia where I have not one but TWO booths to fill with work (as yet undone), and also two weeks before the first 30 pages of my book (as yet unwritten) are due. And that's all I'm going to write about the trials of the week. Everyone in the house was having to deal with their own bad crap at the same time I was buried in the poop so it was REALLY lousy for all of us.

Now on to the thanks. On Monday I posted on Facebook how horribly the week was going and stated that I needed chocolate. There were many, many notes of encouragement and support (and one even contained a virtual chocolate cake!), and I was comforted. But my friends went even farther than that. The next afternoon--within an hour of putting Ernie to sleep and before anyone knew about his passing--Becky the Bookkeeper showed up at the studio with a bottle of wine and a couple of big Scharffen Berger chocolate bars and she also brought in a basket from Morganica that had just been delivered. I cannot adequately describe how very cherished and loved I felt at that moment as I sat crying over Ernie and in despair of the week.
That night when I got home I nibbled on caramel corn, Godiva chocolate, honey roasted peanuts, and white chocolate lime cookies accompanied by a lovely Malbec--all before dinner. And I raised a glass to Ernie and to friends. We'll get through somehow.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Week

It's Saturday morning--at least for another hour--and an incredibly horrible week looks to be behind me. Instead of re-hashing it here, I am am going to take this time to look ahead at what's coming up in the next couple of weeks. The agenda is scary, but doable. I hope. Getting all the work done for the Buyer's Market is the top line item, closely followed by writing 30 pages of the book. I don't foresee any problem doing the work, but the writing is a bit scary. I should also get the Siyeh Studio and FeSiO websites up, the work photographed, a postcard mailing put together, and a host of other promotional tasks done. At this point they all appear to be beyond a stretch goal, which is not good as doing a show without promoting  it--especially the new FeSiO work--risks throwing a lot of money down the toilet. However, right now it's a choice between money and time, and the money I will make from orders at the show exists as potential (a bird in the bush) and the time I have to prepare for the show (and accomplish everything else I have scheduled) has an exact, small quantity (the bird that pooped in my hand).

Today I need to take apart the pressure pot for my sandblast cabinet, figure out why it isn't working well, and rebuild it. I also need to make a list of the pieces I want to take to the show of my current work, and fire a couple of pieces of the new work. Finally, need to try to sandblast some steel from Bill to see how I like the look for a new wall piece. Tomorrow is for writing. Wish me luck.