Monday, January 26, 2015

The American Made Show 2015

Front of the Booth
And now the promised post on the American Made Show! Statistics out of the way first. We didn't do the show last year as I had to take care of my mother who was post-surgery (and had a major infection). So my comparison will be with the year before which was our best Buyer's Market show ever (we missed the boom times in the 90's and started just as the recession hit). We were down from 2013 by about 10 orders, but our average sale size was up a bit.

32 orders
15 new customers
$636 average sale

Hello DC! (After a night on the train)
New customer distribution:

  • 2 California
  • 1 Connecticut
  • 1 Delaware
  • 1 Florida
  • 1 Massachusetts
  • 1 Maryland
  • 1 Maine
  • 2 North Carolina
  • 2 New York
  • 1 Pennsylvania
  • 2 Virginia

Existing customer distribution:

  • 1 Arkansas
  • 1 California
  • 3 Florida
  • 2 Indiana
  • 2 Massachusetts
  • 1 Maryland
  • 1 Michigan
  • 2 North Carolina
  • 1 New Jersey
  • 2 Pennsylvania
  • 1 Wisconsin

Back of the Booth (Look Ma, no dead side!)
Two existing customers (on from California and one from Hawaii) contacted me with orders prior to the show and said they would not be at any of the east coast shows this winter. Now it's up to me to contact everyone else I didn't see and send them images of the new work. I will also let them know how the show went and encourage them to attend next year. I did not see my buyers from Uncommon Goods, but I did meet the buyers from the Museum Fine Arts San Francisco. Mostly who I didn't see were the little shop buyers from Pennsylvania and Maryland who were so prevalent at the last Buyer's Market I attended. I have a feeling they are going to go to the ACRE show in Philly in February instead. Regardless, I will get in touch with them before that show to let them know about our new work, and to check their stock on what they have ordered from us previously. I did ask the Rosen Group for specific numbers of buyers for this show and was told that registration was higher that it has been in 4-5 years with 70% of those registered checking in at the show.

Set-up went quickly once we decided what to do about our extra space.
Crowns for all!
Those were the facts of the show, now here are the impressions: It felt dead. Dead, dead, dead. The aisles were empty, we rarely had anyone waiting for us to take their order, and time crawled by. Despair was thick in the air. I talked to several artists who thought they were having a terrible show because of the feel--only to find out when they totaled up their sales after the second day that they were even or ahead of the previous year! As will always happen, there were also those who had a horrible show, and those who had a great show. No one was saying their numbers were anywhere close to what they had been in the 90's, but I doubt they will ever be there again (more on that tomorrow). The people who were there were placing orders, and the orders were good. Unfortunately they were also efficient which meant we artists had a lot of time on our hands to worry, and gossip, and--in some cases--gripe and foment. More on THAT tomorrow too.

The traditional One Nice Night Out For Dinner photo
In our booth we spent the time getting to know our neighbors better, mentoring new exhibitors, and Todd made lots and lots of crowns. He made crowns for everyone around us with each artist's own work as the centerpiece of her (or his!) crown. We also took lots of pictures. In all, it was a very, very good show.

For a personal experience, it was great. Todd, John, Dee and I took the train in from Atlanta--a sleeper and an adventure all on its own. Set-up was the quickest ever--in spite of a change in the floorplan that left our booth exposed on all sides and with five extra feet of width. Breakdown was also quicker than ever and we were back in the hotel room before 6:30 pm on Monday. It was very nice that the show ended at 2:00 instead of 3:00 or 4:00--though to be honest, it really doesn't need to be four days long. I can see the argument for having it run Friday through Monday so some buyers can attend Friday through Sunday while others can grab the other end of the long weekend Saturday through Monday. But it is very long--and boring--for the artists when there aren't a ton of buyers.

Bottom line: I WILL do this show again next year, and I will do everything I can to promote it and keep it a vibrant, exciting place where artists can connect in person with buyers. Thank you Rebecca, Jen, Maria and all of the rest of the staff from the Rosen Group and Hargrove who worked tirelessly to fix problems and address concerns throughout the show. I was very impressed with the level of professionalism and personal commitment shown by all. And now, more pictures than I could comfortably share in the text.

My goody bag for the train from Todd
Todd on a train.
Trying to get Todd and John's viewliner roomette.
The dining car on the train was very cool.
Narrow train aisle
The hall in the hotel was as wide as the entire train car--both cabins and the aisle!
Booth: Back Right
Booth: Front Left
Booth: Front Right
Booth: Back Left inside
Booth: Left Outside (Our kite wall)
Hanging with the neighbors.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Back to Glass Incarnate and the Niche Award

Unusually for me, I have several posts backed up in my head to write and I am having difficulty getting them out. This first one is easy--it's back to Glass Incarnate from Life Incarnate. The second one--my review of the American Made Show in DC last week--is also relatively easy--look for it tomorrow. But it's the prospect of writing the third one--the politics and future of shows for artists--that has been blocking me on writing at all for the past several days. I finally got past the block by separating out the first two posts, and I'll use them to ease into the third. The third post is the most important one and the one that I have really got to think through carefully to get just right. I hate that kind of pressure. But there are a lot of opinions and smack talk flying around out there now in the wake of the American Made Show and leading up to the ACRE and ACC shows next month, and I think it's essential that all of us who work in the handmade crafts industry stop, think, and act for our futures instead of reacting in fear to rumor and misinformation and making bad choices. I am also not one to keep my strong opinions to myself. So be it.

But today, back to Glass Incarnate. For those who have followed this blog over the years, you know that it started back in 2006 as a tool to help me get back into the flow of writing so I could write my first book. I used it to chronicle my experiences writing, running a small glass studio, and later expanding the studio into a kiln glass resource center and teaching facility with a hotshop, a torchwork classroom, and 4-8 other artists and support staff. As I began writing book two, life both inside and outside of the studio got very complicated. Artists are like cats and herd just as well, and they also have lives just as complicated as mine with responsibilities and choices that affect their ability to contribute to the needs of the studio. My own personal life also became very complicated with my mother's health, my daughter switching from the Waldorf school to homeschooling, and splitting our family's time each year between Atlanta and Montana--two homes, one studio. Finally it came to the point where herding artists and trying to run a studio long-distance for 3-4 months of the year on top of everything else on my plate was just too much, and I closed the resource center/teaching facility and let go the remaining staff. It was a hard decision, but book 2 and life really kicked my butt for a couple of years, and I was finally tapped out. I limped by on the work that I sold to galleries and shops, but I didn't attempt to grow my business at all. I waited. I hibernated. And Glass Incarnate transformed into Life Incarnate.

Then life cycled back around to the upside, as it is wont to do. My mother got better, my daughter went back to Waldorf, and I emerged from my den to find spring. I am now back in the studio regularly--though I am not opening it up again as a resource center--and I have a renewed vigor for both my business and my art. I missed vigor! I missed excitement and the tingle of an idea that just couldn't wait to be realized in glass! It's been three and a half years since I dreamed about glass, and I finally have the room in my brain to do it again. Oddly enough, in the weird way the universe has, that of which I dreamt three years ago and that which inspires me now are the same thing--3-D printing in glass (although I think of it more as 3-D silkscreening with glass than 3-D printing).

I submitted a 3-D whatever piece that I created for book 2 as an entry for the 2015 Niche Awards in glass cast, fused, or slumped. Ten years ago was the first time I was a finalist for this award, and this year I finally won. Unsurprisingly, the recognition of the judges and my peers gave me a shot of confidence and energy  that I really needed after the past few years. Though it is time-consuming to the nth degree, I really want to do more of this work. I may or not be able to market and sell it, but for the first time, that isn't a consideration for me. I want to do it for art's sake, because it demands to be created--not for business. Ahhhh. That feels good! Now off to finish printing out my orders from the show and building the firing schedule for the next few months. Truth to tell, that feels good too.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Distaff Day

"Distaff Day, also called Roc Day, is 7 January, the day after the feast of the Epiphany. It is also known as Saint Distaff's Day, one of the many unofficial holidays in Catholic nations. Many St. Distaff's Day gatherings were held, large and small, throughout local fiber community. The distaff, or rock, used in spinning was the medieval symbol of women's work. In many European cultural traditions, women resumed their household work after the twelve days of Christmas. Women of all classes would spend their evenings spinning on the wheel. During the day, they would carry a drop spindle with them. Spinning was the only means of turning raw wool, cotton or flax into thread, which could then be woven into cloth." from Wikipedia

I celebrated Distaff Day for the first time yesterday with a day of social spinning with the Peachtree Handspinner's Guild, and it was MARVELOUS. We spun, chatted, ate, shared knowledge, and picked challenge projects for the year. I picked up a 3 oz bag of brightly colored ends to blend into roving, spin and weave into a project before the March meeting. And speaking of weaving, last week I finally finished my first handspun/handwoven project, the beaded scarf. It was a bear to do, but it turned out beautifully and has me very excited about this challenge and more weaving of handspun.

Other challenges I am going to do this year are the fleece comparison--wash, card or comb, and spin
three different types of wool; and the The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs: Techniques for Creating 80 Yarns challenge which is to work (as a group) through the book and create all 80 yarns.

In the more immediate timeframe, I finished spinning and plying the three lbs of merino/camel down blend that I am going to dye and knit into a sweater for Dave. While I have no problem dyeing this fiber, I never thought I would want to dye any of my alpaca as it comes in such wonderful different colors naturally. But a few things have happened recently to make me open up to the idea. First, I am incapable of walking by any of Gale's skeins of hand-dyed alpaca/silk roving without buying one or more so clearly I like brightly colored alpaca. I am also intrigued by the color possibilities that result from overdyeing the heathery greys, browns, and even the black alpaca with greens, blues, red, yellow, purple--in short, just about every color. And, finally, as I look at the stash of roving I have left from 2013's alpaca processing and contemplate the amount I have coming in from 2014's, I feel a need to move the first on to something new to make room for the second. What better way to invigorate it than to dye it?

As I was already ordering protein (acid) dye from Dharma for Dave's sweater, I went ahead and got some other colors to try on the alpaca roving. And because no project is complete without a book, I also ordered the book Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques. It's not that I don't have other excellent books and resources for dyeing, but this one looked really scrumptious.

Finally, I am also about half way through spinning Levi's cria (baby alpaca) fleece that Ruthann sent me. We are doing a trade whereby she had her fleece processed into roving, I am spinning it, and we will split the finished yarn. This is another one that I think I'm going to dye (my share of the yarn) as it is a beautiful soft, light grey brown that I think will really be gorgeous with a bright overdye.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Long Johns. What I Most Need are Long Johns...

Glacier National Park (
J has been dropped at school, and I am in my cosy chair wearing fuzzy black sweat pants, a heavy 3/4 sleeve cotton shirt, the huge sweater my father-in-law made for me, two scarves made for me by my sister-in-law and my friend Vanessa, my dad's old fuzzy socks (I would've worn the smartwool socks my sister-in-law gave me at Thanksgiving, but I could only find one), and my sheepskin slippers. And I have a fuzzy blanket on my lap. I am not yet warm and toasty, but by god I will be!

I spent my entire life not knowing how to dress for the weather. It took having a child and sending her to the Waldorf School for me to learn about layering. Yeah, we layered when I was a child, but the layers were a big heavy sweater on top of a long-sleeved turtle neck shirt. There was no way you wouldn't end up too hot inside the house in the sweater (even in our house which was kept about 60 degrees during the day, 50 at night) and too cold if you took it off so I missed the whole point. and just suffered. Endlessly. Silently.  Now that I'm in my 50's, I think I finally know how to dress (except for the whole open-toed, open-sided shoes thing with the bulky socks, but I'll find my new boots before I go out again this morning). I like a lighter shirt with a sweater of cotton jacket over it, and a coat over that (with knitted scarves as necessary) and warm fuzzy gloves. Speaking of which, I need to find my gloves before I go out again too. For the drive to school I wrapped my hands in the sleeves of the sweater--not the best option. As it's going to be cold for the next several days and I need to prepare for winter in Montana (2016) I went on-line and ordered me up a pair of Merino tights from Amazon. They'll be here tomorrow. Thank you Uncle Ed and Aunt Susan, your Amazon Christmas gift card bought me a wonderful book on dyeing wool and a pair of merino wool tights.

So the weather, I'm sure a hot (no pun intended) topic across many parts of the country today. It was 10 degrees when I got up this morning. At the same time it was 25 in Austin, -4 in Chicago, and though two hours earlier, 27 degrees in Polson (where we spend our summers up by Glacier Park). In Missoula, 75 miles southeast, it was only 14, but that STILL beats Atlanta! And they have snow! If I've got to have cold, I want to have snow too. Of course I know all of those temps because I huddled under my fluffy down comforter looking up temperatures on my iPhone instead of getting out of bed--anything to put off being the first one up and so the one who turns up the heat and on the shower. Can't wait till Dave is home Saturday. I'm sleeping in!

Now off to pour hot water in the bunnies water container, check the pond pump, and put out warm water for the chickens (who are probably quite indignant about the weather).

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Change is Good

Today I reflect on the benefits of changing up life, and setting new records. Now that Jessie is back in the formal school system  some might wonder if the past year and a half of homeschooling was a failure. Today I say with confidence that it was not only a success, but it had positive implications for areas of life not even associated with education. I find myself setting a record today of three days of blogging in a row. I think I would have to look back far into the stacks to find the last time I managed that feat. Jessie has also risen, gotten ready for school, done all her chores (letting out the chickens and feeding the bunnies and chickens and feeding and watering the dogs), made and ate her breakfast, made and packed her lunch, and been ready by the door ON TIME for the past three days--with NO yelling from me. She has also completed two nights straight of homework, we have watched no tv at all, and she is getting to bed early every night. I have completed the tasks on my daily to do list for three straight days--including packing up the crate of work to be shipped to DC today. Now I have a few minutes to post while I wait for Becky Hinton to arrive for a handwork morning. This afternoon, piano lessons for J and me, and tonight the Reno girls are coming for dinner.

What does this have to do with homeschooling? I'll tell you. Though there were aspects of it J liked, she really missed the daily interactions with all of her friends. And because she had the break from school, she appreciates the parts she likes enough that she is willing to maintain her performance on other aspects, e.g., the education and learning part, up to and including paying attention in class, trying not to get frustrated when parents and others work with her and explain things she doesn't get, doing her homework before it's due, and getting up in the morning without fussing.

For me, though I knew I was spending a lot of time planning curriculum, teaching, assignments, and driving to all kinds of extra activities, I hadn't realized just how much time until I got it all back. Even with being on point every morning at 6:45 (6:45!!!!) and driving her to and from school, I have time to burn. And I have a renewed appreciation for the other things I do with my life. I am enthused about being back in the studio making glass, I have been cleaning my house, spinning, throwing out/giving away clutter, and ticking thing after thing off my list. And everything feels great.

Had we not taken a break to homeschool , I think we would both be stuck in an ever-deepening rut of dislike of school for her, and dissatisfaction with life for me. So Huzzah for Waldorf and Tim Smith--the best teacher in the world.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Oh Me Oh My Oh It's Some Kind of Cold OH!

Coffee in the Chicago mug in honor of the extreme cold in Atlanta this morning. There was not only frost on the windshield when I took J to school, but she reported that the top part of the pond was also frozen. The temps were a great shock to me as it was considerably warmer yesterday. I might have been better prepared if I watched tv or read the news/weather. Alas, I live in my own world and am thus surprised when there are unforeseen climate changes. Unfortunately, today is the day Todd and Dee are coming to unpack the boxes from Chicago, repack them for DC and load them into the pallet for pick-up and shipping tomorrow. This would be a fine activity inside the studio where there is heat, but the studio is already bursting at the seams with other stuff so the boxes (and pallet) are all outside in the hotshop. I may have to spend the morning befire they get here cleaning out the shipping room so we can work in there and avoid the frigid outside as much as possible.

The new year has started chez Griffith, and with it came many changes; the biggest of which is J rejoining her class at the Waldorf School. We had planned for her to go back next year as she wanted to graduate 8th grade with her class, but when the door opened on the possibility of her returning in January if I took a job in Montana, it did not close when the job went to someone else, lingering instead to become a stated desire for her,  and thus a reality for us. Yesterday was the first of many requiring us to rise with the sun to hustle to school and I frankly can't wait till Dave is back from Austin and can take over the morning chauffeur duties. I am already over being a morning person and it's only Tuesday.

Now the vacuuming and sweeping from yesterday are still calling, and it's time to get on with the day.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Hello 2015!

'Tis two weeks after Christmas, and all through the house,
Dust bunnies have grown up, the size of my spouse!
The stockings and ornaments packed back up the stairs,
No sign on the mantle they'd ever been there.
No longer till ten the child lies abed;
She's now back at school knowledge filling her head;
And Dave's off to Austin, so I am on point,
Time to dust, sweep, and vacuum to clean up this joint.
But there's email to read and forms to fill out,
And dog pee to clean up (after giving a shout).
Then time with my mother I'm going to spend,
A date every Monday till June when it ends.
The house is so quiet all empty of peeps,
I can hear the street cleaner from way down the street.
But time now to focus, to get on with my day;
To get paid by a client, (a cause for "hurray").
The American Made Show in DC next week,
And faucet upstairs which late sprang a leak,
Both need my attention I'm sorry to say,
But this blog post I've started, it's consuming my day.
"Now finish, now get-up, now get on the horn!
On, kiln-loads, on shipping, there's glass to be born!
To the studio I go, I haven't much time,
Now stop all this puttering making up rhyme!"
And yet to this cushion my butt seeks to stick,
Though the clock on wall continues to tick.
Ambition and energy just can't found,
The height of my goals; to keep sitting around.
But deadlines are coming, the time does approach,
When I'll find myself snug in a railway coach.
It's off to DC that I travel next week,
With Dee, Todd, and John (oh I hope I can sleep).
The American Made Show is setting up there,
My work to the venue I ship now with care.
But first I must make it, last minute my friend,
Today I start firing and Wednesday I send.
Someday I'll start early, I promise myself,
With work all done early and stored on the shelf.
The thought makes me smile, mouth quirked into a bow,
That's the day that I'll wake up with hair white as snow.
My keyboard I'm tapping as dogs scratch to come in,
Fingers furiously flying then rising again.
I'll have some more coffee and finish this post,
Eat a weight watchers breakfast--maybe some toast,
Then I really must move, one half hour remains
Before my day starts to run down the drain.
I've so much much to do here that thoughts fill my head;
The amount I have scheduled does fill me with dread.
But there's no use in crying or wringing my hands,
I'll get nothing done without taking a stand.
So coffee, and blog post, and breakfast, and forms,
Then mother, and charges, and shipping, and more.
This day I will triumph, and so with the year,
May you also flourish; too bad you're not here.
One last thought 'fore I leave you, 'fore going away,
"Happy New Year to all, and to all a good day!"