Archive for November, 2011

I love all things Christmas and so when I can marry my hobby with my addiction, great!

Since I am now trying to sell my glass pieces through Etsy, I decided to make some Christmas/Holiday plates and candles hoping that I was not the norm and people would buy them.   I later noticed that not a lot of people are creating Christmas specific items and especially fused glass.

The Teams/Forums in Etsy are quite good and so I posed the question to them on whether or not it made sense to make Christmas specific items and would people buy them.  Most people responded that they tend to shy away from making such items because in the past they just haven’t sold that well.  They do sell such items if they are part of a Christmas Bazaar though.  So this leads me to believe that when people go shopping online, they are looking for gifts for others that are year round or personal items, and not holiday decorations or use only at Christmas time items.

I guess this year will be an interesting test.  I am still waiting for that big surge to my sales, so first I am hoping that holiday shopping will increase my sales.  And second, assuming I get sales, then it will be interesting to see if any of them are Christmas-themed.

The good thing is if no one buys them, then I can either save for next year or use myself.  Probably the latter to feed my Christmas addiction!

Do any of you buy Christmas specific items online?

Here is my latest Christmas plate which I dubbed The Christmas Quilt.

The Christmas Quilt Fused Glass Plate

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I knew you learned a lot when you were in school.  And then again when you had a good and challenging job.  But I never imagined that I would learn so much from a hobby.  Yes, I have learned a lot about glass and that has been great.

This time I am talking about Design, Social Media and Marketing!  This is mostly due to my choice to try to sell my glass.  In order to do this you need propaganda and customers!!!  This blog I will focus on Design and later I will tell you all that I have learned about Social Media and Marketing (which will forever be ongoing).

First, I needed a good logo.  I bypassed this one initially because a great friend and graphical designer, Sharon Liu, created a wonderful logo for me.  And then sent me the instructions on how I could do this on my own in the future (assuming I had the eye for design like she does!)

My Banner/Logo

Success #1:  With a great logo, I was now able to create my store on Etsy.  There are many fields to fill in such as about me, policies and packaging and shipping, but those are one time things.  Believe it or not, the item descriptions are the hardest as it is better if you don’t just literally describe the item, but rather explain what inspired you to make it.

Then I wanted business cards, mailing labels, post cards and so forth, so I decided to learn gimp.  My first few weeks were frustrating as I felt totally incompetent.  Eventually I read enough tutorials and just started plowing through it enough to feel comfortable using it.  I still need to learn how to take better pictures as gimp can only fix things up so much, but I am on the path of discovery here and no longer totally incompetent.

A friend pointed me to a wonderful company for your propaganda, moo.com.  They allow you to put a different design on each business card if you are so inclined.  I was a little overwhelmed, so for now, I have made 2 designs for my business cards:  a red theme with red pieces of glass and a blue theme with blue pieces of glass.   At the moment, I have business cards, mailing labels and small stickers all on order.  Yeah!!  I am starting to feel like a real business.

What is my next big hurdle?  My website.  My initial site was an easy to throw together site using iWeb on the mac.  But it had limitations such as not being able to add an RSS feed to the whole site and adding a feedback form.  I then got trial software of 5 different programs for web design on the mac and tried them all.  Eventually I decided that programs which are made based on templates just weren’t going to work for me as I couldn’t do enough customizing.  So my next big purchase will be Dreamweaver and then I am on the road to creating a new website.  But honestly, the tool is the easy part.  The hard part is the design because it is not that easy for me to sit back and visualize what looks cool.  As I said, my next big hurdle!  Stay tuned.

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In my first blog, I mentioned how my addiction began with a class at Bea Sharp’s Glass Studio.  After which, since I didn’t have a place of my own, I would drive the hour to Bea’s studio in South San Francisco and would use her equipment, buy glass from her, and then she would fire my creations in her kilns.  A perfect set-up, but I craved to be able to have my own studio and kiln.

My wonderful husband set up a craiglist search for kilns and one day saw a small never been used 8″ kiln (Paragon Caldera) available for a great price.   It was simultaneously good and bad as it was a young girl about 16 years old selling it.  She had gotten it for Christmas several years before but had been afraid to use it and so was now selling it.  We both wanted her not be afraid of using it, but at the same time, I really wanted the kiln.  Oh well, I bought it!

This was the perfect starter kiln.  I could play on small pieces (anything less than 6 inches) and made lots of wonderful small plates while learning many new things.    It ran on 110v and so I could put it almost anywhere in my house and even take it on vacations when we were driving somewhere as it fit nicely in the back of the car.

As you would expect, I eventually outgrew this kiln as an only kiln as I dreamt of larger possible designs.  We learned about the Glass Craft and Bead Expo which takes place in Las Vegas every spring and headed there to learn more about kilns.  We talked to all the manufacturers and then looked for a used one from one of their onsite classes that they sell at a discount at the end of the show.  This time, I ended up with a Skutt Firebox 14 inch kiln perfect for larger plates and bowls.  It also runs on 110v.  I will have to say that this kiln gets the most use these days.  The downside of this one is that it is short and so cannot be used for vases or pot melts.

As luck would have it, I happened across the skeletons of a kiln at a Bay Area nerd surplus store which they were selling as “bricks” and I bought it for $64.  My again wonderful husband figured out the brand (Skutt KM714), contacted Skutt support and bought all the pieces needed to turn it into a working kiln.  He welded the elements where broken, added the hinges and a controller and wiring.  This one is actually taller and so gets used mostly for vases and pot melts.  The downside is that is runs on 240V and so it needs to get wheeled into the laundry room to use the Dryer’s power whenever it gets used, so not as convenient.

For now, I am set and very happy with my kilns.  When people ask me what they need to get started, the first question is,  “what are you hoping to make: jewelry, large plates, vases?”   I was lucky enough to find a wide variety of kilns to meet different needs.  All three of my kilns still get regular use depending on what I am making and it is nice to have multiple kilns!

If I had a wish what kiln would I wish for next?  I am not sure an exact one or brand.  But I do know that from an energy perspective, a bigger kiln where I could fire multiple pieces at a time is probably best to save energy as I do rack up quite an energy bill each month with three kilns firing almost daily.

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I have been reading quite a lot lately on what makes a good blog.

Everything I have read says to “mix it up” meaning don’t always talk about the same thing.  I guess a lot of small businesses have started blogging and one common mistake they make is to only talk about what they are selling as a marketing tactic.

My goal was not to sell my things although if it did take people to my Etsy store and they wanted to buy, I certainly would not reject the order.  🙂  Instead, my goal was to teach people what I have learned the hard way making some of my glass pieces.  Over the last two years I have done a lot of internet searches looking for hints from people when I am trying something new.  I usually find great tutorials on how to do something.  What I don’t find is how many times it took them to get it right and what were all the issues they faced along the way because I certainly have hit most of these issues along my way.  So I decided to write a blog talking about the issues along the way hoping to help others.

Okay, so now back to what I read about mixing it up.  How do I mix it up when I have a very clear goal?  I watched this awesome video on Social Marketing, http://iheartartpdx.com/2011/08/16/social-marketing-102-the-video/, given by Diane Gilleland and she provided some excellent food for thought on this topic.  In this video, she explains that people not only want to learn from my experiences, but they also want to know more about me and why glass excites me, my story about how I got into glass, and what other challenges related to glass I am facing.

So in an effort to ensure that this blog stays interesting for those of you who happen to be reading this, I will over time “mix it up” and not only talk about glass projects, but also enlighten you all a little on this hobby I love and why I love it.

As a sign-off for this blog, though, I have noticed that Facebook always posts the last picture I include and I think it looks nice to have a picture next to the blog post.  Since this topic does not have a related photo, here is my latest creation trying to get ready for the Holidays!

Holiday Plate

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