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Archive for June, 2013

A sick kiln thwarted the glass project I was going to show and tell.  Therefore, I thought I would continue along the lines of a recent post about hobby versus business.  No matter where we are, if we see a glass place, my husband always asks if I want to go in.  Why, yes, thank you!

I have seen some wonderful work and met some very interesting people who are always willing to share some insights with me.  The one insight that we hear repeatedly though is that once they started their business, they felt they lost some of their creativity because now they make what sells.  Makes sense since you need to make money if this is your business.   But as an artist, this sucks!  (Can I use that in a blog?  Sorry, if not.  :-)).

In analyzing what fused glass pieces sell most on the web (admittedly a pretty limited search), it appears that it is the smaller objects like soap dishes, spoon rests, night lights, coasters, and of course jewelry.  The problem with jewelry is that there are hundreds of sellers and so it is hard to differentiate yourself.  For soap dishes, night lights and coasters, some sellers seem to focus exclusively on these items so when someone searched for say coasters, you see a plethora of their coasters.  Whereas I have one or two of each for sale but then a myriad of other items, shapes and sizes.

In analyzing my own sales for my larger items, these glass plates and sculptures sell for holidays, Mother’s Day, weddings – basically special occasions which is great, just not that often.   Therefore with a lack of substantial smaller items so my shop populates a search for say coasters, it is less likely that my one or two offerings will be seen regularly and bought.  Perhaps I should focus on smaller items for a while to see if this makes a difference.

I guess the real challenge is finding that balance to continue to be an artist, explore new dimensions, fuel my creativity and yet, make money since the raw materials aren’t free.

NOTE: I wanted to start my selling small so all of my sales to non-friends have been using Etsy, a social commerce website for artists to sell their handmade goods which has millions of items in sales each month.   My interviews with people though were in their store or at art fairs.  Of course, your experiences in selling may be completely different and I would love to hear what works and doesn’t work for you.

My foray into spoon rests.  I think I will try some more of these.

Aqua Blue Spoon Rest

Aqua Blue Spoon Rest (available in my Etsy Store)

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My husband and I recently fixed up and then sold our house.  All good news!  The bad news was that our Living Room was my glass studio and when we started to do the fixing up last fall, I had to pack up all my glass and store it in the garage.  At first it was hard to go from running three kilns a day to doing no fusing at all, but as work on the house progressed, I was so busy that I didn’t have time anyway.

As we got close to selling the house and I had more time, I began looking for a workshop.  I found it to be a frustrating experience because many artist conclaves, where I thought would be fun to work surrounded by many different kinds of artists, kept saying no to me as they didn’t want kilns.  I believe it was mostly due to lack of adequate power and/or the cost of power, but I also sensed some fear and concern about kilns as well.  Then I got very lucky.  A mosaic glass artist who has a workshop was looking for a shop mate.  So now we are two glass artists sharing a shop!  Meet Dana Albany, mosaic artist extraordinaire!

Dana Albany - Mosaic Artist Extraoridinaire

Dana Albany – Mosaic Artist extraordinaire

Here are a few links to explain her latest project in front of which she is standing.

http://youtheducationalspacecraftproject.wordpress.com/tag/dana-albany/

http://www.burningmanproject.org/2013/02/tomorrows-artists-youth-education-spaceship#.UbfYuOB7R94

I did my first kiln cycle this week and had fun trying something new, but alas it has a crack in it.  At least I am back in the game and will hopefully have many new projects to share over time.

Broken Pieces Fused Glass Plate

Broken Pieces Fused Glass Plate

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Is my glass fusing a hobby or a business?  How do I know?  In the past, I was told how much money I made would dictate the answer.  If you started making over a certain dollar amount a year, then it is a business.   So I was avidly trying to figure the logistics out of becoming a business.  The more I read about becoming a business on the internet, the more confused I became on the whole deal.

I then discovered an organization called SCORE (http://www.score.org/) which is a national organization to help people like me better understand starting a business.  So I visited my local SCORE office and had a great talk with the person at the desk (so sorry I didn’t get a name as he was so helpful!).  I explained my passion for making glass and then deciding that I should try to sell it as well and was now I am selling my pieces online through my Etsy store.  He asked me whether I was making a profit and I had to disclose that no – I still buy a lot more materials and tools than I bring in from sales but for now my focus was to figure out the right pieces to make, learn and explore all there is about glass fusing.  Then when I do make a sale on Etsy, I celebrate.  Internally of course, no money spent on such celebrations!

He looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You are definitely not a business; you are still a hobby.”  He said when I could very quickly answer that my goal was to make money and operated under that regimen, putting as much effort into marketing, selling, bookkeeping and so forth as making my product, then I would be a business.  Being a business has many requirements and one critical requirement is to have a realistic goal to make a profit within three years.

Storytime –  Many years ago, when my husband and I worked for Hewlett-Packard, the CEO was retiring because at that time, all HP executives were required to retire at age 62.  Anyway, he was explaining that he had bought a winery in Napa and was looking forward to learning about a completely different kind of business.  And then he said, “I hope I don’t ruin a perfectly good hobby.”  My husband and I have always remembered this.  And we are hesitant to make my goal to make money rather than enjoy a “perfectly good hobby.”

So while ultimately I need to find a way to make money on my hobby as it can’t stay a sinkhole for long, for now I plan to enjoy my exploration and learn as much as I can both about glass fusing and running a business.  And then perhaps later, the goal will migrate to become a business making a profit!

Fused Glass Bowl with Green Stripes

Fused Glass Bowl with Green Stripes (available on my Etsy store)

Enjoy your summer and hope you get to be creative!

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The bad thing about hobbies is that life has a tendency to put them on hold.  Hence, I have not done any glass fusing recently.   However, this doesn’t stop me from constantly thinking about all things glass!

Recently as my husband and I were working outside digging holes and moving things, I realized how much my gloves make me invincible.  Without my gloves, I can’t bring myself to pick up a bug infested chair or basically touch anything really dirty.  Yes, I am a very squeamish female except when it comes to glass. Go figure. Conversely, with my gloves, I didn’t hesitate on that dirty chair.

Thinking that day about my sense of invincibility from the gloves reminded me of friends who have visited and make their own glass plate for the first time.  Some people jump right in without a care that they are working with glass.  Others are very hesitant and want me to do their glass cutting.  I learned though that if I offer and their wear rubber gloves, then their hesitations vanish.

If you have friends who stop by to try their hand at fusing, thinking about keeping a few pair of gloves available just in case to make your newbie fusers feel invincible.

Additional NOTE:  I have small hands which make it hard to find gloves small enough. If you have this problem too, you might want to try the Atlas 310 or 370 Garden Gloves that come in an XS size.  They are perfect.

In honor of the beginning of summer, here is a picture of a plate I made to remind me of the seashore!  Enjoy your summer holidays!

Seashore Plate (available in my Etsy store)

Seashore Fused Glass Plate (available in my Etsy store)

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