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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Just wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays and thank you for reading my posts and following my blog.

Have a great 2016.  Happy Fusing and Creativity!

MerryChristmas2015

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Two exciting things happened this last week.  The first is that a good friend of mine, Elecia White, and I discussed glass fusing and Etsy on her podcast, Making Embedded Systems: The Show for People Who Love Gadgets.  While fusing glass is not exactly embedded systems, we do use lots of gadgets like kilns and tools.  The episode is called “Hot” and here is the link, http://embedded.fm/episodes/2013/8/12/14-hot .  I had a lot of fun, so Thanks, Elecia! for giving me the opportunity.

While on that site, you should check out Elecia’s other podcasts.  She is a very creative and excellent engineer and loves trying new gadgets to create new gadgets that will make you smile when you hear/read about them.

The second is that I braved walking into a local store to learn more about how to get my glass sold in stores.  It was a wonderful learning experience and there were definitely some interesting lessons learned.

1.  Wholesale pricing, what does that mean?  I have watched several videos and read forums and newsletters and what I learned is that basically the store wants to sell your item for the same price that you sell it on the internet.  They give you then typically 50% of this price.  So if you sell something online for $20, they will buy it from you for $10.  So you need to make sure that you can make money selling it to them for $10.

I have struggled a lot with pricing as I know many others do.  There are great formulas out there for how to price your product including materials, time, marketing, and then doubling to add profit.  But then you search Etsy, as an example, and look at all the others selling similar items and if most of them are selling something for $20 dollars and you are selling it for $40, yours had better look from the pictures worth the extra $20 or you will not get the sale.  So now if you want your items sold in a store and you sell to the store at a price that makes sure you make a little money (or at least covers your costs) you will have to ensure that your prices online are high enough even if this means you are higher than similar sellers.  Interesting quandary.

2.  The owner explained to me that some stores rather than buying your products outright will instead do consignment.  With consignment, the store does not pay you until your item is sold.  Here you have the greater risk of your product not ever selling or breaking or … and so you tend to get a higher percentage like 60%.  With selling to the store before they sell, they are taking the risk of it never selling, breaking, getting stolen and hence why they take a higher percentage in this case.

3.  I have also read that you need to have a portfolio created which includes pictures of your products, an artists bio and then a price sheet made all in a nice folder that you can leave with the owner of the store.  I am sure if I were walking the streets going into a wide variety of stores trying to get them to buy my products this would be a great thing to have.  Don’t laugh – the owner to whom I was talking indicated this is exactly what she used to do to try to sell her jewelry and it was hard work.  However, to get started and get into a single store perhaps similar to the one I visited which is mostly handmade items, the owner said she really didn’t care about a bio and glossy info.  So if you are like me and just starting to brave the walk-into-a-store-you-like and talk to owner, don’t spend  a lot of time creating your portfolio.  You can do that later if you decide this is really how you want to sell your products.

4.  The last and perhaps most valuable insight I received was peddle one line.  Basically do not overwhelm.  After talking with the owner for a while and gathering all this valuable advice, I asked if she was interested in seeing some of my fused glass.  Since I knew this shop specialized in smaller items, I brought a variety of small items:  coasters, barrettes, soap dishes, glass boxes, christmas ornaments.  To her, as a perspective customer of mine and potential seller to others, she was overwhelmed.  She told me to pick a “line.”  That line could be coasters, as an example.  And  then when I approach a store, take a sample of maybe 10 sets of coasters.  But definitely not a little of lots of things.

Since right now I am still enjoying the learning and experimentation with which I can make a wide variety of things and assumed showing such a wide variety would be better, this was very wise advice.  It doesn’t mean you can’t sell coasters in one store and barrettes in a second, just have a single line for each store.

There, now I have shared my wonderful learning experiences for the week.  Didn’t get any new experiments completed this week, but did make a nice new set of coasters.  I also started a new experiment which I will hopefully share next week.  Have a great week!

Seaside Coasters (available in my Etsy Store)

Seaside Coasters (available in my Etsy Store)

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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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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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Sometimes life throws you curve balls and so it is right now as we are doing construction on our house and I have packed up my fusing supplies for a short while. I was able to keep my little 8-inch kiln in the family room, so while it is hard for me to do any cutting, it is pretty easy for me to do small things using frit and pre-cut shapes of glass.

Voila, time to make Christmas ornaments.  I already had some small circles in both clear and white and I bought some precut 3″ tree shapes.  I also had some precut smaller shapes of holly, gingerbread men, snowflakes and stockings and so I have snuck in some time, using these shapes along with frit and small pieces of glass to make ornaments!

Christmas Tree Ornaments and Gift Tags (available in my Etsy Store)

3-inch Fused Glass Christmas Ornaments and Gift Tags

3-inch Fused Glass Christmas Ornaments and Gift Tags

Sometimes you do what you have to do to stay sane among all the upheaval and change that comes with life.  🙂

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I seem to have more than my fair share of fused glass failures as my growing pile of what-should-I-do-with-you is testament to this.  On the bright side I see them as a friendly reminder of my experiments to learn new things!

I like making drop vases, sometimes letting them drop between 2 and 8 inches.   A drop vase is where you make a glass disk and then rather than slumping it into a ceramic mold, the mold looks like a donut and the center of the glass disk drops through the hole of the mold to make a lovely vase.

Purple and Black Drop Vase (available in my Etsy store)

Several times as I am fusing a drop vase, I hear an unexpected thud.  The center of the glass disk should be slowing dropping through the hole at approximately 1235 degrees but when I peek inside, I find that the whole piece of glass fell through the hole and is sitting in a pile on the kiln shelf.  One such failure was an aqua glass with deeper blue pieces on it; I think my issue was that the pieces were just too heavy.   The resulting pile sort of looked like a conch shell so I added this glass piece next to my shells in my bathroom.  Nice mistake.

Another failed vase was a black and yellow vase and it sat in my failure pile for probably a year.  I finally decided to use the lump of glass, so I used the tile saw to cut it up into about 10 smaller pieces.  In reality, it had seemed a little boring with just the black and yellow, so I decided to add some green this time and put the cut pieces with some additional lime green pieces into a stainless steel ring and fused it to 1525 degrees to give the larger pieces enough time to fully fused down.

Pieces of Failed Glass Vase Ready to be Fused Again

Why the stainless steel ring?  I am still not very good at figuring out how much glass creates what size of final piece for melts since glass always tries to fuse to 1/4 inches (0r 6mm) and if it flowed off the kiln shelf onto the bottom of my kiln, I could ruin the kiln.  So “damming” the piece with the stainless steel ring is just a good precaution to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Okay, so now for the final circle.  I have made pot melts and screen melts, but I have never just take extra glass pieces and refused them and I love the result.  I don’t think I will try another drop vase with this disk, but  I do plan to add it onto a large sheet of transparent glass and then make a bowl out of it.

Yellow, Black and Green Re-Fused Disk

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