Dec 31, 2009

Everything I know I learned from a 5 year old

Everyone knows that we learn a lot from our children, but here is just a quick list of some of the things I've learned from my son over the holidays:

1. "The presents will still be here later mommy." He told me when I tried to rush him into opening more presents instead of playing with them along the way. WHY RUSH THE GOOD THINGS

2. "Kids need food more than toys." He said when we were picking which charity to help this year, but most amazingly is his logic, compassion and conviction. FOCUS ON THE BASICS

3. If the reward is good enough, it's worth the wait. Nothing quotable here, but my son didn't need a single video, game or activity between Kingston and London for this trip. He just talked with us the whole way and was excited to get there.

4. "Can I start doing my checklist again mommy?" Everyone likes some sort of routine (even though I fight it) and after a chaotic holiday it's good to get back to some structure GOOD TIME TO SET UP BUSINESS ROUTINES

5. "You can't feel older mommy, that's impossible." This will serve me well I'm sure. My son said this on the eve of his birthday when I asked him if he felt 6. I hope I experience the same thing on my next birthday! AGE IS JUST A NUMBER, IT'S NOT A FEELING

Dec 20, 2009

Don't wait for the postman...

Not yet anyways.

You see I haven't mailed out my holiday cards yet (so if you're waiting for the postman, you may be waiting a while). At first I felt guilty, then I felt defensive, then just resolved to that's how it was going to be. Then I was excited when the idea hit me...

I'm going to send my holiday cards out at the end of January. You know, just when the winter blahs set in. When the excitement of the holidays is long gone and nothing but bills is arriving in the mail. I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this idea, but I think it's brilliant (if I do say so myself).

If nothing else, it let's me off the hook for the next few weeks.

Dec 11, 2009

Running Your Event

It's the time of year that most artists are ogranizing some type of an art event - open house, studio tour, show, etc. Whether you're 'running' it or simply 'walking' it, here are some things you should be thinking about:

1. What is the purpose?
a. Show & sell vs.
b. Show & tell
2. Who is the target market?
3. What are the details?
a. Date
b. Time
c. Refreshments
d. Location
i. Does it need to be altered?
ii. Signage
e. Budget
4. Who’s participating?
a. Invite only
b. Jury
5. Task list & Responsibilities
a. Staff / volunteers
b. Media
c. Security
d. Advertising
e. Cash handling
f. Cleaning
6. Timeline
7. Goals
8. Event Day Plan
9. Contingency Plans
10. Follow Up
a. From participants
b. From attendees
c. Your impressions

Dec 3, 2009

One of a Kind

Storage that is! I got to go to the One of a Kind show this week in Toronto. I had never been before. It was pretty cool. I was most impressed with the creativity vendors had when it came to storage solutions. For an 11 day show, they really need it! Some of the booths were only 3" x 3" so imagine trying to fit storage space into that!

Any show I've participated in I spend a lot of time planning my displays, but have never really considered storage. You know places to put your lunch, your magazines, your coats, extra product for when you sell out (hehe), and all your boxes. One of the vendors even had a futon behind their little curtain! I can see now that I should really think about this.

At the Gift Giving Show at the Fort we lucked out with storage. Last year some of us used double stacked beds left behind in the rooms. They worked great as table tops, but they also worked great for storage, because the top of the bottom bed became a shelf! With a little cloth, you could hide it from the public and had the floor and shelf to store you personal items (and take a nap if you had helper to relieve you!).

Well, I'm off to pack for the Gift Giving Show this year - starts tomorrow at Fort Henry and goes all weekend. I might just use that bed after all (and not for storage!)

Thanks Toronto City Guide for the picture!

Nov 24, 2009

A walk to the park and birding

This past weekend, I realized that our family seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut. We do the same things all the time. We used to do a lot more hiking and adventuring, but now a weekend for us is pretty much a walk downtown to get a coffee, then to the studio for some crafts with James, then to the Yacht Club for snacks, a beach walk and hanging out. Not that there's anything wrong with routine, it just gets a little, well... routine.

So, last night we made an Adventure Jar. In the jar we wrote on slips of paper fun activities we can do like hiking, biking, hockey, swimming, etc. Then when we don't know what to do, we just pull a slip from the jar. James wanted to try it out right away. So we each pulled a slip and were going to vote on the best choice for 730pm on a school night. Well, we decided to do all three instead - 'a walk to the park to look for birds. 'Although we didn't succeed at finding any birds, it was fun to be out and about doing something different.

I realized that this can apply to the studio too! Can't wait to try some new 'adventures' there!

Nov 16, 2009

Cussing Customs!

Is that what you do when you get a custom order? CUSS? When a commission comes in do you celebrate and curse all at the same time? Every artist I know does. It's definitely a love / hate relationship.

Here are some quick thoughts on how to balance that relationship out a bit more in your favour.

1. Be very clear what you're willing to comprimise on and what you're not. Although they are a paying a customer, you don't have to agree to make it if it is really going against what you want to do as an artist.
2. Be very clear about what they will get at the end - in fact, maybe check in with them throughout the process to show them how it is progressing - that way any red flags can be dealt with early on.
3. Take a deposit before starting.
4. Just in case, do you have a contigency plan if they don't like the end piece? Can you sell it somewhere else?
5. Be clear about timelines - and give yourself some buffer time - I find it's usually hard to get motivated to work on these orders so you need extra time.
6. And most importantly, before starting ask yourself is the project something I want to do, is this person someone I want to work with?

Nov 11, 2009

The Anatomy of a Blog

Last week I taught a 'Blogging for Artists' workshop at the Cornwall Artpreneur Conference. Since then a few artists have asked for the information so here are some (can't give away all my secrets at once) on what you should include in your blog posts:

  • Controversy is good, make a statement, no politicians allowed (in other words no sitting on the fence)
  • Links to other websites and blogs are good
  • Images are vital
  • Have contests
  • Include your customers (comments, stories, photos - with permission of course)
  • Post follow up comments (even if they come by email)

For those that missed the workshop I am hosting the same session on Kingston on November 30, 1-2 at my studio. For more info visit my site -

Oct 30, 2009

Rejuvenated - the power of the collective

Since we moved into the studio, Cathie and I have been very busy 'nesting'. It's been very fun creating a space that we love to create in and others want to visit. So much fun that our work started to trickle out into the hall. First it started with the door, then the bathroom.

The other artists at NGB started to take note and they got the bug. After being complacent for a long time with it, they were rejuvenated by our actions to make the common spaces more attractive. So Julie (Davidson Smith, a very talented painter and encaustic artist) painted the bathroom and painted a notice board in the hall. I added to it, then Julie made a new sign, Jane (a potter) painted her spools, and the list continues.

Sometimes it just takes a newbie, a new influence, some fresh blood (or ideas) to start the ball rolling. And once it does, it bound to roll in many great directions!

PS - We are holding a demo day at NGB on November 14 from noon - 4. Come by see us work (and check out the new common space all decked out now)

Oct 20, 2009

Work with what you've got

My studiomate, Cathie Hamilton, is so clever. She taught me a good lesson this week as we prepare our studio for the open house this Friday. She taught me (or at least reminded me), that sometimes you've got to work with what you've got instead of trying to fix it. In fact, sometimes it turns out even better.

This is a picture of our studio door that Cathie painted. Notice the mouth? Well, our door had a hole in it, so instead of repairing it, she simply worked into the design. So far it's received many compliments and I think it's so cool.

So next time you're dreading fixing something, maybe just consider working with you've got.

Oct 17, 2009

Time to Partay!

It's time to celebrate - I've finally moved in to my studio. Consider this your personal invitation to my studio warming.

When: Friday, Oct 23
Time: 7-10pm
Where: NGB Studios, 12 Cataraqui Street, go in the red door (look for details on my website -

Hope to see you there!

Oct 14, 2009

Show list for 2010

At the last Artist Roundtable Group we discussed what shows are coming up and should be attended. The list is not complete, nor will I guarantee it's accurate, but at least it's a starting point.

Click here for the Art and Craft Show list.

Oct 5, 2009

A Clean Slate

How many times in your life do you get to start fresh, start with a clean slate? Not very often I presume. But if you are like me, it feels good (albeit a bit intimidating). It's inspiring, so exciting, full of possibilities. Not confined by what exists. Well, this week I'm there. I've just moved studios from the temporary to the permanent and I got to start fresh, with blank walls and open spaces.

I have so many ideas running through my head and so many drawings in my sketch book. It's good for me, good for my soul and truly good for business. So, I would advise all of you to start with a clean slate - even if that clean slate is only an empty page in your notebook. Look at it as a fresh start 'with blank walls and open spaces'. Where does it take you?

PS - for those of you anticipating the open house party - stay tuned - the invite is coming!

Sep 29, 2009

Time to Kollaborate!

I can't help but notice that there's a feeling in the air, a feeling that is different - I think it's the feeling of collaboration. Everywhere I look this fall I am seeing signs of how people are working together in very creative ways - whether it's fellow artists working on bodies of work together (good work Andrea, Jane, Carolyn, Alexi and so many others), my son mentoring a new student in his class, two struggling businesses finding a way to combine what they do to survive (yes it's true - we almost lost two of our downtown jewels this fall, but now they're staying!).

And it doesn't stop there. I just sent off a grant application to the Ontario Arts Council for a really cool project (I'm biased since it's my project) called Kollaboration Kingston. It will be a weekend where 17 local artists from all mediums, ages and stages of career, get together and work on bodies of work together - big and small. I can't wait to see what comes out of this project....

Sep 11, 2009

Successful Studio Tour Tips

Here's a quick summary of tips for running a successful studio tour or open house that were suggested at the the Artist Roundtable Discussion Group this month:

  • 2 or more artists in each venue

  • artist shopping opportunity either before you open to the public or at the end of one of the days

  • special invite only event prior to opening for the public

  • have preview photos or video taken and posted before opening

  • wrap up party to collect vendor feedback as soon as possible - maybe even onsite

  • involve media

  • do a draw to collect email addresses

  • plan the date a year out

  • send reminders 1 week and 2 days before

  • make sure to have signage and have brochures available on the sign itself

  • promo the morning of the show to media and on social networking sites

Please add to the list if you have other ideas.

Aug 27, 2009

The best way to learn it is to teach it

Last week I ran a summer camp 'Beads 'n' Bowls' for kids. It was a blast, a little on the tiring side, but full of inspiration. It was amazing watching the kids teach each other things that they had just learned. That's when the light bulbs would go on. You could see their confidence growing and their skills accelerating. The picture to the side is a group of kids I taught at the MAKE camp the week before.

Now it's my turn, heading into the fall, I'm doing a lot of teaching. From business to blogging to beading. I'm sure going to learn a lot! Have a look at the new NGB blog that lists the upcoming workshops that all the artists at NGB are hosting this fall...

In the meantime, think about something you want to learn, or practice. Maybe you can find a student. Imagine the learning then..

Aug 7, 2009

Diving in Fully Clothed

Last night, after dinner, we decided to take a quick trip down to my favourite rock beach. It was a beautiful night, light breeze, big waves where you could actually hear the rocks being tumbled ashore and washed away again (thanks Matt for pointing that out), and 3 giggling Fair's messing about. James was looking for sticks to make into pretend weapons and in between jumping waves trying not to get wet, Matt was watching the sailboats in the distance and wishing he was out there I'm sure and me with my head down on the 'hunt'.

At one point I said, 'come on orange'. Referring to my desire to find an orange piece of beach glass. Looked down and was what at my feet... not an orange piece of beach glass, but a piece of an orange peel. Note to self, be more explicit when I call out my wishes.

I continued to think about a piece of orange glass and giggled as I pictured myself diving in the water, fully-clothed, blackberry and all to get a piece. And there's no doubt that that's what I would have done if one had caught my eye. There's not many things in business that I would jump in fully clothed for, but it's good to know that I still have something that gets me that excited.

What about in your business, is there still something that would make you jump in fully clothed (and it doesn't have to be literally like in my case)?

Studio vs Dining Room Table

I've had a few people ask me about this, so I figure it's time to do a blog about it. Last spring the artist roundtable group did a studio tour and one of the stops being my studio (at that time that meant my dining room table). The discussions are always about the business of art, not art itself, so I talked about why I choose to have a home studio vs a dedicated space (leased or owned). So I rhymed off this list of reasons:
  • I can work when I feel inspired, and can sneak in 5 minutes here and there

  • I don't have to lug stuff back and forth, or end up leaving something at the wrong place

  • I don't need duplicate things like a hammer or Internet

  • The price is right

Jane Thelwell, a pottery on the tour, asked if I would ever consider having a studio outside of my house. And I thought briefly and at that moment all I could think was about the benefits listed above and the main benefit was that I could spend more time taking care of the house, my family and spending time with my son. So I answered, maybe one day, but right now I need to be at home.

And now, just a few months later I have a studio. So what changed? My family. They didn't change, but after that day at my house, I took a long look at how I was doing things. Was really being at home more efficient, did it really mean I got to spend more time with James? No. When I was trying to work, in what was supposed to be our family space, I got frustrated that they were interrupting. The lines got blurred between art time and home time and I was doing neither efficiently.

Those 5 minutes here and there, were interfering with playing games so I had to put everything away each night, which meant that it would take me half and hour to set up again and half hour to clean up, leaving me with barely any time to create. Not to mention that I couldn't work on anything that I couldn't put away, so I hadn't worked on a mosaic in months.

Then there was a safety concern, although I never did any polishing inside, I was still getting nervous about other aspects of my work being around my son and his friends. What if they got silver slivers? Or whatever, but still.. So I started working off-sight to do any polishing or sanding.

So I started looking... and found a space. Since then I have realized so many other benefits about working somewhere other than my dining room table such as:

  • I can sit and do some research, or sort glass without feeling guilty for not doing the laundry

  • I can accomplish more in a short amount of time both at home and at the studio, because I'm focused for both

  • James maybe spends a little less minutes with me, but way more quality time since I'm trying to squeeze in 'just one more thing' when I'm with him

  • I now have inspiration, critics and mentors right at my door, when I need a sounding board or an opinion I just go down the hall

So sure it costs a little, but so far it's been worth it!

Jul 29, 2009

Talk about Competition

The Sea Glass Festival in PEI was a great learning opportunity for me. Not only did I get to meet the guru of Sea Glass, Richard Lamotte, and learn about appraising glass, finding glass, identifying glass, I also got to scope out my competition. My true, head to head competition; other sea glass artists. (photo by Buffy Delaney Moore)

The morning of the festival started out exactly how I thought it would... slow. Not with foot traffic but with sales. There was actually a lot of traffic. So I thought it must be the amount of direct competition. There were almost 25 vendors all selling sea glass products. The up side to this is that I never once had to explain what sea glass was, because everyone that came, came because they too were a sea glass lover. In fact, one women said to me 'I collect sea glass' and her husband swatted her arm and said 'who here doesn't'. The downside to having an 'educated' audience? Everyone photographing your work, writing notes about your work, studying your ideas, so they could go home and use their stash of glass to try and recreate your art.

The afternoon was a nice surprise though. It proved that what I always say is true; don't worry about the competition, if you offer something of value, you'll come out ahead. And so I did. The afternoon I was very busy with sales, orders and compliments about my work. It didn't matter that I had so much competition around me, it was a good show (for sales, and for learning). And besides, I got to make my own notes too..

Jul 9, 2009

The Working Holiday

Before I get into the working holiday bit, I wanted to share one of my favourite photos of me with you. It's not my favourite because of how I look, but rather the authentic smile / laughter that it captured while I was beach glass hunting on my favourite beach. Thanks Tracy Olan from Beautiful Day for capturing it!

Now it's down to crunch time preparing for the working holiday. It's definitely the way to go. Not crunch time, but the working holiday that is. The trip to PEI originally started with just me going to be a vendor at Canada's first ever Sea Glass Festival, but it quickly grew to be the annual family vacation. We have always wanted to travel down east (or for Tim's sake out East), but kept putting it off. Now we found a way to make it happen and now it will be a tax write off too! Shhhhh.. don't tell anyone. The downside is you have to pack for both things and you have to make time for both things, but the pros definitely outweigh both of those things. My suggestion is to keep two separate packing lists and don't intermix the boxes - well that's what I'm going to try and do, I'll let you know how it goes when I return.

Jun 27, 2009

Studio News

Well, I can finally see my dining room floor.... because I have a studio! Well, ok so my actual studio is still being built but in the same complex I am now moved into a temporary studio until mine actual one is finished. My studio is at NGB Studios on Cataraqui Street. It's definitely not fancy, but it's full of character, lots of other artists and it's my own space. I haven't fully made me it my own yet as I am reserving that effort for my permanent space (although resisting that urge is hard), but I'm working out the kinks and it feels good.

I'm going to try and be there for Thursdays and Fridays during the day for the next little while, so please feel free to drop in and check it out. Come in the front door right on Cataraqui Street - the somewhat scary looking green door up the 3 stairs and look for the sign straight ahead that says 'Recycling Depot' - how perfect is that for a beach glass artist eh? Not my idea, was there before I moved in.

Now I'm just one of those artists with a studio, but not enough time to spend in it. In fact, I'm going to keep this short so I can head to the studio right after this. See you at the studio!

Jun 13, 2009

You have to want to win

As I write this blog I have to fight back a little tear (ok that may be a little exaggerated). You see, it's about my Detroit Red Wings and the Stanley Cup. For those of you that watched the game last night you know what I'm talking about, for those of you that didn't, don't worry, this entry isn't really about hockey.

As I watched Detroit last night, from the very beginning I saw, or didn't see actually something different. In game 1 and 2 of this serious Detroit was out to win, this game they seemed to be playing in a Sunday afternoon game, not for the Stanley Cup. Matt (the hubby) says it's the age coming through. Detroit is a lot older team than Pittsburgh (you know like my age) - maybe that's true. But then how come they won one of the games 5-0? Age didn't matter then. I honestly think it was the drive to win. Pittsburgh fought hard last night, right to the very last second.

So what does this have to do with art? Well, today I'm off to do participate in Art Among the Ruins in Newburgh, and I'm playing to win. The last show I went to I think I treated a little like a vacation... fun place to be, fun people to be with, etc. But if I want to win at this game of being an artist, I have to fight. Not literally, but I have to go out there and do what I need to do to win over a few customers. Hopefully you'll hear as the day is drawing closed 'she shoots, she scores' coming from Newburgh.

May 26, 2009

I'll take the high road

James taught me something last night (not the first time). He was singing a song that I taught him last week when a friend hit him and he wanted revenge - "I'll take the high road, and you'll take the low road and I'll be to Scotland before you..." We talked about what 'taking the high road' meant. I thought the lesson had just went right over his head, but apparently something stuck. And his timing couldn't have been better... for me.

On the weekend I was doing a show at the Distillery District in Toronto. A neat place for sure, with lots of people and lots of wind. The wind storm created some issues and I had some of my display items break. In the midst of cleaning them up, someone had taken one of my rings; and not just any ring but a red beach glass ring (one of the rarest colours of beach glass). Needless to say I was off to a grumpy start that day.

But when I heard James singing 'I'll take the high road..' it reminded me to do the same. Instead of being so bitter about it, I'm going to see it as a compliment. Someone wanted one of my pieces so much that they were willing to risk breaking the law. And I bet they'll be talking about it too! So who knows, maybe they'll buy something from me down the road...

May 20, 2009

The dreaded donation request

Spring is here, and do you know how I know? Because I've been asked to donate some of my beach glass art to everything ranging from animal shelters, homelessness, to youth at risk and some organizations I still don't have a clue what they do. Don't get me wrong, my frustration isn't that I don't think these organizations are deserving, nor is because I think I'm the only being asked because my husband who is not an artist but a small business owner, is getting swamped with similar requests - maybe even more. My frustration is that I don't think they're listening to the same radio station as me - WII FM.

Have you listened to that station? It's the What's in it for me station. As much as we do things for strictly philanthropic reasons, we often have other motives as well. If I am going to help an organization for nothing else then to help, they don't need to seek me out, I'll seek them.

So if someone is seeking my support, then I need them to do some work in exchange. I need to determine what value is in for me as an artist, as a person, as a small business owner. I actually get them to fill out a form so I can judge all my donations equally, keep a file on each donation and make informed decisions. Since I've started to telling other artists I do this, I've been getting requests for copies of my form so here is the gist of it:

Contact Name:
Contact Phone:
Contact Email:
Value of item requested:
Event Name:
Event Date:
Description of Event:
How many people will be attending?
Who will be attending the event?
What other items are being donated?
How does my art fit?
Where else will my name / item be promoted?
Will I receive tickets to the event?
Will I be notified after the event about who received my item and how much it went for?
May I request a reserve bid?
Are you able to pay for any portion of the piece?
Will I receive a tax receipt for my donation?

So don't dread those requests, organize them!

May 10, 2009

My treasure box

When I'm participating in art shows / sales I have a list of stuff to bring, you know the usual - product, receipt book, pens, credit cards slips, brochures, table clothes, business cards, etc. But I also have my treasure box. And the other artists always love it. So what's in my treasure box? Here's the list:

~ Tylenol
~ midol
~ throat lozenges
~ mouthwash
~ a loonie
~ band aids
~ extra shoes (feels great to change your shoes half way through the day)
~ granola bar
~ fruit
~ hand sanitizer
~ hand cream
~ small blanket
~ a good book
~ allergy pills
~ sunscreen

Just the little things that make the day go by a little bit easier. Now - get packing your treasurer box.

Apr 27, 2009

It's so easy to get off track

Ok - so I have to tell a little secret to start this one - I read O Magazine. Not all the time, but when someone gives me an old copy I always read through it. This month (well the one I'm reading this month, I have no idea what issue it is really), she's talking about her weight gain, and how 1 month she was up 2 pounds - no biggy, then 5 pounds - still no biggy, then 10... you get the idea. And before she knew it she was up 40, she went off track.

Well, I'm not going to write about weight loss, but the idea of getting off track. I'm sure you've all been there. But what do you do about it? Last week I had a request for a custom ring. GREAT! April has been a great month for me for custom orders. So I brought some glass and my ring sizer so we could decided on the design and glass to use. The problem? This little girl wanted purple. Well, some art forms may have the luxury of working in purple, but us beach glass artists? Not very often. I have a few pieces of mauve, but unless you look close or compare it to a white piece of glass, they just look white. I've never found a deep purple. The mom tried to convince this little girl to pick a different color. Then someone standing near by said 'you could just take regular purple glass and tumble it'. I almost said yes. Can you believe it? If you've read previous entries you know that I pride myself on using only pure beach glass. I don't alter it, but I almost agreed to do it for a customer. There are somethings you do for customers, and there are somethings you don't. It would be like a CPR train on a CNR track. They just didn't do it, even though they could have.

I'm crossing my fingers she likes green because I'm delivering it tomorrow!

Apr 15, 2009

Bailouts all around

Ok, I've been trying to ignore, ok not ignore, but at least not jump on the auto industry bail out opinion band wagon. For those that know me, you know that keeping my opinions to myself is very hard and I've lasted a long time on this one. But I found some relevance to the art world that triggered some thoughts.

Yesterday, as I was getting interviewed for a story in Kingston This Week (coming out tomorrow) about the Gift Giving Show this weekend at Little Cat, Rob and I got talking about all the changes in the newspaper world. Iconic newspapers across the continent are closing, our local newspaper is making major shifts, KTW went from 2 times a week to a weekly, etc. Locally in Kingston we have seen over 80 jobs lost in the last year in the print media industry alone. And yet.... no bailout.

Today (in the newspaper funny enough) I read about one of Kingston's oldest retailers, S & R Department Store closing this summer. A lot of readers weighed in with their comments and yes it is a sad story, I make at least 1 trip there a week, sometimes 1 every day! And yet... no bailout.

When my life wasn't going as planned and I decided to leave my job and enter the art world full time, I didn't ask for a bailout (getting a credit card was hard enough). I made the necessary adjustments, planned, worked with my team and changed courses - all on my own! Just like the newspaper industry is doing and just like the retail sector is doing. Yes we will see some of these iconic stores and media groups close, and lay offs will happen; but innovation and inspiration doesn't come by doing the same old same old. You have to move with the times, in fact, in business.. you have to move ahead of the times!

Apr 2, 2009

When opportunity knocks

It may not always be the best time, but sometimes you just have to jump in anyways. The spring is always a great time for beach glass hunting because the strong waves and breaking ice turn everything upside down and the glass finds its way to the shore easier. Well, this year is an exceptionally good year in Kingston because when the ice broke up, my beach (the one I do a majority of my collecting) was the landing spot. The ice all ended up on the beach and even into the parking lot. I've gone down to the beach everyday as the ice melts, new treasurers rise to the surface. It may be cold to hunt on ice instead of sand, but the sounds of the waves, smells of the shores and site of the glass make it all worth it.

Another opportunity presented itself to me last month. It came about in a funny way, one of my stores that sells my art, asked me about my environmental beliefs and processes outside of simply using recycled beach glass. To be honest, this was a good question. I had never really thought of it. It's not that I'm not pro-earth, it's just that I thought I'm doing a small part by using the glass and hadn't thought further. But this got me thinking. If I'm going to hang my hat on being an eco-artist then it has to be more then just recycled glass. So, I've started making my own paper from old newspapers for some of my wall art and signs, I've asked my printing company to make sure my stock papers (for cards, etc) are on 100% post-consumer, Canadian made stock, I've started using found wood or off-cuts instead of canvases, and I've always worked with my left-over silver filings (that was just because I was cheap, but now there's two reasons!). Some of it is on display for April at the Starbucks at Princess & Division in Kingston, or you can visit me at the Back to Nature show April 18 & 19 to see more.

In your business are you carrying your philosophies, your mission and your brand throughout your entire work, or just a portion. You should take stock, there maybe an opportunity knocking at your door..

Mar 26, 2009

What I've learned from shopping online

I'm sure I'm not the only one that's been there (or here) before, you know, buying something online and crossing your fingers that it's what you were looking for? And then, when it arrives, realizing it's nothing like it looked in the picture?

I just made my first large purchase from a new jewellery supply company and more than half the order was not what I wanted! The last two days I've been waundering around saying 'I should've just spent the extra and bought from a local shop'; but a moment a go a light bulb went off. If I'm trying to convince my customers from all over the world to buy from me online then I can't give up on it either. What I need to take from my exprience (besides frustration and product I don't need) is to make sure my customers don't have this happen to them and more importantly, feel confident that it won't!

Here's the things I learned from this expierience that will help me fix any of my online sales:

1. Images from multiple angles of the product.
2. Images large enough to see detail.
3. What to do if you aren't happy with it.
4. Who pays for shipping of unwanted items?
5. Send a confirmation email of any phone orders, or online orders before shipping it.
6. Include in the delivery box FAQ's about your products.

I'm sure there's others, but I'll start there. That will keep me busy.

Mar 18, 2009

Can't teach a customer new tricks!

Well, my frustration with the new layout of Facebook has prompted this rant. I like my old facebook, not this new one. I used to laugh at people that said this to things, mainly my mother actually, because to me that meant she was 'old'. Unwilling to admit that I must be 'old', I'm blaming Facebook. In doing so though it got me thinking about business choices.

Facebook probably made these changes based on a combination of customer feedback, gut feeling, trends and what the competition is doing (have you seen Twitter lately?). The trick however, is in the customer feedback. In most cases only unhappy customers speak up. And often these people (I know not always) are going to find something to be cranky about no matter what. So, if you make changes just to satisfy them, which may be never happen, then how are you making your other customers feel? If you going to make a change to your art, your business processes (like where your selling your work) then you need to do so in collaboration with your customers - all of them! Especially your champions. Change is hard for anyone, so make sure to have lots of customer treats to reward them!

Mar 11, 2009

Grants, Glass and Good old fashion work

My days are full, my brain is full and my hands are sore. If you are fine craft artist then you are probably in the midst of preparing your Ontario Craft Council grant app (and if you're not doing one, you should be!....) I know I'm not only preparing mine, but helping 4 other local craft artists with theirs as well. If you're not doing one because you think the odds are just too high and you won't get one. Think again. For the Ontario Arts Council grants I helped 3 artists apply for one in the winter and 1 out of the 3 got it. That seems like pretty good odds to me, especially when the prize is $5,000!

So my days are full with grant apps. My brain on the other hand, is full thinking about how close we are to beach glass hunting season. Matt (the hubby) starts to have restless sleeps around now because he starts dreaming (and reenacting) sailing regattas as he gets excited for sailing season. Me too - but not for the sailing. To hear the sound of the waves, smell of the shore and touch the great glass finds. Not too long now....

And lastly, my hands are sore as I prep for the upcoming spring show season. I'm now registered for more shows than ever before, my website is selling more and I have more stores carrying my work. I think I only have 12 items in stock (5 of which are christmas cards, 1 is the ring here) Which are all good things, but keeping up with products is hard. I guess that's a good problem to have.

Feb 24, 2009

It doesn't hurt to ask

I've had a few things go right for me lately and friends keep asking me what my secret is for being so lucky. Well, the answer is easy, I asked. I've never been afraid of the word 'no', in fact I often see 'no' as a challenge. So, asking tricky questions isn't that hard and asking easy questions is nothing more than making time to do so.

I wanted a store in Toronto to carry my work, so in late January I started looking around for a few stores that fit with my eco-conscious beach glass jewellery and I emailed them asking if they were interested. A few got back to me and yesterday I delivered some of my jewellery to Green is Black in Toronto. All it took was an email asking the question 'would you be interested in seeing my work?' (see my latest work shown here at Green is Black)

I wanted a celebrity or journalist to wear my work, and more importantly, write about my work, so I looked around and found a perfect fit - Gill Deacon (as you heard about in an earlier post). I sent her email asking if she would be interested, and she sent an email back saying yes. 2 weeks later she blogged about it!

Sure, I may have heard a 'no' or two, but I didn't stop asking questions, I saw it as a challenge. So, start asking questions, you may be surprised with the answers!

Feb 20, 2009

Why wait 'til you're dead

My husband I were talking about why many famous artists, weren't famous really until they died. Why is that? I'm sure I can spend hours researching this, but I'm going to tell you my theories instead. I have two. They're both connected and it comes down to marketing and sales.

As an artist, when I'm marketing or selling, I'm not creating. When I'm creating, I'm not selling or marketing. And the scale never seems to balance right on this one. However, if someone else is selling for me, then I can spend my life creating. So think back to those famous dead artists.... they got (just go with me for arguments sake) their lives to focus on their art and didn't deal with the selling side. So, no wonder they were good, they got to practice and create often. And if I've taken anything from Outliers (the book I'm reading by Malcolm Gladwell), is that people succeed because of doing, and doing again and doing again.

The second theory is that it's easier to sell someone else's work than it is your own. So, dead people can't sell their work anymore, so others do. They can focus solely on selling and not on creating. They see it from a buyers perspective not an artists. If you don't believe me here, just go out with a friend and try this theory out.

But, I don't think I want to wait until I'm dead. In fact, I know my family doesn't. So, my goal for this year is to change this theory or at least impact it differently. I'm going to work on selling my work actively, but also trying to balance those scales.

Feb 17, 2009

When things go bad, they usually come around

This past weekend I was finishing (and I mean finishing, the final 2 minutes of sanding / polishing) a newly designed flower pendant with white beach glass for petals and rare cobalt blue glass for the centre when I broke off one of the pieces. I tried to re-soldering, knowing that it wouldn't work because the precious glass wouldn't take the heat - here's proof of how it turned out... Over twenty-five hours done the drain, not to mention the glass :-(

So, after whining a little to my hubby, we headed down to the yacht club for some fresh air and to share a pint. Well, I was surprised to see the beach was snow free. Which is my world, means beach glass hunting season just opened! So, although my day started out bad, it sured ended on a high. Here is my find from the first day on the beach.

Feb 6, 2009

Tooting my own horn - well actually someone else is...

Sorry for the second post in the same day, but this just came in and I had to share it! Gill Deacon (Canada's combination of Oprah and Martha Stewart, mixed with David Suzuki) wrote an entire blog about my beach glass jewellery! Have a look >>

Here's a picture of her wearing one of my necklaces!

When the Cash Flow is More like a Frozen Pond

Well, I'm not sure if your business is like mine or not, but this time of year not only is the ground frozen up, but my cash isn't flowing much either. I know retailers are feeling my pain right now too. So what are we to do about it? Here's some tips that may help:
  1. ask for longer payment terms on supplies from your regular suppliers
  2. ask for larger down payments on custom orders
  3. host a seconds sale (I'm hosting a Leftovers Potluck on February 15 as a twist on a studio open house - drop by if you can and bring some friends)
  4. check in on those consignment accounts and see if they can pay you
  5. eat leftovers (see #3 for a fun twist on this :-)
Oh yeah, and next year heed my advice (from experience) pre-plan for your slow times.

Jan 28, 2009

Carving out Time

Well, I just took stock and...

apparently I'm not an artist (very much that is). And not because I don't want to be, or that I don't have it in me. Because I don't have time to create. I've been so busy on the business of art, that I forgot about the art part.

I've been working with a client as a business coach. Every session for the past 4 months (and we meet weekly) the conversation, no matter where it starts, ends back at her timeline or so I call it. When she's weighing new opportunities, planning to take on something, etc, the first thing I do is remind her to pull out her timeline and goals and see if it fits and where. If it doesn't fit in the timeline, she doesn't do it. I think I need to heed my own advice.

TTYL - I have to go work on my timeline and then off to the studio (aka dining room table)!

Jan 21, 2009

The List

Well, I'm hunkering down and getting serious this year. I'm getting my beach glass art sold! So to start I took a look at where I'm currently selling my work and and where I want to be selling my work. I removed my product from one store in Bloomfield (that's a blog story in itself, but not for public consumption!) and already have two new ones on board. One is a great boutique in Port Stanley, ON (my home stomping ground and where my beach glass collecting all began) called the Sandpyper Gallery. If you're down that way make sure to have a peak, it's very cool. The other one is closer to my current home, it's Gallery ArtPlus in Belleville. What a beautiful gallery! And the staff are so great. They both met my criteria.

Do you have criteria for stores that carry your art? When I first started I would put my work in any store that would carry it, now I'm the one being picky. It has to be the right fit. Here's my criteria to give you a head start on yours if you don't have a list yet:
  1. Is it on the water? (specific to me because of it being beach glass)
  2. Does it communicate with me?
  3. A maximum of 35% take (except in a few cases)
  4. Do they carry any other beach glass work and is it authentic?
  5. Do they allow my own branding?
  6. Do they pass the secret shopper test?
  7. Is their target market the same as mine?

Jan 16, 2009

Your product beats your marketing

When I ran Market Me (a marketing company) a few years a go I was very picky with the clients I took on. I knew that not everything was marketable, well wait, everything is marketable, just not sellable. I've seen many people try to use a good pitch or ad to sell a very mundane thing. I've also seen in the art world, artists afraid of selling out, not willing to create anything that people are willing to buy.

I agree there's a fine balance between creating just for the sake of selling and for creating just for the sake of creating. Unfortunately, if you don't have a buyer you won't be able to eat so some compromises do have to be made. And if you get it right, you'll have a profitable balance between the two.

I recently set up a few blogs and it really does come down to what you're selling as to how successful you'll be. I'm sure you've heard the term selling ice to an Eskimo? Well, one of my blogs ( on the first day I launched it already had more subscribers and visits than this blog ever has! It has a better selling proposition or higher demand. It proved to me that it comes down to what you are selling not what you are marketing as I hadn't even started to market it yet.

So if you wondering what you can do to increase your sales - before looking at your marketing campaign, look at what it is you're selling.

Jan 7, 2009

Show Time

Now is the time when most artists are planning their shows for the year. Applications and payments are usually due in the first 3 months of the year. It's really a great system, the winter months are typically slower for sales and allow for more admin time (yuck!) and it forces us to sit down and do our planning. The trick is putting all this money out in show fees when our sales are lower. Artists should take this time to do a little cash flow planning as well. It doesn't matter how much money you make at the end of the year if you can't pay your bills in the middle.

So sit down with your cheque book and your spreadsheets, just remember to take time in the studio too!

Jan 2, 2009

Let the plans begin....

Well, it's now more than 24 hours into 2009 and I've got my plans in motion - do you? I've got my revenue goals, my show list, and a 'I'm going to finally work on creating..." plan all outlined in a new book that Santa got me. Every year I start the year off like this. In fact, in the fall I found an old Hopes & Dreams book of mine and it was very refreshing to get to check off the things I put on my TO DO List 10 years a go.

I've also already had 2 requests to help friends sort out their new business dreams and where to start. During those discussions we talked about what a business plan really needs. Many soon-to-be entrepreneurs and artists are overwhelmed with the business plan outlines they find online, in books or remember from school. And honestly, your plan doesn't have to be that complicated unless the business you are in is that complicated. The most important thing is that it's useful and used!

Take 1 hour today and every week for the next 52 weeks to work on your plan. It only needs to include: what makes what you do unique - really unique and better than other options out there; who are your customers and how will you find them (not wait for them to find you); and money - how are you going to make it, how much and milestones. That's it, that's all, now go get started.....