Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Brief Paws

I haven't forgotten the discussion on pricing, and I'll get back to it.  It's really made me do some thinking.  But I'm taking a few days away from the discussion to take care of Moose.  He's had a rough couple of days and we're going to be figuring out how to re-structure our days around his new heart medications.  

I'll continue the pricing discussion soon.  Thanks for the responses so far.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Discussion on Pottery Pricing. Part 1 (maybe)

 I got an email from a friend and I think it would make for an interesting blog post.  It's certainly prompted me to get windy again.  That's not always a good thing, but as long as I've written some of my thoughts down, I thought some people might find them as a useful springboard to further discussion and/or thought. 

Here's the email.  My response is what follows.

Hi John,

So you have this 16 inch diameter bowl on Etsy for 92.00. It's beautiful. If it sells, Etsy will get about 6.00 and shipping will cost you about 20.00. Are you just trying to get rid of it, and are willing to take a loss? Would you have been able to sell this bowl for more 5 years ago? Can you make it for 60 something dollars? Just wondering. I think it's an absolutely gorgeous bowl.

 I would never claim to be correct in my marketing strategy, but I could write volumes on it.  I figured out somewhere along the line that MOST potters I knew (exclude those for whom the labor is so intensive as to re-categorize them) were going about their marketing sort of backwards.  Backwards, and with one HUGE economic misconception.

The HUGE economic misconception is that a pot's value is simply what one can sell it for.  In the world of ebay, that may be true.  And in any individual pot's case, it also may be true. 

But most potters operate on the idea of generalized duplication.  Most potters -- even the ones who are more art and less production in nature -- recreate the "same" pieces over and over.  As a matter of business and marketing and pricing structure, the price of such a "piece" isn't what a potter can sell one for.  No, it is what a potter can regularly/always sell one for. 

And to dig a little deeper into the complexities of the situation.....

Pots serve many different functions (I mean from a marketing point of view.  Not "function" as in "functional pottery").  And not all pots are equally cost effective to make, no matter how analytical we might be about clocking the hours spent per piece, the cost of clay, the cost of firing, etc.

Some pots are meant to attract an audience to buy our other work.  This sort of "show" or "exhibition" piece may function as an eye-catcher to draw people into our marketplace to entice them to look at the rest of our work.  As such, these show pieces will necessarily be marked to reflect their function -- not as income staples, but as a sort of cost of advertising (in this case, the "cost" goes in the labor column).  We generally price these higher, such that if we do sell them (not our first intention -- though not our last, either.  It's a pretty arbitrary thing), that sale will make it worth our while.

That's just one of the exceptions to a standard pricing structure.

A second exception might be a loss-leader.  If we find ourselves in a market that requires busy-ness in order to sell well -- as art fairs do -- we may consider a loss-leader an effective tool.  The buyers at art fairs don't go from booth to booth.  They go from crowd to crowd.  It's human nature to allow the crowd to pick our winners for us.  Just look at the obsession with the polls this past election.  Whether true, false, accurate, or un, the pundits were shouting opinions about them at the top of their lungs because they know that success begets success.  And if one can put forth the image of a winner, one is halfway toward being a winner.

That is also true -- maybe even MORE true -- of the internet marketing situation wherein success breeds success because that's precisely how search engines that will bring new customers to your site work.  They are exactly like an art fair attendee.  They go from "crowd to crowd" looking, not for items, but for items that everyone else has already found appealing.

That's a long way of saying that often, if their studio situation allows for it, or their creativity has figured out a way to make it happen, a potter will offer some item more or less at cost because the attraction to business of any kind quite often translates to an attraction to business of every kind.

I could go on and on about that as well.  But suffice it to say, many of us potters just need an introduction to the audience.  Many of us are convinced that "our story" will win those customers for life if we can but get the introductory foot in the door.  That's the charm of the handmade -- we are selling a story.  And that story is of a lifestyle that human nature finds almost irresistible.  Compelling.

Discussions of the exceptions now established, the question still remains, "so what about the non-exceptional pricing structure?"

I've gone on and on for a very long time here.  If there's any interest in my continuing this dialogue toward discussing "non-exceptional" pricing structure, let me know and I will continue on this blog.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tool And Die

I've had these glazing tongs for 35 years now. They aren't made anymore. The ones that look like them, aren't them.

They fit my hand and they work for Dar's smaller hand as well. And every other pair of glazing tongs we've bought to try to replace these tongs didn't work.

It seems funny to think that a tool as rudimentary as this awesome antique pair of dipping tongs could be that important
to the process of glazing.

But they are.

The screw and lock nut arrangement upon which the two arms hinge had loosened to the point of not being able to safely grip a pot without either dropping it....or because of the uncertainty and panic of it potentially falling, gripping tight enough to break through the pot wall.

Being 35 years old, the screw and nut were rusted together. I tried to get them apart. I tried all kinds of stuff to get them apart. Of course, I first tried simply putting a screwdriver in the screwdriver slot, and a wrench on the nut. I am, after all, an optimist.

ha ha ha ha.

Next I tried WD-40 as the situation apparently fell safely within the "Sticks or Squeaks" requirement to call for the stuff.

Nutting doing. (<------I kill me.)

I tried to see if flush cutters would fit under either end -- the screw's head or the nut -- so I could simply cut the old fasteners off and replace them with new.

Still no.

Finally, in desperation I turned, embarrassed, to the tool of shame. First I made sure nobody was looking. Then I reached for them.

The vise grips.

No respectable tool-user resorts to vise grips.

If you ever go to one of "Those Guys" workshops -- you know the ones? ... with the pristine shop with not just the tools hanging neatly in their proper places on pegboard, but outlines (like, if you were to take all the tools off of the pegboard at once, it would look like CSI had just marked up "The Great Tool Massacre") so's you know exactly where each tool is supposed to go when not in use....

....If you went to a shop like that, you'd NEVER see an outline of vise grips. You'd likely find the vise grips hidden away in some distant drawer.

"Those? ...hmmmm. How'd those get in there?". That's what a real tool guy would say if you found vise grips in his workshop.

But there I was with the vice grips on the screw end....clamped as tightly as I could possibly manage....and a wrench fitted nicely on the nut..... I........grunted....umph..
.....arg..........omph (again, this time with an "o" instead of a "u", in case you're keeping score).....turning red-faced....

Still nothing.

I finally had to break down, biff my manhood, and go ask for help.

John White's Tool, Die & Machine Shop is my neighbor. I walked over there and caught John on his way out the door. I shoved the tongs his way and explained the situation.

We went into the machine shop where John proceeded to lock vise grips on the screw end and a wrench on the lock nut. He gave a few turns and, voila, the screw became nutless.

Honestly, what kind of machine shop uses vise grips?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

That Silver Stuff

I was thinking about IQs just the other day. IQs and my mom's wisdom.

I think most guys my age took an IQ test in school. I know I did. But my mom curiously never told me how I scored on it.

When I was young I believe I flattered myself by thinking that perhaps mom didn't tell me my scores because she didn't want me to get a big head or, worse yet, brag about a high IQ. That's how I flattered my

My friend, Kevin, always puts scratch-off lottery tickets in the birthday cards he gives me. He did that again last week and I stood at the desk and scratched 'em all off -- the glimmer of hope I had in those five un-scratched cards quickly dimming to nothing as I scratched that last bit of silver off the final loser.

Sometime later that day, as my wondering mind is prone to do, I added up 1 and 1 and suddenly the answer seemed so obvious.

It dawned on me. Experience has finally taught me that my mother's silence regarding my IQ score was like that silver scratch off material. Nobody would ever buy a losing card if that silver stuff didn't cover it. And I might not have pursued my passions with such abandon had I known how little was my likelihood of succeeding at them.

Wise mom.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It's Tempting

I grabbed Fate and shook his scrawny little neck
And rattled the teeth in his know-it-all head
He cried “you can’t DO this to me you powerless brat!”

I stared that destiny down.  I had him in check
 And just as wryly as I could muster, said:
“What you just said? ….I knew you were going to say that.”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Effortless Custody of Automatism

“….it missed by this much”, he said.  And to emphasize just how tiny and insignificant “this much” was, he thrust out his hand, holding his finger and thumb a scant quarter-inch apart.

Yeah, what of significance could possibly fit between fingers so closely spaced?

More than 100,000 pots.

Knowing the distance between two fingers – and how to set and hold them there –is perhaps the central skill to being a potter.  It’s not a “squeeze”.   It’s a set-and-hold.  And learning the feel of that distance and being capable of holding it -- whether thumbs may touch over a short wall for reference….or the fingers are completely separated and working on either side of a very tall wall that reaches to the elbow and beyond – that’s what a potter needs to learn to make a good, even-walled pot.  It’s what a potter needs to know to make a pot light enough for function, but heavy enough for a lifetime of use and abuse.

When that skill became second nature to me, I found that my mind would venture off from that starting point – that focus on two fingers – to beyond.  What starts with a slam of clay on wheelhead and a whirring motor, a few seconds worth of slip-slap-center ….  fingers assuming their positions in that set-and-hold, soon (and inevitably) leads to my focus slipping right between those fingers along  with the clay…and wandering off.

Some of my most creative moments happen while I’m at my wheel, my fingers set on spinning clay.  With what has become an automatic focus on my fingers, my imagination is freed.  Now not only do I create the pot presently on the wheel….I contemplate the next, and the next.  I imagine new ideas, new pots.  My imagination becomes as malleable as the clay I’m forming.  I write essays and poetry (yes, at some point I have to wipe slip from my hands and type those thoughts out).  I dream my best, most fruitful dreams with my fingers set “this much” apart.

Yeah, what of significance could possibly fit between fingers so closely spaced?

This potter’s life.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Dafts

I'm given to believe that writing lyrics is as much knowing what to leave out as it is what to include. A good song is a well edited song. And I can only imagine the first drafts that we never got to hear... 

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a schnauzer and a pug....
Riding on the City Of New Orleans
Illinois Central, Monday morning rail
15 cars and 15 restless riders
3 conductors and a partridge in a pear tree

My mother was a tailor
She sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a rumblin' man
God, how he loved his beans
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
Like sugar in my ear
I once was lost. That's now compound
'Cause now I cannot hear
...and she rushed out to brush the snow away so it wouldn't die
And I chided her basic misunderstanding of botany
First, the tree, at this point, is dormant and cold won't matter
Second, snow has an insulating effect making the ground....

hmmmm. is "hottany" a word? this isn't working 


If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can't I paint you?
If I promise not get paint in your eyes and mouth? 
Tell me, would that do?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Frye Pottery

My friends, Tim and Pam Frye, make wonderful whimsical and functional pottery that walks a timely tightrope between retro and contemporary.  A good half of their “line” is as much sculpture as pottery. 
Frye Butter Keepers
But beyond the wonderful pottery they make, for the past 3 years they’ve also committed themselves to educating the population around rural Effingham, IL in the craft and art of making pottery. 

Three years ago they scoured the countryside for pottery equipment (wheels), put out what advertising was necessary (as it turned out – not much. The demand was already high), and opened their shop to teaching weekly classes.  They now have as many students as the two of them can handle year-‘round.

It was for that reason I spent much of my weekend bending Tim’s and Pam’s ears to the details of teaching in one’s studio.  They generously answered every question, and even answered many questions that I didn’t know enough about teaching to ask.

At one point, Tim and I were talking about the difficulty of teaching something that we’ve done for so long that what we’re doing has long since become a part of our autonomic potter system (Tim and Pam are also 30+-years into this pottery life).   

Tim related that the gap between his nearly unconscious skill level – what he does effortlessly and without thought – and the student's complete unfamiliarity with clay, makes Tim appear to them as though he is doing something nearly akin to supernatural.

This gap and perception was highlighted one evening as Tim was demonstrating how to throw a bottle on the wheel.  And (wouldn’t you know it), as sometimes happens, the bottle got away from him.  Perhaps just a thin area in the wall.  Maybe a harder lump amid the soft clay. It happens.  Whatever the reason, the bottle flopped.

“He’s HUMAN!” exclaimed one of his students.

….and that’s when Tim zapped ‘er dead with his laser vision.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Strictly Speaking

I don't know why, exactly. Yes, I sorta do. Metaphorically speaking, "Casting bread on the water" is what I think it's referred to. Maybe a little bit of reaching out to the broader pottery world as well -- something that's been on my mind lately. Anyway, I've decided to enter the Strictly Functional Pottery National. The jar is a piece I fired in March. The pitcher is still hot. 

Come by and visit me at the Winona Lake Art Fair this weekend! I'll be right on Park Ave in front of the Barber shop.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thinking About Future Things

This is a table of glazed ware ready for tomorrow's firing.  If it comes out well, it could signal a new direction.  If it comes out poorly, it's back to the drawing board.  It's a glaze combination borne of frustration with one glaze that is SO beautiful, but SO equally untrustworthy. 
When it is good, it is very very good
And when it is bad, it is horrid
...and it is being used in conjunction with a glaze so dependable and yet, in that steadfast dependability, is utterly dull.  Functional, but dull.  Perfect, even.  But dull.  It's neither matte nor glossy but rather, a perfect eggshell.  And it's a white that is neither cold nor hot.  Just true.  And opaque.

I guess it's one of those opposites attract things, isn't it?  One glaze that can deliver better results than one should dare ask for....but only if all the planets are aligned, and the wind comes from the right direction, and the proper incantations are uttered...

...hopefully made dependable by marriage to another glaze, milquetoast, but oh so dependable that I could be breaking mirrors, walking under ladders, and drawing aces and eights while firing it, and the thing would look the same every time.

The tests have been hopeful.  And 100% positive.  So far, so good.

In other news....

I'm going to be doing my local art fair for the first time.  Why haven't I done it before?

1.  It's always held the same weekend as at least three other art fairs that are some of the best in the midwest -- Cincinnati Summerfair, Columbus Street Fair, and Kalamazoo's Bronson Park.  And I've always been lucky enough to get juried into one of those great shows.

2.  I've never wanted to face the possibility of doing poorly in front of my home town.  Sounds silly, perhaps, but there it is.  Through an odd set of circumstances in the history of my pottery  -- mostly that, until Etsy came along I sold 99% of my work at art fairs -- I've never sold very much pottery locally.  

In fact, though 20 years ago I had a "local"  (in quotes because it included South Bend and Fort Wayne, both of which are not local) mailing list of 900+ names, since I closed my gallery 20 years ago, I've been a business entity almost entirely disconnected from my community.  Most Warsonians aren't even aware that I have this pottery on the edge of town. 

I have a sneaking suspicion that Warsaw is not my market.  Oh, the stories I could tell of when I DID have a gallery.  And so I've always been a bit reluctant to find out whether or not I could sell locally. 

But last year I was set up in the near-100 degree heat in Kalamazoo watching a heat-beaten crowd shuffle by my booth.  I spent the better part of the weekend concluding to myself that I could be doing that bad at my home town show.

But I have another reason for doing the local show.  I'm going to put out a poster to see if there's any interest in pottery classes or workshops in Warsaw.  This has been an ongoing thought I've had for some time now.  Maybe I'll discuss that in future posts.  But, in short, I've been thinking about passing along some of the stuff I do.

Additionally, I had the pleasure of visiting Seagrove, NC a couple of weeks ago on my way to a show in Greenville, SC.  Yes, I know that Seagrove is not on my way to Greenville.  But it was as close as I'm likely to come in the near future.  So I took the opportunity.  I'm glad I did.  

I had the pleasure of spending several hours picking the very experienced brains of Meredith and Mark at the Whynot Pottery .  They patiently let me ramble out my jumble of thoughts on the topic, and then gave me some really wise advice and direction.  It was just helpful to talk to some other potters about the idea.  Just saying it out loud to such a sounding board was an opportunity to see if it even sounded plausible to MY ear in the telling.

Anyway, I'm rambling again.  I haven't blogged much and it appears my tires need a retread.

So, here's the poster.  I'll be set up in Winona Lake this Saturday and Sunday.  I say that to nobody in particular.....Google Analytics assures me that I do not, nor have I ever had any readers from the Warsaw/Winona Lake area.  Maybe that will change after the weekend, eh?  (I threw in the "eh".  I DO have Canadian readers)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tons of Hope

I remember when clay wasn't a big problem or a big expense. But in the past few years I've gone through clay that won't gas out in a bisque firing ( leaving me with bubbled glaze surfaces), clay of a too fine mesh (it cracks in a pot's crevices), and clay that stinks.

 So now I'm now buying three different clays to accommodate what I used to do with one good clay. And still I'm not sure that I will have decreased the amount of loss I've been suffering these past few years of firings. 

But the fact that I've gone to the trouble of getting new clay in the shop at least shows that I've got hope.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Kingdom For A Telephoto Lens

There's a pair of Orioles nesting along the greenway near our house. Orioles aren't the rarest bird in Indiana, but it can be a very long time between sightings. 

They're not like scarlet tanagers or indigo buntings --- birds you may never see, but they play hard to get when they flirt.  And that's enough to make a sighting a real prize. That, and they're just strikingly beautiful. Winsome singers, too.

 I just rode my bike the half-mile to the tree I saw them in last Thursday and, sure enough, there they were. But as is their way, they stayed WAY up high in the tree. My telephoto isn't up to the task, but I took a few shots anyway. In three of the shots I can't even find the birds. The fourth is the one I've cropped to show you here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back From The Road

I just completed my second successful (good) art fair in a row. I spent the last two days up at the East Lansing Art Festival where the weather was near perfect, the crowd engaging, the sales good, and the music most excellent.

 I somewhat abashedly admit that I've done East Lansing Art Fair in past years, not because I sold particularly well, but solely on the basis of the music line-up they manage to book on their main stage each year. 

In the past I've seen: 

The Duhks 
Tom Paxton (accompanied by Joel Mabus) 
Peter Ostrusko and Dean Magraw 
Robin & Linda Williams 
Eddie From Ohio 
Steppin' In It 

Really, over the past 20 years of doing the show off and on, there are too many great acts to name. 

 But it was an unexpected treat to open up the printed program as I was setting up, only to find the main act for Saturday was a real guitar hero -- Mary Flower. 

She played a really fine one hour set. Then, because she closed down the show on Saturday and happened to hang around a while, as I left the show I dropped by back stage and asked if she'd sign my Yamaha (the guitar that named itself "YA AHA" when I noticed that it had removed the "M" from its own headstock).

I also got the chance to catch up a bit with my old pottery friend, Tony Winchester. (picture below).

All in all, a fine weekend.  I arrived home at 10:30 PM last night to Breeze who was so excited to see me that he fairly shivered with joy.  That's love.

You might check my now updated show schedule in the left hand column of this blog (or on my website)

Friday, May 18, 2012


I'm off to East Lansing for the East Lansing Art Festival. Here are some pictures of what I've been working on lately... 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dame's Rocket

 The trails where I run with the dogs are in full bloom.  The purple-to-white flower is called "Dame's Rocket" and it covers (I'm guessing) about 20% of the forest floor.  It smells as heavenly as it looks on my morning runs these days.

Breeze has kept up his job as pottery shop manager.  We're expecting a new shipment of clay today (going back to Miller 850 after losing too many pieces with the current clay), so Breeze is busy moving the old batch to the side to make room on the pallet for the new.

I took some pictures as I worked my way through a series of teapots earlier this month. Here they are as I began the decorating cycle...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Friends Ask The Best Questions


 My guitar friends asked me some interesting questions about being an art fair potter.  It began an interesting discussion.  The opening question was whether I'd ever had an idea ripped off.  There are a couple of other questions in the text of the long discussion duplicated here:

Interesting coincidence that you would ask the question right after my South Carolina show. The show, "Artisphere", did something that artists have talked about for years now, but no show that I know of has ever done anything about. As we were setting up on Friday, the show passed out signs to post in our booths saying:


And, of course, this prompted discussions among the artists over the rest of the weekend. Story after story was told of having work pirated.

One of the more interesting was Ed (name changed), a watercolorist who caught the same photographer surreptitiously taking pictures in his booth in consecutive years. Having caught the fellow (long story) it came out that the pirate was paid $500 for any image that his Pac Rim employer put into production.

I know one mixed media artist who had a curious drop of sales -- in particular from a gallery that had previously been her biggest and most regular customer. As fate would have it, a friend of this artist happened to be touring China -- including some of the "art" export factories. To this traveler's shock, she saw her friend's artwork being assembled in the factory. She called her friend back in the States and told her about it. Mystery solved. The gallery had sent the artist's work to China to be reverse engineered and created at pennies on the dollar for the gallery.

Mike (name changed) and I began our online sales ventures at the same time. Because of that, it was common for Mike  and me to discuss the latest web developments when we'd meet up at art fairs. At one winter fair I ran into Mike and asked the usual "So, how's it going?" question. That's when Mike related the following...

Seems that just a couple of months earlier, Mike received an unsolicited email from a company in India. It offered to make Mike's jewelry for him at a fraction of his manufacturing cost....and attached to the email was a page of images of prototypes of Mike's work as manufactured by this Indian company.

Mike wasn't exactly sure what to do. He'd never authorized the copying of his work and that in itself was offensive. He could, he supposed, find a market other than art fairs (where having the work manufactured elsewhere would break the artist/art fair contract that demands that that not be the case). Still, it was unsettling to have his work pirated. As he sat on the offer, not sure what to do....less than a week later the same company sent a follow-up saying "Oh, by the way, we can also offer you these works as well." Attached was page after page of jewelry pirated from other jewelers like Mike.

That was bad enough, but Mike then delivered the capper: "....and there's a jeweler at this art fair with some of the work I saw on those other pages."

Smart guy that he is, Mike immediately saw the other problem that represented. That is: There is no way to know if the other jeweler at the show was similarly (as Mike) pirated, or if they were breaking the art fair rules of production.

I presented these three examples (out of dozens I could cite) just by way of illustrating that there is a problem and it's bigger than one might think.

And so, as you'll see when I tell you my story, though it seems improbable, my answer to "Have I ever had my ideas stolen?" is....yes, I think so. I'm almost sure. And on a huge scale.

Starting about 10-12 years ago I started to have amazing success with a particular “line” of pots. It was the kind of success that was the buzz of the art fair scene. It was also the kind of success that couldn't be hidden. At its most extreme, things like this were happening:

At one of the biggest art fairs in the country for several years running, though the show opened at 9:00 AM on Friday, by 8:00 AM there would be a line extending 20'-30' out of my yet-to-be-opened booth with patrons waiting to buy.

Everyone knew about it. You couldn't not see it.

Now here I seem to change the subject. This is just a little background. A little, "think about this".

Say you are a major national company with millions invested in the marketing end of cheap import housewares. What do you suppose might be the most cost effective way to do the market research and development for the next items that you plan to have manufactured overseas for your catalog? Do you suppose you'd hire 20-somethings fresh out of design school? Do you suppose you'd put an ad for designers in some online employment site?

No, if you're smart, you'd simply go to where creative people are already making the next new ideas and doing the marketing research for you by going from town to town and testing their work in front of an audience of cumulative millions of buyers each year -- the art fairs and the art fair artists.

And as an added bonus? The art fair artists are too small-time to offer up any legal resistance to your ripping them off.

Enter the photographers/spies. Go to the biggest art fairs in the country and go from booth to booth and look for the next ideas you want to have made in Pac Rim companies for your import biz. OR…….even better and more efficient? ....don't go from booth to booth -- go from crowd to crowd. Simply go to the booths that seem the busiest and see what the crowd is buying. Photograph THAT work and have it duplicated for your store.

This is a long way of answering that, yes, XXXXXX&XXXXXXX obviously witnessed my outrageous success.  One Autumn morning, as I was walking back from my mailbox to my shop leafing through their catalog, I was stopped dead  in my tracks.   I had just reached a page in the catalog that was my line of pots as interpreted through mass production.

And, no I can't prove it. And, no I can't do anything about it.. And, no the work wasn't exactly like mine (to manufacture the stuff, they cast what I threw....though some of the pieces were pretty much a dead-on copy of mine).

FRIEND:  John, That sucks. Do you now make an extra effort to create stuff that cannot be easily mass produced?

It's a good question. This problem isn't a new one. There's always been a degree of idea piracy going on at art fairs. And the better among us are really a front line of creativity -- and as such, really fruitful targets. Our survival demands that we continually move on, and we small studio craftsmen aren't usually married to a process that is so committed that we can't sort of "turn on a dime". That nimbleness was always our strength.

The thing that's changed everything is the exponentially easier and faster means the pirates have at their disposal to duplicate us. Between technological advances and easier access to the Pac rim, the game has changed.

One thing that used to favor us artists was the huge cost and commitment that the factories incurred in copying us. They had to be pretty darn convinced it was worth the process, because it was going to cost them LOTS to copy us in order to make it worth their mass-producing while. Yes, that's why they appreciated the degree to which they could rely on us for our product market research  , but still, it was a commitment for them to go into production on one of our items.

No longer. Now even they can do a short run at low cost. And they can do it fast. They can be in the market in a matter of short weeks, should they decide to start production. If they're a bigger concern, they are on it with the next catalog/season cycle.

But there are things inherent in my process that they will not do. They won't hand-throw. They probably won't high fire. There will be distinctives in my work that will matter in the market. But perhaps those distinctives will only matter to a smaller audience, and the larger audience I might have once had will be satisfied with the knock-off.

Nimble is the name of the game. But I'm old. Nimble is harder.

FRIEND:  I browsed a local fair here two weekends ago. The no photography signs were in evidence in all the booths. That's fine, but what of the online sales? You have nice images right there for the pickins.

I have many friends who won't sell online for that reason. It's a problem as my friend, Mike, found out. I guess if there's a small consolation, at least online there is little indication as to the success of the piece/line. At least online they don't see a line hanging out my booth and halfway down the aisle waiting to buy, letting them know that the duplication is worth the effort.

I think this insight is the only safe harbor -- be different and inherently harder to duplicate. It's a tall order, but probably the only avenue beyond faithful "followers" and the ancient artist marketing model based on some vague sense of mystique and notoriety. Certainly the possibility is always there that who the artist IS may be able to trump the competition from piracy. That's another LONG discussion though....

Friday, January 13, 2012


The colors in a late winter woods are incredible. Like no other season. A drive-by view from the distance of the highway doesn't reveal them. You have to walk into the woods to see that winter isn't just brown.

Walk one direction up the trails and you'll find that every large trunk that faces you appears to have roadside signage -- those signs all being shapes made of moss green. In the summer you may never notice that moss because the more vivid shades of leaf green draw your eyes away. But in late November those moss-signs stand out as though every tree trunk was carefully patina-ed with oxidized verdigris copper.

There are two trees right now that have bright red berries. Actually, one a small tree and the other thorn covered bramble interspersed wherever the woods thins a bit to allow more light.

The winged euonymus is still holding on to the last of its now dangling, dusty rose colored leaves -- though their almond shape is now facing up and down rather than horizontal.

And there's still one tree out there that is as green as springtime. I don't know what it is.

Sure, there's lots of brown out there too. But when you're in the woods it's not brown. When you're in the woods it's sepia, and umber, and sienna, and chocolate, and buckskin, and tan, and everybrown in between.