Monthly Archives: October 2008

JEWELRY DISPLAY #3: How Sweet It Is…

Candy, that is.  And today’s display idea is a candy dish from a dollar store.

I think this cost me about $6 or $7. I’ve started seeing similar items elsewhere, too, so keep lookout if you think it might work for you.

Here’s what it could look like as jewelry display. (I know, I know, my photography is awful. That’s why I’m a fiber artist, dude!)

Actually this was a real rush set-up, just to give you a way to look at “ordinary items” with an eye for display. What I like about this candy dish thingie is a) it breaks down into parts, so it’s easy to transport; b) it has different levels; and c) it was cheap!

To make it lighter/easier to pack or ship, you could look for baskets to substitute for the dishes.

Utilizing different eye levels in your display is a quick and easy way to add interest and movement.

Bruce Baker, noted speaker on selling and marketing craft, commented on artists and display years ago. He said, “Artists tend to line everything up–paintings, jewerly, pots. It’s so boring!” I thought it was an odd thing to say at the time. Aren’t artists creative?? Don’t we like wild and crazy??

But I started looking at booths and displays more closely, and he’s right. We may be wild/crazy/reckless/ambitious/outre/color-outside-the-lines with our art. But we tend to be very rigid and linear in our display.

Vary the levels a little, set some things off-kilter, work with small groupings and assemblages. See for yourself if it helps generate more interest in your display.

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Filed under art, booth display, craft shows, selling

JEWELRY DISPLAY #2: Mix It Up!

I found a cool item this weekend at Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s a black metal tree for hanging jewelry called (appropriately enough) “Hannah jewelry tree.”

Since this is an item that’s made with jewelry display in mind, it doesn’t take any tweeking to use with your wares. It could work with a lot of different design styles. It could probably be painted if you wanted a different look. Maybe it would even work for displaying ornaments.

It does have drawbacks. It would be a bear to pack if you have “away” shows. (If you intend to do that, hang on the the box and packing materials it comes in.)

It doesn’t hold a ton of pieces, either. That can work to your advantage, though, since most craftspeople, especially jewelry people, usually have too much stuff.

Another reason not to go overboard with this display is that reaching into its branches could be intimidating to your customers. Jewelry, especially fashion jewelry, usually sells better when people can touch it and pick it up to look at it easily. People hesitate to touch displays that look tricky to navigate, or tippy. (No one likes being “the oaf” in a booth….!!)

I still thought it was interesting enough to snag a couple and do the experiment. Here’s an impromptu shot of a mix of displays to show you how different ones can work together.

I actually saw a variation on this tree recently, at a Marshall’s store. The base was a large, polished “bole” of wood, and the tree was more….tree-ish. More leaves and such. Heavier, too. And more expensive! I think the BB&B version is nicer because it’s simpler and lends itself more to display.

I’ll share more unusual items for jewelry display soon. If you’re the kind of person who likes to “read ahead, you can see the rest of the images in this series at Flickr. How do I know that’s you? Because that’s what I always do!

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Filed under art, booth display, business, craft shows, display, jewelry, selling

JEWELRY DISPLAY #1: Thinking Outside the Box

When it comes to displaying your handcrafted jewelry, you have a lot of choices. There are tons of commercially-made products available to you. The choices can be overwhelming.

They range in price from the incredibly cheap to the ridiculously expensive. (By the way, those inexpensive stands are cute, but not very stable. If you use them, you might want to attach them to a larger base of some kind.)

You can find displays made of white leather, black steel, wood and plastic. You can find display stands with feathers, glitter, sequins and in twelve colors. You can find styles like contemporary, country, funky, whimsical, Victorian, romantic, techno, whatever your little heart desires.

There’s a fine line between displaying your work creatively without overpowering the work. I’ve seen displays so elaborate, it was hard to tell what was being sold–the jewelry or the display.

But simple, repetitive display can be boring. I’ve seen displays so monotonous I didn’t even want to stop to look them. One awful example is a common one: Row upon row of white necklace bust stands lined up in a straight line, every one holding a single necklace, each necklace the exact length and design.

It’s mind-numbing to see these “jewelry soldiers on parade”. And yet it’s possibly the single most common jewelry display I see at craft fairs.

One problem with jewelry is, if you display it on an upright display (like the white necklace busts) so people can see it from the aisles, it’s hard for people to actually look at the work easily. You have to sort of bend over to get it back at eye level.

If you display it at a good viewing level, and laid flat (on velvet pads, for example), it’s easier for people to look at. But it’s hard to catch the attention of people out in the aisle. They may not even be able to tell what you’re selling. (Good over-sized photos/posters of your work on your walls can help overcome this.)

Even if you find the perfect commercial display product, if it’s too popular, your display ends up looking like everyone else’s.

I’d like to show you some ways to mix up your display, using commercial and non-commercial display products. Some weren’t even meant to display jewelry at all.

Excuse the not-ready-for-prime-time photography and set-ups. I just wanted to give you some quick examples of non-traditional display pieces and ways to mix and match components without your display looking all over the map.

This vertical necklace stand by Vilmain is one of my favorite display units. It’s upright, stable and holds several necklaces. It’s relatively flat for easy packing and shipping to shows outside your area. It’s pretty sturdy–no fussy little parts to break off or get bent. The black painted steel is neutral, and allows your jewelry to take center stage. It could work with many different styles, including contemporary, funky, elegant, or whatever-style-you’d-call-my-work. (I’ve been told it’s “post-modern”, which sounds ever-so-cool, but I’m still not sure what that actually means…)

The next image shows my Ancient Bull Pendant necklace on a similar stand. It’s the same material and color as the Vilmain stand, and does a decent job showcasing my bigger, bolder designs.

But this second jewelry stand isn’t a necklace display at all. In fact, it’s something I purchased at T.J. Maxx. It originally held two pieces of shaped glass, which sort of formed a vase. I would take a picture of it in it’s original state, but I’ve ditched the glass already. Hey, I found something very similar here. I just love that Google “image” feature….

I guess they weren’t too popular, because they were marked down to less than $10. A month later, I found the same item at Marshalls’ and they had been marked down, too. I bought about four of them, and use them interspersed with other display pieces.

I’m off to pick up the images for my new Etsy shop. I’ll pick up this thread tomorrow with more tips and examples of how to mix up your jewelry display.

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Filed under art, booth display, business, craft shows, display, jewelry

MY EARS AND YOURS

My main frenzy for clearing out and decluttering has dropped off a little. But the tendency is still there, and I continue to purge in smaller “bites”. (That’s a weird sentence. Sorry.)

A few days ago I attacked my personal jewelry stash on my bedroom dresser. I picked out all the pieces I love and wear, and put them in my collection of vintage 1940’s jewelry boxes. The rest came down to my studio to be cleaned and sold, or stripped for parts.

I came across several pairs of large sterling silver hoop earrings. I absolutely love ‘em, and I had three pairs to prove it.

But I never wear them. As I cleaned the tarnish off, I wondered why?

When I put them on, one look in the mirror reminded me. I’m convinced that my ears lie too close to my head. So when I wear hoops, they stick out and look like a second pair of ears.

I started to put them in the “sell” pile, but stopped.

Every so often I get a few people in my booth or at an open studio tell me they can’t wear a particular style of jewelry because of something odd about their body.

Their neck is too short, their ears are crooked, their shoulders are too big, their neck is too thin. Then they put that piece of jewelry on to prove it to me.

They look beautiful.

I can with perfect honesty say I have never looked at a person wearing jewelry and thought, “Her neck is too short to wear that.” I have never ever noticed that someone’s ears are crooked. (I only notice if their ears are missing…)

I rarely notice if people have big feet or not. I don’t even remember ever looking at someone’s feet–until they say they have big feet, and then, of course, we all look.

The shopper won’t believe me, of course. I might just be trying to sell her something. So I ask other customers. Sure enough, everyone chimes in with positive feedback.

Of course, we’re ALL shaped a little differently. And we’re all beautiful in different ways. I’m always taken aback to hear a woman I think is drop-dead gorgeous complain about her nails, or her ankles, or her eyebrows. My daughter, who exudes health and confidence, told me recently her hair is too thin to wear in braids.

She looks adorable in braids.

I don’t know where this comes from. I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know how to make that critical little voice go away.

But I took a deep breath, and left the hoop earrings in.

If I side-swipe someone with them today, okay, I’ll take them off.

But maybe I’ll buy some more, too. Some really, really BIG ones.

p.s. Oh, I forgot–hoops get in the way when I’m on the phone. I just tried to call someone and the earring hit the “end” button. That’s why I don’t where them at home.

And the latest p.s. I just saw an magazine ad in OPRAH magazine featuring Catherine Zeta Jones (for Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door Fragrance) and she’s wearing big hoop earrings and one is sticking straight out! And it accentuates the lovely curve of her neck….

That does it, I’m gonna wear my whoppin’ big hoops somewhere tonight!

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Filed under funny, humor, jewelry, mental attitude, selling

INTERNET MARKETING AND ME

Once again, I’ve been inspired by thinking about someone else’s problem.

Someone posted on a professional forum awhile back. They’re just starting to sell their work online, and they’re having trouble with keywords for search engine optimization..

Their art is unique and indescribable. It takes a lot of words to even begin to describe it. So how do they compress information about this incredibly unusual work into a few keywords that will shoot them to the top of a Google search?

Thinking about an answer helped me a lot.

I started setting up my first Etsy shop last night. Filling out all the boxes (a welcome section, an intro section, etc.) quickly overwhelmed me.

I struggled over how to introduce myself to an audience who has no idea what I do or how or why I do it.

Then I realized that’s not what I have to do.

There are two approaches to selling your artwork on the Internet:

1) Marketing and selling to people who don’t know your work.
2) Marketing and selling to people who do.

In the first case, your focus is figuring out how to rise, even for an instant, above a sea of other artists and competitors, all hawking their unique, unusual, desirable work. That’s what the artist on that forum was trying to do.

In the second case, you already have an audience–your current customers. That’s who I want to to sell to.

I thought to myself, “These people are not strangers to me.”

My customers already follow my work and my writing. We’ve met and talked, at shows and online.

They already admire my work and want collect it. They may even already know what they want to buy. They don’t want to wait another year for my next retail show. They want to buy it now. They’ve hinted, nudged and outright bonked me on the head to start selling online. They’re waiting for me to get going, because the holidays are coming and they know what they want to give–and get!–for Christmas.

My initial marketing plan is simply letting them know they can now buy from me online, anytime, day or night, winter, summer and fall.

I don’t have to work my way through the tens of thousands of other vendors on Etsy. I just have to let my collectors know I’m there.

Of course, as time goes on, perhaps my marketing will grow and change. But so will my work, and so will my customer base.

The internet will never totally replace personal interactions at shows or open studios. But the internet can support, and encourage, and expand upon that.

And once those bonds have been formed, it’s up to me to make it easier for the people who love my work, to have it.

P.S. If you are someone who loves my work, I would welcome any suggestions about what you’d like (or expect) to see in my Etsy shop (both artwork and words). It’s great to have your perspective!

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Filed under art, business, Etsy, marketing, self promotion, selling, selling online

CLEANING THE ATTIC #20: Where Do You Use It?

Well, I thought I was done with this series, but self-discovery continues…

I’ve heard this tip before. But when I actually applied it, it’s amazing what could be moved out of my studio.

Do you actually use what’s stored in your studio, in your studio?

Here’s a great example. I sometimes overdye the fabrics I use in my wall hangings.

I have quite a collection of dyes, special fabric detergent, dye fixer, etc. All of these were stored in a little two-drawer unit on a counter top in my studio.

During the final cleaning frenzy before my Open Studio, I realized (duh) I don’t actually dye fabrics in my studio.

I dye in an upstairs bathroom, or in the laundry room.

Fortuitously, I had just cleared out my laundry room. I knew my supplies would fit in there on a newly- emptied shelf.

So I moved it all up there. The storage unit fit perfectly on the shelf. (Another “duh”. After all, they were part of the same storage system.)

A small change, but huge in so many ways.

I now have half a counter top available for my new Lortone rotary tumbler I bought from Santa Fe Jewelry Supply earlier this year. A more efficient use of space.

My dye supplies, tools, and to-be-dyed fabric are now all stored where I use them. What a time-saver!

Look around your work space. Is there something there that just doesn’t belong?

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Filed under art, business, cleaning the studio, organization, time management

CLEANING THE ATTIC #21: In Closing

I honestly didn’t realize this was going to turn into a series…. I just meant to take you on my journey of de-junking my home, my studio and my life. A journey with odd twists and turns, roadblocks, breakthroughs and tears. An endeavor filled with brain lock, and dread, and insight and inspiration. (Geez, this sounds like a movie trailer….)

What have I accomplished?

I’ve proven to myself that I can do this. I can hunker down and really clear stuff out when I put my mind to it. (I honestly did not believe that til I went through this.)

What will this process now allow me to accomplish?

Time will tell. Time will tell.

Am I still a pack rat?

Yes! I don’t ever want to lose that. It’s part of who I am. I see stories in things. I create stories with the tableaux and vignettes I set up. Perhaps I should have been a photo stylist, or some other profession that would allow me to create little displays over and over again. But I still do it in my home and my studio.

It’s also part of my creative process. It’s a reflection of my artistic nature, and my imagination, to see such potential in the objects I find. That’s not a bad thing, unless I let it get out of control.

I can’t be “clean for clean’s sake”. I’ve learned my lesson there. If I’m afraid of making a mess, then no art will be created. My space just has to be functional enough to….well, function.

As my friend pointed out, the layers were good–it’s what I do. I create layers of fabric, layers of display, layers of meaning.

But when I start piling on top on layers, I need to either move something else on, or understand why I’m not dealing with the stuff.

I also know that there will be times where I can’t act on it immediately. If so, I can accept that, and understand I’ll have to take care of it later.

The pay-off?

Today I got a last-minute call from a potential customer. He’d seen my work at my last retail show. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He wanted to purchase a bracelet for his wife. Could he stop in on his way through New Hampshire?

Normally this kind of request would put me in a panic. Either I wouldn’t even be able to find what he wanted, or I’d be babbling a jillion embarrassed apologies as we stepped through piles o’ stuff.

But instead, I said, “Sure! Come on by.” He would be there in an hour.

It took about that long to break down the displays and sales tables. I put all my book project displays into one big box for storage. I set aside the leftover fabrics for Freecycle. I pulled out a selection of bracelets and arranged them on a black velvet pad.

When my visitor arrived, I welcomed him into a beautiful studio. Dense and layered, to be sure. But also organized and neat. No “understory”. Nothing stuffed into every available nook and cranny. There were even a few clear surfaces.

I was proud of my workspace, and it showed.

He was delighted and enchanted. He bought a very nice piece for his wife. He admired my workspace and promised to come again for the next open studio, with his family.

Oh. My. God.

I know this won’t last, of course. The minute I start work on a new wall hanging series, the fabrics will fly, the threads will fray, and Bunster will once again play tug-o-war with my patience. There are still a few rooms and closets in the house to go through, and more boxes of display stuff to be put away.

But I found myself sneaking into my studio today at every possible moment, to make some simple pieces, to put away a few more things, to simply play at my work table.

It feels good to be in here. It feels great to be in here.

I’d call that a roaring success. Wouldn’t you?

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Filed under art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling

GETTING UNSTUCK

I posted a brief answer to a question on an art forum and realized (as usual), it also applies to moi.

It was about being stuck, and not knowing how to get back to making more artwork.

There are two easy questions to ask yourself when you get stuck.

1) What do I need to do/have/find out in order to finish this piece?

I kept sitting down to my jewelry table to make up more earrings for an upcoming show. (It’s a show where only my lower-priced work will sell, so I need to make product to fit that niche.)

But I kept finding myself wandering around the studio, focusing on other little tasks instead.

I realized when I was actually making the earrings, I’m missing some critical beads for that design. But once I got up, I forgot I need to order more.

To be specific, they’re going to take some tracking down, and that’s the part that’s creating an obstacle.

Today I realized I’ve got to dedicate some time to finding them. I’ve contacted my regular suppliers, sent samples to an African bead trader, and did a quick search online.

Just knowing I’ve done what I need to do to move forward has increased my interest, and energy level.

IF that doesn’t work, ask yourself this question:

2) Do I really need to finish this piece?

If not, guess what–you don’t have to! You can simply change your mind and set it aside. (Unless it’s a special order, in which case, hunker down, sister!)

And about here it dawns on me, the other reason I’m having trouble settling down:

I do have special orders to take care of! In the frenzy to clean my attic and studio so I could work and host an open studio, I forgot I have a few orders to take care of. Well, duh.

Now I can settle down to work, knowing I’m focusing on the right task.

And I’m relieved knowing the other task has a solution in process. When I’m ready for it again, it will be ready, too.

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Filed under action steps, art, business, choices, life, time management

CLEANING THE ATTIC #19: Take Out the Empties

As I enter into the last 24 hours of cleaning frenzy (assuming I don’t stay up til 2 a.m. for the next two nights, which I’m not saying I won’t, mind you, but at my age, it’s hard) there’s one cleaning tip I come back to again and again. It’s ridiculously simple, but perhaps the most single most helpful tip I’ve found.

When I enlisted the help of my good friend Carol Laughner, the second thing she advised me to do seemed kinda silly at the time. (I can’t remember the other two right now. If I do, I’ll share those, too.)

As I empty storage containers or organizers, she said I should gather them up and set them aside, in one big pile, in an out-of-the-way area.

I nodded my head obligingly when she told me this. After all, she was helping me. I wasn’t going to argue with her. But I couldn’t see why this was one of her “big three” organizing tips.

Well, guess what? It works.

It turns out that keeping them in your line of sight as you work creates a visual distraction. I’d find my eye roving around the room, thinking of what I had to do next. I would see an empty rolling drawer cart, or a magazine file, or a box, or a jar. Then I’d have to think, “Oh, it’s empty, I don’t have to do anything with that.” Except, of course, step over it, move it out of the way, push it aside or stack it on something else.

Also, when I’d get ready to reorganize a space, I’d think of a perfect “thing” to use–but then I couldn’t remember where it was. I’d spend several precious moments looking for it. And sometimes I’d realize I’d already commandeered it for another spot.

About the eleventh time I stepped over an empty plastic tub, or searched for a basket the right size, I realized Carol was right.

I set the “empties” in a pile near the door to my barn attic. Several times a day, I took them upstairs to the “master pile”.

I instantly had more walking-around space. And fewer distractions to boot.

I could then judiciously add some of the containers back in as I needed them.

I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. So listen to Carol and move those empties to a staging area while you work on your mega-mess.

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Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, organization, recycling, recycling tip

CLEANING THE ATTIC #18: Find Someone More Worthy

The end is almost in sight. I’ve achieved a few clear surfaces in here. And this time, it’s not because everything that was on them is stuffed in boxes underneath. The stuff is either neatly organized and stored in the attic, or G-O-N-E.

The process is easier some days, harder on others.

One consolation: There’s very little that’s pure-D trash. Most of it is saleable, salvageable, worthy of donation or recyclable.

Of course, if it’s good enough to sell/salvage/donate, it’s also good enough to keep. And therein lies the heart of the problem.

It’s easy to talk ourselves into keeping something that’s still “good enough”. Hey, maybe we really will have another baby (or somebody will), redecorate our home (in the same color scheme/style we left behind fifteen years ago), or take up weaving again (even though I hate threading the loom.)

One trick around this is to find someone more worthy.

I’ve done this by donating to good causes: Our public library’s book sale, which raises money for buying more books. (Better them than me, right?) An art center’s fund raising “yart” sale, and also direct donations to their art programs (photography equipment, art supplies.) An after-school art program. A family that makes jewelry and donates the money from sales to worthy causes.

When it comes to fabric, there’s one place that always gets the culls from my stash.

It’s a sewing program at a state prison facility for women.

I read about this group years ago. They make clothing and quilts for children in homeless shelters and babies with AIDS.

It really moved me that these women, who have made some disastrous decisions in their lives, were trying to comfort someone else–a little person–even worse off.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough fabric to donate, so I had to make quite a few phone calls to track down a contact. But the program manager is delighted I thought of them again. We’ve arranged a drop-off point.

Inspired again by this group, I found myself pulling even more fabric off my shelves.

Pay it forward. Find someone who could really put your unused stuff to good purpose.

And watch the world grow a little richer, a little brighter, a little more loving.

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Filed under action steps, art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, recycling tip

CLEANING THE ATTIC #17: Persistence of Utility

One of the biggest obstacles to de-junking is worrying you’ll get rid of something you’ll really regret later.

All of us have a story like that. One week, you throw away all your red widgets. The next, you realize you desperately need more red widgets. And they cost three times as much as what you paid for them last time.

Or you give away a wodget you didn’t use for ten years. And a week later, you think of some usage that wodget would be perfect for.

A friend once explained that phenomenon to me. It needs a good name. Like “rue-membering”.

The reality is, you’d already forgotten you had that wodget. if you hadn’t cleaned out your attic and come across that wodget, you still would not have thought of it a week later.

Or if you did find the perfect use for it, and remembered you had it, you wouldn’t have been able to find it anyway.

You remembered it only because you touched it recently.

It’s like that “persistence of vision” thing when you look at a bright light, then look away. You don’t really still see the light–you see an image of the light that’s temporarily “burned” on your retina.

Similarly, you are having a “persistence of utility” for that object.

And it creates just enough regret to slow down your purging process.

Remember that when you’re making your stay/go decisions and your supports-my-vision/distracts-me-from-my-vision decisions.

And if you find yourself still full of second-guessing, here’s a good statistic to keep in mind:

Out of the thousands of items I’ve given away in the past month, I regret giving away oh, maybe one or two of them.

And I can’t even remember what those are right now.

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Filed under art, cleaning the studio, life, recycling, recycling tip

GETTING PAID–Make Sure You Do!

We interrupt our normally-scheduled series on cleaning your studio for this public service announcement. (Oh, I’ve always wanted to say that!)

I wrote a long post on a wholesale crafts forum, and realized it’s good advice for anyone wholesaling their art in these hard times. (This advice can apply to retail sales, too.)

Sorry this is so long, but this will hopefully show you why you MUST hold firm on your payment policies, or even tighten them up to protect your business during a recession.

When the economy hit the wall in 2001, late payments in the fine crafts market became the rule rather than the exception. Many of us craftspeople tried to be nice and understanding. These were stores we’d enjoyed great relationships with!

Then came a fiasco with a very large company that retailed craft in dozens of stores across the country. They were a major account for a lot of craftspeople, with stores across the country–placing $20,000-$50,000 orders at wholesale shows. Some craftspeople built and expanded their entire business based on orders from this company.

Soon after the recession hit, they started paying late, and ordering more new stock before they’d paid their outstanding invoices. Many, many craftspeople extended credit, thinking things would get better. Some even made this decision deliberately, hoping to help this company out of its credit crunch.

It was a bet that didn’t pay off. The company declared bankruptcy.

Not only did these craftspeople get stuck with huge unpaid invoices, they didn’t have their stock back. (In a bankruptcy, all assets, even ones that haven’t been paid for, are held and doled out to all the people owed money in specific order. And things like rent, utilities, wages, etc. will be paid before vendors.)

Many, many craftspeople went out of business. The ones who were hit hardest were the ones who continued to ship product even when there were huge outstanding invoices.

Even us smaller producers had similar issues with many of our accounts. I hated playing hardball with people who had been very good to me. But the reality is, if you are not getting paid in a timely manner, despite repeated requests, that is a VERY bad sign. Especially when even formerly-reliable accounts fall into this pattern.

Then there’s the time and emotional energy expended trying to track down these payments. It sucks when people are unwilling to pay you for your work. It’s worse when they have your work in hand and still won’t pay for it. People having financial difficulties get defensive. It’s understandable, but it ends up seeming like it’s about your work. (It isn’t. Remember that.) If you have someone working with you who can make these painful calls, it helps. Seriously, at least you can spread the pain. I felt so emotionally drained after calling these stores over and over, sending letter after letter requesting payment, it took all the joy out of what I was doing.

You may also want to revise your returns and exchanges policy. I had a generous policy, accepting returns as credit against new orders. This can backfire quickly.

If you accept unsold inventory in return, for credit against outstanding invoices or new inventory(which I did) soon you’ll find you aren’t really making any outright sales at all. When stores are short of cash, they look around at their stock on hand that can be returned. If you have a generous return policy, they will take advantage of it. This happened to me, and it nearly put me out of business before I tightened up my policy.

I still got whacked with this during my last retail show. Even though my returns and exchange policy is clearly posted (required by law if you want to enforce it, btw!) and printed on my sales receipt, I decided to accept a very large return the week after the show. My restocking fee barely covered my merchant services fee, and came nowhere near covering my emotional anguish at processing such a large return. You can bet I’m adjusting my restocking fee for large purchases!

If you continue to extend credit to a store, even for 30 days, you’ll run the risk of being out money AND product if the store tanks.

Instead, “temporarily” request payment upon shipping the orders. Tell each person or account it isn’t THEM, but you’ve been burned recently by other vendors, and these are steps you HAVE TO TAKE to keep your company in business. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being punished for being “bad”, and if when things get better, you’ll want a civil relationship to come back to.

Reduce the minimum orders if you have to, or if that works for you. Do EVERYTHING except trust someone else with your hard-earned money or carefully-made product. Be nice, be sympathetic, but firm.

If your product sells well for them, they will do whatever it takes to keep ordering from you. If your product ISN’T selling well for them, then somewhere down the road you are going to get hosed–either they won’t be able or willing to pay you (when they can use what $$ they have to buy product that DOES sell well) or your product is sitting on their shelves and they aren’t going to order more anyway.

I hope this helps. It sucks to have to do this, I know.

But it will be worse if you overextend this courtesy and it ends up putting you out of business. I’m not saying people that abuse your payment policies and return policies are evil. What I’m saying is they are desperate. And desperate people will take any advantage to keep their heads above water. You don’t want them to take you down with them!

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Filed under action steps, art, business, selling, wholesale

CLEANING THE ATTIC #16: Remember the Rewards

So crunch time is coming–my parents and my open studio event arrive weekend after this. I’m running out of time, steam, and boxes.

It helps today to remember the rewards I’ve received to date from such a massive cleanup:

#1 It got hard yesterday. So I decided to simply focus on clearing out top shelves. I figured these mostly already held stuff I couldn’t reach, so I didn’t use the stuff.

Sure enough, it was pretty easy to make decisions about those items. Including two little nondescript boxes.

One of which held $150 in cash.

I don’t remember stuffing the cash in there. I have no idea why I put it way up on a shelf near the ceiling.

But I am grateful a) the mice didn’t find it first. And that b) I looked inside the boxes first.

#2 When we found two huge bags of baby clothes, my first thought was, “I’ve already gone through those twice, I know I have. I know I want to keep it all!”

But time had worked its magic. Sure enough, I was able to let go of 90% of those baby clothes, keeping only a precious few items that really meant something to me.

And that’s when I found the handmade dresses a dear family friend of my husband’s had made for my daughter when she was 18 months old. The were the sweetest, prettiest dresses she ever had, and some of the few she ever agreed to wear. I had “lost” them for years. And there they were.

#3 I found a photo portfolio of very early work I did when I was first starting out. I just took one quick glance–time for nostalgia later! But some of the pieces were things I’d forgotten completely about. It was nice to see them again.

#4 By being brutal in some of my choices, I think I’ll have enough room to set up important new things–like the jeweler’s variable spped drill set I bought (and forgot I had) two years ago.

#5 It looks like the bag lady in my studio who hoarded magazines has finally moved out. The piles are slowly receding. I can actually walk around my studio without knocking over anything too much.

#6 Simply because I’ve moved stuff around, I can now “see” things in my studio I haven’t seen in years. It’s a simple trick–store owners use it all the time. Move things around periodically, and something that’s sat for ages will be “discovered” by a customer–and go out the door.

#7 I have room for more new stuff! I have some open shelves.

#8 I have made many, many people happy with my cast-offs and donations. There are people in waiting rooms around the city who will thank me for all the magazines I left for them. Someone in a nursing home is watching our donated TV. Various organizations raised money with the items we donated to their yard sales. And some people are having too much fun with all the goodies they got through Freecycle.

#8.a Hopefully, there will soon be many, many people who are happy that I’m back to work making beautiful new work and writing a new book.

#9 And maybe I’ll have a nice little tax write-off, too.

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Filed under art, business, cleaning the studio, life, recycling