GOOD THINGS COME IN THREE’S

Wow, what a day!

This morning I was dee-lighted to see I was featured on Cynthia Tinapple’s well-curated, internationally focused polymer art website, Polymer Clay Daily. It’s an honor!

Melanie Plenda, freelance journalist, wrote a great article about me and the inspiration for my work for the March 4, 2014 issue of The Union Leader. But I’ll to photo the article for you because I can’t find it online. Thank you, Melanie!

And I’m almost ready for our next/last indoor home tag sale this Saturday, from 10-1! I’ve staged two downstairs rooms full of furniture and wonderful accessories: Vintage dishes, vintage pottery (McCoy!!), silverware sets, pillows, artwork, antique and vintage furniture such as a dining room table, chairs, book shelves and book cases, a child’s antique school desk (I almost wrote “antique child” and that made no sense), vintage glassware, vintage stemware, a very cool doll house, candlesticks, and tons more. Take a peek at my online gallery and check out my special Facebook page for updates. Come if you can, buy right off the virtual site if you can’t come (just email or call me for the items you can’t live without–or just WON’T live without!), and tell your friends, too!

If you stick around, we’ll open the wine!

It's the shiny things in life.....

It’s the shiny things in life…..


And the little things.....

And the little things…..

And the funky things!!

And the funky things!!


I'm having WAAAAAAY too much fun staging things!

I’m having WAAAAAAY too much fun staging things!

It's felt pretty scattered around here lately, but now I feel like I'm home again.

It’s felt pretty scattered around here lately, but now I feel like I’m home again.

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Filed under art, event

FREE TUTORIAL: How to Repair Pottery with Polymer Clay

I’ve been putting together some projects to write up for my next ebooks. And I actually had a little project today that turned out really well. I thought maybe you’d like to get a free “how to” on how to repair a chipped ceramic piece.

I have a huge old blue-sponged mixing bowl, marked “Robinson Ransbottom, Roseville OH, U.S.A., mixing bowl, 15″ 8 qt.” on the bottom. I’ve had it forever. Someone saw it at my indoor tag sale. I’d forgotten to put it out! (You can see more of the goodies at my online sale gallery.

She wanted to take a closer look. But when my husband brought it down from the cupboard, I found a new chip in the glaze.

Probably got dinged when we emptied the kitchen for remodeling. Ouch!!

Image 1: Probably got dinged when we emptied the kitchen for remodeling. Ouch!!

I was heartsick. The value of this bowl is at least $75. The chip is mostly on the outside of the rim, and won’t affect its usefulness. But it does look bad. (image 1)

Now usually I would take a blue magic marker to something like this. Simply coloring the exposed brighter clay would go far to make the chip less noticeable.

But then I tried a trick I’ve used before.

When a piece gets knocked or notched–a china ear chips off, or a chunk is missing, I actually use POLYMER CLAY to fill it in.

Here’s how you do it:

Materials:
Polymer clay in a matching color. (I used a clay color that matched the base glaze color, and blue acrylic paint for the sponged pattern.)

Super glue (image 3)

CA activator, Zip Kick activator spray or any other super glue activator (Trust me, this item will be your new best friend when it comes to using super glue!) (image 4)

A piece of rough sandpaper and a small block of wood (I used a rubber stamp because I was too lazy to look for a little block of wood.) (image 5)

3M wet/dry sanding sponge, fine, superfine or ultra fine. (image 5)

Acrylic paint to match (You can use this to paint the entire baked patch, or to recreate a pattern or design like I did) (image 8)

Small paint brush (like tiny small) (image 9)

Paint sponge (or tear off a big chunk of a kitchen sponge and use that.) (image 11)

Soft cloth (I used a kitchen towel because it was there.)

Instructions:
Step 1: Use a chunk of polymer clay in a matching color, or mix to match. In this case, “champagne” was an almost perfect match for the glazed stoneware base glaze. I conditioned it by kneading it until it was malleable, and pushed it into the chipped area. This is what it looked like (Image 2):

It's just a blob o' polymer clay right now, but keep reading!

Image 2: This is actually a photo of the first sanding, but I forgot to photograph the “raw” blob. Use your imagination: “Blob”

Really push the clay into the chipped space. You want a good contact with the clay surface for a good fit.

Step 2: Gently remove your lump o’clay patch. Try not to deform the lump. Bake it in your firing oven at 265 degrees (or the manufacturer’s recommendation) for 30 minutes. Let cool and remove from oven.

Step 3: Apply glue to the object’s surface. (image 3) (You can apply glue to either surface, but I figured it would be easier to work with a glue-free chip-filler blob. You may be more careful than I usually am.) Remove the cap from your glue activator. (Image 4)

What does the glue activator do? It makes super glue set INSTANTLY.

The problem with many super glue repairs is, it takes pressure and a bit of time for the glue to set. Although it’s supposed to be “instant”, sometimes it just takes a little longer. But move the patch before it’s dry, or if it isn’t lined up exactly, the attached piece will pop off.

When you spritz the glued area with the activator, the activator will seep into the glued area and INSTANTLY set the glue. It ensures a faster, more reliable adhesion.)

Any kind of super glue will work.

Image 3: Any kind of super glue will work.

Your new best (super glue) friend!

Image 4: Your new best (super glue) friend!

Step 4: Line up the patch with the chip, and press the patch/chip-filler as hard as you can with one hand. With your other hand, spritz along the EDGE of your patch, as if you were trying to squirt into the tiny space between the patch and the chip. (This is why you need to have the activator cap off beforehand. Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way.)

The patch should stick instantly.

If it doesn’t, apply a drop of glue to an area that are free of the first glue try, and try it again. (Glue won’t stick to glue.) You only need a tiny area to “catch” to make an effective patch.

So now you have a glob of baked clay stuck to your bowl. What now?

Step 5: Now we’re going to sand it down to match the surface shape of the bowl. For a large smooth profile like the bowl, rough sandpaper wrapped around a hard, flat thing (like a little block of wood!) will help you smooth and shape the surface of the patch. (image 5)

If you wrap the coarse sandpaper around a small block of wood, you can sand harder and more evenly.

image 5: If you wrap the coarse sandpaper around a small block of wood, you can sand harder and more evenly.

You’re removing enough patch mass (a new phrase!) to fit in the the bowl’s original profile. (image 6) Stop before you’ve gone TOO far, though! You can always take off more, but you can’t add it back in later.

image 6: Here's the first sanding pass with the heavy grit sandpaper. You remove enough of the patch to match the bowl's "profile".

image 6: Here’s the first sanding pass with the heavy grit sandpaper. You remove enough of the patch to match the bowl’s “profile”.

When you’re pretty close to matching the surrounding surface, switch to the finer sanding sponge. Polymer clay sands smoother and faster with water (since it tends to gum up sandpaper quickly), so dampen the sanding sponge if you’d like.

Polymer doesn’t have a grain, so it won’t matter what direction you sand it in. You can go vigorously (especially with the dry sandpaper) until you are within shaping-range. And focus on the patch, not the rest of the bowl. Glaze is really tough and hard to scratch. But you don’t want to test that, either!

I used a circular motion around the edges of the patch, so I could REALLY smooth them out.

When you’re finished, the patch should feel almost seamless to the touch.

And it should look like this (image 7) :

Lookin' good! Lookin' REAL good!

image 7: Lookin’ good! Lookin’ REAL good!

Now, if you were mending a solid color item, and you used a patch made with clay that matches it, you could stop here.

But we have a sponged design on the bowl, and the repair is still obvious. I COULD have used a blue patch, and it would have been less noticeable. But I wanted to see if I could actually….

Step 6: Paint the patch! So here are the paints (image 8):

It's rare you'll have the EXACT color match, and I'm bad at matching color, so I got white and black, too.

image 8:It’s rare you’ll have the EXACT color match, and I’m bad at matching color, so I got white and black, too.

You need very little paint to sponge, so just a tiny squish of each color ought to do it. (image 9)

Almost got it!

image 9: Almost got it!

I still didn’t have the right shade of blue. Maybe purple….? But do I have any purple? I hardly ever use that color….

Yes! (image 10)

I had exactly one bottle of purple acrylic paint!

image 10: I had exactly one bottle of purple acrylic paint!

And now for the sponge (image 11).

There's the sponge! Hangin' out with the paint tubes.

image 11: There’s the sponge! Hangin’ out with the paint tubes.

Step 7: Wet the painting sponge (not the sanding sponge!) and squeeze it nearly dry. Dab it into your paint and test with a piece of white paper. (I forgot this, so I just grabbed a paper towel.) After you experiment a little, you’ll get a feel for how much paint, how hard to sponge, etc.

Wow! Pretty good!

image 11: Wow! Pretty good!

Sponge your patch! (image 11) As you can see, I put on a lit-tul too much. (image 9) I should have quit sooner. But it still looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

Step 8: Let the paint dry thoroughly, then buff with a soft dry cloth. This will shine up the paint a little, enough to match the soft shine of the bowl itself.

Now….can you see the patch? (image 10)

Ignore the cabinet knob that looks like it's sticking out of the bowl.

image 10: Ignore the cabinet knob that looks like it’s sticking out of the bowl.

WOW!!!!

image 11: WOW!!!!

Can you see it here? (image 11)

Now for the hard question: How durable is this repair? And how safe is it for food purposes?

I wouldn’t bake this bowl. The polymer clay is safe to heat up to 300 degrees or so. But it can scorch at higher temperatures. But why would you bake a mixing bowl???

How durable is the paint treatment? I use acrylic paint as a glaze on my handmade artifacts. I DON’T use any glazes or finishes over the paint–just polishing with a power buffer. Some of them have gone through the laundry, or into hot tubs, or swimming, and the paint has been okay. I think the polishing, even with just a cloth, helps shine and “seal” the surface somewhat. But I wouldn’t put this bowl in a tub of soapy dishwater, nor put it in the dishwasher. (But it’s too big for a dishwasher anyway!)

It’s food-safe, so you can certainly use the bowl to hold stuff: Fruit (real and faux), billiard balls (!!), and so on. If you use it to actually mix stuff, I would wash and rinse carefully, making sure not to scrub or soak the patched area.

But it’s still an easy, affordable, effective patch. And I’m delighted with the results!

(Author’s note: I apologize for the awkward formatting. I have never figured out how to layout images and text with WordPress, despite constant experimenting and positioning. If anyone knows of a good tutorial, point me at it!)

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Filed under polymer clay, tutorial

LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Assumptions Hold Us Back

I was so wrapped up with my indoor moving sale, I forgot to tell you about my latest Fine Art Views column!

You can read LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: Assumptions Hold Us Back.

You can see another view of the moving sale as an event on Facebook.

Love how the sunshine makes this glow so richly!

Love how the sunshine makes this glow so richly!

20140302_094127

20140302_102852 (576x1024) (2)

20140302_093208 (1024x554)

Hugely collectible California Pottery "Poppy Trails", with its fabulous rooster motif.

Hugely collectible California Pottery “Poppy Trails”, with its fabulous rooster motif.

Looks like someone's ready for a trip to the north woods! But not us. We're off to California, and some other lucky person can own vintage (working!) snowshoes.

Looks like someone’s ready for a trip to the north woods! But not us. We’re off to California, and some other lucky person can own vintage (working!) snowshoes.

A rainbow of vintage glass pitchers for your table!

A rainbow of vintage glass pitchers for your table!

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Filed under art, Fine Art Views

STORIES FROM THE TAG SALE

There's more to this little guy than meets than meets the eye!

There’s more to this little guy than meets than meets the eye!

Change is hard. Moving across the country and rebooting your life is really hard. Moving from a large house to what will most likely be a very modest apartment when you’re a hoarder avid collector is really, really, really hard.

So we’ve begun the process of whittling down my unbelievable pile of stuff huge collection of amazing things. You can see what’s for sale at my online tag sale . There will be an actual in-house tag sale this Saturday. (Please! Tell your friends!)

But the virtual online event is so popular, I may continue it after the real event!

I’m learning a lot about how things work in today’s housing market, and how much the internet has changed the process. I’m learning what I have to put up with, and what I don’t. I’m learning to let go.

Today let me share with you the lesson illustrated in this little cocker spaniel flower pot.

This is a mid-century Royal Copley planter. It’s adorable, yes. It’s collectible, too. Yes, you can find a small one on Ebay for $3. (But don’t overlook the $15 shipping charge!) Most of them are listed much higher, $30 and up.

But this isn’t about how much money I can get for him, or what condition he’s in.

It’s about the story. Why he appeals to me so much, why I own him, and why I’m letting him go.

My grandmother had this planter in her kitchen window. It always held an ivy plant. She didn’t have many nice things. She and my grandfather had nine children instead. But every Sunday after church, and at every holiday meal and family get-together, I saw this little fellow in the window.

When my grandparents died within a year or so of each other, my father’s oldest sister Edith got the spaniel. And it sat in HER kitchen window. Aunt Edith was one of my favorite aunts, and I visited her often. So again, I saw the planter often.

My Aunt Edith didn’t marry until late in life, her mid-fifties. (And not for long, for her husband died within ten years.) She lived with my grandparents for many years. She never moved away from Gladwin. She never had children.

She was also my fourth grade teacher, and one of my greatest difficulties was calling her “Mrs. Hamilton (her married name) like all the other kids in class. But at least I got to see her every day.

That’s when I learned how much she had traveled. I think my new uncle belonged to a religious group, full of people who opened their homes to other members who traveled. So for ten years, she traveled extensively across the U.S. I remember her telling me she’d been to almost all the 50 states, including Alaska. And she brought back tiny treasures from each state. I was enamored of her small colored sand paperweight depicting a desert scene in Arizona. I inherited her tiny carved ivory dog from Alaska after she died.

I also got the spaniel planter.

Every time I look at it, I think of these women. We weren’t really a warm and fuzzy family. But I loved that connection.

So here’s the lesson: I know exactly what Aunt Edith would tell me about what to do with this planter.

She’d tell me to embrace change, no matter how late in life it finds you.
She’d tell me that having a loving partner is precious.
She’d tell me that memories mean more than mementos.
She’d tell me to move it on to someone else.
And she’d tell me to move to California.

Soon this little guy will sit in someone else’s kitchen window.
I hope it continues to create precious memories wherever it goes.

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RETURN TO ME (NOT!)

Oh, just give it away!

Oh, just give it away!

A few years ago I wrote a series of articles about selling your work in stores and galleries. I covered all the ins and outs of consigning and wholesaling, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There’s one thing I didn’t cover, and that is returns–when the store wants to return certain items of your work.

The way returns are handled is what separates consignment from wholesale. In consignment, your work is placed in the store and you don’t get paid until it sells. In return for waiting, you usually get more than 50% of your retail price than you would by selling to the store outright (wholesale). The traditional split is 60% (artist) and 40% (store). When things got rough in the economy while back, this sometimes dropped to 50/50.

In consignment, if unsold work is returned to you, you aren’t out any money. You may be out time of course (waiting to see if the work sold) and you may be out the opportunity to have placed the items somewhere else where they might have sold quicker/better. But you don’t “owe” the store anything. You just get your stuff back.

Wholesale works differently. You sell your work outright to the store. You are paid upfront for your work–usually 50% of your retail price. (if you’ve figured your costs and pricing correctly, there is still profit there for you.) In essence, the store (usually) gets a slightly better price from you, in exchange for buying on the spot.

But store buyers are not infallible. Sometimes they pick stuff they love, but it just doesn’t sell. Sometimes the “sure sale” thing doesn’t work. They’re stuck with inventory that doesn’t move. Your work is money sitting on their shelves, taking up space where other more sale-able items could be.

At this point, your buyer now has several options:

1) Put the item on sale. Mark it down and move it out!

2) Donate the item to a charitable auction/fundraiser/non-profit and take a tax write-off. (I’m not sure if they can claim what they paid for it, or what they could have sold it for. Either way, it’s more than you the artist would get. If YOU were to donate the exact same item, you actually can only write off the actual cost of materials.)

3) Give to someone as a present. (“Look what I got you!”)

4) Try to return it to you.

We all have different ways of handling wholesale returns. Some artists won’t, period. Others take returns happily–it’s product that can be resold somewhere else.

And some of us who are way too nice, had to learn the hard way. Accepting returns can be a bottomless pit if you’re not careful.

It starts small. In my experience, the store owner/manager opens the dialogue during a follow-up sales call. They pick an assortment of new items. You are happily writing up the sales tally. Another great sale! Things are great! Until….

They ask if they can return a few things that just didn’t sell.

There are problems with accepting returns you need to consider:

1) It usually starts small, but gets bigger and more complicated quickly.

They say, “I have a couple items that just aren’t selling. Can I exchange them for different ones?” You say sure, no problem. Happy to oblige!

Soon there are way more than “a few things”. In fact, they are now returning a lot of stuff. Maybe even more items than they’re actually buying.

2) It leaves you in a position where YOU owe the STORE money.

I had one client who returned so much inventory at each reorder, I could barely keep up with what was going out and what was coming back in. At the end of a year’s worth of transactions involving thousands of dollars, I realized I’d only made a profit of less than $500. And that didn’t include the shipping costs. I was so excited by the big sales, I’d neglected to factor in the big returns.

3) The returns are no longer in the same condition. Sometimes the returned items are shopworn. Or they don’t go with your newer product lines. Or they’re now hopelessly off-trend or dated. Silver tarnishes, items come back in bags and packaging that aren’t yours, that particular style doesn’t sell anymore.

4) Once you start, it’s really hard to close that door. (See #2 below.) (I know, I have a lot of lists in this post!)

It can feel like you and your work is being disrespected. Sometimes, this IS the case. A few of my first clients tried to make me feel like the returns were substandard in some way, that it was my fault they hadn’t sold. I refrained from mentioning that they had hand-picked each item. And that displaying them on a shelf 6″ above the floor or in a basket under a table was probably not conducive to selling them.

Sometimes it’s a person who doesn’t have a lot of retail experience. They simply buy stuff they like, with no consideration or knowledge of their clientele, the right audience for the work, or the right price points for their store. This was the case for the buyer in #2. When I described the situation to a friend in the business, she exclaimed, “That’s just a personal shopper with a store budget!” In fact, the only reason I’m not more embarrassed about admitting how out-of-hand this got, is how it ended. (See #9 below.)

But some buyers are simply in a bind. They have money tied up on inventory that isn’t moving. Every time they look at it, they see a little pile of money that could be put to better use.

Understandable, to a degree. On the other hand, most “regular” stores buy inventory from much larger businesses who do NOT accept returns. That’s why some ready-made frames at frame shops are on sale. Why summer clothing gets marked down in August. Why specialty food items have a ‘sell by’ date. They can’t return stock three months later to these suppliers. So why do they ask us?

They ask us because there’s a chance we might. So it couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Yes and no. I want to be a good vendor. I want to be professional. I like having a genuine relationships with my buyers. I want to work with them. I want to know what sells for them, what they’re customers are looking for, and what their needs are. That’s win-win for both of us.

Unfortunately, this attitude also makes me “too nice” sometimes. I had to learn to say no. And it’s important to know that you can say no, whenever you like.

And you can make exceptions. You don’t have to say no to every buyer. You can make exceptions to those who don’t abuse the privilege.

If you decide to take returns, have a policy, and a plan.

1) You can put a time-limit on returns. (“No returns after 30 days.” Or even 10 days, if you think you’re dealing with buyer’s remorse.)

2) You can accept returns for exchange only. (Actually, this should be written in stone! Who wants to write a check to the store?!)

3) You can put a limit on the amount or the number of items returned.

4) You can limit the number of times you accept returns. Maybe just once a year. Or maybe even just once, period.

5) You can charge a restocking fee. This will help cover your time for returning the item to inventory, the time for doing the necessary cleaning/repairs/repackaging, and the time spent to sell it again. It’s also a general “nuisance fee” if the buyer gives you grief about your “inferior word” or your “unprofessionalism”.

6) You can refuse to accept any shopworn or damaged items, period.

7) For stores you deal with at a distance, you can request they get pre-authorized for any returns. They have to check with you before they just send stuff back.

8) Any or all of the above.

So you can actually say you only accept returns in a calendar year, maximum 10 items and/or totaling less than $200, with a 20% restocking fee, and no exchanges on damaged or shopworn merchandise.

9) You can always change your mind. It’s your business. You get to decide.

In fact, I did just that. After I tallied up my sales and returns for this buyer, I changed my policy. Soon after that, I received a lot of inventory–unauthorized–in the mail. I wrote them and told her of my policy change. I gave them two options: I could mail the returns back to them. Or, if I didn’t hear back from them with 30 days, I was donating all the items to charity. I never even heard back, which means their accounting/accountability was even worse than mine.

10) You can have different policies for different buyers. Just make sure your strictest policy is your stated default. If you have someone who never abuses the privilege, you can state your regular return policy and then make exceptions for them. This is a lot easier than trying to rein in someone you’ve been lenient with.

What you DON’T want is a revolving door of sales and returns that wastes your time, your energy, and your patience.

Is there an upside to accepting returns? Yes!

1) It encourages the buyer to try new items they’re not sure about. Although it might make more sense to CONSIGN items like this. More paperwork, but at least money isn’t going back and forth.

2) When the privilege isn’t abused, it’s a good way to build rapport with a buyer. They know that you understand how hard retail is, and that you’re willing to work with them. Nice rapport!

3) The product really isn’t up to snuff. Sometimes there’s something about your item that needs work–a difficult clasp, an awkward length, a lack-luster presentation. Use it as an opportunity to improve your product.

4) Sometimes you get stuff back you can resell for MORE–because you’re prices have gone up!

A final word: The worst thing about returns is, the negative energy. The bad, sad place it puts you in (if you let it.) It feels like the store–and the world–is rejecting what you make. Especially if the buyer is a jerk and uses that against you. (It happens.)

Don’t go there. Don’t waste your good creative energy.

I still stumble. But I’m constantly learning.

Know your tolerance level. Be prepared. And if necessary, simply move on. Not every opportunity is a good one.

And say good-bye to the bad returns!

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Filed under art, half-wholesale, wholesale

LUANN’S E-BOOKS!

LUANN'S E-BOOKS!.

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NEW GRIEF WRITING WORKSHOP

Writing can help jump start the grief healing process.

Writing can help jump start the grief healing process.

I’ll be leading a writing workshop for those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one at Home Health Care, Hospice and Community Services in Keene NH.

The workshop runs four evenings in one week–Monday February 24 through Thursday February 27, 5-6 p.m.

You can find more info and register at this page of support groups at HCS or call Lynn Ann Palmer at 603-352-2253.

Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested.

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