Long post ahead! Grab a drink!
One thing that I DO NOT MISS about having a Real Job is yearly evaluations/performance reviews. Ugh. (OK, technically those are two things, and I should have used “are” rather than “is.”) Doing everything myself means – at least to me – that on some level I am constantly reviewing. Did that work? Can I do it better? Is that selling? Should I package it differently or quit carrying it? How’s my work load? Do I want to expand and grow? If so, what direction? And how?
One thing I wanted to do is get into a store or two. Not many, because I do make everything by hand and it does take time… so I don’t want to be in a whole LOT of stores just because I do want an online presence and I could see now, with being in two stores, that were I to be in… say… five stores, I wouldn’t have time to keep up with an online shop as well. Recently I had an opportunity to be in a third store, out of state. For a wide variety of reasons (and two months of heavy stress) I decided that we were not a good fit for each other and in mid-October we amicably parted ways.
The entire situation did give me a whole new host of things to consider and think about, and I’ve decided that wholesale ceramics is not a direction that is good for me. The time it takes and the stress it gives are not two prices that I’m willing to pay. People who are buying for a shop have a different checklist than people who are buying one piece at a time — and I totally get that. I’ve been a shop owner. At Hanks, we definitely had a different set of expectations for small hand-dyed companies than we did for big commercial yarn companies. And while I strive to make a unique and well-made product, even pieces cast in the same mold and glazed with the same color are not uniform. So bulk orders are not for me. I will still continue to do consignment at local stores where I can come by two or three times a month and check my stock, do inventory, straighten, evaluate stock for changing trends, and replace; but meeting wholesale needs just isn’t going to work for my business model.
One thing that I was interested in doing with HaldeCraft was getting into some craft shows or farmer’s markets. I soon decided that farmer’s markets were probably not the right fit — a combination of needing to buy and then wrangle in my small car an 8′ table, a chair, a tent, and THEN all the stock I wanted to bring… and then reading the fine print on the farmer’s market which I wanted to get into… well, let’s say I decided maybe I wasn’t cut out for that. Not at this moment. If I had a larger car? Like a mini-van type of thing, that would give me more of the room I need to carry that many things. But I also am a person who – believe it or not – functions better with a planned and set schedule. So when I found out that crafters were last on the list of the farmer’s market’s needs? That crafters, in fact, were so far down the list that they couldn’t guarantee you a spot every week and instead you would find out on the day before the market if they had a spot for you…? I decided that wasn’t going to be a good fit for me.
And larger shows, like the Spring Arts Festival or the Downtown Fall Festival? It turns out I can’t get into. They both specifically state in the rules that slipcast ceramics, like I do, are not allowed. So that’s a no-go.
Then in April I found out about this upcoming Monthly Craft Market. And I thought that would be a fantastic way to dip my feet in the water. It was small, but not too intimidating, and the people seemed friendly. I begged my friend Laura to go with me (backup in case it was busy, and she could hold my hand while I cried if it was dead slow) and clearly that’s been working out for me since there’s been a HaldeCraft table at each one since then (thank you, Laura and Greg, for doing September for me!).
About… what is today…? About three weeks ago, right before we went to Disney (omg, I still have photos to upload…!) the young woman who has been coordinating the event called and asked if I’d be willing to help her by taking on some responsibility for planning, advertising, vendor wrangling, etc. She’s got a lot on her plate right now in her personal life, and is job-hunting, and taking some classes. Talk about a full schedule! And since I had already seen some places, some things with the market, that I’d like to experiment with improving or making stronger, I jumped at the chance. She and I talked a lot, and Laura and I talked about a few more things, and I bounced some ideas off Tim and some of my other friends, and overall I think I brought to her a sense of excitement that was starting to wane for her, and a new bunch of ideas and a level of hard-ass business sense.
Now, through a series of events for her which are going to cut into her time (which BELIEVE ME I totally grok), it seems that I am now the lead on at least the November market, and maybe December, and even possibly moving forward in the future. I’m one of those annoying “everything that happens, happens for a reason” types of people, so the fact that the opportunity to take the reins on this Monthly Market come at just the time I’ve let go of a major and time-sucking wholesale order is not lost on me. One door closing and another opening, and all. If she had offered this to me even five weeks ago instead of three, I would have had to say “no”… and that might have meant the end of the Monthly Craft Market. But instead not only do I have the time and energy to take the reins, but I have the business sense and the personal contacts to hopefully make it an even better event.
So… there it is. Here I am, evaluating. I am in two really great venues, Wild Iris and Shake Rag. I’m taking on responsibility with a craft market that is indoors. and provides tables, so I don’t have to buy tents and whatnot (although I am looking into buying a 6′ folding table). I even got into a craft show in December that is, like, THE craft show for indies in Gainesville. Leap, and the net will appear. Or, make goals, work towards them, and they’ll happen.
So. What’s next…? I’m thinking about buying a kickwheel next year and learning to throw pots and mugs, which will increase productivity. And make me eligible for the Spring and Fall arts festivals in town. We’ll see how that plays out.