I believe I’ve mentioned that I took a lecture series earlier this year, essentially a class on marketing and another on branding, directly geared towards pottery people. While some of the lectures didn’t do much for me as far as giving me information or thoughts I didn’t already have (as a daughter and niece of writers, who grew up around authors, editors, and agents, I’m probably the last person who needs a class on how to sell a book!)… some of the lectures and talking to some of the other students definitely got my gears turning.
One thing I’ve been thinking of non-stop (seriously, to the detriment of work, because some days I just sit and stare at my calendar for half an hour at a time!) is lines, and how I present my work.
Mostly, how I’ve made and marketed things in the past has been, honestly, pretty scattershot; a combination of “what do I want to make” plus “what are people asking for”. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you; but it does mean that I’m always making about twenty different things and I’m never focused on one specific line of things.
Let’s take my Marie doily, for an example. I have bowls, yarn bowls, tumblers, mugs, and soap dishes. All of which I came out with one at a time, over a period of a couple of years. The way other potters might approach that is to make those five things all at once, even if it takes a few months, and then release all of it at one time.
And I’m seriously considering… is that a place I want to move towards? I have five doilies I want to use to make at least ten things with – each; butter dishes, rectangular plates, large square plates, small square plates, soap dishes, mugs, tumblers, bowls, yarn bowls, small octagon dishes, larger octagon dishes, thin rectangular serving trays, wider rectangular serving trays…. you see where this is going? That’s 13 things. I want to do three colors of glaze for each doily. That’s a lot of THINGS to make. Which is awesome, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about having a lot to do! I’m just wondering… what’s the best way to do it?
Previously, before these classes, I would have done, like, one butter dish in three colors one month, and the next month one bowl in three colors, and the next month, a mug in three colors… and at the same time also worked on restocks, soaps, yarns, yarn club, all the behind the scenes things I need to do, yadda yadda yadda.
What if – and this is hypothetical, I am not literally asking you for answers – what if instead of doing it that way, I spent two or three months working on all 13 things? Still also working on restocks, soaps, yarn, yarn club, etc; but not putting out any big new ceramic things until I had three each of all 13 things in one design? And then what if I started over again, then, from the beginning, with the next doily? And spent 2-3 months working on three of all 13 things (and restocks, and yarn, etc)?
OR… what if I spent 2-3 months working on, say, all of the butter dishes; three of them in each of five doily designs? And then released all of those at one time, and then went on to all the square plates? And then went on to all the yarn bowls?
Would I get tired of working only on one type of piece, or with only one doily? I mean, at least I’d be doing three colors of each, but… do I really want to spend two months making nothing but fifteen butter dishes? (Hmm, when I put it like that, that does sound somewhat excruciating… between the two I’d rather spend a little more time, making three each of 13 different things, rather than flat-out nothing but 15 of the same thing, even in different colors).
And then there are other things I want to work on besides doilies. I have a leaf motif I want to do things in, and a tooled leather style design, and something with some birds, and… and …. I just have too many ideas! But some of these ideas aren’t getting worked on when I’m doing one thing at a time, either. So. There’s that.
Now would be a good time for me to make some changes; end of a quarter, I have a month before I have to start dyeing yarn club so there would be a little time for me to make adjustments to my schedule before I had a big thing due.
I am enchanted by, do kind of like the idea of, coming out with a whole pile of things in the same family at one time. I’ve always wanted to photograph all the Marie stuff, or all the Grace stuff, all at once… but by the time I have the mugs, and the bowls, and the yarn bowls, and the soap dishes, etc, I’m sold out of something. So this would be an opportunity for me to finally see an entire set of things all in the same place at the same time – visually, that’s pretty striking!
However, I’ve also already blocked out my work time for April and most of May. So I’d have to look over that and change a few things. Change is bad! Change is scary! Er, even though I’m the one who laid out the work schedule to begin with and technically I wouldn’t even have to change that much. My primary focus for three of those weeks (one in April and two in May) was going to be yarn, that doesn’t have to change. The only thing that would change would be the ceramics I’d work on in the background when my focus was on yarn or soap for a few of those weeks. And I’d still work on restocks of things that have sold, just the “new” things would change. Things I haven’t started on yet anyway. See, self? Not that scary! It’s not like I’d have to scrap a lot of work I’ve already done, I’d just have to white out a few lines in my planner. Hmmmm. When I say it like that, not that bad.
But then, do I really want to change how I’m doing things? Isn’t how I’m doing things now working for me? But what business doesn’t grow and change? I’ve already changed how I’ve done things since we moved two years ago, and for five years before that I was ALWAYS changing things as I found what worked and what didn’t while trying to run a business in a small house.
This is one of those times I have to slow down, and listen to what my heart is trying to tell me – many times my brain will out-shout my heart, but “louder” doesn’t always equate to “smarter”. So. What does my brain say? My brain says “Stay the same! Change is scary! What if you do it wrong!”. What does my heart say? My heart says “try it”. Take a couple of months, and make a line of things. Summer is usually pretty slow, anyway, and at the very least it would mean I’d have a stack of things to take with me to Big Bang Bazaar in August. And what’s been on my list to make is a lot of the things I mentioned above, I just sort of had it haphazardly on my schedule. Like, all the Marie stuff spread out over the next seven months. How about I just go ahead and make it all at once?
Aren’t you guys glad I work all this stuff out on my blog?! I mean, this has been in my head for weeks now. If you feel asleep reading it, imagine what it’s been like to be me and have this floating around in my brain since February!