Permit me to lapse into the introspective, self-absorbed mode of blogging that was discussed a bit in last week’s post. No, I’m not going to show you a picture of a super clean toilet. But I will bare my soul to the world just a bit.
The topic for this week’s post is, “How is the current world economic crisis affecting Wallyware Pottery?” The short answer here is, “A whole lot”. Ever since the mid 1980s, I’ve been selling the majority of my work through fine craft galleries. Since then, the fourth quarter of the year has always been the pleasantly busy time of year with each kiln load filled with wholesale orders that get shipped out of the studio the day the pots are unloaded from the kiln. In our heyday in the late 1980s, I had a potter working for me and two decorators painting for me during the holiday season to meet the demand. We had clipboards filled with orders and at times the galleries had to wait up to six weeks to receive their orders. My overhead was a lot lower then, and the cost of everything has gone up significantly for a number of reasons. Needless to say, I used to make a darn good income when we lived in Los Angeles! But this year, the majority of my steady accounts didn’t even place their regular holiday orders, and the ones that did sent us much smaller orders than in the past. So I have a lot of pots in my stock room right now and I’m looking at next year realizing that I need to find some new ways to make money. And I’m not alone, am I?
The one bright spot in all of this is that it has inspired me to be more creative. My online webstore was languishing for a number of years and I’m putting more energy into it now and it’s paying off. Thank goodness that my fans are still buying my pots! I’m actually getting more orders than last year through the webstore right now, but the size of the average order is significantly smaller than it was just a year ago. As Bill Clinton would say, “It’s the economy, stupid.” So with the slower sales, I’ve been more inspired to come up with new designs. My “What’s New” section is a real testament to the fact that I’m trying hard to keep this business from going under. The new 401K mug and that Obama ornament are selling pretty well. This blog and the spin off “Stump the Sage” blog have been wonderfully fun to write, but I’m not sure if the time spent on them has been worth it in terms of sales. I’ll probably have the imaginary monkey that writes the “Stump the Sage” blog get lost in a plane crash in the jungle in January. Things either wax or wane, and that project should start to wane soon. But it was wonderfully fun to create and it was nice to get a “thumbs up” from Bret Saunders on the radio last week. So the exercise of writing once a week has been a good challenge for me and I’m glad I took it on.
The other thing that is going to make my business change a lot in the new year is the fact that my assistant, Kelly is leaving in mid-January for a four month semester at sea program. Kelly has been working for me for over a year now and she is an absolutely perfect person to work with. She’s great at the details of painting and shipping pots, and she is a true friend who is very easy to get along with. To top it off, she is a distance runner with amazingly similar tastes in music, movies, etc. Having her work for me is like having another way-cool daughter!
So rather than hire someone new right off the bat, I’m going to grind out a couple more kiln loads before Kelly takes off and put the pottery studio in a dormant mode if the orders don’t come in next month. And I’m guessing that this is going to be the case, considering my orders have been slow the past few months. We will still have pots for sale in the webstore, of course, and I’ll be putting a lot of energy into trying new marketing strategies via the web. But I’m preparing for the worst, and to meet my financial obligations to my family, I’ll probably have to look for a paying job. This is a bit daunting as, in all honesty, the only things I’m really exceptional at are making pots, running long distance and rock trivia. One of my goals with all this is not to be a disgruntled middle-aged man who feels sorry for himself. I love a good challenge! But it’s going to be damn weird as I haven’t had a “real” job since 1978, my senior year in college.
So how do I end this post? How about some nice pictures from earlier this week. On Thursday morning I sent Robin an email and invited her to come up to paint pots for holiday gifts. It’s something she and Monica have been doing ever since they can remember. She brought her boyfriend, Noah and they had a nice afternoon raiding the refrigerator and painting pots. Noah is carving out more and more notoriety in the local cartooning scene, and I like his work a lot. It was really fun to see what he came up with for the pots. He’s got a comic talk/book signing with John Porcellino coming up on 12/20 at Kilgore Books. If you live in the Denver area, check it out!