Friday, August 31, 2007

Stories, Selling and Connecting

There are many reasons as to why people buy your work. Some are very clear and others may not be so clear. It all depends on the conversations that may or may not take place. Today I was talking about a sale that I had made at the show in Falmouth. A woman had selected a few beads and put them aside as she continued shopping. Finally, she said, she needed to choose between two polymer clay beads and couldn't make up her mind. Without hesitation I mentioned that one of them had a story behind it. She immediately was very curious about what I had to say. I think her comment was "ooooh - tell me." When I was packing for the show, I added a bead I had sitting on my bench. I had blogged about that bead (7/11/07 post) and had apparently put it aside. Anyway, she smiled and said "I guess I need to buy that bead". Why? Because there was a story behind. What do stories do for us? Well, I guess there's any number of things. Something resonated with her. Maybe she just liked the story. Maybe she likes butterflies. Maybe it was a combination of things. Who knows.

I was sitting next to a woman who was selling jade beaded jewelry. Her items were lovely, but I noticed she was talking a lot to her customers. So, I couldn't help but overhear what she was telling her customers. She had a lot of knowledge regarding jade. Anyone listening could hear she was passionate about it. She talked a lot about the Ming Dynasty. She was educating people. I watched and noticed their faces. They were getting involved in her stories. They heard her excitement over how old some of these pieces were (she even had some sort of authentification document on one piece). She talked about the process of carving and how long each piece took to carve. One woman had actually purchased something already and before she walked away, another piece caught her eye. She casually said - "oh, this is nice too". And boy - that's all she had to say, and the vendor was off and running with another intriguing story. At the end of all that, the customer purchased that piece as well. I'm convinced that if the vendor had just responded with a mere "thank you" instead of continuing the conversation with the customer, the sale probably would have been lost. But, this woman is savvy, educated and passionate about what she creates. Not to mention, she had a great eye for design. What a nice combination!

So, there's a lesson here. Selling does not have to be a horrible thing to do. I know a lot of people struggle with this. I've seen vendors at shows with their eyes buried in books. This is not a good thing. You have to connect with the customer in some way. You have to allow them to see the passion that you have with your work. What were you thinking when you made it? Why did you choose those colors? Did you have something in mind as to what it was supposed to look like when complete - did you sketch a design? Or did it take form on its own? How long have you been doing this? Where did you learn? There's lots of things to talk about. People are basically curious beings. When you tell them your stories, they get more of a piece of you or as with the "jade lady" they get an education that they, in turn, can pass on. There's value in that. And that, is a valuable lesson.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Alcohol Inks & Polymer Clay

Here's a few shots from my experiment yesterday with the alocohol inks. First, I painted the black polymer a bright gold. Then I tried to squeeze the alcohol ink out slowly. Some came out in a big blob - others only with a small drop. Initially I tried to manipulate the ink into a particular pattern, but that was short lived as the ink is way too fluid for that. Possibly using a fountain pen would be the best bet to try that with. So, I started using a soft brush to move the ink around. It began to dry pretty quickly with this method. Sometimes when you put one color on top of the other, it made this beautiful pool of its color, and then spread out in all directions changing the color underneath. A lot of fun to watch. I didn't have enough time to take notes, but I loved the process. Here's a picture of the sheet.

I then took translucent clay and brayered it onto this sheet. I then took put it through the pasta machine to crackle. Here's a photo of a bead I made with it.:
And here's the last bead.

Tomorrow I'm off to UMass Amherst to do an informational session with my older daughter. We've started the college search - and so it goes.

October Bead & Button

I received an envelope in the mail today. It went unnoticed and unopened for several hours. When I finally looked at it, it was for me. From Bead & Button. When I opened it, I realized it was my advance copy of the October issue. When you advertise, you get an advance copy. There was a little delayed reaction when I realized the winners of Bead Dreams would be in there. I quickly found the page. I got to tell you, it was very exciting. There on two pages were polymer clay artists whose work I have admired . . . Louise Cozzi, Judy Dunn, Julie Picarello, and Jana Robers Benzon just to name a few. Very cool.

I managed to get a little time in the studio today. I've had alcohol inks in my possession for quite a while. At the time, I was using them for card making. But after looking at Donna Kato's book "The Art of Polymer Clay" I was inspired. So I pulled the inks out and started to play. Seeing as this was my first time using them with clay, I just played with the colors. I found I enjoyed blending them together to see what would result. I began using other tools in my studio to manipulate the inks on the clay. If I get any interesting sheets, I'll be sure to post them.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Show Review, Paperwork, NPCG Synergy

The show in Falmouth was great from beginning to end. First of all, I was very concerned about the weather. We were told to bring fans as it always promises to be hot the weekend of the show. I was pleasantly surprised by the cool New England weather. It was in the 70's! It was extremely comfortable. I'm beginning to feel more and more comfortable with shows in general. I was a bit more organized this time. I had a four wheel dolly that held a large rubbermaid box which contained everything for the show. Very easy! Took me 45 minutes to set up which, for me, is wonderful. I took a picture of my table so you could see how it looked. As I said before, it's always a work in progress. One of the best things I did was purchase a dinner tv tray from Target for $7.00. This held my calculator, my knuckle buster, sales slips and pen. It was my official work area. Previously, I had done it on the back of the table and always thought it made the table look bad. The table looked much neater without it. Here's the picture.
The green tablecloth did get straightened out - eventually :-) I saw people from the previous bead show I did. It was nice that I recognized and was recognized by some of them. Sales were great and the room was filled with happy beaders. I love it when people ask me where my next show will be. I had my sign in book to the right of the table so I intend on following up with a mailing before the next show. Today was spent doing a lot of paperwork stuff, pulling beads that sold off of my web pages, and filling a couple orders.
What's really exciting is the Synergy catalog of seminars, presentations, panel discussions, and special events is now up on the National Polymer Guild website. There's such a nice assortment of classes available. I want to take them all! I was blown away by the work of Jeffrey Lloyd Dever. You'll see what I mean. One of his structures reminds me of the Phillipe Starck juicer. It promises to be a full schedule with sections in craftsmanship, business and design. Anyone going, please leave a note on my blog. I'd love to be able to put faces with names.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More New Work

I've been preparing (still) for the Falmouth show. A week before shows I tend to stay up late every night. This is a bad habit. I'm making a huge effort to stay out of the studio at night. There's still a few more items, specifically silver core beads, I'd like to make. But I think what has really helped me is my "to do" list. There haven't been any of those "and what exactly am I supposed to be doing today?" kind of moments since I've bee making a practice of doing this. I don't want to jinx it but I think it's becoming a habit now. Also, everytime I do a show, I try to make the table look a little nicer or I try to improve on something. I just bought a tv tray so I could put my knuckle buster, calculator and paperwork on that. This may seem like something small, but it'll free up my table from that clutter! I can't believe how many shows I've done and have never thought about this before. I also purchased some green fabric the other day I thought would look nice over the black velour tablecloth. Along with that, I purchased a couple of quilt fabric pieces. These will be laid on top of the green. But first I'll set things up to see if it looks ok.

Notes from the studio: Sometimes, things don't always turn out as you had them planned. Some of this is good, some not so good. When I went to buff this bead, I noticed a piercing that I didn't know was there. Oops! But I liked the pattern of the bead so much and wasn't ready to throw in the towel. So, I took a look at what size sterling beads I had and took a ball bur out and drilled a 3mm hole in the bead (where the piercing was). I took 2-part epoxy and inlaid the bead. Here's a photo of the front and back. It's nice when mistakes turn into design elements. Hmmm. . . I'm thinking about all that scrap silver I have and how I can cut small pieces and ball them up with a torch. I'll follow up with his as my mind is beginning to spin again . . .

I've been really enjoying the yin yang series. Here's some more. Sorry about the blurriness but you get the picture.

And lastly, a heart pendant. I haven't done many heart shapes - there might be more in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Work

I've been busy in the studio preparing for the bead show in Falmouth this weekend. I'm making mostly one of a kind beads. So . . . I get the freedom to experiment a little bit more. Here's a few pieces I've come up with. I guess they just have to be called my Yin Yang series . . .

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Polymer Clay Bead Giveaway for the Month of July

On my website, I offer a free bead of the month to someone who is a current subscriber of my newsletter. People are on vacation, emails get lost, etc. and notification was not successful. Rather than let it slide, I decided to let one of my subscribers click to win. The first person who clicked on my email link, was the winner. The response was overwhelming. And the results were VERY close. This month, the lucky winner was Barbara Muehl. Here's a picture of the polymer clay bead w/sterling caps that she'll be receiving in the mail. Congratulations Barbara!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Music - Spirit - Inspiration

I thought I would talk about inspiration in a different way. Usually it's about a visual experience that we interpret through our craft. There's something else that can be very inspiring to many artists. Music. What do you listen to when you make art? I have a long list of who I listen to - but here are just a few: James Taylor, Lucy Kaplansky (love them both on wintery days), Indigo Girls, Paul Simon, Faith Hill and Annie Lennox/Eurythmics. But if I were to choose one song that inspires me as I work, that would have to be Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up". It's such a powerful song of spirit, it's emotional and very moving. And, it always acts as a reminder of my business name and what I'm supposed to be doing.

Which brings me to the name Naftali. In the Bible, there were the twelve tribes of Jacob - Naftali was one of those tribes. I've heard it told that there is one moment of prophecy in a parent's life and that's when they give their child a Hebrew name. I was reading a book once that mentioned when Naftali was born, he was blessed by Jacob saying something to the effect of "should your words come forth like that of a running deer". Naftali turned out to be a writer. That was his gift. But when I was reading about this, the author spoke about how artists struggle and sometimes can't get themselves out of their own way to do their art. Picasso said that he left his ego at the door when he entered his studio. He would go into his studio and be open to what would move him. Where do our thoughts come from anyway? When I'm working, sometimes I get an idea and a preconeived notion as to how it's supposed to work. Sometimes, that's when I do my most struggling. Rather than let the flow of the universe direct me (by putting the ego at the door) I keep pushing myself to develop that idea. Not good. For me, it's a lot of work and not as much fun as going into the studio, having an idea as to what I would like to do, and then being open to allowing stuff to happen. That's when I have my most success. . . when I'm paying attention to my thoughts and listening to my "gut". The what if's are great!

So, naming my business Naftali serves as a reminder to me as to being open to what ideas, thoughts, feelings arise as I work in my studio. To stop pushing and start allowing. That's when I have the best days!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Time Management 101

As an artist and business person, sometimes it can be overwhelming as to the amount of things that need to get done. Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think about everything I have to do the next day. If I don't have a clear picture in the morning, I seem to stray all day. So many things to do - what to do first? I do a little of this, a little bit of that. What was it I really needed to do today? I feel like I'm floundering all day. As to what gets accomplished . . . not a heck of a lot.

There is one easy technique that everyone can do to help you become more efficient with your time. I think the hardest thing is remembering to do it! It's something that takes only a matter of minutes, actually helps you get to sleep at night, and creates such a great flow of activity the next day. God - I wish I remembered to do this every day! Any guesses? The "to do" list, of course. Recently, I had one of those bad days. I felt like I should have just stayed in bed. I probably would have gotten the same amount done. Sometimes it takes one of those days where you feel you chased your tail all day to make you "remember" what it is you need to do to prevent this from happening again. So, before I went to bed last night, I sat down and wrote my "to do" list. The crazy thing is, when you become still, it actually helps you remember things that have been sitting in your sub-conscious for weeks. I personally like to write a list of about ten items. Don't know why, but that seems to work for me. After I'm done with my list, I always feel like I can relax. As a matter of fact, sleep studies recommend everyone do a "laundry list" before going to bed at night. That way, you won't lie there and think about everything you have to do the next day which interferes with a good night's sleep. And when you do this, you won't be struggling to remember everything you needed to do in the morning. That's a very unsettling feeling. So - what's a typical list? Actually, three items on my list last night were phone calls. Simple, right? I kept forgetting to make those calls . . . everyday. Every night, when it's too late to call, I always remember them. Today, I made those phone calls. I can wipe them off the slate. Another item I wrote down was a list of errands I could get done in one location - a strip mall. By writing down - from store to store - I managed to remember everything I needed from that location. Had I not done that, I probably would have gone back a few times. This really isn't rocket science. But it's something that really helps me accomplish what I need to do. So - today was a very successful day. Got everything done I needed to do. What a nice feeling. Tonight - you can be sure I'll do my "to do" list. . . that's if I remember!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion

I've been thinking about the art of self promotion lately. This is something every business owner should have on their mind. In Boston, there is a show at 7:30 p.m. called Chronicle. Tonight, they just happened to have a show about entrepreneurs. It focused on some local businesses , how they got started, and where they are at. They all had one thing in common: PASSION. This is extremely important. You have to be passionate about what you do. When someone asks you what you do, your passion will always be the piece of the story that connects you to your listener. With my business, I have seen people go from being not interested in purchasing, to being casually interested in purchasing, to being really happy they were able to make that purchase. Why? It's not because I'm a great salesperson. I don't believe I am. Is it the item? Not really. It's the same item they saw before I started speaking to them. What really happened? We connected. I believe it was my passion that came across. As artists, we all get excited about what we do. Especially when that great idea translates into something visually beautiful. It's that energy which you need to express to your customers, acquaintances, friends, family, or anyone within 3 feet of you! You are informing people of what it is you do. When you're talking about your work, you should be excited. People want to hear this emotion. Who doesn't love being around people who love what they do? It's good energy. It makes you feel good!

Which brings me back to "Chronicle". At the end of the show, they mentioned who would be on the show tomorrow, 8/7/07. I should have known - HRT. Ever heard of them? It stands for Hormone Replacement Therapy. They're a "40's moms rock band". They are my idols. Why? Shamless self promotion. They are the queens of it. Look at their press. I live in the town where they are based and am friends with two of them. From the moment they started talking about what they did, they raised excitement. How? PASSION (not to mention their great sense of humor). They are passionate about what they do. You can't help but be excited for them. It's contagious. They've been on the Today show, KISS 108, Fox 25, to name just a few. If you surf around their website, you will see all the buzz around them. It's very impressive. If you listen to the Today show interview via "You Tube", you will hear their excitement. Watch the expression of Hoda Kotb. You can't help but smile. And as Matt Lauer said " Cool story". That's true. It is a cool story. But there's a story behind everyone and everyone's art. That's what you have to share with people. That's what people need to hear. . . your shameless, self promotion!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gardens, places to reflect

I was going to a friend's house today to select some lilies for my garden. She has this amazing piece of property - filled with daylilies and perennials. Her little piece of heaven. I'm in awe of what she has created on her property. Not much grass - more like paths only to serve as walkways between the beds. It's overwhelming to see the abundance of beauty nestled away on the piece of land. The textures, colors, backdrops, shading, light, aroma - it fills you up when you visit.

I had started a vegetable garden on my property when my kids were young. Trying the best I could to get them interested in vegetables, especially eating them. It worked - they started enjoying the sweetness and freshness of those vegetables. It was our special spot where we could plant something in the ground and watch it flourish. Fourteen years have past - activities, sports, and friends have replaced those special moments. Last year my garden became, I hate to say, a little run-down. In seeing that, I felt a sadness. Life changes have taken place in our house hold. Kids have gotten older. I had to let it go - but all year, I never forgot that feeling of seeing the garden run-down. Fast forward. This year - spring. I thought I would go out there and battle the garden early. Life's twists and turns didn't give me the time I needed to weed and I sadly watched it get even more run-down. I thought the garden would only serve as that reminder how much life had changed. No time to weed, to water and to nourish. So, what happened to that time? One word - priorities. My kids play softball. We spend a lot of time at the field. My older daughter, when she was in 2nd grade (who is now a senior in high school) used to practice pitching out back with her dad - behind the vegetable garden. Now, she gives pitching lessons out there to girls just like her. My younger daughter? She practices pitching back there with her dad just like my older daughter did. Tomorrow night is the last game of the playoffs. Sharon U12 and U14 will be on the mound. For the first time, I feel the let-down. Kind of the same feeling I had about the garden.

So, today as I was walking through my friend's garden and feeling so good, I realized why. I was in the process of letting go of my vegetable garden (my kid's youth) and would be celebrating their next phase of life with a flower garden. Someday soon, it will be full of life, beauty, and abundance. And when the kids are out back practicing their pitching next spring, the garden will still be there, only it will look a little different now. . . thanks Mary for sharing your piece of heaven with us.