Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lowell Folk Festival 2011

A quick note to mention I will be vending at the Lowell Folk Festival this weekend as part of Art in the Courtyard again this year!

Come by and see what's new :) Here I am madly prepping inventory for the show:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Creating Hits and Misses

Makers come up with a LOT of ideas for products. We are sometimes bombarded hourly with brand new insights or variations on existing pieces. This usually happens right before we really need to fall asleep, and/or at the height of fevered seasons like fall when making prototypes for new products is impossible because we are in full on production mode for the holiday rush. We make lists, try not to forget the ideas and hope that later, in January, we'll still have the same excitement and enthusiasm we did when first the lightning struck.

When you surf our polished online shops or peruse our carefully laid out craft show booths, you are seeing the best of our work, the items we dreamed and then somehow conjured into existence. One in every color and size. A lot of work has gone into those collections and we are hoping that our creations are met with excitement and purchases. We all want a hit product.

When the items we perfected over weeks, months, years are met with oohs and ahhs and smiles, there is no better feeling on earth. But sometimes our brilliant idea is...

...a dud.

A collection that in the dreaming stages seemed like it couldn't miss is suddenly a stack of baggage. Overstock. Discontinued. Clearance. It's heartbreaking, baffling, and exhausting.

We spent so much time planning, making prototypes, perfecting and finally producing this adorable thing, then sent it out into the world with vulnerable hope. Why doesn't anyone love it?

It's possible we just didn't get it in front of the right eyes, or it's priced wrong for its ideal customer and we can't reduce it because then we'd be taking a bath. Or it's the wrong season, or we are ahead of our time (I prefer that one), or really, it's just not what people want.

I can't imagine throwing something I made away, sometimes I'll give things away. Mostly I try to adapt the ill begotten thing into a new thing and see if that changes its luck.

For example (as much as this hurts, I am going to give an example! Deep breath):

I made these tiny crochet flower earrings for summer last year. I crocheted for hours, making matching flowers in every color, excitedly running to the store for new string options. I starched each flower a little bit, not too much, so it would hold its shape. I spent forever sorting and matching vintage buttons for the little centers, sewed them on with carefully selected thread. Attached sterling earring components. Put them on cards I designed, printed and cut apart. Took and edited photos. All of this. And the response was...crickets. Nothing. I had a dud.

Once the shock and disappointment wore off, I decided I could re-purpose the flowers into rings:

And guess what? The rings are selling.

So my points are twofold. First, for the crafter, I feel for you. I know how it goes and I'm sending virtual hugs for all your unloved and discarded brilliant ideas. I hope you are able to morph them into hot sellers.

Second, I guess I wanted to show the shopping public how much work we put into things that don't pan out in order for us to have a collection that does appeal. What you don't see are all the mistakes, false starts and huge investments of time and resources into dead-end ideas. Making things for a living is hard! Figuring out what people want to buy that we also want to make is a constant struggle.

And we love it, wouldn't trade it for anything.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ceramic repair demonstration, decorative plate

PLEASE NOTE: I do not offer ceramic repair services. I hope this post gives you enough information to try doing your own repairs. Also, you can search for someone who offers ceramic repair services in your area.

A good friend brought this sad collection of shards to me wrapped in brown paper. It wasn't a valuable item, but it was part of a 4 plate set that was a gift from her mother, could I repair it? Yes, yes I could

But first I needed a plastic tub, and a bag of sand.

I learned when I was trained to repair ceramics professionally that the best way to repair a plate, or even the handle on a mug, is to anchor part of the broken item in sand, then balance the part you are gluing on top of it.

I try a dry run, seeing if the piece balances without my holding it, then I apply two part 5 minute epoxy glue.

I test all the pieces for fit first like I discussed in my previous ceramic repair post. I want to be sure to assemble the pieces in the correct order to prevent the sad experience of not being able to fit the last piece because it is "locked out". Sometimes that entails gluing smaller pieces to each other first, thereby making fewer larger pieces to fit together.

I only glue two pieces together at a time. I wipe any glue from areas where I will need to fit another piece using a Q-tip dipped in acetone.

While the glue is still uncured, I run my fingers across the crack line compulsively, seeing if I can detect a ridge that would indicate a poor fit. If there's a ridge, I nudge, delicately, the part that is slightly off so it aligns more accurately, then I check the crack again with my fingertips, sometimes my fingernails, making sure the join is smooth along its entire length.

I do that quickly, before the 5 minute glue sets up, using acetone to clean any excess glue off my fingertips.

Once the epoxy is cured, I fill the cracks and chips with vinyl spackling compound, the kind you would use on drywall. When that dries, I use specialty glass paper (sand paper that won't scratch glass or ceramic) to sand it flat for painting.

Then I mix acrylic paints to match the missing spots, when that dries, I use water based glossy polyurethane to make the painted areas match the shine of the glaze.

The repairs aren't invisible, but from a reasonable distance, no-one would notice!