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Well in my 45 years of selling this time is the most strange of all. I have been thru many a recession and this is like none of them.

I have 3 gallery/shops closed for an unknown time frame (I got a large order the week before they closed ) I have 3 supermarkets still open selling work at a snails pace. Also two food to go bakery/bagel spots (usuall eat insdie) selling just about zero mugs presently.I have a huge wholesale order still on even though gallery is closed near Hearst Castle.

They want the stuff in a few months as usual but nobody knows when they may reopen,or when I can travel to Nothern Bay Area to drop off at owners brothers house.

Shows are cancelled for months. My 4th of July is my next scheduled show and I have doubts about that.

This time of year is gearing up for tourists that flood out area every summer (one of the top places to visit (lonely Planet review) and shops order from me for the past 45 years-no oders now as its an unknown.

I'm in a need stock for myself right now for upcoming shows in summer/fall so its fine. Then its the make backstock for future orders. Post are not like bread and do not gop bad.

I'm in a good place with funding/savings but so many are not.

Streets/towns are empty looking these days. All the shops are closed down. Seems such a strange time in the real world and especially the  Pottery world.

I have about 4+ tons of clay and plenty do do besides clay work as well. I have cut back to 2 days a week or so with clay to catch up on the other jobs that we want done. I personally have never felt more on my plate right now work wise. Clay is just one of them. Doing those long put off projects.

I just recieved via trucking  24, 400 watt solar panels for a solar project later in year-I'm installing a 9.6 KW solar array-will be ground mounted 14 feet x 40 feet facing south at 32 degree rise.

Just another project on the plate-good time for it as well. This one makes a already complex electrical system  just a few more notches up along with the backup generator.

Looks like our two weeks in Iceland in June is toast as well.I really like hot springs so that will be another year away or more before we get there.

Still holding out for a fall Bali dive trip.. I will have plenty of work piled up for fall sales if they happen-just a weird time now.

Mailed a huge mug yesterday to MA-seems a 36 oz mug is hard to get back east? and had my last studio customer a few weeks ago here. I have to say no from now on to that as well.

The Doors tune "strange days " seems to hold some truth these days.

 

Edited by Mark C.
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Eerie, the quiet here, and so little traffic - like the 70s, 'cept the roads are better, mostly.

Are you considering a battery for your solar system Mark? We didn't, as it doesn't pay, unless there are outages (then the outages came...); many electrical providers don't credit 100% of power given to "the grid" - in those cases, looks like storage batteries are the way to go.

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It’s definitely been weird. I did a small online shop update a week ago, and did about as much as I would have at a small show, but with less overhead. Technically more profitable than the same time last year, but I don’t pull the numbers Mark does at the best of times. Sales went quickly throughout the day, although I did not sell everything. Took everything to the post office the next day except the local addresses, and delivered them myself. (Porch drop off, no contact.) I was on the road at rush hour, and there was no traffic. It was like Sunday morning. Eerie. 
My social media accounts are getting a lot more traffic and engagement. I’m starting to do a little more there, just to provide people with a mental resting place. Just pictures of mugs in the less permanent places, particularly on the days where I haven’t found words easy. I figure if I nurture that now, folks will help as they can. 

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I wonder if the online selling will continue as a trend?  Are any number of online sellers on this forum?  I don't have any presence at all online, but now I'm wondering if it's worth pursuing.  Being retail sales, I'd be responsible for seller's permit tax number and probably more onerous details not associated with wholesale that I don't currently do.  Otherwise, I may not have a sale until the end of the year.  I'll look over the past posting here on the forum and try to get a sense of what is standard "social media accounts".  What worked in 2012 may not be the current thing.

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I have sold a few items to customers via email (even from my low online prescence a few items) but most are regular customers from art shows.

My wholesale  accounts are getting larger yearly and  at least for me the large money sales will never be just from online.Its just to slow to ship items and get lots of money from that alone .The many small sales eats up lots of time packing and shipping  I feel.-2 mugs here one bowl there. Go to a show and sell a ton-really a better situtaion for me. Or  a whole sale  5 k order-Its a much easier transaction for $ than shipping 5 k in single sales.

It all depends on what you want in the end.I know a custom mug maker that only does mail order-he is happy doing that at least for the time being.

Now online is one of the only ways to make sales unless your products are in a essential business like a food store. I have 5 of those now so products are  moving but really slowly.

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57 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

The many small sales eats up lots of time packing and shipping

Seems right to me. A couple grand in a weekend show (good/great show for us) would be a 75-80 shipping events not to mention all the cost of running the ads to get people to the site to buy and the zillion emails involved. Pottery is just so involved to make that if all your sales came from online then you functional limit of what you can make and sell seems like it would go way down. Dunno though maybe you just get so good at packing boxes and answering emails that it levels out? It does seem like the folks here that have done it all quit though citing to little return for too much work.

Edited by Stephen
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One of the reasons I dropped my website was the difficulty in making sales for objects that are not a standard size/shape/description.  I'm only appealing to a niche market in the first place.  Hard to say, but if I'm to become limited from one resource, I guess I'd better consider others.  People who are plant geeks stuck at home still seem like an opportunity.  I guess the real unknown is what long term changes are going to happen because of this.

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1 hour ago, Stephen said:

Seems right to me. A couple grand in a weekend show (good/great show for us) would be a 75-80 shipping events not to mention all the cost of running the ads to get people to the site to buy and the zillion emails involved. Pottery is just so involved to make that if all your sales came from online then you functional limit of what you can make and sell seems like it would go way down. Dunno though maybe you just get so good at packing boxes and answering emails that it levels out? It does seem like the folks here that have done it all quit though citing to little return for too much work.

I used to have an aquarium shrimp business, importing, housing, breeding and shipping live shrimp around the world.  As well as equipment and supplies.

You definitely get used to it.  I would take orders during the day, come home from work at night and pack and ship for a few hours, drop all the packages off the next morning on my way to work. It becomes a routine like anything else.  I had special order boxes that fit insulation and custom packing supplies, etc that made things cheaper, faster and easier as I progressed.

Doing online sales isn't more work than sitting at a booth for a 3 day weekend, it's just different work, and there's no "art fair" equivalent to marketing online.  You can't feel stuff online, or see what the colors actually look like, etc.  And you don't have 20,000 people walking by your booth ready to buy stuff.  Those are where the challenges lie.  If you have a lot of social media followers you can drive traffic and hype up an online sale, but if you don't, there aren't many people online that enjoy advertisements.

 

 

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Strange days indeed.  I will unload a glaze load tomorrow morning.  Some of the pots in that load were for a local  event that has been canceled.  They contacted me and said they still want the items, as the event will go on at some point, but I am just at a loss as to what to do with the rest of the load.  Save it for holiday sales??  Market it on FB and IG? Set up an Etsy account?  Are people who have been out of work for weeks going to have disposable income to purchase handmade items?  Or should I make smaller things?  Stick with mugs and bowls that speak of comfort??  Yep, all of those thoughts have been rolling through my head for the last few days (weeks).  I had just picked up 2 nice wholesale accounts, one in Denver and one in Park City.  Welp, that is at a halt right now.    I guess we will just have to see how this all shakes out.

Roberta

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1 hour ago, Roberta12 said:

Strange days indeed.  I will unload a glaze load tomorrow morning.  Some of the pots in that load were for a local  event that has been canceled.  They contacted me and said they still want the items, as the event will go on at some point, but I am just at a loss as to what to do with the rest of the load.  Save it for holiday sales??  Market it on FB and IG? Set up an Etsy account?  Are people who have been out of work for weeks going to have disposable income to purchase handmade items?  Or should I make smaller things?  Stick with mugs and bowls that speak of comfort??  Yep, all of those thoughts have been rolling through my head for the last few days (weeks).  I had just picked up 2 nice wholesale accounts, one in Denver and one in Park City.  Welp, that is at a halt right now.    I guess we will just have to see how this all shakes out.

Roberta

I've sold a few mugs online in the last week, so I guess some people still have the disposable cash

 

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I think we shouldn’t try and judge other people’s financial situations for them. That’s kind of presumptuous when you think about it. Some will certainly not be in the market for much, and there is a lot of slowdown for sure. But some are still working. My husband works for Khune and Nagel, and they run warehouses for places that might have the name of a big river, and other warehouses for medical supply companies. He says they’re doing Christmas level shipping volume, but without the slow buildup. If people are buying things, it’s all stuff that can be delivered. Some folks are looking for comfort items, and nesting. And half of the internet that was previously devoted to cats is now bread, so people are thinking food and food related items. Maybe make butter dishes? Small items ship easily. 

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Small item when times are tougher has alway worked for me. I just stayed with this thought since 2008 and its been a solid thing since.

My market items moving the best now are sponge holders and glasses (tall cylinders-no handle) and believe it or not $38 medium bowls which is surprising

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7 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I think we shouldn’t try and judge other people’s financial situations for them. That’s kind of presumptuous when you think about it. Some will certainly not be in the market for much, and there is a lot of slowdown for sure. But some are still working. My husband works for Khune and Nagel, and they run warehouses for places that might have the name of a big river, and other warehouses for medical supply companies. He says they’re doing Christmas level shipping volume, but without the slow buildup. If people are buying things, it’s all stuff that can be delivered. Some folks are looking for comfort items, and nesting. And half of the internet that was previously devoted to cats is now bread, so people are thinking food and food related items. Maybe make butter dishes? Small items ship easily. 

Thanks for that Callie.  You are absolutely right.  Everyone's situation is totally different with the way of the world right now.  Yeah, things to think about and just do what we do!! 

 

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Actually, it's pretty well know that during the Depression (1929-1933) relatively inexpensive luxury items sold really well.  When people don't have a lot of money they want to spend what they can on something that will make them feel good.  The classic example that I remember was lip stick.  In any case, a majority of people are not out of work.  They don't have as much opportunity to spend what they have.  I'm starting to think a website and killer email list would help people with their spring plant stuff.  Too bad I don't have one.

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20 hours ago, liambesaw said:

Doing online sales isn't more work than sitting at a booth for a 3 day weekend, it's just different work, and there's no "art fair" equivalent to marketing online.  

Ur right, hadn't really thought that part through. With 2 of us we prob put in close to 80 hours of work, 70 at least on the shows that run 9-10 hours with early in time. But I don't spend all that much of the time really working past load in and load out. Most of the rest is fairly enjoyable as long as the weather is nice. So there's that :-)

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We do all online sales, mostly custom artwork on pottery. My wife does the under glaze of horses,dogs,cats ect. This is only a hobby for us as we both have a pension. It is great to do when the weather is uncomfortable outside ( like now -10C) to ride and work our horses.

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In person shows are a lot more physical labour. Online shop updates are a labour of writing and connecting, packing and shipping. A lot of the selling is done as the work is made, wether or not you’re showing process shots about it to anyone. I find the waiting around parts more comfortable for an online update. 

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  • 1 month later...

Well an update after a month has gone buy since I posted last on this thread. I have had customers crawling out of the woodwork looking for pots all over the country. Been shipping lots of small boxes.Mugs to New England and Florida

UPS has a new flate rate for small box shipping-its 13$ for say a mug size box

I have used this a little as well as USPS flat rate boxes as well.

Sent some larger shipments to Mo. and Sacramento-the rate plan thru ICAN UPS discount is 40% which is a good deal.

Had some locals buy a small (stock on hand dinnerware ) set yesterday for cash.  It was a masked transaction by all parties

They where 30 plus years of return customers

I have also made a large drrop off to a gallery that sells online a week ago

I have a huge wholesale order heading south in a few weeks to a gallery as well.

Our state is opening barely in whats called phase two this Friday and applies to retail -still a bit fuzzy about galleries opening

I'm is a county that has great health Dept and we have a solid testing center that now open. (54 cases here) 53 recovered at this point

We are in a required mask wearing county as well.No mask no food shopping.

I'm in a every other week ceramic mode-since the market has really slowed I am still trying to build inventory and its slowly working

I think this 2nd quarter will be my slowest sales wise. (I had some 1st quarter bills out there in wholesale) as the sales were good for most parts of that quarter

My natural foods market sales are still creeping along (better around Mothers day) I have a meeting this week at a new Natural foods store for taking in part of my line of pots. They have approched me over the years but I was reluctant but with current situtaion I'm all in -Depending on how it goes either party can end it and I buy it back-thats my deal with the markets-its no loose situtaion for a store. 

Its a back to work week for me in clay-mugs bowls and soap dishes today.

 

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I mentioned two days ago that I had a show postponed to late June which had not been cancelled yet. Well, it was cancelled this morning. Now I already have enough pots for a July show that has not been cancelled yet, which I expect to be cancelled too. My back-up plans are to do another "home delivery" show for my local area, and another one for the State College PA area, which will involve a day trip up to Pennsylvania. These will probably happen in June or July.

I have already received booth fee refunds of $1515, and now I have another $450 coming in a few days. With my teeny budget, this actually goes a long way. Combined with the home delivery sale I did last month, I am several months away from needing to tap my emergency fund. 

Sales from my online school have been up ever since the shutdowns began. I guess that makes sense. 

Honestly, I am enjoying the slower pace. My front yard has not looked this good in years. I am cooking a lot more. I used to enjoy cooking a lot, but since becoming a full-time potter, I really haven't had the time or energy to do much more than dump things in an instant pot, or get take out. These days, I get to enjoy better food.

Last summer, I bought a blueberry bush, which died. I partially blamed the plastic planter, because the plants in nearby ceramic planters were fine. My next studio project is to make myself a gigantic ceramic planter, and try again with a blueberry bush this year. 

I am rethinking how I am going to schedule myself, even when things are relatively normal again. I really don't need to do 10 shows per year. 6 might be enough?

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3 hours ago, Mark C. said:

Depending on how it goes either party can end it and I buy it back-that's my deal with the markets-its no loose situation for a store. 

Hey do you offer to buy back from left over inventory from any wholesale that ends arrangement of just the markets?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Stephen said:

Hey do you offer to buy back from left over inventory from any wholesale that ends arrangement of just the markets?

No I only do it with the markets-I want to control price points and no sale markdowns  on my wares .

I made this offer long ago with the 1st two stores (same market called Northcoast Co-op) its a true co-op as I'm #12 member from 1974.I have a long history with them.

Anyway-recently they got a little strange about me just taking in inventory (no ordering from them) and they realized this had been going on for over a year since they downsized all the postions that once did this and I just kept it going -turnes out we sold a ton of work without any help from them. We had a big meeting with new marketing guy who did not realize this agreement was made verbally with folks who are no longer with them . I like this agreement as stores feel great as they cannot get hurt and so far sales are always better than they ever dreamed about once we get going.-they also tend to listen better to me as we are both vested. I have a market for my pots besides the markets (never any left over laying around at end of year) to sell pots if I ever take them back(has not happened in 4 years.I am very select on who I would make this agreement with(only super markets-all natural food stores really) not other wholesale outlets-gift shops or galleries.

Since these outlets are more labor intensive for me I want to have control. I know the day will come when I do not want to go to the store every week or so to take pots as there is no backstock at any of them. With this prenup in place if I want out or them its easy. My markups are 40 and 35 % depending on the store. Meaning thats what they markups the pots to. These venues can be very luctritive (this can add up to doing far less art shows) but they are more work to manage.With this agreement it can get you in the door much easier -by the way all bread is all sold this way -they never pay for old unsold bread as the vendor takes it all back .-little bread factiod. I have yet to take any pots back except for xmas special ware that we stock only the month of December .I take them back and bill for what sold-on a side note I quartly bill all the stores-less paperwork for me.

Edited by Mark C.
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Posted (edited)

I had a masked sales meeting with the most happening natural foods market in our area and they placed a order with me yesterday giving me 4 feet of shelve space to carry about 7-8 forms. I had avoided this market as its some distance from the studio but have arranged for backstock and they will order making it easier for me to not have to control inventory.In these starnge covid times the markets have been a real plus in my marketing/sales as they are still open selling work.

Now i should add this market had approched me 2-3 time earlier and I was hesitant but with the outlook in the next year I gave it a green light .Also they are great folks with a solid reputation and we really hit it off well .Now lets see  how it works out for few years. Every one of these markets is more than a show worth of sales every year .

This market was the anchor store of one I'm already in another town. They have two stores and now I'm in both.

Edited by Mark C.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all,

I have an etsy shop and haven't been doing many sales cause I'm in school for another Masters (yeah, I'm nuts, but pottery never paid and I retired from teaching) but with some more time, I put my custom items back on . My sales are up 500%  from last year, which doesn't mean much, cause I didn't do much last year, but I just had the best month I've ever had on etsy. Better than the Christmas when I made a lot of pots. 

Smaller items are selling, and urns are selling again. Mugs, brie pots, urns, planters. Mostly small stuff. I ship mugs Priority Mail USPS in 8x6x6 boxes I get from Staples, and it generally is a lot cheaper than the flat rate medium box for Priority. Since I now include shipping (which etsy really forced) I try to ship Priority the cheapest way I can.

I think many people still have jobs but are home, shops are closed and they are stir crazy. I expect this to continue through at least the fall and maybe even Christmas, so I'm trying to make stuff so I don't have to do them custom. 

 

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