Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Price is Right

"Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day. Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged."

There was yet another discussion about pricing this week on Facebook.

It's an issue that just won't go away.

It kicked off something like this.
It's really frustrating to me as an artist and as a professional to see others sell their well-made and high quality work for dirt cheap.

Lately I have seen other beadmakers and even jewelry artists sell their items for prices which are so low that I don't see how they aren't losing money. This hurts the whole market and devalues art and high quality craft. I could never price a set of, say, 5-7 beads that took me 4 hours to make for $20. I barely make enough on my art to give myself any kind of livable wage.

I do understand that there are those who are hobbyists that are just trying to make up costs and that don't do this for a living. But you need to realize that this is artwork. Give your art a chance!
It was carefully stated and prefaced by the writer stating that this was her opinion and that she just felt the need to put her feeling out to the universe.

At last count there were 174 comments.

The first comments were along these lines.
I feel exactly the same way. "I just want to make enough to buy more glass" drives me nuts because then people who are doing it for a living are made out to be money grubbing artists who are charging too much. Recently, when I posted about someone saying my beads were too expensive, someone said that these people "whore up the market".
Others chimed in.
I know it's a bonanza for the buyers, but it does make things tough for those of us that need to make a small wage from our work. I guess it's the same with all artisans - there will always been hobbyists who just want to recover a little of their material cost.
I agree wholeheartedly! I don't make my living selling lampwork, but I firmly believe that pricing my work too low devalues EVERY one else's work.
I was the first to dissent.
I think pricing is a personal decision. I don't feel that anyone has an obligation to price a certain way so that another artist can make a living. And on the flip side of the coin, I've seen simple beads bid up to such ridiculous prices that if I was the artist I'd be embarrassed to take the money. For the most part I think high quality art is not devalued when someone sells their meh beads for low prices. And I think most of our buyers are savvy enough to recognize true artistry.
13 people "liked" my comment.

The original poster responded.
I do agree that pricing is personal, which is why I would never approach someone directly about it. I do think it's an important discussion for artists to have though. I am confidant in my pricing most of the time because my beads do sell. But when I see beads that are clearly as decent as mine or better being sold for a quarter of the price it just frustrates me and makes me question my own pricing.
For the record, this artist makes exquisite beads, small, perfectly precise and detailed. I own several of her sets.

Another poster carried on the torch (so to speak).
This is the big issue. We are all a little bit "I am not worthy" when it comes to our own hand produced work and when we see someone selling lower, we do question and maybe start to pitch our prices a little lower. So what happens, ultimately the market starts to get depressed, not because of what buyers are prepared to pay, but because of a lack of self belief by the makers.
Well, based on what I see for sale, some so-called artists are right to question their worth.

Of course I had some more thoughts.
I've been selling my beads on Facebook since February. On one of my first sales, I was so happy, and then someone posted a comment like, you should have charged more. It hurt my feelings, and I thought about it a lot. I don't think my pricing hurts anyone else, no one is going to skip over [the original poster's] beads to buy mine for less.
Of course someone had to stick their fork in it.
Lowering the prices on good quality work means that sometimes [full time beadmakers] have to justify to those customers why ours are so much higher. And everyone who says that it's your right to price as you choose, I understand. I just don't want people devaluing THEMSELVES as much as others. It shouldn't hurt your feelings to have someone say that you could charge more, that should be a boost!
It felt more like a dig than a boost to me. I said this.
I still don't see why, if someone is happy with their prices, they need to raise them because another artist has to pay the rent. That just hurts the consumer. I doubt most hobbyists have the skills and vision to compete with a true artist who has worked her craft full time for years.
I want to mention that for the most part the discussion stayed respectful. There was disagreement but no flaming (so to speak).

But then we were back to the W word again.
It "whores up the market" when you price your work too low! If you always sell your work cheap, that's what people think of your work as, cheap.
I knew I should have thrown in the towel, but I kept trying.
Who is to sit in judgement of what is too low or too cheap? If people think someone's work is cheap, how does that devalue the whole market? I think it makes the true artists look better.
And then I added an afterthought.
And just because someone can melt some glass onto a mandrel, get it annealed and cleaned, that does not automatically make the bead a work of art, worthy of a high price.
The original poster addressed me.
Elizabeth, I am talking about those beads which are done really well *and* priced really low. If something is done really well and priced really low, I think people will start to expect that all the time, and I believe that devalues all beads which are done well. We can agree to disagree.
I'm not sure where she's shopping, but I haven't seen any really low prices on any really well done beads. I said this.
I don't think it's so much about agreeing to disagree as that I'm just not seeing what you are seeing. I'm not seeing really well done beads priced really low. In fact, I see badly done beads or generic beads priced too high - and I see people buying them. But if that's what you are seeing, I believe you. And I doubt those are hobbyists or people just trying to cover costs.
The original poster responded.
Elizabeth, I see that, too - but it doesn't bother me as much for some reason.
Of course not. Because it counters the argument about the devaluation of the market.

She continued.
Maybe you and I have different ideas about what a bead should be priced as. Why do you doubt there are people who are good at making beads, but price them just to cover costs because this is their hobby and not their career? It happens all the time.
Although I just don't see any bargain prices on masterful beads, I was ready to fly the white flag, after someone else took issue with the word "generic." By which I meant ordinary, simple, basic beads, with not evidence of true talent or artistry. Not that there isn't a market for spacers and simple beads, but they aren't worth top dollar.

I bowed out.
I hope no one takes anything I say personally. I don't even know which group I fall into, too high, too low, just right.
And that is the truth.

My guess is the original poster, and those who feel the way she feels, would say, too low.

But if that were really the case, wouldn't everything sell? I sell a respectable number of beads, but by no means all of the ones I list. Sometimes beads will sell on their second or third outing, sometimes I restring them in a different combination and they sell, some I'd be embarrassed to list again, after they were passed over more than once or twice.

Sometimes I get a BIN (Buy-it-Now) literally within seconds of listing a bead. But a similar bead may languish, maybe sell for the opening price, maybe not at all. So I wouldn't say an occasional BIN suggests my prices are too low. Perhaps in the specific case, they were just right.

Or am I rationalizing? I don't know. I stand by my original point. Pricing is an individual decision. I don't have the time to figure out my costs anyway, or to time each bead and apply some sort of dollar-a-minute method. I have sort of a formula I use, based roughly on no bead being worth less than $2 and working up from that.

I've experimented with pricing, including raising my price a little, after an item doesn't sell, to see if perceived value affects the consumers. Often I just go with my gut feeling, i.e., how pretty I think a bead is relative to my other beads that I have established prices for. I long ago abandoned the practice of starting an auction at a low price. Once burned, twice shy, so to speak.

Now if I could just make a bead with the artistry of this one, by Angelika Kaufman. I'm watching the bidding on that one and sitting on my hands. For now.

Or these butterfly wing sets by Kim Snider that I snagged this week, for a pretty penny.

Here's what I've got. All sold by the way. And I'm happy with the prices realized.

I don't want more money for my beads. I want to be a better bead maker.

Then I'll want more money for my beads.

In the meantime, it's all about the validation, baby.

"Every time you raise your voice
I see the greener grass
Every time you run for cover
I see this pasture
Every time we're in a funk
I picture a different choice
Every time we're in a rut
This distant grandeur

My tendency to want to do away feels natural and
My urgency to dream of softer places feels understandable

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately

Every time that I'm confused
I think there must be easier ways
Every time our horns are locked I'm towel throwing
Every time we're at a loss we've bolted from difficulty
Anytime we're in stalemate a final bowing

My tendency to want to hide away feels easier and
The immediacy is picturing another place comforting to go

We could just walk away and hide our heads in the sand
We could just call it quits only to start all over again
With somebody else

Every time we're stuck in struggle I'm down for the count that day
Every time I dream of quick fix I'm assuaged
Now I know it's hard when it's through
And I'm damned if I don't know quick fix way
But formerly mistreat me silence now outdated

My tendency to want to run feels unnatural now
The urgency to want to give to you what I want most feels good

The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through ultimately."

(Alanis Morissette)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Taking No

"This is for the ones who stand their ground when the lines in the sand get deeper."

Some people can't take no for an answer.

Some people (like me) have a hard time saying no.

Especially to my bead customers.

One of my customers sent me these two lovely photos of how she was planning to use some of the beads she'd purchased from me. I have to say I love the colors. My beads are the two largest focals in each photo.

She described the second set as "red opal" although what I see is hot pink. I always love seeing how people use my beads. But then she asked this.
Any chance of some red opal eggs?
And I asked this.
You want true red opal - not the hot pink? And what size eggs?
Her response.
The red opal.
And mine. I'm so nice.
I have pastel/opaque reds and striking reds which are transparent but can be struck to a translucent red. I'm not sure there is a true opal red glass. I can make some test beads tomorrow. I just shut the studio down for today.
But not nice enough it seems. She elaborated.
I want the eggs to go with the red set so ideally they would match the red beads you sold me just recently. Clear with an opaque ripple and a swirl and added clear dots. I liked the size you sent as a free gift with the earlier pink beads, kind of a large malted milk ball egg. Robin egg size?
I think we were typing at the same time.
Solid red eggs right? Jolly rancher red?
Because I still hadn't quite gotten it. She answered.
Not really. Egg versions of the oblong beads would be best.
I finally understood what she wanted. And that she had no idea what she was asking for. I explained.
That is a silver glass bead, not really a true red. Silver glass reactions aren't always predictable, and I've never made one in an egg shape.
Her reply.
An adventure?
I tried again.
That silver glass bead has six layers of glass. The problem is, it's just not something I know I can do. You really don't want to pay me to learn.
That should have been the end of it. But no.
That's probably why I love it. It has such great depth. As the egg beads are smaller, how about $10-12 each for two and I'll pay you to try.
I was thinking hard about how I could make this work.
Would a cone shape work? But I'm not sure I can nail that red. I have a beautiful maraschino cherry red. I could make that in an egg shape. I have a sample here. Let me take a photo.
Quick and dirty iphone photo sent (of one of my Beads of Courage Carry a Bead pairs - more on that below).

I needn't have taken the time. She returned with this.
I love maraschino cherries but nope, that wouldn't work. It's the translucence of the others that make them pull it together.
I kept trying.
It's just an iphone shot. The core is opaque and the exterior is translucent.
As I said, some people can't take no for an answer.
No, the color won't work and it's too "flat" - it's the depth of the larger beads I love.
And I finally put on my big girl panties and said it. No.
It's just not in my skill set Karen. I'm really sorry.
And that, at last, was that.

So, Beads of Courage recently asked if I was available to make some Carry-a-Bead pairs for the Miss South Carolina USA beauty pageant, as I had done a year ago. I'm always happy to help, and I get paid a little something, so it's a win-win. Except I got the request on September 30.

I got the request on Facebook messenger. I replied.
Yes, I'd like to - how many do you need and when do you need them? Any special colors?
We need 80 matched pairs. 160 beads/80 matched pairs. The girly colors you did last year would be great. By October 9 would be ideal.
I did the math. I worded my answer carefully.
I never want to say no, but I have a show this weekend, Friday-Sunday, and Oct. 9 is a week from Friday, so I'd have to mail them by Wednesday. I might be able to get 40 pairs done, at a stretch. I love making the pairs but i think they turn out nicer when I'm not working under such a tight deadline.
It turned out the deadline was somewhat flexible.
OK, send when you can.
It sounded good to me.
Will do. Thanks!
But there's always a but. A day later I got another message from BOC.
As a reminder, they were Pandora style/hole size beads.
Oy! (as Neil would say, aka a Neilism.) What I said was this.
I didn't remember that. I have 24 big-hole bead mandrels, so I'll try to get 10-12 pairs each time I torch. I just made 15 pairs with 3/32 mandrels this morning, but I'm sure I can sell them at my show or online.
Always nice. Usually.

From BOC.
OK. I honestly don't remember either. Ashley managed the program last year. So do what you did for last year, thank you!
I did BHBs for the first event I did and after that they were all 3/32. I can ask Ashley if there was a reason for BHBs for the SC pageant.
I messaged Ashley.
Hey Ashley - By any chance, do you remember if we did BHBs for the South Carolina pageant last year and if so, what the reason was?
Luckily, everyone lives online these days.
We did BHB/Pandora size so they could put the keep bead on their bracelets when it was over.
(The bead pairs are carried, for example in a beauty pageant or a hockey game, then one goes to a child fighting cancer and the other is a keeper for the carrier.)
Thanks Ashley. Did they get bracelets too?
I was looking for a loophole.
No, but most of them have them - southern gals.
Not a big enough loophole. There was nothing for it. Back to BOC. Still hoping for a reprieve.
OK, Ashley said we did We did BHBs so the girls could put the keep bead on their bracelets (if they had one) when it was over.
No reprieve was to be.
Ok great thanks so much, Artist on call! Your beads are the best!!!
At least they love me. Me, my beads, same thing.

Me again. Miss Nice. Usually.
Thank you. OK, BHBs it will be.
They are in the mail now. Done. Finis. Over. Yes. I like saying yes. I'm good at it.

I bought some new glass. $100, with free shipping, not a bad haul. I'm having a thing with green and yellow for some reason, although I'm usually more of a cool-color girl. Variety is good though.

I'm excited to have some time at the torch now to experiment with some new ideas. I have some encased purple beads in the kiln right now that look promising. And this pretty set just got snapped up on Facebbok.

Better yet, the weather is cooling. I can start working with silver and enamels again once I turn off the fan that keeps the studio bearable in summer. And I can start taking my camera out on walks and taking pictures. I'm hoping for a scholarship for an intermediate photography class this spring.

As always, so much to do. So much to write about too. Something to look forward to.

For me, if not for you.

"This isn't for the ones who blindly follow
Jingoistic bumper stickers telling you
To love it or leave it, and you'd better love Jesus
And get out of the way of the Red, White and Blue

This isn't for the ones who buy their six-packs
At the 7-Eleven where the clerk makes change
Whose accent makes clear he sure ain't from here
They call him camel jockey instead of his name

No, this is for the ones who stand their ground
When the lines in the sand get deeper
When the whole world seems to be upside down
And shots being taken get cheaper, cheaper

This isn't for the ones who would gladly swallow
Everything their leader would have them know
Bowing and kissing while the truth goes missing
Bring it on, he crows, putting on his big show

This isn't for the man who can't count the bodies
Can't comfort the families, can't say when he's wrong
Playing, I'm the decider, like some sort of Messiah
While another day passes and a hundred souls gone

This is for the ones that I see above me
Three little stars in a great big sky
Light for the world and hope for the weary
They try

This isn't for the ones with their radio signal
Calling for bonfires and boycotts they rave
Exhorting their listeners to spit on the sinners
While counting the bucks of advertising, they'll say

This isn't for you and you know who you are
Just do what you want 'cause I know that you can
But I gotta be true to myself and to you
So on with the song, I don't give a damn."

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Baby blues - and yellows and reds

"So come the storms of winter, and then the birds in spring again, I do not fear the time."

Hello October. How did you sneak up on me so suddenly?

There certainly was no hint in the weather we've been having. It's still stupid hot and muggy. Actually I don't mind muggy or even hot so much, as long as I can avoid being in direct sun. But it does not feel like fall, no, not at all.

Um, would it surprise you if I told you that I'm a procrastinator?

No, I didn't think so.

For example, it's an unwritten rule in my world that homework for my Monday afternoon design class must be done no sooner than Sunday night, which can be a problem if there is something good on Masterpiece Theater. Luckily we have the technology to record it and watch it on Monday. And I still have Monday morning in case I don't get it finished on Sunday. Although once I start it, I usually push through it.

I am not really enjoying 2D Design. The principles of design haven't changed since my Photography class last spring. But I liked taking photos. I'm not crazy about pencil sketching. And I'd be lying if I said I found anything to like about painting.

Still, I signed up, I paid for the class, I bought almost $200 worth of supplies. I do understand the principle of "sunk costs." The money has been spent. Suffering through the class will cost the same as dropping it. But that feels wrong. I paid, I will see it through, and maybe I'll even learn something that I can apply to my bead designs. I recently realized that I love looking at a bead as a canvas. Sculptural beads are less appealing to me, both my own and others'.

And I do feel kind of cool, walking into Art School carrying one of those big black portfolios. And I don't mind the interaction with my teacher or my five classmates. So there's that. And the first homework assignment was sort of fun - finding the letters of the alphabet in accidental images.

The second one was fun too. I'll post a picture later, along with assignments three (gag) and four (to be done on Sunday night).

I am enjoying my online class, Living Writers, at ColgateX, a lot. We've finished our first book, The Orchard of Lost Souls. It was slow going at first, as many books are until you get into them. Toward the end it was quite interesting, even compelling. I was happy to finish it and participate on the discussion board a bit. But what I enjoyed the most were the video sessions with the author, Nadifa Mohamed. She did a reading from the book, and hearing the words out loud, I found a beauty in them that I somehow missed in my reading.

Because the story setting is a war zone in Somalia (the area that now is Somaliland), with plenty of violence, I didn't see the beauty that our professors kept talking about. When I read, I must be concentrating on the story, and ignoring the writing, if that makes sense. I'm not sure that is necessary a bad thing. Reading should be unconscious, that is, you should be absorbed without feeling as though you are expending any effort, at least that's how I see it. I'm not a literary scholar, of course, maybe for that very reason.

On a side note, Neil has been reading to me. We started with The Hobbit, after which he was all ready to tackle entire six books composing The Lord of the Rings. Of course he didn't know what he'd be getting into. Talk about word-heavy. So instead we opted for some lighter works, and now he's reading me the Nancy Drew series. We read the first three books in the modernized versions, and the next two in the original versions, and I think we are going to be purists and continue with the originals (which can be found on eBay, including reprints published in the 1990s). We're both enjoying this quite a bit.

In my Living Writers class, our next book is a whopper, Freedom, by Jonathan Frantzen, weighing in at 560-something pages. We have a week off to make inroads and I'm really trying. It's funny, so far I've run into three people in my real life who have read the book, a friend of Neil's sister, who we saw on our Poconos trip, and my younger daughter and her boyfriend, of all people. I'd say it got one thumbs up, one thumbs down and one lukewarm review. I'll let you speculate who liked it and who didn't. Or not.

Another side note. I'm typing this on my new-ish MacBook Pro. I say new-ish because I've had it for a few months but every time I use it, including now, everything takes me about three times as long. But as my younger daughter pointed out, if you don't use it every day, you forget all the tricks you painfully figured out and have to figure them out again. So. I'm going to learn to use this machine, come high water or hell. Bring it.

The post I never got around to writing last month was going to start out something like this. Being a mom of a two-year-old is hard work. And I'm not talking about my daughter. I'm talking about me. Oh right. I'm not his mom, I'm his grandma. But for 7 days, Sunday to Saturday, he was mine, all mine. And Neil's. Because he loves loves loves his Grandpa Pa. Ry of course is an exceptional child, always happy, a good napper and sleeper, and totally secure and well-adjusted. I'm not exaggerating. He is all those things. And more. Such as, when he's awake, he is a complete attention-sucker. He has no attention span and I'd describe him as ADHD if he wasn't just being a totally normal two-year-old boy.

So we colored. We read. We watched videos. We played with Legos. We went to the park. We went to the store. We went to Target and had a shopping spree in the Toy Department. And we did it again the next day at Ross, because Target didn't have enough children's books. We went to story time at the Library and on walks around the pond and we watched Frozen three times (mostly because Grandma sort of fell in love with it). We had three meals, and snacks and juice and bath time with some of our new toys. We watched football and baseball, or I should say Ry and Pa did - touchdown!

It was exhausting and I couldn't wait until Neil got home every night and my renowned weather luck continued as Neil's softball games were rained out on both of his softball nights.

And by the end of the week, I decided to keep him.

His mom wouldn't get on board with that plan.

So I miss him like crazy.

I mean, this face.

We took selfies.

Including this one. Right before he threw up all over me. Twice.

We played with Grandma's eyeglasses.

Hung out with Pa.

And strung beads. We start 'em young around here.

All-in-all, I'd say he was happy here.

And so was I. So am I. So are we. But miss him we do.

And whilst all of the above was going on, Biscotti more than tripled in size, from 1 lb. 6 oz. on July 28 to 4 lbs. 4 oz. last week.

He also found a new best friend.

And now I am going to attempt to finish up this post on my Mac. I think I can. I think I can.

Up soon, back to beads. Lots happening with that. But you can't compete with babies and kittens.

Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight comb, goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush.

Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving
How can they know, it's time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore
Your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know, it's time for them to go
But I will still be here
I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
Who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone
While my love is near me
And I know it will be so until its time to go
So come the storms of winter, and then the birds in spring again
I do not fear the time
For who knows how my love grows?
Who knows where the time goes?

Sandy Denny