Saturday, September 24, 2016

Make or break

"Heart-jinxed condition, never sure how I feel
Trying to separate the real thing from the wishful thinking."

I did it! I took a break from selling beads on Facebook - and I'm not traveling or sick or injured or committed.

When something is making you feel badly more than it is making you feel good, well, it's time to change something up.

The beginning of the end (or maybe the middle since it's just a break right now) started with a Facebook conversation about whether one could make a living from lampworking, followed by a slew of posts from people who claim they have done so. There were also many posts from people who said they were making a nice secondary income, thanks to a day job or a financially supportive spouse. One woman said she made a good living while homeschooling four kids.

I posted this.
Maybe I'm just not talented enough, but after 8 years of lampworking, I'm only trying to cover my costs and earn enough to pay my share of the household bills. And I'm failing at that now.

If I had to pay the mortgage, property taxes, health insurance, life insurance (let alone vacation travel) I'd be hosed. Forget savings, forget sending four kids to college.

I work very hard at it, but right now I'm fighting two things - beads not selling because there is so much competition pricing at low rates that I can't compete with, and my own struggles at the torch to make really good beads.
Lately I've had numerous fails at beads I've been making successfully for ages. My hand were not steady placing dots. I picked up the wrong color stringer for the second bead in a pair. I had some fussy orange color that boiled when I placed the dots so the finished beads have divots and are only good as food for the fishes.

I had a great idea for a color combination for a new lizard bead, but my heat control was rubbish and I pressed too hard making his hands so I added glass to the hands, in the process over-melting the spine dots ... well, let's just call it a clusterfuck all around. I got him into the kiln in the end, but he wasn't my best work by a long shot.

Recently I pulled apart a bunch of sets and strung the spacer beads in lots of 20 or so "orphans" (all were pairs, foursomes or sets of six). Then I sunk to the new low of starting the bidding at $20 for 20 beads, something I have tried to never to do (well not since my eBay days when I was still a beginner). I rationalized that a starting bid was just that, not a price, but I listed two sets and neither one even got a bid (which was beyond humiliating, if anyone's watching).

I had a bit of an "aha" moment scrolling through one of the groups on Facebook recently. I looked at the other auctions in the group and saw sets of perfectly nice simple beads with starting prices of 50 cents per bead and no bids. There were pairs of darling mice in Santa hats and cute owl pairs and pairs of leaves (each with two spacers), all at starting bid of $10 to $15. I saw one opening bid.

No wonder I'm selling almost nothing.

I need to regroup. I need to step back. I need to have a better strategy. I don't need this particular thing in my life just now to feel sad and anxious about.

I spend some time looking at photos of beads I made a couple of years ago, mining for ideas to jump-start my creativity. I made two sugar skull beads but as I said, my heat control lately is pants. I doctored up the mistakes and tried to salvage something good enough to donate at least.

The ultimate kicker came last weekend. I got a last-minute substitute trunk show slot. I had two days notice and did lots of promotion. I also lowered the start bids on my beads to rock bottom. I watched the show before mine, a beadmaker who I would say is similar to me in technical ability and, while I can't be completely objective, I would say roughly equal in terms of artistry. Her show was hopping, lots of bids and made-to-order requests for beads that sold.

So you might say I was overly optimistic going into my show. It started at midnight and by mid-afternoon the next day the bidding was stolidly sparse.

I came pretty close to posting an emotional appeal to my four-figure Facebook friends, but I still have enough dignity to resist being seen as vulnerable. That's not the persona I play on Facebook.

So I posted this.
I'm having a trunk show at International Glass Open Market. I've started all of the auctions at very good prices to give everyone a little break and also to clear some inventory and make room for new work.

To be honest it's been pretty slow so far - so here's your chance to come by and pick up some real bargains. The first round of auctions ends in less than 3 hours and there still are lots of beads to choose from.

Even if you can't bid today, a kind word would really boost my morale. I'm also giving away one of my lounge lizard beads, so there is that.
It did seem to drive a little traffic to the show, although that could have been coincidental. In the end I had a few sales, I think I actually mailed 10 packages. But it soured something inside me.

There's not much point to doing something that is mostly making me feel unhappy.

I'll have to figure out where that leaves me in terms of making beads. I think I still want to, but maybe I just want to avoid figuring out how to fill the hole it would leave in my life if I just stopped, or even slowed way down.

I'm trying to take some time to experiment and play and get my head out of production mode. Testing new colors and combinations, trying a few new spins on old designs, making myself slow down and try harder to place even dots, melt them in more slowly, keep track of my stringer and just not rush through it so I have more beads to sell.

I have to say, I'm enjoying not having the pressure of listing listing listing, of all the followup if I do have sales, and of all the followup even when I don't.

In the meantime, I've sold a little more of my glass. Well, you can't expect me to stop everything cold turkey. At least I can't. And lord knows, I have plenty of spare glass to sell that I'll never miss. Glass is much more of a pain to package and ship than beads, so I'm doing small amounts at a time, a pound here a pound there.

As good as it feels not to be selling beads for the minute, I'm already thinking about when and how to dip my toe back in that pond. Slowly I think. Maybe in a few days I'll start with three or four things and see how that goes. If it goes to hell in a handbasket, I can take more time off. Maybe my long-term strategy will be few items, less often, at better prices.

It's a nice thought.

At all costs I want to avoid the slough of having 12 items up for sale with no bids. But who knows, with me, where this will go. If I get a little encouragement, will I be right back at the beginning, listing listing listing?

Guess I will cross that bridge when and if.

All these empty places
I try so hard to fill
Will I find another love?
I pray to God I will
Girl, we had some good times
But time does not stand still
It's rolling like a rockslide down a hill

I met someone I care for
I know she cares for me
Will I fall in love again?
It's a possibility
Girl, we had some good times
That time cannot undo
No one will ever take the place of you

Heart-jinxed condition
Never sure how I feel
Trying to separate the real thing
From the wishful thinking

Sometimes I wonder
If I'll make it without you
I'm determined to
I'll make my stand

And if after all is said and done
You only find one special one

Then I've thrown down diamonds in the sand
(Remember when we used to watch the sun set in the sea)
Then I've thrown down diamonds in the sand
(You said you'd always be in love with me)
Then I've thrown down diamonds in the sand
(All through the night, we danced and sang)
Then I've thrown down diamonds in the sand
(Made love in the morning while the church bells rang)

Leave the fire behind you and start
I'll be playing it by ear
Left here with an empty-handed heart

(Warren Zevon)

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