Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Critical mass "five smooth stones"

Most people operate their lives on a "ready, aim, fire" approach. Maybe we learn this concept from hunters with their rifles or bow hunters. Maybe Annie Oakley said it. I'm going to let you in on a little bit of sharp shooter information. Some of the trick shots are accomplished by shooting bird shot instead of a bullet. I don't mean to take anything away from sharp shooters, some are quite amazing. I do want you to think about things differently than most people do. The problem with the ready aim fire people is most of the time they spend so much time getting ready and aiming that the target or the opportunity disappears. Let me give you a little history lesson about hitting targets. When generals called forth their archers it wasn't to single out individual targets, very often. When English long bowmen fired at the scotsman Wallace it rained arrows. Long bowmen were valued on their ability to rapidly fire the next shot. Robin Hood's ability to telescope arrows was highly valued , If you could find an enemy that would stand still for being shot twice. Let's look at how hitting targets really works. I own a trebuchet. It's a wooden contraption for throwing pumpkins the length of a football field. To hit a target we use the historic method of "ready, fire, aim! The treb is loaded and pointed in the correct direction.That's ready. We fire it. We might hit the target. Probably not. So let's say we miss. We correct our aim and fire again.. Give us three shots and you'll be smelling the pumpkin goo. Artillery men have a history of practicing ready, fire, aim. You've at least heard the story of David and Goliath. Basically a teenage boy slays a giant with a slingshot. Now there are several things that can be learned from this story. One is that Giants should not laugh at their opponents. Two is that David refuses Saul's offer of his armor, because it doesn't fit. There are more lessons here. I can imagine the small shepherd boy practicing with his sling. I can imagine
that he was a very capable shot. Before David goes out to face Goliath he picks up five smooth stones. That caught my eye the first time I read it. Why five? Then I learned about the concept of ready, fire, aim. Five was certainly enough to do the job. More would have forced David to carry extra weight. One smooth stone could have done the job, turns out it did. He took five because there are always things that can go wrong.. David understood ready, fire , aim.
I've been typing about your need to have a critical mass of inventory. For David critical mass to do the job was five smooth stones. There is a surprising thing that happens with the ready, fire, aim approach to life, to selling your art work or to hitting any other target. Failure is removed from the equation. A miss becomes information, The next shot may gather enough information to result in a hit, if not the next one will. Make something, get out in the world and miss a few times. Get the best tools you can afford, enough knowledge to do the job, by all means get ready! By all means fire! Then aim Brad

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

critical mass

Critical Mass is a concept I keep having to explain to crafters that are just beginning their art businesses. On one level it's comparable to the question, How many used cars does a used car dealer have to have to be taken seriously as a used car dealer? That amount of inventory is what I'm calling, critical mass. On another level it's that amount of inventory necessary to create the sales volume that I need to survive and prosper. In other words pay my bills. For a family headed out the drive way, in the family station wagon, for their annual trek across America, called a vacation years ago, it's the every thing's ready, " Has everyone gone to the bathroom?" Then here we go. moment. It's what NASA calls, "all systems ready, proceed with launch."
Thing is it's variable. You'll know when it's happened. There are some ways to calculate it.
Or at least get close to calculating it. That's what I'm blogging about this week. Brad

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

clearly there's an easier way

Clearly there's an easier way to get a bust to display a necklace on than ordering one just like everyone else's. Here are a couple of ideas. Glass slumping has possibilities. The process involves using a kiln to heat sheets of glass, at carefully controlled temperatures, over metal or ceramic forms. The glass is draped over the form and slumps or melts over the form. Might make wonderful display items. There is a less involved, though very similar process that can be used with Plexiglas. The temperatures involved are in the 400% range as opposed to the 1450 required for glass. Plexi is also available in colors and varying thicknesses. This process can be done in an ordinary kitchen oven. Be sure to have plenty of ventilation. Heat guns also get hot enough to distort plastic sheet stock. Hot plastics are also formed using vacuum tables. Basically if you can create the form you desire in wood, you can from plastics over it. That 'll get your cretive juices going. Have fun. Brad

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


After a little while the commercially available jewelry display items all begin to look the same. While that may not be disturbing to large chain jewelry stores. It should be to artist craftsman. We make unique hand crafted, one of a kind or limited edition items. Creativity and the unusual are our forte. Our displays should represent that freedom of expression. The object is to present the jewelry in a favorable manner, that should be our main goal. With that in mind, let's set the plastic busts, those trays for pendants and those expensive risers aside, for a moment. We can always pick up the phone and have the little brown truck bring us more, if the muse fails.
Let's go for a walk in the woods for a while. The wild flowers are blooming. Trees are coming into bud. There are turtles and frogs to watch. Let's get Daniel Mack like on this display problem. What if we celebrated that rustic feeling, particularly with willow. Find a willow tree, or a whole low marshy area full of small willow. This material is wonderful to work with. The possibilities for bent willow are endless. Plus the material offers great color and interesting textures. Almost every area of the country has willow. I say that and I have to tell you that right here in St Pete, I'd bethat hard pressed to find a willow. I haven't seen one here. Here I find bamboo. Cool stuff to work with also. These materials have another advantage over buying finished displays. In some cases I've had people pay me to remove willow from areas near fields and pay me to remove bamboo from their yards. Amazing! Check out willow furniture and stick furniture on line. Daniel Mack is one of the artists-craftsman behind rustic. A site called will be great for inspiration. Who knows you might even find a great chair to think in. For those of you that would really enjoy more thinking time, here's a hint to working with willow. If you wrap green willow branches around a cylinder and let them dry out they will remember that shape. These dry coils of willow can easily become circles. Enjoy

Monday, May 11, 2009

The optimum zone

As you travel the cereal isle in the grocery store I'd like you to notice something. Notice that the height of the shelving is different here, than from any other isle. The product is displayed at eye level for a different type of customer than you, the adult, the one with the money, the one in charge, the one pushing the cart. It's displayed at eye level for the cart rider. The little munchkin probably influence's your shopping in this isle more than than the nutritional value or the price-value of the item. Notice where the high bran low sugar item is located on the shelf. Amazing it's at your eye level. The placement of the product on the shelves is no accident. That eye level, for the buyer, space along those isles is the "optimum zone." It's the space that product distributors fight for in the isles of stores everywhere.
The optimum zone varies dependent on the customer. The over all look of your booth or store front is the invitation to the party. The optimum zone is the party! It's where customers from a relationship with your product.. We are after customers forming long term relationships with our product. Any good relationship begins with eye contact. Let's make some.
Jewelry stores do this on purpose, too. Notice the height of their jewelry displays, more like counter top, than table top for the most part, right? Some jewelry stores seek a more intimate relationship with their customers and invite the customer to be seated while forming a relationship with the jewelry. Others have a special area referred to as "the diamond room" where they encourage higher-end relationships with jewelry.
How can the vendor at a hand crafted venue use this information? Let's realise something our customers are "standing." Let's get the jewelry in the zone. I realise that doing this has to meet a couple of other criteria to work for you under your ten by ten foot tent, booth, store. Card tables and tables you could have borrowed from the church are just too low to be considered in the zone. Let's define the standing zone to be space within arms reach that if you extended your hand out to greet someone ,would be the bottom and the height of the bottom shelf of your kitchen shelves being the top. Small area isn't it?
Card tables and dining tables can work if we invite the customer to be seated. That just isn't practical for most booths. I consider the counter top to be part of the display. How about making some leg extenders to get those tables up to zone? or putting them on a platform. or creating a platform on top of the table? How zonal is that? Getting zonal doesn't have to come from the bottom up it can come from the top down, too. Enjoy " get zonal " Brad

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Because it's special.

We once carefully unwrapped a chocolate, hollow, Santa Clause, inserted the customers purchase of a 14k gold chain into the Santa, closed up the foil and gift wrapped the gentleman's gift for his wife. This was a very special gift, it needed special treatment. special handling. Years later I heard the story told from both the giver and the receiver of the gift. That bit of creative fun had created a lasting memory. That's what we do as artists craftsmen we create lasting memories, we create special things, the people that receive them are important. We need to remember that these things we make begin as ideas and then become handcrafted originals. They will become the inheritance of future generations, and they are treasure of those that receive them. I'll be typing about how we display these future treasures this week. Brad

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three cherry pies

Imagine a simpler time when people actually had open windows. When that kitchen window had a ledge on it and it was a dandy place to let the pie cool. It's a charming picture, one I want you to take a closer look at. My understanding of that picture begins with a huge snow blower. My father lived a block down the street, in our small Midwestern town. We kept the huge monster walk behind snow blower there. I suspect it was there so that dad would get his driveway blown first. That monster snow blower could blow snow over the street to the other side of the street.
It was kinda fun. But almost impossible to turn around.. So rather than fight the machine it was easier for me to blow out dad's house by just going around his block twice, then cross the street to my block and go around my block twice also.. The neighbors loved it. Julia lived across the street from me. Julia would wave me over to her side walk as I did my block. So sure I'd cross the street and once again go around that block twice. I'd get done with the blowing and the phone would have been ringing or would ring. People would want to pay me for my efforts. Well there was a problem with that. I knew that most of my neighbors were on fixed incomes. I hadn't done this to get paid. Julia had a problem with accepting my gift. So, about this time of the year Julia would call she'd just say come over and get your pie. Now, Julia's pies had an economic impact on many a church bizarre. They were works of art. Julia also spread the word around. He works for pie, cookies or sometimes cake. He Loves tomatoes. When I first met Julia she often had three pies in the kitchen window. Art her husband installed air conditioning, gone were the pies in the window. Julia adapted. I still remember those pies in the window but I can look at that picture from both sides, now. From the kitchen side those pies are Julia's way of paying others for their labors, from her excess apples, cherries or rhubarb and her talents. From the outside of the window, they are products offered in payment or seeking a customer...Those MBA's out there would call that a cottage industry. What could be more American than Apple Pie. These tough times have much to teach us. Could the answers to them be three pies in the window...I didn't tell Julia, because I think she knew anyway, but sometimes I work for grins and giggles. That's another blog.. make something Brad

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We're making this too hard.

I think we can all picture the young man walking down the dirt path, dog at his side, cane pole over his shoulder and a stringer of fish in his other hand. I can imagine that there are worms in the tobacco can in his pocket. I know he has a pocket folding knife, 'cause whittlin' time and fishing time kinda go together. I'm pretty sure there's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich somewhere in the picture. Those were simpler times. The boy grew up, the dirt path became a paved highway. They even filled in the skinny dipping hole(I'm saving that for another blog) The boy stills goes fishing, only now he pulls his Bass Tracker behind his Hummer. His cane pole has been replaced with a pole and reel that would cost many people a weeks wages. We'll never see his stringer of fish. Now he practices catch and release.. His tackle box has replaced the can of worms. Fish must prefer plastic and feathers these days.. So when my grand kids asked me to take them fishing I stood in wonder. Which concept did they have in mind? Did I need to refi the house or we going to have fish for supper courtesy of simpler times?
I asked an older craft-er just how he created his craft business, How did he get started..His answer reminded me of those simpler times. He said.. " Make ten things you like. Take them to the market, sell some. Come home make the ones you sold again." I must have looked amused.
'cause he said "Pay attention." I waited for more to follow my scolding. It became apparent to me, as he got his pocket knife out of his pocket. That " paying attention" had been part of the original instructions... I asked a test question "Why ten items?" "I hate figurin fractions".. As he whittled a little. "See this little note book? There's a reason it says Brain on the cover. That's where I do my 'figurin'. I guess my eyes asked figuring what. "I count the number of people that go by my booth. I count the number of people that stop, and the number of sales. I note the weather and if anything big is going on. " he grinned. I was beginning to catch on. "Oh Ten items so that when you sell 3 items you have sold thirty percent." Brain held lots of other information. About the customers... Which colors sold best. "See", he said, " there's lots of people that could make the things I make, some of them better than I do...They don't know which things to make, when. You have to pay attention. " This old gentleman had just given me the basics of market research. He was every bit a master of it as Radio Shack, Wall Mart or any large grocery store. He didn't know the fancy terms.. But he did know his market. Pay attention, in deed! I noticed a cane pole over in a corner. Maybe we're making this too hard?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Hi Welcome aboard. You'll enjoy it here. Oh, by the way we love pictures!", are words I've typed on the pages of just a few forums, dealing with jewelry and metalsmithing, over the past few years. That won't change, you will still be able to find me there. I'll still try to share the hard won wisdom from the bench and the anvil. I'll continue learning new ways to do things from other metalsmiths. I enjoy the companionship of other experienced hands and get excited over the enthusiam of the beginners. So in some ways " the more things change, the more they'll stay the same."
These pages are meant for something new for me. A topic too large to be on a forum. This place is meant to help you learn the business side of being an artist. It's goal is to be a rescource for you. We are going to type about " Hammering Out A Living "
Those of you that know me best, know that I'll tell people that I am artist, jeweler, metalsmith, craftsman, and sometimes teacher. None of those labels would matter if I hadn't been able to sell my skills and my art work. As my dad often said, "Nothing is going to get better until someone sells something." I always took "get better" to mean profit from the experience.
That'll get us started. It was my goal for today to create this blog. Enjoy Brad