Sunday, September 7

It ain't no five-dollar t.v.

Yesterday I had a last minute porch sale to try and unload my seconds and older work. There was a town-wide yard sale going on and I thought I'd take advantage of the traffic. I was selling my stuff CHEAP. So cheap that I sometimes did not fully understand why someone would by one mug and be done. Okay, I am kind of embarrassed to say how cheap, but I was selling almost all my mugs, cups and bowls for 1$. Yes, 1. I just want to get rid of it. So I set up at noon, and sold till 3:30 and made 158$. I wish I had set up in the morning because I think I would have unloaded a lot more. I was kind of depressed about the whole thing though. One, I hate devaluing my work like that. It was de-moralizing for me, and as I thought about it through the sale, I worried that I was de-valuing my work, or pottery in general in the publics eye as well. I really want to get rid of this stuff though as it mentally keeps me down. I want to move forward, and when the past is staring you in the face . . .

When I talked to Adam about it later he said that I shouldn't take it personnally, that yard-salers are bottom feeders. As someone who is not above stopping at a yard sale occasionally, I don't subscribe to that theory, but I do think he was correct when he said that when people go out yard-saling they have a certain mindset about them. They are scrounging for a deal. The five dollar T.V. that they think is worth 300 as he said. Unfortunately they might not appreciate that they are holding a 1 dollar pot worth twent-five. So if I market my work in an evironment of cheapness, and sell it cheaply, I shouldn't be too surprised when I feel like shit about it. Oh well.


Sister Creek Potter said...

Deborah, Hope I don't add to the drepression...I am tagging you. I realize that you may have already been tagged--maybe several times! I think the tagging project should come with a "tagged" sticker for the blog! But it doesn't so here I am tagging you. Gay

Michael Kline said...

Boy, This is a tough one. Pricing/Liquidating?public perceptions, phew! Personally,I like the hammer! But I have been know to sell a lot of seconds to clear the shelves. Unfortunately I have a steady following of well meaning customers who line up to grab at my annual Holiday seconds sale. But I don't price anything under $5. I wouldn't get down about it. You have probably found some future customers who have, at the least, found you. Maybe they will come back. I used to do a Apple Harvest show in Amherst MA, for years. At the show I would have three apple crates with unwrapped pots piled in. The crates were placed in my 10 x 10 space on the ground. By the time the people started streaming into the town common where the show took place, people would be on their knees looking through the crates. At least I had them down on their knees for pots. This helped me feel all right about the inexpensive prices. I sold them for $6each, or 3 for $15. What was unexpected was seeing those same people become steady customers over the years. A few people I got to know quite well and watched their babies become big kids. It was nice to get rid of old pots, glaze test pots, etc, but the hidden prize for everyone was getting to know each other in the community. So wait and see, I bet you'll get to know some of these folks and probably will continue to educate them about the beautiful pots yet to be made.
Another thought about all of this is that everyone loves a bargain and even if someone knows that what they are getting is worth more they will never offer it. The bigger the wad (of cash), the tighter the rubber band.
Well, that's enough from me. Good Luck.

Deborah Woods said...

Hi Gay. I have already been tagged. But, never one to miss an opportunity to talk about me, I might just throw six more random facts up. Thanks for thinking of me.

Deborah Woods said...

Hi Michael. Thank you for taking the time to address this. I used to NEVER sell any seconds-I really hesitated in even giving them away. I feel like every pot I put out there builds my reputation, and I ask myself what I want to build it on? I have smashed many pots and only recently due to a desire for a few dollars, and the advice of a friend thought maybe I should sell them. I definitely should not have been selling them so cheaply though. Lesson learned.

Faced with the prospect of bringing all the pots back inside this morning I thought maybe I would just leave them out there, and Adam suggested I put an honor box out to collect the money. I have no prices on anything, only a note saying to leave what you think your pieces are worth. I had two customers stop by, grab a few pots and leave about five times what I was asking for yesterday. Interesting. I wouldn't make this a standard practice, but maybe for a few days.

Congratulations on your sale. Everyone looked like they were having a great time, and your pots looked wonderful. Maybe someday I might have a chance to see your work in person.

tsbroome said...

My thoughts: Don't think yard sale folks are bottom feeders, I am one of them. I shop them all the time for props for the theater. Sometimes it's the only place you can find what you need for a set.My husband's parents shop them EVERY Saturday rain or shine. I have some very cool Christmas gifts that my mother in law always proudly exclaims came from a yard sale, it is quite funny but I love the things they find. A friend of mine recently sold all of her seconds at a flea market in Raleigh for very cheap. She was happy that people that could not afford her regular prices and pieces were able to get something they could afford and something they loved. Most everyone walked away so happy with their "treasure". Wesley and I used to make a game of it and she started video taping the scenes at the yard sales. It is quite a culture. And an art form in itself.I love that you have introduced folks to handmade art they may not have found otherwise and who knows, maybe you will have them come back for gifts one day if they love the piece they got from you. I love the things I get at yard sales as much as the things I buy in galleries, there is room for it all. Your seconds have happy homes and you made some good $$$ for the effort you put in. You can buy 6 or 7 bags of clay with that dough!!! Dang, I'm thinking about cleaning off some shelves :)

Michael Kline said...

Sounds like your porch could be an interesting new outlet, pun intended. I've found that being in business requires as much creativity as making pottery. The business end is always most creative when I am really need to make some cash and the prospects are few. Around here (the Penland area) many of the studios do a self service, money box set up. We have a lot of visitors who spend the weekend/week visiting various studios, buying work, looking for good deals, etc. I find that for every person who visits and doesn't buy something after taking up my time, I have someone leave money even when I'm not here. So it all evens out, I guess. I wish you continued success and thank you for the opportunity to blather on.


Patricia Griffin said...

Such an interesting topic. I've been thinking about this a lot. It's good to hear from Michael on it, too. I've been thinking of having a "seconds" sale, but something about it just doesn't sit right. I haven't felt good about it when I've done deep discounts in the past.

On the other hand, I'd hate to put the hammer to pieces that are worth SOMETHING and represent a lot of time and effort. Maybe not my best effort, but effort nonetheless. I'm still on the fence.

Thanks for posting on the subject. Maybe others will chime in.

Linda Starr said...

Deborah, I sympathize with you, but you can use the money you made to buy some items you need. I think folks will get home and look at your pottery and be very appreciative of it and want more. What a good idea of the honor system though. You and Michael, (thanks to you both), have given me an idea, I may set up a seconds and test glaze shelf (bottom shelf in the farthest corner of course) in my new studio to sell some of those pieces and just place a sign saying why the prices are lower.

Having had a few garage sales, I know most are looking for a bargain, but some are looking for something special they can't find in a store and are willing to pay a fair price.

One particular garage sale we were selling some of my husband's grandmothers stuff (after she had passed away), after that sale I told myself - never again. Especially when I had some household items priced at 50 cents and folks would offer me 25 cents. I got pissed off at a few and wouldn't sell to them any cheaper than we had it priced. We either took it to a thrift store or gave it away to someone else.

When my husband and I got married we had a garage sale and needed to sell most of his furniture because he sold his house and he had to be out that day (and I already had a houseful). Some stuff we tried to sell but couldn't and we even tried to give some of it away to no avail. The Salvation Army said they wouldn't take what we had with a snear (my husband had been using the furniture up to that point. We were really insulted). So after hours, we decided to drop the stuff off at their drop box anyway. As we were unloading a table, some chairs, and a couch at the drop box, a young couple came by and asked if we were actually giving the stuff to the Salvation Army and wondered if it would be for sale the next day? We said they could have the stuff if they wanted it. They were so happy, saying they were setting up house and had very little money. And we were so happy they came by.

Now, we're actually contemplating having a sale next Saturday for some excess garden gift shop items and misc things we don't use any longer and I am dreading it. I may put up a sign saying, "We've priced everything inexpensively, so our prices are firm. If you don't buy it today, you can buy it next week at the Salvation Army for 5 times as much"

I am so terrible and cynical. Sorry, your post hit a couple of nerves with me.

Deborah Woods said...

Thanks everyone for your very thoughtful comments. It's always nice when you post something that creates a discussion, and garners new viewpoints.

First I'd like to say to Tracey that I don't consider yard-salers bottom-feeders. I just bought a wagon for my grandson a couple of weeks ago at one-he LOVES it. That is Adam's opinion, and the reason for his opinion is similar to why Linda is bothered. He once experienced much the same thing, and just felt kind of insulted. After having someone offer me 5$ for a teapot worth at least 65$ that I had priced at 10$ (I took the 5$), I can understand his feeling insulted, but also understand the hunt for a deal.

Buying clay and supplies with the money . . . er . . . um . . . does buying tea, chocolate, beer, wine, and pizza count as supplies?

Michael Kline said...

I call those second I sell my "milk" mon.ey. Hehehe

tsbroome said...

Oh yeah, definitely buy the beer first!!! What was I thinking :)
I knew that you weren't saying yard sale folks were bottom feeders, and quite honestly I used to think that until I became one. It is a weird culture though. here is one more thought. Today at Claymakers ironically some of us got on the topic of what to do with old stuff we don't like, tests and such. I loved one girls solution, she had a give away party for her friends, they brought the food and drink and in turn could each take up to five pieces home with them. All were happy and many returned later to buy pieces for gifts. I think this could be much more fun than yard sale or hammers!!

Deborah Woods said...

That is an interesting idea Tracey. I am absolutely going to think on that-I have this guitar group I belong to, and I think they would really go for that. When my kids were little I bought almost everything at yard sales and second-hand shops. Underwear and socks were probably the only things bought brand-new. Up until recently there was a period in my life where I didn't have to do that anymore. Now with "leaving" my other job and doing my pots full-time our income has dropped significantly. Today on the way home we stopped at a discount foods place. You know, you do what you gotta do when you gotta. It won't last forever though.


Ben Stark said...

Super interesting discussion! I think that a lot of potters have the struggle in terms of devaluing their work, and thus, themselves. Other potters have emphasized the importance of the amount of energy and effort put into even ugly pieces, so smashing them can seem like a waste. Personally, I don't really know how I feel. I like smashing things, but just because it's fun :)

Hollis Engley said...

Deborah, there is something freeing about emptying out your shelves, even at $1 a mug. And I'm with Michael; you will probably find some of those folks coming back and paying full price for your lovely pots. So, get those pots out of there, get to making more. And I know your area a bit, by the way. My folks lived for a number of years in Warren, just down the road. Lovely, cold and white in the winter. And the Baker River is cold year-round.
Hollis Engley
Hatchville Pottery
E. Falmouth, MA

Deborah Woods said...

Thanks for weighing in on this Ben and Hollis. It is freeing letting go of the old or the ugly. To smash or to sell? That is the question. I know I never felt conflicted when I took the smashing route-and I felt a lot freer.

It is often beautiful here in the winter. In the spring, when the snowbanks are melting it's not so pretty. Four months of layered sand emerge from the banks. Everything is very brown for a while.

cookingwithgas said...

We had a something come up the other day which I think applies to selling down or feeling down. Mark was asked to do something he did not feel right about.
When he came home and we talked about it- I said- if you did it you would fell taken advatage of (used)- yet when you don't do it you feel guilty.
Selling down seconds or being talked down in your prices makes you feel a bit used.
And yet when you take a stand- to do what you want-you feel guilty.
You can only do what works best for you and move on.
And enjoy the beer- it is a product of the fruits of your labor.

Deborah Woods said...

Ah guilt. I am familiar with that and although I have let it make too many decisions in my life-fortunately it doesn't factor here. But you're right-it's all what we each feel comfortable with.