Friday, March 30, 2018

Springing into Action :)

Hey everyone!

I am not the best at updating my blog, as you can see by the several months hiatus in posting anything new. BUT my hope is this year to really start being more active with my pottery - which also includes my website - in particular as summer gets closer. :)

I had a relatively slow winter - I did several shows in the fall and before Christmas, and then took a break for a month or so. There does not tend to be a lot of shows in Maine in the winter (Jan - May) just because the weather can stop a show in its tracks, and people tend to not get out as much.There tend to be more options once April hits, and the weather starts warming up - so I am excited to have April be right around the corner and to be able to start prepping for more shows!

I took a chance and did one show this winter - in February. It was indoors at a large Greenhouse down in central Maine, and it went REALLY well - I will plan to attend that one again in the future :) It was the first time I had attended there, and I signed up on a whim, thinking that I did not have any other shows on the horizon so this would be at least something to do. It was in an area I had never attended, so that was positive in regards to expanding my client base and getting my name out there for new individuals. People seemed receptive to my unexpected colors and style so it was exciting to meet new people.

I find that the spring is hard for me in regards to my pottery because it is really financially intensive. I do not have any large shows so I spend a lot of the spring making and not selling - which gives me a mini heart attack when I track my expenses and income. I KNOW though that I need to make in order to be prepared for the larger shows that do occur - so it will eventually even out, and (hopefully - fingers crossed) lead to me being ahead by the end of it all. This is my third year of doing this - of getting into pottery and making and selling. My first goal has always been to have my pottery fund itself  - to make generally enough from selling to keep on creating, and to learn and grow as a potter in the process. My hope for the future is to expand on that - to be able to make enough so that I can invest more, become larger, and then possibly even have my own shop or space. I certainly don't expect to get rich from this, but I love the idea of having my own place to create and sell. I am toying with the idea of possibly working with other people to have a shop together, but do not know a lot of people at this time - so if you are looking for someone to work with, let me know! :)

Speaking of shops, I have recently started selling some of my pottery in several shops. In the fall I started selling at Melissa's Maine Made in Ellsworth, and that has been a positive experience. And I just recently this past month or so joined two more shops - Maine Jewelry and Art in Downtown Bangor, and The Local Variety in Bucksport Maine. I am really excited about all three of these options - they are in three different towns so it is positive to get my product to different audiences. And it is just nice to have my work out there and on display in various locations.

The new struggle with being part of several shops is the reality of stocking these shops. Now I need to find a positive balance between creating and prepping for the shows that I have scheduled, but also building in time to create and restock the three shops as needed. It is a good challenge to have, and I look forward to the possibilities that being part of these three shops provides. :)

Part of my plan for this winter/spring has been event planning - what venues and shows do I want to apply for, and planning ahead for this. In my goal of being bigger and growing my small business, I need to first, join some shops (which I have a good jump on) but second, work on attending more venues and fairs, and work on attending larger venues and fairs. (AND, of course, being able to provide enough product to keep up with it all). 

Last year I attended about 8 or 10 so craft fairs/venues - some small and some large. Some were added to my list to repeat this year, and several were marked as do not return. That was the same from the year before that - my first year I had to learn what were good shows to attend, and what were not worth it. So i have been spending some time this spring sorting through which fairs were worth attending last year and what are some new options to try out. Here is what I have lined up currently for this year:

Feb - Craft Fair @ Longfellows Greenhouse in Manchester - (New) Went great!
May 26th - Craft Fair in Bar Harbor (New)
June 2nd - Black Fly Festival in Milo (New)
Weekly Craft Fair in Stonington - waiting to hear about details (New)
July 4th - Craft Fair in Bar Harbor (New)
July 20th and 21st - Bucksport Bay Festival - (Returning)
August 18th and 19th - Machias Bluebettery Festival (Returning)
UMaine Homecoming Craft Fair - October (Returning)
Augusta Civic Center - Nov 26th - (New)
Stonington Craft Fair - Nov 26th - (Returning)

I expect I will add in some other options as the year progresses but these are the ones I am currently signed up for, or in the process of signing up for.  I am excited about them. It is hard, because as I look at this list I think there is plenty of space to pick up more shows in between the others. But the reality is, I need to remember to not set myself up for an unrealistic turn around. When I have a GOOD show, which I am hoping more and more of these will be, it means I sell a large amount of my product, and then have to fill in the spots and gaps that exist. If I can premake items and have a lot on hand then this is not as large of a deal, but often I am then left scrambling to fill holes in my supplies before my next show. If you have read any of my previous posts the turn around for creating items can be lengthy. It typically takes over 2 weeks to have a new piece ready from scratch (and often closer to 3 weeks), which is dependent on me having clay on hand as well as the right color glazes that are needed. So I need to try and do more shows this season, but also remember to be realistic and not set myself up to fail.

In positive news I just realized I never posted about my newest addition - for Christmas I got a brand new wheel from my husband and family! I had previously been using a beat up second hand wheel that was not ideal, but got the job done. The new one is able to center more effectively, is more stable, and has better control and speeds. So I am in LOVE!

Anywhos. I am excited that it is now spring, and for what this will bring. I have been focusing the past couple months on really creating a lot of vibrant, colorful pieces. I tend to do two different styles - bright pops of color, or more pastel marble colors. I REALLY love the process of making the marbled pieces - there is something so interesting about each piece marbling different - the mystery of how it will turn out. But I tend to find that my bright and colorful glazes sell a little better than my marbled pieces, and I made a LOT of marbled pieces this past fall, so I need to instead focus on building up colorful pieces in my inventory. Hey - no complaining here - I am just excited that people like my pottery! :)

Ok. Again, my goal is to come and create more posts more often, so fingers crossed that I can stick to that plan!

For anyone interested in placing an order or seeing my items, I do not currently have an active ETSY site, as I found I was paying to list pieces and not selling enough to make it worthwhile. So email me (bethanythompson@rsu67.org) if you are looking for something in particular and I can send you some options of what I have in stock! :)

Thanks for reading! PLEASE leave a comment -  no one comments so I don't know if I should continue rambling or shift to approaching this differently - LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS! :D







Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fall...ing for pottery



Hello Everyone!

Been a month and a half or so since I have written. In that time I have gotten back to work full time at school, which has greatly impacted my ability to do pottery. Work is going well, I enjoy working with my students, but my pottery must take a back seat at this point.

It is frustrating, to a degree, to not throw as much. I find that I tend to be busy so I try and squeeze in time in the evenings or some on the weekends to get pieces made. I am often tired after work, so my idealistic "I will throw some pottery when I get home from work" is a challenge to follow through with some times. It is even harder to make mugs - the process of making mugs requires me to throw the main piece and let it dry. But it can only partially dry enough so that it can be held - it still needs to be malleable. Then I add the handle and continue to let it dry. My issue is that where I am throwing infrequently, I tend to not have two days back to back to throw the piece and the next to add a handle. But I make it work.

I had two shows this fall so far. I find that I have two different caliber of shows I attend now - a "Typical" craft fair that costs $25/30 to attend, or a large, typically 2 day fair that costs $100+ to attend. So I need to remind myself sometimes which I am attending, and what the expectation is then - I have different expectations for how many pieces I will sell at a small craft fair versus a large one.

So this fall I have attended two fairs - the first was a smaller, one day /small fee fair in Ellsworth. It went decent -  I sold what I expected. It was nice because Dave came with me for the show so I had someone there to help, and also his mother had a table beside us, she was selling her jewelry. So overall it was nice because there were people nearby to spend time with :)

I had a second show this Fall, at UMaine for Homecoming. This was a larger show, a two day/higher cost show. Actually it was the most expensive show I have paid to attend, to date at least in my pottery outings. And overall I was disappointed. I assumed (incorrectly) that since it was so expensive that I would make that much more - I expected to have upwards of 50+ sales, and was very disappointed to walk away with only 22 sales. So i made just under half of what I had expected. So yes, I made sales, but at times it can be emotionally frustrating to put an entire weekends work/time in, and leave feeling defeated and like it was unsuccessful. YES, overall it was a success - i came out ahead (where several vendors did not, so I feel like a jerk being down about it) but It is hard when the outcome does not align with the goal/expectation.

Some positives that I have observed  - I am starting to grow a fanbase, which is awesome and strange! I have had some repeat customers - people who have one or two mugs, and now want a third, things like that! It is an awesome feeling. Or to attend a fair or show and have someone come up and say, "Oh good, I was hoping you would be here"  - it is such an awesome and great feeling, makes the entire process seem worth while! I hope that things like that continue to happen :)

I have a small custom order I need to get home and work on - I just received the marbling stain in the mail yesterday, so now I can get to work on the pieces - 4 yellow and blue marbled mugs. I am excited to get working on it - I find as time goes on I really, REALLY love making my marbled pieces - I just enjoy the mystery of how the piece is going to unfold - how will the marbling show itself. It is a lot of fun.

I have a couple more craft fairs this winter. I think I had assumed that the UMaine show would have a lot of Christmas sales, but I think i was a little early since it is just October, so we will see how the rest of my shows go. I have another show in a week and a half - a smaller show that Donna (Dave's Mom) signed us up for though Brewer High School. She had heard really positive things about the show, so I have my fingers crossed that it goes well! After that I have a show scheduled right after Thanksgiving - down on the island. Now, the island is where I am from, so that might contribute to my success there. Last year I paid the fee for a one day/small fair, and ended up selling way more than expected. I am hopeful that it can be just as successful this winter! :) And then after that, two weeks before Christmas I am setting up in the Bangor Mall for a 2 day fair. I am hopeful that this will also go well.

Overall I have found this year to be a success - I am happy with how it has gone, and am hoping that the final couple of shows for the year really ends on a positive note. :) Eventually I would like to get a new wheel and possibly a new kiln, and am liking the idea of maybe opening a small shop in the summers - we will see :) But with all that, only time will tell!

Anywho, if you have any thoughts or questions do not hesitate to ask!! :D








Sunday, August 27, 2017

End of Summer...



Hey everyone!

For anyone who does not know, my full time/day job is as a school social worker in the Lincoln school system. Today is officially my last day of summer, as I head back to the schools tomorrow for teacher orientation. I am sad to see summer gone, as would be expected. At the same time, I am looking forward to what is in store for this fall/winter with pottery :: this is really the beginning of a busy season for me, so that is a fun and exciting time for me as an artist!

The summer ended on a decent note :: I did GREAT at the Bucksport Bay Festival in July. I followed that up in August with a 2 day festival in Machias. I found that I struggled slightly there - it was a combination of things I believe - One, it poured the first day, which is typically the bigger sale day. And, in fact even with the rain I sold OVER twice as much pottery Saturday as I did Sunday, which was a beautiful day weather wise. I just found that people Sunday were looking and not buying, at least not from me. I also found that there was more competition - there were 2 other individuals selling pottery within striking distance of where my booth was. And while their pottery was VERY different from mine (think traditional pottery; traditional colors) I do believe this could have had an impact on my sales. I had headed into the weekend really hoping to do just as well as I had at the Bucksport Festival. To be fair, I think that if the weather had cooperated I would have likely done just as well, but was left feeling a little let down with the progress. Still, I plan to try it again next year and see how it turns out :)

So what is NEXT on the list for Red Sunset Ceramics? Well I have very little down time planned. I have a one day craft fair in Ellsworth scheduled for later this month - the 23rd of September. Then that is followed up mid October with a 2 day larger craft faira t the University of Maine. Then a smaller craft fair at the end of October, and one at the end of November. And there is a chance I may add in a couple other craft fairs as well as the holidays get closer - since that is a fairly large selling season :)

Another new situation for me is that I was contacted to have some of my pottery put into a shop in downtown Ellsworth - I actually head out tomorrow after work to go drop a shipment of 15 pieces off. I am hopeful that it can be a good step for me to get my items in stores more consistently - fingers crossed that it is a good option for me! :) I was also approached about going into a shop in Bangor as well, but am still in the process of seeing if this is going to occur  - if it does I will keep you posted! :)

Beyond the specifics of WHERE I am going to be, I have been having fun trying to better present and organize my shows. The last two larger shows i have done I have attempted to color coordinate my works - which seems to go over well and people appreciate! :) I've now got to focus on filling in the bare spots that were sold off at the last show. Actually, what seemed to sell best at the Machias Blueberry Festival was my marbled work - almost half of the items sold were marbled. Which is EXCITING, because to be real, that is my favorite stuff to make! The process takes longer, and is technically more expensive (although I tend to charge the same, as people do not seem to understand that it is more expensive, and I Still want the work to sell) but even though it costs more and is more expensive to make AND more time intensive, there is something SUPER exciting about the random element of the marbled patterns showing up - and even just the element of trimming and scraping of the pieces to show the marbling - it is a lot of fun. I actually had someone at my last show comment that they had never seen that type of technique, and several individuals that I explained the technique to were wowed, and it led to them purchasing marbled pieces when they had initially been pulled to the table by the other, brightly glazed pieces.

I've really focused lately on trying to get colors that POP - I got a new orange, green and blue. The blue is ok, but the Green and Orange REALLY draw attention, and are colors that I will continue to utilize as people are drawn to them. I am a little sad because MY favorite glaze, Fruity Freckles, seems to just do mediocre, so I am not certain if I will continue using it in the future - I have a bunch left in that glaze  - I guess we will see how it does this fall, and that will show me if it is worth using again in the future.

Anywho, a goal I have this winter is to work on blogging more - I feel like I created this blog a year ago, and have only updated it a handful of times so far. I Would like to do better with this, as I personally love to write, and i feel like it is a positive way to keep others up to date on what I have been up to as an artist.

If you have any thoughts on colors you like, pieces you would like to see, or just words of encouragement please comment - I do not think I have had anyone comment on any of my blog posts yet, so getting some feedback would be MUCH appreciated! :D





















Sunday, July 23, 2017


Hey Everyone! 

My husband pointed out that I have not written or updated my Blog at all recently (well... being real... in a very long time...) So I just came on to do that :)

Earlier today I ended a 2.5 day Festival - the Bucksport Bay Festival where they celebrated 225 years of Bucksport as a town, and 20 years of having the Bucksport Festival overall. I had never done the Bucksport Bay Festival, so I was tentative regarding on how it would go. Overall I was very happy - the first (optional) half day was very slow, but Saturday things picked up greatly once the crowds came in! By the time the Festival was over it was a given that I would be back again next year :)

Another positive of attending the Festival was meeting several other vendors. It is always nice to connect with others, and it sounds like I was able to get some positive information regarding other festival opportunities in the future - which is the ideal scenario! The hope is that I will continue to expand the work I am doing, and be able to participate in more and more shows as time progresses.  Honestly, when I think about the "future" in regards to my pottery, I hope that some day I will be able to make a full time job of this. So... figures crossed I can make it there one day :)

So, beyond the past couple days, overall things have gone well the past year. I feel as though I've grown as an artist/potter; I've come a long way in regards to the work I create. I've done well with increasing the quality of my work, and have been enjoying the new items I have created. I've had a lot of fun with testing out different marbling combinations, and have loved trying out new glazes :) I really love the fun/out there colors and the people seem to really enjoy that I have some unusual color options :)

The next big step for me is to prepare for next month :: Similar to this past weekend, I have another large fair to attend, the Machias Blueberry Festival. That runs August 19th and 20th, down in Machias. My mother and Aunt are coming with me to man the tables for the full two days. I am super excited about it, and hopeful that it will be just as successful as the one I attended this weekend! 

The stressful part is, I sold a large portion of my pottery stock yesterday and today - about 45 pieces. So I only have one month to get myself back to baseline and to have enough supply to meet the (expected) demand of the Blueberry Festival. So I am a little nervous, to be honest, about having enough! But will do my best to be as prepared as possible.

For anyone who does not understand the "process", making pottery is not a quick hobby. For any typical piece I would throw it, say, on a Monday. It would need to dry for several days (typically 5 to 7, depending on thickness or how warm it is - it is currently summer and pieces are [luckily] drying faster). Once a piece is dried you fire it in a "Bisque" firing, which takes roughly 8 hours, and then needs another 8 - 10 hours to cool down before you can open the kiln. Once cool you then take the time to plan out glazing. Glazing requires several (typically 3) layers of whatever glaze is selected. Then once you have enough pieces glazed you do a "glaze firing" which is to a different temperature in the kiln, and then the firing takes about 7 hours and then again needs roughly 8 to 10 hours to cool. So for any given piece I make it can take upwards of two weeks before it is "finished". This is also made more complicated/limiting by the fact that my kiln (Which runs GREAT) happens to be on the smaller side, so that means I can only fire 7 - 10 pieces typically, depending on size.

So I have the Blueberry Festival in 4 weeks, and will plan to spend as much time as I can over the next four weeks preparing, and can hopefully get myself to a place where I am prepared and have enough for the show :) HOPEFULLY I see you there :)

Leave a comment letting me know what COLORS you would like to see at the Blueberry Festival, and also what types of pieces you would like to see!! 

(Below are some examples of work I have done over the past year - let me know your favorite pieces!)