Made in America, or “The Taxidermist that Wasn’t”

Made in America, or "The Taxidermist that Wasn't"I was too busy actually making things to post this during the recent “Made in America” week. But it did get me thinking about the concept of making things…an activity I have loved since childhood…and how work gets done.

People decry the fact that so much manufacturing has left the USA as companies look for cheaper options. But take heart! Not ALL clothing is made abroad, a website called Makers Row matches small batch designers with factories across the USA who can produce their lines of clothing and accessories at reasonable prices. Who knew?!?

I don’t work with a Makers Row factory, but if my wonderful textile printer in Philadelphia ever quits, I would definitely explore that option. Until then, I am sticking with Top Banana USA.

Instead, I deal with many fine galleries, shops, and museum stores across the country. The buyers are thrilled to be able to carry American made work. In fact, at trade shows, that is the first question they ask.

That’s a lucky break for me, since I am not trained (or trainable) to do anything else – and I still love what I do.

I took an aptitude test in 8th grade. The results came back “taxidermist.” I am not making that up. My mother stormed in the guidance counselor’s to demand to know what kind of cockamamie aptitude test thought her brilliant girl should be a taxidermist. I don’t recall what the guidance counselor’s response was, but I expect he blamed it on the test, anything to get my mom to back off. She was not amused.

July 31st, 2017|0 Comments

Calling All Coaches

Growing up in the pre-Title 9 era, I did not play team sports other than some killer kickball back in 6th grade. Yes, we had gym class and I was an active tomboy who rode horses, but was never a team sport kind of girl.

Cross Fit West ChesterI never worked with a coach of the athletic variety until I joined CrossFit West Chester 5 years ago…but THAT is a whole different story. Once I get started on that part of my life, I may never shut up.

I knew business coaches existed, but didn’t really grasp how they could benefit me. I have been in business a really long time…didn’t I already know what I was doing? After all, I hold a Ph.D from the School of Trial and Error. Yet, the pottery business is VERY different from the textile business and I had questions that needed answering.

When I had the chance to sign up with Rob Fortier, I decided to go for it… I had listened to Rob’s webinar last summer, which was aimed at exhibitors at NYNow and discussed how to follow up wth potential clients after the show. I was impressed with his knowledge and formulated specific goals and questions for him. We had several phone conversations and e-mail exchanges prior to the most current trade show. He was extremely helpful and it was money well spent. It was an additional treat to meet him in person in NY.

Thanks, Coach!

February 15th, 2017|0 Comments

NY Now Winter 2017

Thank You to the management of NYNow and my buyers for a great show at the Javits Center.

Jacob Javits was larger than life during his long and distinguished career so it is only fitting that his statue towers over the rest of us mere mortals.

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February 9th, 2017|0 Comments

In Defense of Clutter, or Coming to Terms with my Inner Popeye

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There are so many books written about decluttering that if you bought them all, they would, ironically, create their own pile of clutter. It feels great to get rid of unwanted stuff, especially papers overflowing a desk or a file.

blog-popeye-yamDecluttering has become a religion of sorts, with its own gurus. Short of having gene therapy to change my essential nature, I remain someone who tends to hang on to stuff.

As Popeye liked to say, “I yam what I yam.”

There are treasures in those files. Looking at them again is like a trip in the Way Back Machine.

Had I not saved a note from my dear friend Trish urging me to start a textile business, I never would have thought to do that.

My files contain letters written to me by my kids when they were small. A note from Scout Camp read: “This is a hell hole. Get me out of here.” (By the time I got the letter, he was happy and would have stayed all summer.)

I have the letters and cards they sent later as they grew and traveled and matured. I have loving cards from friends and family. I have letters written from my grandmother to my mom when she was dating my dad and unable to decide if she wanted to marry him or not. Grandma said “STOP STRINGING HIM ALONG … Marry him, or let someone else have him.” Most poignant are letters from my own late, great mother in her unique voice that still haunts my dreams.

And all this brings me to note cards.

A small note card is the perfect way to make a big impact. And who knows…your note may just end up in someone’s file of treasured messages.

Image of Popeye via Pinterest

January 24th, 2017|0 Comments

Blame it on the Anesthesia

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In 2014, a dear friend was in the recovery room, post surgery, when something made her think of me. Still woozy from the anesthesia, she wrote a brief letter in wobbly script so unlike her usual calligraphic precision, urging me to have my designs printed on other products. She listed 10+ items, from the sublime to the ridiculous. I found her note quizzical, flattering, and impractical, and put it away. Clay had been my life’s work for well over 30 years. Clay defined me. I was a one-trick-pony, or so I assumed.

The note resurfaced last year during a cleaning binge and this time it seemed worth considering. After all, my pottery is very labor intensive and maybe a textile line would be complementary. I did some research and realized I needed to make paintings, get them scanned, find appropriate textile products and a printer who could do the work. I spend my days painting imagery on clay, so how hard would it be?

If this was a movie, you would now hear the sombre, foreboding music…the kind they play right before the unsuspecting hero makes a major mistake.

I bought acrylics, only to find out I hated acrylics (& visa versa)…Watercolors were next. That turned out to be a VERY humbling experience. I was competent painting with underglazes on clay but now the rules were all different. Weeks of failures ensued, but finally the pile of rejects were replaced with good ones. The next step was to order samples of assorted textiles that were suitable for DTG (Direct to Garment) printing. I was disappointed to find that the things I liked the best were very pricey, and the more affordable items were not at all what I hoped for.

Late one Saturday night, I vowed to go through every page of Google listings until I found something I liked in the size, fabric, and price I wanted. Most of us never get past page 2 or 3 and there is a lot of junk and advertisements filling up those pages…but I was not going to quit until I located a US company close enough to keep shipping costs reasonable. I waded through listing after listing, and finally landed on Tea Towels by Factory Direct Linen

Note to readers: If you are a company with a “Contact us” link on your site, hire someone to answer those e-mails! So many companies invite you to connect with them, but never answer. But I e-mailed them, not expecting a reply until the following week if ever. Imagine my shock when I got a reply a short time later from the operations manager who graciously sent me samples…and he and his company have been part of my team ever since.

Another Google search led me to Top Banana USA a printing company in Philadelphia…an hour from my home. That meant we could meet in person and seeing his operation was a real treat. Taylor MCDowell is conscientious and pays great attention to detail. The colors on my finished products are crisp and clear and still retain the painterly quality I wanted.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

January 18th, 2017|0 Comments