Early morning here, both kilns are firing and it looks to be another hot day. The chickens have been fed and watered. Kirby has had a proper romp around the yard, feed and now napping off his early breakfast. Groundhog traps are set and breakfast dishes done. One more cup of coffee and time to put a quick blog post up before I hit the kitchen for a day of canning tomatoes....... again!
Those who read this blog know I tried to sell off my blog. I spent hours learning HTML, making pages etc. Why? because of cost! My last website was running over $400 a year and if I wanted to add a shopping cart I could tack on another $200, not feasible! When every single show cancelled for 2020, galleries shuttered their windows and my teaching job dried up was I panicked? Oh no, I was giddy to have time in the yard again. And as you all know I jumped in hard with both feet!
That Spring activity has paid off but then phone calls and a few emails trickled in about where to find work and how could they buy online. I promptly put both fingers in my ears and cried; NO NO NO! I knew I would loose weeks getting a site set up, recovering my domain name, and figuring out Paypal, shipping, photographing work and all the other stuff I needed to do to have an online presence. And then the drought hit and 90 degree weather hit hard and my computer room has air conditioning!
OK bottomline; I put my big girl, tech phobic pants on and dove into the deep end and didn't drown. I explored the following sites: Square Space, WIX, ETSY, Wordpress, Blogger, Sparkle and finally Big Cartel. And as planned a week of my life I will never get back, but if I can save you a bit of time read on!
I already had a Square account for accepting credit cards at shows and it would have been pretty seamless to use Square but they seemed a bit pricey for what I wanted to pay. Keep looking..... WIX was pretty good but not great and if you want to add a shopping cart, again dollars and cents add up. So many have gone to Wordpress! I do think Wordpress is a viable way to set up an online store but seemed a little complicated and did I want wordpress and blogger? Sparkle was an app I downloaded to design a website but alas no online web store. But I love it and my last site was designed with Sparkle which then linked to an ETSY account. If you have a MAC her is the Sparkle link: https://sparkleapp.com/ And why didn't I go to ETSY? ETSY has gotten HUGE! Yes, they have figured it out but in my humble opinion, the artists have gotten lost along the way. They are now allowing buy/sell, garage sale stuff (now called vintage) and so much crap to wade through. About the time I was putting all this together something happened with ETSY shipping and they added a decimal point or two. Consequently a shipping label that normally cost $3.00 got billed to your credit card as $300.00. The problem popped up on two artist facebook pages. Several artists had their credit cards maxed out in minutes and it took ETSY over 24 hours to fix the issue. They issued an apology and a $50 credit. They do not have a customer service hotline. I followed the saga with interest as I was primed to just re-open my ETSY store; it would have been the easiest path by far!
Then fellow potter, Brenda suggested Bit Cartel. I looked hard. Of all the platforms looked at I went with Big Cartel. Here is the link: https://www.bigcartel.com. They have excellent customer service and the site is run by artists who get that we just want to make work and not spend hours setting up stores and other stuff! The gal who walked me through the one and only glitch with credit cards was just great!
They have templates already available and easy to use. Quite a few potters are already using it. A perfect example was Paul Eshelman. I did a show with Paul a few years ago, what nice guy and we ended up trading work. Here is his Big Cartel site: Paul Eshelman pottery
My two biggest hurdles were getting my domain name wrestled away from old web-hosting company and getting Pay Pal to understand I had new social security number. Another week of my life I will never get back but incredibly happy it's done and now feel empowered!
I have had the same domain name since 1992. The original company has been bought and sold 3 times, ultimately ending up with Go Daddy. I am not a fan of Go Daddy, (the guy that owns the company is a jerk IMHO) HOWEVER they are the world's largest domain register company and they have great customer service. I called customer support and a very patient woman stayed on the line and helped me wrestle back my domain name and even stayed on the line while I applied it to my Big Cartel Shop....... all for $12 a year. SOLD! Google Domains is easy and also $12 per year but no customer support. However as complete frustration reared its ugly head I took out a Google Domain https://www.sandymillerceramic.com/ If you click on the link you can see how that worked out. I quickly realized my entire body of work for years and years was linked to Sandy Miller Pottery and suddenly I was no longer willing to give all that up. I googled myself and was shocked to see how far back images went. It was worth the time to wrangle my domain back!
Big Cartel offered Pay Pal or Stripe. I tried and tried to get Pay Pal to work and I stayed up until 3 am trying to communicate with Pay Pal through their messaging system. At 3:01 am I threw up my hands and said many many words that would have my Mom reaching for the bar of Lifebuoy soap to wash my mouth out and just applied for Stripe. It went through in less than 5 minutes! I stayed with Stripe for about two weeks and a customer contacted me about why I wasn't taking PayPal. Dammit! I found the customer service number for PayPal and spent the better part of a day on hold and finally getting a real person to help me. Once I got someone they were fantastic and even better, found out it wasn't me it really was PayPal!! There coding wasn't registering with my Big Cartel Shop. Again she stayed on the line with me until we got it straightened out! And she walked me through invoicing! Phew! Sooooo now I take both and Square too. All the fees are about the same and this also includes Square. Squares fees are bumping up and I am keeping an eye out for more increases.
Get through all that and now figure out how to ship from studio. I bought a postal scale but now realize I could have used my glaze scale. OH well! I decided to sign up with Pirate Shipping. Here is their link: Pirateship
It's free and it links to Big Cartel. I like them a lot and it is sometimes cheaper than the post office. They tell me if I can shave a couple ounces off a box I can save quite a bit of money. The post office never tells me that! They do have some discounted rates, especially for envelopes and I bet jewelers could save quite a bit with this site. Alas, how to fit pottery in an envelope! BUT! I did schedule the Postal Service to pick up packages off my front porch!!! No more running to the post office! I can use brown boxes or priority boxes you can still get free from the Post Office. They do drop them off, for free, to your door step. If you would like the link: Free priority boxes
IMAGES OF YOUR WORK
I watched so many YouTubes on taking pictures of your work with your phone or iPad it made me dizzy! I have an iPad pro. I bought the iPad pro (refurbished) from Other World Computing: Other World Computing
I love this company and have been using them for years! I even added more RAM to my iMac for more storage. Their videos walk you right through it! They also have great customer service.
I took the pictures in my photo booth with 5000K daylight balanced LED lights. Loaded them up and they looked great on the computer but did not look great on the website. I hauled out the camera equipment; Digital Sony E6000 and a tripod. Ok a bit of work to find everything and get it hooked up but the images were 100 times better! So no more flim flam about images with a phone or iPad, use a good digital camera!
Thinking I had everything under control and slapping myself on the back I got this email last night:
Same Sandy, different work?
My answer: I am still making my "one of a kind" pieces. As shows cancelled, galleries closed and my teaching vanished; I realized I needed to have a store online and then I needed to pack and ship those things. I just launched the online store a few weeks ago, my photography, my design etc. I chose this line as it was easy to pack and ship as I love making pots more than anything else I do.I have always allowed galleries to handle sales, packing and shipping or take work on the road to shows. The art pieces are now stockpiled in an upstairs bedroom and back room. Being a somewhat creative person I dug in and figured out how to support myself again. Once again we, who took to cyberspace are now challenged with the USPS delays and rising shipping costs.
I have a pile of pots waiting to be woven and staring at me as I type but I am filling an order for 50 mugs for coffee shop in Alaska..... it’s a weird year.
So I hope I have helped to answer your question as to; “Whats up?”
Thanks for inquiring and be well.
So what do I do with all those art pieces and do I want to ship them and should they be on this new website....... Yes, I'm confused too.