Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: The Year in Review

It seemed to me a good thing to recap the events of the last 366 days - a lot has happened and I have many people to thank. I know I'll miss some of you; if I have, my apologies - I know there are folks out there who have helped me in ways of which I'm completely unaware but I am nonetheless grateful for all you've done to help make 2012 a successful year for Black Cat Pottery.

Our events this year started out slowly (it's never helpful when we have mizzly, drizzly weather for our Clematis Pruning Workshop in April) but we had outstanding turnouts for our Summer Garden Tour - 150 people! - and our Holiday Open House. Friends Theresa Dearhamer, Sharon Bass and Catherine Dumke-Derbyshire lent essential assistance in making these events the success they were, as well as the other participating artists - Chris Hopp, Don Schulte, Tim Hanks, Glenda Hopp, Karen Hooper and Bob McGowan.

I decided pretty early in the year to start focusing more on getting my work into galleries and shops throughout the state of Michigan, with an eye to growing the wholesale/consignment side of my business. I took a lot of road trips - often with my friend Theresa Dearhamer (during a recent break to take in the Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogan flick The Guilt Trip, we concurred that the two of us would not make it through an eight-day cross-country odyssey). We made two trips through the center of the state up to the Leelanau Peninsula and then up into the Upper Peninsula, as far north as Copper Harbor. (I believe that's as far north as you can go and still be on land in Michigan, except for Isle Royale.) I also took several trips on my own, including points west and east of Detroit. As a result of these efforts, I was able to add 14 new accounts.

As I've said, I've had a lot of help doing this. Many friends have been instrumental in recommending galleries to me or recommending me to galleries, including (but not limited to and in no particular order) Andrew Lathrup, Renate Favour, Melanie Boyle, Janine Bauchat, Joyce Diemond-Mcgowan Janicki, Chris Hopp and Chelsea Martin, Blue Dingman, Cleve Hayes, Glenda Hopp, Karen Hooper, Jackie McMahon, Trish Hacker-Henig, Lambro Niforos, Julie and Bob Peterson, Theresa Shepherd and Sharon Bass. And the suggestions keep rolling in. Not all of them are "right" for the direction I'm taking with my work but I have diligently checked out each and every one (in person if possible). Through these suggestions - and the faith these and other folks have had in my work - I was able to exceed my 2012 wholesale/consignment goal.

It hasn't all been good news. Some relationships were not sufficiently productive; sometimes getting the right "fit" is tough, regardless of how hard the artist and business owner work together to make it happen. Other opportunities disappeared due to the ongoing difficult economy. Probably the most disappointing development for me in 2012 is the closing of Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio in Rochester, a business with which I had had a fruitful professional and personal relationship for many years.

Owner Christine Laikind, like so many businesses, was hit hard by the economic downturn, coupled with an eight-month, wall-to-wall renovation of Main Street. Christine is a marketing genius - partnering with other businesses in the area for art openings and charitable causes (her Empty Bowls Fundraiser was a yearly highlight). She also provided eclectic and varied creative opportunities, from painting workshops to studio memberships. We were able to put together a series of very successful pottery workshops in the fall of 2012 which brought in record enrollments and we were planning an additional series for 2013.

Although those opportunities will no longer exist for us in Rochester, Christine and I are still working together to keep the energy going at Black Cat Pottery. We are looking forward to doing some printing workshops in conjunction with the two annual Garden Tours (June 1 and August 17, 2013) as well as stand-alone pottery workshops. If you were interested in doing a Beer Stein Party with Christine - don't give up! We're going to try to make that happen, if folks are interested.

So, the lesson for 2013: There is a silver lining to every cloud. I am excited about developing more programming here at Black Cat Pottery, in addition to our annual Pruning Workshop, Garden Tours and Holiday Open House. I will be doing much, much more on my Etsy shop - look for us there at TheBlackCatPottery. If you see something you like - or don't see something you'd like to see there - let us know!

I'll also have an article on non-vining Clematis in Michigan Gardener this year as well as an article on native plants in that same publication in 2014 - and I'm still working on my adult fairytale, The Raccoon's Bride. I will also be speaking on the restoration of a typical urban lot at the upcoming Wildflower Association of Michigan conference at Michigan State University in March (where I'll also be sharing Black Cat Pottery and Notable Greetings notecards and prints), as well as various other speaking engagements (and even the occasional conference) throughout the state. Check the calendar to the left for current information.

If all goes well, I'll be at Royal Oak Clay, Glass and Metal in June and Art and Sole in Grosse Pointe come September. If you miss me at one of those events, I'm always happy to meet with customers at the studio. And I'm hoping to push the boundaries and work on getting my work out of state. So, if you know of a really great gallery or shop where you'd like to see some Black Cat Pottery - in Michigan or points beyond, let me know!

Thank you so much for your support in 2012 and best to you all for 2013!

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