Wednesday, April 11, 2007

the five-figure order

Back in the dark days of January, when I was still in New York at the Gift show, I received a call from a woman who was an "art resource" rep, and who had a client who was interested in purchasing a leaf platter from me; could I create a leaf platter to their specifications?
"Sure", I said. I actually love custom orders.
Her client would need 300 of these platters; could I fulfill that kind of order?
"Absolutely" I said coolly, in a tone that said I get orders for 300 things all the time. In fact, I have never gotten an order that big. To date, the largest order I've ever dealt with was an order from Gump's for 40 medium split pods That was the first time I really got to utilize my man Hector at the factory. He delivered 43 pods to be exact, I glazed them in one afternoon, and had the husband deliver them a few days later. It was beautiful. I call this picture to the right, "March of the Clones".

Since January I've been working with the art resource woman, Laurie. Back and forth we've gone: drawings, mini-samples, prototypes, colors, glazes samples, changes in the shape, changes in the size. All through it I've been keeping up the cool front while going into spasms of doubt as I try to figure out what to charge them for everything. I really wanted this order, I wanted to be put to the test. Underbidding would ensure that I could get it, but I know from experienece that when I don't charge people what my pottery is worth, I don't put the right effort into it because I figure they're getting a bargain. Overcharging makes me insecure because then everything has to be perfect perfect perfect... and it just hardly ever is. I finally came up with a number, delivered in an even and confident tone, and held my breath as I waited to hear if The Clients would accept.
They did. And what would my terms be?
"Oh, (a cash sum which would pay my studio rent for almost a year) up front to get production going, the balance paid in cash or by check before shipment".
Turnaround time?
"Three to four weeks". That's what I always say.

Finally today I received the purchase order. It was a long day of glazing with one of my assistants, but the final piece was put into the kiln and I spent and hour cleaning and mopping the studio-- where is my intern anyway? I staggered home thinking about tomorrow morning, when I plan to spend at least two hours in my favorite cafe, drinking their amazing coffee, eating my favorite breakfast, (polenta with a poached egg on top) and working on my website. That's what constitutes relaxation in my world. And then bam, the five-figure order I've been waiting for, sitting in my email. I printed it out, looked at it, and started laughing, which kind of tapered off into a groan, then went back up into a laugh, then down again into a groan. I did this 3 or 4 times before I realized I sounded like a crazy person, and there should be no groaning where five figures are involved, unless we're talking about bail money. But we're not, we're talking about payday!

I have a picture of a new Skutt kiln I want; shiny, bigger than the one I have, capable of firing off five figures worth of work in one fell swoop. Oh baby, you are mine.


  1. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Congratulations on this milestone!

  2. Congratulations. It was only a matter of time,

  3. Anonymous12:48 PM

    Rock on, Witness. That'll put some beers in the fridge and ribs on the grill. Six figures next time!

  4. Hi, and thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I've seen Peter Callesen's work before and it had the opposite effect on me - made me want to drop my knife in shame and never cut another thing again! His work is awe inspiring, managing to get that delicate combination of masterly skillfulness with a breathtaking lightness of touch.
    Thanks again for visiting my blog

  5. Oh, and PS: congrats on the mega-orders! Fantastic! Your work is beautiful.

  6. Congratulations!! Oh the axiety of pricing.... and then having your price accepted.... and then performing the work that needs to be done.... definitely a whilwind of emotions! I'm truly empathetic!

  7. Congrats on the order Whitney. I have just been contacted by Laura at the art resource (the same one? Baltimore?) about a series of paintings and I was wondering: how are they to deal with?

    Cheers - Bill