Yes really it was my birthday and look what the wonderful Mr Wellydog bought me.
No not a microwave, he wouldn’t live that one down, but a microwave kiln.
I cant tell you how long I’ve wanted one of these, fused glass has been popular for a long time and I’ve always wanted a go. I can't afford, or even have the room for a proper glass fusing kiln, and knowing me I would pay out all that money and it not be something I would continue with, so this is a good and cheaper (well relatively speaking) alternative, to at least see if it holds my interest.
So Mr Wellydog, being a clever old stick, bought me a kit from Fusitt. it came with the kiln, a wire rack, heat gloves, safety glasses, glass cutter, 6 small bits of coloured glass 4 pieces of dichroic glass, confetti glass, frit (although not as I know it) some flower pieces and jewellery findings. Having dabbled in stained glass and jewellery making, some of these I of course didn’t need, but most of it was essential. It didn’t really come with good instructions…..but as we all know with Google and YouTube, who needs proper instructions!!
It was a both exciting and terrifying.
Mr WD had to open the shop, as its Easter we couldn’t afford not to be open (not that Easter is ever that good for us) but as anyone working for themselves knows, you don’t miss any opportunities, so he stayed long enough to help me with the first firing, which is to prepare the kiln. Don’t ask me why I needed to do this, but the instructions were very clear on this, not on much else, so it needed to be done.
You need to make sure the turntable doesn’t rotate on your microwave. In our case this just meant taking the wheels out from under the plate, but on some you have to turn the plate upside down. Just a quick note on microwaves, everything I have read suggests you don’t use the normal food prep microwave, so again being really organised, my lovely husband stole the microwave we use in the shop to heat up soup and cold tea, so flasks and the need drink tea quicker will be the order of the day in the shop from now on! So the preparation of the kiln takes 3 minutes on full power……and then off Mr Wellydog goes to work. And leaves me to potentially maim myself and blow up the house (ok slight exaggeration)
The next step in the leaflet says “cut your glass to the desired , shape and then fire”, helpful don’t you think?
Luckily I’ve been on a course and knew how to score and cut glass, I have a great oil filled glass cutter so I used that and played around with just a simple piece of orange glass with three flowers on. I thought it was best to be simple for a first try and only put one piece in. I have been lucky as in my darling husband thought that as big is always better, so got me a large kiln. Some of the small ones you can only do one piece at a time in as the internal size is quite small.
To stop the glass melting to the kiln base, it has to be put on a piece of kiln paper, ( I forgot to mention that was included to). Timings for cooking (firing) are vague. Most proper kilns are controlled and temperatures go up and down on a schedule but on a microwave kiln there is very little control. The leaflet suggests you fire for 5 to 6 minutes then check every 30 seconds after to see until you get the desired result.
You can peek in the kiln to check, but use your gloves and only open briefly. The first time I did that I was terrified, it’s no laughing matter, molten glass, but it was easier than I expected. This first one took 12 minutes!!!! Much longer than expected, but it is an old microwave and a large kiln. I discovered later that it not the best idea to just put it straight on for the 12 minutes, or you melt everything to a liquid….oops. I guess the constant checking keeps the temperature a little less fierce.
I was quite happy with the result. I know its not that exciting, but it was for me. It’s the first time I've melted glass!! And to boot I did it in my kitchen!
The stand is a must, as I think when the kiln comes out of the microwave if you didn’t have that, then it would melt through your work tops, as a precaution I did put an old bread board under it to. There is also a lot of heat coming out of the top, so best not to put it under a cupboard.
Now this next bit is the hard bit for me, to allow the glass to anneal and not crack then you have to take the kiln out ( if you leave it in the microwave, it might over heat and ruin it.) and leave the lid on, you then have to wait……for anyone who knows me , patience isn’t a skill I have ever learnt. It says 30 minutes but I did have quite a few crack in my second batch and I think it needs a minimum of and hour to be cool enough, which is just agonising. Especially the firing I did in one go (impatient again) and I knew everything had melted, I was just praying it hadn't dripped off the kiln paper and ruined my kiln, but Phew it was fine.
You can see the yellow bit is all crazed and melted and I pulled this out and used it again, I have discovered the joy of refiring and reusing old bits. I also put odd bits of glass in to just melt and form balls that I the used later on a fishes eye.
I enjoyed doing the fish. I didn’t want to just bung bits of dichroic glass onto other bits of glass, but of course inevitably you do. It’s a good way to experiment and see what happens and how many thing you can layer, or how thin you can stay. I have made a real mess of some bits but I have done a couple I really like.
Its great having a starter kit as it mean you can play straight away, but the colours and types of glass are not really what I would choose so the results are not what I would really like.
So as soon as I can afford to I will be ordering some clear glass, some proper frit, (no idea what the big lumps they gave me were, apart from very easily melted.) and some nice blues and turquoises.
Watch this space ……
If you haven’t read part 1, then click here to read it first .
To be honest we have been shocked at the speed of what happened next. Two shops came back to us very quickly after receiving our letters and two Steve followed up with a phone call. He got good feedback and appointments. All asked to see samples of the jewellery, so we put together a sample box to take around to all four.
The first two appointments were in the same town. This was good and bad. Great because it meant we had choice, bad, because it meant we had choices!!
We loved dealing with the first shop, not only had we been impressed on our first visit, but she didn’t disappoint on the second. She knew how to sell, she sold us on her business very quickly. She explained how she worked, the money side of it, ie what percentage she would take, how she would pay us and how often. But also she explained where she would display our jewellery, and how she would display it. She knew what her customers liked and she obviously valued that we picked up the glass ourselves and each piece was individual. She was impressed with our boxes and presentation, and inspected the quality of work. But most importantly for me, she obviously loved the jewellery herself.
At this point we realised we had made a mistake.…. She had obviously decided if she liked our things, she would take them and had expected us to leave the samples with her. Embarrassing really as we had another appointment to go to half an hour later. Coming out I was impressed, but she hadn’t been my first choice. We were going there next. I was very nervous and excited. I had adored this next place when we had first viewed it and was really keen to get it in there. The lady dealing with us was lovely and she chose a few items she liked. She had obviously been told by her manager to take a few items. She wasn’t really clear on where it would be displayed or on how it would be managed. I would have been really happy to go with them, had the first shop not been on offer. Both of us walked out and our instincts were to go with the first shop. So when we got home we rang and arranged to take in some stock. Another mistake, as it meant a second journey, but also a very good learning experience, which we took into the next towns. Steve had preferred our final choice from the beginning and I think I need to defer to his business instincts a bit more, I am a bit too emotional and that sometimes clouds my judgement. The next two shops went very smoothly and we even had a wholesale order instead of sale and return, which was a real bonus. We also have request from both of these shops, for more stock of a specific nature, so that’s a really good sign.
Luckily Steve is good with the money and figures, which has been an essential part of our planning. When adding up the amount of stock we have had to supply, it’s no small amount. All the stock that we are supplying is dead money to us, until it sells. This is something luckily Steve had prepared us for and kept money back for this eventuality.
So back to how busy our minds have been. We are excited but also slightly overwhelmed, by what we have had to do in the last few days. All the stock had to be prepared to go out. We had to have good coding and tracking. Also we have had to order in lots more materials to make up more items, to replace the missing stock in our shop. Luckily we are in a position again, through Steve’s good planning, to do this. Fortunately I had been making a lot of jewellery to prepare ready for the summer, so although, the amount of stock needed took us slightly by surprise, we had enough reserves. We also have lots of seaglass, both local and also from our visit in February to Seaham.
I said to a friend yesterday that it had been easier than I expected, but Steve corrected me on this and said, it had only been easy because we did our research and prepared correctly. And I totally agree. Had we not been on the ball, I don’t think we would have had the confidence in our product, approached the right people, and saved ourselves a lot of time and possible rejections, the money to do the research and to sustain a large amount of stock going out and just about have enough to restock our own shop.
Our plan was always to try and be in at least one shop before Easter, and I’m very happy to report as of today, we now have stock in 4 other retailers, in Cornwall. I cant tell you how chuffed I am with that.
I hope I haven’t bored you too much. In trying to research how to go about this then we found people were quite secretive about the whole process, I have no real idea why. We found very little information and so went on our instincts. Of course only time will tell, if that does actually work …….. I will let you know.
What a busy week, at least it seemed that way. It probably had more to do with the mental acrobats we had to do rather than the physical running around, although there has been quite a lot of that too.
We made a decision late last year to try and get our seaglass jewellery stocked in other shops around Cornwall. We have been trying to increase our sales, and this is one of the options we wanted to pursue. We felt that we need to prepare well and not just rush in, but to think about how this would affect us, and what we needed to do to achieve this ambition. So it has taken us 4 months to get to this stage.
Many of you have seen the new branding, which we are very pleased with and this was the first step. We asked ourselves, what would we like to see when we are buying. For me that meant a good presentation and a product that people felt they could just give straight as a gift and not have to worry about wrapping. For Steve, he wanted a level of professionalism that meant other shops would view us as serious manufacturers and not just hobbyists.
The next step was to research where we would like to place them. I know some of you may think we are being fussy and we should just go where someone will take us. But we felt if we did our research up front, we wouldn’t waste time targeting shops that just wouldn’t suit our product and secondly, we wanted a good fit and to work with people we saw could sell and had a nice manner when dealing with customers… so yes actually, we are being a bit fussy.
We visited quite a lot of places and this is where the second lot of planning comes in and where I would be lost without Steve’s business head and great ability to cash flow. I have discovered research and development, costs money! Shocker I know, but I am terrible at thinking about things like that. This is not a route to take without thinking carefully about money. Not only does the branding cost a considerable amount and buying in all new packaging labels etc, the research itself is costly…..we did quite a lot of travelling.
Having a list of potential places we would like to stock, we then decided because of delivery costs and not wanting to post stock to places, at least not initially, we would keep with a certain radius. This became obvious quite quickly, when we realised what sort of mileage we were raking up. We were also doing our research in winter and had to think about how places would be in the summer, our local knowledge, and a few friendly chats round all the places we visited, were quite important.
We decided on about 4 towns we initially wanted to target. We decided we did not want to flood a place with our goodies and wanted only one shop in each town to represent us. I don’t think there is anything worse than going around a town, with every shop stocking the same items. We drew up a list of up to 3 favourites in each place. There was one place we only had one on our list and surprisingly two of the biggest towns in the area didn’t even make this list. Mainly because they were too commercial. It is funny how you can have been to a place and think that’s a quirky and interesting town, but when you have a real good look at what’s on offer, and it’s not what you thought it was. We will never rule them out completely, while we have a very clear idea now of what we want, who’s to say that’s the right way to go, I guess only time will tell and I’m a great believer in not burning bridges
How to approach these businesses?
As shop owners ourselves, we get people coming in all the time asking us to stock their items. It has slowed down now but at the beginning it was 2 or 3 a week. We did take in some fabulous jewellery from Wight and Wight at the beginning, with the idea we might take in more as we went along. But we quickly realised, we just physically didn’t have the room, on top of everything we produced. Those of you who have visited us will appreciate that. I never mind being asked, and most people are lovely and genuinely are just trying to make a few extra quid. But we do have a few pushy people! Even after being told we don’t take other people items they will insist on showing you everything and wanting feedback. At quiet times it’s not an issue but when you are busy and trying to serve it can be. So, we wanted to make appointments rather than just arrive and make a nuisance of ourselves. Our solution was to write a letter. We did think about emailing or phoning for an appointment, but I liked the idea of a letter, something a bit more personal, I wanted to be able to put a nice presentation together that would represent us and what we were about. So just over two weeks ago they went out………………………and we held our breath
Part 2 will follow shortly
I had an exciting week. I got to see my work in the Porthleven Baulk Project exhibition. I never get tired of seeing my work in an exhibition. Goodness that sound vain, but really, I do get very excited. This exhibition is of course special, all the money raised with these art works, goes to the Fishermen’s Mission. In case you weren’t aware all the work was made using a piece of the wood from the sea defence baulks, that were destroyed in the storms, two years ago. More details can be found on the baulk project website.
The exhibition was held in a lovely Gallery that used to be a lifeboat station, in the glorious harbour town of Porthleven. As you can see from the picture it’s not massive, but over the week they had over 1,100 people visit. Hopefully that is a good omen for the auction itself to be held on the 18th March.
Here is me with my Painting, like I said exciting……… Squeeeee
So as a result I have finally done something I have been saying I would do for some time. I have booked a gallery for an exhibition of my work. It’s not until next August but that’s great, it gives me plenty of time to put a body of work together. We will of course take some jewellery and some leatherwork, We would be mad not to, but principally it will be all about my paintings. OMG!!! It all sounds very serious. You will of course all be invited.
I need to get a few bits in place but as soon as I can, I will give you lots of details and I may need help for ideas as to what to paint and display ideas, so suggestions and any help, as always gratefully received.
I have painted a new feather recently, I am trying to sort out a frame , it’s certainly not my favourite thing to do. I find framing expensive and difficult to choose the right one. I just like painting them, framing is really no fun! Hopefully I will have a better picture and have it framed by the next time I chat to you. If I can make a decision.
Its been a busy old time at Wellydog Towers. We have been planning and plotting for the coming year. Last year, being our first year in the shop, we had very little idea of how things were going to go and what to plan for and when. Looking at figures and sales over the last year, we now have an indicator of what might happen this year. Although as we all know nothing is set in stone, this is a real help to planning for 2017. Over the year we have collated week by week sales figures, plotting events and trends, even weather, so we can get to know what influenced good or bad weeks. I’m a very visual person and not fantastic with numbers. As Mr Wellydog does all the finances and he is a very linear and analytical person then he has produced lovely graphs for me to help me understand the business and the finances. We have been lucky the sales figures have been going consistently up, a beautiful green line on my charts, and although initially spend was enormous we have managed to get a lid on that. The shop is now fully set up. We have invested in furniture, a till, heating, signs, lighting, display stands and oh so much more to get the shop fully functioning. So now we are looking at what we need to invest in this year.
When we started up our business we did a lot of research and it was said that it takes three years to make any profit. The first year you run at a loss as you have all the set up and establishing costs, the second you hope to break even as you become established and trusted. Then the third year if you’re lucky you can start taking out profit. All that has of course changed and they now reckon you need 5 years. No wonder so many businesses don’t survive. We are now in our 3rd year and on track as per our initial business plan, although our first year at Heartlands wasn’t particularly successful we did use the time well and established a good working pattern and really learnt what our business was about and how to develop it. It all sounds very grand but a lot of it is just common sense and hard work. I am aware that a lot of people look at us and think how lucky we are. But Luck is what you make it and hard work and truly believing in what you do, and not just waiting for something to happen, is the best way, in my opinion, to make your own luck.
So what have we invested in, well those of you who follow us on Facebook and Instagram will have already seen our re-branding.
No way was I going to change the name, several people over the years have tried to convince me to change our name, to something that more describes what we are about, but I’m afraid I am so attached to it. I will never ever change it. So we just kept to a visual rebranding. This is where we lucked out. I have a nephew who runs a print and graphics business in Exmouth called Copyrite. And he produced the most beautiful little information leaflets for our jewellery boxes and a new logo. It exactly what I wanted, crisp and clear.
As usual we are on a budget, so to get this logo printed on our boxes would have been a bit pricey and we didn’t want to add any more cost onto the customer, so on Copyrite's recommendation we got a rubber stamp made up. We stamp our own boxes, they are not perfect every time, but we just love that it gives that unique and handmade quality to the boxes and reflects who we are. It is such an elegant solution and we can use the stamp on bags, letter and labels. So in the coming weeks I am going to go stamp mad.
We have also made the decision to repaint the shop in a colour more similar to our new logo. I know its only a year since we painted it, but it was done very quickly and in the winter, I just couldn’t live with the bright yellow already there, so it needs doing again anyway. Anyone up for a bit of painting??? ….. I guess not, so I will just have to do it myself. Although I think we will do it after Easter. The jury is still out about whether to change the sign this year or not???? What do you think?
We also went on our Holibobs!
It was a busman’s holiday. We went to Northumberland and stayed in a relative’s cottage near Alnwick. It’s a very long way to go, about 12 hours with a few stops for poor Fin to have a wee. But so worth it. Why go so far you may ask? Well because of Seaham beach. Yes we travelled 12 hours to go to the beach, that was an hour away from our accommodation!!!. As a lot of you may already know Seaham used to be the home of a glass works. Just up the road is Sunderland. Glass is still a large industry and the fantastic National Glass centre is well worth a visit, should you find yourself in the area. The quality and quantity of glass on the beach is amazing and we can make such a large amount of jewellery from it. Which we need if we are going to supply some shops. As we are a Cornish business we will of course still make from glass found on Cornish beaches, but the quantity and quality are, I’m afraid to say, just not as good. We are careful to separate out our glass, so if you want a specific piece made in Cornwall, we certainly can sell you one, but a lot of people want the beautiful blues, reds and multi-coloured pieces that we find in Seaham. It also makes us a bit more unique in Cornwall, after all who in their right mind would travel all that way for seaglass???? Mmm I wonder.
We are also just signing up for our first 3-day festival. We have four large events that we are trying to book. So, fingers crossed we get accepted into them all. We won’t do the smaller fairs and markets any more but will concentrate on the larger ones. That in itself is quite an investment as they are not cheap and on top of that, there is no point into going to a 3-day festival with ones days’ worth of stock, so we are already making for England to ensure enough to cover all the events, this year. Its good that we have a brilliant finance manager who is very good at Cash flowing, to ensure we have enough money at the right time to buy materials and to book things.
Phew if that wasn’t enough, we are also trying to get our online Etsy shop better stocked and promoted. I am a bit impatient and don’t really give it enough time to establish, so I need to give it some more love.
Anyway, when I take a breather, then I will be back with more news and updates as we go through the year.
With a new year comes new plans for Wellydog. We are very happy with how the shop is starting to develop and we will continue forward with just a few changes.
Firstly, I want to paint more. With my 2016, 366 day painting challenge completed, then I have a new vigour and enthusiasm for my Art work. I have sorted through some of the art work in the shop and feel some of it is not up to the standard that I want to be known for. Some work has been taken away and the canvases, in keeping with the long tradition of Artists, will re-cycled, to be used again. Some I’m not so sure of have been reduced and if not sold will be recycled as and when I need the canvases. I am about to add a few new bigger pieces I have been working on and will continue to add to the collection throughout the year. As work sometimes sells quite quickly when I put it on the internet, then I want to keep some secret, to make sure I have some new pieces available in the shop. I think I have also reached a time in my artistic life that means I will take myself a bit more seriously. Over the last year with my 366 day challenge, I have had the most amazing support and comments from people, both in person and on social media. I have never had massive amounts of confidence when it came to my Art work and it has held me back a bit. I think with all the feedback I’ve had, I need to stop faffing about and take these compliments on board. Maybe it’s time to accept what my friends and family have been telling me for years, that I might just be ok at this painting lark.
I am also buoyed up by the success of my first auction of the paintings I did last year. Thank you so much to everyone who took part. All 6 sold and I am happy they are going to new homes where they will be appreciated. I am pondering what new art materials to buy, as we speak, and very excited about it. (how sad am I ). I am going to do a second auction quite quickly, mainly because February is a very busy month for us and I am not sure I will be able to do any for a while. So watch out for the next lot, coming soon.
Also the seaglass jewellery has been a extraordinarily popular over the last year. It has taken us a bit by surprise but we think maybe we will expand that part of the business. As some of you already have noticed then our online Etsy shop has been re-stocked. I have been guilty of not giving it enough time and effort, so that will change this year. We have also made the decision to try and stock it in other shops. To do this we feel we need to get a more professional look to our product, so have been to see our favourite printer, Ben and Copyrite in Exmouth. I may be slightly biased as he is my nephew, but I love what he does and those of you in Exmouth will have seen his murals in shops and cafes around town.
We have designed a leaflet insert to go in our jewellery boxes and Ben is working on a design for the top of the boxes. We will update you when we see more ourselves.
We have also been researching which shops and businesses to approach. This is something we have no experience of so it will be a steep learning curve. If you have done this yourself, or are a shop or business that takes in other people handmade jewellery, then any hints and tips, we would be very grateful for. Also if you know of any places that may be interested then please do let us know.
It’s a big step and a bit scary as it involves a bit of investment. But if we don’t try we will never know if it is worth it, what do they say………. who Dares wins, lets hope so!
See you soon
It’s been one of those weeks when just one thing hasn’t dominated. At Wellydog, because we make seaglass jewellery, leather work and artwork, then usually one or other dominates the week. This week however it’s been a real mix.
Firstly I have become involved in a fantastic project with the Fishermen’s Mission in Porthleven. 2 years ago, the baulk part of Porthleven sea defences was destroyed. The Mission has been allowed to use the damaged wood from the baulk, they have carved it up and allowed us artists to use it. On the 5th February they will be projecting the work produced onto the clock tower in Porthleven on the anniversary of day the baulk was destroyed. I have been lucky enough to be given a piece of the baulk wood to paint on.
This is my finished piece:
I used to blog a lot and really enjoyed it, but life got in the way and slowly it disappeared from my life. Those of you who have followed me from the beginning know I started blogging seriously when I decided to give up working for a living and got my first little studio. If you want to check out my first wellydog home, click here.
A lot has happened since then, another larger studio, a home studio, a garage studio and then moving to Cornwall, Heartlands and now the shop. You can tell I’m not someone who likes to stay still for long.
I am going to ty and blog again and rather than it being on Blogger then it will be hosted on our website. www.wellydog.co.uk
So as my first blog this way I am going to update you about my challenge auction. in an effort to get my artwork back on course, after a busy few years. Last year I embarked on a year long project to produce an art work everyday. I know a lot of you have followed my progress on both Facebook and Instagram, but to those new followers, the best place to see all the work is this album on facebook.
We made a donation to the RLNI and I have decided that I will auction off the remainder of saleable pictures and use any money to replenish my supply of art materials. I have found facebook difficult recently, I have seen my followers fall and of those 1,000 left only about 5% actually get to see anything. So I have decamped and post mostly on Instagram now, with a link going to fb and twitter. With this in mind, I have decided, I will be holding the auctions on my Instagram page.
I don’t want those on facebook and twitter missing out so I will post what I am doing and you can message me if you want me to put a bid in for you and you don’t have an Instagram account. I will sort the work into groups and let you know a week before the day of the auction, so you are prepared and then on the day I will post with a starting price of £5. If you comment with your bid and you bid £5 and no one else does then you will get a bargain. You must also bear in mind that this will not include postage costs. These will be added to your bid and costs should be around £3.50 for uk buyers and £5 for the rest of the world, but I will confirm that on the day. The auctions will run for 24 hours on UK time and the highest bidder at the end gets the painting. I will send and invoice, once it is paid then I will post out your painting. I hope that all sounds ok.
As for now I am embarking on some new interesting projects. I have started a larger painting which I have been itching to do for a while . I also have a special sort of commission to start on Monday, that I will update you on, at a later date. And I am planning some more feather paintings that I will frame and get listed in my shop.
On which note I will let you know that the website is being updated and may be in a bit of chaos for a while. Mr Wellydog has kindly taken on the running of the website and is updating and changing it over the next few months. We may move our shop onto it, but we have some research to do and need to decide the best way forward. If you have any tips or advice, we would love to hear from you. But in the mean time, our shop will still be on Etsy and we will be updating it and listing more things from next week.
I will post on social media as soon as I have the first auction lot ready.