Monday, February 7, 2011

CONVERGENCE 2011 Conference

Greetings friends,

It has been a long time since my last post. Sometimes there is so much to get done around here. But we do what we do, because WE WANT TO. We truly love the ceramic industry and everything it's about. Except for people who can't understand, that positives always go further than negatives. But some people live their lives this way, and we still love them. Anyway enough about that.

We want to let people know about how much you will miss out on if you can't make it to CONVERGENCE this summer. This IS NOT an attempt to make you feel bad if you can't come, we understand there are many things that come up, from family, to funds, to whatever. We will also be trying to bring some of the classes to you online via live webcasts and webinars for those who can not travel. Of course a webinar is never like being there in person.

If you want to understand more about what the conference is all about just go to or and you can see the schedule, classes, facilities and the multitude of activities taking place. Right now until the start of March you can save $100 on your delegates fee, that's half price.

Speaking of delegates (registrants fees) a couple of people have been confused. If you have ever been to any kind of major show or conference, like CHA, ART EXPO, SDP, IADCCT, etc, there is a base cost to each participant. This fee helps to cover all the costs of the events. The artists fees for classes go to them minus the actual cost of the room rentals and setup. (Remember we're artists and tend to get messy with our supplies sometimes.) There are several free classes that come with the registration including two wonderful nights of fantastic learning in a make n take environment.

CONVERGENCE will be an extraordinary experience, guaranteed to be unlike anything you have ever done before. We hope to meet you there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Like geese, we have returned!

Hi friends,

It has been terribly too long since I last posted here. However like geese we flew out this spring, and now returning this fall. We weren't gone, just busy!

To catch everyone up. This spring we announced that we would be traveling around the US bringing the new CAG Master Judging Certification classes to a city near you. And we did just that. We started in Boise Idaho in May. What a fun group we had there. They were the first group to experience the "field trip", and didn't know quite what to expect. But after we were done, they loved it! A funny thing happened on the way to Boise, (heard that opener before I bet). The road that goes from Burns Oregon to the Idaho border, is long, desolate, and no cell service in most places. As we came across this little bridge over a creek a fully loaded semi with beautiful oak hardwood 1x4's lost control, spun on its slide and slid between the bridge abutments. Totally blocking traffic. (So that you know the driver was miraculously unhurt) To go around it you would have travel nearly 200 miles out of the way. Local ranchers and farmers began stopping on either side of the wreck. Suddenly they organized. The new leader in the group said he wasn't willing to wait 6 - 8 hours to get the mess cleared.
About 20 people approached the wreck and started tossing the lumber off the sides into the creek and the ground. In less than 30 minutes they had the truck completely unloaded. Then they hooked about 3 or 4 big old V10 Dodges and Ford Pickups on either side and started winching this huge semi out of the way. It was wild. Finally a large fertilizer truck had an even bigger winch and soon a narrow path was cleared for one way traffic to pass on the bridge and we were on our way. Later we heard it was over 12 hours before the tow truck came and got the truck out of there.

So why am I sharing this incredibly long story that has nothing to do with ceramics? For one, this is a blog, I get to ramble on. But seriously the quickly organized efforts, got a seemingly impossible task done, and there were results. In our industry we can sit around and wait for the tow truck that will make it like it used to be, (which is not the direction it should go) or we can respond and take action and create a way of sustainability in our industry and businesses. The industry is getting stronger, every day. Are you a part of the team that clears the way of the old rubbish? Or are you someone who will just sit on the side and wait for gold coins to come falling from the sky?

Six beautiful, intelligent and challenging ladies took the very first CAG Master Judging seminar that weekend. They are now well on their way to completing their homework and getting ready for their PHASE II class.

From there we would come back home, and get ready for almost 6 weeks on the road. We rented a 30' motor home from Cruise America. You will never realize how many Cruise America motor homes are out there until you visit Yellowstone National park on one of it's most busiest days and you count them into the 100's as you drive through the park. That one extra glass of red wine at dinner when you walk back to the parking lot could be challenging. "Now which one of these is ours?"

Our traveling team consisted of myself (Tommy Lee), my wife Kathy, her mother Eileen (age 80), our grandosn Roland (age 8), his best friend Zack (age 10) and our traveling cat Magic (age ?). All in all, we survived. Many things learned on the trip. Never take a six week week where 5 people and 1 cat have to live in a 200 sq foot space. It gets a little complicated after about 10 days. The intermittent hotel breaks when we would be teaching a seminar, were life savers for the travelers.

Our next stop was Los Angeles, CA (Riverside). When the hotel you end up at is in the "red light" district. It adds a flavor to the location quite its own. But the Riverside story will be in the next blog.

See YOU ALL at CONVERGENCE next summer. (July 17-23, 2011 - CORBAN University)

Monday, April 26, 2010

The weekly "pick-up"

In the late 60's early 70's my aunt owned a ceramic shop in Albany, Oregon (sorry that's not her in the picture, but she has a lot of resemblances). Her shop was opened on Tues, Wed and Thursday, morning noon and night for classes. She was also opened on Saturdays until mid afternoon. This was mostly for people to pick up or drop off firing. But Fridays were very special days, that was her supply days. And so on Saturday mornings my mom and I would travel the 26 miles to her shop from our house to see what treasures she had brought back from her supply adventure. It was like Christmas morning on a weekly basis.
Sometimes her supply runs would take her well over a 100 miles one way just to get a load of greenware. Selling bisque was actually taboo in those days, and not well looked at. She had four routes, one north, one south, one west and one east each month. She drove a monstrous Chevy sedan, with a ton of trunk and back seat space. She would head out early in the morning on any given Friday, traveling to a set destination of shops where she had ordered greenware when she was there the month before. In addition to her order she would peruse the shop and add more chalky treasures to bring back to her shop. She received a 30-40% discount buying as a reseller to the students in her shop. The good thing, gas was about 27 cents a gallon in those days. When she returned she would unload her boxes of shredded newspapers filled with fragile pieces of air dried clay. Each week her students would be able to find something new on the shelves to entice them.
The ceramic industry was very much like a web in those days. You learned where most of the shops were. Some had thousands of molds, while others only had a few hundred. You knew who cast quality greenware, and you knew who didn't. The foundation of this industry has always been cottage based. Today nothing much has really changed, other than it is usually bisque that is picked up and transported or shipped. Now that gas is 15 times as expensive as it was, it is sometimes cheaper to let a commercial delivery service bring it to you, than to drive there yourself. But delivery versus personal pick up cuts out the, added items concept.
In 2010 the industry is redefining itself once again. The web is often times made of virtual fibers, that lead one to another. In a town in the southeast recently ten ceramic shops (not storefronts) discovered that each other existed. Some were in basements, some in outbuildings, some in extra bedrooms of peoples homes. They had different molds they cast, and were excited to share. How odd that we went underground when the industry ebbed in the 90's. Take a look around, listen for clues, explore the Internet (facebook, Yahoo groups, DAC on NING, ebay). You may find your neighbor down the street has a small shop in their home too.
Find and share with other shops, investing with them, is investing in the industry. Go to shows, buy products and most importantly enter in the competitions. Expand the web, expand the industry. Good luck!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The "return" of the community/regional ceramic clubs or groups.

One of the many roles of the CAG in helping to "INVITE" and "EXCITE" people into the ceramic realm is to develop symmetry and relationships among fellow ceramicists. So how do we do this?

1. Creating the CAG as a world wide hub for all things ceramic related. To be a useful communication tool for ceramicists.

2. Publish and distribute journals (magazines) that help inspire creativity through techniques and to help organize your business so that it can attain a sustainable business level.

3. Develop an Ambassador network to bring real people closer to the ceramicists and to let them know about the abundance of opportunities to help them in their art/craft/business.

4. To engage a universal standard of quality and interpretation in judging of ceramic entries by training and certifying ceramic judges.

5. To help local and distinct regional groups of individuals to form clubs or associations and to create annual events (shows/competitions) to help stimulate the industry.

6. To be a conduit between business and organizations creating a "bridging" in the industry while allowing independent thought and leadership to be predominate.

All of these areas have taken on a life of their own in the last 10 months. Only #5 has not really started to gain ground yet, but it is beginning too. Our Fireside Chats and other avenues are encouraging groups of ceramicists to come together and form a totally independent geographically based ceramic club or association. Doing this does not interfere with your association/membership in any other ceramic group. This is different. This is grassroots, its local, its personal and face to face. The mud hens of the 1950's began organizing into first clubs or clatches, then later formalizing that organization into an association. Some of these have lasted over 50 years, but the majority faded away for lack of "vision".

So sign your organization/association/club up with the CAG as an affiliate. It's FREE and we provide an abundance of resources. Or if you don't have one, contact us at let us know so we can help you get started.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Pay-it-forward" Is it a business concept that works?

It's kind of funny. It's kind of odd. It took me to drive over a thousand miles to learn, or finally recognize that most business people do not grasp a simple concept of "pay it forward". In fact not only "do not" grasp this concept, but possibly "can not" grasp this concept.

So the question comes down to one of "Are you ready to pay it forward?"
The CAG exists for one main purpose, to "INVITE and EXCITE" people about the wonderful art and craft of ceramics.
The CAG has no ties or loyalties to any ceramic businesses. We love them all equally.
The CAG offers it's membership and subscriptions to our magazines for FREE
The CAG does not solicit or accept paid advertising in it's publications
Some business owners go "What?" But it's true. We want to create a sustainable business climate for the ceramic industry. One that stresses quality and creativity in the art form. This should not be so hard to grasp. But then when last month, a Portland, Oregon businessman, up and gave his multi million dollar business to his employees because he wanted to retire, people couldn't understand why. It was simple, none of his kids were interested, and he wanted it to continue on. The employees built the company, and they would have the most passion to continue it.
Those of us investing our time at the CAG have passion for ceramics. If YOU have passion for ceramics we are certain you will be interested to grasping the concept of "pay it forward" in your ceramic business too.
This summer we will be making a cross country tour, credentialing ceramic judges, and meeting with people where they are. When you hear of the meeting coming to your town, join us in our fireside chats! You wont regret it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Losing face in "Social Media Networks" . . . could it be you?

Yesterday I was sadly disturbed by an e-mail from an industry friend/colleague David Vernon owner of Pampered Palette and CAG Ambassador to the Decorative Painters Groups.

David awoke to the startling discovery that his facebook accounts had . . . disappeared. With close to 2,000 friends they were there when he went to bed, and gone when he woke up.

So what happened? Facebook has a set of protocols, of which most people who get their account terminated would never dream of violating on purpose. These were found on a site about getting disabled, but not an official facebook site. They indicated that perceived "spamming" is the number one reason. Spamming takes on a lot of odd characteristics. For example inviting too many people to join. Is there a set number? No, one group may invite 10,000 a day and have over a million members, while another may invite 25 people a day have maybe 200 friends, and they get shut down for over inviting (spamming). So bottom line . . . spam can be construed as about anything.

It doesn't appear that there is anything you can do to safeguard yourself, short of not connecting to facebook at all. . . and that would defeat the whole purpose of social media networking.

What to do . . . If you get shut down immediately contact facebook (by e-mail of course) and be persistent in follow up. This does not mean every five minutes like the little kid in the back seat saying, "Are we there yet?" But a daily e-mail requesting reason and verification would be logical.

In the mean time here is a simple way to monitor who you have as friends, and keep a database in case you have to reopen your group page.

Open your page: click on edit friends, click on friends (this creates an alphabetical list where you can delete or edit friends), start at top left corner of list, hold down (l) mouse button and drag to last person on list (all icons and names should now be highlighted), right click and hit copy on pop up menu, paste list into a word document, and save on your computer.

Depending on your computer savvy you can build a database or other resource tool of your friends. You will need to visit each friend to get an e-mail address if they provide one. But you can at least go back into facebook in the case of a lost site and re invite from their name.

Facebook is an awesome way for groups of ceramicists and artists to stay connected, share ideas, and make new friendships.

This blog is not to scare you away from facebook, but rather to educate you on being prepared. Facebook is a free resource, and we should be thankful for it. We would probably have less than 10% of the activity that facebook generated if people had to pay for it, because they wouldn't. It's sad when friends like David Vernon lose their site, but let it be an eye opener for the rest of us to be prepared. Yesterday the CAG completely backed up its info on facebook. It took a while, but now we are prepared.

OK, enough business talk, now get out your brushes, paints, and bisque and try some decorative painting techniques. Want some ideas, visit David Vernon at his blog at . Besure to join his blog while you're there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Understanding Concept Marketing - Ceramics

If you want to maximize your selling potential, either in finished goods or supplies (ie greenware, bisque, paint, add-ons), you must stay on top of the concepts in the "immediate" trends. Over the next several months anything and everything "Alice" will be hot.
Just look at the calling points:
It's a Tim Burton production - HOT
Johnny Depp stars in it - HOT
It's emoish-trippy - HOT
It's RETRO-trendy - HOT
This is not really the same Carrol story we grew up, it is, but in a different turn.
Study the imagery, the colors the design concepts, then bring hem forward. Have a shop window offering a special "Alice" night for ceramics. Have lots of inch worms, dressed rabbits, and mushrooms. The 'shroom will be HOT baby. If you do finished goods, style them and be the first on Etsy or e-bay or whom ever you like to deal with.
Think about the possibilities. Combine Arnells's mushroom molds like the sq tile plaques with BI (Bisque Imports large letters to create wall hangings that say "Alice" or "The Mad Hatter" or "Tweedle Dee' or whatever. The phrase "I'm Late" can take on new meanings.
Tone it down a notch and do classic "Alice" stuff too. Dressed dapper bunnies, tea sets, girls in dresses. And the original Cheshire cat is adorable, not so much the one in this new version (scary).
Some of you will read this, and expand your horizons, and fatten your pocket book in profits. Others will say, "It wont work for me", just like you said when Pirates came out, or Twilight or Harry Potter. Yet still shops had sell out ceramic nights because they capitalized on a current concept. Don't overstock, it may only last less than a month, but be creative! Good luck, let us know your stories of conquest and defeat in this matter.