This is part TWO of my series, tips from the shipping dept. Which isn't what it sounds like, its an extra bedroom/office where all my cardboard supplies are crammed into. But it is in fact Hillbippie Clay Co.'s shipping department and as the CEO and head shipper/logistics manager I thought I'd share a little wisdom from my years of sending off packages into the world. Go read part ONE of this series if you haven't already. It's all about BOXES. Alrighty, lets get into the good stuff!!
Paper VS Peanuts
Back in the day when I first started getting my packaging together my go to was peanuts. Everywhere I looked/read said peanuts and bubble wrap were the best way to ship pottery, that or double boxing. So I got on amazon and ordered myself some bio-degradable peanuts and recycled bubble wrap. My hubs even built me a peanut dispenser out of an old trash can. We mounted it in the basement and had an expandable dryer hose coming out of the bottom that I would put in the boxes and shake to release peanuts. It worked pretty well but I was blowing through peanuts pretty quickly. The bubble wrap also worked like it should but I didn't dig using all that plastic, plus I was reordering alot to keep up. In comes paper!!
Newspaper, Kraft paper, Tissue paper
I started transitioning to using old newspapers after running out of peanuts and bubble wrap. They were free and available and worked well. Once I felt like paper was the way to go I started searching for the best kind for my situation. I looked for something with some weight to it to fill up space and protect my wares. I found Kraft Paper!! It came on rolls and I could use it as fill and to wrap up my piece, plus it was plain and added to my whole package aesthetic. Amazon had a variety of weights and lengths and options of course. I chose 30 weight brown Kraft paper in a roll and got a paper roller to go with it. Small and easy to store and I could rip paper any size I wanted/needed. Plus I feel my customers would appreciate opening a box and not having peanuts fly everywhere! The Kraft paper is reusable too! Or recyclable or burnable or whatever. The kind I buy is made in the USA and is made of recycled material as well. I've been using it for the past 3 years and have had wonderful results and few breakages. Typically I start with 2 crumpled pieces in the bottom of the box, I wrap my piece or put it in a gift box (Read my post about boxes, if you haven't). I'll wrap the box or piece in multiple layers in paper and add to the box. Top that with 3ish pieces and make sure that everything is secure without moving, it should be packed tight. Next onto the tape and labels, stay tuned for the next post! If this was helpful or you have questions, holler at me. Share with your pals!! :)
When you imagine a Shipping Department what comes to mind? Well, mine is an extra bedroom in our house used as an office, nothing fancy. But it's where all the packing goes down! So let's talk about sending packages off into the world. If you are new to shipping pottery or any of your handmade creations, shipping your first package can be intimidating. Like, Holy ship!! Four years ago when I started building my online sales I really had no clue about the amount of work that goes into shipping. How hard could it be right? A box, some wrapping and out the door. No. It has taken many steps and years, yes years, to get to where I am today with shipping. So lets look at some key issues with shipping, what's needed, how to label, where to store everything and all that jazz. This will be a multiple part post because of the amount of info. involved. I'll have links to products discussed in each part. Some links are directed to my amazon affiliate page, meaning if you buy it through there they throw me a few cents, if you don't dig that no worries. Feel free to search for the item in amazon or elsewhere, just wanted you to know :) Holler at me with any questions, enjoy!
Flashback to May 2016
We are going to start at the beginning for the first part of this Tips from the Shipping Dept. series. Let's remember a place and time when I was a little budding Hillbippie, bound and determined to sell my wares online. I was new to the scene and figuring it all out on my own after the passing of my boss, friend and mentor. Coming off the momentous task of completing all outstanding orders for her company, Liberty Pottery, (like 300+ mugs). All whilst setting up my own studio and working through the grieving process. It was a strange time in my life, so many emotions. Jumping in with both feet into a business that I wasn't sure I could run on my own. Purchasing the studio equipment and setting it up in our home. Having no real back up plan but a heck of a support system with my parents both being potters and my husband Benji who is an actual saint. Not sure how to translate what I was doing and or had done into what I wanted to do. Here I was, in my basement alone, muddy hands, a vision and a spark. What does this have to do with boxes? Each part of my story is entangled to the next so so I enjoy explaining/over explaining/ re-explaining so you can really feel & see where I'm coming from.
Ok, all about B O X E S
“Boxes, where are there boxes? You just wander down the street going in and out
For real, you get into boxes. At least I do/did. And yes, in the very beginning I used what I could find. Old wine boxes from my in laws winery, boxes from stores, old amazon boxes. Really no shame when it came to getting a good box. As you grow you'll find you need a better source and specific sizes plus constantly looking for boxes leave you feeling kind of racoonish. At first I looked into buying boxes, at the time it wasn't worth the investment as I was just figuring out how to sell online, also it was all a bit overwhelming. Then I found out that the USPS offers free boxes, FREE! These #4 boxes from the USPS are just the right size for one mug, they measure 7x7x6, and they are free (FREE). You can order them directly from the USPS website (click here) in bundles of 10 or 25 and they'll ship flat right to your door. A lot of post offices also stock them so if you ask them for a few #4 boxes they'll be able to help you out. Once I was needing larger boxes to ship bigger pieces or multiple pieces I would use the #7 box measuring 12x12x8 (click here to order). Now it can get confusing because there are priority boxes as well as flat rate boxes. Their website is a little confusing as well, they offer so many boxes/mailers. As I was told by my post office lady, flat rate boxes are best for heavy items. Priority is the way to go for mugs as I'm concerned. Typically one of these boxes with one mug will weigh approx. 1.7lbs. Which will cost you less than a small flat rate box to ship. One #4 box will cost approx. $7-8 to ship in state as compared to the smallest flat rate of $12-13. I used these boxes for the last 3 years and have shipped hundreds of pieces with little to no broken items. In the few cases of breakage I've had it was my error in packing, not the box.
About a year ago I had an idea that would up my shipping game as well as help protect my wares, another box! I started researching kraft gift boxes from various places like Uline & Amazon. I found a gift box that measured 6x6x4, which would fit one of my mugs perfectly. They come in a variety of sizes as well and cost approx. 50-70 cents per box. (Click here) After I got the boxes I started thinking about what I could add to the mug and box to make it special, like opening a present. I chose white paper bags and some tissue paper, all of which could be branded. So my packing now went like this: Mug wrapped in a paper bag, wrapped in tissue paper, put in the gift box. My outer box is stuffed with kraft packing paper (more on that in the next post) and then the gift box is placed in the outer box also wrapped in kraft paper and then covered with even more kraft paper!! Double boxed!! The gift box is also a great place to add your branding. I'm a big fan of stickers and have been getting all of mine through Stickermule. They offer great deals and high quality stickers and labels.
Most recent upgrade!
,The top goal I had was to one day be able to buy shipping boxes. They are constructed of stronger cardboard and the overall aesthetics of a branded cardboard box is important to me. It makes Hillbippie look like it has it's shit together even though I typically do not. I have priced them over and over again but never pulled the trigger. It was an added expense that I finally felt comfortable to tackle, plus I was out of Post Office boxes. There is a local packing supply store right near where I pick up my clay in Cambridge, Ohio. I stopped in to see if you could buy boxes directly from their store front which is also a UPS drop off. I was in luck!! They stock a variety of sizes that you can buy right there, why is that exciting? No Shipping fee!! So I snagged some 9x9x9in. boxes for a great deal, around 50 cents a piece. I have been using them for about a month now and I'm loving the overall look of my packaging. It was the final puzzle piece I had been missing. Plus the added construction and a little bit larger size really makes me feel like my wares are cushioned and protected. Since I wanted to add some branding too them as well, the side of the boxes are a blank canvas. I screen printed my logo in black on 2 sides and my tap (also branded, more on that later) comes down the other 2 sides. Overall I'm please with my boxes and it has been a heck of a journey to get here. Holler if you have any questions and I'd be glad to answer. Next up...PACKAGING! Stay tuned :)
Howdy!! Long time no see. I'm so thrilled you all have chosen to stick around. This year started off with an unexpected turn in events. In January, I began teaching Ceramics at my alma mater, Muskingum University!! The semester is almost over now and it has been a whirlwind trying to balance teaching 4 days a week and running the Hillbippie ship. Production is way down but that's ok. Last year my focus was wholesale, I cranked out mugs and steins and pieces for many stores and businesses around Ohio. I was grindin' like a cup of foldgers. But that type of pace is hard to maintain and that type of work is just what its sounds like, a grind. I threw over 1,400 pots last year!! That is alot for a one woman show, its alot in general. Burn out is real. Through the Christmas season I struggled to want to make anything, lost the flame, the spark of creativity was out and I honestly wondered if it would ever come back. That is scary since my job is to make & create!
Being thrown into the teaching world lit that spark, the students I have are so refreshing and curious and willing! What a joy to see young people get excited about mud! Finding satisfaction in the simple act of making with their hands. Only a handfull of students have ever even touched clay before. They were starting at zero but have come a long way in a short amount of time! It has been very rewarding and I'm excited to have rekindled my creative spark. Hence this new design, Triplicate. I was simply playing around on a late night glazing, I had a few extra mugs with no agenda. It usually happens like that. I don't have time to be playing around but I want to so this time I did! I watered down some Red Iron Oxide and let the brush go. First I tested this design on white clay and then on my brown clay. Clear interior, raw clay, then off white speckled matte. I wanted to see what the red iron oxide would do under these glazes as well as on the raw clay. When they came out of the kiln I was very pleased!! Sometimes things just work out and its like, yesssss! I posted online and got great response, I also showed my sister, who is brutally honest when it comes to my work. She is a painter and has a different eye for composition than myself. Her response, "I like it!! It's like one continuous line in 3 different forms", Triplicate was born.
When things come together like that it's just magic. I don't know where that comes from, the spark, the magic. Is it just in there? Is it coming from elsewhere? I'm blown away by what comes out sometimes, how it all just works. So many moving parts have to work for something to come out, I feel like a composer sometimes, like I'm just leading all the moving parts in the right direction. I often feel like the more I have my antenna up the more real true to heart designs surface. When you are ultra focused it's hard for the stuff to come out, you're focusing and missing the big picture. That's why this design is really important to me. It might not look like much, it might look super simple and basic. But to me it means freedom, creatively. Expression. Luck. Practice. Purpose. It's a rebellion against convention, against something I don't want to make. It is not that, it's what I wanted and I let that happen. Freedom is essential to creation for me, I need to feel free to make so that what wants to come out feels safe to do so. Release the pressure!! Its like coaxing a timid dog over, you put out the back of your hand and talk real gentle. The deeper I get into this craft the more layers I pull back. The more I dig the more I find, a well, so deep and dark and sometimes scary, but filled with treasures just waiting be be found. Thank you Triplicate for trusting me to bring you into reality, welcome and enjoy :)
If you feel inclined to add one of these mugs to your home please have a look here.
I've added a pre-order option for this style. As always I appreciate your support, it keeps me going :)
As most potters know, at some point you'll experience...KILN DRAMA.
Now this doesn't always come in the same form and you must be able to diagnose many different 'elements' of trouble (punny I know).
Well my yearly dose of kiln drama occurred yesterday, at least the second half of the drama, the part where you reallllly finally get to the bottom of it.
Which is on one hand comforting, at least we know what is wrong type of feeling.
On the other hand its like 'oh, I'm a dum dum'.
It all started with a beeping, never a good sign. I opened the basement door when I woke up to check on the kiln as I always do while firing, and I hear it, beeping.
My heart drops suddenly as the whole load was pre-paid wholesale orders, approx 80ish pieces, weeks of work. I check it out and read the error code, the panel box got too hot which in turn, shut off the kiln. By the way this is a lovely feature, Skutt Kilns are top notch.
After cooling I opened the kiln and things were fine, it had reached an appropriate temperature and didn't show any damage to the load, so all good there.
Next step was to open up the panel box and check the feeder wires, that's where the drama gets good. The first 2 element connector wires were melted, melted is a term you don't really wanna hear when you have a kiln in your basement. Melting = bad.
My dad was helping and all we could figure is that the connections weren't tight enough. I mean I'm not necessarily a delicate flower and I power lifted in high school, but maybe I didn't get a good clamp on them.
I had replaced all the elements in January and that's all we could figure. I order new feeder wires and waited patiently for them to arrive.
So now to the kicker.
The parts came yesterday and I was all ready to hook everything up and have Benji clamp the connections to make sure they were super tight from man strength. I got everything out and ready to hook up and something wasn't making sense. I had ordered one element to replace because the pigtail was damaged and things weren't matching up, I called the supplier.
That's when it clicked, oooooohhhhh 'I'm an idiot'.
So turns out back in January I ordered the wrong elements for my kiln, I have a Skutt KM1227, NOT a KM 1227 PK. PK being the important letters, which stand for 'Production Kiln'. I ordered elements for a PK, which pulls more electric, which would be the reason why my wires melted. He said it was a fire hazard and I was lucky nothing else got damaged.
Here's the funny part though, if there is one.
I remember back in Jan. when ordering the elements it said PK
and I thought that stood for 'Pack'.
Oh my word, am I this blonde? Wow!!
Anywho, the guy on the phone set me straight, I had a good laugh at my expense and ordered all new CORRECT elements for the kiln.
The drama is almost over as I see it, my new elements are on their way. I'll hook them up, maybe with supervision, and get her on. I'm glad I got to the bottom of my mystery and am not beating myself up about it.
This is part of owning your own pottery biz, things will happen, you gotta roll with it.
Be upfront with customers who are waiting (thanks guys) and just laugh it off as that one time you were a dum dum, momentarily.
My mudder was a mudder. You know the episode right? (Huge Seinfeld fan) Anyway, Me and my Dad have always been pals. We are enough alike and just a tad different that we rarely disagree. Growing up in my parent's pottery biz everyone had a job. When setting up at an art show me (nicknamed buffalo back) and Dad would carry the booth components and boxes of pottery to our booth space. After we constructed the booth my Mom and little sister were in charge or setting up the pots and making it look nice. Meanwhile me and Dad would sneak off to find donuts and coffee. It was like this every time, we were the set up/tear down crew. Through this I learned how to use tools, how to pack a vehicle with more stuff than it should carry, how to be useful and get out of the way when necessary. I went to art shows with my parents from age 6 mos to 18, we went pretty much most weekends and more in the summer months. Often times traveling into other states, MD, PA, NJ and all around our state of Ohio. We would go places we had family as well like CO and FL (I'm good at long road trips lol). As a child it seemed normal because it was all I knew, now I realize it was fairly unique and a wonderful gift of perspective.
Dad, aka Pappy Jax, has come on to help me with Hillbippie Clay (he's where my hippie comes from). He definitely has a different style than me in the studio and things have to be just so, I have to remind him, "You can overthink these things" (My hubs famous line, the hillbilly side). When it comes to glazes he is a mad chemist, which is great because it isn't my strong suite. I did not go to school for pottery, I learned backwards really and in a vacuum, I know what I was taught from my mentor and how to use those specific things. She did not mix her own glazes so this is something that is intriguing and an area to improve upon for me. I'm learning so much from him!! It is extremely unique to be able to have a walking, talking encyclopedia of glaze/pottery knowledge at the ready. We just recently developed a glossy black that is amazing!! I will have it available during my next update (find out more about that here). I'll be testing a new batch of Jade green that he mixed up this week as well, always testing! The Jade green that he developed is such a lovely satin glaze, he says its one of the most complicated mixes he has done. I use it on my Coastal mugs and on my Dark Side of Oz tallies (both available during my next update).
As an artist I'm always searching for what sets me apart, what makes me unique in the midst of others. Because lets be real, there are plenty of potters out there. I feel it is just this, I grew up with clay and know it well. Since day one clay has been in my life, that's a strong bond. I have a dual perspective of pottery as well, once through the eyes of a child and one that is my present. Sometimes I wonder how I know certain things and it seems that it seeped in from my experiences when I was young. When I'm packing my tiny car for a weekend long show, it just comes natural that I would be able to fit everything. How a glaze will fit over a certain texture or how long it will be until my mugs are dry enough to handle, its just in there. I am continually surprised with this knowledge that is coming to the surface. Like a book placed high on a shelf, covered with dust, waiting to be pulled down. That book is finally being read and nurtured into a beautiful artistry through my hands and heart. I can't wait to see where it goes but I feel like I'm on the right path. Thankful to still be able to share a coffee with my Dad and discuss the planning, packing and problem solving that is owning/running your own pottery business. We'll always be linked in clay :) #mudinmyblood
Guys, I'm outta time!! Do you ever do this to yourself? Are you terrible at planning ahead and then shocked that you're out of time? Just me? It's a cycle I battle with. Since I'm the boss, sometimes I'm not as hard on myself and or I have trouble with follow through. I have unrealistic timelines and then feel like I can push things to the next day, when in fact it would have been best to do it yesterday. Yikes! It's a juggling act for sure. Currently I have a show this weekend and will be firing 2 kilns between now and Thursday. This isn't ideal and is a tad rushed. I have a wholesale order in there as well and multiple customs. But, I thrive under pressure and I think I'm creating these scenarios unconsciously to stay motivated. So to take back my time, today I made a list!! I'm not a huge list person, I love the concept and I really like making lists. I just never seem to follow them (but I'll totally buy a cool notebook to make lists on). I'm checking things off today because it is crunch time!! Do you struggle with time management? Let me know if you have any pointers to stay on track, or even, how to get ahead (Do people do that?) !! Happy Monday :)
I got this idea last winter. To make a seasonal mug with stampings that embody what the season means to me, an interpretation of how I experience the transitions of the year. Each season change is really felt when you live in the country, we are constantly preparing for the coming season. Winters are always hard and Spring is surprisingly more beautiful each year. Summers are spent working in the garden and Fall flies by with all of the harvesting/canning/and making.
Spring is one of those seasons that you grow to enjoy as you get older. With each year I am more in awe of what mother nature has up her sleeve. The crisp mornings and the first twinklings of green are so hopeful after a cold dark winter. Our hill comes alive and the leaves pop overnight it seems. The anticipation of Spring last longer than the actual time it takes to come full bloom. We are now in the thick of it and it is glorious, sunshine, blue skies and green as far as the eye can see.
This is my Limited Edition Spring mug!! I've crafted 6 of these to offer in my May Flowers Shop Drop happening here on Saturday May 26th at 11am est. Make sure to also sign up for my newsletter to get secret coupon codes. Each texture was created by a finding on our early spring walks. I stamped the item into clay, then the little stamp would get bisqued or once fired making it hard. All the mugs were thrown on the wheel, after hardening a bit I arranged the stamps to create a little scene. I really like how this batch came out!! The yellow and aqua were chosen because of their bright spring like qualities. Its like having a piece of spring captured forever in stone. Each season is different than the next and that's why these are limited, one of a kind, one of a time. They are truly a special offering and I'm so excited to see what next season has to offer.
Yarrow Leaf: We live in the middle of an old hayfield! Yarrow grows wild throughout, I've always loved the smell of the white flowers. This little leaf was picked when the plant was just starting to pop up. I love how it looks like a little tree.
Flower Buds: I took little buds that hadn't opened yet off a tree. I pressed arranged them in a pattern, pressing them into the clay. They weren't open yet but their buds created a flower looking stamp.
Grapevine: Our house was built right up from an old winery that my in laws ran for almost 20 years. The wine making has ceased but the grapes are still kicking! There are 2 acres of grapes still tended, I always love when they first start to pop. This tendril was taking from last years fruiting wood.
Honey comb: Bees are so important!! We have had 2 hives, both died unfortunately. It was so enjoyable watching them, I would say "there's one of our girls!" whenever we would see them in the garden. This stamp was made from a piece of comb from one of our hives.
Sun: It wouldn't be spring without it. Winter in Ohio is typically very very gray, we can't wait to get that sun shining again!
Stars: At night, when I look up its all I see. I love listening to the spring peepers right as the sun is going down, once its completely gone the stars start to sing.
Thank you for reading and I hope you join me right here for my MAY FLOWERS shop drop 5/26 at 11am est. And as a special thanks for visiting my first blog post in a while I'll give $10 off your order!! Use code ONTHELIST at checkout.
Shop small is a familiar phrase this season. The makers movement is growing and becoming more mainstream. Why is it important?
The things we do for love!! My husband is a trooper, the day we decided to move the kiln from old to new studio, it rained and then hailed!! Just as we were getting the last section of kiln loaded the rain started. He rode the whole way in the back of the truck hunkered down. This pic was taken going up our mile long gravel driveway, yay! As soon as we got the kiln in the basement it started to hail. Luckily all went well and it was hooked up and ready to roll, just in time. A good reminder to smile when's it rains, because at least it's not hailing, yet. 😊