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A Glass Blower’s Companion with Jason Michael -Helping Today's Glass Artist Think Like an Artistic Entrepreneur

Oct 11, 2016

High volume low end VS. Low volume High end
When it comes to manufacturing and selling production there are many variables that need to be taken into concieration before beginning.
1- do you have an outlet that can move your product lines on a consistant basis and if so is it YOU or a DISTRIBUTOR?
2- how many items and variations of these itmes do you want to create?
3-Can you keep up with the volume?
3-How diverse are you in regards to these lines and the creation of the styles?

  1. 1.
    the action of making or manufacturing from components or raw materials.
    synonyms: manufacturemakingconstructionbuildingfabricationassemblycreation

     This manufacturing  process can be a fun and challenging as consistancy is the key to any succesful production line. In past episodes I've discussed the process of finding the base line calculations for your items.(*see figure below) This is key to running a successful business as a production artist. Without a strong, calcuated foundation you'll end up chasing your tail as supplies dry up or run short while making a larger order. The worse case scenrio would be if you were half way or 3/4 of the way through the completion of an order and you suddenly realzie you don't have enough material to get the order fininshed by the deadine you set.  So make sure you break down and calculate this out before starting.  This will also give you a good idea on the estimated time of completion and I say estimated because 95% of the time something will come up that will delay your order. In this situation just make sure you leave an open line of communication with your rep or retailer so you both are on the same page.    
   As the glass industry grows so does innovation and the variety of items that can be made an sold no matter what niche' you reside in. Whether its manufacturing beads, pendants, ornaments, pipes, etc you'll need to create a line that is both diverse and unified with a theme or concept. This will help keep your brain focused on the specifics and not constantly seeking other ways of being creative throughout the manufacturing process. If you can set a schedule for yourself to where either on certain days or a certain times of the day you allow for a bit of free time to play with a new idea which will help you stay fresh with ideas while maintaining a good production schedule keeping you on track.  Before you begin puttng your line together youll need to sit down and do some serious soul searching as these decisions will determine how successful you will be in the end.
This simple exercise can be used for anything you are going to create, especially in the area of production.    download pdf
  How many different style of what ever niche your in can you make in a timely fashion?(write them down on the downloadable pdf attached)
    • for example
    • 3"spoon
    • shirlock
    • hammer bubbler
    • carb cap
    • etc
  Of items written down which ones are repeatable in a clean, consistent production line?  (note:think of yourself as a catalog. Your items need to consistently match the items in your   catalog)
  • for example
  • 3"spoon   yes
  • shirlock     yes
  • hammer bubbler yes
  • carb cap yes
  • etc

  • Of said items how many different patterns can you use to diversify the line?
  • for example
  • 3"spoon- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
  • shirlock- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
  • hammer bubbler- wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
  • carb cap-wrap and rake, wig-wag, dots, stripes, color changer, inside-out
  • etc
  • MOST IMPORTANT-  If a distributor ordered 100 of just a single item can your soul handle the monotony?(this needs to be asked for each item that you have listed)
     Once you get all these areas established then its time to fine tune your line and begin production. Befre you begin the actual production you need to produce a sample of each itme that you will be adding to your catalog and keep as a reference. Once you have your references in hand then its time for a test run. This means you'll need to create a minimum of 3-per item in a row without stopping to better gauge the estimated time of manufacturing. This will not only help keep you on task but will also make it easier to price your work based on the time and material associated with said piece. (the downloadable pdf includes a chart to input your info) for example say you want to make a simple 3" wrap and rake spoon  Refering back to your sample youll now what material is needed.  heres a breakdown of the process:
  • prep tubing(pull points or attach blowpipes) this item requires 2" extra hvy 25.4 simax, 2" color and 9" 6mm clear(this is the formula for this item. repeat for each item)
  • with points prepped its time to begin. (The prep has to be calculalted into the time of manufacturing. use a stop watch app on your phone and wrtie the times down in the pdf attached)  estimated prep time 5-minutes
  • now make the three spoons in a row without stopping. 25-min(plus 5-min for prep) 30-minutes total to make 3-3" wrap and rake spoons or 10-minutes each
      In my opinion if you want to be a  successful artist then you will need to have a few lines of mass produced items that will be your bread and butter while also maintaining a line of lesser produced higher end items giving you a diverse line for everyone to afford.  Now depending on how you sell your work will determine what you actually make in regards to the items and price points. If you sell drectly to retailers then your price point will be higher then if you sold to a distributor and this will also determine the amount of volume you will need to create. Most distributors have a large customer base that they wll need to keep fullfilled with items they are carrying including yours.This means you will need to create few models but higher volume of them.  If you sell directly to the retailers then you wont need to create a high volume of a few items.  Instead you'll need to create a diverse line of work giving the retailers a nice variety of styles and price points to choose from.  This concept in manufacturing also goes for those who attend and sell at trade shows. 
     As your own distributor you are representing yourself as an artist which means that it is crucial for you to find your voice through a diverse product line that says "This is (artist name) glass" and have it viewed as such in a good light.  Just because something is mass produced in high volume doesn't mean it needs to be lesser quality. Even low end items should still be manufactured to a high level of quality.  A 3" wrap and rake spoon should be given the same detail that a $1000.00 rig is given. The difference between the two is the lower end item is made faster and with less material where the higher end item might take 2-days to create and $150.00 worth of material. This is where the concept of low end vs high end comes in.
     Locally made glass whether low end or high end should live up to the standards that higher end glass is held to. If you are a novice or hobbyist that is trying to create higher end work while your lower end work still looks like garbage then you need to take a step back and fine tune your skills before stepping up and attempting to create something you would consider a higher end line. Having a foundation of fine tuned skills will help you move forward towards creating the higher end lines more naturally and not feel so forced. There's a ton of garbage in the glass art world that is being passed as high quality work and only puts a light on the crap instead of shining on the highly refined developed artists. So if your skills arent up to par just yet stay with in your realm of skills while still moving forward to the ultimate destination of being a well rounded, fundamentally sound glass artist.
          By starting off as a low end production artist you'll give yourself opportune time to fine tune your skills, create a diverse line of work all the while supporting yourself as you continue to grow as an artist. If you're at the point in your career where your skills are diverse then you can create an larger diverse line of work ranging in many styles and price points giving yourself a voice  through your work. I truly hope this helps you to understand and differentiate the different sides of production. This is all bare bones info as Ill be delving into the higher end lines of work in a future episode.   

*Below is a basic calculation you can use when figuring out cost of manufacturing your items.  
How to calculate cost of production   
In this example I'm using reference from internet which has material price based on length .....
 This is a generic example
example 3"-wrap and rake hand pipe 
Material breakdown
2" section of simax 25.4 hvy wall ($8.00/60"
$0.13per inch or $0.26(2"section) 
1/2" section of color cobalt firsts ($5.25/18"
9" section 4mm clear for raking ($0.52/60")
Estimated total for cost of Goods
3"wrap and take spoon ($0.26+$0.15+$0.09)=$0.50
Propane/oxygen/power is pennies on the dollar if you're able to get liquid oxygen. If you are renting space you still need to calculate your estimated per hour rate. If you pay $1500.00/mo(power,rent,gas) break it down to per day then estimate how many hours you work in a day and use that number as a base calculation.
$1500.00/month (30-day month) is approx $50.00/day (per hour in a 10-hr day
$5.00/hr (gases,power,rent)
If you can make 10-$5.00 3" wrap spoons per hour your estimated cost per hour is $10.00/hr  
(power,rent,gas) $5.00+(material x's 10-hr) $5.00= $10.00/hr. to manufacture 10-$5.00 spoons 
GROSS-$50.00(10-$5.00 3" w/r)-$10.00(cost to manufacture)=
NET- approx $40.00/hr.  
In a 8 hr day do the math 
You can see just by getting a good base line down for estimating your cost to manufacture
you have the ability to make anywhere from
$30-60.00/hr gross profit
Gross= income 
Net =income-cost to manufacture =profit
Now take 15% of your gross and put that aside for TAXES !!!!
 If anyone has questions feel free to contact me
If you pay $____A_____/mo= (RENT+POWER+GASES) break it down per day, then estimate how many hours you work in a day and use that number as a base calculation.
$_____A______ /(30-day month) is approx $___B____/day (per hour in a 10-hr day)= $____C_____/hr (RENT+POWER+GASES)
If you can make 10-$5.00 wrap spoons per hour,
your estimated cost per hour is $_______/hr  
 $____________+(material x's 10 PER hr.)= $_______/hr to manufacturer 10-$5.00 spoons  
Net-$50.00(10-$5.00 spoons manufactured)-$_______(cost to manufacture)=
gross approx $43.00/hr.  
 Gross= income 
Net =income-cost to manufacturer =profit
  by establishing this base line costs to manufacture you can then fine tune your lines, materials used as well as what sells best and if need you can always adjust rices if something is priced to high or to low....  you should be able to profit a minimum of $20.00 per hour.