New Pen Kits Arrived!

Sleek New, Geta Pen

Just Arrived, two new pen kits!  The Geta is a sleek contemporary pen kit that comes in four (4) finishes.  The second pen kit is the American Liberty based from our great symbol of Freedom the Statue of Liberty.  These pens are a single barrel pen kit that are easy to make! Happy Turning- Barry

PS – Stay tuned, an exciting closed end pen kit coming soon!

American Liberty

Cap American Liberty

Arrowmont & Marc Adams School of Woodworking

Arrowmont Pens

Thank you Mark Gisi for showing the class last week at Arrowmont  School of Arts & Crafts how to make your  famous style of segmenting.  The pool cue and Triton ball point pens as well as many other fine writing instruments were made during the week long class.  I look forward to next month, July 16-20 to create these pens as well as many others at my next class at Marc Adams School of Woodworking.  Learn to make these at MASW in July (a few openings still left!)  Happy Turning – Barry

Surprise Weekend Sale!

10% off store wide sale! 

Since Barry is away teaching at Arrowmont, Michael & I are going to have a weekend surprise sale.  Barry will be surprised to find out we did this but we don’t care! So shop early and save for Father’s day!  Sale ends Sunday evening 12:00 PM DST.

Use coupon code WS-18 in the coupon section upon checkout!

Please Note: Items in the Bangle Bracelet, Lathe, Alumilite & Stabilization product categories are not included in this discount.

Happy Turning – Lenora & Michael

Thuya Burl Back In Stock!

Thuya Burl

 Thuya Burl is back in stock!  Just arrived from Morocco is this great burl with plenty of eyes! Thuya burl’s color varies from a rich, lustrous golden brown to nearly black. Usually the eyes within the burl are perfectly round and are scattered throughout the burl. When turning Thuya Burl, it emits a sweet fragrance that fills my shop each time it is turned.

Enjoy these blanks while they last. Happy Turning – Barry

Midwest Pen Gathering-Arrowmont Update

I want to personally thank the staff of the Midwest Pen Gathering for a great 3 days.  The different talented speakers inspired all that attended. I have been making pens for over 25 years and I still am amazed at the creativity and talent so many pen makers have! Looking forward to next year where ever it will be held.

Arrowmont-2016

Now, I am gearing up for a week long, sold out pen making class at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts the first week of June.  Mark Gisi & Dan Symonds will be joining me for a week long intensive class on pen making – looking forward to seeing all those who signed up.

Happy Turning – Barry

Be Prepared For Craft Shows!

Packed Car

Outdoor Booth Setup

The price of craft shows are going up, so in order to get your money’s worth you must think ahead and be prepared. I attended an upscale craft show in the New York City area and paid over $1,300 for the booth and hotel accommodations.  As you can see from the picture my car was packed to the roof to everything I thought I could use.  You would think after all these years of doing shows, I would be prepared at all times, NOT!!!  Like I always do, I checked the weather report and it was supposed to be sunny and in the 80’s all weekend.  A weather person’s job is the ONLY job that if they blow a forecast they still get to keep their job!

The first day of setup was in the 80’s and hot.  The next morning I woke up and it was raining and in the 60’s.  Of course I only packed shorts and short sleeve shirts, glad my neighbor took pity on me and loaned me his jacket for the day or I would still be shivering.  Lesson learned, pack a variety of clothes to make yourself comfortable so you can focus on your customers and not your frozen body!  The show turned out just okay, the weather played a factor in attendance but it could have been much worse if not for my nice neighbor loaning me his jacket!

Working Long Hours at a Large Craft Show

Don’t Do This! Get off the cell phone and pay attention to your customer!

Be prepared for long hours when you do a retail show that spans weeks. There were times when we did not sell anything for an hour or two and then there were times when we were selling a pen every five minutes. However, the temptation to pick up your cell phone and text, call or check email was there, but to be polite to the people walking by we (myself and my help) did not do that. Other vendors did, and I watched as potential customers walked right by because they did not engage them! They were too busy texting, or worse, playing games on their phones! That was one of the “rules” I set before anyone was hired – while you were in the booth no cell phone usage – I told them pretend you are driving – of course we know how that works!  But when there were two of us in the booth, no cell phone usage. If someone calls, then leave the booth or do not answer it! When no potential customers were there, clean the booth make sure the pens were properly displayed and not turned around. If someone handled a pen, wipe it off and set it down on display again. Keep busy, it will relieve the boredom and help pass the time more quickly.

At peak times, which we figured out after a few days, we adjusted our schedule so that each of us could get a bathroom break, get some food, and just get away to make a call or check your phone. At times, there were so many people trying to see the pens that one of us actually had to step out of the booth. That was a good thing so we could keep an eye on the pens. Fortunately, there was only two pens taken, one we caught the guy, (charges are still pending) and the other was lost, and I never even knew it was gone until it was gone! My fault! Next year, if I get in, I will have cameras mounted in the booth as a deterrent. After doing some preliminary research, I will install a two camera system that will link to a DVR that has the recording capabilities of one week. After that week it will record over the previous week. Hopefully, that will deter anyone from stealing but as I have learned over the years, the “professional thief” if they want it, they will probably get it.  So, on that cheery note, I will just tell you to be vigilant, stay off the phone, and your chances of theft will greatly be reduced.   

Happy selling,

Pricing Your Work & Discounts

Beetle Wing Pen

 Pricing your work and discounts….

What price do I charge for my handmade pen?  That is the number one question I always get.  My answer is, it depends on the show, and the location of the show. Also, how much did you pay for your exhibit space?  If you are only paying $35 for a six foot table at a church bazaar and the people are coming in for free you would have a difficult time charging $250 for a pen.  You have to understand your market.  If you are paying $1,200 for a 10×10 booth and the guests are being charged $15-$20 to get into the show, then yes a $250 pen will be sold. People coming into a craft show that costs money expect to pay more for handmade items. When you are pricing your item, take into consideration your time (it is worth something – what do you want to pay yourself?). How much did my material cost me and what about the cost of electric and all your tools. These are all factors which should come into effect when thinking about what to charge for YOUR one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

I frequently check out venues for future attendance, and I see other pen makers there charging low prices for pens – like $20 for a bolt action pen!!  The person selling the pen tells me they are retired and feels like $20 is a fair price. So, exactly what did it cost them? The pen kit costs approximately $14, he said he got the wood for free?  He had to drive over to the house where the tree was (gas money) he used a chainsaw, (how much did that cost?) then he had to come back to his shop and cut the wood up into pen blanks with a band saw (cost for band saw & time spent), then make the pen (time to make), how about the overhead of his electric,  tool cost and finishing supplies? All of those factor into his profitability but if they are happy getting $20 for a pen, I certainly cannot change their mind.
However, what this does is lower the value of all the other pen makers work.

I love this one.. “what if I buy two” can I get a discount?
My response was “thank you for asking but these are handmade, I do not buy these from China so when you purchase these I will have to make two by hand to replace them.” That usually politely tells them that you will not give them a discount. In the 42 days at the Grand Central Holiday Craft show, I only had one person tell me that “evidently YOU DO not want to sell anything” because I would not bargain with him, and he walked out.
I sold the pen he wanted the next day for my full price!
Your work is worth something so don’t let anyone intimidate you because they want a discount!

Happy Selling ,

Hiring The Right Help For Long Craft Shows

 Hiring the Right help for a long, and very large Craft Fair can make or break you.

Hiring the right person, or persons, can be a daunting task especially when you are not familiar with how to do it.  

Before you begin your search, you first have to ask yourself exactly what are you looking for in finding the right person.  Not everyone you interview will ever know what a pen is, let alone how to sell it. So what do you look for? In my previous life as a sales manager (for thirty five years), I interviewed thousands of potential sales candidates. So, the first thing I look for is good communication skills.  Do they listen well and then clearly and concisely speak? Do they have good non-verbal skills? In other words do they observe people, and then take a cue from that? For example, a potential customer keeps looking at a particular pen then browses a different section but keeps coming back to a particular pen. Would they know enough to go over to them and explain that pen to then? Are they friendly and outgoing?  Do they display confidence when speaking? Most important are they honest and trustworthy?

These are all very good questions to ask yourself while you are speaking with a potential candidate.   So where do you start?  The best way is to ask other vendors if they know of anyone who is looking for part time sales help.  I found two sales associates that way for the Grand Central Terminal Show who were familiar with selling crafts, and they worked out very well.  You can also use a temporary agency, they will be more money but the candidates will be pre-screened for you. Of course you can use online services but the best way is word of mouth from other vendors and your own instincts.  If your “spidey” sense is telling you something is not right, chances are you will be correct.

The price for the help will vary depending on your location, how many hours they work, and what tasks you expect of them. The simplest task is just having another set of eyes to make sure you don’t let a potential customer slip away because you are selling to another customer (or making sure a pen doesn’t get stolen). The highest level is opening and closing your booth and being responsible for cash and securing your booth. Just remember, more responsibilities = more $$. I hope this will shed some light into the hiring practice for you.  

Happy Turning – more importantly happy selling!

Reader’s Choice Award Nominations

Sea Shell Pen

I wanted to share some exciting news with my blog followers, I was just nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award (see below)  – By the way if you get Pen World Magazine please vote for me!

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that Barry Gross has been nominated for an award in the 24th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards competition sponsored by PEN WORLD magazine:

Seashell – Best Artisan Pen: Hand Crafted

Established in 1994, the Readers’ Choice Awards is the only international awards program for the pen industry and is based on the votes of PEN WORLD readers. A panel of long-time PEN WORLD readers served as judges, carefully selecting the nominees from a long list of pens featured in the magazine during 2017. There are twelve different categories of recognition and five nominees within each category.

Readers cast their votes from the official ballot in the April 2018 issue of PEN WORLD, which was shipped recently. Voting continues through June 15, 2018. Winners will be notified in July and will be featured in the August issue of PW. The awards will be presented at the Washington D.C. Fountain Pen SuperShow, August 2-5, 2018 and the San Francisco International Pen Show, August 24-26, 2018 or as determined by the winner.

Pen Makers are artists, craftsmen, innovators, and even historians.  It is a privilege for PEN WORLD to applaud their accomplishments through the Readers’ Choice Awards. Congratulations and good luck!

Nicky Pessaroff  – Editor-in-Chief – Pen World Magazine