lighting the gaia lamp

Art and Design, glassblowing

Diary Of A Crowfunding Effort


6 Comments
Brie Jackson & Parker
Brie Jackson of WSLS News in Matrix Gallery after the interview

 

In early December after considerable thought, I decided to begin a crowdfunding effort on the site indiegogo.com.  I arrived at this decision based on two main factors, both which converged together into one main stream.  First, I had been contacted by a number of people beginning in October inquiring if I was going to have glass blowing classes in the Fall like I had done every year for the last four.  My studio has opened its doors to the public for an event/class that I call the BYOB which stands for “Blow Your Ornament Ball.”  It is an opportunity for the person right off the street to design and help make their own Christmas ornament or suncatcher. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also very educational.  It has been so popular that by October and into November of this year, I had to put off close to 20 people about whether I would be able to do this event.  This is just how popular the event has become.  These were all people coming to me, inquiring.

I teach part time at Radford University, and for the first time since I began teaching in 2010, the classes which I was assigned did not have enough enrollment for the courses to go forward, which meant that I was without an important part of income.  Teaching made it easier to be able to open the studio for key periods during the year.

At about the same time, I had finally gotten the supplies I needed to make good on an old promise to a friend and colleague about turning a vase she had bought into a lamp.  As it turned out, her request was something that fit neatly into something I had been wanting to do for YEARS with the particular line she had inquired about which was converting a hand blown vase into a usable lamp.  It was one of those perfect kinds of matches.  I even had a picture from another client and friend from California who had put a candle in a piece from the same line in order to show me how how her piece looked.

The bottom line was that these vases would make a perfect side-step into lighting, and I already had people already interested. I set about making the alterations necessary to make this vase into a light feature.  The glass wall was drilled out and a light kit with an online switch was added.  It was a simple yet elegant solution.  I finished the fabrication at 3:00 one afternoon in November and couldn’t wait to see what it would look like in subdued light. The effect that it had on my foyer and my study was…..magic.

The Birth of a Campaign

When I went online with the new lamp picture to share with friends, the response was strong.  People were asking when they could get one of their own.  The only problem was there wasn’t a way that I could see to get the studio operation quickly enough to capitalize on all of the interest that had been stirred as a result of my initial reveal.

After some consideration, I decided to do the one thing that I had not done before, which was to FIND a way to raise the funds to bring this product to market.  The added benefit would be that, with an open studio in the winter, people would get to blow their own glass like they had become accustomed to over the years.  This was how the campaign was born.  With about a week worth of working up a budget, I arrived at a target cost for this project, which would enable me to open the studio and launch this new product, now called The Gaia Lamp across the nation with galleries that sold handmade American craft. I learned very quickly the ins and outs of crowdfunding and once I felt like I had learned enough, I began sketching out the beginnings of a campaign.

I decided to run what is called a “fixed” campaign.  In simple terms this is all or nothing.  Meet the goal by a given deadline and you are funded.  Miss that goal amount by the deadline, and you don’t get funded. People urged me to do a flex campaign, explaining that anything was worth something.  As I thought about that, I found that for me, it was beside the point to do that.  I wanted to be able to DO the project, not a PART of it.  Flex meant doing only a part of it (and really, who knew what part would get done, right?).  It also meant that the project might not even get done!  Now tell me, who wants that?

Flex funding is good for people who are raising funds for medical expenses where ANY amount is appreciated, and for nonprofits seeking to raise funds for their cause.  If people were going to give to MY campaign, I wanted to be able to have something to show them for it.  I wasn’t ready to compromise on this point; I wanted my donors to feel a sense of accomplishment in their efforts just as I also wanted to feel accomplishment and the knowledge that I now had the opportunity to move forward with the project.  I wanted it to be a win-win.  The heat was on, the clock would begin, and the race was soon going to be on….

The campaign began on December 1st and went until January 7th.  There was a consideration made for this being the Christmas season, which extended the original date times by an extra week.  I am glad I did this, but as it turned out, the campaign goal of $5,600.00 was met nine days before the deadline.  My concern was that we would have a dead zone for about a week straddling Christmas.  That was the thinking that drove the strategy in terms of time.

The first week was nothing short of a scorcher.  The campaign achieved 42% of its goal in five days.  This put the campaign in the fourth spot prior to being on the main page for Indiegogo in my design category internationally.  That meant that there were only four other projects that were performing better than mine in the world.  This boosted my visibility on the Indiegogo platform and resulted in people giving to the campaign who did not know me or were outside my own personal network or community.It is worth to mention that when you can achieve a given amount of donations in a short period, it will boost your visibility on most of the crowdfunding sites.  Your ability to hustle and get returns winds up boosting you on the site, which further helps your campaign by getting you attention you might not otherwise have.

Media Coverage

There were two newspaper articles written after the goal was met. I also had a news channel interview on WSLS with Brie Jackson about the effort which was very helpful.  I learned that all of the coverage I was getting was showing me just how important it is to be doing this kind of promotion as a matter of course in a business. The effort pushed me to do more than I had done before, and I think that this helped me to dust off some of my skills at self promotion that had gotten a little dry and maybe even stale with complacency and time.  I figured that even if the campaign was not successful, I would have put a spot light on what it is that I do and the products and services I offer, including the design dreams I have. I know that this might sound beside the point, but this effort taught me some important lessons that I needed to revisit, which was to learn how not to be resistant to tooting my own horn.

The Metrics

In the graphic below I have a screen shot of the campaign once it reached 104% and was very close to the deadline.  I have since gotten just over 109% of the goal with the campaign today, which is its deadline.  You can see the first week as the big surge forward followed by a lull that then went on to slowly grow over time.  The trend line was always upward, even if the angle of that line made me nervous at the time.  Would I make it with this kind of line?  Well, as I can tell you, ANYTHING can happen, and did.  The campaign went on with this up and down for a few weeks before the “big bang” took place, which had the effect of rocketing the campaign within shooting distance of the $5,600.00 goal.

indiegogo campaign final

In my case, I used Facebook at the main means of getting the word out, with newspapers and television news helping out a lot.  Since I was unable to properly track traffic from my newspaper and television exposure, its hard for me to say whether it had a material effect.  For those of you out there curious about running a campaign, indiegogo does have some good tools that help to track traffic and donations coming from a site that has a link to your campaign.  While I did not have any donations coming from the link on indeigogo for the tv news story, for example, that does not mean that someone didn’t bookmark my campaign for consideration later.  These tools do help, though, to show where donors and activity is coming from, and its important that you provide your campaign link because it will help you track where your contributions are coming from.

Another metric that indiegogo uses is logging the domains where traffic is coming from, not per isp, but by country.  As a result of this, I was able to see what visitors indexed by country were visiting my campaign page.  In the screen shot below you can see the first page of the most numerous page views for the campaign and where they were coming from.

indiegogo campaign2 12-28

The Power Of The Tweet…Blog?

While I was told that Twitter was king (or Queen) for campaigns, I only had about 30 followers (really) when this all began and had not had much luck finding out a suitable way to get people to sign up to get tweets from me.  Instead, again, Facebook was my most used social media outlet.

I blogged and found that there was very little sharing of my blog posts, which was largely due I think to both my level of followers as well as the type of followers I had. This is not a criticism of them at all, and is likely more about how I have chosen to write on the blog. I was not “plugged in” to the entrepreneurial universe with my blog, that was not its main focus. Perhaps my blog posts are too long and might not encourage people who are action-based to read and participate.  They might be too cerebral, too thought-based, I considered. I did have a platform with my blog, but when it came time to begin making some noise, I am not so sure that it was that helpful for getting the word out.  To break out of my own limited circle of readers, I needed to have outlets picking up my posts and sharing them or leading traffic to them.  In the end, my blogging was not a significant factor in garnering donations.  It did, however, serve to inform people who came from Facebook, for example, who wanted to read more about the campaign and saw the link on my page.

Perhaps if I had galleries following me, perhaps if I had crowdfund enthusiasts following me, then perhaps I would have been able to use this tool better.  Note to self; this is something to work on.  And really, to be truthful, my blog is a way to provide content about my business to people who are interested in hot glass and the studio in a more expansive way (instead of the short quips of twitter and Facebook).  It is an opportunity for me to discuss issues that may even be tangential but connected to making art, design, and hot glass.  I also use it occasionally as a tool for informing my art students where I work part time, and it may be that this represents a sudden shift in my content and might even put readers off who follow my blog, I don’t know.  Its been something of an experiment, and is one I will keep working on.  It may be that in order to gain more interest my post will become more trimmed down to meet the growing shortening “quips” we see on the internet.  Sadly, our world is becoming more like this as we are presented with content nonstop that all seeks to grab out attention.  I must admit that my interests with the blog are more along the lines of reading a chapter in a book, something to think about, delve into, to consider.  Perhaps I need to think about expanding my content to include more about my field, people in my field, and about how global influences are at work.  And really, anyone with ideas, I am all over it.  I have long thought that a trade of posts would be great….interviews with other artists….a round table….or posts that include gallery owners about who what when where and why.

The past week has been a busy one for me with ordering the supplies needed for the project as well as getting ready for a donor party at the studio, which I am hoping we can swing by the 24th come heck or high water.  Finishing first and early has its benefits.  And if you are reading this and you shared the news or gave, you did good!  You really did do a great thing that goes beyond just one simple campaign.  It gave me hope back, it gave me a place to create again and to launch a new product.  It has also made it possible for many people to come out and see what their own creativity has to offer them.  And that is a really wonderful thing.  <3

Onward and upward!  A village did it!

HERE IS THE CAMPAIGN LINK

Art and Design, glassblowing

Indiegogo Campaign Goal Reached


4 Comments

Campaign announcementWhat an interesting experience this has been.  There were those who expressed doubt in the beginning, but I stuck to my guns and called upon the village and the village answered loud and clear.  The crowdfund on indiegogo.com is now complete with 105% funding so far with a week yet to go on the clock.  For those who wanted to get in on the perks I made available during the campaign, those are available for a limited time….until January 7th.  After that, the site goes inactive and the perks go away.

The level of commitment people have shown for the campaign has been nothing short of inspirational. It helps to show me the kind of support there is here for the arts not just locally, but all over the country.  Donations and perks were snatched up by people in California, Washington State, New Jersey, Alberta Canada, North Carolina, and Virginia.  This bodes very well for moving forward into the next phase of the studio’s operation. With over two dozen people  asking if they could come blow glass during the Fall, it has been word of mouth and fond memories of the fun folks have had in the studio in the past that have kept them inquiring even when the studio was temporarily shuttered.  The good news is that hot glass will be back in the New River Valley!

My thanks go out to my 60 donors and even more who shared the status of the campaign on their Facebook pages.  All of this resulted in building awareness and enough buzz to get me where I am with full funding. With all of your help, I will finally get to light the lamp!

In the days to come I will be busy ordering the supplies needed for the campaign and getting the furnace back online. I will be setting up appointments for people who chose as their perks and opportunity to blow their own glass as well as making a slew of the Gaia Lamps, which was the center of this funding effort.  These pieces will be marketed nationwide and sold through craft galleries across the U.S.  I will be announcing a party for the backers to the campaign soon where we will get to light the lamps, eat, drink, be merry and blow some glass!  Tentatively the date scheduled for this is the weekend of January 24th beginning in the evening.  Check my facebook page Stafford Art Glass for more details.

You can reach the indiegogo campaign HERE.

Art and Design, glassblowing

Crowdfunding Campaign Update!


1 Comment

Mug_FInal_On_BlackI began my crowd funding effort on Indiegogo.com a few weeks ago, and the clock is ticking away, and I thought I’d take a moment and update you on this holiday-straddling fund raising effort.  While it seeks to launch a new product, the reach of this effort goes beyond just the launch.  It opens a studio that has had more new designs coming out of it than ever before, and has been limited by the ups and downs of the economics of this past year. There was a furnace door that literally fell apart in January of this past year that forced the closure of the studio, and then the loss of some courses I normally teach each semester at the local University set me back financially such that I never fully recovered enough to fund the re-opening of the studio at the busiest time of the year.  Lots of people have been asking when will they be able to come blow glass again?  “It was so fun!  We can’t wait to bring more of our friends when you reopen!”  has been the refrain from many people.  But what to do? If I could not do it, could my fans and friends help?  Could the power of the crowd, the village, the grass roots do it? Could there be enough people out there who think this is a cool enough thing that they’d be moved to get behind it…even if it meant only sharing it on Facebook?

The result was to reach out and make this a community effort.  Opening the studio will also mean that locals will get to come and learn about glassblowing by blowing glass themselves. I have had many poeple ask about this yearly tradition.  I have been putting them off and also suggesting they support the campaign so that their donation might do double-duty; helping open the studio AND allowing them to take their donation and apply it to a mini class or workshop.  For those who do not want to blow glass themselves, just having the furnaces running means you can watch as objects of beauty take shape before your eyes.

My campaign, which is on Indiegogo.com has a number of analytics that lets me see where my donations are coming from.  I have had just under $400.00 worth of donations come from this blog platform.  Facebook has thus far been heads and shoulders above the rest with about 1K in donations coming from my business page and personal page.  My own contribution to gathering donations seems to have gotten first place.  These are sources that came to Indiegogo by way of an email from my friends or family.  I have had about a thousand visits of the campaign since it began.  I get to see where page views are coming from, and the most is from the U.S., but Ireland and Great Britain is in line, with France, Italy, and then a long tumble of other views from all over the world.  A handful have been from Russia.  It has been interesting and educational.  People are looking for the next big things to fund, obviously.

Currently I am at 60% funding.  I have 40% yet to go.  the campaign ends on the 7th of January and honestly, the campaign has surprised me every step of the way.  I have been bewildered, mystified, frustrated, and elated, all at different times.

Frustration has come in the form of people not understanding how it is that I am not wanting their money bu their willingness to show that they think the campaign is worthwhile.  Really.  With 30 people all thinking this is worthwhile, they are all sharing the news and helping to build a network of interested people.  Do the math; 30 people with an average of 350-450 people on their facebook friend list all seeing news of the campaign = 10,500-13,500 people .  You can see how quickly the numbers add up.  And the donations come in.  With numbers like these, you don’t need BIG donations, you just need smaller ones when the reach gets this big.  I have been nudging and asking and cajoling people who want to do a story on this work, but so far, there have been no takers.  But as my advice was given, I am not taking anything personally.  I am on to the next opportunity to find what will work.  And its working. This is truly a community effort, although the community has emerged as being all across the world, all over our nation and into Canada.  I have been sending out press releases, I have been on the local news (links to the story below).  It has been very educational.  If nothing else, I have expanded my reach, done a lot of networking, and done a kind of marketing I have never done before.

There is more to go.  Will you share news of this on your social media?  Check out my Facebook.  I have shared a few pictures of glass that has been made by members in my local community.  Its been fun.  I do a lot of outreach.  I offer classes at an affordable level that are fun and educational.  I have had every size kid there is from the youngest being 5 years old to the oldest being 91.

So here is the campaign link to see the perks you can still order from the campaign!  Check me out on Facebook, too!

The story on WSLS

Facebook!

Campaign on Indiegogo!

Thanks to everyone who has made the campaign what it is so far.  I could not have done it without you!  <3

Art and Design, glassblowing

It Takes A Village


2 Comments

Ornaments@Matrix GalleryI am in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise resources to make repairs and get my studio operational so that I can make and launch a new product, which is a fusion of art glass with lighting.  This is a grassroots effort with national reach.  The Gaia Lamp which this project funds will get works into the hands of galleries of fine craft all across the United States.  The campaign is a fixed campaign, which in crowdfunding lingo means that this is an “all or nothing” effort.  I have a goal of $5,600.00 for this project.  If I fall short, donations, which are being held by the campaign platform indiegogo.com, will be returned. That means I am under the gun and on the clock.

Getting the word out is huge for campaigns like this.  I have tried to impress my family and friends with the thought that I am less concerned with donation and much more with their being willing to share updates of the campaign to friends.  When I have three friends that share my news on Facebook, for instance, the views of my posts will double and triple.  Imagine if I could get twenty people doing this on a regular basis!  This is something I have termed “Virality” and is what makes small things become big things.  And not a penny is spent; it is leveraging the power of the internet.  So to do that, let’s talk about what is so cool about all of this….

I am a maker of fine craft in the American Studio Glass Movement. This is one of the newest establish craft movements in the U.S. which began in 1965 when Harvey Littelton taught the first graduate program in glassblowing.  My teacher was one of Harvey’s students.  I was lucky to learn with Bill in the sunset of his career teaching at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  This movement has brought new ideas, new forms, and new energy into the craft movement.  It continues to grow, too!  This is really something for a medium that is sooo ancient!  I am also part of the American Craft Movement, something built on small studios that are keeping the old traditions alive in a world soaked in machine made objects.  Cheap and useful, these objects lack the human touch, the sense of design and delight.  Have you ever felt what a blown tumbler feels like in your hand? Okay, you have never felt one of MY tumblers.  I make them ergonomic and intimate to the touch.  Everyone notices the difference.  Customers speak of my tumblers always sitting dirty in their sink; they are the go-to object.  It is easy to just say that American Craft is overpriced stuff, and it entirely misses the mark.  We have been dumbed down by cheap goods.

Lana & Parker 12:20014During my campaign I have partnered with a local gallery to help spread the word.  After a reporter had been to my studio last year to blow glass, she caught wind of the campaign and spread the word to one of the reporters where she works and I got a call about doing an interview for the campaign.  That interview happened yesterday and aired on the late news.  Being able to get this kind of coverage is big and has the potential to push the campaign forward.  Every eye, every voice, every heart who wishes to extend the reach is what is needed.

 

 

Right now the campaign is at 53%. THIS is very good!  I am very pleased with the progress so far.  Surprised, actually.  But this is also the point where many campaigns lag or slow.  We are also coming up against Christmas, too, which is probably going to be like a week-long dead spot.  And I anticipated this, which is why the campaign is going until January 7th.

The interview went pretty well, all in all.  I sought to emphasize the grass roots effort, howBrie & Lana 2 this campaign will happen by every person willing to share a status or reblog a post.  Perhaps in a bid to grab attention and raise awareness, the threat of a Grinch was added into the mix. Times have been hard this year, no doubt, but its not something that brightens hearts.  What does, is my willingness to be as resourceful as I can be and continue to move forward after difficulty.  Triumph of the human spirit.

So here I am and I am reaching out to let you know that this very cool thing is happening.  You can be a part of it.  If you want to share, that would be great!  If you want to write, I am all over it. If you want to give, I would point you toward the campaign site to decide if you would like a perk. There are lots of them!

Glass GuideI have an E-book I call “The Guide” which is a compilation of all of the tips and hints I have given my customers over the years about how to clean and care for glass. This includes things many people don’t know, like how glass cleaners aren’t even used by many glass workers.  Wanna know that secret mix?  Or how about a way to clean glass that uses NO cleaning compounds at all and is highly effective?  The Guide also shows you how best to light your artglass for a variety of situations.  I show how you can decide and size a room for your glass without having to plunk down the money for a contractor.  I show you ways that you can do this in an exact way, simply and with a minimum of expense.  I include historical facts about glass and I also go into the chemistry of glass in plain language in order to help you to better understand why blown glass IS different from other commercially made glass.  Includes diagrams and photos.  27 pages.  Available for a $2.00 donation.

There are many other perks that include glassblowing.  I had someone today asking if they could come blow glass for a day class.  I suggested we settle on a price for it and that he consider paying for it by donating to the campaign, explaining his  perk would be a class that he and three others would set up.  If the campaign made it, great.  We would look forward to a class sometime in the next two months.  If not, he would not be out anything.  In fact, giving to the campaign would move me ever closer to my goal.  This is how a crowdfund is a win-win.  It is the kind of thing that doesn’t just give for one person.  It can give a multitude of times.  I would urge anyone thinking about a day in the studio blowing as much glass as humanely possible and learning more stuff than you could ever believe, to contact me before donating so we can work out the details.  If you are out of state, I can also arrange to have you picked up from our local airport in Roanoke.  The possibilities are endless.  You can quite literally make your own perk; it is worth it to me, but let’s talk to make sure we are all on the same page.

So this is why the recent interview was a big deal in my area.  The local news did it, and I

Brie Jackson in Matrix Gallery taking an obvious selfie.
Brie Jackson in Matrix Gallery taking an obvious selfie.

am incredibly blessed that they did!  Newspapers have been contacted, press releases have been sent out.  For now I am relying on the power of the press and media to help me. So far, though, half of the effort has come directly through the internet and by sharing emails and links with friends and even family.

So if you would like to see the interview you can go HERE.  To go to the campaign itself you can go HERE. You can use indiegogo’s share tools to share the campaign.  You will discover and learn and find out if this is something that this is something you want to get behind.  It could be something that you could crow about; you got to be a part of it!

And whatever you DO decide to do, my thanks in advance!

 

~Regards,

 

Parker