JANUARY 2012   "Every Clouds Got A Silver Lining"




A - Z
This is a story about snow, or rather it starts with the snow of December 2010 and ends with snow of January 2012 and partially explains why we have had a news black out for nearly two years; or should that be a news white out.
"Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow "    Here we go again!
Zoo Ceramics Gargoyle Pot 1
Zoo Ceramics Gargoyle Pot 2
Gargoyle Head Pots in the Snow December 2010 and January 2012
2010 was gong to be our year of progression and development.  Maggie and her husband and I had started dismantling the old conservatory storage area, that had been merrily decaying for years and the workshop gallery was in dire need of a paint job and a refit.  The recession was still biting deep, but we were looking at constructive ways to stay ahead of the game, by creating some smaller designs and I had started to research how to sell art and craft designs on websites like Ebay.
"Sisters are doing it for themselves"    DIY
Maggie betley in the Zoo Ceramics Gallery
Maggie in the Gallery
Dismantling the Tile Roof
Rebuilding the Walls
Painting the Extension

Zoo Ceramics has taken part in many trade shows over the last twenty years, from Birmingham International to Harrogate Home and Gift, the British Craft Trade Show, London Top Draw and the Torquay and Exeter Select shows.  As a result we have built up an extensive list of stockists in the United Kingdom and Europe and over those years have supplied hundreds of galleries and shops with our work.

Previously our trade show orders have kept us very busy and each show would generate six months to a years worth of work.  Our 2010 Harrogate Trade Show was way down on a normal year, but we had picked up several large orders to keep us busy.  Fortunately we were still selling lots of work at our own gallery, at craft shows and exhibitions and were being swamped with requests to join our pottery classes and to do corporate functions.

So the late summer of 2010 saw us continuing work on our DIY projects and busy making stock for our Harrogate orders and the Lincoln Christmas Market in December.  Then disaster struck and like the old saying goes it never rains but it pours and it started tipping bucket loads on us.

Disaster No1 - November 2010 -  three of our biggests orders from Harrogate cancelled at the same time due to the recession.

Disaster No 2  - December 2010 - It started to snow and it didn't stop.  When it got to two foot high, the whole of the United Kingdom ground to a halt and one of the biggest set backs for Lincolnshire was the cancellation of the Lincoln Christmas Market.  For those of you that do not know, this event is one of the biggest Christmas Markets in Europe and attracts over a quarter of a million visitors and we devote a large amount of our production time creating stock for this show.

Disaster No 3  - January 2011 - British Telecom engineers had erected a new communication pole outside our property and had inadvertently smashed through our sewerage pipe connection; resulting in a garden full of well, very bad stuff!  So we were left without a functioning toilet and washing facilities and a huge legal case that dragged on for a year, before they finally settled in our favour.  So far no official from British Telecom has given us an apology for taking up a year of our time. Thanks Guys!

"Hanging on the Telephone "    British Telecom Disaster
British Telecom killed our Pipe
1. Drainwise Investigates
2.  Yellow BT Pole Killed our Sewerage Pipe
British Telcom Notice
British Telecom Workmen
3.  BT Notice Apologises to the Public
4.  BT Workmen Removing the Pole

So what do you do when you have a garden full of crap, a gallery full of building materials, because the snow had ground all building work to a halt and a workshop full of cancelled stock?

Answer:   You open up an Ebay Shop
It did take me a lot of time learning how to successfully sell on Ebay, but it was worth it and we are continuing to make some great sales and getting to know some lovely new customers.  Our very first customer was from Waco in America and they purchased a dodo.  We had not expected to go global so quickly, but Ebay is like having a shop in every country in the world that is open 24/7.  I had to learn how to create and list pages with programmes like Ebay Turbo Lister and Photobucket and enhance images in Photoshop.

"Radio Ga Ga "    TV Interview
Tracy Wright on BBC Look North
Zoo Ceramics on the BBC News December 2010
Another thing that generated some interest was our accidental News Broadcast on BBC Look North.  As a result of the Lincoln Christmas Market being cancelled radio broadcasters in the area wanted to get a quotes from local sellers. So I agreed to do an interview for the local radio and was therefore surprised when a cameraman turned up.  Maggie instantly disappeared and left me to do the interview.  I felt like a complete banana, but it seemed to go well and generated lots of interest in our work.  
May 2011 The Wetland Tiles

Wetland Tile Project 2
Wetland Tile Project 3

Wetland Tile Project 4

During the Summer Maggie was busy working on an interesting large scale tile piece to be installed in a new Wetlands Trust centre.   Meanwhile I was working on a new body of work for the Harrogate Trade Show in July.  In previous years due to the recession, there seemed a need to scale down our designs and make them smaller and cheaper.  Despite these changes the last few trade shows had seen declining sales for us and and many of our hand making colleagues, so we decided to put some heart and soul back into our work and go back to creating more elaborate pieces.  Maggie created some new hares and extended her daisy and fish vase range, whilst I redesigned my dodos and crows.
"Oh the Weird and the Wonderful"    New Dodos and Crows July 2011
 Dodo and Alice
Dodo Detail
Dodo and Alice

Jester Crows
Dodo and Alice Detail

King Crow
Jester Crows
Crow king
I started to create some Alice girls to ride upon the backs of my dodo birds in elaborately decorated seats and harnesses.  The Crow range was developed into a Court of the Crows and enriched with costumes and accoutrements.  I was inspired by watching countless episodes of The Tudors, so I created a King and Queen of the Crows, followed by a Bishop, a Knight and a Jester.  This new range was well received at the Harrogate Trade Show in July 2011; which was a nice and fitting way to end our trade selling experience.  After twenty plus years of selling at the trade shows, we shall now have a break as we want to build up stock in our Ebay shop and begin work on our Etsy shop.  We shall still supply our existing trade outlets and accept new trade enquiries, but we shall not be attending any trade shows for awhile; as we want some stock for our own gallery.
It just goes to show that when everything looks quite bleak, like it certainly did for us at the beginning of 2011, you can work through the mishaps and put yourself in a stronger position.   It if wasn't for our three disasters all on top of each other, we would not have had the time or the stock to devote to our Ebay shop and planning to open our Etsy shop shortly.
By Tracy Wright 5th February 2012