Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One Hope, One Plan, One Crazy Idea

In the New Year, I hope I can get back to blogging more again.

In the New Year, I plan to make a schedule for my firing cycles, to even out my inventory, so I am not caught with no pots when opportunities arise.

And the crazy idea? Well...

Remember this guy?  Hans Chew, a college student at the School of Arts Singapore, customized a vending machine to dispense handmade ceramics as a kind of performance art pondering the commoditization of art. ("Can we really put a monetary value to art?" the article asks. Answer: Yes. For good or ill, we do it every day, because that's our job.)

Seriously, though, Chew seems like a thoughtful kid, and when I first read about him last spring I admired his cleverness and wit. And then forgot all about him.

Until yesterday, when I was talking with my friend and fellow potter, Mary Kay Spencer of The Potter's House. MK is also my temporary business partner for a few weeks each year, when we, along with the other members of Central Maine Clay Artists, open a pop-up pottery store in whatever vacant store front we can find. The store is doing well this year, and as always we start to imagine keeping it open year round, and as always we run into the pesky problem of staffing. If only we could open a self-serve store! Or, I know, a vending machine! For mugs and other small items. We were joking, but it made me remember Hans Chew. I also thought of the Cupcake ATMs that have been so successful for Sprinkles. Maybe, I thought, out of a joke comes a good idea.

Maybe not, too: it's a little crazy. There's a lot I still don't know. I do know you can get vending machines with big-ish compartments, that rotate to sliding doors instead of dropping the products. I know there are a couple for sale on Ebay right now for $700-800.

I was thinking of it as a summer thing - I can think of an outdoor location where it would be perfect. But it weighs, like, 800 pounds, so moving it would be a world of hassle and expense.

I don't know...I'll bring it up to the group, but maybe there are just too many obstacles. But that's the way of it with ideas; you gotta have bad ones - and sometimes chase them down blind alleys - to have good ones.

If this happens, I promise you will hear it here first.


Linda Starr said...

Lori, what about year around in your local grocery store for the vending machine? My local grocery store is a chain and yet they carry lots of local products on kiosk type displays. Heck why even bother with the vending machine, cups and mugs and travel mugs, ok now you've got me thinking about my own local grocery store, I just know I couldn't keep up with the volume though. What a thought - the volume. Also what about local coffee shops?

I remember for my landscaping business years ago I met with a marketing consultant and two things he stressed was "repetition builds reputation" that was for advertising and the other thing he said was the repeat business of small accounts ie small sales of smaller jobs keep a business afloat. happy holidays to you.

Lori Watts said...

The outdoor location I have in mind is outside a trendy-yet-long-established coffee shop/bakery. The Maine Crafts Association does have a big store at a highway rest stop, though...a vending machine associated with them makes a kind of sense.

Too much volume would be a great problem to have.

smartcat said...

I am loving this idea. Even it takes more time than expected, the concept will bring all sorts of new stuff into your life!
Belated but good wishes for a merry celebration!