Thursday, March 21, 2019

Time to keep moving...

As we come to the first year anniversary at the Shanks Ceramic Studio, time again has us changing directions. A little less than a year ago I decided to rent a building and open a community ceramic shop. I have been teaching pottery wheel, hand building, and other fun community clay classes. Along with those awesome classes we have had the opportunity of offering weaving classes too! Thanks to my friend Jill who has been doing weaving some 30+ years. All the classes have been a success, and the studio space has been a real delight to run and create in. 
Unfortunately, the owner of the property has passed away and the building has been sold to a new owner. They are looking to move their own business in the space. So, once again as most artists are used to doing... We are on the move. Out of this space and into the unknown. It is sad for my students and the community that this is happening. I am looking for a space I can build or buy so that the next studio is more permanent, but until then only the universe knows what is best and where all this is going. 

As this movement continues I am still creating in other media. There is no reason to stop creating because of your studio space changing. As artists, we must evolve with it. Embrace the moment and try to find inspiration that feeds your next creation. I currently take each day to pack and move the studio into my basement to store until the next location. In the evenings I have been using my living room as my creative space. Because clay takes up a lot of room and is quite messy. I have been exploring other media that is more portable. I have decided to give soft pastels another go and I am thoroughly enjoying the medium. It has probably been about six years since I have played with pastels. I must say it is really bringing joy to my day. 

Stay Tuned for what the future holds! Thanks for reading!


Nicole Shanks

Monday, September 11, 2017

Things to come...

We are well into 2017 now. The shows have been flowing and art making is happening. This past weekend we had the watercolor basics class at the Foundry Cafe and Market in Lebanon, IL, and those ladies were a great time!

I wanted to give you an update on what is around the corner for the rest of September and October.

In two weeks I will be at The Edwardsville Art Fair in Edwardsville ,IL. Come out and see me!

The next Event on the calendar is the Fall Festival in Lebanon, IL on Oct. 7th 9am to 5pm. This event is great. I can clean out the left overs from the year, and get some other fun art pieces out for purchase. I am going to create some hand-painted greeting cards this year, and offer some small painting for sale too. 

Next on the list for October is a Calligraphy class in Lebanon, IL on Oct. 9th (Columbus Day) from 11am to 12:30pm at the Foundry Cafe and Market  All supplies are provided. Please call or email to sign up for this event as space is limited. Call Nicole Shanks 618-670-9625 or email

The final event on the calendar which puts us halfway through October is the last Art fair of the year that I do every year. The Art in the Park in Highland, IL is Oct. 14th and 15th. Come out to view an purchase art at this beautiful event in a quiet town in southern Illinois. 

This is all I have on the calendar for now. I will send out another update once I have added some winter workshops that will get us through until Art fair season begins again. 
Remember to get out and support your local artists and community!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Art Fair Business talk; display design and, pro panel investment...

As a new art fair vendor, I was hesitant to invest in pro panel products. The initial invest was about $1900. I bit the bullet early on in my art fair career. I knew it was a lot of money, but I am really glad I did it. It allows me to look professional, and it is much easier setup.

In the summertime when I am not teaching, I want to do one show a month from May through October. That allows me about six shows a year. I did four this year and I am in the process of learning what sells at these venues. The pricing is a whole different ball game, but I think once an artist can get into shows that are high-quality fine art, that will make a difference in sales. I have noticed that $5 to $40 are the best marker. some higher ticket items sell, but the smaller sales are what makes the bottom line.

If you have been interested in getting into art fairs. I always say to start small and see if you will like sitting out all day/weekend at the shows. It is by no means a beautiful job all the time. You have to deal with the weather: hot and cold, wet and muddy, dry and dusty. You get the picture. Sitting there for a day or three can make you tired just from waiting for the next purchase. You will have to repeat yourself A LOT! People will ask you the same questions all weekend. If you are willing to give this art business a try then go for it.

I love to travel and talk to new people. That is why I chose to add this to my business plan. The hardest part is setup because you usually want to get there early, set up, sweat it out, and run back to your room to freshen up before buyers come. If you don't start early in the day it can get hot quick, and you run out of time to rest and refresh before the show opens.  You don't want to look a mess for your customers. Just an FYI.

If you know that you want to invest and go pro. I would say yes to investing in the pro panel brand. They collapse down to flat surfaces and pop up in a jiffy. The panel walls and shelves are about 7 feet tall so make sure you have a vehicle to store them in. If you do not have a vehicle that will store that size wall. Pro panel does make walls that break down in half sizes for transport.

Be sure to draw out your booth design and know exactly how many walls, shelves, and brackets (T and L for walls) you will need to create your display. Remember when you design your booth the more open space the better. People like to walk in and move around. You will notice right away if there is not enough space when one or two people take up most of the booth space. That will deter other buyers from walking and looking around, and we don't want that.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Track Lighting for Your Art Fair Booth

The track lights have arrived in the mail and I have put them together. I ordered the track lights from Home Depot. I ordered two of the Hampton Bay track lights. (Hampton Bay Model EC400BK Linear 3-Light Black Track Lighting Kit) Along with this I ordered the conversion to make them a plug-in unit versus a hardwired system. (Hampton Bay Linear Track Lighting Live-End Power Feed with 15 ft. Cord and Plug) These were easy to slide into the end of the track and make them an active plug in system. I also ordered the light bulbs to go in the system as well. (Philips DuraMax 45-Watt Incandescent R20 Dimmable Flood Light Bulb (3-Pack)) I think I will order another pack to keep for backup in case of breaking one or if it just going out. This is something I thought of after the fact. 
So this whole system with six track light, two tracks, two plugs, and six light bulbs cost me about $130. I am pretty happy with the ability to take it apart and travel with it, and how easy it is to assemble. The only funny thing about the whole system is the track lights themselves. They twist into the track. If they do not twist correctly they will not turn on. At first I thought the bulbs were bad, but with further investigation I figured out the track lights have a particular way of fitting into the track. This was a little frustrating at first, but now with some practice and patience I was able to get all the lights working and the booth should be well lite for the show. The problem I had with installing the lights is what made me aware that having extra bulbs, and maybe even extra track light or two would be a good backup system to have. 

I hope this is helpful for your own art fair booth lighting. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

What's Happening!!!

So it has been some time since I last wrote down the happening in the Pottery Zen world. I had my first professional art show. It was a wonderful experience. I now understand that I need to step up my tent display to make it comparable  to all the professionals around me. I am looking into buying the Pro Panel art fair displays for the tent. They are versatile as well as breakdown into collapsable walls and shelves making them easier to transport. You are able to buy the display in pieces so you can start with where your budget starts and build it up from there. It seems to be the industry standard for art fairs and really allows for the mobile, stable aspect of the business. I will probably be ordering the first half of my tent display in a week. I will write more information once the product has arrived and I get it set up. I can post pictures as well so you can see what half the display looks like. 

As far as sales go for my first fair. I did ok. I have learned that having a theme will help bring my booth together and create unity for my viewers. I think by unifying my pieces and creating a pleasing display it will help my sales go up as well. When people are given less options on design/style and more options on function it seems they like being able to mix and match items. Like a cup and bowl, or pitcher and cup... etc. Plus having a wide price range from $10 or $20 up to $300 really opens your doors as a seller to all income ranges that are looking to add or start their collections of pottery. 

As an artist at this art fair I learned other new things like stepping up my lighting one more notch. I found some track lighting at Home Depot that I bought an attachment so they can be plugged in versus hardwired. They should be here on Friday which will allow me to try them out. More to come on those as well. Another learning curve was having a cooler in late August full of water and healthy snacks. The snacks at the art fair were OK, but expensive for what kind of food and how much you get. Another thing is having a fan available for air flow on 100 degree days. It really helps get you through. Extension cords, power strips, sandbags, tape, and chairs have multiples available at all times. Have a good amount of cash change for those cash buyers. Square is great, but sometimes the readers aren't great. Have multiple readers if possible. Business cards go like hot cakes so have a ton. Set up a mailing list and have a sign up sheet in your booth. 

Art fair donations... Don't be surprised if the art fair wants you to donate something for the kiddos. Have some extra things in your box that you don't mind donating!

As you can see a lot I have learned, and so much more to take in. Stay tuned for more to come!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Pottery pieces I made!

Below are some pieces of pottery I have made in the last 4 months. This particular grouping has some pieces that have sold while others are still available for sale. Pottery is a forever an exploration and education in science, design, and presence.