Thursday, February 10, 2011

Palm Trees

Living in Florida has advantages and disadvantages depending on one's point of view.  Earlier today, I worked in the shop and then headed off to a neighbor's home to dig up a free palm tree.  This was a Sago Palm that was about five feet tall and really nice. Free is a really good price but there's always a cost.  If not money then back pain.

John, one of my other neighbors, has lived here for 20 some years and thought that we could get it down in about an hour.  About three hours later we got the little fella out of the ground at Donna's house and into the ground at our house.  If it wasn't dark, I would have taken a photo.  But it's priceless!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Moo Cow!

Lots of folks started calling this week for some custom work.  I took an order for the cow below, a large Jobot that's going to Maryland, a three foot long dragonfly sculpture for a local family, and I'm meeting a new friend to plan out building two Jobot lamps.  "I didn't know you make lamps", you say.  Heck, I can make anything.  All I need is some inspiration. 

I'll start posting some additional pictures and update the website in the next few days. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giving Back - Mentoring to High School Students

This is the one day that I don't get to go to the shop but instead donate my time to a group of high school students that are building a robot to enter the First Robotics Competion www.usfirst.org .  The organization was founded by Dean Kamen, the guy who invented the Segway, to get kids excited about math, science, and engineering. 

My role involves being a cheer leader and providing advice on construction, engineering, and Jack-of-all-trades know all that I've been able to store over the past half century.  The kids bring enthusiasm and the knuckle twisting skills to build these things. 

The group is doing pretty good, but we're having some trouble with the TI Jaguar controller.  Yeah.  Too much for too many of the artists in us.  But if someone has some experience with these, just drop me a line.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's the Begining of a New Year - Sort of - OR - Looking for Art Shows

Like many folks, I always have the idea that I'm going to share more information and write more every year, and as always, something gets in the way and I'll miss a day or six months. There are so many things pulling at us that it's tough to break old habits and start new ones. In my case, I always seem to question what to write about because somedays the shop appears to be routine, but hey, I'm thinking that people would like to hear more about my daily doings, because that's part of the magic of creating art, searching for shows, and in general just getting things done.

Many people have read about me creating art, or seen some videos while working in the shop, or visited Mackie and I at one of the many shows we do each year. But what does it take to even get to the shows? Good question.

Searching for The Gold
It's one thing to create art, but it's a whole other challenge in not becoming the greatest collector of your own work.  I didn't come up with that but I love it.  I recall when a store owner mentioned to me around 1995 when I was at a show displaying Mackie's pottery.

Searching for shows takes up almost as much time as creating, loading the vehicle, and actually doing the show.  It's not like I load up the truck and trailer, show up, and say, "here I am, where do I set up".  It takes finding as much information about the show, applying for it, paying a jury fee, and hopefully hearing something positive back.  Then it's sending them some more money and so on.

I mentioned the fees.  They've really gone up over past few years.  The average jury fee we pay is around $30.  That doesn't guarantee us a spot - only the chance to be considered.  Each year, we donate about $500 in jury fees for shows we don't get into.  The average booth is running about $350 for a 10' x 10' space.

 More Logistics
Now that we got into the show, what else could there be.  On yeah.  There's materials in both the recycled metals we use and consumables.  Each show at least a dozen people ask me, don't you just drive around and find things by the road.  Hmm.  Try doing 28-30 shows a year and driving around to look for things.  Fortunately, I have my wife that reminds me how uncommon "common sense" is.  I figure that about 20% of my selling price is tied up in materials and consumables.  Consumables are things like welding gloves, welding gases, welding wire, you get the picture.  I go through one pair of gloves a week at $10 per pair.  That's $520 per year in just gloves!

How about travel costs?  We drive a one ton dual wheel truck and pull a trailer.  Fortunately, we get around 11 miles per gallon.  That's real good for a rig this size and hauling all the steel we do.  I'm going to round this to 10 miles per gallon to make the math easy on me.  If we drive 300 miles to do a show, that's six hundred miles round trip, we'll use about 60 gallons of diesel.  I'm anticipating spending about $4 per gallon this summer.  That comes out to $240 for fuel for that show.  How about some place to stay.  Let's say we're gone for two nights and lucky enough to find a room that runs $50 for a total of another $100.

Now we'll add it all up.  Booth fee and jury fee come to $380, fuel is $240, and room is $100 for a grand total of $720 to do an average show.  That means we need to make about $1,000 to break even.

That's my post for day one.  Tomorrow, I'm heading to Mariner High School in Cape Coral where I'm mentoring some high school students on building a robot for the First Robotics competition.  More on this later.