Julie Guyot Studio

You only get WHAT?

Julie Guyot
yarn bowls at fuzzy goat

yarn bowls at fuzzy goat

I’ve had a few conversations lately with people congratulating me after finding out that my work is being sold at certain retail locations outside of my own showroom. The conversations often shift when I spell out the details of those opportunities and it occurs to me that not many people know the “ins and outs” of working with retailers. I thought it might be a good topic to write about for you, the customer.

Most people seem shocked to learn that I only receive 50% of the retail price of my work when I sell the items to a retailer. That’s right, the wholesale price (set by me) is typically 50% of the suggested retail price of the product. If that were the case, why would I bother to sell wholesale at all? Here are a few reasons why.

1.     Money in hand.

When I turn over product to a retailer I have the ability to set the minimum order that they must place. For example, a retailer must place a minimum order of $100 and within that minimum I can also add a set minimum item number such as four sets of nesting bird bowls, five ring dishes etc. The retailers that I work with pay me when I deliver the work. (*)  This means that instead of waiting for my work to sell at a location where it’s on consignment, I get the money instantly. Although I receive 60% of the price of my work when it’s on consignment, that money isn’t guaranteed and I have to worry about inventory just sitting in a shop, not bringing me any money. This brings me to number two. 

* (I won’t go into 30 net, 60 net etc. but you can Google it and know that I rarely do this because I just don’t sell that much wholesale product.)

2.     Not my problem.

Once the work is dropped off it becomes the retailer’s job to sell it. I don’t have to market/advertise for it or get people in the door. My job was to make the product and deliver it. Done. This is a reason why some people might work exclusively with wholesale orders.

3.     Getting your brand out there or getting new opportunities.

In the town where I live, my studio is located in an area where some people don’t really want to travel to. It’s a little silly but there is a certain demographic of people who just won’t come down to the studio and therefore, probably don’t know that my work exists. Working with a retailer is a way to get my handmade ceramics into the hands of a customer that I might not normally reach and if I’m working with a really good retailer, they might give the customer enough information that they will then find me on their own for other products not sold through that retailer or for a larger, bulk or custom order.

4.     Shipping Costs.

When an artist ships work out to a gallery or a shop to be sold on consignment, (also receiving only 50-60% of the retail price) typically the artist is responsible for shipping costs at least one way, sometimes both ways if the work has to be returned when unsold. When shipping to a retailer who’s buying wholesale product, the retailer pays for the shipping.

Lately, there are a few different retailers that I’ve been working with regionally and this can be tricky because of the size of the area I live in. I live in a region that isn’t heavily populated and retailers want exclusivity. They don’t want to sell a product that is available on every corner, what would be the appeal in that? Some retailers will have a certain mile radius agreement or some just want to know that your product isn’t sold in the same town where their shop is located. I’m working with a store that has purchased some of the products I normally make and sell but with a signature glaze color that fits with the concept of their store. I have also been working with them to design some custom products that will only be sold at their store. There has been a lot of input from their entire staff and it’s been a longer process because they have very specific tastes. But they know what their customers want and this gives me confidence that the products will sell and they will be placing more orders in the future.

My favorite retailer to work with is a specialty yarn shop called Fuzzy Goat in Thomasville, Georgia. The owner, Cadence Kidwell, first approached me to make yarn bowls for her and I didn’t even know what a yarn bowl was! Over the last three years since she opened her shop, she’s given me the artistic freedom to do whatever I want to with the yarn bowls that I make for her. So unlike the previous retailer who has a lot of direction for my designs, Cadence allows me to just show up with a batch of yarn bowls that may have different colors than the previous batches I’ve delivered. She likes my style and gives me a lot of leeway to provide her customers with lots of options, even if they don’t know what I’m going to show up with. I sell my yarn bowls exclusively through Fuzzy Goat. Why would I do this with her? Well, she’s been really good to me. She promotes my products on social media every time she gets a new shipment, she tells her customers about my process and she respects me as an artist and a maker. She understands the little things that go into making something from scratch and she’s okay that my work doesn’t look like it was made in a factory. In fact, she loves that. I have received several opportunities to sell larger amounts of custom work to her customers who stumbled across my work in the form of a yarn bowl. She is the perfect retailer to work with.

I don’t sell a lot of wholesale work but it is nice to have a few orders going to keep that monthly check coming in. It supplements the sales from my showroom. Would I prefer to have everyone visit the studio or website and pay the retail price? Well, yes. But maybe then I would miss out on opportunities to reach outside of my own ideas. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn some business skills from really great business owners. If I’ve learned one thing about running a business over the last few years it’s that having multiple streams of income coming in is extremely important. Wholesale orders and a big wedding order are what got me through this really slow retail summer. Maybe next time you’ll decided to purchase directly through the artist so that they receive the full retail price of their work but now at least you understand how it all works.

-Julie

Where Books Go To Die

Julie Guyot

The last book I read was culturally significant but certainly not a page-turner. It was not light summer reading and now that we’re in the throes of summer in North Florida, I need something fun and familiar to read at night. It is about this time every year that I grow extremely homesick for Illinois and I was feeling a bit nostalgic so I picked a book that I’ve already read several times and one that reminds me of home. “Straight Man” by Richard Russo. The reason I get homesick at this time of year is mostly due to the extreme humidity coupled with the heat. As we say in the Midwest, “It’s not so much the heat as the humidity.” I feel like a fish out of water or more accurately, a human in water. It’s something I’ll never get used to and for about five months out of the year I feel that it’s best to stay indoors as I long for the cool breezes that are generated after a Midwestern rainstorm. After it rains in Tallahassee you can see the steam rise up from the pavement and things go from bad to worse.  I still see people mowing their lawns at noon or jogging at 3:00 in the afternoon when the heat index is 105 and I just don’t understand this species of humans called Southerners. Short of moving back home, I’ll just curl up in the air conditioning with a good book and long for days gone by.  

Illinois cornfield near my hometown

Illinois cornfield near my hometown

During my first semester at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, I showed up for Freshman Composition just like every other student. I was greeted by a particularly angry graduate student who seemed to hate our very existence every day of the week, or at least the three days a week that we were in his classroom. There was a lot of yelling and a fair amount of belittling. I just accepted this as the way things were but someone else (or several someone elses) must’ve complained because one day about seven weeks into the semester we showed up to class and he wasn’t there anymore. In his place stood Beckie Hendrick with her southern accent and her Sigourney Weaver hair and she was telling us that she was now our instructor and that we were starting the semester over. Our grades were being thrown out and we were getting a do-over with her. Needless to say, I liked her so much that I signed up for her American Literature class the next semester. She showed up as Beckie Flannagan as she’d gotten married since I had seen her last but otherwise, she was the same.

On the first day of American Literature, Beckie asked us to turn in a piece of paper with our name and what kinds of things we liked to read, and then she said the most amazing thing. She said it could be a comic book or the newspaper or whatever we really enjoyed reading. She wasn’t looking for the classics, just honesty. Since I had been sneaking into my dad’s room when he wasn’t home and reading his books chapter by chapter since I was nine years old, I wrote down Stephen King.

One day Beckie Flannagan brought in a novel called “The Risk Pool” by Richard Russo and she told us that her professor had written it and that we were going to be reading and discussing this book. Outside of my own dad’s high school rhetoric classes where we dissected mostly ancient writings such as “Beowulf,” and maybe “The Great Gatsby” in another high school class, I had never discussed a book before. I had only read them. Here we were talking about characters and plot and writing and all things pertaining to a book that was not only set in my lifetime but was also written right there at my university by my instructor’s professor. Everything felt so accessible. And then there was Beckie Flannagan herself. Isn’t that just the greatest literary name you’ve ever heard? She was smart and kind and funny and maybe I’m reading too much into this but I think she may have been the first feminist that I knew. She never told me that she was a feminist but just the fact that she had taken over the classroom from this horrible man my freshman year and turned everything around pretty much sealed the deal for me. I loved her.

I never saw her again after that semester but when I went home that summer with “The Risk Pool” in hand, my dad saw it and showed me that he had Russo’s first and third novels and so we exchanged them and each read the books we hadn’t previously read. He told me the third book was being made into a movie with Paul Newman and I really felt this was a rare moment of connection between my dad and I, standing in his basement of books, discussing books. I remember going to see the movie with him and we both left mumbling the age-old, “wasn’t as good as the book.” Dad died in 1997 before “Straight Man” came out in paperback, which means he never got a chance to read it unless he borrowed the hardcover from the library as he rarely spent the money on hardcover editions. It definitely wasn’t in his collection when he died. I know he would’ve loved it. Even though he was a high school teacher in rural Illinois, I know he would’ve related to the main character’s dry humor and his struggle with academic life at a small college in Pennsylvania.

Richard Russo had moved on from SIU-C when I was still in attendance there and long before “Straight Man” was written but this passage from the book always stops me in my tracks when I come upon it.

        “On my way back across campus, I see Bodie Pie slip into Social Sciences via the back door and remember she wanted to talk to me, so I follow, risking the possibility that I’ll get lost in the building’s legendary labyrinths. Social Sciences, the newest building on campus, was built in the midseventies, when there was money for both buildings and faculty. According to myth, the structure was designed to prevent student takeovers, and this may be true. A series of pods, it’s all zigzagging corridors and abrupt mezzanines that make it impossible to walk from one end of the building to another. At one point, if you’re on the first floor, either you have to go up two floors, over, and down again or you have to go outside the building and then in again in order to arrive at an office you can see from where you’re standing. The campus joke is that Lou Steinmetz has an office in the building but no one knows where.”

It is obvious to me that he is writing about Faner Hall at SIU-C. This is where the English department was housed and probably where Russo’s office was located. This is the building where the previous classes that I wrote about took place. As a student, if you received your schedule and you had a class in Faner Hall, you always went the day before classes began and tried to find your classroom. It usually took about 30 minutes to figure out which door you should enter and which stairway you needed to take even if you’d had multiple classes there before. We usually went in groups so no one got lost, as if we were on a dangerous hiking expedition. We were also told that it was built after the Vietnam War protests in the 1970’s that burned down the old campus. There was a monument next to the building in homage to Old Main. It was considered a “riot proof” building. Russo describes it perfectly. We HATED it. I wonder if Russo had become nostalgic about that building as he writes about it and about the hilarity of the tensions and hierarchy of academic life.

During my junior year at my summer job at the university library, I would see the graduate student from my class who lost his teaching job. We were both working on the 7th floor in the archives, or as the long term employees called it, “where the books go to die.” He seemed the same to me although to be fair, no one who worked on the 7th floor seemed happy. The students weren’t allowed to talk to each other and we had to ask to use the restroom. I thought it was the perfect place for him to live out his days.

After having been to graduate school myself and briefly teaching as an adjunct instructor, I start to think maybe there was more to that angry graduate student than I was aware of. Having spent a small amount of time in Academia, I am now aware that removing a graduate student from a teaching assignment is no small feat. We never asked any questions about where he went or what had prompted his removal. We just didn’t care. We were happy about who The Universe and the English department had plopped down in his place and we didn’t rock the boat with questions for fear that things could change again.

God help anyone who ever had to grade anything that I wrote. I once took an honors class where all we did was read Tennessee Williams plays and then watch them in movie form and then we had to write a couple of papers. The only reason I was in the honors program is because I was an art major and got really good grades in all my art classes. The other students in class were science majors who were taking a break by being in this honors class. They thought I was inferior and they certainly let me know. I remember the professor used to give my papers back with comments such as, “Your writing is awful” written in red ink. I know that I overuse commas and sometimes change tenses mid-sentence. I am aware that art is my strength. Out of all of the classes outside of the art department that I ever took as an undergraduate student, Beckie Hendrick Flannagan is the only instructor’s name that I still remember these 27 years later and I only remember one thing she told me and it was on that very first day of American Literature. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading as long as you’re reading. I can still hear her voice in my head with every page I turn. 

-Julie

Burning With Optimism's Flames

Julie Guyot
1987 Me

1987 Me

A few weeks ago my husband, Clayton, called to tell me he had found a mixed tape in my old boom box. Written on the outside was, “Julie’s Music Sampler II” and he asked if I knew what that was. He said he had listened to the first song and he thought it sounded pretty good. The next Saturday, I played the tape and forced him to sit through the first side, “Music to Get Groovy To,” while we were eating lunch, which mostly consisted of me dancing around the kitchen while he shook his head and rolled his eyes at me.

I met Phil at summer drama camp, 30 years ago, when I was 16 years old. I don’t remember the moment we met, but I do remember a few of our interactions from that week. I had arrived armed with the only two albums that Phil had deemed worthy of anything. “The Joshua Tree” by U2, and the soundtrack to “Pretty in Pink.” Everything else I had was crap. I lived in a small farming community in Illinois and everyone was either listening to country music, heavy metal or whatever 80’s pop music was available on the radio station that we were able to tune into. I’m pretty sure Phil even thought that U2 had sold out with “The Joshua Tree” if that gives you any insight into his level of music snobbery. I arrived at the final camp event (the dance) wearing my hair in a banana clip like so many girls in the mid-80’s were doing. Phil immediately took it out of my hair and told me I shouldn’t try to be like everyone else. To be fair, my hair never looked good in those things so he was right on that front.

He wore Dickies brand work pants and plain t-shirts and had a crew cut with an interpretation of a small duck tail in front. He spoke really fast and looked me right in the eye when he talked to me, which made me super uncomfortable. I don’t think a boy had ever looked at me that way before. After we returned to our respective towns, I received the first envelope of what would turn out to be a fairly vigorous written correspondence. Phil didn’t just send letters, he sent experiences. They always arrived in manila envelopes and were filled with written pages that sometimes stretched over a series of days. There were little trinkets that were probably procured from bubble gum machines. Little bits of trivia on cardboard, pieces of paper with information from I don’t know where, drawings etc. It was like a little package of a journal of his days, walking around school and his town. I imagine him picking stuff up and sending it all to me along with his thoughts in a rambling letter. The things that he told me were probably typical of any teenager but what was so stunning to me is that a boy would tell me these things. Sure, my girlfriends and I talked to each other about the problems in our life that seemed so important and urgent and horrible at that time but I had never experienced a boy revealing these things to anyone, let alone to me. And then there was the music he sent me.

Phil would do things like jump over five rows of seats at an Echo and The Bunnymen show when he saw me in the crowd. He pushed his entire body up onto a slanted glass window when he saw me at a U2 show. He picked me up in his gorgeous antique car and we went out with a few friends one time. I remember him standing up on the booth at a diner and yelling things like Vince Vaughn did in “Swingers.” This was way before “Swingers” came out and somehow it feels different when it’s happening in person. Phil was like a combination of John Cusack’s character in Say Anything and John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity with a healthy dose of adrenaline thrown in when you least expected it. I used to watch movies in the 80’s and think that I wanted to meet someone like those characters. I wanted a boy to make grand gestures like Duckie Dale in “Pretty in Pink,” dancing around the record store singing Otis Redding. I wanted a boy to stand outside my window with a boom box, playing our song up to my window. But in reality, when those kinds of things happen to me, it is really uncomfortable. Years later at my wedding, I had it written in the program that guests should remain seated while I walked down the aisle because I knew I would pass out if everyone stood up and turned to look at me. It turns out that I hate grand gestures.

In person Phil was intense. But letter writing Phil was my lifeline to the outside world. The music he sent me was life changing. There was The Cure’s “Standing on a Beach” singles. There was another mixed tape that came before the one my husband found but I don’t remember what was on it. The second one was my favorite. When I listened to it the other day, I still remembered each song that was coming next. It was like hanging out with an old friend.

I feel like I need to mention that when I met Phil, I was having a difficult time. I never told him this but the previous year I had a humiliating experience at my school. It was one of those things that for anyone else might have been easily forgotten but for a sensitive child, these kinds of events tend to shape the person you become. Sure, in the years before this, I had experienced betrayals by friends and in the years after I would deal with cheating boyfriends and other difficult life experiences. But I can honestly say that this single event in my life became the thing that changed me forever. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Knowing that everyone at school knew about it was bad enough but finding out that my family had known about it before it happened and had done nothing to warn me was what hurt the most. It was at that moment, standing in my kitchen with my mom and my sister that I formed the belief system that would stay with me for a long time. One that I still struggle to de-bunk, even today. The idea that no one is to be trusted and that I am totally on my own in this world. The belief that people who look like they belong are mean and should be avoided at all costs. If the mainstream world didn’t want me, I would reject them first.

And then Phil’s letters came and they contained this music that was unlike anything I had heard before. No one I knew was listening to anything like this. I started dressing differently, shopping at thrift stores, wearing my dad’s old black letterman’s cardigan from the 1960’s. I teased my hair to look like Robert Smith from The Cure. I started talking back to my teachers. I listened to “Dear God” by XTC before going to youth group meetings at my church. I developed my best “What are you looking at” glare. Sure, I still managed to be a pretty good kid but by all outward appearances, I was fairly strange looking for my farm community and that’s the way I wanted it.

Phil and I were never romantically involved, (save for 15 minutes at drama camp) but I think his friendship changed my life forever. Later that year we both went on to date our high school sweethearts and the letters tapered off during our senior year. He went to college in Chicago and I left for the southern part of the state. We re-connected after college for a bit. I looked him up and we hung out for a week in California. I was moving out of the state after a horrible job experience and he was moving in, trying to get something going in L.A. Eventually we met up again in Illinois for a time, saw a couple shows together. I haven’t heard from him in over 20 years. I don’t think there were any bad words between us, no reason for it but it’s hard for me to say. My dad died shortly after that and everything around that time is a blur for me. I know that he had made me another mixed tape in California that had some Radiohead and a throwback “Under the Milky Way”. There was another tape that had Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” on one side and a Low album on the other, making it possibly the most depressing tape ever made. By this time we had both gotten into Americana and Alt-Country and I had made a little detour into some folk. Phil had evened out a lot, he was much quieter and easier to be with and I was a bit more anxious and depressed.

Phil’s internet footprint is almost non-existent, unlike mine. But I do know this. He looks just as he did the first time I met him and just as he did the last time I saw him. As for me, I occasionally try to fit into mainstream society. It does sometimes make me really uncomfortable. I think I’ve managed to find a balance. To figure out who the real me is and to break down some of my walls. The truth is, no matter how high you tease your hair, and what music you listen to, you’re still the same person underneath. I’ve done a lot of work to figure out who that person is and I’m pretty happy these days. The other day my husband and I went out to breakfast and as we were driving out of the parking lot, there was a man standing there, looking at me. He must’ve looked a little too long because I said out loud, “What are you looking at?” Only those aren’t exactly the words I used. My husband just started laughing and shaking his head. Despite my constant encouraging of him in the last few years to join me in being a little more positive in life, he knows that deep down inside, my 16 year old self is still there, sending out a little warning to the world that I’ve got my eye on you all the time. Just in case I have to put those walls back up, head to my bedroom and put in that mixed tape.

-Julie

*I created a Spotify playlist if you'd like to check it out HERE.

Me and Clayton 2017

Me and Clayton 2017