News from the Pipemaking Workshop with the Funk.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Early Emily, and More Special Orders

Today's photo is a little blast from the past - one of the first pipes that Emily made, back around 99 or so. I remember this as being a really colorful thing, because (while it is difficult to see in the photo) the stem was pearlescent acrylic and fitted with a decor ring of pearlescent green... mated to a pipe stained deep red! Trés Christmas-ey, that. Speaking of holiday treats, we've just found a delicious substitute for our beloved (and much-missed) Cadbury Eggs from the states. There are chocolate eggs here by Milka that come in little egg crates, and are filled with a fantastic milky sugary stuff. C'est magnifique!

Today's pipe news is the posting of three new pipes to the website, along with some big changes to our shipping methods. I've just finished up work on some Talbert Briar bulldogs for an order. The fellow who placed the order has snagged the one he wanted, and the others are now available. One is very English, the other rather Italian in style. Also, there's a new Ligne Bretagne handmade Collector posted, in a Zulu shape and sporting an exceptionally nice sandblast for the price! In other news, our shipping service has completely revamped itself - all the prices have been changed (mostly increased, unfortunately), and the weight categories have been changed. The good news is that they have finally drug themselves into the twentieth (sic) century and now have package tracking by website, and should (I hope) offer faster shipping times. For a full breakdown of the various costs, speeds, and methods of shipping available, please visit our new Shipping page.

I mentioned previously that there was more to discuss regarding the subject of special orders. I was recently chatting with a fellow via email about "sales odds" - namely, the chance that a particular pipe will sell. Sometimes a fellow will try to order a pipe, and the pipemaker will receive the request skeptically, and not seem to be very enthused. The buyer is confused - in his mind, the pipe is a "sure sale", so the pipemaker is being inexplicably strange by not jumping enthusiastically at the chance to make the pipe. (As someone mentioned to me in private after my previous post on special orders, the biggest problem is that buyers don't see themselves in the roles I laid out - in their heads, they are ALL "Gold Buyers".... they just haven't quite gotten what they really wanted just yet!) The fact is that special orders are not sure sales - in reality, they are actually the least likely to sell! I've been doing this for a while now, and can say with some confidence (and without intentional hubris) that if I make a pipe to my own "eye" (sense of design, style, dynamic, what-have-you), it will sell about 90% of the time. However, it has been my experience that when I make a pipe for a special order, the odds of making the sale quickly fall to around 30%, at best. Literally 70% of the people who ask for pipes either back out, vanish, or refuse the pipe that is made for them..... 70%. Thus, the pipemaker really has to look at the odds - I can have fun and make a pipe for myself, to get the best from the briar, and it's 90% likely to sell. Or, I can go round and round with an order, trying to find a workable block, trying to please an idea that's from (and in) somebody else's head... and have one third the chance that it will actually sell in the end!

And then, of course, the pipemaker is left with the pipe. "I made this for somebody else's specs. It wasn't really my idea, and doesn't represent the best of my creativity at work. And, in the end, they rejected it." Doesn't that make a wonderful sales pitch for trying to sell the pipe to someone else? ;) This is why I've come to so love my current system, that of only taking vague special orders that leave lots of room for play, where I can have fun and spin out lots of variants of ideas and the buyers can take them if they want (or back out and stop answering emails if they want).... because in the end, I get to make pipes that are me, that I'm confident are sellable, and most importantly, that are fun.