Sunday, January 31, 2010

Name: Charlene (Cat) Therien

General Location: Illinois, USA

What do you create/sell?
Polymer Clay Canes
Fimo Nail Art
Memorial Beads
Loose beads and pendants

What inspired your shop name? When I was looking for a name  for my business, I have a friend who is very practical.  She suggested just using my name and describing what I do.  Simple!  And it works.

How long have you been creating and how did you get started? I started working with polymer clay in the winter of 2001.  I was instantly drawn to the medium because of the broad range of things that can be made with it.  I learned everything I could about the clay and it's possibilities, and have had it as my favorite medium ever since.  I began teaching in 2002, and selling my work later that same year. 

There are three divisions to my company:  the craft supply division is the first one.  I make raw polymer clay canes for crafters who make a wide variety of projects, and I supply canes to artists who use them in their work.  The nail art division is a retail and wholesale venture to supply baked canes and slices to nail technicians, who embed the little designs into their clients' artificial nails.  The final division is the memorial division, which provides keepsakes from funeral flowers.

Tell us about your work space: My studio is in the finished basement of my house.  The basement is pretty big.  (Think of a living room, dining room, and galley kitchen, that's about the size of my studio.)  The floor is linoleum, which is great, because I don't have to worry about getting bits of polymer clay squished into carpet, or losing seed beads if I drop them.  I love having alot of room, and there is a lot of storage space, too.

There are three six-foot Rubbermaid tables, designed as centers for certain types of projects.  One of the tables juts out into the room so that both sides of the table can be utilized at the same time.  That table is the cane assembly table, and it has one of my motorized pasta machines on it. 

The second table is for drying flowers and baking polymer clay items.  The table's long edge is pushed against the stuccoed wall, and this table is primarily used for the memorial bead orders.  There are usually two or three sets of flower petals drying at one time on this table.  My halogen toaster oven sits on the corner. 

The third table is pushed against a corner, and runs along the length of a mirrored wall.  This table is for jewelry assembly, and has a rolling cart with tools and findings in it, that fits under the edge of the table. 

Next to the jewelry table is my desk.  Its a 1960's steel teacher's desk, and it's huge.  It has a rubberish top surface which is great, because I can use it as a cutting mat.  My computer is there, and my photo station, too.  I spend about half my time at my desk. 

In addition to these four work areas, I also have a printing center; three filing cabinets; two sets of mechanic's storage drawers; a galley with sink and wall-to-wall storage cabinets, a shipping center, and a set of ceiling-to-floor bookshelves. 

Every flat surface has projects in process on them, because the different divisions of my company always have an order to work on.  At times it's been chaotic and we've had as many as 11 employees working on big orders.  But most of the time it's been just me.   

Any advice for those thinking about starting their own business? For those who work with polymer clay and would like to start selling their projects, I would say to be very patient, and to practice as much as time allows.  It's a hard fact to accept, but I was told that it takes an artist about 5 years to get really good at a technique.  My own experience really proved that out.  There are so many things that go into creating art with polymer clay that a basic foundation has to be built before sales will be anything other than sporadic. 

Once an artist has a good technique and understands it thoroughly, and begins to have sales becoming consistent, I would give some basic financial advice.  First I would say to them, do not spend money you don't have.  Don't borrow on credit to expand your business.  Be patient, allow it to grow a little at a time, and manage your money well with the help of a good financial adviser.  If you don't have one, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's books and classes.

Get all your ducks in a row with the legal aspects of your business.  Pay your state sales tax;  apply for a city business license;  keep good records of every financial transaction you do with your business. 

Finally, don't give up when it gets hard.  Keep your eye on your competition;  watch sales trends in your chosen medium, and network with other business owners to keep your fingers on the pulse of what you make.  There will be ebbs and flows, and it's good to have a few different directions you can go with your talent, so that when one area is at an ebb, another may be at a flow.   

Fun facts about yourself: I used to be a childrens' entertainer.  My stage name was "Petunia Flowerpot" and I was a face-painting fairy.  I worked for an entertainment company, and they sent me all over the California Bay Area to perform at events, corporate parties, and birthdays.

I'm probably one of the clumsiest people you will ever meet.  I always have a bruise somewhere on an arm or leg, because I trip / fall over something / bump into something on a daily basis.  We did finally see a neurologist about it, who said it was a slight deformity in my inner ear and it throws my balance off.  He tested this by having me stand up straight, feet together, and close my eyes.  Just stand there.  Well the problem is, that I can't seem to stay in that position.  I always lose my balance and fall to the left. 

 Visit her Etsy shop today!  And check out her website!