BESPOKE

Glass Tile & Stained Glass

We make glass tile & stained glass in Brooklyn, NY & Phoenix AZ

I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS ON SHIPPING

This morning I woke up to this email from Etsy CEO Josh Silverman (do you want to read this? You probably don’t really need to. I’ll highlight the important bits):

Dear Seller Community,
Shoppers come to Etsy because they want something special, something they can’t find at a big-box retailer—and that’s all because of you. But these days, online shoppers expect free shipping everywhere they go. Etsy is no exception. I believe our job is to make sure you have the tools you need to compete and succeed in this fast-changing world.
Time and again buyers tell us that having to pay an additional shipping cost is what keeps them from shopping on Etsy more often. It’s become commonplace for online sellers to include shipping costs in the item price, so we’re launching tools to make it easy for you to do just that. This way your shoppers will never be surprised at checkout and they’re more likely to complete the transaction. In fact, we know that shoppers on Etsy are 20% more likely to complete their purchase when the item is marked as shipping for free.
So we're making changes to the shopping experience to make it easier for buyers in the US to find items that ship free. When we meet buyer expectations, shopping on Etsy becomes more competitive with the rest of e-commerce—and that could mean more sales for you.
Starting on July 30, 2019, we’ll give priority placement in US search results to items that ship free and to shops that guarantee free shipping to US buyers on orders of $35 or more. This means that shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping on orders of $35 or more in the top and most visible rows of search. We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.
Offering free shipping doesn’t mean you have to pay for it yourself. No delivery service will ship a package for free, but, just like the cost of your materials and other business expenses, it’s a cost you need to consider when setting the price of your item. Our data also shows that Etsy buyers will spend more to have their order shipped free. So, offering a free shipping guarantee could mean you’ll make more per sale, helping to offset your shipping costs. [ ⟵ ED: THIS IS ALL NONSENSE.]
To simplify the process for you, we created a tool that lets you guarantee free shipping to US buyers when they spend $35 USD or more in your shop. The tool will be available in the next week. For shops with items priced at $35 or more, we also created a way to bulk edit listings so you can adjust your item prices to recover your shipping costs. That means you don’t have to take on the cost of offering free shipping yourself. Keep in mind that how you determine and set prices is up to you.
In addition to these new tools, we also offer Etsy Shipping Labels with the United States Postal Service and FedEx, giving you the kind of discounted rates that big ecommerce retailers benefit from.
Watch our video to learn more about this change and how you can start offering a free shipping guarantee. We also created in-depth shipping education so you can create a pricing strategy that’s right for you. We’re excited to continue working with you to deliver the shopping experience buyers expect, and to help your business grow.
Thank you for making Etsy a one-of-a-kind marketplace.


What this means is that the price of items is going to have to go up, to account for “free” shipping. The current system works like this: Sellers can set shipping settings to include a small charge added to calculated shipping to help cover the cost of shipping materials, etc, so the price a buyer pays for shipping is the actual shipping cost (based on size of box, distance, and weight) + this small fee that the buyer doesn’t actually see. My charge is set at $1.25, which seemed, in the offhanded way I was thinking about it, to cover the cost of the box and maybe the packing peanuts, but you know what? Let’s take a look at what it costs:

The following is pricing for Elements (ie, small pieces that fit into boxes under 12”).

I buy boxes in bulk in sizes I use all the time. I also have to pay to have those boxes shipped to me. Yes, I’ve investigated local packaging supply places; this is still the most cost effective way to order supplies.

My small boxes range from $.40-.70/ea, plus shipping, which makes them cost around an average of $.84 depending on how many I order at once.

I also order cornstarch packing peanuts, which cost more than styro, but I feel very strongly about using them. The shipping cost for a big bag of peanuts COSTS ME MORE THAN THE PEANUTS THEMSELVES WHICH IS REALITY. An average small box uses about $2(!!) of packing peanuts.

Packing an order of, for example, a set of 17 Elements takes me about 30 minutes (including wrapping the pieces, boxing them, making shipping labels, etc.). Packing Cacti pieces takes WAY LONGER. Packing custom windows can take 6 - 8 hours and involves a minimum of $20 in foamcore and $30 in other materials. But for those Elements, let’s say I pay myself minimum wage for those 30 minutes, that’s $7.50 before taxes.

We are now up to $10.34, before we’ve paid USPS a dime. Cost to ship a 1lb box from here to Brooklyn? $9.30.

So we’re up to $19.64. This is before tape (which I buy by the case at about $130 with shipping - yes it lasts a long time but it’s NOT NOTHING), Fragile labels and business cards/marketing materials. If you order from my Etsy shop, shipping to Brooklyn, you’d pay something like $11.75, so almost $8 of that cost is already being absorbed by me, whether that’s figured into the item price or just a loss or a mix of both.

The point of doing this is that I’ve felt in a blind rage all morning about this frustrating move by Etsy, and how best to handle it. Etsy - and obviously this all goes back to Amazon - is encouraging us to obscure these costs from buyers, but the costs are still there. Amazon can take all these extravagant measures to change their shipping methodologies (& I’ve actually been to one of their shipping plants! Many conveyor belts and robots and people and very efficient! Also IRRELEVANT to normal shipping practices!) &, not for nothing, but they also charge a membership fee for all that free shipping. But we aren’t fucking Amazon - we’re not even IKEA, who charges a ton for shipping! Just because Amazon has changed expectations for them doesn’t mean it changes expectations for everyone….. right? Not to mention it removes “free shipping” as a promotional tool (ie.- a SALE) from small biz owners. I just want my buyers & clients to understand that shipping costs what it costs, and not seeing those costs added on to your purchase means that they’re figured into the price, and that price is going to be higher and less transparent. Not to get too existential about it, but this whole idea that people will supposedly pay more to not have to pay for shipping seems like some insane denial of reality (everyone does understand that shipping costs money, right??) that I just can’t support. IT’S SO STUPID.

Fin: My Etsy prices will go up over the week of July 15th to compensate for “free shipping”, and we’ll see how it goes. After almost 8 years and triple-digit sales revenue, it may be time to part ways, but we will see.

Comments & questions on this one welcome! x, l.


Color update

I realized it's been a minute since I've updated everyone on the ongoing color availability saga.  Spectrum Glass, which produced all of the super-clear, consistent, and textured glass used by Bespoke - literally the entire palette - first announced it was closing about a year ago.  After months of mourning and hundreds of dollars spent on color samples from other manufacturers, I was absolutely relieved to hear that Spectrum's equipment and catalogue was purchased by Oceanside Glasstile in California, but that they were moving all production to Oceanside's Mexico plant.  Oceanside Spectrum is now up & running, but several colors have been discontinued, and many are out of stock due to this production lag - SO what that means for Bespoke/you, is that not everything is consistently available at the moment.  The good news?  NEW COLORS!  I've added Aquamarine, Straw, and Dark Orange to the roster, and Black Waterglass will be coming just as soon as I can get my hands on it.  The bad news?  Saying goodbye to a few beloveds, in particular both Opaque Champagne and Dark Champagne.  The /colors page has been updated with the new options, as well as updated availability notes, and although they've been removed, I do have some of the following colors in stock: Honey Vecchio, Gray Vecchio and Dark Champagne.

Updates to follow when there's news!

x, l.

Sometimes you gotta yell into the void.

I know we all struggle with people knocking off our designs.  I know lots of us end up working with similar themes and shapes and that sometimes we end up in the same place.  But then, then once in awhile this shit just gets under your skin in a way that makes just getting on with your day impossible without venting.  You know what it was, it was this:

"Comes with 24 inch brown waxed linen cord".  The maker of this set of pieces started following my Instagram account, and I sometimes briefly check to see if new followers are stained glass people... because this happens (I used to automatically block all stained glass makers, but I felt weird about it, so now I only do if their work feels too close to the bone). My first thought on seeing this photo first on Insta, then Etsy, was... well, whatever, triangles and diamonds, what are you gonna do.  This design was a total fluke anyway, I just made a bunch of shapes on a random afternoon while chatting with my old studiomate Annie.  I took exactly two photos of two versions of it... and then sold about 230 sets of them.  But it was bugging me, that this person made the same number of pieces, using three of the exact same colors, in a very similar scale.  And what bothered me more was that she priced them the same as mine, which: my prices have gone up over the years as my level of craftsmanship has become more refined.  I'm compensated for the thousands of hours I've put into learning a skill, and I don't need to belabor the point, but this is early work for this girl.  But you know what made me completely lose my temper?  "Comes with 24 inch brown waxed linen cord".  

Anyway I emailed her, the most diplomatic of all the diplomatic emails I've sent over this type of thing.  No response.  

While we're at it (images on the left are mine):

Light Turquoise, Champagne, Dark Champagne, & Clear (maybe/maybe not Seedy Clear).  I use a Plum in the other version of this set which may or may not be the same as this.



This was two different people, I'm sure there are way more of these around now.  Both of these people followed my accounts, the maker of the top right on Etsy, and the bottom right on Instagram.  The first one, I think, after exchanging several polite emails, was a matter of working in somewhat similar themes, and perhaps not realizing that he'd seen my work (although, again, he was following my Etsy).  I believe that it was an honest mistake and he'd probably seen my work in passing rather than intentionally copying it, but the fact that his set contained the same proportion of segments (1-4) suggested it was related.  He ended up removing them and we had a pretty productive & long conversation in which we both tried hard to not accuse each other.  The second photo was from a hobbyist-turned-seller who was experimenting with stained glass - the comments on the 3 or 4 photos of these pieces indicated she was planning to open an Etsy shop to sell them.  It really bugged me, and I posted about it on my Insta, and we had a rather nasty back and forth about it (after she edited the original comments about making them to sell & lied about it).  It was a learning experience.


I mean.

This Instagram follower seems to be a hobbyist.  Still, fuck this.

I'm not even sure my purpose in writing about this, I guess it's more or less just to vent.  These photos are embedded in pngs, so they aren't even searchable by google image search; my intent isn't to embarrass anyone.  But back to that little detail, the 24 inches of brown waxed linen... that's the thing that screams intentionality to me.  It's the description in nearly every listing in my Etsy shop.  Maybe this person has never trained professionally, gone to art school, written a paper in college.  This person hasn't thought about proprietary ideas.  Most hobbyists, and those who sometimes develop into craftsmen, haven't when they start out.  And to some degree I'm sympathetic:  I've ended up in the same creative place as other people on occasion - even though I can diagram my design process back to an individual idea relating to my own work, there's been at least once I can think of where I'd sold something remarkably similar to something I saw elsewhere later (I make it a point of not following stained glass people that I don't know, and I only scroll through others' accounts to check for things like the above), but I was deterred by that.  I stopped selling those things immediately.  The gall of literally copying someone else's work and posting it online is unfathomable to me.  And even more frustrating is that there is so little recourse.  While proof of publishing and Implicit Copyright protect intellectual property and images, fighting against infringement isn't easy or cheap.  Even within systems like Etsy and Instagram, filing and defending claims is time-consuming and often futile; and having dealt with registering a copyright, that's not even remotely feasible for a small business with many changing designs.  So we are left with the options of emailing people directly (very time-consuming; it takes a loooong time to compose an email that sounds un-accusing  while, you know, accusing; also trying to educate about what constitutes copying is exhausting), or doing some sort of social media callout, which... doesn't go well.  

Anyway.

*This post will likely be updated with Cacti in the near future!  

*** Cacti update from the future! Mine on the left, a husband & wife team of etsy sellers on the right. Notice how similarly the shots are framed…. I emailed them when an instagram follower sent these to me, & they seem to have removed most of these listings, although they haven’t responded to my email. I’ve seen a fair amount of copies of my cacti designs, but these are the most egregious for sure.

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A few thoughts on the closing of Spectrum Glass and what it means for Bespoke.

Spectrum Glass is winding down its production in coming weeks, and this sad news has already had a huge impact on the stained glass industry.  I'll get into what's happening here at Bespoke in a moment, but first a bit of context:  Part of the design ethos of Bespoke Glass is using a very limited set of colors, and I only use single-color sheets (the industry calls this "cathedral" glass).  Most stained glass you'll see has several colors swirled around in the same sheet - which makes for such lovely mural-like windows, but I wanted to do something really bold and different.  So: I've developed a studio pallet of cathedral sheets, all from Spectrum, which produces very clear, consistent colors in different textures.  It was also affordable enough that a small studio like Bespoke could keep some amount of 25 or so colors in stock.  

There are about 6 companies in North America that produce colored sheet glass.  Bullseye and Uroboros, both in Portland, OR, both produce very high-end lovely hand-rolled single-color sheets, which are intended for fusing (rather than explain about coefficient of expansion testing, I'll just say this makes this glass more expensive).  Uroboros (where I used to work, by the by), will be taking over production of some of Spectrum's colors as they already worked in partnership to produce chemically compatible glasses, but they'll be hand-rolled, etc.  As this glass is meant for fusing, and hand-rolled, AND both of these companies are facing the same environmental issues that forced Spectrum to close, it's substantially more expensive than Spectrum.  Wissmach and Kokomo both produce machine-rolled cathedrals, but they have a more rustic, seedy (bubbly), less clear glass - which isn't a bad thing, it's just a different aesthetic.  No other producer makes the super-clear, machine-rolled glass that Spectrum made, and its Waterglass and Rough-Rolled textures have become integral to several Bespoke designs. 

SO, at the moment, I'm working with my distributor to continue to buy Spectrum while I can, and ordering samples from other companies.  At some point, I'll settle on a new color palette and see how it changes the pieces I produce.  

 

These are the main bits of info you should know right now:

  • Right now colors are going in and out of availability, as other studios are buying up large amounts and production has already stopped on some colors.  My distributor is out of stock on some things, and unsure if/when they'll get more.  I've decided the best way to handle this is to remain as on top of it as I can and adjust listings on Etsy, etc., as necessary.  I'm sending out alerts on Instagram when specific Elements are becoming limited - maybe they'll be back for a while if backordered glass comes through, maybe not.  I've no way of knowing so I'm just encouraging people who may have had their eye on something to order sooner rather than later.

 

  • The other decision that I've made, or am making I suppose, is with regard to certain designs which are really reliant on the qualities of the glass I had in mind when coming up with them.  Rather than continue with a new glass that feels (to me) like a substitute, I will be discontinuing them.  The first I've decided on is the several combination of Honeycomb Drop Elements, which is extremely close to my heart, because it was the first design from Bespoke that really took off, and since 2012, I've never stopped producing these.  Making them with any honeyish colored glass that's not Spectrum 110.2 Waterglass will feel like something less good, and that's not what I want to send out to clients.  Maybe I'll continue making the design in a mix of other colors (similar to what I did for Urban Outfitters), but these sets, in this form, will be going away once I use my supply of glass.  The first cut is the deepest, etc.

 

SO the coming months are going to bring a lot of change.  I'm still waiting on glass samples, still doing A LOT of math breaking down pricing, and will begin making some sort of transition soon.  I'm excited to see what new ideas come of it all, and sad to let go of some I've held onto dearly.  

If anyone has any questions, studio [ a ] bespoke-glass.com or leave a comment.

Thanks for your understanding & support!

l.

You GUYS I was in O Mag

Ok, so anyone who knows me irl at all knows I HATE having my photo taken, and am pretty all-around uncomfortable within yards of a spotlight situation of any type really.  Everyone has their things, I'm weird about too much attention.  It's not accidental that the studio is Bespoke Glass and not Lesley Green Designs or some variation; I never wanted to go out of my way to have to be "the face of my brand" or whatever, I'm even cringing as I type this. These were not things I really expected to be a huge part of my job/life when I started Bespoke.  But then, I started selling here & there at the Brooklyn Flea, which forced me to represent my company, tiny as it was, in person, and even encounter the occasional celebrity from a short distance.  It got a little better, but I still know my strengths and weaknesses, and you're always going to get a better answer from me via email than on the fly.  So when I was contacted by a major mainstream magazine like O... I mean, I couldn't turn it down, but it also scared the craaaaap out of me.  I have to thank Melissa Goldberg for being incredibly patient with me, asking great questions, and not making me feel horrible for long, rambling answers that were maybe not even answers to questions she was actually asking.  I also can't thank enough Madison Kirkman & her assistant James Stewart for the photos they took of me "working" ("we just need some shots of you working in your studio" is basically the most awkward thing you can say to someone like me).  Madison and I had basically met through Etsy, weirdly enough, while she was on an epically insane (my characterization) trip through Central America, which I'd been following on her Instagram account without realizing it was her (she also didn't realize we were living in the same city because I had forgotten to switch my Etsy info after moving).  It was a real comedy of app-era errors.  Anyway, it was an incredible stroke of luck to have just met an incredibly talented and hilarious photographer about ten minutes before needing someone with that exact skill set to pull me through what would have otherwise been a real bummer of an experience for everyone involved.  Madison & James are THE BEST and now we're all friends which is also the best.

Here's the article, and please note that the captions are wrong in the online version - Madison took the nice photo, not the so-so one of my work (that one's all me).

And also check out both Madison & James's work, if you like beautiful photos of amazing places and things.

http://www.madisonkirkman.com/

http://jamesstewart.photo/

Windsor Terrace (Brooklyn) Attic Window

Here's the window installed, with final renovations nearly complete (I believe the shingles and the windowframe were yet to be painted)

Here's the window installed, with final renovations nearly complete (I believe the shingles and the windowframe were yet to be painted)

Guys, I'm going to try to be better about documenting some of the more interesting projects that come out of the studio and writing about them here.  First up: This is a project I did a little over a year ago that was super interesting - I was able to work with a fantastic couple who were renovating their historic home near Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  The house originally had an oval gable window in the attic, which previous owners had removed to install an AC unit.  Google Streetview captured the house during early renos, & you can see it at the top of the house:

Since they were weren't using any existing window frame, they ended up having one custom built at Heights Woodworking in Brooklyn, and then they gave me the frame so I could double-check that the dimensions were perfect (this normally wouldn't have been necessary, but there are so many variations in an oval shape it was the easiest solution).  I built the window in the pattern & colors we'd agreed on, and the frame and window were installed by the professionals.

Why didn't I take my gloves off?

The colors were chosen because they would look distinctly different during the day from when the window was lit from behind at night.

You can see that the frame has one built-in ledge for the glass to rest against, and also these two removable pieces that were glued in once the glass was in place.  This allowed them to install the frame first, and insert the glass once all the rough stuff was done.

Basically like this.

P o r t l a n d

Any Instagram followers are probably aware that I was in Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago (sorry for blowing up your feeds).  I lived in Portland for 3 years, but hadn't been back in nine (NINE!) years.  The most obvious change?  Portlandia made lots of people aware of the intricacies of Portland Weird.  And... was being filmed across the street from where I was staying.  

I love Portland for all the reasons everyone loves Portland.  And although I've been hearing for years about how much it's changed, really, most of the things I loved were still there.  I lived in SE, and I'm resisting the urge to throw in a Brooklyn analog, but it seems that the major changes in the city have happened in North and NE... the whole Mississippi & Alberta neighborhoods have changed so, so much.  The cool definitely moved North. But selfishly, I'm so happy that the things I remembered were still around my old neighborhood(s).

 

We drove out to Multnomah Falls, which I somehow had never been to, and stopped at this lookout on the way. 

And Cannon Beach, still an amazing sight for this East-Coaster. 

One thing that's great about Portland is the signage.  Great neon (I was taught by the great Fred Tschida to appreciate the insane process that is neon production), and a generally more... western? aesthetic than we see often in New York.

My friend MacKenzie & I were invited to a party at ADX (which is a 3rd Ward-esque type studio workspace/membership situation, and a really excellent space) for the SHE SHREDS launch party.  SO FUN.

AND, I got to meet the excellent Andrea of Salty & Sweet Design!  Or re-meet... turns out we'd been instagram friends for awhile, and didn't realize we'd hung out together two nights in a row.  The world, it's tiny sometimes.  

I also got to catch up with my old college buddy, the studio potter & podcaster Brian Jones.  If his name is familiar, it might be because he's the official Marc Maron WTF mug maker.  Which: awesome.   

And he gave me a mug.

Some other random photos: 

And this, because it's great. 

Thanks to LT, for the amazing birthday present(s), and MacKenzie & Ashley, for everything. 

All content copyright Bespoke Glass Tile 2019