search  current discussion  categories  business - production 

seconds sale (a reflection)

updated sun 15 nov 98


Berry Silverman on sat 14 nov 98

Well, it's that time of year again -- the seconds sale. We are a
production studio producing specific design lines, so I am spared the
anguish about compromising my art by selling seconds. During the year
everything slightly imperfect -- the black speck in the wrong place,
the oval platter with a wobble -- gets set aside. And there are lots
of first quality pieces, too, of discontinued designs or colors.
Anyway, today we set up tables, cleared away our work in progress, and
unpacked boxes and boxes of these pieces, in preparation for our
4-hour sale on Sunday.

Last year there was a line around down the block a half hour before,
so this year we're handing out numbers an hour early, along with hot
coffee, orange juice, and lots of homemade bread and butter. And I
find myself having manic- depressive fits, alternating between
nightmares of too many plates and not enough people or too many people
and not enough plates.

Unpacking takes on a reunion atmosphere, as we unwrap individual
pieces we actually remember -- they stand out from the crowd. "Oh,
here's the plate I made the day I had too much coffee and all the
lines are shaky." And "here's the bowl where all the designs are tiny
-- I must have been having self- esteem problems that day!"

Each year we select a piece that we can't believe anyone would buy --
like the fish design that somehow got lizards attached (yes, I know,
you purists, but this is commercial stuff). And then when someone
actually elects to buy it, we give it to them for free. Like saying
the secret word on the old Groucho Marx show, "You Bet Your Life."

Normally, everything we make gets packed in boxes and shipped to
faraway places. But this is the one time each year when everybody who
makes the pottery gets to meet the customers face to face, witness a
genuine feeding frenzy. And despite the fact that these are imperfect
pieces, the pride everyone feels as they watch their creations get
grabbed, fought over, and held tightly makes for a perfectly wonderful

As for me, I am pleased to put the proceeds back into the business,
not only to buy more supplies, but also to pay employee holiday
bonuses; pleased to see how much I learned and that we won't see some
of these mistakes again; pleased to clear out the space all those
boxes took up; and pleased to know how happy people are to take a
piece of our work home. I think the seconds, with their imperfections
and idiosyncracies, perhaps reflect more of the people who made them
than all the bright shiny pieces going to bright shiny retail stores.

I hope I sleep tonight.
Berry Silverman,
Berryware, Tucson, Arizona
Get your free address at