First things first.
I think the joke goes, “I was told there would be no math.” Well, there is math—and reading. It’s best to know this stuff upfront rather than figure it out over time. If you can make it through this read, you’ll probably fit right in.
For those that want to take the hard road, the absolute minimum is in ORANGE.
TO ANSWER YOUR FIRST QUESTION: Yes, we accept subcontract work.
Step 1: Show us your stuff.
Chameleon Glass highly encourages skilled pipemakers from all over to show us what they’ve got! Sadly, I can’t respond to everyone that contacts us; but we definitely won’t contact you if you never try. That’s why your first step is to email pictures of what you are accustomed to making to me, Ken (firstname.lastname@example.org), along with your target pricing.
Keep in mind that we are a wholesaler, not a store. Don’t highball me; we have 40 benches here at the Chameleon shop and know what your costs are. Don’t lowball me either. To be motivated to do the production work of the same model for an entire year, you have to make money—price appropriately.
If it is different enough and the price is in range, we’ll talk.
- We’ll talk about volume. Expensive pieces sell less than inexpensive pieces: Economics 101. Models with more perceived value (unique functionality) sell better: Marketing 101. I don’t make these rules; but I have to live by them, just like you.
- We’ll talk about commitment. This is not a one-hit-wonder. The Chameleon catalog is like a boarding house. I may own the house, but everyone has to pull their weight on the maintenance, otherwise the place looks poorly kept. If I commit a spot of real estate in the Chameleon catalog to you, you need to commit to keep the piece in stock. Neglecting all your production orders and your commitment to Chameleon Glass because you got tickets to Bonaroo last minute—and since your cousin’s farm is only 250 miles away, you have decided to spend the summer there—is not the way to build this relationship. Only you know if you are a lifestyle blower who only aspires to making enough to get by, or if you are a vocational blower who considers this a job and values long-term mutually beneficial business relationships.
- We’ll talk about quality. There is a list in the Glass Education section of this website called How to Pick Your Pipe. Read it. Read it. It’s what the Quality Control (QC) team at Chameleon uses every single day to assess the Chameleon shop made glass and all of the subcontractors. I am not going to tell you I am easier than other distributors are on quality because I’m not. If you send me awesome looking glass that is flawed, you will get it back regardless of it’s awesomeness. Quality and Value are our only weapons against low-quality importers.
- We’ll talk about consistency. I have customers that buy 50 counts of one item at a time. The pipes have to be consistently sized, colored and patterned. Period. How would you feel if you bought two pairs of your favorite jeans from a catalog, and when they arrived, they looked nothing like the catalog AND nothing like each other. You’d be pissed and want to return them both and not order anymore. Just like my customers—who are really your customers, too.
Step 2: Blow, baby, blow.
Once we’ve agreed to work together you may begin to send us glass. You will make between 10 and 20 of the same piece and send them in for review. Before you put them in the mail email me the dimensions and weight of your box and I will send you a shipping label. All you have to do is drop it off at a shipping store that accepts UPS—which is most of them. Get a receipt that you dropped it off.
Two samples will be chosen: Chameleon keeps one for the catalog and QC and the other is returned to you. You will keep that sample on your bench so that it is there every time you make the piece for Chameleon. Consistency!
But not consistency at the expense of expression. Use your color palette wisely. You may, in fact, have been born in Cleveland, and you may be a football fan, don’t send me 50 brown and orange wrap and rakes. That is bad. Agua Azul and Hyacinth; Good. Pink Cadillac and Onyx; Good. Alchemy Mint and Mighty Moss; Good. Avocado and Red Elvis; Bad. Most pipemakers are not glassblowers and most glassblowers are not trained artists. The beauty of our industry is that none of that regimentation means jack shit. Formal training is not required for expression, but knowing your tools is required. Color is a tool and you need to understand it. Need a color theory refresher course? Now you get the idea. Mix them up appropriately!
Mix them up unless you are sending me a piece that does not have variability of color. If you are sending me a Black Crow, make it Black. Black is good. If you are sending me a Brown and Black dog… Purple legs are bad.
I view glass artisanal manufacturing as extensions of several creative movements. Be true to that artistic mode whether it is regimented, dark and ornately Baroque, or effusive and brightly colored Impressionistic studies of color—even a detail oriented observational/structural piece.
The remainder of your first shipment will be QC’d and you will be paid for the items we keep including our sample.
Step 3: Payment.
The payment cycle is as follows: Your box arrives after 3 P.M., so the delivery date does not count. Starting the next full day, Chameleon averages three days to open, QC and ‘receive’ your shipment. You will receive an email of the ‘receiver’ that details how many were accepted as first quality and how many were rejected and why they were rejected so you can fix whatever problem is noted for future shipments. The receiver will also denote how many items are still open on the production order (PO). If I order 100 and you ship 95 and we reject five, the PO is still open for ten. Make those ten and ship them in. Better yet, when I order 100, make and send 110, I don’t mind a little overage.
The day you receive the scanned receiver is the day we issue an electronic check. Chase Bank guarantees a maximum of five days from the time we key the check to the time you receive it. It’s pretty close to that +/- a day or two every now and again. Unfortunately, it looks like a credit card solicitation, don’t shred it!
Your rejects are returned to you at least once a quarter, sometimes more often if you have a lot of rejects or we are trying to dial a design in. Feel free to fix them and send them back against a future PO—the key word being fixed. We mark the blemish and elsewhere. If you don’t fix it, and you repetitively try and get over on the QC team by resubmitting an unfixed piece, be advised that permanent ‘fixes’ may occur during QC.
When you complete the PO, feel free to drop me an email. More often than not, I will reorder before then to ensure regular flow business that keeps you in rhythm. Make an amount worthy of the shipping cost (minimum $500 box value is the rule of thumb) and request a new shipping label to start the process again.
Oh wait, you only want to make a couple pipes for me while your retail stores are slow? Ahh, thank you for being upfront about that. No thanks, I only need pipemakers that are going to make pipes and ship regularly…that whole catalog thing again.
Lastly, if you see a piece already in the catalog that you want to make, let me know. I may be able to shift that production to you. You never get what you don’t ask for.
Everyone likes new work, send samples regularly.
Wow, so many rules, why do I want to deal
with Mr. ‘My-way-or-the-highway’?
Big corporations bitch loudly about theft of intellectual property and dumping. While I am not a fan of corporate America, they are accurate. The glass pipe industry is in an ongoing battle with low-cost importers who dump all manner of low quality—and sometimes dangerous—product in the US in a not-so-veiled effort to assassinate domestic production, monopolize and then raise prices. When the dust settles from the import war, there will be one or two production distributors left. I will be one of them. If you are a vocational blower, work hard and understand that distributors have a place in the supply chain. Working with Chameleon will be a long term source of income for those of you with the drive.
Once you have shown me that you know how to operate your business, you have the opportunity to purchase raw materials at my cost. I stock GA, NS, TAG, Momka and Origin colored rods and frit. If you are in or near a glass hub, you can pick materials up or have them drop shipped. I will provide you a copy of the vendors invoice and deduct it from your shipment.
My checks are always good, and unlike many of my distributor peers, I understand what float capital is.
Yes, I cherry-pick your quality—frankly, I don’t want to hear about it. Quality is one of only a few differentiations from low-cost importers that we have left to combat the knock-off scourge. Customers really don’t like paying for a more expensive, American-made piece only to find out it is flawed. You get cherry-picked for design at the stores anyway. Name me a time you ever walked into a store and sold your glass for what you wanted and the store took all of it. Not very often is it?
Does driving hours on end slinging whatever glass you can cost you money? You betcha’. Gas and time off the torch are very real costs. If producing functional glass is your vocation, you know you can make far more money staying in your shop.
Not to say that having a diverse customer base is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, I recommend you cultivate as many customer relationships as needed to have a consistent income. Just don’t make similar items for other distributors I compete with and don’t undercut me by selling the items you make for me to retailers at the same price you sell them to me for. Whether I get told that distributor X has the same piece for less (because they don’t QC or publish an attractive catalog) or I get told how they don’t buy your work from me because they buy it cheaper directly from you, is no matter. The point is that I get told. I get told gleefully by people who either do not understand or do not respect that a distributor serves the purpose of providing a one stop, stocked portal to purchase high quality, attractive glass for resale.
Chameleon is 20+ years old. We didn’t get here by not knowing how to transact our business. We’re not for everybody, but for those who understand, (and can read through my long-windedness) there is always room to grow and prosper as part of our strange little family.