Milla Istomina | Episode 910
Milla Istomina was born and raised in Kazakhstan. Milla moved to the USA in 2013 and has been residing in Los Angeles, California. Milla took her first pottery class in 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Center. What started as a weekend hobby quickly turned into a monthly membership at a communal studio. Mist Ceramics was born, and experimenting with clays, techniques, glazes and styles has begun. Just like many people across the globe, Milla lost her full time job on the marketing team of an arts organization when the COVID pandemic struck. It was time to make a path for oneself and take risks, so Mist Ceramics slowly became Milla’s main project. Mist Ceramics practice explores various techniques and genres while executing the neverending battle of trained wheel thrower versus self-taught hand builder.
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Why do you love your customers?
Well, it’s probably because they don’t even realize how many times they made my day and every time you are buying something from a small business, every time you are supporting an artist you may be just making their day because sometimes you feel like everything is not going right, nothing is working your way, maybe I should give up. Maybe I should go look for a different job and then an order comes in and you realize you just made your rent. And you think, Wow, this person just contributed to the amount that I was lacking this month! If that’s not a reason to love your customers, I don’t know what is.
So for you it’s not just the sale, it’s the value behind the sale.
Absolutely, it is. It is. I love surprises. I love making surprises. When somebody reaches out and asks me to do something personal and to make something special for them it’s also I feel like I am part of that surprise. And it’s amazing, you know. It’s fantastic. It’s kind of separate from money.
Do you say thanks to your customers and if so how?
Oh, I do! I usually try to include some sort of note or a small free sample of something. I don’t like being cheesy and posting a lot of the times on social media. I don’t think this is the way because a lot of people are just watching me on social media and not necessarily buying from me. But for my regular customers I am trying to be a little bit more personal, updating them in the process of their order and keeping in touch. That sort of thing.
Is there an ulterior motive for adding other things as in something they may want to purchase again later?
Pretty much things that I include are the things I don’t really sell in my shop. It’s usually magnets or something small, you know.
So it’s a pure thank you.
You also keep them informed. Why is that important?
I is particularly when I am working on a custom order. Because I know people are nervous and sometimes they don’t want to be annoying and sometimes they write, I had a dream that you finished my house. And I write, I get what you are trying to ask. (laughter) Here is a picture of the house and it’s not finished yet but here’s a peek. It is as important to them as it is important to me.
You take a lot of custom orders. What do you do when you mess up? How do you communicate that with the customer?
It depends on how much time I have. I think I usually try and allow time for me to be able to make the item twice. So if I tell my customer it’s going to be 7 weeks I know it’s going to take me 3.5 weeks in which case if I mess up then I can do it again. But if a situation occurs where some thing comes out of the kiln and it’s not sellable, not presentable you got to pull it together and write to the customer a heart felt apology.