Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Very Handmade Christmas

Well, Christmas is over and I'm in the process of organizing and storing all of the great new tools that I got from my lovely husband and mother-in-law. {Not to mention all the stuff I bought myself after Christmas!}

More about that later. Needless to say, I'll be learning some new techniques. And that means, there will be plenty of blog entries erring on the side of comedy in the near future!

One of the best things about Christmas is giving away some hand-made gifts and hoping that they go over well with the family. I gave out a few gifts that I made myself this year.

{My sister-in-law custom ordered this black and white charm necklace for her daughter}

{A crystal and ruby quartz necklace for my mother}

{A funky animal print bracelet went to my mother-in-law}

{This wrapped chalcedony pendant on sterling silver went to my grandmother}

{And a custom order bracelet, bought for a coworker, by her boyfriend}

I hope everyone else is having a lovely holiday season. Did you give any hand-made gifts this year? If so, leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Look, I'm Famous!

In Michiana is a local magazine where I live. For those who don't live here, Michiana is Michigan + Indiana. So, there you go!

The January 2010 edition has this lovely article about beading, with a mention of yours truly! The author and I have gotten to know each other recently, and the event that she reports is a true accounting of how we got to know each other. We met at Art Beat, and then went on a road trip together. You can see the actual article online, on page 22 of the magazine. {click on the article below to open a full-size, readable version}

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Steep Learning Curve

When it comes to taking photos of jewelry, it's always been a bit of a struggle for me. I would easily say that photography has never even been a hobby of mine, so I have had a long road! A while back, I found a great sale on a "photo shop in a box". It came with this white pop up box, two lights, and a tripod.
{Yes, that's a rock in my photo box!}

I have gone back and forth on using it. When I first started my Etsy shop, I wanted a natural feel to my pictures. Since it was summer, I shot all of my pictures outside, in my backyard. It wasn't until after I had everything done that I realized that "natural light" isn't the same thing as "direct sunlight"... Tough lesson learned. So with an Etsy shop full of overexposed photos with gargantuan, black shadows, I pulled out the pop-up box again.
The two little lights were never quite enough for good light. But, I've discovered that if I put the pop-up near windows, and used the lights, it was pretty good.

So knowing that the weather changing means no more outdoor pictures, I wanted to find a way to make my indoor shots feel as natural as possible. I had heard from some of the other jewelry makers in the Etsy forums that they use flooring tiles as backgrounds. What a great idea! There are so many great stone tiles with beautiful texture and color. So, I went to Lowe's and picked out two tiles - one with creams and tans, and the other with a more rusty orange color.
So I brought the new tiles home, only to find that they are {somewhat} larger than my pop-up box.
So I had to start thinking. My husband offered to cut the tiles in half, but I didn't really want to go down that road. It's not always easy to get a necklace photographed without a bunch of crap showing in the background! So, I knew the tiles would stay as is.

I decided instead to find another way to diffuse light, without the pop-up. I decided to make white tissue paper my ally. So I cut a couple of squares of it.
And I taped them over the lights, like this.
I do have to be careful with them, because the lights get {really} hot. If I work for too long, I can start to smell the scent of burning paper. But, it seems to diffuse the light pretty well. And if I set each light up, with one on each side, it cuts down on the shadows.

So, I brought in a few stones from around the pond in our backyard, where I took my pictures in the summer. I add in some props here and there, and I can take my pictures indoors.
So I'm making the best of it, and setting up my little photo studio a bit at a time. One thing I've never figured out is how to use the tripod. I have to get my camera into some funky angles to get most of the shots I take, so how can I make use of the tripod? If you use one, leave a comment and let me know how you do it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Trade and Stay, aka, Why my Eyes Burn

I tend to jump into things and get started before I fully understand what I have gotten into. Like Etsy. I started an account in October of 2008, but didn't put anything in my shop till the next June. But I did it because a friend told me I should be selling on Etsy. So even though I didn't have time then, I opened my account and made sure to get my shop name.
Then, about a month after I started filling up my shop, I discovered there were forums on Etsy. I wish I had noticed them a little earlier on - I could have gotten a LOT of my questions answered by some of the helpful people who hang out there.

So as it was getting closer to holiday shopping season, I noticed some people talking about trading in the forums. Apparently there are sellers on Etsy who are willing to barter and trade with other shops for things they want. Sounds like fun, right? So, I found this list of Etsy sellers who love to trade; I contacted the administrator, and got myself added. I barely knew what I had gotten into. It turns out, I had gotten myself into the Trade-a-holics group on Etsy.

A message came through one day, saying that an event was coming up. They called it a "trade and stay". I didn't pay much attention, even when I got another message saying that it had begun. But at the end of the first day of this three day event, I got curious. I looked at the link in my email. It took me to a post on the forums. 10 shops had been picked at random and placed on a list. Anyone who wanted to play had to try and strike a deal with someone on that list and make a trade. Once one of those shops traded with you, you got put on the list. So, basically, it's a fevered weekend of shops sending messages back and forth, asking each other to trade.

The list had already gotten pretty long by the time I looked at it, but I noticed a familiar name. A shop that I had traded with before. This was before I knew about the group - I got a message asking me if I wanted to trade one day. She had a really cool shop, so I went for it. It was Mireille's shop. So I sent her a convo, we eventually made a trade, and I got added to the list.

{some of the crazy-cool things Mireille can do with a process called wet felting}

What follows is a weekend of blurred vision as I stare at a computer screen, scanning small print and wildly thinking about what I need for Christmas presents. I hadn't planned on this, but I got swept up in the event and had so much fun. I even got crazy, deciding that I should try to photograph and list two necklaces that I had made the previous week. Thus, two new items appeared in my shop:
After the first day, I had a hard time sleeping. First I couldn't fall asleep. Then, I woke up at 6am after having a dream that I had 3 convos waiting for me. Well, how can I stay in bed when I'm ignoring messages?!? That would be rude, right? So I got up, only to find that I had 2 convos waiting for me. I never did find out what happened to that third one...

By the time the weekend was over, I had made a total of 10 trades. Not only did I get to know a bunch of other shops, but they got to know me. I had never realized what a great way this would be to get exposure for my shop. What I did know was that I would find other shops, which I did. Friendly shops. And some of them like what I do! Which is a bonus.

Now, I have to be careful about what I say here. Because some of the trades that I made will be used for Christmas presents. And some of the {future} recipients of those presents look at this blog from time to time. So, it will remain a mystery for now. Perhaps I'll share more about my trades in the new year.
So, now the event is over and my brain is starting to slow down. The next part, though, might even be more fun. That's the part where I come home from work each day and run to the front door to see if there are any packages waiting for me...
Ok, yeah, this might be the best part!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm Just not that Crafty

So earlier this November, I had an open house. Half way through, I made more earrings but couldn't find my plastic earring cards. You can read all about that crazy day here. My husband made earring stands out of cardstock for me, and they looked beautiful. Since Boo's blog had a template for a necklace stand, too, I thought I would give them a try.
So, here's a stand that I cut out on grey cardstock from the template. I love how it looks, and I love the idea of having coordinating display stands for my future shows.
Here you can see how lovely this silver wrapped moonstone pendant necklace looks hanging from the stand. It became obvious that the stands wouldn't handle heavier necklaces. But there is another problem as well:
This is how the necklace actually hangs on the stand. It's a standard 18 inch necklace, so needless to say, this doesn't seem like it's going to work out so well. I'm going to have to keep thinking about this one. Could I make a larger stand and hope that it will be sturdy enough to hold a necklace? Or, should I try to adapt this into a bracelet stand with some modifications? I'm not sure, myself. What do you think?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's Been a While - for Etsy

After a couple months of creating, selling locally, creating more, and another sale, I've finally gotten what is left photographed and listed in my Etsy shop. I find that I tend to work in shifts, somewhat. I go through stages when I am creating new designs, and I just keep going and going. I don't take the time to photograph or list things in my Etsy shop. Well, I finally took a creative break, picked up the camera, and got to the part of the job that I struggle with. {photography} I'm working on improving my technique, and am hoping that I'm making progress. So, without further ado, here's all that is new and fresh in my Etsy shop:

I've been working hard on improving my photography skills, so please leave me a comment with any advice or suggestions. Of course, you can always leave a comment to ask me a question, too!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Inspiration for the Tired Brain

You know how there are times when your brain is full of ideas and there aren't enough minutes in the day to create the projects that are bouncing around in your head? Then there are the other times. The days when you have time, sit at your desk, and stare blankly at the wall. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who knows what I mean. At that point, where do you turn for inspiration?

I have the usual places that I tend to look: beading magazines, jewelry catalogues, websites... But sometimes, my favorite catalogue pops up in the mail, and flipping through the pages brings me a different kind of inspiration. Anthropologie doesn't {just} sell jewelry. Mostly they sell women's clothing and house wares. They are my favorite store in this universe, and flipping through their catalogue give me visions of color combinations, themes, texture, and mood that I just don't get by looking at necklaces in a beading magazine. Want to see what I mean? Take a look:

Anthropologie is not a store I get to visit that often. There's one in Chicago, which is about a 2 hour drive for me, and another in Indianapolis, which is about 3 hours on the road. Walking through the store is another level of happiness for me that I won't even try to express with words. I'll just let those pictures speak for themselves. For now, I'll just sit back and hope that someone out there {Santa} drops a gift card into my stocking this year! Even if that doesn't happen, it's just a matter of time before I make my semi-annual trip there to treat myself to something special.

Luckily, I get a monthly dose of eye candy in the mail, which tides me over between visits. So the next time I'm feeling like I'm out of ideas, I might find a quirky color combination in a bedspread, or a funky doorknob, or even a wrapper from a piece of soap that will spring me back into creative action! What inspires you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mini Show and the Importance of being Flexible

I had a conversation this weekend with the wife of a local restaurant owner. Uptown Kitchen is a great little restaurant in Granger, IN, right in the middle of Toscana Plaza. My husband and I enjoy going to breakfast there on weekends - great food and delicious coffee!

Anyway, they have offered a spot in their restaurant Wednesday morning for me to bring in and sell my jewelry. Another local crafter brings in handmade soy candles, and I have the chance to join her. I got excited to do it, until reality hit {oh, wait...I have a job! I can't just wander off with jewelry in hand, midweek...}

But, family to save the day! I coaxed my husband and my mom into taking my jewelry there for me. Phew! I hate missing out on opportunities to gain exposure to new {potential} customers! So, if you're in the South Bend area, stop by Uptown Kitchen, this Wednesday, November 18 between 9 and 11 in the morning. My husband will be happily answering questions {just be kind and don't ask him to identify stones - he makes things up!}

Saturday, November 14, 2009

3rd Annual Open House - Fun, Jewelry and Wine!

Having an Open House is so much fun. Friends come over and hang out. Some friends bring others with them, perhaps co-workers; so I get the chance to meet new people. Not to mention that so many people who I know, but don't see on a regular basis, stop by. So it ends up becoming a time to chat with friends, catch up with people, and make new acquaintances. Oh, and sell jewelry, too!
My open house started on a Saturday morning, and plenty of people stopped by. I was surprised to see so many people, considering that we had freakishly nice weather for November (70's in Northern Indiana!?!), and a Notre Dame football game gearing up just a few miles down the road.

Then, it ended with a Wednesday night open house. I have always had my open house on a Wednesday night, and love being able to run home from work and throw open the door just in time! We have snacks, wine, music, and lots of fun. My mom always helps out by running the check out station. This year was an added trick for her, since she had to learn to run credit cards through ProPay. She got the hang of it, though, and everything went smoothly.

My husband is in charge of food preparation and serving, which is always well done (he's my Mr. Martha Stewart!). This year we had wine, tea, crackers and cheese, artichoke dip, caramel corn and cookies. He also helps out by being social and chatting with people, and generally keeping the party going. I always try to move around, answer questions, rearrange displays when empty spots start to happen, and take custom orders. I have a pile of a few custom orders waiting for me right now!

Between my Saturday and Wednesday shows, my plastic earring cards went missing. Now, this would not have been a big deal, except that I had made about 10 new pairs of earrings between the shows and needed a way to get them displayed. I was at my wits end, trying not to get crazy, but feeling a little crazy as I searched my entire house (and when you're checking your sock drawer, you know you're a lost cause).  Then I remembered this great blog I had read a few months back that offered a PDF for necklace and earring stands that you could make with paper. So, I found the entry on Boo's blog, sent my husband to Hobby Lobby for cardstock, and hit print. I ran the PDF home during my lunch break, showed him how they worked, and handed him a pair of scissors. Like a good sport, he put together a dozen of these little earring displays, and I must say, I was thrilled when I got home from work. See how they turned out?

I decided to try her necklace displays next. I bought round busts from a jewelry store that was going out of business a couple of years ago. See?

So, needless to say, I could use a fresh update. If that goes well, I may even see if I can fashion something to display bracelets... Ah, a project for another day!