Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sneak Peek - New Creations

A picture is worth a thousand words... As I get ready for my open house, which is in early November, I'm making some new pieces. I always want to make sure that there's plenty of new items since whatever my last show was, so my loyal patrons don't get bored. So if you're coming to the open house, here's a little sneak peek of some of the new items you'll see there. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wire Wrapping for Dummies

I attended a wire wrapping class this weekend. Now, I've never actually taken a jewelry making class before. I have learned through a variety of methods over the last couple of years. Mostly through magazines, websites and a healthy dose of experimentation and trial and error. If I can't figure something out, I generally let it go and just don't do it. So, I decided to immerse myself in something that I avoid. Something that I avoid because I believe that I'm horrible at it. Wire wrapping seems intuitive, and yet it has always eluded me to an extent. I get the gist of it - swirl some metal around a stone and get a beautiful look. But for some reason, when I do it, it looks like a small child got into my supplies and went to town.

So after years of just not doing wire wrapping, I sucked it up, paid twenty bucks, and took a class. I headed off to Beads and Something More, and under the watchful eye of Mickie Holderman, I sat down to learn. We picked out a couple of stones that we wanted to work with, grabbed a roll of metal wire, and started with the basics. I began by practicing my coils. I find it very hard to make mine fall into a smooth, circular pattern.

I picked out a lovely dyed agate (the orange/black stone), and a faceted piece of candy jade (the big pink stone). I worked with copper throughout the class, cause I just love copper. I'm not even ~thinking~ about using sterling silver until I practice and work out all of the kinks with some inexpensive copper.

We started by making a bail, giving the ends a couple of twists around each other, and then bringing the ends around the stone. I left one end longer than the other coming out of the bail. Then I brought that longer end down through the drilled hole, out the bottom, and around the front of the stone. It met up and crossed with the shorter end, where I twisted them together and made a cute little swirl. Mickie taught the  class a trick, then. When you wrap a stone and find that the wire is not really tight against the stone, you can use a pair of pliers and give the wire a little turn. It ends up with a corner turn bent into it, which can look nice if you do it right. So I tried that, and discovered that I didn't know my own strength. I snapped the copper wire and it broke apart!

There was no shortage of wire, thankfully, so I grabbed another length of it and tried it again. This time it turned out much better. You can see the little tweak I gave the copper toward the bottom of the stone. So lesson learned - copper is SOFT!

I found that my skill level was a bit higher than most of the other people who signed up for the class, so I had to pace myself at times. I helped the ladies sitting on either side of me when Mickie wasn't near by. I also wrapped a beautiful imaginary stone, with quite a bit of flourish, I must say. See how lovely it turned out?

I moved on to the candy jade, and really tried some tricks this time. It looks a bit wild, but I really just wanted to experiment and practice some techniques. Heck, some may even call it artistic!

The class ended, I took my new beads with me, and was on my way. I was there for about an hour and a half when all was done. So, what I learned...

Copper wire is soft, so be gentle.
A couple of new tools may be in my future.
The biggest trick to wire wrapping is having confidence that what you make is awesome.
 Finally, I need to look for more advanced classes, cause I don't give myself enough credit!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dreams Run Amuck

I love my new flower garden necklace. I mean, I really love it. I heart it. I have decided that it should have a sister. Another necklace to keep her company while I'm at work all day, away from my crafting space. Not a twin, of course. But a baby sister.

My flower garden necklace started with one little piece, bought at a recent bead show.
I then added some flowers, putting together glass, acrylic and crystals, in little bundles. Those flowers were strung with other beads, including teal and black crystals. I ended up with a final necklace that is bold and quite a statement.
{Can you even find that teal focal piece? It's in there!}
 So, I've decided, on my next creation, to change up the colors... from rich and velvety teal and dark shades, to light and airy pinks and oranges. I've picked some lovely glass and crystal pieces that should go together nicely.
Then I started making flowers. Just a big pile of flowers, to be put together into a design. I actually built my flowers the other night, while sitting at my parents' house watching TV and eating Chinese food. {They always know what I'm up to when I bring my big bag with me to dinner!} Here are a few of those little flowers:

So now, I just have to decide on the final design and put it together. I just can't wait to see how all of my little flowers look when it's done! I still have to decide if I should add a focal piece, or just have a strand of flowers. What do you think?

{Special Note: I'm very excited to be going to my first EVER jewelry making class this weekend! Frighteningly, I'm purely self-taught, which means my areas of skill looks a bit like a piece of swiss cheese. I know what I know, and am scary-bad at what I don't! So I found a class on something that I'm HORRIBLE at - wire wrapping. I'm really looking forward to getting over the mental block that I have with this skill, and improving my skills past the levels of a 3rd grader.} I'll post ALL about how it goes soon!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Newest Creation ----- Begun in a Half-Asleep Mind

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a vision of a necklace, after my last shopping trip to a bead and gem show. I picked up this cute metal piece - antiqued gold with teal cabochons and flowers. I was just waking up one morning, and in that moment between wake and sleep, when you're kind of dreaming but seem to have control over your dream, I started to put together a necklace in my mind. I saw that teal piece surrounded by little flowers, as if sitting in the middle of a colorful garden. And I just knew that even though I was busy with other things, I just had to sit down and see if I could put this together. I felt driven! So I did, and I finally picked up my camera the other day and took a quick picture of it. I still need to do a proper photo shoot with it later, and can't wait to get some better shots. But for now, here you have it:

After making this one, I really think it would be nice to create another version of the flower garden necklace. Likely in another color scheme, but yes, I do think I will have to make another. It takes a really, REALLY long time to attach each flower to the strand, but it's very worth it. I hope you enjoy, and that the idea of wearing a flower garden is just what you need in this time when the leaves are all falling off the trees and it's getting cold out there.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shopping Buzz - Oh, What a High!

Oh, the joy of bead shopping! I had a great trip to the West Michigan Bead Expo on Saturday. Although it was a small show, there were some wonderful shops there, and some great lampwork bead makers. Not only that, but I had the fun of making a new friend, and going bead shopping with her. It's not too often that we find a person who shares our hobby, AND is fun to be around. Thanks, Natalie, for being a shopping buddy!

I bought a couple of cute lampwork beads, which I've never really gotten into before. One of my favorite shops was there - Mobile Boutique. Such unique pieces that are so affordable. I found some gems:

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! I found some nice strands and single beads, chain, and findings. One shop had some cute pewter spacers and bead caps. My next post will show you what I made with one of the teal floral components pictured above.

I had one of those out of body moments, right before waking up, when I literally saw a necklace in my mind. I felt like I had to make it, and a surge of inspiration and motivation hit me. So I put it together, and it worked out just as perfectly as that image I saw in my dream. That would have to be a first for me - usually things I imagine never quite work out. They hang weird, go crooked, or just plain look crazy! But not this time...

More to come.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Could be Better?

It's a cold and rainy day here in the Midwest. One of those days when you just wish you could stay under a blanket, on your couch, all day. But instead, I'm out and about, getting rained on (because my umbrella was snapped by a blast of wind and broke!), and working one last day before the weekend is here.

But Saturday, I get to do one of my favorite things in the world. Go bead shopping!!! I'm heading out to the West Michigan Bead Expo, in Grand Rapids, MI. In the neighborhood? If so, check it out. I've never been, but I'm hoping it's worth the drive.

When I had my booth set up at Art Beat a couple of weeks ago, I met a very nice girl who stopped by to shop. She was interested in beading, too, so we're ditching the husbands and going bead shopping together. You just gotta love a new friendship that's totally based on a fun craft.

I can't wait to see what is there and see if I can find some sweet deals! I'm pretty sure my next post will be all about my new treasures, since I'll be too excited to hold it in! Happy creating to all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Love...Shopping on Etsy

Spending my days either in my chilly office cubicle, or in my even chillier home, I have come to feel that my life will not be complete without a pair of fingerless gloves! I can barely string beads anymore, my fingers are so cold! So, off to Etsy I went, searching for a solution to my freezing cold hands. I found some really cute options out there on Etsy. Here's just a few of the kitters/sewers that have great creations for our seasonally adjusting arms:

Little Pistachio Cashmere Armwarmers
by clfbyclairelafaye

by bijouxboutique

by Nikifashion

by miabaggali

So with the weather turning colder, I'm looking for inspiration in the fall colors and little things meant to help us stay comfortable and warm. Thanks to all those Etsy sellers who are creating such cute and tempting choices!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Family and 1st Birthdays

This weekend was a work around the house and spend time with family weekend. My niece turned one this weekend, and my husband and I went to her birthday party. I just had to share, because she's so cute!

{That classic moment of the 1st cake, smeared everywhere}

{Always aware of a camera; and instant cheese!}

{"Holy crap, It's my birthday!!!"}

It was a fun day with family, and a nice break from business as usual. Next weekend, I'm planning to go to a bead expo. I made money at an art fair last weekend, and it's time to spend a little of that on some fun new supplies. I love bead expos, when a bunch of stores come together in one spot and save you the trouble of driving all around. Anyone in the Michigan/Indiana area might want to stop by Grand Rapids next weekend for this one:

West Michigan Bead Expo

Happy Beading!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend of Art!

Art Beat is over, and it was a wonderful, sunny day in the streets of downtown South Bend. The show was a huge success. I’d like to thank the rain cloud, for bugging off by 9 am! And of course the sunshine, for showing up eventually. I handed my camera to my husband, and he got a nice shot of my set up, before it got crowded with people.
I had lots of help from my husband, mother, and mother-in-law, on the day of the big art show. My father-in-law even hung out for a while! (You can see him sitting on the bench behind my tent, above.) We set up in some drizzling rain, but it soon past and we had a sunny and breeze day, with temperatures probably getting close to 70 degrees. Can you say perfect?
In the morning, before it got busy, my mother (in the black sweater) would shop. Partly because she loves to shop, but partly because I asked her to. I've learned that people tend to be more interested in a shop if it looks like other people like it. Marketing 101, I guess...
My dream came true – I was located almost directly across the street from the Chocolate Café, where I had my morning coffee, my afternoon iced coffee, and a snack of German almonds (which just turns out to mean “soaked in sugar”).  Here you can see the blue awning of the Chocolate Café, from the vantage point of my tent.

I ran my contest, and I lucky shopper won a $25 gift certificate for my shop. I ended up giving everyone who signed up a discount code for $5 off their next purchase, to encourage them to check out my Etsy store. It's always work, getting the word out about Etsy!

After Art Beat I removed all of the items that had sold from my Etsy shop. I also felt inspired to tell others on Etsy about my experience, and posted this statement in the forums:

I had a craft show this weekend that really woke me up after the last few months of focusing on developing my Etsy shop. In one day, I sold about half of my inventory (and my inventory was probably 4 times bigger than what was in my Etsy shop, with 112 items). I was so excited, and I realized that while Etsy is lovely, nothing compares to selling jewelry to people who can handle it and try it on.

Selling jewelry on Etsy is a tough business. Because of my craft show experience, I plan to refocus my efforts. I will be looking for more venues to show my stuff in person, and just keep my Etsy shop open as a side effort. I’ll be spending less time fussing over views, hearts and sales on Etsy!

I have to mention that I got so many great tips on doing craft shows; many from this thread: http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6028527.

Here’s the few that I put into place that really helped:

Not crowding my displays and just putting more jewelry out gradually as things sold.

Making levels of displays and getting things up to eye level.

Running a give away for a $25 gift certificate to my shop in return for their contact info.

Making a clearance sale area with older items (they went like crazy!).

Taking my tools and findings with me and making custom changes on the spot (silver for gold, remove a pendant, etc.)

I know I see many jewelry sellers complain of the market here being oversaturated. It's true! I'm using this experience to change my focus, and though I'm not leaving Etsy, I'm going to take a deep breath and not worry about it.
The thread is here, if you're interested in seeing what others had to say about this topic:

Let me know if you have any thought on the merits of selling in person versus online, and how you strike the right balance!