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?