Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The house with the pond

So we've turned in the keys to the apartment. I'll miss it, truthfully. It was a very good place to live, and we definitely enjoyed it very much.

But a house? Totally different thing. It's a totally different feeling. We have a pond out back, and I've made the master bedroom our office and it's big. All four of my desks fit in the room. I finally have the space to really spread out and work. I have a table that I can use for all of my photography, which is great--no more having to break down the photography "studio" every time we have dinner.

All in all, this is a positive step forward, I think. Though I may feel differently when I have to send in the first mortgage payment...

Monday, December 15, 2008

I promise I haven't fallen off the Earth

I've been quiet due to our move from an apartment to a house. Moving is stressful enough, but when you have a business in your home as well, then it's even more stressful. Hence the blogging silence. But I will return with pictures in the future, I promise!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winging it

I had a little burst of inspiration a week or so ago, and made several pieces of jewelry over a few days. I'm happy with this piece; I paired a Green Girl owl piece with hawkseye rounds and antiqued chain.



I really love owls. They're strong, quiet, and a little bit mysterious. I'm happy with the way this piece turned out, though I'm not enamored of the picture; I am still experimenting with photography.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nearly famous

I forgot to mention that my Day of the Dead bracelet was almost on the front page of Etsy a couple weeks ago. It was an alternate selection for a Day of the Dead front page treasury. Very cool.

I've been meaning to buy more skull charms from Earthenwood to make earrings. I hope to embellish them with bits of jet and coral.



It was quite a shock to go through the Flickr Etsy front page group and search for my name and actually find it! Even though I wasn't actually on the page (just my name was), it still makes me feel really warm and glowy inside. It always makes me happy when someone likes my jewelry.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Off to Evanston

I'm leaving today for Ayla's show in Evanston. I'll be stopping and spending a couple nights with friends, and celebrating a birthday, which should be lots of fun.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Opportunities

So I've just been emailed by a magazine. Apparently I'm being sourced for beads, which is very nice, but at the same time, they're not beads that I generally carry--I think they were bought from one of my remainder bins. So I'm a little worried about where this is going. Should I take the time to add them to my website? Hmm.

I can get more of the beads, but the manufacturer is already on the web, and has lots of them for sale. My heart says to send people to them instead. We'll see what happens.

Speaking of the website, it's so close--all I need to do is finish the verbiage for returns policies and such, and write a blurb about vintage beads. Because vintage beads weren't always stored in the best manner, they often have little chips and imperfections, and because the website will have static pictures (I won't be taking a new picture for each piece, like eBay and Etsy), I need to explain that what the customer receives might not be exactly what is pictured. I hate having to do it this way, but there's just no way around it.

This magazine opportunity is really making me wonder what will happen. Because of the nature of the beads I sell, I won't have a lot of chances to be a supplier in a magazine, so I'm hoping that this will be a really good moment for me. If even a few customers stick around to see the beads I have, it could be a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The key to my art

I've been really obsessed with keys and locks recently, partly due to Earthenwood Studios, and partly due to Green Girl Studios.

I picked up a set of keys from Green Girl, and a few of their keyhole components, and sat down and made a necklace, using antiqued chain and some fantastic enameled copper beads that I doubt I'll find again.



I made one for my sister-in-law, and liked it so much that I made two more. I know that this is a very simple piece, but for some reason it really appeals to me. I love the look of the enameled beads, and they remind me of a brilliant sunny day in AZ when I met the artist who made them.

I think I need to unlock something. My potential? My art? That locked drawer full of chocolate?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mermaids swimming in inspiration

I finished a commissioned piece, and I'm happy with how it turned out. Norwegian moonstone, vintage German faceted beads, freshwater pearls, and a Green Girl mermaid component.



I really love the chain, and the look of the pearls.

Here's a closeup:



I've been making jewelry more than usual, and wishing that I had a foolproof method for taking pictures. I do have a photoshed and lights, but somehow they never look that nice. I need to grab some new backgrounds. I had bought linen napkins to use, but they've disappeared.

More experimentation is necessary, it seems.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New friends

I was at an Ayla's show yesterday in Columbus, OH, and had a very good time. The show was smaller than expected--there were only ten vendors, including myself--but the customers were wonderful and I enjoyed the day.

In fact, a couple of very sweet jewelry designers pointed out that they had read my blog, and looked at my Etsy site! How very nice!

It's so refreshing to know that people are out there listening. Thanks, ladies!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Living space

I'm on the brink of buying a house with my husband, and finally moving out of the apartment in which we've lived for seven years.

It's a nice ranch, nothing unusual or scary, just a regular house with a long, narrow eighties-style layout. It does have a sweet little pond in the backyard, more of a backwater kind of thing, but there is a muskrat who lives there and it's very nice and will be wonderful to look at.

Those of you who are self-employed will understand when I say that I've decided to make the master bedroom into the office. It overlooks the pond and is larger than the other two bedrooms, and I can't wait to have this space to finally set up my photograph shed and my camera full-time.

I have wanted a space of my own for so very long now. I've never been able to decorate anything fully, or to put my own spin on things, and to be able to create my own little world to retreat to is what I look forward to most. I can't believe I'll finally be able to put up all of the pictures that I want to, and I can't wait to be able to pick out flooring and make things mine.

Because that's what it's about--creating our own cave, where we can live and grow and (perhaps) raise a family. I'm really aware that this is a huge, scary step, but at the same time I'm completely excited.

This article was so intriguing (and yet sad, too); it's about artists who lived in apartments above Carnegie Hall, and how their apartments are being bought out and turned into educational halls. The community of people who have lived there for so long is disappearing, which is sad; but it's also incredibly intriguing to look into the rooms of talented, creative people. I love seeing what they've done with their own spaces. I love the spirit of art that inhabits their rooms.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A weekend of activity

The weekend is full already, and it hasn't even started. I'm hoping to have time to work on some new things. I've made a few bracelets and finished the commission piece, and I hope to share pics soon. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Setting the pace

After several days of being distracted by unusual things, I finally managed to work on both the website and new Etsy listings today.

I've experimented again with taking photos, and I'm hoping that these represent a step forward...





There's a particular look to a lot of Etsy photos, and while I'm still learning, I think I've managed to take some adequate pics in this session. I hope I can work out a nice, foolproof method.

I've been working on a commission, too, which has been rather exciting. I haven't done one in ages, and the person who commissioned it gave me free rein, which was even more exciting. I've used a Green Girl pendant in it and will be posting pics when the matching earrings are finally finished.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Still prepping for the show

On Saturday I'll be at Molten Obsession's West Michigan Bead Expo. I've been going through all of my inventory again and making plans.

I'm happy to say that I've pulled a big box of pearl strands out from under my desk and finally processed and priced them for the show. I was intending on using them for my own projects, but I finally decided that I can always find more closeout pearls, and I should just go ahead and sell them. I bagged some up as well for my dollar bags.

Doing these shows has been an interesting experience. On the one hand, I had expected experienced beaders to be the most interested in the dollar bags and strands that I have, as the prices are below wholesale. But I've found that experienced beaders see the bins of dollar bags and just keep walking. They don't take the time to see how the prices compare, and I think I can understand that--I would probably not be tempted by little bags of beads either. On the other hand, the new beaders who are attracted by beads in dollar bags don't always understand that the prices are very good.

I feel like I'm in a bit of a catch-22, honestly. I thought that selling closeout beads would be a really great niche, and that people would respond to the great prices positively, but I wonder if I'm presenting it properly, because it doesn't seem like I'm getting the reaction I expected. Then again, what ever does?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Restocking

Over the weekend, I topped off my eBay store and filled it to the brim with fun things. I've also put together the auction lots for the next month or two, which is probably one of my favorite parts of selling beads. I mean, I love sorting the beads more than making the jewelry on some days, hee!

I really want to make certain that I'm totally tricked out for the show on Saturday in Grand Rapids. To that end, I'll be going through all of the merchandise with a fine-toothed comb. I have a box of freshwater pearl strands that I've never priced, and I'll be putting the vintage Czech necklaces out, too. This means printing new signs, sorting, and pricing are all on this week's list.

I'm also determined to add to my Etsy shop this week as well. It's very interesting to see that the Day of the Dead bracelet has gotten so many hearts and views already. I think I'm going to get some more of the skull charms and make a line of earrings, too.

For eBay, I rely on the search engine. For Etsy, it seems like it's better to rely on listing continuously, and having a few really funky niche items.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A fun day selling

Today was very enjoyable. I was a vendor at the Bead Bonanza in Southfield, MI, and I was reminded of how long I've been buying and selling beads. Not only did I chat with many of my bead friends, but I also waited on a woman who said I was the first person she ever purchased beads from at a bead show, and she was very gracious and said I was really nice.

The wheel turns round and round. I'm happy that she remembered me positively, and it was so wonderful to talk to people I've known for years. Even though vendors only see each other at shows (usually), there is this nice feeling of brotherhood that you develop over time.

It was a very nice experience. Yay for beads!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Off I go

Going to visit friends and (hopefully) pick up some new vintage beads. I'll be back next Thursday. Have fun!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Talented friends

I just listed two bracelets on Etsy that I made with Melanie from Earthenwood Studio's beads.

I adore her work. So many of her creations are colorful and fanciful, earthy, steampunky... I love her imagination, and how she continually finds new symbols and creates new pieces of art.

I made this bracelet for a friend of mine, and I ended up making a second one, just because I liked the first one so much.



It's awesome to have talented friends. It's great to watch them grow as artists. And it's even more awesome when they make beads that you can play with as well!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where there's a want, there's a product

I have a selection of fantastic vintage Japanese glass links from the late forties/early fifties. They're flat and rectangular, with a floral design. The flowers are hand painted, but many of the colors are faded at this point.

I've always loved making earrings out of them, but it can be tricky, because the holes are a bit further from the edge than I would like. In some cases I've had to handmake French hooks because the loop on regular French hooks isn't large enough to accommodate the hole.

Recently I was going through my bead stash, and found the links again. "I would love to make earrings with these," I thought. But I remembered that they required handmade hooks, and so I put it off yet again.

A few days later I was paging through Rio Grande's extensive catalog when I noticed large loop French hook earrings.

Problem solved!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reexamining priorities

This week I've been pondering things. Big things. I've been wondering about my life, my business, my dreams, and my goals.

Some changes are around the corner, most noticeably a house purchase. Which makes me wonder how to sustain my business and even grow it. Questions have been buzzing in my head. Possible paths grow and diminish. I keep poking around my bead collection and my show inventory.

I hope that the way forward will reveal itself in five foot high blazing letters, but the reality is that the best path is probably hidden by brush, or in a different direction entirely.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Artistic cross-pollination

Right now I'm working on a commission for a musical artist whom I've never met. She called me to give details about herself, and I have a basic idea worked out and will be putting it together as soon as the chain I've ordered arrives.

It's always interesting to speak with someone who creates. This is why I've enjoyed blogging here so much; I've amassed a small list of fascinating artists, and I'm quite happy to read their daily tales of inspiration, creation, and washing the dog. To live in the creative realm takes courage.

What was interesting about the conversation is that she mentioned beekeeping as a matriarchal Celtic occupation, and it suddenly dovetailed with a song by Tori Amos that I love very much called "the Beekeeper." The words and thoughtful comments of another artist often stay with one, but not always as spoken; sometimes the subconscious current is what is the most important. Right now I am exploring locks and keys and feminine archetypes like mermaids and Medusa, but next week I might trip down the bee path. All because of chance encounters.

I have always liked Andrew Thornton of Green Girl Studios. I've met him at many shows and have had fun conversations (though short, unfortunately) with him many times. His entry of today revealed a gorgeous floating island painting. I remember seeing a beautiful landscape once with numerous floating islands, connected by bridges, with waterfalls surrounding them like veils. This painting made me think of that. Another chance connection that will spend time in the subconscious until it's ready to bloom into something new.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finding time to create

It can be very frustrating to find time to sit down and actually design jewelry. The balance is rather delicate...too much time on the computer, too much time packing and shipping, too much time monitoring eBay, and it all adds up and I find myself at the end of a week where I haven't created a single thing.

I don't think I'll remedy this soon, either. Instead, my focus this week will be on my website, which has been sorely neglected. I need to work on getting photos together and going over the descriptions. I wish I had worked on it sooner, but setting up the Etsy shop took time, and I'm always working on eBay listings.

Hopefully I'll have some good news soon. If I can get the website open, it would be nice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why I love glass

I can't tell you how many times I've been to a show and had a customer pick up a strand of beads, ask what they're made of, and then drop them like a hot potato when they find out they're "just glass."

Glass has a long history. The Romans made beautiful glass objects, and made many innovations in the shaping and working of hot glass, including blown glass, mold-blown glass, cane glass, and mineral additions to create new colors of glass.

The Italians took glass to new heights, creating intricate layered beads and aventurine glass, in which copper is suspended within the glass to create a sparkly look.

Glass is available in many colors, which are created by altering the mix slightly, and adding mineral elements. Red, for example, is the most costly glass color to create, as it involves adding gold.

Creating glass colors is just as much an art as creating glass objects. Each color requires a "recipe" of sorts and experimentation as well. I have bought many beads that contain two-tone German glass from the fifties and sixties, and often it is impossible to recreate these colors nowadays. Either the recipe has been lost or the two colors that need to combined have different coefficients of expansion, meaning that they expand and contract at different rates and will not form a stable finished product.

This color is very nearly what is referred to as a "moonglow" color, which has clear and pastel opaque glass mixed together and appears to glow:



Here is another beautiful color combination of light pink and beige (these are modern flower beads made with vintage glass in a vintage mold):



Swarovski, which is incredibly popular right now, is glass with lead added to increase the clarity and create lots of sparkle when faceted.

These are tiny lampwork beads, barely a quarter of an inch long, that were created on mandrels with a handle at the end. The hot glass would be "wound" around the mandrel, which is why they are commonly called wound beads. It's almost impossible to find lampwork beads this small today. These are vintage Japanese from the late forties/early fifties.



I have long had a passion for glass. Glass beads can be a thing of beauty. In the end, it's the look and feel that matter most. Whether glass, semi-precious stone, pearl, paper, brass...it's all in how you use it, and whether it speaks to you.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Finding inspiration

I am a beader who doesn't make beads, which means that I often look to others for inspiration and beautiful images. These Frida Kahlo components were fantastic, and I had such a wonderful time matching crystal colors to them. The artist who makes the components is terrific--she even creates images on the back by hand. I always adore artists who are aware of the special needs of jewelry designers. When I find components that are mirror-imaged I always jump for joy.





And how wonderful is it that she works just as hard on the back (that might not even be seen) as the front? Attention to detail always impresses me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Still spiraling

Still a bit under the weather, and continuing my hermit behavior. I've made a cute necklace for a friend, and I'm going to try to work on some new earrings today.



Nautilus beads rock.

Also, serendipity can be a wonderful thing. I was about to order another pound of 20 gauge sterling silver wire, and found about ten ounces of it in my wire box. It was half-hard (I usually buy dead soft), but still, this means I don't have to order it, which is a great thing. I think I bought this when silver wire was still $5-6 an ounce.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Those special beads that are dear to one's heart

A few years ago I purchased a huge lot of vintage Czech crystal as a closeout. At the time, I was quite worried about the purchase. In general, I like to diversify, and I like to buy little pinches of things first to see if they'll sell before I commit to buying it all. However, this was before I started that buying philosophy, so I bought it and then thought, "What have I done?"

I've been listing four lots of them each week on eBay for the past three years. I originally had five containers of them; four containers of beads on strands, and one container of loose beads.

Earlier this year I transferred the container of loose beads into a smaller box.

This week I sorted everything in the box and ended up emptying it. I've divided the last of it into lots for eBay, and bagged the rest for my dollar bags at shows.

It's kind of bittersweet, really. These beads are from a different time. They're vintage Czech, hand faceted, in opaque pastel colors, some with AB coatings. I only have two shapes, rounds and bicones.

Here's an example of the pretty robin's egg blue:



Another example

Yes, some of them are faceted a little wonky, and some of them are chipped or have bubbles or other imperfections. But I've really grown to love them over the years, and I was a little sad as I bagged up the last bag. They're very special beads and they've definitely resonated with a lot of my customers. I'll miss them very much when they're gone. That's the bittersweet nature of vintage beads--once they're gone, they're gone.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shells and spiraling inward

I've been home all week, as a kind of antidote to having been gone for 120 days of the first half of the year.

I have been under the weather, but I've still managed to work on some things, most notably my Etsy shop. I've added jewelry and beads there, which makes me feel like I've accomplished something. However, my work on my website still is lagging. I think that will be my weekend project.

I have made jewelry this week, which is very nice. Mostly nautilus bracelets.



I just can't seem to get enough of these nautilus beads. They're made in the Czech Republic with modern molds and vintage glass. The colors are fantastic. Unfortunately, I've run out of my favorite color, but the others are great, too. Even the fire-polish beads in between them are made of vintage glass.

Whenever I get a new bead that I really like, it ends up in nearly all my designs at first.

Hopefully I can continue in my creative hermit mode for a few more days at least!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Righteous jewelry.

This turned out almost exactly as I had hoped:





I'm almost a little sad about attempting to sell it. It's not often that I think of something and it nearly makes itself. I especially love the pearls in this piece.

The mermaid is from Green Girl Studios.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

And the experimentation continues.

So I found these awesome beads made from vintage glass, and I made totally awesome plans for them. They reminded me of seafoam, and I thought they would be perfect to pair with the sea charms I've just bought.

So I made a charm bracelet, which I posted before:



I wasn't happy with that one, though. The awesome beads just don't do very well in this sort of design; they stick up here and there. Plus, I didn't like the look of the charm chain.

So here is attempt #2, which was a little better but not quite right:



This chain is better, but still not quite right, though it does give it more freedom of movement. The long links aren't great--I wanted to add more little "sand" (picture jasper) rounds, but they look funny. I think I'll remove the two that are on this bracelet and sell it.

Attempt #3:



This makes me the happiest, though it still isn't perfect. But it's good enough that I will make a few more just like it for Etsy. I think the charms look a little long and lonely while it's being worn, which bothers me. But nothing I picked to help offset this really worked. If I add too many dangles to the oval links, they'll hang the wrong way because of the weight. I'd have to add something that was just the right length, because otherwise they dangle right next to the bead in the link, and that doesn't look right either. The other thing I don't like is the strict design--it's hard to make bracelets of differing lengths because of the oval pieces. I'll have to add small links of sand rounds to make it work.

Sometimes it takes a while for a piece to look "right" to me. That's part of the reason why I don't make a lot of new designs; this finicky design process really makes me obsessive. And I also keep thinking in the back of my head, "I could have made twenty pairs of earrings by now!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Experimenting

Today I'm taking more pics of jewelry and beads, hoping to find a setup which works. I've taken a few pics already through the doorwall, but the sunlight isn't strong enough. I might try a different window. Unfortunately, we only have two windows, so I have to cross my fingers about this.

I'm also hoping to look around and find some interesting settings for cabs:



They're approximately 12 x 9 x 4mm, and I'm hoping that it's a common enough size that I can somehow find funky vintage-style findings that will accommodate more than one. Like five. And while I'm at it, I'd like the Good Witch to come down and flick her wand and clean the kitchen.

I think that if I can find a funky setting for these, I might be able to sell them as part of a pendant. You see, I have pounds of these in several colors, and though they are selling, they aren't selling quickly enough for me. If I can find another product to incorporate them into it could be lots of fun. Maybe I can offer two kinds--do it yourself, where you buy just the loose cabs and the setting, or premade, where I put them in. I have a bezel pusher somewhere around here, and I suppose I need to find that as well...

Monday, September 1, 2008

A few more vacation pics...

These were all taken at Heritage Gardens in Cape Cod. I really loved taking pictures of the flowers; I have only taken pictures in my mom's garden before, so this was a pretty new experience for me. Y'all can tell that I was testing out my macro lens, I'm certain.







And here's a windmill for good measure.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More Cape Cod pics

Nauset Lighthouse:



Scargo Tower in Dennis:



Marconi beach, which was once the home to the Marconi Station, the first wireless station in the US. I'm really fascinated with this because it represents the pinnacle of technology at the time, and it slid into the sea years ago. We move on to each new technological jump so quickly, and the older inventions fade away. There is a mockup of the station in a little gazebo so that you can see what it once looked like.

I have no idea if it actually slid into the sea or not, but my imagination has taken over and I can see the wireless towers rusting away into oblivion under the turquoise waters...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Trying to brainstorm a new piece...

I have given myself several days off in a row (twelve, eeee) and I'm hoping that I have time to tinker with a few things. I only work maybe a day or two a week at this point, but I find that it does kind of put a crimp in the week.

I'm hoping to find time to work on my Etsy shop. I've restocked the scanned beads that I've sold, but I still need to restock the photographed beads that I've sold.

I've also put aside several pieces of jewelry from my show inventory that I'd like to list there as soon as I can. I really like the response I've gotten from Etsy--more hits than at eBay, at any rate.

So this is the prototype for a new bracelet...



I'm not pleased with the way it turned out. I was going to add picture jasper rounds to represent sand, only I didn't like the way they looked. In fact, I didn't like almost anything about it except for the beautiful glass beads and the awesome charms.

I think that I don't like the charm bracelet chain. I'm going to remake it with a smaller chain and use the flat square beads to connect the pieces of chain instead of having them dangle. And I'll find something else to help offset the length of the charms (with the links, they're rather long, and there needs to be something of medium length, I think). I gave my mom this bracelet, and I'll try making another one this week, I hope. I feel really inspired by those flat beads--they're made from vintage glass and as soon as I saw them I thought of seafoam. I very much hope I can make it work!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Back from everything

I haven't posted in a while--I just didn't have time between the conference in Chicago and then running off to our honeymoon in Cape Cod.

We had a very nice time, except the timeshare was a bit...er...surprising. It was a motel conversion, and at first glance I couldn't find the bed, only to discover it was in the closet--yes, it was a genuine Murphy bed.

I took some fun pictures, we went to some pretty places, and we had some lovely meals.

One of my favorite things was the glass museum at Sandwich. We watched a demonstration of glass-blowing and pressing glass, and got to see lots of wonderful pieces of pressed glass. They have several rooms containing hundreds of pieces. They also have a very cute display showing what a glass recipe creator's desk looked like, along with an audio recording of his great-grandson explaining how things worked. It was really neat.

Some pictures from the museum:



The different glasses are colored by minerals, which I had heard before. They had one yellow color that was colored by adding uranium to the mix, and they had a Geiger counter nearby to show the levels of the piece.



I love this pic--the matte glass pitchers look so nice together.



This was fascinating: apparently they made targets for Annie Oakley.



I have a few more pics to share, but I'll save them for tomorrow.

Nice to be back and blogging!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Off I go

I'll be in Chicago for a conference this week. Will see you all when I return on Monday. Have fun beading!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Identifying beads

One of the most difficult things about listing items on eBay is trying to come up with a good title.

Tonight I was trying to figure out the article number for a vintage Swarovski bead (it's a ribbed rondelle, and I just can't remember what its nickname is), and I came across the directory at the Beadin' Path, which was quite complete and beautifully photographed.

The rondelles weren't listed, but I know I'll find them eventually. Still, having to research things and try to see what others list them as is an interesting process.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

You never know what to expect

Today's show was an experiment in psychology, as they all are. What attracts customers? What bores customers? What drives customers away?

I really do need a new display. The black velvet neck forms have to go--I need to go all grey/white.

The wire closet rack organizers need to be switched out for something else.

They've definitely done their job for a very long time, but I need something new and interesting.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tomorrow is another show

This has been a very busy summer for me, and I'm looking forward to September, because I have very little planned for that month.

That said, I still have to get through the rest of August. Tomorrow is a show in Oxford, and though we are experiencing lots of rain and lightning, tomorrow's forecast is lovely--partly sunny, and in the high sixties.

Hopefully it won't be too cool. I often find that there is a "temperature range" for jewelry buying. Some people don't like to try on or even think about jewelry if it's too hot; same if it's too cool. But high sixties should be enough.

I don't have as much inventory as I would have liked, but I've managed to clean out a few jewelry boxes and bags and found enough to make a halfway decent display, at least. It's a small, one day show, and I'm not too worried. I made another set of eighty earrings to fill in my charm earring display, and that should help.

Good thing is, the gallery who carries my jewelry will be getting whatever's left over from this, and they'll be as happy as clams. Also, I'll be able to list my new things on Etsy, finally. I have nautilus bracelets and all sorts of goodies, and I've been holding off until I get this last show out from under my feet.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New strategies, yet again.

Today I set up at a discount art market. I have done the show before, and thought that it was worth another try, but it just didn't seem to go well today.

Plus, because it's a long drive, there was the expense of gasoline to worry about.

So I'm not doing that show again.

Artists and vendors are always having to juggle shows. I'm forever tinkering with my schedule.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beading techniques

I remember making my first project. It was a wire-wrapped bracelet, and I made it in a class at a local bead store (now long since closed):



After that, I took a second class, where I made a necklace on Soft-Flex wire. I took a few more classes as well, where I learned more about wire-wrapping and stringing, but I never took a needle-and-thread class.

Eleven years later, and I still haven't figured out thread projects. Every time there's a new trend in beading, I look into it, but I often don't end up trying it. When it was all the rage to make stretch bracelets with Swarovski crystals, I bought Stretch Magic, but I never used it. When the silk string trend started, I made a few necklaces, but ultimately decided not to continue. I've seen ribbon necklaces, bracelets with fiber, everything under the sun--but I've never veered from Soft-Flex or sterling/goldfill wire.

Often I see these approaches, and I think them imaginative and interesting, but I can't bring myself to try.

When I was still in high school I spent my entire weekly allowance ($20) on a necklace at a Renaissance Festival. I put it on and absolutely adored it. I wore it for about an hour before it felt a little itchy and I adjusted the necklace with my finger--whereupon the entire necklace broke at a single point and several beads were lost.

Clearly this is a silly reason not to make something on thread, and it isn't the only reason; honestly, I just don't have the patience for threadwork. But it does pop up in my mind every so often. I would hate to have someone buy something from me, only to have it break within hours.

I really adore Soft-Flex and am working my way through my third 1000 foot spool at this point. It's a great product and I am very much impressed by how it holds up. I made one necklace eight years ago that I still wear today. It's been through a lot of wear and tear--a baby once played rather violently with it for hours--and yet it still looks great.

I also love working with sterling wire, though I rarely (if ever) use half-hard; I prefer dead soft for everything. Less wear and tear on the hands, I suppose. Also, it's easier to control. I buy a pound of dead soft 20 gauge at a time and it generally takes a year or so to go through it, especially when I'm doing a lot of shows.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A room of one's own

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of space in my apartment. When we first moved in seven years ago I had originally planned on making the master bedroom the office, but finally backed down when it became clear that it would be a struggle to get the bed into the smaller bedroom.

At the time I simply resigned myself to less space, though it irked me. Why must the larger room be the bedroom? After all, it's only used for sleep. We spend almost no time at all in there besides resting. There's no TV. And I have to say that, seven years later, I wish that I had stuck to my guns and made the smaller room the bedroom.

The office currently contains three desks, three chairs, a couch, two tables, two large paperwork cubicles, a TV on a TV stand, a paper shredder, and a huge stack of cushions. The closet is full to the brim with beads in boxes and clothing. It would be so much more wonderful to have all of this in a larger space.

Fortunately, I'm moving in December. Moving into a house, no less. And this house has three bedrooms: the master bedroom, overlooking the pond in the backyard, a long narrow bedroom, and a small guest bedroom.

I'm going to keep the guest bedroom as it is, and we are going to use the long narrow bedroom as our bedroom.

The master bedroom will be our office. A beautiful view, plenty of room to fit all of this furniture (and more), and a brand new laminate floor will make me a happy person indeed. I've told a few people of my plans, and those who work 9-5 jobs have looked at me in surprise about using the master bedroom this way; those who work for themselves smile knowingly.

I need a space of my own to make this work. I need a place where I won't have jump over the arm of a sofa in order to get to my jewelry desk. I need a place where I can actually see my printer instead of stashing it under a table.

I plan on buying a new desk from Ikea. Something big and broad, with lots of cubicles for boxes, labels, printers, everything. I need to overhaul my entire system because jewelry and beads are what I want to sell.

The place where I work erratically is not doing so well, and I am thinking that either I'll be quitting in January or I'll be laid off before then. I am so eager to transform things and hunker down in our new house. I'm so eager to be in a place where I can actually paint and hang pictures without worrying about losing a safety deposit.

I'm looking forward to a new start, and a room of my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Impressed with Etsy

Even though I haven't put into action all of the things I'd like, I'm seeing a teeny bit of success with my Etsy listings even though it's only been a month.

I'm quite impressed with the hits that my pieces have been receiving! Clearly there is a large consumer base at Etsy, and they're quite happy to buy fun things.

Right now I have two lines of products there...low-end vintage beads/cabochons, and higher-end necklaces. I can't wait to put some of my fun bracelets and earrings up, but that will have to wait until after the next two shows--I don't want to pull any merchandise that I could sell at one of the shows.

What a lovely introduction to this wonderful site! I can't thank Earthenwood enough for pushing me in the right direction.

Even better, the customers seem really wonderful. I do like eBay, but sometimes it's very disheartening to see wonderful vintage pieces selling for $0.99; I'm quite happy to see that the mentality is a bit different at Etsy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back from the conference

Whew!

I had a very lovely time at the PMC Conference in Indiana over the weekend. (Yes, I was confused about the location--when you're driving, sometimes you forget these little details.) I met lots of lovely people and listened to some interesting lectures. I worked at a friend's booth during the vending hours of the show, and bought a few treasures--I'll try to post a picture tomorrow if I have a moment.

I don't work in PMC, but I am fascinated by its flexibility. It's an intriguing medium. Seeing all of the beautiful work by the many talented artists there was very inspiring, and I'm quite excited about working this week. More excited than I've been in a long time, actually!

I have a lot to do--I'm going to be at Arcadia Daze over the weekend, and I need to make certain that both my jewelry and my beads are well-stocked, as this is a show where I can display both.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Off for a week

I'm on my indirect trip to Chicago; I'll be there for the PMC conference, and I'm sure to see some awesome metal clay jewelry.

I'm a little nervous because the next six weeks are a whirlwind of activity; besides the conference, I have three shows (two big and one little), a trip to another conference where I'm presenting a paper, more eBay listings and Etsy things to do, and lots of jewelry to make. And I have very little time! Thank goodness it all ends with our honeymoon in August. After that my schedule is rather light. Of course, that's when we'll be trying to buy a house, heh...

See you when I get back!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Business lessons

Several months ago I began a store at Cafépress, thinking that I would be able to use some of the pictures I had taken at various places.

I spent two weeks choosing, prepping, and uploading pictures and learning the system at Cafépress, only to find that not only was I not getting any traffic (which I found out from Google Analytics), but my Photoshop skills were lacking. I mean, I already knew that I wasn't extremely skilled at Photoshop, but still, this was a hard pill to swallow. And after two weeks of work, I had nothing to show from it. I still don't. It's a reminder, of course, of the business lessons we all have to learn. Just because you have something for sale does not mean someone will buy it. You have to find an audience.

So I entered the Etsyverse with trepidation. What if I put work into it, and again, it went nowhere? I was even more fearful when I realized that I would be competing with lots of people who were exactly like me: beaded jewelry creators, and bead sellers.

So I spent a gloomy week or two working on the listings (first I had to get past my perfectionist weirdness and just DO IT), and when I was done, I was rather shocked to see that I had 26 hits for one piece in under 24 hours. My Cafépress store gets one hit a month, in contrast.

Still, I was a little frightened; Etsy is, after all, a new game for me, one I'd never even explored before, and I wasn't certain which kind of reception I'd get there. Was I overpriced? underpriced? too boring? I was kind of expecting another repeat of the Cafépress debacle, honestly.

I've had the listings up for a month now, with only 28 items, and had hits for the jewelry in the 40-150 range, while the beads are getting 4-20 hits. On eBay, many of my beads only get 3 or 4 views, yet they still sell, so this isn't that disheartening; in fact, so far, I have had a few sales already, and that's without researching Etsy at all.

Now that I've researched, I've found some really great tips. I found a page on creating a banner, and I've read more about photography and making a unified shop. Right now I'm going to stick with the grey background even though it's boring, but in the future I'll be contemplating more interesting backgrounds.

I don't have time to play with it this week--I'm off to the PMC conference in Chicago--but when I get back I'm going to look into it. More business lessons to learn!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Each new horizon

Right now I'm learning the ins and outs of SEO and blog searches. It's been rather interesting (if a little challenging).

Of course, it makes me think about the many different areas that small business owners and crafters have to conquer. Not only do we have to understand our craft and do it well, but we have to develop pricing formulas, design stationery, write our own press, and figure out invoices.

Every time I finally figure out a hurdle, there's a new one past the next hill. It's both aggravating and renewing. Without this constant stream of new skills to learn, I think I'd grow bored, despite my many thoughts of, "Why can't I just sit in a cave and bead?"

Each new language, each new adaptation, is a stone in our foundation, leading us to build the life we want.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Inspiration

Today I took my best friend's kid to the Detroit Institute of Arts. For years I've read that it's the eighth-largest museum in the US. However, since their renovation and expansion (which took eight months), they have now apparently taken the fifth-largest spot.

I was very curious to see the improvements. It seems that they've done a lot of cleaning, and they have added new title cards to many of the exhibits. They've also added small standing metal frames to many rooms. These frames display a large angled sign which often explicates or points out interesting things about one of the pieces in the room. They're set at the proper viewing distance for the piece, so you stand behind the frame and look at the art and read the sign. Rather good idea, and helpful.

I often think that there are two approaches to art; discovering its meaning by yourself, or reading the meaning discovered by someone else. Both have merit, of course. I remember seeing the Diego Rivera murals as a young college student, and working out my own theory about the art, and now I see at the museum shop they have an exhaustively researched book that explicates all the murals, as well as providing background and insight in the artist and his methods.

I love this sort of book. It takes you through everything, it shows you the amazing nuances of the murals, things I've never noticed before, even sketches of the mural in progress. At the same time, though, would I be as interested in this book and the paintings if I hadn't spent so much time thinking about them and trying to understand them myself?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Etsy, Etsy, Etsy.

I've finally managed to list some beads, cabochons, and brass stampings at my Etsy store, which makes me pretty happy.

Melanie from Earthenwood Studios has been inspiring me muchly of late. She's so driven and focused, and she makes such lovely things--not just beads, but wonderful jewelry.

I've been trying to figure out What I Want To Do With My Life for a long time. The long answer is "write," but the short answer is sell jewelry and beads. I've been hoping to get my website off the ground for several years, but it just hasn't happened yet. Etsy is the next best thing. I'm liking it for many reasons...especially for the differences between it and eBay.

Don't get me wrong, I very much like eBay, as it has been a good source of income for the last two years. But there are some very big drawbacks, like the lack of bidders for handcrafted items. EBay is more of a giant garage sale. People have no problem paying $1 for something, but when it comes to jewelry, it's not the same.

So Etsy is like a breath of fresh air. I'm still getting to know the system and the style, but I do like that everyone has the same playing field--excepting banners, every page looks the same.

Of course, as with everything on my plate right now, it looks like I need to improve my photography skills--I've seen some incredible work on Etsy, and a lot of it is photographed beautifully.

I do have to admit, though, that I'm stunned by the number of pageviews for many of the jewelry pieces I have up--while the beads have only a handful each. Some of the necklaces had 25 views in their first 24 hours, while some cabs have only had six views over three days. So I'm still trying to figure out Etsy and what will work.

Right now I have two disparate sets of merchandise; higher priced jewelry and lower priced beads. I need something in between, in the magic price range of $10-20, but at the moment most of my pieces need to be saved for a craft show at the end of July. I don't have much time to craft right now, and I need every piece I have in that price range so I can have a good show.

When I get back, I'll do a listing spree, I think.

So much to learn, still!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

And now back to my regularly scheduled blogging...

It's been a loooong week, folks. And the reason for that is:



I got married last Saturday. Hooray!

It was a beautiful day, and I'm quite relieved that all of the pre-wedding planning came out well. We ate Polish food, made toasts, and danced in the backyard. And now for the happily ever after part...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Organization: it's not just for breakfast

I have just received my fantastic Mini Stackable from Best Craft Organizer and I must say--it really is fantastic. It sits under my eBay desk from Ikea (I guessed at the height, and I'm so thankful it fits), and it has ten drawers.

Two drawers for eBay, of course; one for this week's listings, one for next. Two drawers for the eBay store; one for Czech hanks and vintage necklaces, the other for everything else in the store.

One drawer for Etsy stuff.

One drawer for a few of the bags of plastic bags that end up everywhere.

I couldn't eliminate three giant bins, unfortunately. I have one for eBay store backstock and one for eBay auction backstock; these were both much too heavy to put in the drawers. They have plastic rails, after all. Also, the bin full of plastic bags was just too awkward to put in the drawer as well. So while it isn't quite as helpful as I hoped, I know that I'll be able to really work with it in the future and use it quite efficiently. I'll save one of the deep drawers for beads that will eventually be sold on my website, and I'll save another drawer for jewelry on the website.

As for right now, however, I'm just so happy with it--already everything looks so much neater.

Too bad I didn't make any bets with anyone about being able to bring another piece of furniture into this already incredibly crowded room. I would have made some money!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Crafting, crafting, crafting

I'm very excited with the hits on Etsy so far--some of the pieces I just put up have been viewed forty or more times. Clearly, none of the pieces are in the magic $20-$30 range, but I am hesitant to put the economical things up right now, as I have two shows coming up in July and August, and I'm not certain that I'll have enough merchandise if I have to put aside a selection for Etsy.

Then again, maybe I should just go for it. Selling something would be very nice right now. eBay is always a bit slow in spring, and it would be nice if Etsy could reel in the slack.

I just made another necklace from another Green Girl pendant, with freshwater pearls and aquamarines, along with a few Thai silver beads; I will attempt to photograph it tomorrow. Suffice it to say that, although it has a flaw or two (in my eyes), I think it turned out to be a rather nice piece, and I'm happy with it. I can't allow my crazy perfectionism to keep ruining my pace. If I obsess for too long over things, they end up like my Anne Choi bead that has been sitting on my desk in a tray with pearls and silver for three years, waiting to be made. I can't seem to work it out in my head to my satisfaction, and therefore it never gets made.

A friend just told me, "Perfection is the enemy of good." That's been really making me think a lot recently about my crafting. I really need to make things and stop worrying so much about perfection. That's not to say that I should just churn out anything--but something is indeed better than nothing, and I have been making something for the past two months and feeling "good" indeed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Whew! More jewelry listed on Etsy!

I think my favorite piece is this:



Or maybe this one, though I haven't uploaded it yet:



Sometimes I think my jewelry is too simple. Especially when I look at the series of Green Girl pieces at Flickr, I think, hmm, each piece is just a single kind of stone with a fun pendant.

It's hard to remember what actually goes into that simple, single stone necklace.

First, you have to find a good stone for the pendant. These were easy because they're silver, but I still tried to find sea-themed materials, or materials that evoked the sea.

Second, you have to have good stringing material. I used Soft-Flex .019, as I do for most things. You need to crimp it securely with good quality crimps and crimping pliers.

Third, you need to understand some of the quirks. You can't just randomly string the beads on the necklace. You need to look at each bead with a critical eye. I always match the beads on either side and string both sides at the same time. Even though the beads look the same at first glance, there are often differences in tone, length, and texture. For the mermaid necklace, I wanted to keep the bluest beads for the earrings and to surround the mermaid, and I sorted the rest by color tone and graduated them.

And last, you need to find the right beads for in between the stone beads, if you need them.

I'm hoping that people will respond to these pieces. I love the Green Girl Studios pendants and I hope that people will look past the simplicity of the pieces and see them in a positive light.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hooray for trying something new!

I was supposed to do a show in Midland today, but the threat of bad weather (and the high gas prices) kept me home.

So I tried to use my time well. I've been wanting to put things on Etsy for the longest time--in fact, I made an entire line of pieces with Green Girl pendants for that very purpose. But I just never seemed to get around to it.

I set up my little photo studio on the kitchen table, and tried taking pictures again.



I'm unhappy with my first attempts, honestly. At this point I can scan a bead fairly effectively, and fix it with my very limited knowledge of Photoshop. But photos? Totally new world. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. If I use the macro lens, it's hard to get everything in the shot. If I don't, the camera has to be too far away.

One of the hardest things for me to learn is that you can't do everything right on the first try. Or even the second. It's nearly impossibly for me to not feel disappointed with this set of photos, but I tried not to listen to the inner voice of criticism, and instead just went ahead and listed the items on Etsy anyway.

So I'm going to put aside more time to experiment tomorrow. Practice really does help, and I need to remember that practice is how I'll get better.

I'm really liking Etsy, except I'm having a terrible time uploading photos--I've always had this Firefox bug that brings up a dialogue box about a script hanging whenever I upload large photos, and it's been the bane of my existence in this Etsy process. Five photos, five dialogue boxes, and worse, sometimes it just resets and I have to go back to the last step again. Grr.

In other news, I'm getting a little more used to Blogger, and it's an interesting place; I like the add-ons that you can place in the sidebar. I love the new Blog add-on, and I especially like the mini-Etsy panel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Buying at bead shows--a quick guide

Seeing the Bead & Button show again made me realize just how large and overwhelming it can be. Even as a "veteran" of shows, I still have moments where it's hard to take it all in. It's such an enormous show, and so highly bead-focused, that you can find your head spinning after just an aisle or two.

So I thought I'd put down a few thoughts on shows in general, and how to maximize your shopping and your comfort.

  • Dress in layers. Places where they hold shows are notorious for being unable to hold a comfortable temperature. If you're going to be at a show all day, you might want to think about wearing layers so you'll stay comfortable. And remember to wear comfy footgear--your feet will be grateful. You might also want to bring a bottle of water and some sort of snack in case the show doesn't provide food or the lines are too long. Some venues charge as much as $4 for a small bottle of water.

  • Have a budget in mind. Sure, you'll probably go past it. I know how easy it is to buy beads! Still, it can be a good idea to keep in mind how much you're spending while you're shopping. In fact, bringing a calculator along is a really great idea--it's really helpful to add prices up while you're grabbing all the pretties, and then you won't have invoice shock at the end.

  • Have a shopping list. This is partly related to the budget idea. If you have in mind what you really, really need, then you can get that first.

  • Have a look first. Walk around the entire show first, if you can, and make a little list of the interesting places. Make notes of the items that are on your list, and make a notation of different prices. I was once told a story by a friend who was looking for a specific stone. He found it at a booth and was overjoyed and bought about $500 worth. He took his bag and left, and at the next booth he found the same stone at exactly half the price. Sometimes just a little extra legwork will make a big difference.

  • Know what you want to do with what you're buying. Sure, there are times where that impulse purchase ends up being something really amazing. But a lot of times you'll buy a seafoam-colored bead and get home and realize that most of your palette is navy blue, and then what do you do? I used to buy anything that caught my eye, but then I ended up with a lot of unrelated beads. Try to stick to a few color ranges, and really think about the bead before you buy it. Can you see it in a design? It's okay if you can't, and you still want to get it, but having a plan sometimes really does help you weed out beads you might regret later.

  • Look over the beads before you buy. Most vendors have quality beads, but sometimes the color can range from bead to bead, or the hole placement could vary. If the beads are on a strand, hold the strand up horizontally to see how the beads sit on the strand. If they are uneven, that might be how they'll look when you string them. Also, watch for misshapen silver beads, and loose beads whose holes are plugged. Avoid beads whose holes are rough or cracked, which is especially common with semi-precious beads. When buying pearls, try to find pearls with a nice, even luster. When buying glass beads, watch out for cracks or chips. Especially watch out for the placement of the hole on loose beads--horizontally drilled beads are worlds away from offset and vertically drilled beads. A little detective work at the booth can save you frustration later, especially if you're buying expensive beads.

  • Get more than you think you'll need. Even with the best quality beads, you are sure to find a few that are a little wonky. And who knows--you might end up making a matching bracelet, or maybe your aunt will want the same thing for herself! One of the most frustrating things in the world is to go back and try to find a bead you've bought before. Even with production items like Czech pressed glass beads the "dye lot" may vary and you might find that it doesn't match quite as nicely as you'd hoped.

  • Educate yourself about beads. I can't count the number of times I've been at a booth where they sell German-made beads or vintage beads and heard someone dismissively refer to them as "Czech" and walk off, complaining loudly about how overpriced the beads are. The point is, German-made glass beads, and vintage beads, can often be more expensive than Czech for a reason. The quality, the colors of the glass, the molds that are used--all of this contributes to the price of a bead, and if you want a certain look, you might have to pay a higher price to get it.

  • Educate yourself about common bead terms. Don't know what a hank is? Aren't certain what the difference is between an agate and a jasper? You can always Google these things or check look them up on Wikipedia.

  • Vintage vs. antique. Two of the most common questions I hear about vintage beads are, "What does vintage mean?" and "Did you take apart old jewelry to get these vintage beads?" Antique is a federally-defined term meaning 100 years old or older. Vintage is a very vague term. It can mean anything from "fifty years old" to "last year's t-shirt." There were a few beading booms in the past hundred years, such as the French jet boom during the turn of the century, the Czechoslovakian boom from the pre-fifties, the German bead boom during the fifties and sixties, and the Occupied Japan bead boom from 1946-1951. Hopefully the vendor you're purchasing from can give you a decade. As far as taking apart old jewelry goes, it generally isn't necessary! Warehouses on the coasts stocked tons and tons of beads, many of them custom-made, for their jewelry designs. Not only was there not really a loose bead market for the beads and cabochons at the time, but they would not have wanted to sell these beads because the competition might have bought them. So they hoarded the extra in their basements or backrooms, and eventually began to sell them during the nineties and now. Unfortunately, at this point there is very little left that hasn't been picked over by others; most vintage that's left is in crazy shapes or colors that don't really resonate with today's beaders.

  • Ask before you pull. Vendors often sell beads on strands, and those strands are bundled together in a "hank." Some vendors don't mind if you pull out the individual strands; some vendors do, usually because if you pull out the strand then they have no idea what the price is when you get to the counter to be rung up. Find out their policy before you pull.

  • Find bead charities for your old, unused beads. After a few years of beading, and especially after a few years of going to shows, you'll have some leftover beads that you never used or that you ended up not liking. Often there are groups who work with children or senior citizens who would love those big beads you no longer like. Or have a bead swamp with your friends--one woman's bead of regret is another woman's bead of choice!


And a special list for those of us who have businesses:

  • Bring your tax ID number/resale certificate/proof of business. It doesn't matter if you live in a state with no tax--if you are in a state that charges tax, you will need some proof of business. You must have the form with you. Not a number written on a piece of scrap paper or a business card. And it should be your form, not your friend's salon license.

  • Pay tax according to the law. The entire point of the tax deferment is that it is a deferment. Someone must pay tax on those goods eventually. If you are buying beads so that you can put them into jewelry and sell them, then when you actually sell that piece of jewelry, the end consumer will pay the sales tax for you. If you are buying a book for your own library, or a tool for your tool box, then you must pay tax. You can pay use tax instead of sales tax, but the point is, you must still pay tax at some point. If you are buying a single jewelry kit to make a necklace for your mom for her birthday, then who, if not you, is going to pay the tax on that item?

  • A business license is not a coupon. It does not entitle you to a discount at every booth you stop at. It does identify you as a potential wholesale customer, but you'll notice that every booth does wholesale pricing a little bit differently than the next.

  • Wholesale pricing is different at every booth.In order to get wholesale pricing from a vendor, you will need to comply with their policies. It may seem ridiculous that they want you to spend over $400 at their booth, but once you've been in business long enough, you'll see that they are trying to protect their wholesale customers from unnecessary competition. And there are many booths who do not sell wholesale at all.

  • Volume discounts are for volume purchases. Wholesale pricing is often called "volume discounting" for a reason--you are getting a better price because you are buying more than the average customer. It is not a good idea to ask for wholesale pricing on a single bead because that is not a volume purchase. Most vendors will extend some sort of discount at the $200 or $300 level. If the beads in your hand are less than $20, then you probably want to skip that question. Yes, I know the adage, "It never hurts to ask," but still, among the vendors I know, it ranks at the top for most annoying question.

  • Be discreet. Most vendors would rather not discuss wholesale pricing in front of retail customers. It can be very off-putting for the retail customers.

  • Check their payment policy. I've had a few very embarrassing situations occur because I neglected to find out if the vendor took charge cards before I picked out a large selection of merchandise.

  • Pay attention to their units of quantity. Some vendors can sell wholesale by the bead. Some sell by the strand. Some sell by the hank or bag. Finding out first can save you a lot of trouble. I've witnessed people who pick up large packages of beads and point to a single bead in the package and want wholesale pricing. If it's in a bag, chances are that it's in there for a reason. You might have to get the whole bag to get a price break. If you don't know some of the terms like strand or hank then you will have problems figuring out the discounts. (A strand of beads is a length of string with a number of beads strung on it. A hank is a gathering of several strands of beads.)

  • Try to visit the source. If you like Czech glass, try to find the people with the largest selection. Often they'll have the best advice about what to buy and the widest variety. Sometimes they'll have the best price, as well. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes you'll find vendors with only a handful of something, and if you don't think you'll see it again and you need it, you might have to pay the higher price.

  • Beware of haggling. There are a few vendors who will expect you to haggle, but the rest won't. Especially bead artists. These are people who have poured their time, energy, and creative focus into making small, beautiful works of art. Many of them will not be able to sell wholesale, and their work (and their prices!) should be respected.


First and foremost, of course, you should have fun at a bead show! That's what it's all about--looking at great beads and enjoying yourself. Hope this guide helped!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Finding the time

I would dearly love to make some new jewelry--I've been thinking about it every day since I've come home from the Bead & Button show. But between listing the new beads on eBay, and in my eBay store, and trying to figure out Etsy, I just haven't had the time.

Having a business is wonderful in so many ways, but it's hard to balance the fun aspects with the not-so-fun aspects. I do enjoy the online world quite a bit, but sometimes I wish I were a little less married to the computer desk and a little more glued to my jewelry desk!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Back from Bead & Button

It was a hectic show, as always. I am a sales rep for another bead company, and I worked at their booth, and we were swamped. I'm happy to be back home!

I bought a lot of really wonderful things while I was there. Mostly vintage cabs and closeout Czech and pearls, but I also took the time to run over to Green Girl Studios and buy some fabulous components:



I adore the Green Girl look--mermaids and Medusa and owls and kitties--and now I'm even more excited, because they have absolutely fabulous keys.

When I first started selling jewelry, I sold skeleton keys on cord necklaces, mostly to kids. I always loved the look of skeleton keys, but hadn't thought of them in ages, until recently, when I saw Melanie from Earthenwood Studio's new line of Steampunk components, which included a keyhole component.

I feel a marvelous synergy in the air because Green Girl's keys seem to match so well! Green Girl's own line of keyhole pendants rocks, too. I can't wait to experiment. I sense some hours at my jewelry desk...

I also finally purchased a cabinet from Best Craft Organizer, which I have been meaning to do for ages. While I'm still in the apartment I only have room for their mini, but I will see if I can get the desk when I finally move into a house. Drawers for Etsy and eBay and the website, oh my!

I definitely have my work cut out for me at this point--I need to put some of my jewelry onto Etsy, I need to restock the eBay store with lots of new things (lots of closeout Czech, hooray!), and I need to keep working on the website.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leaving

I'm off to WI to work at the Bead & Button show. I'll return on June 12th. Hope you have lots of beady fun until then!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Let us make righteous jewelry

Let us make righteous jewelry,
adorn ourselves with rivers of silver,
salt our wrists with bits of moonstone,
twine amethysts into our hair.

Let us craft the truly beautiful,
pluck the moon from the sky for our rings,
pan the gold from the creek for our torc,
limn our ears with stars freshly fallen from the sky.

Let us create for ourselves,
the hammered copper of our words,
the twisted wire of our thoughts,
lushly woven into our own personal language of art.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Expanding horizons

If business were predictable, we'd all be billionaires.

When I first started my own business, I began at small local craft shows. The very first show I did was one from the most well-known local promoter.

I put together as much merchandise as I could. I had expensive tags made so that I could label the kinds of beads that went into each necklace. I borrowed earring racks from a friend. I pulled out some black fabric that had once been part of a store display.

I bought T-bars and forms from Rio Grande. I also bought velvet tray inserts and I found a Diana statue in Robert Ham's catalog that actually ended up traveling with me to many, many shows until she became stained from being packed damp against black cloth.

I became nervous about not having enough inventory, and I worked feverishly, staying up every night after my day job (where I worked 10 am to 9 pm) to make more jewelry.

This was my first proud attempt at a display:



I was thrilled with it. I felt like I had finally worked hard at something and been rewarded, in a way.

This is more or less what my display looked like at my first show. I was so certain that I'd have lots of customers that I asked my sister to help me.

We set up, and I was a basket case, trying to fit everything onto the table and trying to make everything look "perfect." I had even made a sign explaining the name to put on checks. A friend who was in the business thought that I would sell nearly all of it at the show.

By the end of the day, I was nearly in tears. A few people had bought my most economical items--$5 wire-wrapped Lake Michigan stones on cords--but that was it. Even worse, everyone who bought something made a face or was annoyed when I charged sales tax.

I barely took in $100 at the show.

The pattern repeated at every show I did. I would get one customer who would like what I did, and buy $30; the rest would buy earrings, and I would barely eke out $150.

Completely by accident, I signed up for an outdoor art fair. When I realized what I had done, I was horrified. I called and found out that a tent rental would cost $80. I had to make new displays, and it ended up costing another $80. By the time I put together the fee and the expenses, I realized that the $150 I had been making at each show wouldn't even begin to cover this.

I set up anyway. I was miserable. It was raining. I expected the very worst, and just sat there like a lump when the show opened.

The first customer spent $150 without even batting an eyelash.

I don't even need to explain how excited I was. By the end of the show, I had made $1200.

I changed my entire show strategy and began to do outdoor art fairs, which were ten times better for my jewelry.

Of course, my life has changed, and my business has changed. I've been doing bead shows with my closeout beads, hoping that I would be able to make a new niche for myself, but I'm just not reaching the right market.

So I signed up for a small community garage sale for the weekend. I thought it would be a great market--as long as I get a bead addict or two, someone who can recognize how incredible my prices are, I'd be able to go home satisfied--but it was one of the worst shows I've ever done. The day dragged by, and I'm going to cut my losses by not going to day #2. (Sometimes it's better to do something that will make you money instead of cost you money. I'm going to spend the day working on eBay stuff.)

But I won't stop trying to expand my market. There has to be a place for closeout beads somewhere!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some tips for buying beads on eBay

About two years ago I began listing beads on eBay. At first, I thought it would be a good way to get rid of old stock. I didn't know that it would become a business for me.

I starting by listing huge lots of awful black coral. Keep in mind that it wasn't even black coral--it had been lacquered to look like black coral. They were shaped like rice grains and just a bit bigger.

Later, one of the purchasers mentioned that she thought it actually was wood that had been lacquered. But I digress.

The eBay bead market is quite congested. There are good sellers, bad sellers, and in-between sellers. There are inexperienced sellers, and experienced sellers.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when you are looking at auctions:

  1. Read the auction entirely. Yes, I know this seems simple, but seriously, this is incredibly important. I can't tell you how many problems I've had because someone didn't take the time to read the auction's description or terms.

    • Read their terms. This is one of the first things you should check out if you've decided to purchase an item from them. Which forms of payment do they accept? How do they figure out shipping charges? Do they combine shipping charges if you purchase more than one item? Answers to these questions will save you lots of heartache.

    • Read the description carefully. I say description here on purpose. Do not assume that the title is what you are getting--titles are known for being scrambled. Many sellers simply cram as many descriptive words as they can in the title so that their items will show up in the most possible searches. Read the description carefully and make certain that you are getting what you think you're getting. I recently heard a story about a woman who bid on a mold made from a bead--however, she thought she was getting a bead made from the mold, which is a different thing entirely.

    • Measurements. Take time to think about the measurements provided. Make certain you are thinking on the correct scale--inches are quite different from millimeters. Have a ruler with you when you browse, and it will help you figure out the scale involved.

    • Pictures. Are the pictures blurry? Hard to figure out? Beware of filling in the details and assuming that the product is what you think it is. Also watch out for a common practice on eBay, which is using stock photos. Often a vendor will take a single picture of an item that they have a large quantity of, and display that picture with every auction. This is not a bad practice when the items are identical, but when the items are handmade and there are variations, you could get stuck with beads that are as described but are substantially different from the picture shown. Most sellers will add a phrase in the description somewhere that the actual beads may vary from the photo, and that's your cue that you may not get quite what you expected.

  2. If you're not certain, email the seller. I can't even estimate how many problems this can prevent. Seriously. You should not feel shy about this at all. I'm not talking about emailing to double-check the terms in the auction--if it's spelled out in black and white, then that's pretty straightforward. But if they don't have any shipping terms listed, or if they have no terms listed for combined shipping, then ask before you bid on multiple auctions. If they don't respond within a day or two, then you know to be even more cautious. Yes, it might be because their child fell off a slide and had to go to the ER. However, most conscientious eBay sellers do attempt to answer emails quickly and efficiently.

  3. Beware of the negative feedback loop. So you received something that you weren't expecting, but when you went back and looked over the auction, it was clear that you were going to get what you got. Do you leave negative feedback? Hmm.

    My own philosophy is that negative feedback should only be reserved for the worst of situations. Your first course should always be to contact the seller before you leave that feedback. Beginning eBayers often think that they have to use that feedback to completely describe their transaction, which is how it is meant to work, in theory.

    In practice, however, it is quite different. Leaving neutral or negative feedback harms a seller in many ways. EBay as an organization has been getting more and more restrictive toward sellers, and a negative piece of feedback can damage a seller in numerous ways.

    I know from experience that most sellers will try to work something out with the buyer if he or she is unsatisfied. If you don't give the seller a chance, you will most likely receive a negative in return, and this will just make the situation worse. Or you will be blocked from their auctions. Or worse.

    Be wary of jumping on the negative bandwagon too quickly. First, contact the seller. Also, check the auction very carefully. Were you disappointed because the item was significantly misrepresented? Or were you disappointed because you did not read the description fully? If it's the latter, then you should not punish the seller.


In hindsight, I realize that I was very lucky in the beginning. I did list the black coral with lots of warnings, explaining that I knew it was lacquered, and very poor quality. It sold for a lot less than it had been purchased for, which isn't a good thing. However, it was through these experiences that I learned about how to write a title, an honest description, and most importantly, what the bead market on eBay was really like.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A little more of my beading history

When I first started beading in 1996, it seemed like a brave new world.

Now, obviously, beading is an ancient activity. In the United States, it's always been a hobby. However, after a big surge in the sixties, it submerged again, and it just seemed to be re-emerging at that point.

When I first first started beading, I thought that beading was a really great, inexpensive hobby. And it is--as long as you don't mind that your jewelry, in turn, looks inexpensive. I was buying beads at Frank's Nursery and Crafts, and my jewelry looked like Frank's jewelry, quite honestly.

I was ready to give up. And then my mom bought me a little bag of beads from Beads SRO in Royal Oak, and when I opened the bag, I nearly died. The beads she'd bought were worlds away from Frank's beads. I'd never seen any beads like them. I made several necklaces and earrings that week, and from that point on I was hooked. I found more bead stores in metro Detroit, and I began to spend money--lots of money.

I went on vacation to Chicago and found stores there, and bought lots of amazing beads, including recycled glass beads from Hebron. I had such a great time expanding my boundaries.

I began working for a bead store, and devoured books about working with glass and the history of beads.

Working for the bead store was incredibly educational. The store sold Italian handicrafts such as dolls and masks, and sold a lot of glass. The owner imported beads from Italy, and the staff made beaded jewelry for sale in the store, as well as selling the beads.

At this point the mainstream public had no idea about beading as a hobby. A lot of the job entailed explaining to people why a bead would cost $2 (or $200).

Selling the jewelry was much more fulfilling. I learned a lot about style, color, and assembly-line jewelry-making at that point. I made large batches of wire links, wire spirals, and earrings every few weeks, and I did a lot of stringing.

Since then, I've had a lot of different work in the bead industry. I've worked as a sales representative for a large company and done trunk shows, trade shows, and bead society shows; I've worked for myself, doing bead shows with my closeout beads; and I've sold lots and lots of jewelry over the years, both through galleries and art fairs. It's been a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

One of the most fulfilling aspects, though, is seeing someone wear a piece of jewelry that I've made. It still makes me feel all warm and happy.