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


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


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...