Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Wednesday!

And you know what that means. Bead Table Wednesday, of course!

This week's BTW is pretty quick as I'm walking out the door on my way to WI. You can see that my desk is in a state of flux:

I have goid foil-backed glass cabs waiting to process, some new funky giant lampwork face beads to put up on eBay as well, the usual assortment of bags and tools, plus the pearls I was working with for my last few projects. I'm really looking forward to making some new pieces this month. I have coins in the brain and mermaids and maybe some brioche agate or pearls or kyanite. Who knows? I hope to have some time to devote to this very soon. Once I'm home from this trip, I'll have a few days before the next show, and I'll definitely be working on my jewelry and bead listings. In fact, I just added 45 items to my Laurel Moon eBay store, including a few new items such as amethyst nuggets and red glass hearts, so you might want to check it out.

Catch me at the Knot Just Beads Milwaukee Bead Show on Sunday from 10-4 at the Wyndham Hotel - Airport, 4747 S. Howell, Milwaukee WI! I'll have lots of new yums and some great deals on pearls and vintage glass. Stop by and check out what I have!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The eternal sorting

Right now this is what my life looks like:



Yep. Bins. Bags. Beads. It's all about bins. And bags. And beads.

And bins and bags and beads.

For those of you who don't know, I sell beads at bead shows, with a large selection of beads that I sell for $1 per bag. Which means that I have to sort them, first into dollar increments, and then into bags. As you may have guessed, that's a lot of bags.

Fortunately, I like bagging beads. A lot. But when I have a show coming up, and I have 150 lbs of new beads, and I only have a day and a half to bag, it does tend to get a bit overwhelming. Usually I try to process all of each kind of bead, putting some in the overstock bins and some in the regular bins, but I just don't have enough time before I leave, so I'll have to try to bag at least a little of everything.I'm going to give it my best, though. I have such yummy new things and I want to share!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home...with new beads!

I'm back from a buying trip for a few days, and then I'll be running off to do the Knot Just Beads show in Milwaukee, WI.

How was the buying trip? Um.


I bought nearly 100 lbs of beads.

I am not exaggerating.

Most of it is glass, some of it is vintage. I haven't even begun to unpack the other 50 lbs of beads I bought the week before. I am swimming in beads. I'm hoping to have some of the new stuff at the WI show, and it should be all up in the eBay store/Etsy shop fairly soon.

Some of it might be up a little sooner because I found some old favorites, which you might recognize below:

From left to right: druzy agate geode slices, turitella agate, amethyst nuggets, silver needle agate, sunstone nuggets, lodalite quartz, grossular garnet, ammonites, amethyst slices, laguna agate

I thought I would never see those gorgeous faceted lodalite quartz beads, and the beautiful turitella agate flat beads as well! This is awesome. I will definitely be restocking and listing new stuff all month. I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dreaming of a new display

Recently I was accepted to the Rustbelt Market show in Ferndale, MI. At first I was so excited I got up and jumped around. I have lots of new jewelry and I'm excited about interacting with people there.

Then I remembered my display woes.

You see, many of my display pieces have been with me for a long time. My neckforms are all 15-20 years old, and many of my props are at least a decade old, if not two. You won't believe this, but I am still using the first set of light bulbs I ever purchased...fifteen years later. I can hardly believe it myself.

Anyway, I haven't been doing a lot of jewelry shows in the past few years, so I've been putting off redesigning my display. There's always something a little shinier to work on, you know?

But I can't put it off any longer. I really want my display to look nice.

Let's get in our time machine and head into the past for a glimpse at my very first display:

It was a hodge-podge mix of everything I had at that time; black material, plastic earring racks, the desk lamp from my desk.

After using it for a few times, I learned some interesting things. The plastic earring rack was awful. The whole rack shook whenever anyone tried to pick up a pair of earrings, and no one could get the earring cards back on except for me.

Even stranger, the black tablecloths seemed to make people head the other way. They'd barely glance in my direction. Except Kids could not get enough of it. They would see my booth, and tear themselves away from their parents to come running over, whereupon they would bump into the table and make everything shake. They would grab stuff, and then their parents would come over and hiss, "NO! This is too EXPENSIVE!"

I decided to switch to white tablecloths, and it was like night and day. No more comments about the jewelry being too expensive, and kids seemed positively bored by my tables. My neckforms are still black velvet, though, and they're a bit worn out, and I've gone ahead and ordered all sorts of new neck displays from Rio Grande. Metal displays, wood displays, and faux suede displays, oh my! I can't wait to see them.

I'll definitely be posting pictures of the new display as I put it together!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Helping out Round Rabbit

One of the first craft blogs I ever followed was The Rabbit Muse blog by Nancy, owner of Round Rabbit Designs. Nancy's amazing ceramic work was very cool and her designs were beautiful and ethereal, often with a great sense of fun. I loved the style of her blog and how down-to-earth she is and how devoted she is to her beloved pet rabbits. She's got such an amazing work ethic, pouring her heart and her energy into her work, and she really has wonderful energy. She's an inspiration to her fellow artists.

So it was with a great sense of sorrow that I found out that the recent flooding in New York had affected her. She is okay, and her house seems to have come through with only a little damage, but her studio has been washed away.

As a full-time artist, the loss of a studio must be devastating. I can't even imagine how awful that would be, to lose all of your equipment, your supplies, and your workspace.

Her brother is hosting a page where you can go and donate to help her in her time of need.

You can donate at Support Round Rabbit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A little slice of Michigan

Recently I sent a necklace to one of my best friends.

She lived in Michigan for many years. We met in high school and immediately hit it off. I wanted to send her something that would remind her of her time here. That's why I chose a Petoskey stone as the centerpiece.

I've always loved Petoskey stones. They're found only in Michigan, and they're remnants of an ancient coral reef. You can find a lot of fossil coral on the market, but Petoskey stone is special and you rarely find it.

The pendant posed a bit of a challenge. The hole was a bit large, and at first I was just going to string the necklace, but then I decided I wanted to use chain. The pendant was too large for a wire wrapped bail; I was also worried that if I wire wrapped it I would need stopper beads on each side, and if I made a wire wrapped link to hold the pendant and the stopper beads, it would be too wide, and it wouldn't hang properly.

So I decided to use a fine chain inside the bead to give it a little movement.

I love the way it turned out, and even better, my friend loved it! I hope it will be a happy reminder of Michigan and the good times she had here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pinpointing audiences with Google Adwords

I enrolled in Google Adwords earlier this year when I first debuted my new website. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I thought I might as well give it a go. I set up some keywords that I thought might work.

I didn't have a lot of success at first, and I decided to expand my keywords and use some of the suggested keywords.

I incorporated all of them, and set my daily budget at $5 per day. It seemed to bring in a fair number of clicks, but what I didn't understand at the time was that my bounce rate was too high.

What's a bounce rate? It just refers to how quickly people leave your website. If someone clicks on your website expecting something specific, and they don't find it quickly, then they will click away fairly quickly. For example, in the above example, "vintage beaded necklaces" is not really a quality set of keywords for my website because I don't actually sell vintage necklaces. I do create jewelry with vintage components, but vintage necklaces are an entirely separate market geared for collectors of vintage and antique jewelry.

I paused all of my campaigns after a few months because I wasn't seeing results, and I pushed revising it to the back of my to-do list.

Well, recently I decided I wanted to start the advertising again. I had two different ads, one for my Etsy jewelry shop, one for my website. I took a careful look at the Etsy jewelry shop ad and revised the text slightly.

I took a close look at the keywords and narrowed them down to very specific words:

More general terms cost more per click to get my link to the top of the page. Phrases like "beaded jewelry" are a little more expensive, and so vague that the person clicking on the link might not be as interested. However, if the person is looking for something as specific as Medusa jewelry, then they might be more interested in the link, and they might stay a little longer.

Dark Medusa necklace and earrings set on Etsy

I'm going to watch my bounce rate very carefully, and I think I'm going to spend some time analyzing the jewelry in my shop and which keywords I should add to my Etsy Google Ads campaign. It seems to be a constant process.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Photography: changing lights

I'm experimenting with my new light setup today!

Previously, I used two 500 watt 4800K EBW lights from Eiko. These were terrific, but they drew a tremendous amount of electricity, and they were extremely hot. So hot that I accidentally melted part of my lightshed, in fact. They were rated at 3 hours of life, and they were a bit expensive.

After checking out the alternatives, I decided to go with Eiko fluorescent bulbs. They are rated at 5000K, which is comparable, but here's where it gets interesting: they use 42 watts. 42 watts!! Even better, they are advertised as having a lifespan of 10,000 hours.

You can see why I was intrigued! They were twice as expensive, but if they last even half as long as advertised, it will be a tremendous savings overall.

I experimented first with black and grey tones:

With the 500 watt incandescent bulbs

With the new fluorescent bulbs

I noticed immediately that I had to change the F-stop and aperture settings because the interior of the lightshed is darker. The flash of the reflective hematite-colored coating is slightly duller, as well.

I decided to try a couple of different colors:

With the 500 watt incandescent bulbs

With the new fluorescent bulbs

Clearly I have to do a little color correction here, but part of this is just due to my camera, which doesn't capture reds well.

With the 500 watt incandescent bulbs

With the new fluorescent bulbs

I am definitely liking the new lights. I'm still tinkering with the temperature of the colors and checking the tones, but so far I'm grooving on them. The real test will be when I photograph pieces of jewelry.

Another step forward in my journey toward understanding photography. And hopefully I won't melt my lightshed further. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bead Table Wednesday!

Yes, it's that time of the week, when we pause and marvel at our workspaces.

At this time, my desk is fairly clean. I just finished making a few new pieces, and after I was done, I cleaned up. The only things I'm working on right now are a challenge project, and maybe making another ceramic peacock feather necklace.

The challenge beads are from Michelle Mach, and they're for the Very Vintage Challenge. I've never done a challenge like this before, and I'm really excited. I hope to make a few interesting new pieces.

How's your workspace today?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Northern beading

Recently, I visited one of my favorite bead stores: Nawbin Beads in Traverse City!

I've known the family for ages. I remember seeing Tom and Julie at the Gem & Lapidary shows in metro Detroit, and they'd bring me a little bag of cherries. It was always wonderful to talk about vintage and antique beads with them and their kids, Karl and Kathryn--they're incredibly knowledgeable, and always fun!

Their store is located in an old general store in Traverse City, and it's absolutely jam-packed with amazing treasures. They have an eclectic mix of lovely beads and beading supplies.

One of the things I love best about them is that they carry semiprecious stone from Michigan such as Petoskey stone (a form of fossil coral) and Leland blue.  They also carry Fordite, made from discarded bits of paint from Detroit automobile paint factories. And if you want to polish your own Petoskey stones, you can purchase "Professor Nawbin's Petoskey Stone Polishing Kit!"

They have incredible taste in beads.  Giant chunks of copal, a fantastic array of seed beads, and even finished jewelry grace every inch of display space possible.  They've carried African trading beads for ages and they have a wonderful collection of vintage and antique beads.

I love a store with a touch of the past, and the beautiful ceiling and antique cash register are wonderful details.

If you're ever in Traverse City, you should stop by Nawbin Beads.  You won't regret it! 

Nawbin Beads is located at 925 East Front Street in Traverse City, MI, 49686. You can reach them at (231)932-9514 or by email.  You can also visit the Nawbin Etsy shop and the Nawbin Facebook fanpage.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

And the winner is...

I am very glad to be able to announce the winner of the wonderful bundle of Earthenwood Studio ceramic beads and components!

I generated a random number to pick the winner:

The winner is the lovely Shaiha! Please email me at laurel [at] laurelmoon [dot] com with your address so I can mail you your prize!

Thank you to everyone who entered - what a terrific response!

Have a great holiday weekend!

[The fine print: I did not count either of the two anonymous comments that did not provide email addresses as I would have no way of actually contacting them to award them the prize. The anonymous comments that did include their email addresses were included.]

Friday, September 2, 2011

And the listing never stops

I've been taking more days off at the day job recently, and spending more time at home. I was working three days a week when I was home, but I've now whittled it down to one day a week. My online shops seem to be doing well, and I thought about it and decided that I want more time to work on new listings, make jewelry, and process orders.

Yes, my world is all about listings. Etsy and eBay, and ArtFire. I want to consistently stock and restock all of my online stores. This means organization, it means staying on top of things, and it means taking pictures. At this point I take about 300 pictures a week, and sometimes as many as 500. Each picture needs to be edited. It needs to have the proper levels; it needs to be cropped, straightened, and resized, sometimes to different specifications. For new listings, I need to write descriptions, take measurements, and fill in information. For existing listings that I'm restocking, I need to revise minor points of the listing.

The most important part of the listing is the picture. Without a good picture, you will not attract the eye. It's incredibly important because customers zoom through pages of products so quickly that you only have a bare moment to catch their interest. I'm always trying to take better photographs. Up until today, I've used two 500 watt blue incandescent bulbs which are good for six hours of life. I'm on my third pair of bulbs, and today one of them blew.

But I still had photographs left to take!

So I took pictures with one bulb.

(two bulbs)

(one bulb)

(two bulbs)

(one bulb)

I know, this blog is so exciting you can hardly stand it.

With some pictures, there isn't much of a difference, but with others, there's a big difference. I need a second bulb. I went to B&H Photo Video to look at bulbs. I found the bulbs I've used before, but then I decided to take a quick look at jewelry photography sites to see what they suggested. It turns out that some sites are suggesting using compact fluorescent bulbs instead.

After weighing the pros and cons, I've decided to go for the fluorescent bulbs. They use a lot less electricity, they last for thousands of hours, and they don't put off the same heat. This is exciting, because it means I might be able to get the lights much closer to my lightshed.

It's good to second-guess my methods every so often; it helps me make sure that I'm on the best path.