Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'A' for Effort?

Sometimes with depression, no matter what you do, your mood is off. Today I'm feeling very low and unmotivated, so I thought I'd just do what I can and share some photos from my walk yesterday. My mom and I went to Hovey Pond rather than the river because we wanted to see how their gardens are starting to develop. This beautiful guy posed for us on our way in. Could be a better pic, but it's probably the best I've ever gotten of a bird!


I couldn't believe how huge the Bleeding Hearts are already


I can't remember ever seeing Narcissus in this particular creamy color, but I love it!


There were at least five varieties of Viola, including these tricolors, or Johnny Jump Ups


And two unknowns to me - typically I'd hunt for what they are, but I'm just not up to it today
 

Before I run away, I really want to thank Susan of Trouble Ink/Crafty Crafts and Arien of Victorian Scarlett Designs for being kind enough to include me in their beautiful new treasuries! I hope you're able to take a couple of minutes to browse through all the shops, including those of the thoughtful and very talented curators. Below are the screen captures, which link directly to the treasuries.




If my mood improves, I hope to do some blog reading today and hop onto Facebook so I can say hello to everyone, but if that doesn't happen I'll try again tomorrow! I hope everyone enjoys their Tuesday. :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Embeddables!

Hoping this one gets up today, as I've been yet again fighting with my internet connection since yesterday afternoon. It must be something in these 125+ years old walls - it doesn't matter to whose wireless I connect or on what side of the house they are in relation to my computer. The problems used to restrict themselves to wet or humid days, but not so much anymore.

At least the offline time ensured that I put myself to work learning how to use the new fine silver embeddable eyelets I received from Cool Tools yesterday! I've had my eye on these neat little things for a while, but now that I've started actually using the PMC I've had sitting around for so long, it was time to try them out. They were so simple to use, and I like that they don't interfere with certain designs the way a hole drilled for a jump ring can. An example is this little PMC heart charm I made, into which I pushed an embeddable before the clay was dry:


Next step will be to fire the piece in the kiln as usual, which will fuse the eyelet into place. This was my first time ordering from Cool Tools, and at $6 for USPS First Class, the shipping could have been cheaper! However, I thought the price for the eyelets themselves was fair, and they shipped the same day and arrived on the third. It may just be more economical to wait until I have a few things to order next time. Metal Clay Supply does carry these as well, but only in one size for the silver. I did go through their shipping calculator to find that it's 75 cents cheaper. :)

I was also featured in a treasury yesterday! It's another one of Vee's Beautiful BNRs - she's so good to me! Of course I can't get the page to load right now so I can tell you how many sales she's had from it so far, but my screen capture from yesterday is below. Just click the photo to visit and show some love before it expires tonight.


Crossing my fingers that this will publish... it's actually taken close to 1-1/2 hours to complete because of waiting for pages to load for obtaining links. Argh! Just for fun, I cut out a section of that old map I included in last month's post about my village, and marked my house as it looked in 1884 with a red arrow pointing toward it. If you click the image, it'll show larger.


Hope everyone enjoys their Saturday and has a great weekend! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Black Calla Update, Molds & PMC Paste

Nine days ago [yes, I've been counting], my crazy bat-eared, six-toed cat Kali chewed up my Edge of Night Calla and sent it crashing upside down to the floor. Oh, the trauma! Apparently it didn't think so, because it's been doing great! It has sprouted an entirely new leaf, and I'm pretty sure I see a touch of black inside way down at the base, so it's looking like it will bloom this year! Here's a little comparison shot between how it looked exactly two weeks ago and how it looks today:


Nature is amazing. That was my brilliant understatement of the day. The little sprouts don't seem to have done much, but I'd say that's because most of the plant's energy is being diverted to the main growth. It even appears that the Blue Butterfly Delphinium may be trying to grow a new shoot. That one lost all of its leaves in the cat attack, and it's been such a tough one for me to get started from seed that I'd be very surprised if it picks up. Although not one of the plants assaulted, for those who may be interested, here's a pic of how the Purple Oxalis has developed over the last 6 weeks:


In jewelry news, I was able to get some molds made yesterday using the Mold-n-Pour compound I ordered! It's pretty cool stuff and very easy to use. You just grab an equalish pinch from each of the two containers of compound, quickly knead and roll them together until the color is even, then press your item into the resulting mixture. It's a self-healing material, so you can't use it for making a negative/positive mold, but I'm really happy with the results so far for one-part molds! 


Along the top of the photo, you can see the beginnings of my experiments with painting a homemade PMC paste onto a couple of things. I made the paste by mixing my scrapped Chauncey earrings with water, but you can also purchase it at Precious Metal Clay suppliers such as Cool Tools. Buying a premade paste will initially give you a bit more control over your results because the mixture is standard and shrinkage percentage is already calculated, but I really love experimenting! Also, that's a lot of money for me to spend right now on something I have no idea I'll even be successful at. Better and more fun to see if I can work out the kinks with what I already have. The items I used are two pieces of Eris' most recently shed skin [from the night before last!] and one side of what I think is a locust tree seed pod, which Chris and I collected on our walk yesterday. I painted the shed on each of the sides to see what looks better. All of them are about halfway done, which means they require three or four more layers of the paste before I can fire. I may end of with a melted pile of fine silver, but maybe in that case I can hammer it out, shape it and use it to begin my next experiment - riveting!

Lots of Etsy convos to reply to today after more than a day almost completely away from the computer. In addition to that, I have a very long [for me] list of projects, including setting up my profile at the Handmade Artists' Forum. It's all still quite overwhelming to me, and I need to take many breaks throughout the day, so I'm not as productive as I'd like to be. A break usually means sitting down with Chris and/or the rats [Helen and Magda], cats [Kali and Subra] or Eris. Sometimes it means doing some plant work or just laying down for a nap or to stare blankly at the TV [not a preference]. Still, in comparison to all those years of depression and physical and mental inactivity, I really am getting so much accomplished! Hope everyone has a great day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buttonalia on Etsy

A couple of days ago I received such a cool package in the mail from England - a sample order from Sharry of buttonalia on Etsy! I've been planning a custom purchase of a set of buttons for my husband's dressy winter coat, and Sharry has been so patient with my neurotic concerns about durability and my husband's need for a very particular grey to match. One of her specialties is glazes and she really welcomed the chance to blend a special color for us, as well as create a larger-sized button. You can tell she loves what she does, and so do I!


The colors are richer than I was able to capture in my photo, the textures are beautiful, and they feel so smooth! As for my concerns, buttonalia's profile explains that all of her buttons are fired twice for durability, and are even machine washable and dryable [with a common-sense recommendation to turn them inside out]. What really impressed me was how gracious Sharry was in her personal response to me, expressing her understanding for my worries and how they might affect my decision about purchasing. Luckily, with summer coming I have some time to decide about the buttons! In the meantime, I'm definitely planning to grab one of her pendants and some of the beads now available - click the pics to go right to the listings:

Purple Ceramic Pendant


3 Crunchy Beads


People like Sharry are a huge part of why I love Etsy so much! If you have some time, please browse her shop, spread some love, and definitely consider a purchase. :D

I've been so behind on my blog reading, but I do hope to catch up after I list my newest necklace. It's a beaded strand of garnet and oxidized fine Thai Karen Hill Tribe silver, with a stamped fine silver vulture pendant I made with PMC and an antique printer's block my Nana's second husband gave me. I always thought I could do something fun with it, and I just know he would love that I've used it to make a piece of jewelry. Here's a little peak before I put it in my shop:


I realize there aren't many fellow vulture lovers out there, but I think this is a piece that could easily be worn by a man or a woman, and maybe someone will see it and fall in love. If not, I won't complain about having to wear it myself! I hope everyone's had a wonderful weekend and has a nice week ahead!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beads & Bones Find New Homes!

I've been so neglectful of the bloggy realm lately, but only because I've had some things going on. I sold two sets of beads from my new Destash section on Etsy, as well as two bony items from my Curiosities/OsteoWear section! The beads were some cute old brown and red wooden ones, which came from a couple of my Nana's broken necklaces and went to a very kind fellow Etsy seller. Nana used to give me her broken pieces because she knew I liked to make jewelry, and I think she'd be happy to know that I have plans for a lot of the bits myself and am making a few others available for anyone who can put them to good use.

The bones were my first International Shipment, to an amazing jewelry artist also on Etsy. I don't like to name buyers in this setting, so if either of these very kind and talented women happen to see this, I hope they'll accept my sincere thanks for giving my items new homes! I'm not posting pics of the beads since there are no more available. However, I can make a few more similar pairs of earrings and will be making more bone vials, so here are photos of them which link to the sold listings. That way you can read more if you're interested, and of course feel free to contact me should you want some of your very own! :D

Vertebral Triad Earrings


Vial of Rodent Bones


I have a lot to learn about shipping Internationally, especially in regards to the Customs forms! At the beginning of this month, The Handmade Spark posted an informative article about International Shipping. In it, they provided some links which I'll be looking over myself, and I'd like to share a couple here:

* USPS Index of Countries and Localities - provides a detailed list of mailing prices and regulations
* Go To Great Panes blog has a Shipping page with links to info on Basics, Labels and International Shipping

I've only skimmed these pages so far, but it looks like they have some very useful information. One online tool that I was already using is the USPS International Price Calculator. The page has been so helpful in preparing me for what I can expect to pay for shipping when I get to my post office. I use the gram scale that I purchased for weighing beads and silver pieces, but instead weigh what I'm sending in its packaging and then convert the weight to ounces. Most office supply stores offer postal scales which weigh in ounces or pounds, and you can usually find them in a range of prices. The author of The Handmade Spark article mentions her $15 postal scale as having been accurate every time - not bad!

Before I take off, I want to also thank my good friend Vee for including a pair of my earrings in her newest Buy & Replace [BNR] Treasury! Vee is one of the sweetest people I've ever known, and she really does so much to help out other Etsy sellers by making these BNRs. Anyone who purchases from one of the included sellers replaces that seller in the treasury, and is carried over into her next. Please click my screen capture of the treasury below to check out all the shops while it's still up, and don't forget to spread some love their way!


I received a shipment in the mail yesterday from another awesome Etsy seller, and tomorrow I'll be sharing that, so I hope you'll check in! Have a great day everyone, and a big appreciative welcome to my new readers!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Cats AKA Spawns of Satan

After presenting our demonic cats with the wonderful gift of his much-labored over handmade, 3-story, fully carpeted, shelved kitty condo/hiding nook/sleepy area/hunting blind/scratching post, my husband inadvertently shut one of them in the plant room last night. I was awoken at 1:30am by the sound of my beloved black calla lily crashing to the floor above me. Pot upside down, dirt everywhere, roots broken, bulb hanging out, top chewed off. It was not pretty. Nor was my mood. Kali was appropriately ashamed of herself and hid in said new gift, now apparently also her self-appointed 'get in there and think about what you've done' tube. Hopefully she did some additional thinking about the iris tips she chewed off and the blue butterfly delphinium she ripped out of its pot after I actually managed to keep it alive inside throughout the winter. If it hasn't been destroyed, it may someday look like this:



The kitty condo was Chris' first attempt at anything like it and I'm personally quite impressed! I didn't get a shot of the holes in the bottom section, but they allow the cats to climb up into the top section from the inside. Or just sit in hiding to attack our ankles. It's positioned in front of Eris' tank for the picture. Please excuse the disarray back there, not sure where my sense of symmetry was when I pinned up the curtain under her tank. Not to mention any sense of style. Don't blame me for the rug, it was there when we moved in. That was for my mom, she likes to pick on the rugs over here, and since it's their house she's allowed. I might be in trouble now though.


Once Kali was cute


Alright, she still is.


She also has pretty good taste in TV - that's Animal Planet. I say only pretty good because I'm still very miffed about their parent company, Discovery Communications', plan to air "Sarah Palin's Alaska". If the idea of that show happens to also strike you as bizarre and frustrating, please visit Care2 to sign their petition against it! Hope everyone has a great day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Now Zibbeting

Last night I added the first 4 items to my new Zibbet shop and changed the colors a bit. Still working on that part, but at least I have some items listed! If you're thinking about joining Zibbet yourself, now would be a great time to do it - there are currently only 123 Premium Accounts available at the discounted rate of $8/month for life. According to the Zibbet blog, over 500 accounts have sold in the last couple of weeks, and from keeping an eye on the site myself, I have no doubts that's true. A Premium Account gets you advanced shop customization options, unlimited free listings, no sales or final value fees, the ability to list multiple quantity items for sale, and a good deal more. If you decide to sign up, please use the links above or the Zibbet image link in my sidebar so I'll be considered your referral to the site. I could use the $1/month discount they're offering for each new member referral! :)

If you'd like to check out my shop as it now stands, I'm using KSK Jewelry Designs there as well. I actually preferred the way I had the colors before, with a black background and blue and purple text, but the individual listings turned out to have a white background and the text wasn't showing up very well. I'd like to have the option of choosing listing background and text colors - maybe I'll make a suggestion! Here are a couple of the items I've listed so far at Zibbet [images link to listings]:

Sterling & Fine Silver Garnet & Onyx Necklace - $62


Sterling Silver Dragonfly Necklace - $29


If you decide to sign up and use me as a referral, thank you so much in advance! Hope everyone has a great day!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Stuff & Some Thoughts on Pricing

Well, I finally got around to listing the new earrings I made about a week ago. I'm happy with how both pairs came out, but I really love the amethyst color ones - lots of Bali silver! Just click the pics to view the listings. :)

Teal & Blue Zircon Swarovski Teardrops


Amethyst Czech Glass & Swarovski Crystal

I have to admit I down-priced the amethyst color ones just a little bit because, well, I'd like to actually make some sales! They still may seem high to some people, including other sellers, but I really have put a lot of work into my pricing formula and I'm trying to cover all of my expenses as well as hopefully make some kind of living. 

I also believe that undervaluing your handmade items has the potential to negatively affect everyone in the long run. I'm not talking about knocking prices down a little sometimes or pricing fairly for your market [I'd hope we're all trying to do that!]. I mean things like only looking to recoup materials costs, or underpricing only because you want to outsell other shops. In those cases you certainly sell yourself short, you potentially establish yourself as unfair competition to artists and sellers who are trying to make a living, and I think it sends a negative message to buyers as well. They come to expect very low prices, and although I'm definitely no fan of exorbitant prices, I really feel that cheap isn't what handmade is all about. I'd personally like to see cheap reserved for the mass marketed items sold by large commercial enterprises. Artisan crafted items and supplies sold by independent shops should carry with them a more personal aspect, with value placed on and given to artistry, creativity, effort, time, and customer care.

Just some things to think about maybe. I found a very helpful site some time ago, which you may be interested in. It's geared particularly toward jewelry-makers who sell independently, and the site has a whole page of links to articles related to Pricing Your Jewelry. There are helpful suggestions for creating your own pricing formula and how to charge for your creating time, and there are some thoughts about pricing handmade jewelry too low. Please feel free to leave comments with your own feelings, it's always best when we can learn from each other. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Little Appreciation

This one could get pretty long if I tried to get into specifics, so I just want to take a moment to express my gratitude for all the support I've been given over the last few months. I'm overwhelmed by how kind and generous everyone has been. Every bit of it is appreciated - the hearts left at my Etsy, the fanning on Facebook, the followers here on my blog, all the supportive comments & advice, the help promoting my items & shop, the purchases & trades, and the wonderful conversations we've had. I'm trying to think of the best way I can show my appreciation to everyone, but for now I hope a simple 'thank you' will suffice. Is there anything in particular you would like to see offered as a more tangible thanks? I'm still not sure how to handle this, but right now I'm open to suggestions, so please leave them!

I'm still in the process of removing items from eBay, and now I'm taking things down that are being watched as well. I have a lot of work to do on my Zibbet shop, such as adding items! Zibbet is still offering Premium Accounts at a discounted rate of $8/month for life and there are currently 151 spots available, so you might want to take a look! If you decide you'd like to give them a try and use me as a referral, they'll give me $1/month off my own membership fees. All you have to do is use the image link in my sidebar when you go to sign up. :)

I've also finally added a scrolling Etsy shop widget to my sidebar, thanks to my mom's prompting. I decided to leave my Etsy mini page in case anyone wants to take a quick look at a bunch of listings. I'm getting grumpy about my crowded sidebar again, but I'm not sure what to do about it. I tried taking Eris' second birthday picture down, but I wasn't happy with that change!

I have to tell a quick Eris story which I did put on my Facebook page yesterday, but you may not have seen it and it was just so cool! She went with me to the store yesterday, and when I came out to the car there was an elderly woman waiting for me. She immediately started exclaiming about how beautiful Eris is and asking questions about what kind of snake she is, how long she is, how long we've had her, what her natural environment is, etc. In the course of our conversation I found out this woman is 93 years-old! I thought it was pretty amazing that she wasn't afraid and was so interested in learning, and I only hope I still feel that way when I'm her age! Hope everyone has a great day!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Life Renewed

It's a beautiful, grey, foggy day here so far. I have less complaints about the sun these days [still hate the hot!], but I do love fog. This morning I took a peak at my beloved black calla plant and was thrilled to find it growing like mad! So cool to see it pop up out of this funny dried out, dead-looking bulb. We've certainly had enough sun lately and it's doing so well despite still just sitting in front of the window in my kitty-safe plant/rodent/jewelry-making room. The other day Chris and I purchased a pretty little blue-flowered plant at Lowe's, which I hope to put into one of the cobalt blue handmade pottery planters I was lucky enough to get from my Nana. I have a couple, and I usually plant little blue flowers in them and put them on the table on our front porch. Here are a couple of pics I took this morning:

Zantedeschia "Edge of Night"


Lithodora Diffusa - "Heavenly Blue"


Hard to tell from my blurry photo, but the lithodora is so pretty! I love that the blue flowers start out as pink buds. That characteristic reminds me of another one of my favorite plants, the Echium Vulgare [Viper's Bugloss] we have growing wild around here.

Found this photo on Flickr:


It's been another couple of low days for me, but I've been surprisingly productive considering. I've revised all of my Etsy listings to reflect my new worldwide shipping option [not so difficult with Etsy's batch shipping editing tool], officially opened my little destash section, and finally listed my PMC jellyfish. I also have an idea for matching jellyfish earrings, and hope to order some cold molding compound today so I can get to work on making molds of some of my bone collection and other neat things for jewelry.

Magda checking out the next batch of beads I'm listing 
[please excuse my chubby leg - hate shorts!]


  Chauncey again - because I'm convinced there's someone out there 
who just loves jellyfish & will be happy to see him. :)


I'm still having some trouble managing my time between the shop, Facebook and my blog, but I'm working on it. It would be much easier if what I can accomplish and when wasn't so dictated by my moods, but after many years of trying, I really have found that there's only so much I can do about that. My best answer now is to just try to get to everything as often as I can and in the order that my moods will allow. I don't completely rule out a more rigid schedule, but they haven't worked so far!

Before I go, I need to point out this very important information for anyone else who is owned by cats. Hope everyone has a great Wednesday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shop Update & A Treasury!

First, I'd like to wish everyone who celebrates Easter a very happy one! We have a beautiful day here, and it seems a bit cooler than it has been for the last couple of days, which better suits me. I'm hoping to help my parents put up the wooden fence around their back yard shortly. It needs to be taken down before winter every year so the plow guy can do his snow-moving magic. It's a bit of a process, but turns the back yard into a nice little sanctuary:



That's just part of it, but it's one of the most beautiful parts! I can't wait for everything to grow back this year so it starts looking this way again. I'm sure the fish will be happy to get out of their winter tank and into a more natural environment too!

My dear friend Vee snagged another treasury and very kindly included one of my necklaces! It's one of her beautiful BNRs [Buy and Replace], so if you have a shop and buy something from one of the shops in the treasury, she'll replace that one with yours and include yours in the next as well. From what I can tell, there have now been six sales already from this one! Please take a moment to check it out and browse all of the included shops and Vee's. Just click the screen capture below to be taken to the treasury while it's still up. :)


I also have another shop update to announce. In addition to adding a destash section, I'm now offering free worldwide shipping! I'm pretty excited about this, because I've been considering it for a while, but haven't been quite sure how to go about it. Thanks to some of the wonderful people I've met through my Facebook page, I feel like I got the information I needed to get on top of it. My new policy will be to ship USPS First Class Domestic and International at no extra charge. Domestic shipping will include a confirmation number. International shipping will be basic, but with an option to pay for a tracking number or insurance if the buyer wishes. Any customs fees will need to be paid for by the customer. I hope to get some customs forms to keep with my shipping supplies so I can fill them out before going to the post office, and International packages will most likely be sent off in a padded envelope instead of my usual box to keep costs down - still have to do the figuring on that one!

I want to thank all of the sellers who took the time to respond to my call-out for help on this: 


They are all very talented artists and such kind people, and I've really enjoyed getting to know every one of them. I hope you'll take a few minutes to pay each of their shops a visit, follow their links around, and spread some love! Have a great day! :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I Won Something!

A little while back, Susan of Trouble Ink/Crafty Crafts on Etsy had her first blog giveaway for one of her beautiful dream catchers and a lucky shamrock amulet from her brother James' shop, Whispering Woods. I've always wanted a dream catcher, and it was a bonus to have the chance to win some of her brother's lovely woodwork, so I kind of flooded her comments with entries. It worked and my package arrived yesterday! It wasn't the best day for me, so I've been neglectful and haven't even let her know yet personally. Susan, if you see this before I write, thank you so much for my package! I can't believe it came so quickly, and the timing was perfect because it really cheered me up on a day I needed it. :)

As for my goodies, I'm so pleased! The dream catcher is even prettier in person, and Susan does beautiful work. I remember trying to make one myself a long time ago, and the results were less than appealing! I know that technically it should hang over me while I sleep, but I'll be proudly displaying it in my upstairs window because I want people to see it. A really nice touch was the included Legend of the Dream Catcher info card, which told me more about how the catcher is supposed to direct the dreams while a person is sleeping. This is obviously a very talented family, because James also does impressive work. I have no idea how he does it, but the shamrock is perfect and the wood is so smooth! I love that the wood he uses was made available by Hurricane Ike. He has taken the product of such destruction and turned it into truly beautiful handcrafted items. I still have to find a better way to photograph longer items, but here's what I received:


You can see that Susan kindly included a little extra for me, an angel in a heart! This whole package was already a freebie for me, so that just tells you what a sweetie she is. There are so many lovely items in both her and her brother's shops, so I hope you'll visit them at their various locations online, show your support and definitely consider a purchase or two!

Trouble Ink/Crafty Crafts - Website, Etsy and Blog
Whispering Woods - Etsy, ArtFire and Blog

I've been kind of tired and low lately, and I think part of it may have to do with the weather. I do love Spring because it means Chris and I can take Eris out and about again, start up our garden, and do some more walking. Plus this year I'm looking forward to letting go 3 or 4 baby mice that were born over the winter to a mouse we caught in our Havahart. However, it's already been a bit too hot for me - in the 70s I think for the last couple of days. It doesn't bode well and I'm already making plans to bring up our air conditioner from the cellar!

Today I have lots of catching up on writing to try to do, and some new listings to tackle. I've pretty much decided that I'll be adding a destash section to my Etsy shop. I have so many beads, and some of them I may never use. I'm hoping a new section will help inspire me to actually start going through things more closely so I can get more organized! Also, I think it will make a nice addition to my shop and maybe give other jewelry makers some materials at a decent price. As with anything, this may take me a while to get going, but it's a plan! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and a very Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

My Dear Readers