Friday, September 11, 2009

Get Teased! -- September's Triskaidekaphobian Tease

Apologies for the lateness! If you want to be sure you get the Tease on time, the best bet is to sign up for my mailing list -- as the newsletter seems to be a bit more prompt than blogging. :)

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :) Combinable with the new promotion wherein if you buy more than one piece from the same line, you will get 10% off -- that's 23% off!

So September comes from originally being the seventh month of the year -- hence "Sept". Seven is often considered to be a highly lucky number, so let's talk about luck!

To win this month's Tease, name SEVEN luck charms, either good or bad. Here's the catch: All seven must be of the same type of luck, no mixing allowed.

Friday, August 7, 2009

August newsletter is out! :D

I have wrangled my e-mail HTML, and figured out both how to make it look the way I want and how to send to my mailing list discreetly. Woo woo!

Check out the newsletter here, if you like -- it's also on my webpage proper!

Want to keep updated on my releases, upcoming shop lines and promotions? Feel free to drop me an e-mail to be added to the mailing list. Strictly opt-in and I promise I will only spam you once per month or so. :D

Uh oh, are you supposed to be on my mailing list but haven't received anything? Please write and let me know so I can double check and make sure I have you on my VIP. Cheers!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Here There Be Dragons...

I'm pleased to announce that my new line of jewellery, "Wyrm Regards" (as named by the lovely Mermaiden) is polished, cleaned and ready to find new nests. :)

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Dragons, were-cats and sea monsters... curious yet?

Coming soon: Wee Sandy Seascapes! Resin, shells, pearls and coral in sterling silver cups. A perfect way to keep summer beach time with you all year round.

Get Teased! -- August's Triskaidekaphobian Tease

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :) Combinable with the new promotion wherein if you buy more than one piece from the same line, you will get 10% off -- that's 23% off!

August. August. Say it quickly and it sounds almost like "A gust". A gust of wind, maybe? So let's talk about wind.

Did you know that the modern device for measuring wind is called an anemometer, after the Greek "Anemoi"?

Name six Greek wind deities to win this month's Tease. :D

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Bloggin': Busy as a...

Been hermited inside my shop for a while now, but the end result should be worth it. :) At least ten new items from the "Wyrm Regards" line coming at the end of this week -- keep your eyes peeled! :D

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A very happy birthday to my favorite siren :D

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

-e.e. cummings


Happy birthday, Mermaiden. I hope it is filled with shells and good dark beer. :D

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Eyeball contest winner!

First, happy Independence day to my American readers! May it be full of all-beef hot dogs, BBQed corn on the cob and fireworks that don't light your eyebrows on fire.

Second, I'd like to announce the winner of last month's "Name That Eyeball" contest: Mermaiden, with her suggestion of "Wyrm Regards". :D Thanks to everyone who made suggestions! I chose that one because it makes me giggle every time I see it.

Mermaiden will have her choice of ANY of the new eyeball jewellery that will be coming to my shop by the end of this month. Yay!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Boring Stuff: Dollars and Sense

So herein lies the current state of Arcadian Dreams Metalwork -- might be of interest to other self-employed business mavens. :D


About $2500 in the hole at the moment, which is fine; my business plan allots for up to $5000 "red" before I will have to change strategies. So that's good. :)

Advertising and Promotion:

Will never be on the front page of Etsy, and my items honestly don't fit their new "branding" schtick... so I will change my focus from them to myself/other venues.

Project Wonderful got me views but no sales and no trackable hearts; will give it another go when I have a fully stocked shop.

Twitter would probably get me sales if I used it for my business, but it feels icky to do so and I'm worried about spamming people.

Current strategy is to open an ArtFire shop, keep three lines in my Etsy shop (Cocktails, My Heart Is A Castle and eyeballs) and use the rest in ArtFire, featured as a cart function on my main website, which will be overhauled.


Will likely stay the same for the moment. Right now I am using a formula that marginally works -- essentially overhead (shop expenses, packaging, shipping) + materials times x. Nope, no labour in there; I'm currently working for free, which is bad business, but I am trying to stay competitive. When I'm a big diva of the jewellery world this may change, of course. ;)

Meatspace venues:

Will definitely be doing the gem and jewellery show this October; will be saving up stock to do it, and have lovely new displays. I'm aiming for 50 items, which is pretty ambitious, but I have a few months to do it.

Still have consignment space at the Purple Door; will put some pieces there before and after the gem show.

New skills:

Cabbing! Cutting and polishing my own stones is not only a heck of a lot of fun, but will reduce my cost substantially.


So there you have it. I'm not kicking ass but I'm not going under. :D

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Getting To Know You: Workspace Exposed!

Wherein we ask the time-old question...

Does this bench make my butt look big?

This is where all the frustration... I mean magic... happens. :D

Those of you who are familiar with my shop may recognize some of the sketches up on the board as already having been made and sold -- click on the "all sizes" for a zoomed look!

Get Teased! -- July's Triskaidekaphobian Tease

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :)

The French word for July is "juillet"... looks a lot like "Juliet", doesn't it? We've all heard of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy "Romeo and Juliet", in which the lovers are kept apart and ultimately meet their end trying to be together forever.

Can you name one pair of star-crossed lovers from Greek or Roman myth that follow a similar story?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mailing List Time!

I have decided, in the interests of actually trying to be a businessperson as well as a metalworker, to start a mailing list to keep customers apprised of additions to my website or my shop. I tend to list things in bunches, not one at a time, so this makes sense.

If you want to be added to the Arcadian Dreams mailing list, please send an email to , and I will add you. :)

I promise I will not spam you with blinky marquees, and the begging and whining will be kept to a bare minimum. *grin*

Monday, June 29, 2009

Best of Ets -- June's Gold Star Sellers (and Buyers!)

So let's talk jewellery -- and not mine this time!

ErtheFae stands out like a diamond in the welter of beaded jewellery on Etsy; her pieces have a distinct, almost mythologically creative flavour. If she were chocolate she would be intriguing awesome chili/cayenne chocolate (and more on that below, btw...). It's difficult to explain better than that, but check it out:

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WAY better in person -- each bead perfect and carefully stitched, very secure clasp (I'm a stickler for the stickers ;) ), beautifully designed... and her descriptions, particularly her Steampunky ones, are definitely worth reading all the way through. If I did beaded jewellery, I would be delighted with myself if my pieces came out like hers -- so check her out!

I did mention chocolate, didn't I... well how about Mayan chocolate caramels? Ever wondered what would happen if you put cayenne and cocoa together? Here's your answer, and let me tell you it is a yummy, buttery, creamy, spicy and sweet answer.

Haveitconfections makes handmade marshmallows, nougat and caramels from top-quality ingredients. They are on the scale of good where "shelf life" doesn't even enter into it, because they won't make it past a week in your house. I'm not even a foodie really -- I'll take a cheeseburger over Chateau Briand any day of the week -- but even my rude palate can discern that these are truly of a superior nature. She also offers little samples, "just a tastes", so you can try a bit before you commit... but I promise you it won't matter. Once you try them, you will be hers forever. ;)

And finally on our Best of Ets roster we have our first buyer: maythenwolfbane. Naturally, I love all my customers, but I get a particular thrill at selling to fellow metalsmiths or metalsmiths-in-training; I know they will understand the tenterhooks of reticulation and alloying, will cast a critical and cognizant eye on everything that went into a piece. They will know without being told that those moonstones are of particularly good quality, or the difference in long-term wear between using light findings or heavy findings. Makes me all fuzzy inside. :)

Anyway, back to this lovely lady -- should she happen to buy from your shop, consider yourself a fortunate seller! Not only was payment quick and communication perfect, but I really felt that she was engaged at every step of the way not only as a customer, but as a genuine appreciator of the art and aesthetic... and for those whose metalworking is like tiny shiny members of the family, you can rest assured that your work is going to a great home.

Coming soon: Results of the new eyeball line's naming contest! :D

Saturday, June 20, 2009

50% off? Holy @%^#!!

So a very merry solstice to you, and a very happy birthday to me! :D

In honour of this auspicious event, all items in my shop are now priced all crazy like at a full 50% off. Woo hoo! Ends midnight of the 21st.

Clicky here to get to the loot!

Cannot be combined with the Triskaidekaphobian Tease, unfortunately, but all other goodies apply. :D Cheers!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gentlefolk, start your engines...

Just a quickie blog post reminding everyone that on my birthday, the 21st of this month, all items will be 50% off in my shop :D

There will be a few less things as some are going to a B&M, but consider this my own version of "Christmas in June". *grin*

Thursday, June 4, 2009

CONTEST: Name That Eyeball

Good afternoon lovely Blogians! I haven't done a contest before but hopefully it will be well received. :D

So I have a new line coming out next month consisting of glass taxidermy eyes, mostly reptilian, set into silver. The few pieces I've made so far look pretty darn good! The problem is, I'm not sure what to call them...

Something about primitive, primal, cold-blooded... oh bother! I'm not quite getting it right. Maybe you can! :)

So let's Quid Pro Quo. You suggest to me a suitably Arcadian name for the new line, and I will award you a pair of earrings or a ring from the line as a thank you if I choose your name!

Contest open for one month from today's date -- so comment here with your most pithy, punny, intriguing nomers. Suggest as many as you like, and thanks in advance!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get Teased! -- June's Triskaidekaphobian Tease

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :)

June is largely the domain of those crabby Cancerians (of which I am one, pinch pinch!) -- and in astrological terms, Cancer is considered the "cardinal" water sign of the Zodiac. What are the other two water signs in the traditional Western Zodiac?

Psst -- also keep your eyes open on the 21st! To celebrate my birthday, I will be putting all items in my shop at 50% off for one day only. WOO HOO!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Best of Ets -- May's Gold Star Sellers

While my blog does not have African watering-hole levels of traffic at the moment, I still feel compelled to share the experiences I've had with certain Etsy sellers who have really impressed me. Given that you're the sort of person who is interested in the things I have to say, you're clearly of markedly rare dash and taste, so I know my perspective won't be wasted. ;)

To properly introduce my first artisan, I first have to share with you my deep and Undying love for Clive Barker. I know, I know... but Kieran, you're saying, some of his movies have been total dogs. Worse than Stephen King screenplays! I know this, Gentle Reader. I know. Even my favorites of his movies (particularly Nightbreed, based on the book Cabal; Hellraiser, based on the book The Hellbound Heart, and Lord of Illusions, based on the short story "The Last Illusion") are deeply flawed. I don't care. He is a writer-creator to me, first and foremost; also parallel to King, Barker's twisted vision does not birth true into our world through a cinematic canal. It's too visceral, too dependent upon one's own sense of spiralling personal horror. But I digress...

Clive Barker's work affects me because the people in these completely surreal situations are eerily real. I have known them. You probably know them. Strip away all supernatural elements and you are still left with real people, living real lives with real reactions... add those elements back in and it is the very hyper-reality of the people living the story that makes the unbelievable suddenly terrifyingly plausible (The Damnation Game is the only book, ever, I have had to put down in sheer blood-freezing horror. It took me a full three days to get the nerve to go back to it).

Now, imagine that instead of being mostly focused on horror fiction, this marvelous ability to make what is inherently unreal seem perfectly real was applied to fantasy art. May I introduce Mark Satchwill Art?

See what I mean? He has a real gift for making his subjects -- mostly historical, mythological and fantasy personalities -- actually have personalities. I also am delighted that, while all of his subjects are pleasing to the eye, he draws men like men, even with man parts (like furry chests), and they are subjects in and of themselves... they are not relegated to being the "set dressing" for the female subjects as so often happens in fantasy art.

Mark has been the artist creating the ACEOs in my free "Featured Artist" giveaway with purchase, and I'm very sad that I've come to the end of them in that regard (I've only got perhaps eight left to give away at this point)... but I will definitely be back, as I've ended up keeping more than my fair share of the ACEOs that were, cough, supposed to go to my giveaway. ;)

As a seller, Mark is courteous, witty and kind. His packages have always arrived perfectly wrapped, quickly shipped and with a handwritten and thoughtful note. I really can't say enough good things about him, which is why I had to use my admiration for Mr. Barker to illustrate just how awesome Mark is. :D

Now we're going to jump from sirens to scrubs. Mad City Sue is a bath and body e-tailer on Etsy I first heard about on the Lush forums. Always up for an excuse to hop in the bath and smell pretty, I ordered one of her super moisturizing scrubs a couple of years ago, and have been hooked ever since (my first one, btw, was "White Wedding".... exactly like white birthday cake. SO. GOOD.).

Since then, she's started doing split scrubs, which are just... fantastic.

I am something of a scrub connoisseur. I can tell you which scrubs are good for year-round, which ones are best only in the summer, and which ones are best in the winter for when you're really, really dry. Sue's scrubs are the most moisturizing of all the scrubs I've ever tried; they have a very creamy consistency and leave a finish on the skin just a titch lighter than Lush's "Buffy". As a result, I only use them on my body in the wintertime when I'm very dry... but on my hands? My poor, dry, cracked, shop-worn hands? Let me tell you, Internets...

Mad City Sue has saved my hands both from perpetual dirt and from being stripped of every hint of moisture they might be still clinging to. I get capital-D Dirty in the shop, and wash my hands roughly five times per hour... so you do the math there. After a full day in the shop, I have little mummy paws. So when I am done for the day, I wash with soap as usual, and then give a scrub with Sue's wondrous magic smelly stuff, and poof! Tripoli and rouge come off, my hands are left soft and smelling wonderful. Check her out if you're in the market for a scrubby hand saver!

Last but not least, do you know Flying Buttons? I'll be surprised if you're part of the Etsy crowd and you don't, since she's a total genius at marketing herself and getting out there. Today, though, I want to talk about her headbands.

So I've mentioned that I'm in the shop a lot, right? Part of my challenge has been a way to keep my hair securely back so my bangs don't fall in my face while I'm soldering (the aroma of freshly roasted barnet is not inspiring to me, sadly). Scarves work, but they get so dirty I go through them every couple of days to wash. Enter Flying Buttons and her sleek, chic, cute and secure headbands.

They are a simple enough design -- metal loop-backed buttons, covered in fabric and secured to a thick smooth elastic band -- but man, do they WORK. They stay put even through Toddlerobics, and I get lots of compliments when I wear them too. All of my transactions with her have been nothing short of charming and pleasant and agreeable, and she has a really wide selection of hairbobs, not just headbands. Her styles range from muted and sophisticated to cute and cheerful. I have my eye on this one next, myself...

Enough for this month -- I hope you check them out! All pictures used with owners' permissions.

(as usual, I feel the need to add I don't get anything for doing these reviews. ;) )

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A happy silver family. :D

Remember this?

Finished it today, just in time to present to Mrs. Helpful-friend-of-the-family for Mother's Day.

The S and K are the Mama and Papa, and the small s, o and a are the kidlets, with their birthstones or reasonable substitutes thereof (aventurine, amethyst and citrine).

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There are some weird reflections in the high shine of the silver -- it's all been buffed mirror smooth. The perils of taking pictures outside! Note to self... light box for shop photos, always. ;)

And a happy upcoming Mother's Day to the mamas who may be reading. <3

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Get Teased! -- May's Triskaidekaphobian Tease!

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :)

In 2002, quirky horror director Lucky McKee released the gruesome -- yet oddly heartwarming -- "May", starring Angela Bettis, Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris. "May" is often considered by critics to be a modern retelling of what classic horror novel?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Team MSIA Mother's Day Seek-n-Find Giveaway!

*** TeamMSIA Mothersday Contest Seek & Find ***

The Metalsmiths In Action Etsy Team is having a Seek, Find & Win Contest, starting this Friday, May 1st and going through May 10th (or when all prizes have been given away, whichever comes first)! Find the THREE hidden Rose Images in these participating stores listed in the thread below. No purchase necessary! Check this thread for complete information.

Forum thread:

HUGE amount of jewellery to win from some very talented artisans, and me too. ;) Check it out everybody!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Two Months On Etsy Have Taught Me

Beta testing is now officially over! I have reached my two month mark open on Etsy, so now is a good time to regroup and draft my four-month plan. Then, I will make my eight month plan, and so on... always gotta be tweaking the business and it really helps me to put down on paper where I need to trim my edges.

1. Continuity in photography. I've more or less figured out my camera, now, so it's time to invest in some backdrops that will offer my items a uniformly photographed look; using "whatever was on hand" did give me some interesting results, but overall people like sameness and they like a professional look.

2. Cheap and cheerful. I love making time-intensive wyrdling pieces, and I'll still do those, but I also need some cheap and cheerful, bread'n'butter pieces that are under the $30 mark and that I can produce en masse. I don't have to be an artist all the time; sometimes I can let myself be a crafter.

3. Filling the shop. My initial speculation that no less than 30 pieces was a good goal mark for my shop seems to have been correct -- people like full shops! When I re-open next month it will be with a full complement of items.

4. Advertising - Project Wonderful did bring me views but no clicks; I'm going to give it another try when I have a full shop and see if a bigger selection will have better results. On a related advertising note, it really is worthwhile to invest in the more expensive PW sites... the more expensive sites got me more views across the board!

5. Polished packaging. My packaging was pretty good, but (with permission from her) The House of Mouse's was just amazing, and I've taken a few cues from her brilliant packaging to use for my own. It may cost me a little more in the short term but I think it will be worth it in the long term.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday bloggin': What's On The Bench?

Castles, that's what!

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Well, tiny TINY castles suitable for the wee-est of pixies, maybe. But castles nonetheless!

I'm starting a new line called "Castles In My Heart": A heart theme surrounded by stone castle walls. I have a history of getting my heart broken, so motifs of protecting the heart tend to show up in my work a lot, as do hearts in general.

Here are the first earrings of the set -- post backs with a setting for either enamel or small gemstone hearts.

These are sterling and natural ruby. I have matching pendants, too, but they need to wait on a supply order as I don't have a proper hammer.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Best of Ets -- April's Gold Star Sellers

After a buying hiatus (so I could funnel all my money into my shop), I'm buyin' again! I wanted to give a shout out to three sellers on Etsy who really go above and beyond.

Mermaiden Creations is an eclectic artisan whose work is not only well-made, but sparkles with that raw creativity that I am very attracted to. I've bought jewellery, fridge magnets and textile from her, and they all are beautifully finished, fairly priced and her packaging is lovely. As hinted at by her name, her shell jewellery and mermaid work is particularly fine.

Here is a picture of my son enjoying his new favorite pillow from her boutique -- it's tucked under his head while he naps:

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The House of Mouse makes felt mice with wee accessories, all with a different persona. She made a custom Les Stroud mouse for my husband's birthday, complete with camera and harmonica around his neck! Everything is solidly constructed, perfect to scale, and her packaging is just inspirational -- right down to the certificate of authenticity she includes. Impressive all around, and I'll be back.

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Finally, there's Copperlilly Botanicals. I am a bit of a soap snob, having worked for a high-end bath and beauty company -- I learned as much as I could ever want to learn about soap and not make it myself! Not all soap is created equal... but hers passes every test I have: High quality essential oils (best quality I've seen on Etsy), lovely long curing times, no over-drying of the skin, minimal pretty packaging, and her crocheted scrubbies are perfect accompaniments to the soap.

I use her charcoal facial soap when I'm a bit spotty, and have just cracked out her Coconut Rose and Honey Almond soap and so far it's leaving my skin gorgeous too. And no stinging on the pink bits. :D

Hope you check them out! No, I don't get any kind of kickback for posting this. :p

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Nightmare of Seascape 1: Also Known As "UR DOIN IT RONG"

This is going to be a long entry, as it will involve construction notes and the like. If such things make your eyes glaze over, feel free to look at the pretty (and not so pretty pictures) and skip the text. :)

This is The Beast in question:

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I got a wild hair to do something totally creative and artistic and frivolous, so I thought "well hey, let's learn enamelling!". I bought an enamel kit and with the aid of my trusty PMC kilns, got down to work. This is, of course, when everything went South...

The first cock-up: Do not try any fancy-schmancy folding tricks with PMC.

I had originally intended to roll out a thin sheet and fold it, accordion-style, to create a neat rippled backdrop for the back of the piece. DO NOT DO THIS. This creates air pockets in the PMC that come out later as huge gaping holes in the piece, when the silver shrinks. D'oh.

I ended up camouflaging my mistake with lines scribed in the back, but it did not stop the aforementioned Grand Canyons of Fail from showing up. Hmmm. This necessitated enamelling the back of the piece as well, to fill the holes, something I had not intended to do.

The second cock-up: Enamelling the back of a huge piece of silver that was not intended to be enamelled is bad news bears.

Ping! Ping! Ping! If I never hear that sound again for the rest of my life I will be a happy woman. See, for those among the enamelling unitiated, enamel likes to crack. It will crack if there are impurities in your water or dust in your enamel, and it will crack if the working surface is not an ideal shape for enamelling onto (domed), and it will crack if the piece is cooled too quickly. I sifted. I fired. It cracked. I cleaned. I sifted. I fired. It cracked. I cleaned. Ad nauseum.

In fact, I full-cover sifted the back of the piece no less than eighteen times. Eighteen times! Finally, I gave up. At least the PMC Holes of Badness were filled, right? Oy. So the lesson here is that some things really don't want to be enamelled, particularly if they are the wrong shape and thickness.

This is how the back ended up:

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Parts stayed enamelled. Parts didn't. It all got fired. Holes got filled. I ended up stoning the enamel down so it looked like beach glass. Not too shabby, all things considered.

I fired the ever loving heck of it at the end, which resulted in the fine silver of the PMC actually boiling up over the shibuichi coral... which brings me to the next part:

The third cock-up: Shibuichi does not like to be fired with fine silver.

I had cast the shibuichi (the pink-silver stuff at the bottom) myself, and it came out in this lovely coral shape, so I used that as a platform to work from. I cleaned and set the coral into the wet PMC and fired the whole thing. So far, so good, right? I did notice, though, that during the first firing the PMC really wanted to "creep" along the surface of the shibuichi in a fine skin. I figured I could take it off later. Um. Not so much.

After firing and firing and firing some more, especially the high temperatures of the flash at the end, the fine silver caught on the surface of the shibuichi actually balled itself into shot... tiny, tiny nodules of shot that fused hard. Um. It's a good thing this was a creative, freeform, underwater piece or I would have cried.

In the end, I actually like how the nodules look, definitely like coral! I'm not sure I could duplicate it if I tried. You can see the nodule effect, and the enamelling I floated throughout the front of the piece, here:

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Everything else was more or less not cock-up worthy. I bought a vintage coral necklace (I can not, ethically, support the harvesting of new coral at the expense of the reefs... so I purchase old stuff) and reamed out the tiny holes with a diamond bit.

I strung everything on 20g steel wire, to hold its shape. Oh! I guess there is another cock-up...

The fourth cock-up: 20g steel wire does not wire-wrap in any kind of pretty or decorative way, unless you are The Hulk.

So I used to bitch and moan about sterling silver being tough to wire-wrap. Ha! Double ha! A breeze by comparison. Wrapping the ends of this wire was an exercise in bruises, blood and frustration. In the end I did the best I could, but it's ugly (were this a piece for sale, I would cover the shitty wire-wrapping with an assortment of pretty jump rings for camouflage).

I had a piece of cuttlefish doodad lying around from my last run of Lovecraft jewellery, so I used that as a simple clasp:

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It's actually good and secure, given how heavy the necklace is and how stiff the wire is.

So anyway, this was it: Seascape 1, sterling and fine silver, peg-set cultured pearl, modified gypsy-set moonstone, enamel, coral, steel.

In 10 years, when I have more buff skills, I am going to make another one. :D In the meantime, I have the necklace to remind me of all the lessons this piece taught me... and an even more permanent souvenir:

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Just in case anybody wondered how hot kilns get... I didn't even feel that. It burned right down before I could say boo.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday bloggin': What's On The Bench?

As a break from all the super serial metalsmithing I've been doing of late, I decided to make some assembled pieces:

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I am torn about selling them! Intellectually I realize they're just a jumbled motley of vintage scarf clips and old chains, but... they're just so darn pretty and I won't ever be able to duplicate them exactly. On the other hand, a few more sales wouldn't hurt me any. My little raven eyes are going to get me in trouble with collecting all the shinies one of these days...

I will definitely be selling this piece, however, as much as I like it:

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Sterling silver, cultured pearl, on a (commercial) neckwire. I'm very happy with it, smooth and sophisticated I think. If this one sells I will certainly make more.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday bloggin': What's On The Bench?

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This is a family pendant I'm working on as a thank you gift for someone who has helped us out when we were in need -- the big initials are mom and dad, and the little ones are the, well, little ones. :) I'm also going to add some bezel-set cabochons for the kids' birthstones, but they will have to wait until I can afford my next supply order. Very much a work in progress as you can see by the rough edges...

I received my pieces back from the consignment shop (I need to take better pictures) with the instructions to MAKE MORE. :D Apparently they want to devote an entire display to me! Wow! I just need to fill it up properly. Sometimes I really envy the artisans on Etsy for whom it is no great shakes to make ten or twelve pieces a week -- I am a sloth in the world of jewellery bunnies. ;)

To be listed this week: Two assemblage pieces, fun and colourful and funky vintage-component necklaces... my right brain lit up all over the place with these puppies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prototype: Féileacán necklace

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I like how it turned out. This is a prototype, of course, so it's not quite perfect enough to sell... guess I've got another piece of walking advertisement to wear. :) If I get enough of these, I may just have a "Scratch and Dent" sale at the end of the year, offering them at half of what I'd normally ask. :)

Sterling, moonstone, cultured pearl.

The darling sparkly magnet behind my (still dirty from the shop) hands is one of mermaiden's awesome fridge art creations -- check her out here for more gorgeous ethereal awesomeness ( :D

Walking the walk, talking the talk.

In the Getting To Know You file: I am pagan. Not just on the Esbats, not just on weekends, not just when it might get me laid or bring me prosperity. All the time, through sickness and health, yadda yadda.

It extends into my shop, too. I have found it very useful to use an elemental model for the progression of my shop; it helps me to maintain a "time for sowing, time for reaping" groove. So I use this!

The Crafty Witch's Calendar

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January, May, September are Earth months. They are Upkeep, all those mundane household and money-balancing tasks. This is the time I focus on taking Inventory, updating my accounting, and making changes to my business plan if necessary. Also, shop tidying. Purchases made in this time are largely consumables (jump rings, clasps, wire, solder, boring stuff :D ), and replacing my casting blanks that have sold.

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February, June, October are Water months. They are Modelling, where I let myself play with PMC and assembly pieces and beads and lazy daydream designs, very low stress and happy and fun and swirly. Purchases made in this time tend to be fabulous stones I may never actually get around to setting, but are just gorgeous.

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March, July, November are Fire months (I use the symbol for the Sun to represent fire). They are, appropriately, for Casting! This is when I finalize and send off my master models, and do all my cuttlefish casting here in the studio. Purchases are for the casting house itself and any and other sundries that are required for setting stuff on fire. :)

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April, August and December are Air months. They are Promotion and Design. This is when I turn my attention to my advertising and marketing, get myself more out there, force myself to be social and hand out lots of business cards. They are also the only three months I accept custom orders currently, as I view custom orders as a form of advertising since I don't really make any dough from them.

And that's that! It keeps me short-term goal focused, prevents boredom because I'm always shifting my focus, and makes for a well-rounded business attack.

Given that it's an Air month, expect lots more blog posts. ;)

Get Teased! -- April's Triskaidekaphobian Tease!

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :)

April showers bring May flowers, so let's talk flowers.

Ah, those Greeks and their divine transmogrification stories. Name me one Greek mythological character who made the transition from flesh to plant!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The nature of success...

So with no cold sales under my belt yet -- that being people who do not know me but are buying the piece cold -- I have gotten to thinking about sales and success in the jewellery field.

Apprenticeship #1: Fairly mainstream mall jeweller. Didn't take a lot of creative risks, mostly did repairs, watch battery changes and bridal set sizing. Can live off her profits well. Creativity 4/10, financial success 8/10.

Apprenticeship #2: Haute-couture art jeweller, very creative but mostly stuck to what was trendy/popular (a very idiosyncratic ring texture with a bezel-set stone in contrasting metals). Could live off her profits alone but ended up expanding her gallery to include other artists to fatten margins. Creativity 6/10, financial success 6/10.

Apprenticeship #3: Eccentric, award-winning art jeweller, extremely creative, took risks. I'm the most like him :) Did the occasional repair, etc., but mostly was called upon for "weird" custom work. Probably could not live off his work alone, unfortunately. Creativity 8/10, financial success 4/10.

There is a pattern here. Food for thought... perhaps I need to revamp the criteria for when I will feel successful as a metalsmith.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tarte Deco necklace... didn't even make it to Etsy!

The buyer who purchased my Tarte Deco earrings seemed interested in the matching necklace I was in the process of making, and as soon as I showed her the pics she snapped it up. I'm very pleased! When I do matching work I kind of view them as littermates and I like to see them go to the same home. :D I added the monogram charm free of charge as a thank you.

Sterling, fine silver, Baltic amber.

Also: Yes, you can successfully solder an amber piece with the amber in... just barely :D

Have some more knotwork on the bench at the moment, and I'm working on some castle and angel themed pieces, a bit of a departure from my usual style to be sure!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday bloggin'

So Monday mornings have been officially set aside as my blog time, barring illness and/or "nothing good to say today grump grump" days.

The shibuichi poured perfectly, one pour radiating outward like coral... so I have decided I am going to use it for my first ambitious, Rio-Grande-catalogue-esque PMC piece. Shibuichi, sterling, PMC with moonstones fired in place. It will either be amazing or it will be a hot fractured mess. No risk, no reward, eh? Besides, there's always Jack to fall back on if it goes horribly wrong (Mr. Daniels to you, please.).

My favorite apprenticing jeweller was absolutely fearless. He would size large and irreplaceable stone-set rings without qualm (stone-in! GAH!), put thousand dollar silver spoons in my hands to polish on the wheel (which could, at any time, catch hold of the enormous piece of silver and send it spinning off into oblivion)... I mean, this man had the proverbial balls of solid granite. He was amazing, and the closest to me in terms of creative style and attack.

The creation process for me is always blood and fire and Nero fiddling and Sturm und Drang and Valkyries flying overhead and O Fortuna playing in the background and hammer hitting steel (and occasionally, me). I am the exact antithesis of those amazing artists who create precise, pristine geometric pieces. I look at their work with admiration and respect, because it is so far from my element, but it is not a style that comes naturally to me.

I take risks. All of my work involves some element that is, at the beginning, just a greycat whisker beyond my ability. By the end of the piece, I've either learned how to do something new or I go back to the beginning and try again with a different approach.

My jewellery is... dangerous. Mostly to me. :) And I like it that way.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Get Teased! -- March's Triskaidekaphobian Tease!

Convo or email me with the correct answer to this question and get 13% off any one item in my shop for the remainder of the month! :) My shop is pretty sparse at the moment, since I just got picked up for consignment locally, but I will be restocking soon -- check back for updates!

In the meantime, here is your Tease:

The Mad Hatter and the March hare go hand in hand... well, teacup in teacup, anyway! March is widely thought of as a tempestuous and unpredictable month.

So your question is this: What Shakespearean character's name lies between that stormy March weather, and the Mad Hatter's trade? Hint: The name also begins with "M".

Good luck!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fire = The Solution To Everything

I am having a distinctly gloomy tigger week and have been largely unproductive in the shop (despite having a potential real life consignment opportunity this Saturday); I have decided to cheer myself up by melting the living daylights out of some metal and replenishing my shibuichi alloy stock.

Catharsis, thy name is Little Torch. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The underpants gnomes had it right...

Step 1: Make jewellery
Step 2: Open jewellery shop
Step 3: ????
Step 4: PROFIT!

Am currently at Step 3, also know as "Well, WTF do I do now?". ;)

PMC, you are a cruel mistress. I slagged about twenty bucks' and four hours' worth of the stuff in the kiln the other day... literally five minutes too long and BLOOOOP. Good thing I'm the optimistic sort. Yay! I now have lots of fine silver, uh, casting grain.

I am at a bit of a creative standstill at the moment as I decide where to go next. With no (full price) sales to speak of, I'm at a loss as to which direction I should head in, as I don't know yet what will sell.

So, with that in mind, I am making pieces that will eventually be enamelled. Do I have any enamels at the moment? No, of course not! That would make too much sense. I am going to spend time on pieces that may not see the light of day for months... but are really fun to make. :D Now I just need to look up the copyright rules for the Rider-Waite Tarot deck...

Friday, February 13, 2009

*jingles the bell over the door*

Open at last! :D

Big thanks to everyone who has inspired me and helped me get to this point.

Now I am going to have a celebratory beer and resist the urge to neurotically keep hitting refresh on my shop page to see how many views my pieces have. ;)

Quicklink: Check me out on Etsy! :D

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Advance screening!

I open officially in two days... until then, here's a taste of things to come. :D

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Cocktails at the Neptune Lounge, Sterling.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 2009 Triskaidekaphobian Tease!

My shop opens very soon, so here's this month's Triskaidekaphobian Tease!

Before we knew it as St. Valentine's Day, the ancient Romans celebrated a fertility and protection festival around this time of year involving sacrifices and (usually playful) public floggings. What was it called?

Convo me with the correct answer and I will give you 13% off any one item purchased this month. :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jett Sett, how do I love thee?

Stonesetting has always been a bit of a bete noire for me. Oh, I'm as capable as the next intermediate jeweller -- but it tends to stress me out beyond all reason because I am terrified of scratching the stones.

Yesterday, whilst setting a pair of amber cabochons, I tried a new product and am now kicking myself for not having used it all along: Jett Sett. It's a thermoplastic which you melt down, attach to a handle (like a pitch pot), push the piece into and let harden again to hold the piece secure so you can set it more easily.

All this time I've been fiddling around with holding tiny awkward pieces in one hand while setting with my other. It is simply miles easier when all I have to hold is the fixture handle!

Jett Sett is available through Rio, and my trusty handy bear made me the fixture from dowelling, a salsa lid, a screw and a washer. We are very low tech here at Arcadian Dreams. ;)

The other handy tip I figured out when setting the cabs was, during the final burnish, all I need to do to protect the stone is... drumroll please... cover the stone with my fingernail. No more fussing with tape to protect the stone! Natural weaponry is, as usual, superior.

I'm waiting on a lovely pink star sapphire cabochon to arrive so I can start on Spring's crown -- I intend to make a new crown, one of a kind, every season as a collectible for all the faery princesses out there. The trouble, of course, will be forcing myself to sell them and not keep them all for myself... a girl can never have too many crowns, or red shoes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shyrman the Wyrman: Backyardigans vs. Arcadian Dreams

Children's Programming (note the capital P) is as infectious as the darling little carpet sharks themselves. I myself now know the complete themes and catchphrases of more kids' shows than I care to admit (we're not big TV watchers in our house, but it is part of the daily ritual to appreciate the Blinky Light Box for a little while. Mmm, Blinky Light Box).

In my AD "Book of Shadows", where I keep records of all the designs I've attempted, I'd simply entitled one of my pieces Wyrm, since he was a little dragon beastie without wings or legs... but that was not enough. No, he needed a proper name!

Now, my son's (arguably) favorite show is The Backyardigans, where there is a small and squirmy little-used side character named Sherman the Worman (the cultural music of the Wormans, incidentally, is Polka... make of that what you will). So when I turned to my husband and asked him what the Wyrm's name should be... he coined "Wyrman?". No, not quite. Shyrman the Wyrman!

And thus, the Backyardigans have infected the sanctity of my metalwork. Good thing I never took myself too seriously, anyway. :)

Shyrman the Wyrman pendant. Sterling, garnet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The origins of Arcadian Dreams, Parte the Seconde

So, Arcadian!

The beliefs and lore and etymology surrounding this word could be spun out into a skein long enough to knit the next Doctor's scarf. We don't have time for that, so I will keep it shortish and hopefully nobody will feel they have to clean the erasers after class.

Arcadia is a paradox; it was an isolated region in ancient Greece reknowned for peaceful pastoral scenes... but also was reputed to be the primary seat of Pan worship. Goats! Sheep! Orgies! Pipes, hooves, horns! The juxtaposition of utter tranquility next to the purest savagery and wildness appeals to me on a fundamental level.

My art is like that. I can't for the life of me produce anything pretty. It is all wild and twisted and fierce in some way; my roses all have thorns, my flowers all look vaguely tentacular and most of my animals have a dangerous gleam in their eyes... even the hedgehogs. So, as you can imagine, the cheerful dissonance of Pan's Arcadia suits me just fine.

As for the unicorn motif... in my world, unicorns are more goatlike than horselike, so that's my tip of the hat to Ol' Goatface packaged in a good-business-don't-offend-the-straights sort of way. With the deepest respect intended, of course. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

In The Business Of Doing Business (or, Why Be Afraid Of Professionalism?)

To paraphrase an oft-maligned talking Barbie of days gone by, "Business is hard!". Except it isn't. Business boils down to supply and demand, really. See? Easy.

The problem enters in when we, as craftspeople, assume that we can simply make things, list them on a sale site and Bob's Yer Uncle, we're in business. The difficulty with that is it's only one half of the equation -- the supply. Without demand, you're a fish without a bicycle.

The business model I draw from is somewhere between LUSH and BPAL, both luxury item companies who have cleverly convinced thousands and thousands of people that their very pricey smelly stuff is an absolute necessity. I have seen grown, responsible women get behind on their car payments to have the next limited edition item. It's a little different for me, being jewellery, but the principles are the same!

So, without further ado... How To Create Demand.

1. Be The Cool Kid. What group has the most disposable income for small luxury items? 16 - 40. So when you are crafting, keep in mind that your stuff should be desireable to that group. I'm certainly not suggesting you sell your soul to the sparkly Twilight fanclub demons just to make some money, but keeping an eye on the trends is a really good idea simply so you can tweak your sales pitch in that direction.

You don't have to change your craft, just change how you are presenting it. LUSH does this all the time, taking hot pop-culture references and using them to name or market their products, and it works. Use the hot-button words to make your pieces show up in searches, too... using Twilight as an example, is it wrong to name a piece "Bella" at coincidentally the exact time people are using "Bella" as a search term for jewellery? No, it's not wrong. It's smart marketing.

2. Make Items Limited and/or Collectible. We are a covetous bunch of shaved monkeys, aren't we? Nearly all of us collect things, acquiring one of a series only to immediately turn around and focus on grabbing the next. In terms of things that are limited, as well, one only has to observe last-minute bidding wars on eBay that go far over what the item is actually worth to see that when people may miss out on something, they can get a little, um, intense with their spending.

Planned, periodic release of special limited items whets a buyer's appetite and allows you to charge much more than you could for "regular" released items. Consider having seasonal or holiday limited editions of things, particularly ones with design continuity, to take advantage of the human instinct to get-it-before-it's-gone.

3. Sell The Dream. It's great to sell the physical characteristics of your pieces, but a comprehensive list of techniques and materials will be lost on most of your buyers. No, you want to sell them a feeling. A lifestyle. A dream. Will these earrings make them feel like Cleopatra on a barge, floating down the balmy Nile? A vivacious flapper about to sneak into her first speakeasy? A powerful Grecian goddess contemplating taking a mortal lover? Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is a virtuoso at this... she has built her business on blending essential oils together and using descriptions, images and quotations to convince women that wearing that blend will turn them into fantastic otherworldly seductresses far removed from the mundane world. Brava to her!

Figure out how your customers want to feel, want to see themselves as an ideal, and sell them that illusion. Remember that scene in "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" at the fair when the girl was trying on all the fabulous paste jewellery? "Who d'you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?" Well, for that brief moment in time... she was. And she felt good.

Don't just sell the metal. Sell the mood.

4. Advertise.... Intelligently. I make mythological fantasy jewellery, sometimes interspersed with pieces drawn from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and their ilk. There are some advertising venues that simply aren't appropriate for me... super-modern or Christian venues spring to mind (not condemning either, just being realistic).

I am better served to ask the question, "Who buys mythological jewellery?". Ren Faire people. Roleplayers. Pagans. Horror writer fan sites.... you see where I am going with this. I am best served to go there, where my customer base is, than to advertise willy-nilly and expect my customers to come to me.

5. Use Your Environment. This is a big rule for Ninja, too. Pay attention to holidays; is it near Prom? Valentine's Day? Mother's Day? Many people feel social pressure to buy people gifts on holidays, and jewellery is one of the most popular gifts for such occasions. A gentle reminder in your descriptions or your shop announcement is sometimes all it takes to tip the customer from waffling to spending.

Good businesses are dynamic and responsive to the current economic and social climate -- so keep your eyes and ears open and don't be afraid to use the tools at your disposal. It's okay to be an artist but also be successful and professional! <3 <3 <3 to you all.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

So You Want To Marry A Mermaid?

Mermaids. Nixies. Merrow. Sirens. Rusalka. Sea Nymphs. Almost every culture has their version of watery women whose irresistible embrace proves detrimental to the poor fisherman who happens to fall in love with one.

Sometimes, the seduction (and pursuant fatality) is deliberate. Odysseus' Sirens fall squarely into that category. That type I highly recommend avoiding, for obvious reasons, but I have found they are in the minority. No, most mermaids can't help that they drive men to madness, destitution or drink... it's just their nature.

There are, however, a few simple tips for understanding and avoiding these potential pitfalls if you've found yourself in the position of falling in love with one of these fishy femmes fatales. You poor bastard.

7 Simple Rules For Dating A Water Nymph:

1. Give her things. Shiny things. Things that smell nice when added to baths. Mirrors and jewellery and small tasty edibles. Even insofar as your average landbound lady likes gifts, they are essential to the care of the mermaid in your life.

2. Never raise your hand or your voice to her in anger. Harsh words wound her as deeply as a knife edge, and mermaids never, ever forget a slight (a trait they have in common with most of the Fair Folk).

If you do happen to harm her in this way, you must treat the wound seriously, apologize sincerely, and patch her up as quickly and as effectively as you can; otherwise, the damage to her heart may never fully heal and she will grow more and more distant and resentful of you.

3. Be prepared to weather the tempests. "Moody" is not a sufficient word to describe the giddy highs and black melancholies of a merrow. Emotions can shift in a moment, from glass to gale, with no warning and seemingly no reason. The trick is to ride out the storm, be calm and gentle and loving, and trust that it will end... eventually... and she will be back to the adoring fey creature you fell in love with.

4. Accept that she will hurt you deeply without meaning to, and that you will hurt her deeply without meaning to. Even the nicest, sweetest nixie does not fully understand or share your human concepts of what is cruel and what is not. She will hurt you with her words and her silences and her moods and her absences. It is not personal and you must not take it personally.

Conversely, you will say and do things that to you seem harmless but reduce her to angry tears; in this case, as with rule #2, treat the wound with love even if you don't understand why she is so hurt. The important thing is that she really is that hurt, and needs you.

5. Speaking of absences -- and this is probably the most important rule -- you can never truly possess a mermaid. She will never be yours, really, not in any accepted human sense. Even if you do marry and have a happy family, you must understand that she could leave it behind with a flick of her tail and then come back months (or years) later and act as though nothing had changed.

This is usually the hardest thing for a mortal man to accept... that his merwife can love him deeply but still require time away from him in her own element. Many men have tried to cage or chain their sea-maids, and while it may work for a time she always eventually slips his grasp and leaves him heartbroken. No, your best option (and it takes a man of great courage and strength to do this) is to accept her need for space, open the door, and leave the light on for when she comes back.... which, if she truly loves you and you have given her her freedom, she will. She just needs to be herself for awhile.

6. If you have been so foolish as to attempt a union with a mermaid and treated her badly or tried to confine her, and she has left you, you will forever be a broken man. Accept this fact. She will take your heart with her back to her home and you will never heal from her loss.

Many men, having lost their water nymph, dissolve into alcoholism or other escapes. Others simply kill themselves. I cannot overstate the impact losing a mermaid-wife will have on you... so if you do not intend to follow the rules, do not even attempt the union. It will destroy you. For all of their odd moods and frustrations and sensitivities, when you have experienced the innocent pure love of a nymph, mortal women will never measure up. Beware.

7. This rule comes from the lips of a man who himself has endured... I mean, enjoyed... the love of a merlady and has had a (mostly) successful relationship with her for years. His advice for anyone smitten with the scales is simply to believe in her -- really, honestly believe in her. Take her needs seriously, support her in her dreams and always keep in mind that she is a special creature. Never forget that, for if you falter and begin to treat her like a normal mortal woman, everything will be lost. It sounds simple, but it is not.


In closing, unions with watery women are difficult, stormy, frustrating and potentially dangerous to one's own sanity. So why would anyone ever try it?

Ah, if you ask that question... you've never looked into the eyes of a mermaid, have you? Lucky.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nose, meet grindstone. Grindstone, meet nose. Learn to love each other!

So I have finally received my long-awaited casting order. It isn't complete -- they forgot to cast enough of a few things so back the molds go tomorrow -- but it means that there are 60-odd frosty white pieces sitting on my bench, waiting to be cleaned up like baby birds waiting to be fed. Peep peep!

I am completely out of sheet stock and do not have the money to place another order... so it's creative thinking time here at Arcadian Dreams (who am I kidding, it's always creative thinking time here ;) ). I do have enough cuttlefish to cast a sheet ingot if I am very careful about thickness, and since what I need the sheet for will be textured anyway the rippled effect is not a problem...

Difficulty: My sniffer is feeling very sensitive today. Some people get bitchy with their PMS... not me, noooo! I get the big, teary-eyed, sob-at-phone-commercials moogliness and my sense of smell becomes so acute I can guess with fair accuracy when the person on the bus next to me had their last bath... so I may have to leave the cuttlefish for another day.

It's not like I don't have enough castings to keep me busy... until June. ;)

ALSO: Did you know... that if you leave your wet tumbled pieces in the steel strainer overnight, rust will go all over your silver pieces! File under: BUGGER BUGGER BUGGER.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hooves, horns and hagiology: The origins of Arcadian Dreams, part I

Gather 'round the fireplace, welcome guests, and I will spin you a tale of macaroni and mythology.

I was blessed with the certainty from a very young age that I wanted to make jewellery; while my peers were still scratching their pre-beards and debating their futures, I was steadfastly threading gold spray-painted macaroni on yarn and tying it around my poor, sweet dog's neck (he was a Schipperke, and a very cranky one at that, but he tolerated my haberdashery with the kind of martyred patience only very good dogs have).

But not just any jewellery! No no! Specifically, I wanted to make jewellery for princes and princesses, Kings and Queens; jewellery that would be found in a Dragon's hoard or a leprechaun's treasure chest; necklaces and haircombs for mermaids and nixies of all sorts. I wanted to make things that the Grimms and Edith Hamilton both would approve of.

Over the next few years, I collected all the old costume jewellery I could beg from family and family friends, taking it apart and restringing it or cannibalizing the components for completely new things. I did my first craft show when I was 13 (I made $80 after the show fees, which blew my little mind with the expansive lucre! Eighty whole dollars!) and decided that this was definitely the life for me. I even chose my business name and "mascot" then... and Arcadian Dreams with its wee unicorn was born.

Next installment: But what the heck does "Arcadian Dreams" mean? (Hint: It really has nothing to do with Street Fighter and pinball machines... honest. :) )