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!