Friday, May 31, 2013

Copy Cat - You Dirty Rat - You Stole Your Mama's Baseball Bat

Oh the pitfalls and hazards of selling online. 
Maybe it was 2 years ago that I opened my emails and saw a message from a site that I had purchased a couple of supplies from.  They offered a number of ready-made wholesale jewelry but also offered strands of beads and some jewelry making supplies.  Granted they were not on my favorites list as I had once purchased a supply of sterling silver headpins from them.  The headpins were the pretty ones with the fancy ball heads and were 2 inches long and of 20 gauge sterling wire. . . the price made them look like a bargain and would have been if only ....

When I received my order I found many headpins had lost their decorative little ball and I was left with several 2" long pieces of plain silver wire.  Other headpins in the package had the ball placed off center and were therefore useless to me. When I calculated the net price of the usable headpins that were left, I found I could have purchased them more economically through several other sources. After that I shied away from doing business with them.  However on this day, in that email of theirs, I spied the most beautiful string art earrings and it piqued my curiosity . . . I HAD to learn more about them.

I googled Peruvian string earrings and found a plethora of information.  There were tons of "How To" sites, from blogs, to craft-sites, to videos.  My search took me on an interesting journey.  An enlightening journey.

Once upon a time, back in 2006, two young ladies opened an etsy shop and their speciality was making lovey Peruvian String Art Earrings.  They were quite successful and their business was thriving. So it only follows that others began copying them.  Between the spread of crafters making and selling these earrings there was  also all those "how to" sites.  This helped perpetuate an avalanche and soon the Internet had a vast supply of  copy-cats selling their versions of these attractive earrings.

When I visited the original shop a couple of years ago, the shop was hurting, their flow of customers had dried up and they were no longer even offering their gorgeous handmade Peruvian String Art earrings for purchase.  It looked to be a very  sad state of affairs.  However they had determination and began making other ethnic types of beadwork jewelry.  Recently I revisited their shop and was happy to see they are still in business and have bounced back quite nicely.  Though they offer a number of ethnic type of beadwork pieces they also take custom orders for their famous Peruvian String Art Earrings.  And it's good to see that there are still people around who appreciate purchasing handmade rather that buying cheap, mass produced knock-offs. 
Oh and by-the-way, those earrings that I saw in that email ?  The site was selling them for 99 cents a pair . . . and , no I did not buy any from them.  :D  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Tree Grows in Bradenton -

Looking back.   This is a photo I posted in a previous blog post.  It is a picture of  one of our young oak trees and in the photo above, it had been recently planted.  We had almost lost this little oak because the crew that planted it had left a large hole by it's root ball.  Without soil packed around it, the root system began to dry out and the tree leaves started to turn brown and die. Fortunately we discovered the cavernous hole, filled it in with soil and watered the tree well for several weeks.
Photo below was also in an older blog post of mine, showing how much the same little tree had grown. 

Photos below are again of the same little oak tree, taken just a few days ago.  It has grown several feet taller and much more around.  It even had its first bird nest this year - a nest of mocking birds.  John is not at all happy with them as momma mocking bird sings lullabies to her babies at 2 or 3 in the morning.

Photo below is of the same tree, only this time it is from the house looking  back at the backyard rather than from the backyard looking towards the house.

Photo below is of a baby oak tree planted about a year ago.  It was one that grew from an acorn that a squirrel had buried in one of our flower beds.  John pulled it up and it came out with a nice long tap root so we planted it at the far back of  our yard.  It may not look very big but it is now about 6 feet tall.  Guess I should have gotten John to stand beside it when I took its picture.  Yeah, like that's going to happen, John does not like my taking pictures of him for my blog.  Come to think of it I don't really relish having my picture taken either.  Perhaps if I were more photogenic. :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Memory -

In Appreciation for all their Service and Grateful for all their Sacrifices,  Memorial Day is one day in which we bow our heads and give thanks and prayers to all the many brave men and women that have given their lives for our country and for our freedom.  God Bless Them  All.

Wishing each of you and your lovely families a wonderful Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Day of the Damned part two -

Yesterday I recounted my morning of a rather bad day. Now at this time I'd like to mention that about a month prior, I invested in a small display bust to photograph hanging earrings on. 
The bust was not exactly what I had wanted, the one I desired was lovely but at $60 (not including S and H) I could not justify the expense (especially since I have not sold anything in my etsy shop in what seems like an eternity) but it was what I could afford, $17.00.

When I ordered the display bust I knew she was a profile and would only have one ear but I thought the head  would be life size. When she arrived I realized she was life sized -  if she had been a primordial dwarf.
(As you can see, this smaller than life size bust measures 8 1/2 inches tall from table top to the tip of her ear.)

Though  she didn't have two ears and  she wasn't life size and  she hadn't been my first choice, or for that matter my second choice either,  she was okay.  She would work for what I needed and I actually used her in a couple of photo shoots.

Those of you that dropped by yesterday and read my first post, may remember how I was having a bad bead day and decided to try photography instead.  You may also recall how that morning dear snippy Mom Nature was not at all cooperative, blowing things off my make shift table and cashing the sun in and out behind the scudding clouds.  Eventually I gave up and went inside, deciding to try again later in the afternoon.

Time passed, the day wore on and the sun had passed its zenith and was now much lower in the western sky.  So once again I lugged out my temporary outdoor "photo studio". 

Setting up the folding wood table on the concrete patio, I began placing all the paraphernalia that my photo session would require: a few sheets of white card stock, a tray of earrings that I wanted to photograph, a ruler to use for size comparison, my camera and the almost virgin jewelry display bust.

Placing the bust first on the table I began unloading the other things. The camera was the last thing down and as soon as it hit the table, one of the table legs suddenly snapped into the lock position, it had moved only a fraction of an inch but that was enough to jostle the table and the top heavy display bust teetered precariously before it took it's fatal plunge to the concrete slab below. 
There was no way I could stop it, no way to reach out and grab it. I was frozen in time watching as everything seemed to be projecting in front of me like a movie being played in slow motion. I believe I may have closed my eyes as the display hit the slab and I heard the sickening sound of plaster shattering against concrete.

For the next 30 to 40 minutes I picked up broken bits and pieces and scoured through the leaves and mulch in the flowerbed looking for remnants of the broken bust.   Some pieces were never recovered.  I tried to fit what pieces I had found together but oddly enough (or maybe not so oddly as this was the Day of the Damned) the pieces just would not fit  neatly, it was like a cardboard jig saw puzzle where some of the pieces had gotten wet and were now swollen, impossible to fit into the puzzle.
Anyway I did the best I could, it stinks I know.  I'm thinking about filling in the cracks at the front of the display (not sure what to do with the mess at the back or that big chunk that is missing at the back of her shoulder)  and then painting her.  I do have some faux stone, spray paint (comes in 2 parts) but I'm not as handy with fixing up display pieces like my idol, Patty of My Life Under the Bus, is (she's incredible). 
Whatever solution I come up with, for the time being it will have to do until I've enough funds in my business account to purchase another.   Only the next one will be the one I have coveted, the lifelike mannequin with not one but two ears . . . and is not fabricated of fragile plaster.
And I pray that I won't have another Day of the Damned like this one for a very long, long time. :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day of the Damned part I

This is the project I was working on. 

We've all had them, those days when nothing we do goes right, those "Days of the Damned". A week ago today I had my day of the damned. It started with a project I wanted to complete but no matter how much I tried it just would not come together in the way that I had envisioned. It was reminiscent of watching a repetitious sports video replay: rewind (take apart) and replay (redo).   Rewind . . . replay . . . rewind . . .  replay.

On my 4th or 5th attempt I decided it was finally starting to work out but I would have to consider the piece I was working on as a prototype or a practice piece and start afresh with a new length of nylon beading thread as the old piece of thread was showing signs of fraying. 

Normally I keep my works in progress stashed on individual trays and usually my work bench will harbor at least two or three stacks of these trays. Without thinking, I lifted a stack of these trays in order to reach my bobbin of thread.

(These were not the trays that I had to move.  The top tray in the stack I moved held several little pots of teeny seed beads - size Delica #10's and  #11's  and Toho #15's - hundreds of seed beads in each little pot.)

 Naturally the top tray slipped off,  came crashing down on the floor and scattered teeny, tiny seed beads throughout my work room.  They probably would have gone much farther than my work room had it not been for the 4 walls that helped confine them, otherwise I sure some of them would be in Cucamonga by now.

 The next hour or two were spent on my hands and knees picking up seed beads. During this endeavor of hunting for wayward beads there were a few pieces of furniture that had to be moved in order to retrieve beads that were hiding behind or beneath them.  One such piece of furniture was a rolling storage unit. 
(Yes, I confess it usually does have that much clutter on top of it.)

I pushed it out as far as possible, which wasn't very far, and then I squeezed in behind the cabinet to collect the handful of beads that had found their way there.  As I attempted to extract myself from behind this cabinet I somehow, someway managed to snag an unfinished necklace that had been laying on top of it. 

Exactly how it happened I'm not sure, perhaps Gremlins, but the necklace shot off the top of the storage unit and most of the beads were propelled like buckshot across the room.  The beading cable, with only a small fraction of the beads left on it, dropped pathetically to the floor at my feet. So, back on my hands and knees to pick up more beads all the while hoping that I could remember the order in which they had been strung.

By now I realized that fate had not intended me to complete any of the many unfinished projects which cluttered my work bench, at least not today, and therefore I decided to divert my attention to photographing some of my finished pieces of jewelry instead.

Since it was a bright sunny day and my camera records colors more truthfully outside in bright sunlight, I proceeded to set up a temporary photo studio on my back patio. Dragging out a wooden, folding TV table, I began bringing out a few earrings, some props, sheets of different colored paper, a ruler (for size comparison) and of course my camera.

Unfortunately Mother Nature would not comply.  She was in a windy mood and her brisk breezes keep blowing the papers off the TV tray.  When I placed a pair of earrings on the rim of the glass she insisted upon jiggling them about mercilessly. Hard to get a sharply focused photo when the object won't be still. 
Then there was the sunshine, the sun kept playing hide and seek with the clouds. First it would be brilliant sun light, then slowly the light would darken and everything was in shadow. Time and time again the sun taunted me, darting in and out from behind the clouds until I finally admitted defeat and began bringing all the paraphernalia for my photo shoot back inside. 

I vowed I would try again in the late afternoon, perhaps then the wind would die down and maybe there would be less clouds. As I picked up the glass,  I forgot I had a pair of earrings still clinging to its rim and suddenly I heard the heart dropping sound of an earring as it clinked to the floor of the concrete patio. Looking down I expected to see it laying at my feet but it was no where in sight.

Yes it was one of those days ! I spent at least another 30 to 45 minutes searching for that earring.  It had dropped and taken an impossible bounce, landing under the bushes that bordered the patio. Not only was the little devil under the bushes but it had buried itself under the leaves that covered the ground under those bushes.  So I was shifting through leaves and had almost given up hope of ever finding it when I suddenly caught sight of a faint sparkle.  Gently I brushed aside a few leaves and there it was. Well I had found it so at least one thing had gone right.

I will stop at this point and post part two of this horrid day tomorrow as this post is already far too long.   But if you've ever had one of those days please do leave a comment and share it with us.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Really Need To Know . . .

Anyone who has made jewelry for the purpose of selling, probably knows just what I am talking about.
You fuss over an idea, fidgeting with components, tweaking things to get it just right and once it's done, it's lovely. . . or so you think. You put it out for the world to see and nobody bothers to take even a glance at it.
It doesn't matter if the piece is displayed in an online shop or loving arranged on a display in an arts and crafts show booth. There are some things that just catch people's eyes and other things that people just ignore. But why?
I'm sure many have asked that question before and I am not the first to have it rattle around in my own little skull.

Recently I fabricated these long, swinging dangles.
It would take several paragraphs explaining all my design decisions, so let me just say, the finished product may look easy-peasy,  but looks are deceptive. 
It required more effort and time than I ever imagined; from making the earring hooks by hand, to hand reaming the holes in the "swinging" magnesite beads, plus I used more 14 k gold filled components than I intended to. All you jewelry makers out there know how very cheap 14 k gold filled wire, findings and beads are - right?

Once finished, I thought they were perfect, so sassy looking and with incredibly smooth movement. Surely they would do exceptionally well on my etsy shop. Wrong !  
I've second guessed myself many times on this design. 
Maybe I should not have used the 14 k gold filled components, perhaps that made them too expensive? 
Maybe they are too long? 
Maybe they are too dangly? 
Maybe watermelon red is totally out of fashion? 
Maybe no one appreciates magnesite? 
Maybe gold is out of favor ?

After listing them in my etsy shop  I did tout them on facebook, promoted them on Craftori, I Support Handmade, Handmade Saturday,  Handmade's facebook page and even went into all of my teams to post  them as my latest listing.  According to Google stats, in the last 7 days there has not been one single, solitary view on these earrings, they sit there with a big fat zero, zilch, goose egg, 0, nada !!!  Not even one accidental, "Oops, I didn't mean to click on that !" view.  I cannot believe it!
I really haven't a clue as to what could be the reason and would be most grateful to hear your comments or feedback as to what I could do to perhaps generate a sale on these or a least some views. I realize my photo's are not spectacular and the pretty watermelon red, which is more pink than red, only shows up in photos that were taken outside under bright sunlight.  Inside, the beads photograph as just plain old red. I tried taking my mannequin outside to take photos on but - well that is another story for any post. :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Art - Mystical - Magical - Surprising

Art  can be found in many places and sometimes that place can be an unexpected surprise.

Yesterday I went to refill some soap dispensers, one had a little bit of pearl white liquid soap left in it so I went ahead and topped it off with the new bottle of clear-ish liquid soap.
This morning as I washed my hands I suddenly noticed the reaction that occurred between the white and clear soaps.  Thought it was very artistic and definitely a wonderful surprise.

I'm sure the phenomena is caused by a difference in weight and/or viscosity between the two soaps. The pearl colored soap is probably lighter and is slowly rising to the surface, given enough time it will eventually form a not so artistic layer across the top of the heavier, transparent soap. Funny how science can take the awe out of things that appear magical. Oh well, I will enjoy the soap art for as long as it last. :)

HERE IS AN ADDENDUM TO THIS POST:  Pearl - of The Beading Gem's Journal suggested a wonderful website that showcases photography of water droplets.  The photos are indescribably wondrous so I post the URL for others to enjoy also.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Island Charm and Barbados Coral

The year was 1978, my husband and I were on a tropical sandy beach on an Island in the Caribbean, the island of Barbados.  Carrying a large wooden tray and beaming with the warmest Bajan smile, a local artist and vendor made his way across the warm sand.  As he approached us, he sang out in his melodic island accent; "Hey pretty lady, wood you care to buy a pendant made from real Bajan Coral? Dey made by han. Yes pretty lady?" 
Looking at my husband, his smile grew bigger and his eyes danced impishly, giving his attractractive, cocoa brown face a childlike charm. "Maybe de kine gentalmon woud like to gift de pretty lady wid one of my han made pendants? She very pretty, your lady is."

His flattery was so thick that my husband and I broke out laughing, and he  was so charming it was impossible to refuse. So I took a moment to perused his tray of handmade jewelry and found he had an assortment of shell and coral charms, most of which did not interest me.   Then I spotted the Corni pendant - an Italian symbol of protection against evil and a harbinger of good luck. "Ah pretty lady" he crooned "Dat wood look luvely round your pretty neck."
Both my husband and I had to agree that he was certainly one charmer of a salesman. Needless to say we purchased the coral corni pendant from him.

Back in the 70's it was not illegal to harvest coral as it was not considered endangered the way coral is today. But that was long ago and since then the "pretty lady" has gotten much older and the lovely coral corni has gone unworn for a number of years.

I've given the pendant a good cleaning, attached it to a sterling silver bail and made a special necklace for it using sterling silver cable chain and finishing the chain with a sterling silver clasp and jumprings. Now I am hoping that this genuine coral pendant will bring another pretty lady good luck and many years of enjoyment.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Hope Your Mother's Day was Lovely

I hope all you mothers had a marvelous and happy Mother's Day

I'd like to share with you, this lovely bouquet and card that my beautiful daughter gave me for Mother's Day (but her greatest gift that day was a long and wonderful visit with her) .

The pop open card is a pretty bouquet in itself - it will be added to my collection of cherished memorabilia.
Wish I knew what these gorgeous bell shaped flowers are called.  They are truly beautiful. If anyone knows please let me know.  :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Upgrades and Uploads and Crucifixes

Over the past few weeks I have been able to fabricate a number of new pieces of jewelry.  Some were simple, others were complex but I cannot say that I found any of them disappointing. 
However the one thing I am disappointed about is the fact that my hubs had to remove the latest Windows update from my PC.  For reasons unknown, it acted as a barricade preventing me from uploading photos into Blogger or even into my etsy shop.  Whenever I tried to add a photo I'd get a pop-up saying that an error had occurred and then it would shut down the Internet.  After John un-installed the new version of Windows, everything went back to normal and I was able to upload photos again.  Hurrah !

The one thing I do miss about not having the new version of Windows is that it ran spell check in every comment box on every website.  Hate to admit it but I am a notoriously bad speller, so yes I truly miss that part of Windows upgrade.

Below is one of my favorite new beading projects - a 3 dimensional, beaded cross.  It is on a russet brown, leather cord which I think compliments it nicely.  The full description is posted in my etsy shop listing.    I just hope that it will get some views and that maybe someone will fall in love with it.

Wish I could have captured the shine and the sparkle of the beads but my very old, little point and click camera just doesn't have that ability.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oh What a Tangled Mess

For crafters storage is forever a bane.  How to stash our treasured supplies and not end up looking like the perfect candidate for a future episode of "Hoarders: Buried Alive" ? 

Over time I've discovered that what works for one does not always work for the many so I post this tidbit keeping in mind that  some may already know, some may not care but perhaps a soul or two will experience an "Ah hah !" moment and find it helpful.
Beading cable comes in neat little plastic spools, some of those spools also come with a plastic C-shaped sleeve that snaps over the coiled cable and prevents it from unwinding.  These were just too precious for me to toss and I've been using them to spool such things as leather,  rubber or fabric cording on, preventing them from ending up like a bowl of tossed spaghetti . 

Recently I found myself fussing with a length of fine 14 k gold filled chain, it wouldn't stay coiled on the old cable spool.  In desperation and one of those moments of inspirations, I grabbed one of those little plastic bobbins that one uses in Kumihimo work.  Wrapping the delicate chain around the inside center of the bobbin,  I left  a tiny bit of the free end hanging over the outside rim and then snapped the top dome firmly down over it.  Worked like a charm and the bobbin took up far less space in my storage drawer than the old cable spool did.  These bobbins come in 2 sizes,  a small 1 7/8" and a large 2 1/2" bobbin, both are perfect for securing and storing  things like smaller chains, cords, floss, threads and beading cables.  They could possibly be  used to spool up other things such as narrow ribbons and trims or ????  

These Bobbins are available through many sources but I purchased mine through Artbeads  one of my favorite sites for beading supplies as their shipping rate is fantastic (purchase $10 worth of merchandise and it ships free) they do not require you to purchase a minimum amount like $75 or $150 and I can purchase the amount I really need instead of in bulk quantities  (like a kilo of size 15/0 seeds - I have a whole half quart jar full of a bulk buy of tiny seeds beads - used them once in a project and doubt that I'll live long enough to use them all).
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