Week #3 Musings and More    Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sorry... no real musings this week.

First off, I'm two days late.  Apologies.

I have three custom orders on my plate and I'm procrastinating.  Anyone else feel huge pressure when it comes to custom orders?

Anyway, to get this out of the way, yes, I did meet my weekly goal of making at least 10 pieces of jewelry.  As a matter of fact, I made 14.  Twelve of the 14 were more of the hammer textured gold-fill earrings.



The other two pieces were a bracelet cuff similar to one I made earlier... this is the new one (sorry, quick photo in the gallery)...



... and my first attempt at champleve enamel on fine silver.

 



So I'm happy for reaching the goal two weeks in a row.  Ha ha ha!  

I'm sure I had more to say but the power just came back on (PG&E scheduled all day outage) and I have so things I have to take care of so any biz babble will wait until next week.  

See you then!

Week #2 Musings and More    Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Let's see how long I can keep this up.  I'm a fan of New Year's Resolutions.  I'm a fan of starting anything.  I love starting projects!  It's so exciting with the potential and the expectations, the lists, the organizing, the research, etc.

What I'm not overly brilliant at is the follow through.  Therefore, I go into this thinking I'll be providing a couple weeks (months if I'm amazing) of these weekly posts.  But time will tell.

I have a very dear friend who tries to keep both of us "on task".  She inspired me to write out some goals.  First, I wrote a few goals for the year (2020).  That short list looked something like this:

  • Revive the website(s)
  • Blog consistently
  • Increase gallery sales by 50% over 2019
  • Learn champlevé, cloisonné, and filigree
  • Get six tutorials out
  • Make 10 pieces of jewelry per week

Following that, I made "monthly goals".  There are things I want to do and it's SOOOO easy for me to put them off one day after another until before you know it I'm some massive flake who doesn't get anything done.  So I wrote out a timeline of sorts of the things I want to accomplish each month of 2020.  Maybe looking at it (constantly!) will keep me on track.  We shall see.

Then I also made a "daily planner".  For each day, I have a list of tasks I want to complete.  At the end of the day, I strikethrough what I've done (hey, I want a physical record of my accomplishments!  Anything I didn't complete, gets moved to the next day.

Here's a typical day of tasks:

  • Write up HH meeting minutes
  • Update inventory file
  • Work on custom orders
  • Take jewelry to AOTG
  • Get SMM photos from AOTG

I don't include things on the list like: clean dishes, do laundry, go grocery shopping, mow lawn, etc.  My list is supposed to be more business-oriented.  But trust me, those other things can take up huge swaths of my time.

In case it hasn't dawned on you yet, I'm a "list" person.

Anyway, I actually HAVE started to revive the website... and blogging counts as an aide to revival.  In the first week of January, I did spend an entire day photographing then listing some earrings (sold several pair right away... whoohoo!).  But the point of today's blog post has to do with that last item there... "make 10 pieces of jewelry per week".  I actually didn't THINK of that until the second week, so there exists no "week #1".

Now, a perfectly reasonable reaction is, "Hey, quality is way more important than quantity!  What's the big deal about pumping out 10 pieces of jewelry a week.  Don't you CARE about quality?"

Yes, I do care about quality, but I also know me.  And me can find other important things to do like trying to tackle the massive burn pile in the orchard or cut down all the Eucalyptus saplings on the property or go through the storage garage and purge and organize, etc.  You see, there is no shortage of things to occupy my time, but I have to make some decisions.  And if I want to keep the three galleries as well as my website stocked with jewelry, then by golly I have to spend some time MAKING jewelry.  And 10 pieces of jewelry COULD consist of one totally elaborate "art" piece and nine pair of simple hammered metal earrings.  It's all good.  Not everything I make has to be an amazing experiment.  Nor should everything I make have to be something quick merely because my gallery spot is looking empty.   

Another cool thing about "10 pieces per week" is it gives me a chance to work on things consistently, and consistent practice of techniques results in improvement.  Yay!  You can see (below) that most of this week's creations used similar techniques so I got to practice.  Flitting from one project/technique to another (which is normally my style) doesn't work as well in regards to practicing techniques.

So here are the 10 pieces I made in week #2.  And since I've completed THAT task for this week (8th - 14th), I can spend the rest of today doing something else (I choose to blog then organize my studio).

And if you'd care to leave a comment, I'd love to hear what new year's resolutions or plans YOU have for 2020.

Organizing My Books    Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Today was “sorting the books” day.  Although I did a big purge of my books a few months ago, today I decided to organize what I had decided to keep.  I have a lot.  A lot of reference books… mostly on jewelry, of course.

What’s the point of having a book collection if I don’t reference then frequently?  So I am moving almost all of them over to the studio so I can have them on-hand.  I will also take some time to start (gradually) looking through these books to see what’s in them.  I will most likely find a few more I can purge once I flip through them and determine there are some with unnecessary information or that aren’t interesting.

I’m looking at the multitude of books I own… I finger the shelves of books on tape… why do I have so many?  Why is it hard to let them go even after I’ve read them or listened to them.  I have a guess.  I’m the “Let’s Make a Deal Woman”… the one who has that one obscure thing people might ask for every once in a while.  It’s a pride thing.  An accomplishment.  A “me” moment.

“You were asking about Japanese flower arranging?  I have a book on Ikebana!” 

“You say you’re interested in learning more about philosophy?  I have Philosophy for Dummies!”

“You were telling me you have a Tiffany lamp?  Let me show you my book of Tiffany’s artwork!”

I have to let that go.  I have be okay with being the person who says “I don’t know that” or “I don’t have that” or “I can’t help you with that”.

And what if I get rid of my books on Ikebana and then someday decide I want to see images of Ikebana?  Well, then I go to the library or search the internet or something else.  But I don’t NEED to keep three books on Ikebana that are doing nothing here other than gathering dust.  I want a “use it or lose it” attitude.

So… what if I only want to keep a book because it has pretty pictures and I like leafing through it.  Well then, the book has to move to a location where I will actually DO that from time to time… not hidden away on a closet shelf or in a box.

Does this sound like I’m trying to convince myself of something?  Like I’m giving myself a pep talk before the big purge?  I guess I am. 

So I moved the bulk of my jewelry reference books to my studio.  The next big “thing” is to sell/list my horror book collection.  Kind of a pain in the butt but these are books I paid a lot of money for so I’d rather recoup SOME if I can.  I’d like to sell them in one fell swoop rather than one at a time.  We’ll see.

I pick up a laptop case.  It’s a really nice laptop case.  But I just bought a backpack for my laptop (and for other times… dual purpose, baby!), so I’m thinking I don’t need two laptop cases (quit being the master of the “back-up”, I tell myself).  I open the case and check out all the little cubbies, making sure I haven’t stashed something important.  And as I do this I say to myself, “Oooh, this is so nice.  It’s great quality and it’s really clean.  I wonder if I should try to sell it on one of those local Facebook pages rather than just give it away.”

Eek!  Seriously, I must weigh the money that I’d get ($5-$10 bucks) against the cost of my time to photograph, list, arrange the sale/pick-up, and take the item for meet-up.  100% not worth it.  To some it may seem like I’m throwing money away… a LOT of money when you start adding up $5 here and $5 there.  But even if I throw away 500 potential dollars… I must weigh that against my time and effort.  And I don’t think I come out ahead in the long run.  And in the short run, I’ve still got a house full of stuff that I don’t want.  So… for almost everything, I will merely donate.  The things I will try to sell will only be specialty items, very niche items (jewelry making tools or supplies and rare books).  [For inquiring minds, I live in an isolated rural area so having a garage sale is not feasible.]

Now, all of this is in vain if I do like 99% of dieters and lose all the weight I want to lose then put it all back on again after a plateau of success.  So, just like the dieter, I must not think of this as a purge in order to have a clean house; I must think of it as a new way of life… something I incorporate into every day living.  Eating healthy, rather than dieting.  And surrounding myself with items that bring me joy rather than items I keep in case I’ll need them someday or because they’re worth some money. 

You doing the same thing at your house?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share your story, comments, questions, or inspiration by commenting on this blog post.

Experimenting with Enamels    Monday, October 1, 2018

Getting up at 5am has its advantages.  I was finished with my enameling experiments by noon.  That's a good thing because I don't leave my kiln on without me being there (other than for a minute or two at a time).  So on days dedicated to enameling, I'm pretty much in the studio all day long.  No leisurely lunch in front of the TV, no checking out posts on Facebook, and no answering the phone because I'm using the timers on my phone.

But I really enjoy enameling days.  There's something soothing about getting into a rhythm working on multiple projects.  When one comes out of the kiln, another one has cooled and is ready for the alundum stone, from there another is ready for another coat of sifted enamels or it's time to record my steps or a piece is ready for the drying rack (the top of the kiln), and before you know it the kiln is ticking and ready for another piece.  

There are a lot of steps that go into enameling and it can take a really long time, but I love the payoff of pulling the piece out of the kiln at the last step of the process.  I'm so anxious to see what the finished product looks like, I have a chair next to my kiln so I can stand on the chair and see the piece, taken freshly out of the kiln and placed on top of the kiln for slower cooling.  Yes, that's right... I can't even wait for it to cool for a minute or two... I wanna see it NOW!

Here are some recent test pieces.

I'm often asked how I achieved a certain effect.  If you know me, you know the bottom line is that it's hours and hours of trials and tests and experimenting with different substances and variations of temperature or duration, etc.  I keep meticulous notes (when I bother) and it got me to thinking that I could put out a little recipe book of my tests.  There may be designs, colors, or patterns that I've achieved that others may want to replicate or play around with.

If you think that's something that would interest you, let me know.  Comment here and make sure you're signed up for my newsletter because that's generally where I first announce the availability of new workshops and tutorials.

Here's the link for signing up: Laura's Newsletter (which gets emailed about 6 times a year)

Figuring Out the Best Way to Organize My Schedule    Monday, May 21, 2018

Sometimes things in our lives can seem difficult and we can't get a handle on what the problem is.  Sometimes we don't even know there IS a problem... we just chalk the thing up to "something we don't like to do".

I have a couple of examples.  I used to say I didn't like talking on the phone.  It's true.  I didn't.  I would dread when the phone would ring and I'd see that it's someone I know and then I'd know that if I answered (which I generally do), I was in for a phone conversation.  But why did that bother me?  I assumed it was because I'm antisocial and just don't like talking to people and after years of saying I don't like to talk on the phone, I began to believe my internal reasoning for that.  Turns out, it had nothing to do with being anti-social.  My brain knew I didn't like talking on the phone, but since I couldn't articulate to myself WHY, I had just made up a reason. 

The real reason turns out that my hearing isn't what it used to be.  There are three sounds in the English language that I pretty much can't hear.  But most of the time when I'm talking to people I can see their mouth moving and I can usually put two and two together and figure out what they're saying by hearing the rest of the sounds in conjunction with watching the way their mouth makes the sounds.

Same thing with my fear of heights.  I used to just think I had a fear of heights.  I absolutely loathed having to get on the roof to clean the gutters or fix the swamp cooler.  I kind of felt like I was just being a big baby and I'm sure my mom thought I was just being difficult because she mentions to me constantly that she always went up on the roof.  I don't even like climbing ladders that are only 6 feet in height.  Well, it turns out I get dizzy spells in certain height situations.  It happens so rarely but is frightening enough for my subconscious to say I shouldn't be having ANYTHING to do with situations that involve heights.  

Now for the real reason I started this blog post... One of my favorite subjects... organizing!

After watching Hellen Buttigieg’s show a few times (Hellen is a personal organizer with a TV show called “Neat”), I began to understand that not everyone can organize the same way. For years I never understood how I could get these great organizing systems (filing cabinets, storage boxes, shelved closets, etc) and still end up with piles and heaps of things everywhere. Then one day Hellen was analyzing one of her customers and assessed her as a “piler”. One who needs everything in plain site and within easy reach… and the normal way that comes in to being is by making piles. Piles of papers to be filed, to be sorted, to be dealt with. Piles of books to read, piles of supplies to put away, piles of pieces to be polished, etc. 

Hellen's solution for "pilers"?  Keep everything organized but keep it out in the open and within easy reach.  This could also explain why I prefer open-concept living over compartmentalized anything. I want everything around me, visible and available. 

I will show you a blog post later on with some of the solutions I've come up with.  I only mentioned the above story to again illustrate that sometimes we do unproductive things (like being disorganized or having clutter) without wanting to but without understanding why.  And without knowing why, it's hard to find a system that works.

So here is my final example because it's what I'm working on today.

I love lists.  They keep my brain organized AND you get to cross things off when you accomplish them giving you a sense that you're making progress.  So I used to make lists of things I had to do in a week because I felt like my energies were scattered and I was absolutely not getting the important stuff done OR getting enough done.  So I've have my little calendar list (which greatly appealed to my OCD tendencies) but stuff would interrupt my life and the whole list would be thrown out of whack.

The other day I realized that what I need is a mutable system.  So I took my large white board and drew a generic weekly calendar on it.

Then I got these magnetic white board labels and wrote down all the things I felt were important for me to do in a week (some with times attached... like "studio 4 hrs").

This way, if I get interrupted (taking Mom out shopping, friend drops by, etc) I can take the magnet/task that I was unable to accomplish and move it into another spot in the week.  Previously if something got interrupted it was just forsaken, but now I can think of my time as one week at a time in which x-number of tasks need to get done but if they end up moving around a bit it's okay.

BTW, there are lots of little things on here that you can't see.  Just as I have an "afternoon routine" showing here, I have a "morning routine" and an "evening routine".  I didn't put them on because they happen before 6am and after 6pm (the parameters of this board I made).

Some examples of things that take place in my "routine" slots include deleting photos from my phone daily, reading/responding to/and deleting emails daily, meditate, etc.

Do you have a similar system?  Have any tips for staying organized?  I'd love to hear in the comment section.

 

Colored Pencil on Metal Workshop    Monday, March 26, 2018

My first online workshop for 2018 is coming to a close and it was fantastic.  The students were awesome and creative and super learners!

That class was Jewelry Photography and I intend to continue to befriend and support however I can the people I met through this experience.  We will continue to discuss and share in the private Facebook group I created for the workshop.

If jewelry photography interests you, I am planning to repeat the workshop in the late fall.

My next online workshop is nearly sold out (I think there are 2 or 3 spots left).  It's learning the technique of Colored Pencil on Metal and how to incorporate that into the world of jewelry making.

Here are some of the pieces I made using rivet as a cold connection (the workshop includes learning the technique of making your own rivets).

I will show other techniques such as this...

Although most of my colored pencil on metal pieces are earrings, we will be working on some pendants too.  In this diorama piece, I used colored pencil on metal as my background plate.

After the workshop is over, I will have a new collection of pieces that will either be heading to the gallery or will be listed here online.

Thanks for reading my blog!  

Why I Recommend IndieMade for Artists' Websites    Saturday, February 3, 2018

This is a blog post about my experience with IndieMade.  They provide websites for artists.  I am asked on a monthly basis who hosts my online shop and what I think of them.  So now I can just point those inquiring minds to this blog post.

 

How I ended up on IndieMade

My first stand-alone website was a ProStores shop.  Do you remember ProStores?  It was an offshoot of eBay (my first selling platform) and you could integrate your listings with eBay which seemed convenient.

I paid $85 a month for the service plus an additional $30 a month to PayPal for the privilege of credit card processing through my website.

About three and a half years ago, I got an email that ProStores only wanted to do business with large companies so would drop all their small, independent shop owner accounts.  What the what?! 

Turned out to be one of the best things ever.  I did some research on Google trying to figure out where I was going next.  Basically I was looking for template-driven, nice-looking options, e-commerce, with good customer support.

I may have asked on Facebook for some advice and a friend probably said “have a look at IndieMade”.  SO GLAD!!!

I went with IndieMade.  At the time of this writing, they have four plans available.  I opted for the top plan which is $19.95 a month.  Yes, you heard me right.  Their best plan was $95 a month less than the lowest option plan with ProStores. 

Now some of you young whippersnappers may think $20 is a LOT to pay per month for a website.  Yes, things are cheaper now than they were when I started selling (20 years ago).  But cheap and value don’t always go hand in hand.

Indiemade’s plans start at $4.95 a month.  I’ve only ever had the $19.95 a month plan so I’m going to talk about that option.  By the way, there is no “set up” fee and you can try it out for 30 days for free if you prefer.

 

What does IndieMade offer

Here’s what I get (for starters) for $19.95:

  • They host your site, store your files, pay for your bandwidth, and manage the servers
  • Free SSL Certificate
  • A simple dashboard to manage your site
  • You can edit content, set prices, and view reports from any web browser
  • No limit to number or size of photos used in blog posts or galleries.
  • Use your custom URL, like yourname.com
  • Professionally designed themes to choose from, most of which are dynamic (means mobile friendly).
  • You can change the colors and select fonts
  • Images resize automatically
  • Use their rich text editor to add and edit your content — or drop into HTML whenever you want
  • Upload photos and embed video or third-party forms
  • Integrated shopping cart. No merchant account necessary — just use your PayPal account.
  • Your customers get branded invoices and order details are stored in your database.
  • 300 live products (for my plan).  Sold products can stay in your shop but do not count toward your 300 count.
  • Ten, zoomable images per product.
  • Attributes (like offering different necklace chain lengths or different ring sizes, etc).
  • Coupons and sales
  • You can sell electronic (downloadable) items.
  • Integrates with Etsy
  • Reports: sales by date range, product, customer, or coupon as well as end-of-year tax summaries
  • Integrated with Google Analytics
  • You can add additional pages to your site
  • Unlimited gallery option
  • Blog with comments, RSS feed, etc.
  • Event Calendar
  • Contact form
  • Social Media sharing buttons
  • They automatically generate proper metadata for everything on your site so you don’t need to worry about SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Top notch customer service and support

 

How I use my IndieMade store

So let me tell you about a few of those features that I find invaluable (or at least super helpful).

Integrating with Etsy

I do still have an Etsy store so I love that IM integrates with Etsy. 

Here’s how I do things:

  1. I create my listing on IM
  2. I have it set so that anything I create on IM, goes over to the draft section of my Etsy shop
    1. That means it doesn’t go live yet, which is good because there’s some tweaking to be done.
  3. If I notice something that needs to be changed on my new IM listing (a spelling error, or I add another photo, etc), after making and saving that change, I then click on “Push to Etsy”, which updates whatever changes I just made over to the draft listing on Etsy. 

If I make changes later, when my Etsy listing is live, not in draft mode, it will do the same thing, but I check my Etsy listing afterward because some things may have changed.For example my Etsy listing defaults back to “Made to Order” rather than what I previously had set.It also defaults back to 3oz shipping option rather than “calculated shipping”.These are minor things.All my other Etsy tweaks seem to remain intact.

I also have it set so that if an item sells in either store, the inventory amount is reduced in the other store.  No more worries that I’ll double-sell a one-of-a-kind item.  That being said, I still always check as soon as I can get to a computer.  Better safe than sorry.

Now I’ll just list miscellaneous things I like about IndieMade.

I can request a favicon for my store (a favicon is an icon associated with a URL that is variously displayed, as in a browser's address bar or next to the site name in a bookmark list).

I can have my own website URL.

I can show sold items on my shop and they don’t count toward my amount limit of items.

Last year I requested a feature than they implemented right away.  I wanted a mouse-over on my items page to show the second photo in my listing.  So if a person is looking at items on my page, when they hover their mouse over a particular item, they see an additional photo of the item. 

The checkout is secure (https).

Aside from the option for customers to pay via PayPal, I offer credit card processing (with competitive rates) via Stripe.

I can screen the comments to my blog before they post to the site.

I can bulk edit many things, including moving items into or out of categories.

I can add HTML coding to listings when needed (for example, I recently embedded a YouTube video into one of my listings).

I can include a message to the customer for the email they get when I finalize their order.

I like not having to re-enter my attributes for every listing.  I just create an attribute and then assign it to any listings I want.  (Wish Etsy did this)

I can add coupons or sales.  And I can refine them by percentage or amount, with minimum $ amounts, or isolated to particular store categories.

I can do electronic downloads.

I can add additional pages and move around the order of tabs and headings.

I can have a section for galleries.

I can change fonts and colors.  If an option to change something isn’t available to me, an email to support will fix the issue.

I can have an event calendar (this is great for people who do shows or have a teaching schedule).

I don’t have to do my own meta tags if I don’t want; IndieMade does them for me.

Their customer service is fast and responsive and always nice.  Sometimes I buy or retain a product based solely on customer service.  This would be one of those companies I’d do that for, but the product itself also happens to fit all my needs so, win-win.

I’ve only covered some basic info here, but hopefully I’ve given you a good idea if this is a product you want to explore more for yourself.

Check out their website (https://www.indiemade.com/) for more info and to see examples of the themes they offer.

My blog isn't a "how to" it's a "why do I use it" post.  :-)

BTW, there are two Facebook groups with some very responsive members.  Great place to ask questions, get answers, and share knowledge and experience.

IndieMade User Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/indiemadeusergroup/

IndieMade for Jewelry and Bead Artists: https://www.facebook.com/groups/indiemadeusers/

Let me know in comments if you have an IndieMade store and/or are thinking of getting one.

 

My Adventures in Enamel January 2018    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My jewelry making techniques sort of go in binges.  A lot of that has to do with my teaching schedule.  For example, last month I had two workshops teaching enameling so I definitely had some quality time with my kiln (which I've decided is rather nice in winter).

I've also decided that when I finish my current online workshop, I'm going to start work on my next one which will be enameling.

I always start people with torch enameling.  Nothing like watching your piece in real time go from sugar to orange peel to glossy smooth.

Sorry for those poor photos... it's all I have on hand just at the moment.

These earring pairs are both torch enameled.  It's a demo of the sgraffito technique.

And more sgraffiti...

A little bit of cloisonne...

Here's some kiln enameling as I experimented with crackle enamel.

I experimented a bit more with decals.

And gel pens.

And decals and gel pens combined.

And I made one piece combining graphite and murini which I then prong set as a pendant.

I'm excited to start work on my online enameling workshop.  If you're interested in this class, sign up for my newsletter as those people get first dibs on my classes.

Edited to add this last photo I forgot to show you.  This is my sketch book. 

I divided one page into sections and I mark what I'm doing to each piece (as well as the plan for each piece).

When I work on 5-10 pieces at a time, I don't always remember what colors I used on what pieces, what plans I had for what pieces, and how many layers I've done to what pieces.  Those of you who enamel know about the "down times" (waiting for the kiln firing, waiting for the piece to cool, etc).  

I also have two small baskets labeled as "1 counter-enamel" and "2 counter-enamels" so I can remember to which pieces I've added one or two layers of counter enamel.

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show How To Advice and Tips    Monday, January 15, 2018

One day late i 2016 I was perusing Facebook when I saw a thread (probably in a metalsmithing group) about the Tucson show.  (schedule)

This is one of the biggest and most well-known shows in the jewelry-making industry. Days and days and miles and miles of workshops, vendors, buyers, sellers, stones, jewelry components, etc.

Anyway, the person posting the thread inquired about how to prepare for going to the Tucson show, and one of the responses just blew me away.

I reached out to the artist who posted the response, asking if she'd allow me to repost her info here on my blog. It's just too valuable not to be shared with as many people as possible.

The response I'm talking about came from metalsmith and jewelry artist Jill Sharp.

To see Jill's amazing jewelry, check out her shop by clicking here!  

http://www.bluepiranhajewelry.com/ 
https://www.etsy.com/shop/bluepiranha

Anyway, here is Jill's exact post response in the FB thread. I really appreciate Jill for taking the time to post her thoughtful FB response as well as for letting me repost it for all of my followers. If you find this info helpful, please leave a comment. 


If you go, it will help tremendously if you pre-register for the shows you want to see (assuming those shows are wholesale only; there are also many ‘open to the public’ shows that don’t require a wholesale license). 

You’ll want to figure out your lodging early. Tucson hotels book up often a year in advance; not only from all the people coming to buy and coming to sell, but some of the sellers stay in / sell from hotel rooms as well. So usually even the inexpensive chains are either booked or quite pricey. You can stay in Phoenix and drive down and back each day, but that’s a 90 minute (at best) commute which adds a lot of time to the day. There may be other places to stay closer to Tucson, but I don’t know about any. I stay with a friend, so hotels are not an issue for me. 

As far as “best” options for cabs or beads…that’s so subjective that it’s impossible to say what the “best” would be. Everyone’s preferences will be different. The best thing to do is start attending the different shows and make excellent notes on what you like / don’t like and from whom you buy, so you can plan to buy from them again if their inventory suits your needs. I always go to the Holidome, GJX, and JOGS, and then some of the smaller, open to the public shows too. I used to go to AGTA, but that’s mostly very pricey faceted stones and jewelry, and you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation (and show that you’ve spent a certain amount of dollars on inventory in the prior year) to qualify. So I’ve skipped it in the last few years. 

Shuttle vs. rental car: I have never gone to the gem show WITHOUT getting a rental car. The shuttles can be helpful, but you can find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting in line for the shuttle. That’s fine if you’re just going for fun and a little spending, but I am buying most of gem stock for the YEAR. I don’t have the time to wait. Also sometimes the shuttles don’t go where you think (or you’ve been misinformed, either by a new shuttle driver or someone else) they’re going. So you can get stuck. I have had this happen, and waited for two hours for the shuttle – that’s utterly lost time for buying. Also I have had to call a taxi when a shuttle just never came back…even before they were supposed to stop running. So I really don’t even shuttle anymore. I just drive. It’s an extra expense – and this you would want to book early too, as I have been to Tucson, picking up my rental car, and heard the reservations people telling folks that they’re all sold out during the gem show – but it’s worth it for me. 

What I bring: copies of my business license. Plenty of business cards. I actually make up stickers that have my information already on them – and I give this to the sellers when I purchase (when you’re buying wholesale, the sellers must take your information for their tax records). I simply hand them my sticker with all info and it’s much faster than them having me write my info (name, address, phone, tax id) over and over again when I make a purchase. Checkbook, plus cash. Sometimes (though not always) you can negotiate a better deal for cash. Not if you’re buying like $15 worth of beads, but if I am spending, say $500, I will ask if there’s a discount for cash. And sometimes there is. Especially if I’m a repeat buyer (and some of the sellers – especially the US sellers – will remember you from year to year.) 

What else do I bring? A small backpack and a wheelie bag. I promise you, your neck and shoulders are going to get tired and sore after a day of bending over those tables and perusing potential purchases. And if you’re buying a lot of beads or metal (bead) or gems, the weight of carrying those around *will* add up. So I bring a wheelie and bottled water, protein-based snacks for those low blood sugar moments, hand wipes because your hands will get ridiculously dirty handling all the gems, and I bring "extras", depending on the weather. I’ve been in Tucson for the show when it was (unseasonably, but it does happen) 40 degrees for the high. And with driving to each show, sometimes there’s a good bit of walking from your parking area to the event. So I bring gloves, a scarf, usually a windbreaker. If it’s going to rain you’ll need an umbrella. Usually I bring two pair of boots, to be able to change them out midweek (I’m usually shopping for 3 or 4 days) to give me feet a break. Mostly boots (though I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for when the weather warms up). I’ve also been to Tucson when the parking lot was so muddy and flooded that you could barely walk through it without boots. I also bring a small travel umbrella. So check the weather before you go and if it looks iffy at all, bring whatever extras you might need. 

You WILL be walking a LOT. I have worn a pedometer before, and most recently my Fitbit, and I have logged on some days, 20,000 steps. Usually I’m in the 13,000 to 17,000 range. For many of us, who sit more than we move, your legs and feet (and the previously mentioned neck and shoulders) will be SORE. Bring your ibuprofen, or whatever else you need to manage that if necessary. Be prepared that it’s great fun, but also exhausting. You will get overwhelmed and you’ll stop being able to process everything, and that’s probably when you should stop shopping for the day. Because purchases made when in that state are usually the ones you might regret a bit. Ask me how I know. ;)

Know that there’s the budget, the over-budget, and the “oh my god what have I done”. If you can avoid that last one, great. But it’s not always possible. I have a budget. I usually go over it (slightly). Because there will always be that “once in a lifetime” most amazing gem(s) or price(s) that you just HAVE to take advantage of. So you dig a little deeper and find some extra money (or a little room on your credit card). You’re there, all that yummy goodness is there, and it’s nearly impossible to resist. It happens. Just know that it happens and try to be aware of it when it’s happening. 

I usually, every night in my room, go through the day’s purchases and figure out what I’ve taken care of and what I’m still looking for / need to buy. If I don’t do that, I sometimes will overbuy (forgetting that I’ve bought it – or similar – already). I also total up the day’s purchases at night so I know exactly where I’m at for the next day. I keep a guesstimate of what I’ve spent in my head while shopping, but sometimes I’m a little off and it helps to know exactly what I've spent before I start out again. 

I have never shipped my purchases home. The cabs and beads (back when I was buying beads) are small and I have been able to tightly pack them into my carry on and just take them with me. I don’t like to ship and I don’t want to pay the extra expense – so I make it work and then I know I have all my items with me. I have, on occasion, been stopped to have my bag manually checked. When that happens, I ask for a private screening. It’s never been a problem to have that done. It’s not like I’m buying diamonds and high value gems, but I still don’t need everyone else in line to see just how much I’ve purchased. I also fly into and out of Phoenix, instead of directly to Tucson, because I have friends there and I stay an extra couple of days in Phoenix before heading home – but I have flown through Tucson in the past and most of the TSA people know that the gem show’s going on and they’re typically very understanding that you might not want everyone to see all your purchases. 

Labradorite and Enamel, But Not at the Same Time    Sunday, January 14, 2018

In today's blog post I want to share some of my latest creations.

I spent about 16 years never using Labradorite (no, I have no good reason for that).  And I seem to have embraced it all and once in binge-style.

Here are some pieces I made in the last month.

It started with this piece.  I never even got finished photos of it because it sold before I had a chance.  The back had rolling mill leaf texture on it, and of course it came with a chain.

I liked it so much, I revisited the design not long after.

Then I had a day where I didn't feel inspired so I merely created bezels for upcoming projects.

Back in the saddle a few days later, I made this ring.

It was my first time making a ring with an open shank behind the stone...

The next piece was a lot of fun to make.  A large green Labradorite stone in front and wanting to show off the beauty of the back of the stone too, I opted for a saw pierced tree.

I still have Labradorite calling my name from my workbench, but I have to take care of a few other duties first.  There will, however, be more in my near future.

So aside from Labradorite, I also spent some time recently exploring enameling.

It started with me creating my own silk screens using one of my favorite themes, of course... animal skeletons.

Then I played around with separation enamel for some cool effects.

And some sgraffito.

Then combining enameling and riveting, I created these one of a kind pendants that will be available on my website by the end of the week.

Thanks for taking a peek at my recent work. 

Tomorrow's blog post will help you prepare for the upcoming Tucson show, so stay tuned.  

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