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.  

Driving Yourself Crazy with Marketing    Thursday, January 11, 2018

Okay, I'll admit right off the bat that today's blog post is a bunch of blathering.  In case you haven't noticed, a lot (if not most) of these are just my own internal dialogues.  Then again, why shouldn't they be?  Isn't a blog the modern day journal?

Yes, sometimes I try to pass along useful info, but sometimes I just need a sounding board or place to vent or maybe just a place to compose my thoughts.

Today is a "compose my thoughts" day.  This commentary is probably a result of me trying to figure out social media marketing or just regular marketing to my advantage and getting overwhelmed by how much I don't know and don't want to know (or do).

Sometimes I don’t want to list a new item on Etsy because I don’t want to have to think of a dozen keywords.  I know.  That’s pretty lame.  They’re there to help me, after all.  But sometimes as soon as we think we’ve got it, someone comes along and informs us that the search engine algorithms have changed and now we must… (fill in the blank).

How about Pinterest? 

  • Pinterest
  • Promoted Pins
  • Buyable Pins
  • Business Pinterest
  • Verified Pins
  • Rich Pins

Remember when there were just pins?  I’m not blaming anyone… just saying “I can’t keep up”.

More and more of my jewelry buddies are lamenting the loss of jewelry making time in exchange for social media marketing time.  And yet if we don't do it, we KNOW we're not going to be noticed.

Who are these automatons who can make enough jewelry to have more than 100 listings on Etsy at all times and can still spend almost 8 hours a day with Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter? 

I've got to say that while I'm totally a numbers person, in regards to social media I'd rather have people than numbers.

And what do I mean by that?

I mean it doesn't mean anything to me if 5000 people view my post if they're not even remotely close to being interested in my jewelry (we're talking social media marketing here, so yeah... "buying" is the goal... it's marketing, just another form of advertising).

Anyway, yeah it's GREAT to have huge numbers of views, but what's more important than numbers is getting in front of the viewers that are your target audience.

I can hear you (and me) in the back of my head saying, "But hey, you never know where a sale is going to come from so don't be so closed-minded!"

That's not what it's about.  It's like this...

If you sell $2000 engagement rings, would you rather have 500 teenagers walk past your booth at a show or 100 disposable income 30-somethings?

That's just an example, but I hope my point is getting across.

Spend your energies where they will do the most good.

  1. Figure out who your target market is
  2. Figure out WHERE they are
  3. Spend your valuable time and resources marketing THERE rather than willy-nilly all over the places that are trending at the moment

Now, back to the "people" comment.

Yes, I'd rather have people than numbers.  People are entities I can talk with, inform, and interact with.  People are entities I get to know and learn from.  People are the entities who will remember me and whom I will remember.

So while higher numbers are better than lower numbers, people are better than any numbers.

Get to know your target market... seek them out... interact with them.  Do one of the things that sets us apart from the mass-produced high-end jewelry stores... give your potential customers personal service... emphasis on the "person".

If I were buying a piece of art directly from the artist, I'd be thrilled if he spent a little time with me talking about the techniques he used to create the piece, sharing the inspiration for the piece, telling me where he sourced the materials, etc.  And this very thing happened to me recently.  I was interested in someone’s artwork, and after talking with him (at two different shows) I am now a collector of his work.  It’s nice to have nice art work and a super bonus if you hear stories about said artwork.

Our work has stories... let's use that to our advantage.  Now go out there and meet some PEOPLE!

 

Making Your Own Simple Stamping or Chasing Tools    Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I say "simple" because I don't know what these are really called and they aren't anything fancy.  Just don't want anyone getting the wrong idea about this blog post.  I'm going to show you how to make a set of chasing tools in a graduating range of sizes.  I use these CONSTANTLY in my workshop.  Hope you find this post useful.

First I got this inexpensive set of pin punches from Harbor Freight (Pin Punch Set 8 Pc Pittsburgh Item #93424)

They are four inches long, made of carbon steel with a black oxide finish to prevent corrosion, and have knurled handles for good grip.  (Pin sizes: 1/16 in., 3/32 in., 1/8 in., 5/32 in., 3/16 in., 7/32 in., 1/4 in., 5/16 in.)

 

Then I use a large grinder to shape the ends...



Then used the belt sander to remove the razor edge top and to slightly round the corners...

 

And last, I buffed each piece with tripoli...


 

Tada!  My own set of chasing tools for $7!
 


Here are some of the ways I've used these.  It's really nice having just the right width of "line" tool for any particular small space I need to get into to stamp.

As well as my actual first and only attempt at repoussé. 

Edited to add:  I don't own those tools shown above. A community shop (lapidary club, junior college welding, etc) should have these tools. While I don't have the exact machinery shown in this blog (because I did in fact make these while taking a welding class at my local community college), I have made some at home on smaller scale equipment (very small) that I think a lot of metalsmiths have. Same tools... just smaller versions (grinder, sander, buffer).

 

The Lighter Side of Doing Art Shows    Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I think most of us have seen variations of this booth neighbor.  All in good fun.  Enjoy.

[I did not create this video...merely sharing it.]

Why Buy Handmade and the Benefits to Buying Directly From the Artist    Monday, January 8, 2018

The benefits of buying handmade and particularly buying directly from the artist are many.

Buying directly from the artist, you can have all your questions answered by the exact person who made or is making your jewelry. The person with the knowledge of the materials and techniques used, the proper wear and care for this piece, and the person to turn to for special requests or if problems arise.

Customer service and support is unparalleled when the only two people involved are the customer and the creator of the jewelry.

Working directly with the artist allows for special requests as well as being able to communicate design decisions clearly between customer and artist.

While handmade and quality will always cost more than mass-produced imports, when you purchase your jewelry directly from the artist you cut out the middle man and the price increase that usually accompanies the use of a middle man.

Many if not the majority of self-representing artists care about the environment and take proactive measures to keep their designs in line with repurposing, recycling, and sustainability.

Independent artists also care more about how well their products are made and what materials they're made of. So buying handmade directly from the artist almost always ensures higher quality, longer lasing jewelry.

There's usually a story to tell, too. Buying a bracelet that came off a factory assembly line won't garner you as much conversation with admirers as being able to retell how the artist carved this charm from a nut that grows in Hawaii and how the artist used a saw to cut the design in this piece of copper, how this piece was made by firing powdered glass in a kiln, or that this piece was inspired by the artist's childhood memory of going to the Grand Canyon.

There are so many more reasons, and when all is said and done you also may feel a little joy knowing that you're helping small business and independent artists. We are certainly grateful of your business and do our utmost to deserve your consideration.

 

Keeping Up With or Rather Ahead of The Joneses    Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle when you go to a show and every other booth is selling mass-produced imports that to the untrained eye may LOOK like a good deal, but we all know the difference between value and bargain, right?

So what can you do?

Keep moving, forward if possible.

Ask yourself, "What can I do that they can’t?" 

If someone's already making something that you'd like to make, but they're making it faster and cheaper than you ever could, think about letting it go and moving on to the next idea.

No moss grows on a rolling stone.  Let's roll!  

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