A little late with this post – but still in the game

I’ve joined my friend Lisa (Beadsoul) in her challenge to make one new thing each day in July. And while I’ve been busy (with real work – the kind that pays the bills), I have been working on some new jewelry pieces here and there. (Some has already gone into the shop in Ambler, PA that sells my stuff). So I’m playing a little catch-up here. A few samples of what I’ve done lately….

First up – (and they haven’t seen these yet – so shhhhhhh!) I made hand-stamped name necklaces for my two nieces with the names of my great-niece and great-nephew on them.

Copper Name Necklace

Copper Name Necklace

Dazzling lime green quartz earrings

Dazzling lime green quartz earrings

Then I found these incredible almost-neon bright lime green quartz crystals, and wrapped them in silver plated wire that I studded with teeny tiny dichroic seed beads and finished with handmade sterling silver ear wires.

Adjustable Sterling Silver hammered bangle bracelet

Adjustable Sterling Silver hammered bangle bracelet

This sweet little sterling silver bangle bracelet is somewhat adjustable – you can squeeze it to make it tighter on your wrist.

And finally, another pair of dangle earrings. What makes these a little different from the rest is that I “decorated” the handmade silver ear wires with tiny beads. You like?

Blue Lampwork Earrings With "decorated" Sterling Silver ear wires.

Blue Lampwork Earrings With “decorated” Sterling Silver ear wires.

Hammered Sterling Silver Earrings - Double spirals with perky polka dot lampwork beads

The Challenge Goes On….and On

I’ve taken up the challenge from my friend (the talented jewelry maker Lisa at Beadsoul) to make one new item every day during July.

The thought being, it will give us both a good hear start on pre-holiday stuff.

So….here’s my next installment on that plan:
Double spiral hammered  sterling silver earrings with perky little black and white polka dot lampwork beads

(I purchased from the artist who made them…i didn’t make them).

I soldered one sterling silver spiral…and the other one ends in a loop that attaches to the soldered spiral. Ear wires are handmade sterling silver as well (yes, by me.)

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I’m Taking Up The Challenge. How About You?

Soooo….it’s been quite a while since the Bad Blogger Chronicles posted. (And thus the reason for the name) Three reasons for this:

(1) Been busy with real work (the kind that pays the bills)
(2) Been busy keeping up with jewelry orders (always a good thing) because now my fat dog beads jewelry is being sold in a neat little shop in Ambler, PA…right across from the wonderfully restored Ambler movie theater and
(3) been busy with kids, grandkids, dogs, friends and more (all good things, too).
But it’s way past time for a post. And my very talented friend – who calls herself and her etsy store Beadsoul just posted a challenge for all jewelry makers and crafters. And here it is: make one new item every day to help get your shop filled up with new goodies for the holidays. (Yes – I know it’s summer. But if you want to sell during the pre-holiday season, you need to gear up for it NOW).
So here is my first “newbie”….which I will list later on today in my etsy shop. (Part of the challenge is not just to make something, but to also add it to your shop.)  It is a hammered sterling silver stack ring.
I am going to custom make these to size, I think. Though I am convinced that not many people actually know what their ring size is. Do you?
Mine actually varies quite a bit depending upon (a) time of day (b) time of year and (c) what I just ate.

So – anyway – I’m opening up this creative challenge to all you. Anyone want to join me?

Hope Strength Necklace

My Hard And Fast Rules For Making (And Selling) Jewelry

No matter what you do, or how you do it, you need to have a few rules to guide you. As a big fan of free-form, spontaneous, “what would happen if we did/used/added this…” school of jewelry making, you’d think I wouldn’t follow any rules.
But you’d be wrong.
I don’t have a lot of rules…but I stick to them (99.9% of the time.) And I don’t necessarily think that my rules are right for anyone else. They’re just rules that seem to work for me.
So here they are – in no particular order.
Leave your workspace clean/straightened up.
Now I know that I am not alone among most craftspeople who don’t work just on one project at a time, but several. Which means different piles of “stuff.” What I try to do at the end of day (or night) is put all those little piles in a container, hopefully with a lid, or at the very least, stacked neatly atop another container.

Small containers for each project, extra beads, etc.

Small containers for each project, extra beads, etc.

Put your tools away. This is really Part B of above. There can be nothing worse than going to reach for a certain tool and not being able to find it. Or having your basset puppy begin gnawing on it. I keep hammers/files and tools I don’t use all the time in a 3-drawer cart under my work table. I can reach out and grab what I want practically without looking, because I know where my tools “live.” The pliers and cutters that I use all the time sit on top of my desktop in a partitioned carry box. Saws, Dremel, vises, clamps, etc are on shelves next to the work top.

Gemstones etc are labelled and stored in this container that sits on my work table.

Gemstones etc are labelled and stored in this container that sits on my work table.

Label and File Away Wire and Gemstones This one took me a while to do. I order/buy a lot of supplies. And while I think I can guesstimate how much items cost, I often guess much lower than actual cost. Now, especially with gemstones, I put them in a tiny baggie, and mark WHAT it is (yeah, I forget that too) and HOW MUCH it cost. This is invaluable when trying to price out finished jewelry pieces. I store my gemstones in a multi-drawer plastic storage unit I picked up at Lowe’s for about $20 or so. 

Non-precious metallic wires are stored in another Lowe’s container that I attached to the wall above my worktop.

This container is attached to the wall and holds my non-precious silver plated  wires

This container is attached to the wall and holds my non-precious silver plated wires

Precious metals (including solid copper) are stored in an accordian-file folder, labelled by type and size. This also serves to keep the sterling wire out of the light and air.

Only Make Things You Like And If You Really Don’t Like It – Start Over.

This probably my most important rule. I don’t expect everyone to have the same taste as me. But if my gut tells me it’s not right – for whatever reason – chances are other people are going to think it’s not right too. I often make things that I would want to wear – and I do – before they go on sale, or if they aren’t selling. But even if I make something that I may consider too “girly girly” for my tastes…or not “my colors”…as long as it is well made, unique, and interesting… it’s okay to put up for sale.

Price It Fairly – For You AND Your Customer

Hand Forged Copper and Silver Filled Sheet Metal with Moonstone Pendant

Hand Forged Copper and Silver Filled Sheet Metal with Moonstone Pendant

My husband always tells me “you’re not charging enough.” But in my world, I’m right on target. I’m not looking to win the million dollar derby with one sale. But I’m also not a big fan of losing money on materials and time. (Yes – the time it takes to create a piece of jewelry comes with a price tag.) So I usually roughly add up my material cost, double or triple it, and add in a bit for my time.The true test is – does it sell at that price point? Am I making  a lot of the same type of item – and is it selling quickly? If so, then it’s time to raise the price a bit.

Well, that’s about it for me. I’d love to hear what some of YOUR rules are!

The Ruined Silver Pendant…Resurrected!

For those who read my last post on how I ruined a perfectly good sterling silver and moonstone pendant I was working on…a follow-up. I removed the damaged moonstone…polished up and re-textured the sterling silver base…added a new sterling silver spiral to serve as the bail…and a gorgeous flashy-blue labradorite dangle to add some interest. Still needs to be polished, and I will probably re-wrap the labradorite briolette…but here’s what I’ve got so far.

The Aftermath - a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

The Aftermath – a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

Hope Strength Necklace

My OOOPS Moment…Plan B Is Looking Better

Yesterday I decided it was time I started working with bezels again. I picked out a gorgeous teardrop shaped moonstone, textured and patterned a piece of copper and got a lovely closed seam on the silver bezel. Then it was time to solder the bezel to the copper. Got a gorgeous seal. Was sooooo excited. Too excited to notice that I had just soldered the bezel upside down and backward.
(sighhhhhhh…..)
Time for Plan B.
I cut out the offending upside down bezel..added some stamped words, a rivet, and folded down part of the copper. Hmmm…taking shape as part of a necklace. What else? Strung it on an antiqued piece of brass wire I was saving for a bracelet, added some copper, brass and silver plated beads, two lovely cobalt lamp work beads, and a little bit of coiled wire.
Here’s what I ended up with – unfinished – but with possibilities. Have to mull a bit as to what, and how, to attach it to to finish it off.
But – Moral of the Story: Mistakes happen. Work with them.

Any finishing off suggestions?

Back from Beadfest 2012

Prong Set Sterling Silver Ring made in Kim St. Jean’s class

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged (bad, bad blogger!) And I admit I kept deleting the monday morning reminders that said “Write blog.” But I also admit I was busy, busy, busy – working at the “real” job…and also trying to get some new stuff into my etsy shop and prepare for an upcoming Irish festival I’ll be selling at. (Anything you need to know about Celtic symbols or phrases, ask away – I’ve been studying up!)
Anyway….finally something to write about: Beadfest 2012 is over. And of course I spent oodles of time and money during the 5 days it was here.
WHAT WAS NEW:
• seemed like a lot more vendors this year. Too many, IMHO. Got to the point I was just walking up and down the aisles with no idea of where I was or what I was looking for.

more artisans this year – that was really nice. Got to meet Heather Behrendt from HeatherBehrendtGlass. Have been buying beads from her for quite a while. Nice to finally put a face to the artist! Hope she did well at the show.

more classrooms – and therefore, more classes. But for what I was interested in, too many classes were the same from before. We need new stuff Beadfest people!

What I Did That Was Good:

• I came with a list this year.

• I wrote down the names of all the different gemstones I bought so I would remember once I got home.

• I was more aware of my prices – to know what was a good buy, and what wasn’t.

What I Did That Wasn’t:

• Once again, I got way too distracted by shiny, shimmery things. Bought tons of pricey (but IMHO good value) gemstones and lots of inexpensive ones too.

• I didn’t take the time to really, carefully, look at each gemstone on the strand. Some had small imperfections that mean I won’t use them in any jewelry I sell.

• I got sucked into the hype over the beautiful-but-expensive-hammers at the beautiful-but-expensive-hammer booth. (Yup, ordered another one)

What Classes Were Really Worthwhile:

• Took 4 classes with 3 different instructors. Two of the instructors – I’d follow anywhere: Kim St. Jean and Tracy Stanley. They make learning fun…and are really good at SHOWING you how to do something so you can do it yourself. Even when you get stuck (which I always do) they TALK you through doing it yourself rather than do it for you. So you leave their classes not just with knowledge–but with self-confidence. I’ve already re-created several bangles to sell at the upcoming Irish Festival (SLAINTE!). The rings – need more practice on. And need to practice with copper, not sterling silver!! (bad Bobbi….)

Bangles with a Message – Tracy Stanley- I made two to have all 4 of my grandkid’s names on them

What Class I Will Never Take Again:

• A chain-maille type class. Ohmigod! Sitting there for 1 1/2 hours counting out jump rings and putting them together in an intricate pattern is NOT ME!!! After we did the larger practice copper jump ring pattern, we were supposed to start on the smaller, sterling silver jump ring pattern. I left the class early – knowing I would be trying to figure out a way to slit my wrists with those open jumprings if I had to sit there any longer. (Though I did get a neatsy-keen jump ring opener that you wear like a ring on your finger while you worked. That was ALMOST worth taking the class.) Chain maille is much too precise for me. I am definitely a free-form type of girl.

My Favorite Purchases:

• Mystic Topaz, Ametrine and some amazing Labradorite briolettes.

Ametrine, Mystic Topaz & Labradorite

• An awesome butane torch from Kim St. Jean that she says is sold in Costco or BJ’s down south near her.

• Some moonstones – ooooh! love the blue flash in them

• Really cool torched and patina’d copper beads and spacers (but whew! were they pricey!!!)

My Least Favorite Purchases:

• The same mystic topaz beads from above – when I examined them more closely

• The chicken salad wrap from the food court there. (note: strips of chicken with some mayo thrown on top is NOT chicken salad!)

Will I be back next year? Oh yeah……..

Torch Enameling (and Sawing) with Kim St. Jean

Bad Blogger Chronicles: 4 Frenetic Days Spent at BeadFest Philly Spring

I overindulged again at Beadfest Philly. Too  many classes. Too much money spent on impulse buys. Too  much information for my little brain to process. And yet, there’s a smile on my face…my worktable is overflowing with lovely new shiny beads and stones. Have to clean out my tool drawer to make room for newcomers. And I am already starting to think about what classes I want to take in August.

THE GOOD:

• Really, really liked all four instructors. All very talented crafts(wo)men. All wonderfully patient and freely sharing jewelry making tips and favorite places to get great tools, supplies at great prices. Had only taken a previous class from one instructor – so the others were new. Would certainly recommend them and/or take another class from them in the future.

• Vendor area was smaller than in August – and it was easier to re-trace my steps to find the same vendor again if I wanted more of something, or had questions. (note to self: when you buy any sort of gemstone, bead, etc. make sure you write down WHAT it is. Had to go back to two booths the day after I bought some stuff because I couldn’t remember what kind of stone it was. No way I’d remember months from now when I go to pick it up and actually make something with it.)

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

• Saw more chairs on the floor this year. And there was a package check (which I didn’t need to use, since my stuff was in a classroom most days). Both good ideas. Lots of older folks walking around. Chairs were helpful.

• Beadfest organizers actually provided some snacks/water to some of the classrooms. Very nice touch And very welcome.

• The people – whether in class, or on the floor, everyone I met was friendly and helpful.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

• Once again (actually – happened twice) – I was in such a hurry to clean up my work areas and leave at the end of class, I left things there. First time, I actually threw out the two pairs of earrings I had made. Luckily, I had the instructor’s cell number. Was able to get her to pull the trash so it wouldn’t be emptied, and I planned on going through it the next day. Lucky for me, one of her very kind assistants went through and found my earrings (YAY!).

Second time – we were making a bracelet with about 7 pieces plus jump rings. Placed all the pieces in the liver of sulfur solution. Pulled them out and started cleaning them. Tossed them in a plastic bag to finish at home, and realized later (much later) that I left two pieces there.

In both cases however, I was able to recreate what I learned in class. So even if earrings hadn’t been found…it would be okay. (Bracelet pieces – they’re gone.) So let’s chalk this experience up to lack of concentration and focus on my part. (When will I ever learn???)

• Four classes in four days is too much. Two of the classes were all day – from 8 am to 4:30 pm. I was glassy-eyed by the end. It was information overload.

• One class was a disappointment only because I already knew at least 3/4’s of what was being taught.  (Note to self: read the course description better next time). I take these courses to learn new techniques, play with new tools, learn better ways to do things.

• I am too easily distracted by shiny things. Need to get better control over my impulse buying.

WHAT I BOUGHT:

• Biggest indulgence: a Freitz hammer. It is sooooooooo sexy (yeah. if you have one, you know what I mean.) This is NOT the hammer that will be used to bang in a loose board on my IKEA bureau. I may end up looking at this hammer more than using it.

• Most expensive purchase: I bought a sterling silver handmade bracelet from my instructor – Kim St. Jean.  It is just friggin’ gorgeous!

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

• Most questionable purchase: (after the Freitz hammer) – very high quality blue, sea foam and pink quartz briolettes. The crystal ones I found sparkle almost as much for a lot less.

• What I didn’t buy and I wish I did: gorgeous handmade, hand-dyed silk ribbons. I didn’t buy because of the cost. Could buy a sterling silver chain for what the ribbons cost. Hard to justify the cost if I planned on selling the finished project.

WHAT SURPRISED ME THE MOST:

• Lots of men walking around at the show. Most with a female companion (not all looked happy to be there). And one man in one of my classes. Not saying men can’t make jewelry. Just surprised to see them in class. (My husband says that is discriminatory.)

• Too many of the same vendors – and was really surprised by the number who didn’t have websites.

WHAT I DID THAT I VOWED I WOULDN’T:
• Buy more Swarovski crystals. I have sooooooo many. But oh! how they shimmer and shine at that Mega-Gems (Mega-Jewels?) booth.

Swarovski Crystals

Swarovski Crystals

• Start looking at the August list of classes. Can’t believe I’m about to sign up to do all over again.

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Jewelry Trends For Spring: Long Necklaces

What a surprise! My blog post is late again! Let’s see if we can make it worthwhile for you to take the time to read this one. Today, I’m focusing on what seems to be a pretty hot accessories trend for Spring – long necklaces. I remember a few months back watching an episode of Hawaii Five O. (oh Steve McGarret – you’re giving Jack Bauer a real run for his money!) Anyway, the cute girl-who’s-name-I-can’t-remember (when there was only one girl on the 5-o team) was wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt in one scene. And she had on this loonnnnng silver necklace with either one or two small circle beads on it. It looked great!

Crystal Perfection long necklace
Blue Denim Lampwork Long Necklace

Blue Denim Lampwork Long Necklace

Whether you like silver or gold, plain or embellished, long necklaces really rock your look.

I’ve been playing around with some different long necklace designs…and they seem to be selling well. Everyone can wear them – and if they are lightweight enough, you can even wear a few at once.

I’ve been asked “how long is long?” And I found this info on the web:

Neck chains come in a variety of sizes:

  • 16″ Choker length
  • 17-18″ at collarbone
  • 20″ A few inches below collarbone
  • 22″ At or above neckline
  • 24″ or longer extend below the neckline24-26″ hangs at bust line
  • 30” just below the bust line
  • 36” hangs above the navel
  • Pink Parfait Long Crystal Necklace

    Pink Parfait Long Crystal Necklace

While these are pretty standard sizes, there are many custom sizes out there too. I’ve found (being short and squat) that 30″ is too long for some necklaces I wear. I’ve been able to order some 28″ sterling silver chains that fit me much better.

And – just to contradict myself, I should tell you that some of the newer necklaces I’m making would measure 36″ if opened up and laid end to end. Yet they look just fine (even on us shorties.)

DIY Necklace/Jewelry Displays – great for jewelry makers

Be My Valentine Necklace by fatdogbeads

Be My Valentine Necklace by fatdogbeads

So here I was, sitting in my studio/office (two work stations – one for “real” work as a copywriter…the other a larger workstation for jewelry making)…thinking it’s time to get organized. This used to be my oldest daughter’s bedroom – and was sponged painted (remember when that was the rage?) robin’s egg blue with white to look like clouds/sky. I painted this room when she was maybe 11 or 12.
She is a lawyer now (and married, and a mother with her own home). So, I guess it’s about time to repaint!
I chose a lovely color called Bleached Linen (or something like that), a soft white. Once I painted wall #1 – I decided I needed to use that space as more than just a place to hang pictures. One thing about me, when I make something new, I like to look at it for a bit. That’s easy enough when it comes to bracelets or earrings. But long necklaces – they are a bit tougher. I was hanging them on an old coatrack. But then the coat rack started getting cluttered with all my craft tote bags and, well, basic crap.
Around this same time, a kitchen/bath remodeling store was going out of business near me. I popped in to see what they had (who can resist a going-out-of-business sale?) and walk away with almost 80 sample drawer pulls. Some of them are Murano glass – and were selling for up to $50 a piece!

Murano Glass Drawer Pulls

I paid a little over a dollar for each one.
I thought I could put them on the wall, and hang the necklaces from them. Trouble was, I couldn’t get the right hardware to screw them into the wall. I tried industrial strength Velcro…and while that worked, I didn’t like the look of the bare drawer pulls on the wall.

Next, I went to some of my fav stores (Marshall’s, Kohls, etc) and bought some small frames from their clearance sections. I popped out the glass and cardboard, velcro’d them to the wall, and velcro’d the drawer pulls inside of them.

Here’s a photo of what this looks like. This wall is still a work-in-progress, but I am happy with the results so far.

I also plan to get a plain board, paint it and attach some drawer pulls to it. I’ll search for an easel stand, and use it to display the necklaces at craft fairs. The longer pulls could be used to display earrings, too.
Any other good ideas for these beautiful drawer pulls?
(Besides as actual drawer pulls, that is……)