Overworking It: How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Piece Of Jewelry

When I make jewelry, I tend to futz a lot with it. (Futz is sort of a technical term…it means “play with”)
And, as sometimes happens, I go overboard and ruin the piece.
Case in point: I had a very nice piece of sterling silver sheet that I cut down to about 1 1/2″ x 1″. I textured it. I patterned it. I stamped it. I filed it. I punched holes in it.
Then I soldered on an oval bezel I had made for a really nice, flashy blue moonstone. All was looking pretty good…but I knew that more had to be done with it.
I ended up soldering a sterling silver spiral onto the top – overlapping the top by maybe 1/4″. Now we were getting somewhere. The spiral would serve as the bail for the chain. Looking good!

Until I realized that no matter how I tried, with many different methods, I couldn’t get it polished right. Just didn’t look the way I wanted it to.

Flash forward to me scrubbing, rubbing, polishing, dremel-ing and more to get some gunk off. Long story short – spiral falls off. Okay. back to the pickle, clean it up, and try to solder the spiral on again. Nope. Not happening. Fire got so hot it started to melt the spiral.

Bring it back into the studio to rethink. By this time, I had also realized that what my pendant needed was something in the middle between the spiral and the moonstone.  I decided a rivet with a decorative washer would do the trick.  And it did.  For a while. Until I realized again how grimy it looked.

Decided to toss it in the pickle again and try to re-solder the spiral. Did it at the end of the day.

Big mistake.

Forgot about it. When I remembered this morning, the moonstone was toast. (Reminder to me: pickle=acid=not good on soft gemstones).

So now, it’s back to square one. Going to remove the moonstone and the bezel (if possible) and start over.

What I learned:

* stop and think before doing

* if you don’t have the right tools, findings, materials – order it and wait for it

* sometimes less is better

* learn from your mistakes!

work in progress - with moonstone and sterling silver spiral bail

work in progress – with moonstone and sterling silver spiral bail


Overworked – and ruined! Back to square one…..

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.
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?

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Tophatter Tips For Etsy Sellers

I admit it: I am semi-addicted to Tophatter. For those who don’t know what this is – Tophatter is an online auction site in real time. You bid against other potential buyers while interacting with everyone in auction room. Tophatter is found here: tophatter.com

It is growing so quickly, that sellers, for the most part, cannot even list their items in the regular auctions. So, for those “newbies” from etsy – or anyone – here is some info to help you decide if Tophatter is worth it for you.


– list an item for $.20

– pay 3.5% of price on each sale

– pay Paypal fee (if you use it)  2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction


– pay 10% of sales price, minimum of $1.00 per sale.

– pay Paypal fee (if you use it)  2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction



I typically sell a few items a month.


I can sell a few items A DAY.



I get the price I ask for (and sometimes discount a bit with coupons/sales)


It’s a crap shoot. Some items sell for almost full price. Others go for a song – maybe a few dollars.


Tips for Etsy sellers on Tophatter: 

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

• When you sign up for a user name, include your etsy url in your name.

That way – people can go directly to your shop to learn more about you and your items.

• There are so many sellers, you can’t get into the auctions beforehand. You have to play the

Standby game. Here’s how it works. Exactly one hour prior to the auction start, enter the auction room.

On the right of your screen, you’ll see UPCOMING  and next to it STANDBY  (note: these WILL NOT be visible until one hour prior to auction start). At the bottom of the page, you’ll see ADD TO STANDBY ITEMS. Click on this. It will then take you through the steps of adding one of your items to standby.

Here’s the deal: your item will not be advanced into the regular auction unless someone clicks on it and agrees to pay the minimum payment.

Which brings us to the next tip:

Keep your minimum payment as low as possible. I know it’s hard to list a $30 item for $1.00. And yes, you could get burned and have to sell it for $1.00. But if you set your minimum too high, no one will advance it. And that means no chance of a sale.

• In crowded categories, like Jewelry, Standby closes quickly. So you MUST try to list your item as close to the one-hour-before-opening as possible.

Before you even think of listing an item, sit in on a few auctions. Before I list an item in standby, I check to see what kind of jewelry isn’t listed that much (i.e. earrings, pendants, bracelets, etc)

• There are some very specific auction categories you may want to list in, depending upon your items.

• There are a few general auction categories that anyone can list in (Daily Bazaar, Early Bird Bazaar, Night Owl Bazaar, Boutique (must have 10 items sold, and have a $20 minimum for this one).

• Tophatter is on PST. So their “earlybird auction” is at 9am EST.

• Chat in the auction room. People are very nice, and it helps to be there when your item is up to answer any questions.

• Some sellers will throw in freebies/extras as the bidding progresses to encourage more bidding.

• You need an invite to participate at Tophatter. I have 97 left – let me know if you need one.

Bottom line? I am selling a lot of items that have been sitting in my workshop for a while. Making some money – though not alway a lot. I have noticed that supplies (destash) of any kind sells really, really well. Put some of my focal beads up and the sold very well.

Not all of your items will do well on Tophatter. For the most part, people are looking for a bargain. Try to put up something that’s different from what is being offered. You have to experiment to see what does/doesn’t sell. But one thing’s for sure – it’s a blast….and a real rush when the bidding gets hot and heavy on one of your items. Instant gratification!

Any questions – let me know.

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.)

Beat The Blahs! Private Jewelry Sale Thru end of February!

dogbanner2 2


                                                                                                February Newsletter #2

Bobbi Helms • 4031 La France Rd. • Lafayette Hill, PA 19444 • bobbihelms@yahoo.com

Blah Days mean SALE DAYS!
il_570xN.300895822Hi all! 

I”ll be the first to admit it. I am not a big February fan. It”s usually a pretty gray, drab dreary time of the year. A good time to take stock of what has been sitting in my work space – taking up space – and do something to get it moving!  I think it”s time for a SALE!  A whopping-limited-time-till end-of-February

(can I hear a big

(example: the  bracelet shown here WAS $65.00.  NOW: $48.75)
Please note: 
this is a PRIVATE SALE! Only those who get this newsletter will know about the sale. You must use the coupon code PRIVATE if you are purchasing through etsy. Or, you can browse the etsy shop – deduct 25% from the price and just send me a check.)
Please visit my etsy shop HERE


Some Examples Of The Savings You”ll Find:

DSC08898 2$18.00
NOW $13.50
NOW $49.50
il_75x75.300895456 2$44.00
NOW $33.00
Remember: you MUST use
the coupon PRIVATE if you are ordering thru etsy.com.
Or – just send me a check and drop me an email letting me know what you want. Now – GO SHOP!

See All The Goodies HERE!


NOW $24.00
NOW $19.50
NOW $11.25

More Sale Examples:
• Pumpkin Orange Spice Pendant WAS $19. NOW $14.25
• Cobalt Blue Lariat Necklace WAS $44. NOW $33
• Aqua Blue Sparkle Bracelet – Sterling Silver –
WAS $61. NOW $45.75
• Hammered Sterling SIlver Hoop Earrings WAS $20.
NOW $15
No go out there and SHOP!!!!!!



Bad Blogger Chronicles: Late Again….Here’s Why

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Bad, bad Blogger Bobbi! Seems I have time for work/play with pups/cooking fabulous Valentine’s Day dinner for hubby (recipe below) /buying bridal shower gift two days before actual shower and making some new jewelry. And that, dear readers, is why … Continue reading

What’s In The Mail Today?

I love email. I love it on my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone. I check for – read – and reply to – email for at least 15 hours a day. Or more. But for all of its convenience and speed, it’ll never match snail mail when it comes to deliveries.

Who doesn’t like getting something in the mail? (Okay, except for bills and/or political and/or garbage mail.) It used to be that the mail that was delivered to my house was pretty ordinary – aforementioned bills/political/garbage – plus the occasional invitation or magazine or thank you note. (Note to everyone: email thank you notes DO NOT replace real, honest-to-goodness handwritten thank you notes.)

But ever since I started making jewelry – almost every mail delivery is worthy of a “woo-hoo!” Anyone who does anything with crafts on a fairly regular basis buys a lot of stuff. Stuff they need. Stuff they might need. Stuff that is on sale and too good to pass up. Other people’s stuff that you may be able to use. Someday. Maybe.

I tend to buy a lot of jewelry stuff from people who sell on Etsy and Artfire and even on ebay. Stuff from all other the world. Which is another fun thing – looking at the packages to see where they came from. (And, because I buy a lot of stuff, I tend to forget where and from whom I’ve bought that stuff.)

California lampwork beads received in the mail today

Pink beads from CA ...in the mail today

In today’s mail…a bead shipment from one of my favorite lampwork artisans in California. This was a big shipment – a double batch of beads. (I was in a PINK mood…and she had just posted a lot of pink beads.) Plus, being the wonderful seller that she is, my California bead maker included a freebie surprise bead. How much fun is that!

I also received a set of cool orange-y topaz beads from another favorite bead maker.

And I received two typewriter key pendants from an etsy seller. (These definitely fall  into the category “Maybe I’ll use them in the future” or “Not quite sure what to do with them now…but definitely some possibilities there.” Bought these on a BNR. See my previous post entitled Assorted Little Secrets I Learned As An Etsy Seller.

Orange beads

Orangey Topaz Beads from NY

Now, I must admit that I also love getting “real” mail more ever since I started work as a freelance writer, and owner of my own little ad agency. Because sometimes real mail means real money – as in checks from clients.

So you can see why my heart beats a little faster and my pulse races a bit when my three dogs start their woofing frenzy as the mailman puts stuff in my mailbox. It’s the highlight of their day…..and mine.

Typewriter Key Pendants

Typewriter Key Pendants...what to do with these?

Oh – and the last photo? That’s the book I ordered, and received in the mail, several days ago. Opened it. Unwrapped it. Haven’t even opened it up yet. Guess not all mail is as exciting as others.

Walk Off The Weight Book - also in the mail

This Book Came In The Mail....days ago....

Recipe For Success: Selling Handmade Online & Off


Someone commented to me the other day, “wow! you sure are doing well selling your jewelry.” And I had to agree with them. While I’ve been selling pretty regularly to family, friends and neighbors, I’ve been slowly cultivating an online group of customers as well. And while getting paid for what you like doing is terrific – the fact that many  customers are repeat buyers means every bit as much to me. (Cue the Sally Field Oscar tape, “You like me. You really, really like me”)


I checked out tons of online jewelry shops in Etsy and Artfire and the like. And created a niche for myself. It wasn’t that my technique was so outstanding…I learned from others, and others will learn from me. But I always felt I had a somewhat quirky way of combining colors, patterns and shapes that helped to make my bracelets, pendants and earrings stand out.


Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Pendant

I began making jewelry last July. Opened an Etsy shop. And waited… and waited…and (well, you get the picture.) My first online sale came in September – to someone in Australia. I don’t know what got me more excited – the sale, or the fact that I sold something to someone in Australia. I started reading blogs, forum posts, Etsy seller tips and more to see what more I should be doing to encourage online sales. It was pretty slow going there until I hit October and November, when sales online and offline really started picking up.


I decided to spend some money on advertising and marketing. I joined Artfire, and later, Zibbet. I took the Pro package at Artfire – giving it a test through the holiday season. I went with the freebie package on Zibbet. I tried FB ads, blog advertising, a few freebie websites, and I took some ads on StumbleUpon and Craftcult. I bought showcases on Etsy, and renewed my items on a fairly regular basis. I started a blog (free) and a FB page just for fat dog beads.


Honeysuckle Rose Pink One Of A Kind Lampwork Bead Bracelet

Honeysuckle Rose Pink Bracelet by fat dog beads

I realized that even though making and selling jewelry was my hobby, I would need to devote more time to it to get it up and running smoothly. I checked my analytics everyday, as well as other stats. I realized that some things worked WAY better than other things. One thing that really helped (and still does) is having a presence in the Etsy/Artfire community forums and BNR’s. (See one of my earlier posts for explanation of the BNR’s). I began making connections with other Etsy and Artfire sellers – terrific, friendly, helpful people. We are often each other’s customers – a nice turn-of-events.


I’ve had over 70 sales on Etsy; 2 on Artfire; and countless numbers offline. But a majority of my offline sales use my Etsy shop to browse for their purchases. They also connect with me via my FB page. I make sure to update that very regularly.

What didn’t work for me: Zibbet, FB ads, Stumble Upon, and blog advertising. Not convinced Artfire is for me. I believe you have to put a lot of effort into sites like Etsy and Artfire – and I don’t have time for both. (need time for the job-that-pays-the-bills). i

What worked for me: Etsy showcases (they got me exposure when I needed it. Though I’ve stopped them because of the price.), Craftcult ads – yes, they can be pricey, but whenever I was on Craftcult, my numbers shot WAY up. It was no coincidence. Being in the Etsy forums/treasuries/BNRs on a daily basis.

And now….a recipe you can really sink your teeth into:

From my daughter Erin. This appetizer recipe is a crowd-pleaser. And couldn’t be simpler. Enjoy!

1 lb hot italian sausage (preferrably patties without casing – otherwise, you have to take the casing off before cooking.)
1 bar of cream cheese (not fat free)
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

Brown the sausage, then add the cream cheese and rotel. Stir well. reheat in the microwave or oven. Serve with Fritos scoop chips.

An Awesome Sunday With Jack Bauer, Mr. Big & Dead Osama

What a wild, wacky and wonderful Sunday I just had.

The Lime Green Pendant (I call it Kieffer's Pendant) I made for my NYC trip

First – I had somehow (lord knows how) scored front row center seats for a pretty much sold-out limited edition Broadway show: That Championship Season. (I know!) Went to NYC for the day with my fav cousin Linda. Took the train up from the sparkling new Trenton station (way to go Trenton!) and our mouths probably moved faster than that train. Lots of catching up to do. Also wore one of my bracelets (which I decided I liked too much to sell. Pulled it off etsy and artfire. Say “bye bye” to “drops of sunshine”. It’s coming to live in my jewelry box.)

Anyway. Perfect weather. Sunny, warm – but not hot. Got in town in time for lunch. Walked up and down restaurant row reading menus. And finally agreed on one I hadn’t been in before – Orzo. Lovely little restaurant. Very nice little half carafes of wine (of which we had two). Great meal.

Went to the theater and was delighted to see it was a rather intimate one. Much smaller than the one I had been in last week across the street (Billy Elliot).

Front Row Seats - me and my cuz

Here’s a photo of cuz and me standing in front of our seats, in front of the curtain/stage. (Yes – we could have easily jumped on stage at any time and tackled Kieffer(me) or Chris(cuz). But we contented ourselves with merely grabbing each other every time they walked/looked in our direction.

The play was really good – better than I thought. And of course, sitting RIGHT IN THE FRIGGIN’ FRONT ROW made it feel like they were performing just for us in our living room. (Except we were wearing makeup and had our shoes on).

When it was over, we made our way to the restroom from our seats (Did I mention we were in the front row????) and eventually, left the theater. We saw a crowd near the stage entrance, and of course, scooched our way over towards the front of the line just as the stage door opened. One by one, the actors ( Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Jason Patric,  Kieffer Sutherland and Chris Noth) came out, signed autographs and chatted with the crowd. (See photos. Drool accordingly.)

Be still my heart! Heeeeerrrreee's Kieffer!

Chris (I really am this good looking in person) Noth

Never had that happen before! Caught an express train just as we got to Penn Station…and was home by 8 PM. Watching the Phillies (lose – boo hoo) and learn that Bin Laden was dead.

Was that a perfect Sunday, or what?

(FYI – look for a few red, white and/or blue USA inspired piece of jewelry this week from fat dog beads. I’m feeling very USA-ish)

Gearing Up For Beadfest….literally

Woodland Magic Wire Wrapped Bracelet by fat dog beads

Beadfest is hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. It’s (primarily) countless numbers of women descending upon 180+ vendors selling beads, bead making supplies, bead making tools, etc. It is overwhelming, to say the least. And exciting. And, it can be very, very expensive if you give into the urge to snatch up every pretty, shiny thing you see. (speaking from experience here.)

But Beadfest is also about the learning. They offer a great variety of classes in everything from wire wrapping to beading to metal smithing and more. There are classes for beginners…and for those with more experience. Each class requires certain materials to bring to class.

Some of the materials are ones you probably already have – such as different pliers, or hammers or bench blocks. Others are specific to the class, and may be ones you haven’t purchased yet.

The first year I took a class, I purchased everything that was on the list. And never used at least a third of them. Since the class, I have used some of these. But others – stuck in an odds and ends tool bin I have, most likely never to see the light of day.

This year, I’ve signed up for two classes. One is an all-day class on cabochon pendants. The tool list was pretty basic. I had all the necessary tools for the class….except one. An automatic wire twister.

I confess to bring a wire twister virgin. Never twisted it manually, let alone automatically. So I went online to find out more. I discovered that an automatic wire twister is actually a type of cordless screw driver…but with a different sort of tip (that of course had to be purchased separately.) A lot of these were pretty pricey. And, while I will pay for something if I know I will use it, i have my doubts about how much wire I am actually going to twist. I was absolutely stressing out about this. (Would I be the only one WITHOUT a wire twister? And what of the manual wire twisters?)

The one online store (yes – amazingly, only one) that carried an affordably price automatic wire twister was out of stock. Oh no! What now?

I emailed the Beadfest people and they put me in touch with the instructor who told me not to worry. She had extra wire twisters and I could use hers.

Whew! Crisis avoided. (For the moment….)

But being prepared for classes is just part of the story if you’re heading out to Beadfest.

If you plan on visiting the exhibition hall ( hello? isn’t that why you’re going????), you need a whole different set of “equipment.” First – you need a list of what items you DEFINITELY want/need to purchase. As with any type of shopping, know your prices. Not everything is a bargain.

If you have a tax ID number, bring it with. Best to make up some business card-sized papers with the number on it, or write it on your own business cards to hand to the vendors.

Bring some sort of bag/suitcase/duffel on wheels. Yea, I know. How dorky does that look? But when you are lugging around a gadzillion pounds of tools for previously-mentioned classes, that bag-on-wheels will be a godsend.

Bring some cash, and one credit card in a small purse or wristlet. No need to carry around your usual 10 lbs of stuff.

If you usually work in a certain gauge of wire, bring a small piece with you to test on various beads. (Can I tell you how many beads I have bought that WOULDN’T fit on my 16 gauge wire?)

Bring lots of business cards. And most of all, bring your enthusiasm! Beadfest is most of all, about something you love. Enjoy.