The Challenge Goes On….

On the 2nd day of the challenge – I made a hammered sterling silver bangle bracelet to go with the hammered sterling silver rings I made the other day.This first one is large-sized. Probably an 8 3/4’s to a 9. Too big for me…but I will most likely put it up for sale soon.

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Amazonite Earrings

What Kind Of Stone Is That? My Take On Turquoise, Amazonite and Howlite

As my jewelry has been evolving, so has my taste in materials. I am having fun mixing metals, soldering, riveting and the like. I’ve also changed many of my “splashes of color” from handmade artisan beads to gemstones – semi-precious, mostly. I bought myself two guides to identifying gemstones and am actually starting to recognize some at shows I go to.

As I become more interested in using copper in my work, I find myself reaching more for blue or green stones to pair with it. And I have started searching out turquoise, amazonite and howlite.

TURQUOISE natural turquoise is found in many parts of the world. In the U.S., there are (or were) several mines in the Nevada area where the turquoise is highly prized and can be quite pricey. I have several pieces (small) of Number 8 Turquoise from Eureka County, Nevada. This mine has no longer producing turquoise, but there is a reserve of it that is slowly being sold. Once this is gone, that’s it for this beautiful stone celebrated for the golden brown to black distinctive spider web matrix and its vivid blue color. Another mine – the Sleeping Beauty mine in Nevada – also produces highly collectible turquoise. Kingman Turquoise, from Arizona, has a deep, intense blue color. Dry Creek Turquoise is very rare – it is the palest turquoise in the world. In many cultures, turquoise is a holy stone, a bringer of good fortune or a talisman.

Something to keep in mind – there is a lot of man-made turquoise out there. Generally, a stone with a uniform color is not natural turquoise. Also – there is no such thing as purple turquoise. That is a stone that has been dyed or treated.

AMAZONITE  is found in the United States, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Russia, Australia, Namibia. It is usually light green to blue-green, mottled and sometimes contains light striations. It is sometimes confused with turquoise, but I find the green to be very distinctive. The more you see of it, I think you’ll agree. It reminds me of a color I might see in the Caribbean.

Amazonite Ring by fat dog beads

Top: Number 8 Turquoise
Center: Dyed Howlite
Bottom: Amazonite

According to legend, Amazonite is said to enhance creative expression and improve self-worth. Amazonite is considered a soothing stone that offers confidence is called the “hope stone” because it inspires confidence and hope. One source says it is useful to activate lazy teenagers. Not sure about that one!

Dyed Howlite Copper Pronged Ring by fat dog beads

HOWLITE is a soft, light mineral with a chalky white color that is very porous, and therefore easily dyed. In most cases, it is dyed light blue to resemble turquoise. It has been found in large quantities in California, and is reasonably priced.

According to some meditation forms that use crystals as focus points, undyed howlite can be an excellent means of concentration. Some believe it is highly stress relieving and is recommended as a means of quieting insomnia. Some crystal users suggest that the mineral helps balance calcium levels in the body, and acts as an absorbent for negative energy. It is also said to correspond with the Zodiac sign Gemini. Another source says, “place a howlite stone in your pocket to absorb your own anger – or another’s anger that is directed toward you. It helps to overcome critical or selfish behaviour.” All good stuff, right?

NOTE: be aware that some not-so-honest gemstone dealers DO try to palm off dyed Howlite as Turquoise.

Have you worked with any of these stones? Would love to see what you’ve created! Send pics!

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?

Bling, Rings & Other Things – Bad Blogger Chronicles Are Back!

So – how was your summer? I:

(1) went on a few trips – nothing big, but loads of fun.

(2) went to Beadfest in August and have been trying lots of new things (jewelry-wise) since then

Dance More Mixed Metal Message Bangle Bracelet

Dance More – a mixed metal message bangle bracelet

(3) need to start spending more time on my real job (freelance copywriter with a little bitty ad agency) so I can pay for all the fun I had this summer

(4) set up a “studio B” in my almost-cleaned-out garage so my torch, LOS solution and pickle, and rolling mill have a home. (And boy is it easier to just run out there and do something quickly than to have to clear a space and set everything up!

(5) I rejoined Artfire for a few months. They have a special 3-month deal going. Want to see if I can sell anything from there. Etsy keeps changing things (and not that I’m opposed to change) it just seems to be a constant struggle – and so time-consuming – to try to get noticed there.

(6) Cutting back substantially on Tophatter. They have significantly raised their fees – and now charge even more fees. Honestly, I was maybe breaking even before – selling most of my stuff at a huge discount. But with the fees – I am definitely losing money. So as much as I enjoyed the instant gratification, I just can’t afford to “play” there anymore.

(7) Realize that I am too late for some of the bigger, better december holiday craft fairs in my area. Have to start looking into them by Sept 1st at the latest.

So here’s what I have been working on lately….and also what seems to be my biggest sellers.

wire wrapped Swarovski rose gold earrings

Stunning Swarovski Rosaline Gold Earrings

More Rings….

Amazonite and copper ring

Amazonite and copper ring I made for daughter Emily

 

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.

ON ETSY:

– 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

ON TOPHATTER:

– 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

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ON ETSY:

I typically sell a few items a month.

ON TOPHATTER:

I can sell a few items A DAY.

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ON ETSY:

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

ON TOPHATTER:

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

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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: 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.

Aside

FYI…these posts are called The Bad Blogger Chronicles because I am a very undisciplined writer. You never know when one my blogs will appear (because I sure don’t.) You never know what I’m going to be writing about either (I am just as surprised as you to see what comes out of my mind and onto this blog.)

Today’s Focus: Marketing your brand online

This info is for all the crafters out there. You’re on etsy, or art fire, or zibbet or bonanza or maybe you just have your own website and sell your handcrafted goodies there. Regardless, there are things you can do (and should do) to get people into your shops, to get shoppers to buy, buy, buy and to turn first time customers into repeat buyers.

Why listen to me? Two reasons: (1) I make and sell jewelry online at etsy  and (2) my “real” job is in advertising/marketing. I currently run my own little agency (bh creative – website: bobbihelms.com) and am a freelance copywriter. I was creative director of a Philadelphia ad agency for about 28 years.

Things to consider to get noticed.

Never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself/your shop.

In the past few weeks/months, there have been multiple offers from Google, Facebook and American Express among others for free advertising.

Have you taken advantage of them? I have – and have seen my visitor count increase dramatically. Have I gotten direct sales from these free ads?

No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. Any chance you have for free advertising – take it!

There are countless lists of FREE or LOW COST sites where you can list your items for sale. This list appeared recently on

Handmadeology.com:

http://www.craftjuice.com
http://craftgawker.com
http://www.craftstylish.com/share
http://www.craftytips.com
http://www.designstolove.com
http://www.plaincraft.com
http://tryhandmade.com/promote-handmade
http://coolmompicks.com/yourpicks.php
http://thehandmadedirectory.com/directory
http://etsylush.com

If you advertise somewhere/anywhere (free or paid), make sure you keep track of the results with google analytics, or a similar program.

You need to know if something’s working or not. Look, I’m the first to admit – I am NOT a numbers person. But even I check my google analytics, site stats and craftcult.com to see what’s doing.

Do something with all that positive feedback you get.

I take the best blurbs (without using any names) and put them on the back of my business cards. I’ve even made mini-cards with the testimonials on one side, and my shop name/web address/phone number etc on the other side. These small cards get slipped inside jewelry bags with purchases of smaller items.

mini business cards using testimonials

mini business cards using testimonials

Don’t want to spend  a lot of money on business cards? If you are on etsy – you need to visit moo.com   They are offering etsy shop owners a FREE set of beautifully printed, high-quality business cards. The only catch? The print a small line on the bottom of one side promoting their own site. Even though I have my own cards, I took advantage of this offer to print up a set of “thank you” cards offering free shipping to return buyers.

free business cards from moo.com  

free business cards from moo.com

If you have a website, these positive testimonials should also have a prominent place there, as well.

When you can, spend a little money to upgrade your packaging

I use brown boxes for my bracelet and necklaces, which I order in bulk. I take advantage of discount offers at companies such as Vistaprint  to order custom made return address labels, small round logo stickers and small customized address labels. Just be aware that some such companies tend to charge you more for shipping, than for the products themselves. So buyer beware!

I use a round logo sticker on my boxes, and tie each box with ribbon I buy on sale at craft stores such as Michael’s.

The result? My little logo doggy is everywhere. People start to recognize it. And another reason I takes such care with my packaging is that I like  my customers to know that they are special. I want them to feel as if they are getting a gift when they order a package from me.

fat dog beads packaging

fat dog beads packaging

(Oh – and by the way, for the most part I include a free unexpected gift with every purchase.)

Many of you may be thinking about the cost for all of this. I try to recoup some of the cost in my shipping fees. In the US, I may charge $3.00 for shipping. Actually mailing cost is probably around $2.00.  And, for some smaller purchases – such as earrings – I usually skip the box, and mail them inside a colorful jewelry pouch in a smaller mailing envelope.

I always try to keep Tiffany’s in the back of my mind. Doesn’t matter what you buy or how much you spend – you still walk away with that signature blue box or bag. Every customer is someone to value.

Try out new things – but don’t spread yourself too thin.

I’ve tried out a fair number of online marketplaces for my jewelry. After a lot of mostly “misses” – I settled on etsy and art fire. For over a year, I “paid to play” on both sites. I tried chatting in the forums, making treasuries/collections, and more. And while I know some of you  have the time and patience to handle more than one site, I couldn’t. I dropped art fire and stayed with etsy.

For me, it’s working. I’m not a power seller. But I sell enough to encourage me to keep at it. But I also put in a lot of time there.

I play in the BNRs/BNS’s…I chat with, and have made many, online friends. I buy a lot of my supplies from other etsy sellers.

And I’ve also sold many things to those same sellers.

As far as new things, right  now I am trying/or have tried:

• Pinterest

• Tophatter

• Twitter

• Facebook

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.  And – please – let me know if you have any good marketing ideas.

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Little Ways Crafters Can Build Their Brand Online

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Would It Hurt To Try Something New?

 

 

Naaahhhh. New is good. New is different. New can be fun and exciting (and you can always go back to old if you really want to.) So my challenge the week is to focus on doing, trying, attempting something new. Let’s face it – we all live very happily in our comfort zones…all wrapped up in “same ol’, same ol.”  But trust me – taking just a few steps away from what you routinely do/eat/experience can be a very empowering thing.

Case In Point #1 – what’s for dinner?

I started hanging around Pinterest – an impossibly engrossing site where people “pin” or post photos of things in a certain group. Dogs, jewelry, interior decorating, pocketbooks, whatever. I’ve discovered some amazing “lite” type weight watchers recipes that I’ve started to print out and try. My husband is loving it – while he generally will eat anything I put in front of him, it’s nice to see his reaction when I try out new (and hopefully yummy things).

Tried this week:  Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice (excellent!) & Sweet n Sour Turkey Meatloaf (good but needs more seasoning)   Shrimp Fried Rice recipe is from a site called SkinnyTaste.com   Recipe is at end of post.

Case in Point #2 – what else can you do?

As you probably already know, I make jewelry. It is my hobby. It is my stress-relief. It makes me happy. But sometimes, it makes me frustrated. Because I get bored doing the same things over and over again…or I see something someone made that I think I can change in a way to make it even better. So instead of just sitting here and doing NOTHING (something I’ve become quite adept at over the years), I decided to try my hand at doing something I haven’t done before. In this case, I wanted to make a pair of sterling silver earrings – one-piece – no earwire necessary…and add some colorful beads to them too. Here’s what I came up with…

 

 

So how about you? Anything new you’d like to try?

 

Spicy Shrimp Fried Rice
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 • Size: 1-1/2 cups • Old Points: 6 pts • Points+: 8 pts
Calories: 307.3 • Fat: 7.0 g • Protein: 22.7 g • Carb: 37.4 g • Fiber: 3.5 g

  • 3 cups brown rice cooked
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (peeled weight is .75 lb)
  • 2 egg whites, scrambled
  • 1 whole egg, scrambled
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 5 scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
  • oil spray
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil with cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 4 tsp soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp Asian fish sauce
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • (I added sugar snap peas to this, too)

In a bowl, season shrimp with cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Scramble eggs with a drop of water and season with salt and pepper. In a hot wok, spray a little oil and cook the eggs. When cooked, remove from pan and set aside.

Let the wok get really hot. Add sesame oil and saute onions, scallion whites, garlic and hot pepper flakes for about 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and saute until no longer translucent. Add rice and cooked egg along with soy sauce and fish sauce, mixing well for about 2 minutes. Add greens of the scallions and serve