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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?

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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.

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……)

Gallery

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....

Match Your Socks To Your Pants, Not Your Shoes

Words of wisdom from unlikely sources, Vol.II.

Went clothes shopping with my husband the other day – which was a cause for celebration in unto itself. In all the years we’ve been married, I’d say I shopped solo for about 99.9% of the clothes he wears. But he needed a new sport jacket, so I convinced him to shop with me.

Purple Lampwork OOAK Pendant with Sterling Silver Star

(Shopping in Mark’s language means you go into one store, try on maybe 3 jackets and buy one.) But for some reason, he actually allowed the salesman to bring over “accompaniments” that would go well with the jacket. He ended up buying pants, shirts, ties, a belt and even some socks. I was very proud of him.

But, as a card-carrying digressor, I must get back to the point of the story. While I was waiting for Mark to get his jacket marked up by the tailor (note to self: why don’t they have tailors in women’s stores?????), I was admiring the socks the salesman had brought over. But I was puzzled by the color choice. According to him, you are supposed to match the sock color to the color of your pants. Because the ankle/foot is part of the leg.

Now, I don’t claim to be a fashionista, but I always thought most men matched their sock color to their shoe color. Simply put, my fashion world was rocked.

I paused to consider what other misconceptions I’ve been carrying around with me, and how could I use this news to improve the jewelry I make? (Everything eventually comes back to the jewelry.)

And here’s what I decided: just because something has been done a certain way, doesn’t make it the only way to do it…or even the best way to do it.

Zebra Striped Lampwork Bead Sterling Silver Bracelet

Black & White Zebra Striped Bracelet With Stunning Blue Crystal Beads

Take wire wraps. Most experts think that a cabochon should be wrapped in precisely measured, cut and wrapped wire bundles. Certain wires are pulled at certain points to “lock in” the cab. It’s a very time-consuming, everything-needs-to-be-done-just-so type of process. And, certainly, while this can look very nice, it’s also very formal and fussy looking for my tastes. So I am experimenting with my own types of wire wraps. (hint: use the cheapest wire possible when you are experimenting. A lot ends of going in the trash.)

Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Break out of your comfort zone. Not everything you do will be a winner…but you just may end up with something really unique and very cool.

As for me, I may not wear any socks with my shoes.

 

Recipe For Success: Selling Handmade Online & Off

BEGIN WITH SOMETHING YOU REALLY LOVE MAKING….

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”)

ADD IN SOME RESEARCH TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING…

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.

BLEND IN A HEFTY HELPING OF PATIENCE

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.

THROW IN A HANDFUL OF MONEY

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.

STIR CONSTANTLY...

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.

AND VOILA!

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.

Interesting Things I Learned This Week

I’ve become quite the little joiner lately. Joining this special group…or that forum…or signing up to receive “free daily tips” or “helpful hints.” Do not confuse “daily tips” with “helpful hints”. Two totally separate and unequal categories of self-help. “Daily tips” usually contains things I don’t need to know/care about/would ever use concerning activities I might engage in (though mostly likely never will). Things like knitting and crocheting, bead weaving, gardening, etc. “Helpful hints” on  the other hand, promise to make me a more perfect, well, me. I will lose weight/gain energy/love exercising (yeah, right!)/cook healthier/look gorgeous with just THESE THREE PRODUCTS/have hair like (insert celebrity name here).

Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Wire Wrapped Pendant

Wire wrapped pendant made with sea glass from Amalfi Coast, Italy

Admittedly, I am hooked on these itty bitty snippets of usable information. Maybe it’s because I have an itty bitty attention span? But it’s like email crack to me. I admit to being especially drawn to anything with numbers in the title. “Ten Foods You Should Never Eat”…  “Three New Uses For Cotton Balls”… you know what I mean. Anyway, for all the stuff that I just scan and delete, there occasionally comes along a veritable GEM of a tip/hint that needs to be printed out and shared.

So, starting this week, I will include a tip/hint to pass along and share with one and all. This week’s tip comes from Beading Daily. It’s an e-newsletter from the Interweave people who publish a lot of how-two jewelry, knitting, metalwork, etc books. Gotta love this one if you own any sterling silver jewelry.

EASY WAY TO REMOVE TARNISH FROM STERLING SILVER
1. Choose a plastic or glass (never metal) pan that is deep enough so that when filled with water your tarnished jewelry will be covered.
2. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of the pan.
3. Pour near-boiling water into the pan.
4. Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to the water.
5. Place the tarnished jewelry onto the piece of aluminum.
6. If necessary, add more baking soda to the dish until you see the tarnish coming off your piece. You should get a slight bubbling effect with an odd odor.

Interesting website of the week: You need to be invited to join. (But If they let me in, no problems for anyone else getting in!)

http://seaglasslovers.ning.com/

This site is all about Sea Glass – what it is, color classifications, shapes, locations – where to find it, etc.

I’m digging sea glass right now. Looking forward to searching for some this summer at the beach.

FYI – have a favorite tip/hint you can share? Always looking for some more!

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)

Information Overload…when to say no.

A few things you need to know before we start: ( #1)I have the attention span of a flea. (#2) I am easily amused – but as stated in #1, I constantly need NEWER! BRIGHTER! FUNNIER! MORE AMAZING things to keep me amused. (#3) I am very curious (keep #1 in mind here). (#4) When I do something, I want it done right…or even better than right.

Aegean Sea Blue and Aquamarine Lampwork Pendant with WOW charm $34.

Which leads me to the art and science of making and selling handmade goods. In my case, it’s jewelry. I totally get the “practice makes perfect” thing. I spend countless hours doing and redoing and redoing again to make the piece of jewelry I’m working on different, and better, than the rest. No problem there.

But the marketing/selling aspect of the business? Hmmm. Not doing so well there. Don’t get me wrong – my jewelry sells. And I’m thrilled with the number of repeat customers I get. But in order to really ramp up my marketing efforts, I need to understand and use social media in ways that are totally new to me. There is so much I need to learn. So, I’m doing what a lot of sellers on Etsy and Artfire are doing. I’m clicking and printing and  saving and subscribing to every thing I possibly can that has to do with internet marketing, SEO and the like.

Trouble is, I am spending so much time gathering the info, that I have no time to actually READ and FOLLOW the advice in all those emails, web pages, guides and blogs. Does anyone else have this problem?

Lately, I’ve decided to open and “scan” the material to see if it’s save-worthy. (For example – I now do this with the daily emails from Handmade Spark.). If it’s worth keeping, I will print it out to save for later. If not, it goes out with the trash.

Watercolors - Blue and Teal Lampwork Bead Wire Wrapped Sterling SIlver Bracelet $72

So, that’s it. I’m done. No more.  I am going to stop some of the things I’ve subscribed to that come too often. (Every day? Do I really need to be reading stuff from you every day?) I am NOT going to download anything new until I’ve read/scanned/trashed all the stuff I’ve already downloaded. I am going into voluntary info withdrawal.

Should I approach you and ask for some SEO tips…or some new networking websites…just walk away. We’ll all be better for it.