Friday, November 21, 2008

Newbie Doobie Do ...

I've been wanting to pull a few of these tender gems together since people began asking me about the little three-charm necklace I almost always wear. I made the original back when Thai silver was 50 cents a gram. It's now a whopping 110 cents a gram .. and that's at wholesale pricing! I protested somewhat at the cost (it'd been awhile since I'd purchased Thai silver), considering that the current price for silver was about $4 less than the last time I purchased from these folks almost two years ago. I was unable to confirm the explanation .. something about the Hill Tribe people not getting a break from their Asian silver brokers when the price of silver goes down. Whaddya gonna do?

Anyway .. the little three-charm version on the right of the grouping here is as close as I could come to my original .. I had the other three designs in my Thai drawer from previous purchases. They're all strung on itsy bitsy teeny weeny little pure silver beads .. I mean, put your magnifiers on to string these kinda tiny! And, of course, the charms/pendants are all pure silver as well (well, .996 to .998 - much closer to pure than sterling silver). The only sterling in the whole piece is the little sterling Bali toggle. I tried several other clasps, but this one provided the best overall balance to the piece. Despite their delicate nature, they have a nice heft to them!! Delicate but substantial.

I'm sort of delighted, sort of disappointed to report that this one sold at the first show to which I brought it. I may have to make another one!! I called it Gaia, as it's all pretty much "of the earth"... the two little dotted balls are handmade by me out of metal clay; the two mottled gray and white wheel-shaped beads are granite from a strand of ancient trade beads; the large black item is lava rock; and the red rondelle is coral. I hand wrapped and twisted all those wire segments. I think it was one of the first times I was hesitant to see a piece go. I put a lot of time into this one! A very elegant woman bought it, along with another funky piece, to give to her daughter, who lives in NYC. It was a bit of a consolation to know that it'll be bouncing along on the streets of such a cosmopolitan home.

These are the last three of this design I have left .. they're made of solid sterling using "liquid silver" tubes and intricately handmade Bali beads. They're all about 22" long, but each is comprised of slightly different components. Another really elegant piece with a comforting weightiness. I sold three of them for between $265 and $275 each by just wearing one at a show.

If you're scrolling along on my blog, and not just reading this in an email, you should be able to click on any of the three photos here and see the pieces up close.

Not an awful lot of time left to shop for the holidays, but you can reach me any time between now and a couple days before Christmas if any of these appeal to you (or someone you love (grin). I'm at thewildinside at aol dot com (make sure you put it together in the traditional fashion before clicking the SEND button!).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Embroiled with the Evil Empire

My sincere apologies for the incredible long absence from my blog (long, even for me!) .. besides being crazy busy over the last several months, I had a long and frustrating battle with Verizon over my dial-up connection. Initially, the problem manifested itself with frequent disconnects .. this as long ago as last winter. The course of additional actions on my part throughout winter and early spring included wiping my hard drive and reinstalling EVERYthing all over again (fearing a recent Trojan detection may have been the culprit in my connection's erratic behavior), deciding to forego reinstalling any software that wasn't necessary or regularly used, and installing a new modem in my laptop. After all the frustration and time & money spent, it turns out none of this was necessary. It wasn't until after the new modem was installed that I finally began thinking about the possibility of my connection, because not only did I continue to have problems, but they were getting worse. Sometime in early July, I couldn't connect at all. I wasted countless hours dragging my laptop to the local library (or using my husband's office computer) for credit card sale processing, online banking, ordering, answering emails, etc. Little jewelry was being produced during this period while I tried to just keep up with administrative activities I was normally able to accomplish first thing every morning in my studio.

My adventure with Verizon began in mid-July with the first of many calls to customer repair. Having worked in the telecommunications industry in Albany, it was quickly evident that I knew more than many of these customer service reps., which only added to my frustration, as none of them were willing to concede to my certainty regarding the situation. The one argument I continued to hear was that "Verizon does not guarantee data, only voice transmission" .. and they assumed that would be that. Sorry .. not the case. I'm a bit of a bulldog in that regard. Especially when my business was at stake. I couldn't continue running into town three to four days a week for online-related work .. my inventory was suffering!!

After about eight or nine calls to customer repair .. during several of which I was certain I was gonna bust a vein .. I had managed to create three repair "tickets". None were successfully completed. What should have happened with the first repair ticket was a complete point-to-point test .. from our home to the nearest Central Office. What actually happened on both the first and second repair tickets totally ignored the line from our house to the ready access terminal on a pole in our yard. I had to speak to a supervisor in order to get a technician to test from the Network Interface Device (NID), or the demarcation point, at our home, where the connection to Verizon actually begins. The line from the NID to the ready access terminal in the yard is called the "drop" .. and by plugging my laptop directly into this line and bypassing the house wiring I was able to determine that the problem was most certainly NOT inside wiring, but the drop! On the third ticket, the technician conceded that something indeed was wrong - but also, as an aside, mentioned it'd be too much trouble to repair because the drop is buried. There it was, in a nutshell. Too much trouble to repair!! Not the kind of thing you mention to a bulldog ... especially one who's telecom savvy.

As this third ticket, like the two before it, was closed (accompanied by an automated message delivered to our home phone that the ticket had been closed "successfully") with no chance of a fix, I gave up. As a rural home owner, I thought our only choice was a dial-up connection, but I found an alternative in a wireless modem through AT&T (I'm sorry now I didn't think to go with a Wi-Fi connection, since my laptop supports it). It plugs directly into a USB port in my laptop, and actually allows me to use the laptop anywhere there's a signal. Very cool uptick! After a 30 day trial period, I decided it'd probably be fine and went with it. It's not as fast as a cable connection, but it IS better than dial-up. So perhaps everything happens for a reason : )

Not the end of the story, however. We only occasionally get calls on our home phone .. we both have cell phones; and most people who know me use my cell number. I would say 85% of the land line's use was dial-up connection. So (thank you Carrie and Darryl for the idea - I'm embarrassed I didn't think of it!!), I called AT&T to see about switching my Verizon mobile phone to AT&T service. And as part of the deal we turned our home number into a mobile phone and added it as a second phone to this account ... and disconnected the Verizon land line entirely. As my old friend and Sprint Long Distance partner in crime, Mark Foss, would say, "my heart soared like an eagle" at the thought!! And there's more ... when we received our "final" invoice from Verizon for the land line, they had tacked on a $91 charge for "inside wiring repair visit". I smiled inside, for I knew this one was a battle I could actually win. My first action was to call Verizon customer repair and explain that this charge was unwarranted under the circumstances .. what I got was "inside is inside, the charge applies". I loved it. Onward and upward to the Public Service Commission's site to lodge a formal complaint. This is the pertinent piece in that complaint:

"It is my understanding that the NID belongs to the public switched telephone network provider (Verizon in this instance) .. and the fact that it is located inside rather than outside our home should not be a reason to charge us for an "inside wire repair visit" in order to perform point to point testing, which should have been done during the first open ticket. Third, inside wiring was not the problem; I had disconnected the inside wiring and tried to dial-up direct through the demarc, and still had no success .. and told them so. Additionally, the tech, during the third open ticket at which time he finally came to test at the NID, agreed that something was definitely wrong from the demarc point out. When I suggested the problem was in the drop, between the NID and the nearest Ready Access Terminal out in our yard (and that this cable is buried), he commented that it would be "too much trouble to replace." "

We received a call from a Verizon higher up located in Syracuse the very next day. Ain't life grand? The fee was waived.

And that should have been it, right? Wrong .. there was still Verizon wireless, from whom I received a "final" mobile invoice earlier this week, with a $170 charge for "Early Termination". Well, folks, long before I decided to switch my wireless service from Verizon to AT&T, I called Verizon wireless about some other long, ongoing error I had only just noticed on my wireless invoices and asked in passing when my contract was up. Turns out it had expired back in April and I'd been running on month to month ever since (I probably would have waited to do the switch, otherwise). So .. not only did I get an immediate $86 credit for the "ongoing error" I'd discovered during that initial phone call, but I also just got the $170 waived when I called this week and suggested I knew better with regard to this charge .. didn't even have to go the PSC for that one!! : )

The cost in lost time has been enormous during these last couple of months, but I feel like I've come out on the winning side against the evil empire! And the additional good news is that the signal strength for ATT's network is significantly stronger out here on the Oswegatchie River than Verizon's ever was .. no more dropped calls! Life IS good.

I'll try to get a new piece or two up within the next week or two .. thanks so much for your patience!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gold and Sapphires Revisited

I had purchased a couple new display pieces specifically for photographs, and they just arrived; so I had to give this necklace one more try. They work much better than the black display devices, which seem to suck up all the light and mess up the white balance. I have to admit, the necklace looks a bit better against the white ... but ya still have to get up close to really see this piece. And it's tough to get up close in a shot like this. So .. double click on either pic ... and get up close.

Gold Rain

Here's another one that really needs to be seen close up .. I haven't done a double strand necklace in a looooong time. Don't know what got into me, but I really like the outcome. It's made with pearls and 14k gold filled tube spacers (called "liquid silver" when done in sterling) and ends in a circular filigree box clasp.I have a tendency to favor bracelets and silver when new ideas hit. So I've been pawing through my gold and gold filled materials lookin' for something to trigger the light bulb phenomenon. I'd forgotten I had those tubes .. and gold and pearls always look great together.I spied some smoky topaz briolettes that I might dangle from some 14k gold (read: not gold-filled) chain next .. warm and elegant comes to mind. Gold is like that. Stay tuned.

Studio on the Weir

A denizen of the area stopped to chat with me at the Remington Museum on June 14 during the Festival on the St. Lawrence and upon seeing the address on my business card asked where, exactly, I was "out there". We're about five miles south of Ogdensburg and while still close to the "city" (and I use the term loosely), we are most definitely "out there. So I told him we were the big brown place that could be seen from the bridge over the Oswegatchie River. "The big A-frame", asks the denizen? Well .. yes, but no. Not an A-frame, exactly. So I suggested to Denizen to keep an eye on the URL shown on the card and I'd post a couple photographs of the place from the side (from the bridge it does look like an A-frame). The one below was taken last fall .. from the other side of the river. The one above was from last summer .. that's Cara in the lower right .. keeping the river safe from any Amish daring to float their fishing boats close enough to the shore to trigger her territorial sense. My studio is beneath the deck on the left .. that two-pane horizontal window looks right in on my soldering area. I get a great view of the River year 'round .. which is very nice summer or winter. The door is on the other side. On a dry summer day, I'll open it and get a wonderful breeze .. on a hot, hazy, humid day all I get is rust on my tools. Sad, 'cuz I like the fact that fragrance floats deliciously on the air on days like that .. but when I bought that gallon of Evapo-Rust a year or so ago, it wasn't my intention to empty it. Small concession for such a great location though.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cluster Bangle

And now for something completely different ... well, sorta. It's still a bangle, which I love doing, but a whole lot different, design-wise.

Once again, it was a lampwork bead that got me started. They're perfect for this application because they tend to have larger holes. I loved the colors in this one and was easily able to find several beads to echo the purple and soft blue green shades .. and there's about 8' of fine-gauge wire keeping all those little beads on. I used amethyst, aquamarine and amazonite and popped on one of my logo charms as a signature. There are a LOT of beads in this .. the piece ended up costing out at about $225, but it's definitely a one-of-a-kind piece!

Another funky entry ..

This bracelet echos the bracelet posted a few weeks ago called Gold Coast. As it often happens, someone saw the gold version and asked "do you make one in silver"? Story of my life .. if it'd been this version out there, someone would have inquired about a gold one. But they're fun to make, and it pumps up the inventory volume everytime I follow up on a remark like that .. so here we go.

I call it Sweet Summer Folly .. dunno why. It began with that very cool little round lentil lampwork bead and just moved on from there. The hand faceted purple stone is, of course, amethyst and the glowing pea green round bead is resin .. I just love those resin beads. They really do glow!

I made this one with 18 gauge rather than the 16 gauge I used for the gold version .. it's about the same length as the gold bracelet, but just a tad lighter. The "garage springs" and the eye pins running through the coiled beads use half hard wire, which is a whole lot more springy than the dead soft version I normally use .. the half hard wire makes up for having used a smaller gauge. I'm really liking the coiled wire clasp embellishment. It's been fun coming up with new ways to use those wire skills!

Like snowflakes and fingerprints ..

I got a slow start this spring with the PMC leaves .. I thought the thing to do was to catch 'em as they came out; but it seems leaves (for my purposes, anyway) are just a tad too tender at that stage. The thing that's most important to me besides size and shape is veining. There are a vast array of really interesting looking leaves out there that have absolutely no veining, (at least not protruding veining) and so are useless to me for this purpose. And new spring leaves kinda fall into that category. Just not fully developed enough for the clay. So, I had to wait. And within a very short period of time, the thing that becomes apparent is that a good chunk of your best specimens have been destroyed by critters. Then the hunt begins in earnest! As I found a lot of great samples in August in September last year, I know they're out there. But you do have to search a little harder.

With the exception of the larger birch in the center - which was sent to me via the US postal service on a damp paper towel inside a ziplock baggie as a memento gift from a tree with a sentimental connection to the gift recipient - these leaves all came from the three-acre property where we run Cara leash free. It boasts mostly maples - and in so many varieties I can't even identify the specifics with a good tree book - but has an interesting variety of oak as well. And then there are all the cool little things springing up among the honeysuckle, or popping up right in the middle of an open, grassy area. There's a nice mix and a large enough area to find some attractive little possibilities.

But even with all I have available to me there (not to mention the additional three acres on which our home sets), I now find I'm much more aware of the flora when I find myself in a place where an intriguing variety presents itself. Cara and I accompanied Ed to the Remington Museum Saturday morning while he took care of some minor chores there; and I and found myself looking at the incredible garden at Kid's Place next door with new eyes. All kinds of possibilities .. though with Cara in tow, I didn't have the chance to take a closer look at that time. Perhaps this week when I'm out running errands ..

But, back to the leaves at hand. These were just cut and dried .. nothing else. If you click on the pic, you can see the rough edges. I think I might patinate these, so I may not spend as much time cleaning them up as I normally do. And the slightly darker leaf in the upper left corner is clay .. clay clay, I mean, not metal clay. A local potter gave me a huge hunk of the stuff to play with, and we thought we might collaborate on the leaf thing in a slightly different medium (have I mentioned this before?!?) I also went out and found a LARGE oak leaf and cut out what would end up being a sort of "trinket leaf" rather than something you wear around your neck. A little something to put next to a bathroom or kitchen sink for rings or on your dresser for loose change. But after I'd draped it over a large plastic ball of Cara's to dry .. and got very excited about the possibilities .. I broke off a segment when cleaning it up with a piece of fine sandpaper. I broke off a chunk of that very funky red maple in the lower left corner, too, during the same process ... but I discovered that metal clay repairs much better than clay clay. So .. I have a large hunk of useless dried leaf with nothin' for it but to maybe pulverize it down to powder and make slip with it. Hate to waste it.

I'll make the bails this week .. I have a really cool informal, don't-know-what's-gonna-happen Art Fest at Mare's Wares Pottery on July 1, and I'd like to have them completed by then. If you're actually in the north country and are around on Tuesday, July 1, stop by! She's right on Route 37 in Morristown (you can't possibly miss her big brown sign!!) .. and she's hired a band, a great food vendor, a brand new porta potty (she was very excited that it was not only a new unit, but that it boasts a sink!! .. it's the little things, folks) and there'll be 15 or 20 artisans on board trying to make a living and having a ball in the process. In case you're wondering, it's Canada Day. And we get a lot of Canadian traffic up here on the border with our northern neighbors. Plus, a lot of folks with homes along the St. Lawrence River take that week off for the July 4th holiday and come up early. If the weather cooperates, I think we're gonna have a major event on our hands! Come on up!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gold and Sapphires

While I feel I've definitely improved on the photography front, there are still occasions when I find myself stumped. Recording an image of this stunning piece seems to be one of those occasions. I thought of using the elegant black plastic hand once again, but the piece is so delicate, it just barely shows up as being part of the picture .. at least not without an extreme close-up. The other issue - once again - is sparkle .. or rather lack thereof. It's been a humbling adventure, this photography thing .. I have a lot of respect for those who do it well.

I'll try this one with the hand and see how it goes .. I probably should have just tried it while the tripod and camera were all set up, but I tend to get ... impatient. It's the Type A thing ... or maybe it's just ADD.

Anyway, I tried a couple different things here .. mostly so the piece could be seen in its entirety .. one shot on the clear support above and another on the milky white one below (I really need to get a black background before I can use the black surface successfully, otherwise everything reflects back onto the black surface. If you go back to early shots last year, I did take a few photos with it using natural light from a shop window).

I can't even begin to express my frustration at my inability to show this for the delicate but exquisite piece it is .. especially since it was so long in the making. I had purchased these lovely little 2.5mm faceted sapphire rondelles back in 2003 or 2004, just because I couldn't resist their sparkle - and because I had been slowly adding a strand or two of precious gemstones to my inventory at every wholesale show or two I was attending back then, and these were a great find. However, after purchasing them, I couldn't for the life of me think of a way to use them that would set them off. It would have been unthinkable to just string 'em up on wire and add a clasp .. just too darn boring for such beautiful little stones. So, I broke up these little segments with 14k gold chain .. and if you click on the photo, you can see tiny little 14k gold granulated spacers at either end of the stone segments. The clasp is unusual, too .. it's called a pelican clasp. This one is 18k, but I only just found a place where I can get them in 14k in three sizes (they're hard to find). If you clicked on the photo to enlarge it, you'd also see two tiny little 22k gold stardust beads on the ends of the chain where the clasp is attached.

There's a thread going on my favorite jewelry forum on photography, and one woman eschewed all the expensive lighting, light cubes, light clouds, etc. for natural light out on her deck. She just places the piece on rice or coffee beans to set it off, and actually comes up with some pretty nice photos. I'm afraid this piece would get lost between the grains or beans .. but it has set me to thinking ... stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Viking Knit meets Glass Blower

I've finally found a way to distinquish my fine silver Viking Knit necklaces from the sterling versions .. hand blown glass cones!

I had seen some glass cones in one of the many jewelry magazines that arrive in my mailbox occasionally and got very excited .. until I visited the web site and saw how much they wanted for them. Egads!!! A pair of them were significantly more than a pair of intricate Bali silver cones (more than three times the cost) .. the site offered a 20% wholesale discount, but the cost remained exorbitant.

Still .. even though they were a little roughly hewn, the thought stuck with me.

So I got the bright idea of contacting a local glass blower .. we finally connected in February and clicked immediately. I ended up spending much more time there that afternoon than I had planned - not only picking out some bright spring glass colors once he decided he could and would make them for me, but finding a wealth of little artistic commonalities which ended in his inviting me to come and make use of his studio any time in my enduring quest to learn how to make glass beads and pendants.

I picked up eleven pretty and colorful pairs of them in April and have only just gotten around to attaching them to a fine silver weave I initially brought along with me back in February to show him what the larger end diameter needed to be. I'm really pleased with the end results (so to speak) .. not only are they superior to the versions I'd seen in the magazine, but (while still more than a pair of sterling silver cones) they were also a lot closer to wholesale in price.

Here are the rest of them .. patiently awaiting their own fine silver weave to embellish. I have some ideas for necklaces that use only a partial segment of Viking knit .. the rest being chain or beads. In that way, the cone colors may be used to complement another segment of the necklace .. like rose quartz, lapis, amethest, opal, or any number of other shades. And I'm already thinking about the possibilities of warm, Autumn glass colors and 14k gold-filled wire for
the fall!!


This is a repeat of a piece I made about seven or eight years ago .. except this time I made the clasp, too. The piece from which it is derived is just a tad darker with shades of garnet and jet included -but basically they both shimmer in shades of blue and lavender crystals. And, per usual, the picture doesn't do it justice. Even my little "sparkler" light couldn't make the thing pop the way it does live and in person. Trust me .. it sparkles!

What prompted me to make it were the inquiries whenever I wore mine. I had made multiple versions five or six years ago in different shade families (once when I found some 5mm vermeil granulated spacer beads, I even made a stunning version in Autumn shades with a gold-filled clasp), and they all sold very well. But .. well, we move on, don't we. Being the curious Type A, over achieving, anal-retentive, perfectionist that I am, it's difficult not to be lured into learning new skills and processes .. and then working hard at making them my own. And with so many wonderful artisans out there willing to teach them to you, how can you resist?!?!

Though, having said that, returning to a comfy design or skill set is kinda like finding a favorite pair of old jeans at the bottom of your drawer or closet .. you'd forgotten they were even there and how good they feel when worn.

And sometimes when revisiting an old, comfortable skill set, you may find yourself so relaxed in the steps and motions you find your mind is able to let go of the task at hand and feel around at the outer edges .. and it often happens that this is when the lightbulb comes on over your head.

Due to the whole thyroid thing this winter, I was feeling a big "squished" creatively, and so reverted to some old skill sets and designs to allow some relaxed creativity to emerge. As it happens, it seems to have worked! Yay!! This little creative rush I've been experiencing, combined with a recent increase in Synthyroid, has helped tremendously. Having fun again .. ideas are beginning to flow .. now I just gotta keep up with 'em!

This bracelet, called Pizzazz, is another old friend. A gallery owner in Lowville (one of my Adirondack Artisans Guild homies) had requested a couple of these when she saw one I had left in inventory. I made a couple for my display there, then dug through my Bali bead collection and made a couple more. The intricacy of these beads never fails to astound me .. and they make for a really unusual piece.

If you're reading this on my blog rather than in an email "post update", click on the pic and check 'em out up close .. all those little dots and wires are added one at a time. The process of adding all those little dots is called granulation, and I've tried it .. it ain't easy. One .. dot .. at .. a .. time!! I'd have to shoot myself after a few hours of doing that .. and the silver artisans in Bali, Turkey and Thailand who do this kind of work do it all day, every day. Well .. practice really does make perfect! With silver at inflated levels, these aren't the cheap thrill they once were, so I haven't yet tried a necklace .. though it's been in the back of my mind, so watch out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Redux Deja Vu

I first fell in love with glass beads when I saw pounds of colorful David Christiansen cane glass at a wholesale bead show years ago. From there it progressed to ancient glass trade beads to more recent handcrafted lampwork glass beads and pendants made by artisans with skills I cannot even begin to comprehend. The cane glass craze came and went .. though I still have several pounds left over from major wholesale purchases. Occasionally I'll use them to make a piece for a friend, or a friend's daughter, or to donate to some local cause; but I'd all but forgotten about them until I came across them by accident while looking for something or other in the shop (sometimes a frustrating hunt turns into a delight of lost treasures). Almost all of the past designs I created with them included sterling beads and clasps; but when I found the black cylindrical cane glass beads above laced with dichroic gold, they screamed for a black and gold version. I could only find six of them, so I used two for matching earrings. The round, faceted beads are onyx (though the smaller black beads on either side of the cane beads nearest the clasp are tourmaline); the two donut-shaped items are simple dichroic lampwork glass with a clear casing; the crystals are Dorado (a pretty taupe with a gold coating); gold-filled and vermeil beads make up the balance. I call it Caravan ... as in Middle Ages, Crusades, gold, incense, Damascus swords, assassins, camels, tents and precious jewels. Evocative.

I originally made this as a three-piece set in sterling .. the necklace included a lot more soft and subtle colors (gray pearl, rose quartz, blue quartz and more creamy pearls), there were two or three different matching bracelets and about four or five different earrings. I sold the last several pieces to a jewelry store up here last November and just decided to try it in gold. The granulated star spacers are vermeil (which is 24K gold over sterling .. at least these are), the wire and jump rings are 14K gold-filled as is the clasp. These are fun to make and .. as I'd made a few wrist-wrenching wire wrapped designs lately .. they also give my wrists a break

I seem to have a gold theme going on here .. so let's continue. The bracelet below was also originally a sterling design called Sparkle. I made them in Tahitian, light green, bronze, chocolate and peach (with matching tones of Swarovski pearls and crystals).

THIS version came about because my husband and I were both going to be gone on May 10 - he was actually away from the 8th through the 11th on a Museum-related trip, and I was doing an Artisan Home Studio Tour (as a guest) with my Adirondack Artisans Guild about 90 minutes south of here. As a result, the dog was going to be alone for about 15 hours - the longest she'd ever been without us before. Fortunately, we have some friends who adore her, and she them .. so they picked her up that morning at 5 AM and I left at 6 AM .. not to see her again until they dropped her very happy self off again at 8 PM that evening. It was a long day .. for both of us. She'd already been missing my husband for two days; and our friends said she just shook and shivered for the first several hours they had her .. poor girl. But she had her favorite fleece bed, some toys, a few treats and a large marrow bone (i.e. all day sucker) .. which helped. The next day (May 11) I made this bracelet as a thank you for the Mrs. and some Chocolate Raspberry Nut bars for the Mr. and delivered them both on Monday. She loved the bracelet, and I was so taken by how good it had turned out, I made a second one that afternoon, and then a third with bronze pearls in place of the cream rose pearls used in the first and second versions. The first name that came to mind was Opulence.

By the way, I was at a little artisan gathering just outside of Canton on the 17th along with seven other women, two of whom had brought along their own glass bead making paraphernalia so that the rest of us could learn how to make them. We all brought food and spent the day firing up some little MAPP gas tanks and suspending colorful glass rods in front of the flames, rolling, tamping, adding color, and basically having a helluva time.

But the reason I bring up the day is because I met a young woman there who teaches ... elementary math practices (or something like that) at SUNY Potsdam .. but who also makes and sells jewelry on the side. She's totally lost in the magic that is Swarovski and her mention of it triggered a Swarovski conversation in which one of the two women who brought some of her glass making goodies along for the day mentioned to us how she first learned the proper pronunciation of Swarovski. I have to say, I've never had a problem with it, but I've encountered plenty of people who just stumble over their tongues trying to get it out; so I was delighted with this little anecdote I could pass on .. which came from a Swarovski dealer/shop this woman came upon in her travels .. when pronounced correctly, it sounds like "Swore off Ski". Sparklin' crystal snow, ski .. Swarovski! Great little mnemonic device, don't cha think? I can't wait for the first opportunity to pass it on!! Can't help it, sometimes it's the silly little things that tickle me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A tangled web

If anyone has actually popped out here regularly, you will have noticed the little blue "Welcome" note off to the right .. slowly evolving as I began and then became embroiled in the process of developing a website. I actually started in earnest last year around this time by talking to the graphic designer who helped me design my logo, stationery, note cards, etc. For the purpose of design consistency, it made sense that she'd be the best choice to incorporate into my web the same look used for my business cards and other printed materials. I was right .. she did a great job. With only a few changes, this is the look my home page will have.

The next part is where it gets kinda tricky. The design segment was emailed to the folks who will be doing all the coding to make it work .. a couple months ago (though I've already been using since August the credit card merchant that will be incorporated into my online shopping cart). Haven't heard a peep outta them since the graphic designer alerted me that she'd sent it. 'Course, I could step up and give 'em a shout, which I may do soon, but then that means I'm on the radar. A good thing, until I have to come up with the funds for the work to begin .. and there's the rub. So I'm taking it slow and biding my time .. hoping the state of the economy doesn't preclude good attendance at shows this season or from people reaching deep down into their wallets for the more time-consuming, high-end pieces.

And then there are those things for which I will be held responsible, and without which the web will be unable to go live .. little things like photographs and text. No small feat. So .. I've once again changed the blue text over on the right to reflect my personal reality. There is little chance I'll be able to (1) decide which pieces get to go up (2) photograph them all if I haven't already (3) create the descriptions and all the extra boxes if alternatives within a piece are available (4) create the text for the About Me, Customer Service, and other necessary pages just off the cuff - even if the completed web were presented to me tomorrow. For your typical Type A personality, this stuff takes time! It needs to percolate. I should be working on it now, but then who would make all the jewelry?!? It's times like this that some really cool Star Trek type cloning machine would come in handy. I've mentioned this need before, haven't I?

Alas, there is no such machine and only so many hours in the day. I know from watching the process when my husband went through it for the new Frederic Remington Art Museum web site over a year and a half ago .. there's a lotta back n forth communication - is this right, can we do it this way instead, please change this and, oh, is it possible to ...... etc, etc, etc. And since it's your livelihood, you want it to be right. I'm thinkin' the time for all that has passed this year, and it won't come around again until after the show season has ended around Christmas time. I'm hoping my thyroid hormone levels will have been under control for a while by then and I won't feel an overwhelming need to sleep the winter months away as I did this winter. Funny how a single little body part can have such a stunning affect on one's life .. then again, I guess there are other more troublesome body parts than one's thyroid. And I guess that's 'nuff said!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Catchin' Up, Part II

These are two remaining leaves of the four I posted November 24 before I'd fired them .. I'll almost be sorry to sell them (almost) as I've been wearing them all winter. But soon (very soon, I hope!!) it'll be time to harvest some new leaves!! My friend Mary Ann Evans and I are going to collaborate on some ceramic leaves this year, too (at least that's the plan). Mare is a potter, and I'd point you to her website if she had one, but she's too busy makin' stuff to bother; and as she's got an awesome studio/living quarters right on the highway up here, she's got maximum visibility, so is probably doin' just fine without one. She'll supply the clay, I'll make the leaves, she'll apply glaze(s) and fire them, I'll finish them with leather cord or rattail .. or sterling. Who knows. Sometimes you just have to wait to see where the piece leads ya. Can't wait!

This was made by request for a customer who had originally provided her own beads from a bracelet that had belonged to her mother. She'd seen one of my herringbone weave bracelets and wondered if I could make one with her beads .. she thought they were lapis. Turns out they were a pretty cool glass imitation. So I gave her a couple choices, as her beads were only about 7mm or 7.5mm - kinda small for this weave: I could make a very delicate version with her beads - there were 15 of them, so plenty for the task, or I could find some lapis in an 8mm bead and make the bracelet out of those. She chose the latter, and I found some "denim lapis" (a lighter version) and whipped it up in time to deliver it to her at a March 29 pearl knotting class of mine she was attending. Though there was some sentimental value to her beads, she really just wanted something to wear with blue jeans .. and she's still got the beads if she decides to do something else with them.

This is another version of "Pearls with Attitude", which have become very popular. All the charm, charisma and class of pearls ... with a little Ooooomph! (And you can always wear the clasp in the back if you want). These were freshly knotted just before I took the photo, which explains why they're a little hinky on the left side. I don't use a jig for those clasps, so every one is a little different. This one is attached to a strand of Oceanic Blue Pearls .. if you're reading this on the blog and not in an email, you can click the pic to see them up close. They're a gorgeous color .. and I think this is the last strand of them I have (I'd buy another dozen if they were still available).

This little gem is yet another type of bangle, this one uses Swarovski cream rose pearls for an incredibly elegant look! I was amazed when it was completed. I immediately went hunting for other beads that size to see if I could make one with stones ... it took about 120 of the little buggers, so it would tend to be a bit more pricey if made with peridot, smokey quartz, turquoise or some other spectacularly colored bead. But I may have to try one or two, just to see. In the interim, I may make another one with pearls .. this one fits me perfectly, which means it won't fit about half the population of jewelry buyers. It looks so good on gold, I may even do gold again!

I'm still waiting for the return of my The Wild Inside stamp, which I sent back to the company who made it for a replacement. For some reason the bottoms of the letters T H and E were deteriorating, and the W in Wild was beginning to disappear as well, so that all my tags were starting to look like I wasn't hitting the stamp hard enough to make an impression. They couldn't figure it out, so I've got a new one on its way. I've got a pile of new stuff waiting for jewelry tags, including this piece.

We interrupt this program ..

Yes, I have a few more jewelry images to post, but I wanted to point you to a relatively new site .. not a whole lot going on there, but the concept is one dear to my heart:

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

Click on the "Why Buy Handmade" link on the right of their home page for more information and a ton of great links.

OK, I'm done here.

Catchin' Up

It's been awhile, I know. Sorry for the extraordinary gap, but between thyroidal madness and some bugs that snuck into my laptop, it's been difficult to get out here. Got a few new posts for you though, so here we go ..

First and foremost, I must tell you that at the end of February, the woman for whom I'd repaired a bracelet (see The Dark Side of a Sole-Proprietorship) came through with a check! On one hand ya could've blown me over with a whisper when it arrived, I was so surprised; on the other hand, it confirmed my belief that she just finally got around to sittin' down, writing the check and dropping it in the mail. It made me feel a whole lot better .. especially since I've had a couple of additional opportunities since then to send a package prior to receiving payment for it. I'm still inclined to believe Bruce Baker may be right to trust in people that way.

OK .. new jewelry .. sorta. This is a turquoise version of the olive caged and coiled bracelet I included here a few posts down. They're real eye-catchers. I still plan on making some additional colors, but it's creatively refreshing to break away to something else ... in between.

And here's a little bit of the "in between" .. three more fibulas. I apologize for the slightly out of focus images, but I took about 15 shots of each of the three and still couldn't get a clear, crisp photograph. I think I may have just been away from the camera a bit too long!

This one, which I call Gold Coast (the name just bubbled up from inside my cranium .. no idea where it came from), is downright opulent!! I got a little wild with the clasp this time and added that fancy wire wrap to spice it up a bit. The lentil and donut shaped beads are handmade lampwork glass, the pale brown nugget is smokey quartz. I call those three large connectors "garage door springs" . This picture doesn't give you a straight on perspective so you can see the "spring" aspect, but trust me, they look just like industrial springs. And they're pretty darn sturdy. I've previously used them as a base for bulky (i.e. heavy) charm bracelets, where they can't really be seen very well because they're smothered in beads. This is the first time I've used 'em right out there in the open. This version is a little bit too big for me and would probably fit a 6.25" to 6.75" wrist. I'm thinking of doing another with a lighter gauge wire. Oh, and there are earrings to match the lentil bead (which is about 15mm round) .. they're very light weight.

I've got more, but as my internet connection is dial-up, I'm sensitive to others in the same situation .. and for those who have subscribed to receive new posts via email, I know how long it takes for all those images to load. So I'll include the rest in another post.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Winter's Tale

With the days getting just a tad longer - interior lights aren't needed now until almost 5:45 pm - my mojo seems to be slowly returning. I had little energy or motivation to do much of anything in January .. oh, except shovel snow, of which there has been much! We had another north country dump earlier in the week; and for one of the first years in memory, we have some serious snow banks. Romping with the dog in her usual three-acre "dog park" is an adventure in deep snow .. we both get twice the workout slogging through it. I'm still debating whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

One definite good thing about the return of the light is the corresponding return of my need to create .. and I've been spending time in the studio again. I actually had full-spectrum lights installed back when we were making the decision about such things; but they were my choice for their ability to reveal true colors rather than for anything having to do with counteracting Seasonal Affective Disorder. And I'm not sure they really have much affect on that malady, anyway. Though I will admit, the longer I'm down there working, the more I want to stay!

I had been looking for some time for the beads I used in this bracelet .. and back in November found and purchased multiple strands in multiple colors. It was orange for which I had been searching, but snagged olive, emerald, purple, turquoise, peacock and a soft, subtle washed out gray. They remind me a bit of crysophrase or chalcedony. Though not nearly the same value as those beautiful stones, the beads nonetheless seem to be illuminated from within. Real eyecatching.

When I was first learning how to create this piece, I used lava rocks - black, pitted and full of personality - and called it Ancient Civilizations. It was a substantial piece. This time I scaled it down and softened the effect .. I used a lighter gauge wire for the caged beads and as the core in the coiled wire beads. It's much lighter, both in appearance and weight, as a result. I've learned to take notes when doing this sort of piece, so when I want to repeat the design, I don't have to try to remember what length I cut various pieces to make it all work with as little waste as possible. This made it so much easier to begin this time .. I just had to find my notes!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Dark Side of a Sole-Proprietorship

It was an interesting year, 2007. No doubt you all have your own highlights .. events or even small incidences that come to mind immediately for the joy or pain or surprise and delight they caused. While I had many positive memories in 2007, one thing that I and many of my artisan friends recognized was an overall slow down during the year .. smaller crowds at shows, more frugal buying habits .. things that alert us, without a doubt, to an economic downturn.

Perhaps it was because of this economic decline that I had a couple of unique experiences that highlight 2007 for me with a big red flag. I had my first ever theft at a show. It just boggled my mind at the time .. it still does. I saw the movement of the hand into a shopping bag. Due to things immediately preceding this action, I knew without a doubt what had just happened; but I didn't actually see the earrings plucked from the rack and popped into the bag - I only saw the tail end of the movement. It was only after the customer (and I use the term loosely) left my booth that I was able to confirm my suspicion. The earrings were gone. I was absolutely certain that this person had snagged them, but much like with the O.J. jury, there was reasonable doubt. I couldn't approach her for fear of embarrassing us both. And I had never encountered such a thing before, so I was frozen with indecision. I was a mess for the rest of the show, fearful that another similar incident might occur at any moment. This feeling was worse than the actual loss of a trifle.

Another relatively unpleasant situation involved having to become "collector" for monies owed. Again, a brand spankin' new ordeal for me. Anyone who has ever been owed money knows how uncomfortable it is to have to request payment for some object, service rendered, loan or whatever .. one would hope that a sense of obligation to pay would be enough. But when it isn't, what do you do??? Well, the "big league" sends out Over Due notices once, twice, maybe a final third time ... and with continued lack of response, it gets turned over to a credit agency, and they get to do the dirty work. Not being anywhere near the big league, my first choice was to print out the original invoices and include a little printed note at the bottom: "Did you forget ..... to remember?", along with a friendly little piece of clip art. I'm not into high pressure. Besides, people forget. I forget. Been there, done that. I didn't want to be nasty, I just wanted to be paid.

When that didn't elicit a response from either of the two parties to whom these reminders went, my second choice was a phone call. One of the two reminders went to one of my larger wholesale customers for a good chunk of jewelry they purchased in early December for the holiday season. It took two phone calls and a couple of days to elicit payment. This was the big one .. this was the check I needed to be able to order supplies not only for three pearl knotting classes I'm teaching this year but also for supplies necessary to re-create some popular designs that several other of my wholesale accounts have been requesting. It was an incredible relief when the check arrived. I fear many of these folks fail to understand that THIS is what I do .. if I'm not selling jewelry, I don't make money. I don't have a full time job on the side. There is no paycheck waiting for me at the end of the week. That invoice IS my paycheck. This is my job ... sell, sell, sell. That's the only way my business account goes from red to black.

And this brings me to defaulter number two - no less distressing for being a vastly smaller amount. A customer (again used loosely) by virtue of owning a bracelet of mine given to her as a gift. As it happens, the bracelet was purchased from one of my other wholesale customers in Clayton, NY. I can't remember how she got my business number, but she called and related a tale of woe - the bracelet had sentimental value as it was given to her by her sister. Plus, she just loved the bracelet. I don't normally do repairs, but I'll always take in one of my own .. and I have done restringing contract work for local jewelry stores. She said she wasn't sure if there were missing pieces, but when she described the bracelet, I knew exactly which it was (a special edition bracelet called "1000 Islands Sunset" made exclusively for this wholesale customer), and was certain I could replace anything that was missing .. so I told her to send it me. She even relayed this piece of information to me via email, which strengthens the sentimental value of her sister having seen the name of the piece and buying it for her:

"Thanks for all the info. My older sister .... came across the bracelet. My grandparents have had a cottage ... on Wellesley Island since the 1950's. The story goes you can spend all weekend in the islands but there are no sunsets until Sunday when the majority of people go home for the work week. So after a few years my family decided to make our plans to stay over for Monday morning so we can watch the sunsets. ... I really do appreciate getting it done so fast. Thank you. I have passed on your website to a few .. here ... and will definitely keep you in mind. Have a Wonderful Holiday! Thanks again, [customer]"

And I DID turn it around fast. In the midst of holiday craziness, both with my business and at the museum with my husband, I set out in order and cleaned every single piece of glass, crystal and sterling silver on the piece, restrung it, and sent it back within a day or two. I replaced a headpin (as well as a couple pieces I neglected to add on the invoice) .. and, my bad, I added one of my "the wild inside" jewelry tags at no charge, but neglected to put it on a separate line with n/c .. so perhaps that annoyed her, I don't know. But I did call her with the intention of finding out if there was something about the returned bracelet or my invoice that displeased her (the total invoice was for less than $20 .. I even charged her my wholesale price for restringing the bracelet!). That was my feeling .. I must have done something wrong, else, why would she withhold payment .. especially after I alerted her the day I sent it out and got this reply:

"Thanks so much for getting the bracelet completed so quickly. I will put a check in the mail for you today. I love the bracelet. It is a sentimental gift from my sister. I used to wear it everyday but I think now I will wear it to work. Any suggestions for cleaning it without harming the wire? Thanks again, [customer]"

But the fourth nasty truth hit me right smack in the ears when I called her .. she said she'd mailed the check two days ago. Yep, the check was in the mail, folks. Despite what turned out to be an ... untruth .. I still wasn't prepared to believe it and waited a couple more days before reality finally struck, thinking that perhaps she'd quickly mail a check out the day I called. Nada, zip, nyet. I would have been fine with a complaint about the misunderstanding regarding the addition of the jewelry tag, perhaps the newly strung piece was now a bit too tight ... whatever. Tell me the truth, and I'll fix the problem. Bruce Baker, a hero to those of us who need a little help out there in craft show land, tells us to trust our customers ... he assures us that to do little things like sending out their purchase before it's been paid for creates trust in you, sends a little arrow of warmth to the customer that strengthens the relationship. I guess I need to drop a note to Bruce and ask, "OK, what now???"

So, dear readers .. I am more disappointed than you can imagine. I thought of calling her again this weekend; but that would have been an uncomfortable confrontation for us both. But, of course, I will be forever hesitant to trust an unfamiliar customer again because of this. As a small, sole-proprietor type business, I'm angry, hurt, amazed and resigned all at once. I know I should just shrug it off, but "anxiety R us" .. I just can't help letting it hang there.

Even after all this, a little spot in the back of my brain still insists it's an oversight .. that this woman's life is so jam packed there's just no time for the task of writing a check, addressing an envelope, putting a stamp on it and dropping it in a mailbox.

If any one has any ideas or suggestions, for this or future similar situations, I'm all ears.