Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh, That Tricky, Tricky Ego...

One thing I struggle with sometimes is comparing myself and where I am in my career with my colleagues.  I imagine this is fairly common within all fields, but I think that perhaps those of us who consider ourselves artists take it maybe a little more personally because we have such close personal ties to our work.  When I read something about one of my contemporaries, maybe someone I went to school with, for instance, and they're having a moment of great success, I'm happy for them (really, I am), but I can't help comparing what I'm doing with what they're doing.  I mean, yes, I feel like I have some amazing things going on right now, but I always feel like I should be doing more, especially in my own jewelry and metalwork. 

Last year at this time, I was working feverishly on my portfolio for my grad school application.  I felt mostly good about my work, and felt like I was moving in the right direction. I only applied to one school, VCU, and it was really the reason Mark and I decided to go ahead and move to Richmond.  When I found out I was third on the list when they realized that they only had the funding to bring two new students into the program, I was disappointed to say the least.  But I decided to reapply in a year, and in the meantime work on my portfolio, pursue my jewelry business, and continue working for my friends at NC Black Co. 

Well, here it is, two months from application time again, and I have so many things going on, I haven't had time to work on my portfolio all year.  I have ideas and sketches for some great pieces, but I haven't made them yet.  And I have to ask myself, why is that?  Why are these other pursuits taking precedent over my portfolio work?  Well, the answer is clear, they're just more important to me right now.  A year ago, I felt like I was moving in the right direction, but this year has presented so many other opportunities, from working on my businesses, CopperTide and CopperDog Studio, teaching in workshop settings (teaching was really the main thing that inspired me to go back to school in the first place), both with NC Black and on my own, plus all my work with NC Black Co. outside of teaching.  I feel like now I'm really moving in the right direction, and it's almost as if breaking from all these pursuits to go back school right now would be counter-productive. 

But I was still torn.

I had a conversation with my friend and teaching partner, Chuck Kennington, about all my feelings on the subject, and he said something that really struck me, "Don't let your ego make the decision for you." 

Yes, I felt defeated when I didn't get into grad school last spring, and there is a part of me that wants to prove that I can.  I want the prestige, and I want the respect of my contemporaries.  I sometimes get the feeling I am looked down upon because I don't yet have my MFA.  But really, what does that matter?  It's just a piece of paper, after all.  The other NC Black teaching team, Andrea Kennington and Les Bryant, are proof that it may not matter all that much.  Andrea has her MFA in Metals from ECU (where I got my BFA) and Les is completely self-taught.  He has taken workshops from masters, but has no degree.  And yet they're doing the same job.  Andrea even told me flat out that having her MFA hasn't opened any doors for her.  You go out there and you open those doors yourself.


So after talking with Chuck and Andrea and Mark of course, and lots of thinking and weighing of options, I've made the decision to put grad school on hold indefinitely.  I'm not totally ruling it out as a future possibility, but it basically comes down to the fact that I just don't need an MFA to do what I'm already doing.  So there's that.

So even though I'm happy with my decision and the way things are progressing in my career, it doesn't mean I don't still feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear that this colleague got into a show that I wasn't accepted to, that one got her own solo exhibition, and this one got published in a major industry magazine.  I'm happy for them, and I respect their work and know that they deserve these things.  But dammit, I want it, too!  So I will just have to turn this little streak of green into inspiration to make time, work harder, and get my work out there, recognized, and respected!

Ready??  Go!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Alchemist

I recently read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho for the first time.  I have no idea why I never read it before, but it's something every artist and every person who is trying to persue their personal legend should read.  Both Mark and my dear friend Lindsey recommended it to me, and I'm sooo glad!

Lindsey and I were talking one day about our job and life situations.  She is a friend from art school, a college roommate actually, and a very creative person.  She recently quit her job to go back to school to pursue a dream that she had always had.  I, however, did not quit my job, but was laid off two years ago.  But rather than rush out and take the first crappy McJob I could find (to be fair, even crappy McJobs have been hard to come by the past two years), I began working for my friends (NC Black Co.) in my field, and began pursuing my dream of being a full-time artist and living an artful life.  Sometimes things happen for a reason.  As the book says, "we must be prepared to have patience in difficult times, and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we might not understand how." 
Coelho says that in order to pursue our dreams we must first overcome four obstacles.  First, we are often told from the time we are children that everything we want to do is impossible.  Our dreams become buried in layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt, and can become nearly invisible, but they're still there.  If we can hang on to the dreams and overcome this obstacle, then comes a second: love.  We're afraid we're hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dreams.  But we have to realize that those who love us genuinely wish us well, want us to be happy, and are prepared to accompany us on this journey.  Once we've accepted that love is a stimulus rather than a reason to not move forward, we're up against the third obstacle: the fear of defeat.  This is particularly terrifying because those of us who fight for our dreams suffer much more when it doesn't work out because we can't use the excuse that we must not have wanted it that badly anyway.  But defeats will happen.  It's just part of the game.  As Coelho says, "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times, and to get up eight times."  After overcoming all of these obstacles, there comes the fourth: the fear of actually realizing the dreams we fought for our entire lives.  We actually feel guilty for getting what we want because we see all those around us who have failed to do so, that we feel we don't deserve to get what we want either.  We forget about all the obstacles we overcame, and all the suffering along the way, all the things we had to give up.  This is the most dangerous of all because it has a "saintly aura about it, renouncing joy and conquest."  But we must believe that we are worthy of the things we fought so hard for, and that this is the reason that we are here in this world.

And all of this from the introduction?!?  Love. 

The book itself is actually a novel about a shepard boy who meets an old king who tells him about following his personal legend.  The boy sells his flock and buys a ticket to Africa to begin his pursuit, and soon loses all he has.  He has to stop a few times along the journey for various reasons, and he finally meets the Alchemist, who helps him to see things more clearly.  The boy never gives up, though he is sometimes distracted by all the obstacles of life, but he is always, in some way, in pursuit of his personal legend. 

I love this book.  It is so inspiring to me at this point in my life as I try to figure out the best way to pursue my dreams and be the best person I can be.  When I feel myself getting discouraged or frustrated, I think about the message of this book, and it puts me back on the right track - or at least back in the right frame of mind. 

Seriously, go read it.  Now.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

VisArts Enameling Workshop

Last weekend I taught a Basic Enameling workshop at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.  It was my first workshop there, and I had a great time.  The facility is very nice, fully equipped studio, friendly people, organized administration, fabulous students! 

Mark and I moved to Richmond this past January, and knew basically nothing about the city.  Someone suggested that I look into the Visual Arts Center as a place to work and to meet some interesting people.  I made an appointment last Spring and pitched my proposals for classes and workshops for the Fall session, and came to find out that VisArts was fully equipped for enameling, with four kilns and lots of old enamels, but they had had no one to teach it in years.  Lucky for me!  I proposed two enameling workshops and an etching and enameling class.  I was able to make my Basic Enameling workshop run with only three people, but I don't think my next workshop, Alternative Techniques in Enameling (Nov. 12-13) is going to make this session.  Oh well.  I already have five people signed up for my evening class, Galvanic Etching and Champleve Enameling, starting in a couple weeks (Tuesday evenings, Nov. 15 - Dec. 20, 6-9pm).  So that will be a lot of fun. 

Anyway, back to the Basic Enameling workshop.  Prior to the workshop, I went into the VisArts studio and made colors samples of all the enamels they had to offer.

I made handouts including some basic info and facts about enamels, descriptions and how-to's with the techniques we were covering, and some tips and tricks that just make things a little easier as you're going.  I made samples of all the different techniques we'd be trying, which were surprisingly a lot, given that this was a basic enameling workshop.  And honestly, it was a lot of fun to revisit those techniques that I don't often use.  In my first enameling class, we were presented with a whole lot of basic techniques like this, and then were asked to take this knowledge and make a piece of jewelry.  Well, that's all well and good, but there were so many different things that I wanted to try, I ended up trying to use several on one piece and it came out looking rather muddled.  I remember wishing we had been given some extra time just for making samples of each technique to try them all out and see what we liked before jumping into a piece of jewelry. 

So that's what I asked my students to do.  The first day, I did demos of several basic limoges techniques, and then the students did their own samples.  After lunch, I showed them a few basse-taille techniques, and they were free to make some samples of basse-taille or anything else they wanted to explore.

Since we only had three hours to work on Sunday, their homework assignment that night was to come up with a piece that they wanted to make based on the techniques we had covered.

Greg made a beautiful landscape tile:

Gwen made a gorgeous leaf-shaped pendant:

I thought everyone did a wonderful job, and we all had a lot of fun!  I hope to see them again in future workshops and classes.  Can't wait for my next class. 

Thanks VisArts and students!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blogging Slacker!

My, my, my... what the little blogging slacker I have been!  Here it is, the end of October, and I have not posted all month!  I may have had a few other things going on, though.....  here's a brief (ok, mabe not so brief) summary of my 4 jobs + life:

My main business focus has been CopperDog Studio.  I've been using what I've learned so far in my Marketing course to apply it to getting this business started right.  Unfortunately, I am only 5 lessons deep in a 12 lesson course, but I'm learning.....  I got the website up and running.  For those of you who have been following, we decided to go with Big Cartel as our host, and we have already made more sales than I've ever made from my CopperTide site through Other People's Pixels.  (I think I will switch that one over when review time comes up in a few months.)  So, that's going.  We made samples of each style of tag we offer, and came up with a clever display... on a dog collar!

We sent a similar display with order forms, etc. to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville, NC.  My friend Nicole works there, and is advocating for us.  We hope to have a good relationship set up with them soon, with 10% of the proceeds from sales made through BWAR donated back to them.  We also hope to set up similar sitiuations with other rescue groups.  This display set is going with us to the dog park this weekend to try our hand at person to person sales.  A little marketing tip on placement there.  The people are there, thinking about their dogs, so just place this right in front of them and start a conversation.

So there's all that for CopperDog, plus filling orders, etc.

CopperTide has fallen a little behind while getting CopperDog up and running, but I've made a few items, and I'm applying for holiday shows.  Check.

Job #3 is with NC Black Co.  I have been down to NC a couple times in the last month or so to work with them.  The first trip was supposed to be just a quick one to take photos of their new hammers for their website and for a catalog.

Well, that turned into a weekend trip with my teaching partner, Chuck, to Gatlinburg, TN to deliver tools to the store at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.  And we got to see some of the glory that is Gatlinburg.  Wow.  That place would make me want to vomit if it wasn't for Arrowmont.  But since this amazing craft school is there, it just makes the rest of the insanely weird tourist trap tolerable, and even hilarious.  It was a great time.  I love my job. 

So anyway, I took some photos when we got back to NC.  Edited them, and sent a CD of images to Grobet for their catalog.  Congrats to NC Black on the Grobet parnetship, by the way!  It's so inspiring to see a small company of talented people finding success!  I'm so fortunate to work with them and call them my friends!  I took another trip down to see them mid-month to take more photos for ther new website - this time, photos of the people behind NC Black.

And we spent some time working on plans and samples for a new workshop offered by NC Black, Etched Anticlastic Neckpieces.

Which brings me to Job #4 : Teaching.  Last weekend I taught an enameling workshop at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.  That was a great time with great students.  The workshop will get its own post tomorrow.  But I just wanted to mention it as another thing I have going on these days.  This was the first time I had taught this particular workshop, so planning was involved.  And that includes writing a handout and making samples, among other thing.  But I really enjoyed it, and look forward to teaching more at VisArts.  In fact, I have an evening class in Galvanic Etching and Champleve Enameling coming up, starting November 15, so I guess I better get on the preparations for that!  Plus, I've been writing class proposals and sending them in for Winter/Spring classes at VisArts and Sawtooth School for Visual Art.  Whew!

Sometimes it's hard to get my mind all organized around everything.  Especially when you throw in life stuff.  Mark and the pets and I have a lot of fun (somewhere in there), but there's still shopping, chores, and cooking to be done.  And there's that looming portfolio situation, and a big decision to be made with that.  But I won't get into that right now.  So hopefully it's understandable why I've been such a blogging slacker lately.  I do plan to get back on that.  And start one for just CopperDog Studio.  So I'm off to check things off my lists, add more things to them, and make Halloween cookies.  Nope, I'm not sorry.  There's always time for Halloween.   Cheers!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Websites and the Whatnot

Last week I introduced our new business, CopperDog Studio, to my blog readers and to the world of facebook.  I also put some tags up for sale on etsy.  We have sold two tags on etsy... to a friend, but still, our first sales, so yay!

This week I have been focused on building a proper website.  A friend suggested Big Cartel as a good host for artists as a selling platform, so I tried it out.  They have several levels of involvement: the "gold" level is free, is somewhat customizable, but only lets you have 5 products.  I went with the next level, the "platinum" level, which is $9.99/month and lets you have up to 25 products, "full" customization, and several other better features.  However, the "full" customization is really only for people who know HTML and CSS coding language.  I do not.  In fact, I'll be honest, I had never even heard of CSS until this week.  Now you might think I'm a web dummy.  Yep, I'll admit it.  I took a computer art class in college, and that was only 10 years ago, but CSS was not very widely used if it was even around at all back then, and we just barely touched on HTML after we played with Photoshop and Illustrator for most of the semester.  (I do love me some Photoshop!)  Well, after doing some research, I was able to learn enough to be able to embed a mailing list sign up form directly onto a page of my website, and I considered this a major breakthrough.  However, I have yet to figure out how to do it on facebook.  But speaking of facebook, Big Cartel has a facebook app that allows you to link directly to your store from your facebook fan page.  Major points for BC there.  I'll get to the points thing here in a minute.  I was really frustrated with all this CSS business, knowing that every time I wanted to change something beyond the super basic stuff, I would have to mess with that again.

So I was considering other options.  I use Other People's Pixels to host my CopperTide website, so I'm familiar with their control panel, and it's really user-friendly.  OPP is great as portfolio display site, but not so great with the sales.  They also offer lots of customization options that you don't have to know coding language for.  So I thought I would build a website there, too, and see which one I like better.  They also offer a 14 day free trial (after which, if I decided to keep it, it would cost $16/month or $160/year).  A little more expensive, but I didn't have anything to lose by setting up a trial.  On my end, OPP is much easier to use, but there are also some things I don't like about their set-up.

So I made a list comparing the two:

Big Cartel
- home page = product views
- when you open a product view, there can be up to 3 images for the same product which you scroll through
- product description is displayed in a narrow column that makes it seem incredibly long and tedious - even though it's all important info
- clear about "add to cart" on each product
- you can add as many items to your cart as you like
- allows me to add shipping costs for one piece and then for additional pieces
- weird format for links -they're all tiny over on the right side
- i was able to embed an email list sign up form, but you have to follow a tiny link on the right side to get there
Other People's Pixels   <----- this would change to the above address if I chose to go with this host (this is a free trial)
- no product views on home page, just 1 image of my choice
- when you open a product view (from the nav bar) you only get one image per product
- product description is still a narrow column, but not as narrow; uses a scroll bar on the screen rather than scrolls the whole screen down, so you see the image the whole time
- not so clear on how to "add to cart" (by clicking on the different color price link)
- you can only buy one item at a time
- does not allow me to add  shipping costs, I would have to send the customer a revised paypal invoice
- good nav bar at top of page, clear on what is where
- i was not able to embed an email sign up form, but i was able to add links to do so on both the home page and the contact page

As I had spent hours and hours immersed in website business, I felt like I had lost a little bit of my objectivity, so I asked a few friends with some marketing savvy their opinions from both a marketing standpoint and a customer's viewpoint. All but one said they preferred the Big Cartel site.  Pretty much, I knew BC was the way to go after reviewing my list, but it's always nice to have some feedback.  If this was just a place to display the work, I would probably stick with OPP, but as this is a business and the focus is driving sales, we're going with Big Cartel.  One of my friends even said that from a customer standpoint, everything was clear on the BC site, but he would probably get frustrated and leave the OPP site and buy his tag elsewhere.  Not what you want.  That was just the kind of feedback I needed - thanks, Paul. 

So I have a lot to learn about CSS code, but I would rather have to work more on my end than lose sales because the site is not user-friendly to buyers.  It might not look quite as pretty right now, but the more I can learn about CSS, the more I'll be able to customize it and make it awesome!

I would love to hear your opinion, too!  Check out both sites -

Big Cartel :
Other People's Pixels :

Let me know what you like and what you don't - the more you comment, the more information is out there and can help other people trying to figure out what to do with their websites.
I found another article comparing Big Cartel with Etsy and Storenvy.  I've never used Storenvy, but it might be worth checking out, too - since it's free!

Who do you use to host your site?  Is your focus on sales or display?  Are you happy with your website?

Check back soon for more updates!  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CopperDog Studio

Mark and I have been super busy trying to get everything ready to launch our new business, CopperDog Studio!

The idea for CopperDog came about when we finally realized we couldn't keep ALL the stray buddies we came across, but we still wanted to do something to help out local rescue organizations. As you know, we do have an adopted kitty, Gabardine, and our adopted pup, Buster.   We came across another stray dog a little while ago, and unfortunately we couldn't keep him.  But we met so many kind and helpful people and organizations in the search for a home for Fat Boi (not our name for him), that we were more inspired than ever to get this business going.

We make handmade etched copper dog tags and pet portraits. All of our products are custom made.  10% of proceeds are donated to local rescue organizations in the hopes that we can help more sweet pets find good loving homes!

We're really excited about this, and we're in the initial stages of launching the business.  I'm going to try to do this right, and I may be already jumping the gun.  (I probably am.)  We have business cards and postcards on the way from vistaprint.  Above is the postcard.  I posted our first products, handmade etched copper dog tags on our etsy page yesterday evening, and posted a few pics on the new facebook page!  Please click and "like" us!

I'm still working on my "Marketing for Makers" home study course, and I have already learned a lot.  I know I have a lot more to learn, and I will share things as I go.  But I was excited, and I had to go ahead and share CopperDog Studio with you!

More to come as we get rolling!  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reality Check

I never stop being busy.  With work stuff, with life stuff, with fun stuff, it's always something.  I did take a break last month for a week-long family vacation at Hilton Head Island, SC.  It was fabulous.  The beach is my favorite place ever, and this was a beautiful one.  We were there to watch Hurricane Irene pass by the SC coast before slamming into the Outer Banks of NC and going on to wreak havoc on the Northeast.

This was taken at about 11:30am, about 30 seconds before the torrential downpour.  Gorgeous to be able to watch it come in like that.

This was about 8:00pm when the rain finally let up.  Love it.

Ahhh, the beach.  Ever-inspiring.  For more photos, visit my photostream.

When we got back, we had no cable or internet for a week.  Thanks, Irene.  But we got it easy... poor Vermont.  Even though it did put me waaaaaaay behind, work-wise.  So I have been playing catch-up ever since.  So busy.

So Mark and I are busy launching a new business - you know, one's not enough... - CopperDog Studio.  It gets its own post soon, I promise.  But I figured I better step up my marketing efforts for both businesses.  We have high hopes for CopperDog, so I gotta get on it.  I have posted a few teasers and sneak peeks on my facebook page, but that's about it for public interaction.  My goal is to get it ready for orders this week.  Whew!

Back to the marketing efforts:  I signed up for an e-course called "Marketing for Makers" by Megan Auman, author of Crafting an MBA.  I highly recommend her blog, and I have a feeling I will highly recommend this e-course, too, when I'm done with it.  I just started with Lesson One this morning, and already it's forced me to really look at my current business statistics and to make goals for six months to a year from now.  (Also, Google Analytics is a must-have if you have any sort of online business.  If you don't have it already, go get it, it's free.)  I have a bad habit of just taking in the sales when they come - I keep a record for taxes, etc, but usually the money goes right back into the business.  So I haven't really taken an in-depth look at statistics and averages, etc, until now.  It's very interesting, but a little depressing to be quite honest, when I compare it to how much I would have been making at my old job - which wasn't that great either, but I could live on it comfortably and even build up a little savings.  Which is a goal I have for my craft business, but I do realize that starting any business you usually don't make any money for the first three years or so.  So this course guides you through setting goals for the immediate future as well as the a little further on down the road.  Plus it's not just about setting goals for sales, it's about setting goals for your marketing efforts.  I'm really excited to get this going, and I'll report more as I learn more. 

Now, I'm off to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond to make some enamel samples for some of the workshops I'll be teaching this fall!  They start this coming weekend, Sept. 17-18, so if you know of anyone who would be interested in Micro Raising or Enameling in the Richmond VA, Winston-Salem NC, or Ridgefield CT areas, have them look us up!  They're all going to be super-fun!  Ok, shameless plug, but seriously it would be a great time, and I need more people to sign up so that all the workshops will make, especially these first few! 

Check back soon for more info and to hear about CopperDog Studio for all you puppy-lovers out there!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fall Workshop Schedule

Want to learn more about metalsmithing and enameling techniques? Here are the workshops I'll be teaching this Fall!  Come join us!
NC Black Micro-Raising Workshop (with Chuck Kennington)
Raising is a process for forming sheet metal into vessel form using the metal's natural response to hammering. This workshop focuses on traditional techniques in raising, but on a small scale. Using tools specially designed and fabricated by the NC Black team, students will explore methods for creating miniature vessel forms. These methods can be used to create sculpture and jewelry as well as vessels. Students will focus on samples in copper, and will complete a raised piece by the end of the workshop. This is an excellent workshop for beginners as well as experienced metalsmiths who enjoy learning new techniques.
September 17-18 : Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA
Sept 30 - Oct 2 : Guilded Lynx Jewelry Studio and School, Ridgefield, CT

Basic Enameling Workshop
Enameling is the process of fusing powdered glass to metal at high temperatures in a kiln or using a torch. In this workshop, we will be focusing on the basic techniques of enameling such as sifting and kiln firing, and will use both transparent and opaque enamels. Students will learn additional techniques such as Sgraffito (scratching through enamel) and Basse Taille (using transparent enamels over textured metal.) Students will make several pieces in various shapes and will learn how to set their pieces. This class is perfect for beginners and those who have some metalsmithing experience but are not very familiar with enamels.
October 22-23 : Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA

Alternative Techniques in Enameling Workshop
Enameling is the process of fusing powdered glass to metal at high temperatures. This workshop will focus on alternative and contemporary techniques in enameling. Topics and demonstrations covered will include: torch firing, liquid enamels, controlled over and under firing, inclusions, and alternative setting techniques. A basic understanding of enameling is helpful but not required.
September 24-25 : Sawtooth School for Visual Art, Winston-Salem, NC
November 12-13 : Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA

Galvanic Etching and Champleve Enameling Class
Galvanic etching, or electro-etching, is a process that uses electricity rather than acid to etch copper and sterling silver. Students will learn this technique and several image transfer methods and resists that will be used to create etched blanks for jewelry, such as bracelets, earrings, and pendants, as well as for other uses such as home accents - think drawer pulls or even light switch plates! Students will learn forming techniques for their specific pieces, and then we’ll move into enameling!
Champleve is an enameling technique that involves wet-packing enamel powder into the recesses created by etching the metal. The enamel fills these recesses and leaves the un-etched metal exposed, creating beautiful detailed designs.This workshop is perfect for beginning and intermediate students.
November 15 - December 20, Tuesdays 6-9pm
Visual Arts Center, Richmond, VA

Monday, August 8, 2011

Smashing Melons

Smashing success?  I wouldn't say that....

As I predicted, the Watermelon Festival was not a show for selling art jewlery.  The crowds were good, a pretty significant amount of my target customers: women aged 25-60.  And there were lots of familes, which may have hurt us a little.  The booth right next to us was selling silver jewelry where you could have your child's thumbprint or whatever taken and have it etched into a pendant.  (Good idea, but not my style.  However, we have a idea in the works to appeal to some dog lovers... stay tuned for more about that!)  They had a good deal more business than we did - people out with their kids are far more likely to spend money on something involving their kids than on themselves.  But the owner said that is was definitely not a good show for her either, and she would not be doing it next year.  Neither will we.  The woman selling beaded jewelry on the other side of us said the same.  We were all unimpressed with the lack of organization of the festival, the high booth fees, and the poor sales.  I did make a few sales, but nothing to write home about.  I wanted to at least make back my booth fee.  Not even close. 
It's hard not to take it personally when you're so tied into what you're selling.  Your artwork is a part of you.  Not to mention all the time and money tied up in something like this.  And good lord, it was hot!  I'm not kidding, it was 105 degrees.  It's hard to sit there for hours without making a sale when your fingernails are sweating.  At one point Mark said,  "I feel like I'm about to burst into flames... don't you?"  I said, "No, I feel like I'm going to melt into a puddle.  A puddle of FAILURE!!!"  And laughed.  I try to joke when I'm feeling down, but yeah, it's not a good feeling.  It's disheartening.  I think that's a good word for it.  And disappointing.  And poor Mark, he's just the best husband ever.  What a trooper to sit out there with me all day and support me through all this.  I couldn't do it without him.  Thanks, weets!

We ended up changing our tent arrangement around so people could enter from both sides of the street.

 One side

Mark's framed screens worked great, but the dangly price tags did not. Those had to go, and we quickly made signs about pricing to put in front of our displays.

And I don't really feel like a failure... that was just a joke (mostly).  I am disappointed with the show, but you know, I learned a lot in the whole process of the thing.  And that's what you have to take away from an experience like this.  And it's almost like paying your dues to the art world - you gotta lose some before you can win some.  I'll sell all the jewelry eventually.  And now I have tables and displays and all kinds of stuff to use the next time around - at a better show.  And I did have a lot of people interested, especially in the Reef Jewelry, even if they didn't buy yestreday.  Maybe they'll visit the website and purchase something later.  I also met a guy who was interested in buying some work wholesale for his shop.  So it wasn't a total loss.  Good contacts, possible future customers.  So I'll look at it that way, and move on to the next thing. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Craft Show Check List

It's the day before my first ever craft festival.  And when I say craft festival, I mean the Carytown Watermelon Festival where I will have a craft vendor booth.  I have run the gamut of emotions this past week - from frustrated to excited to regretful to hopeful to exasperated to energetic and back again.  If you read my last post, I was in one of those frustrated and exasperated moods.  It happens.  There's no need to pretend it doesn't.  That's just part of this whole making a living from what you love game.  It gets emotional because you're tied to your work in so many ways.
I finished the main body of work I want to take on Thursday.  Here is my tagging and pricing station in the living room Thurday night.  Yes, I needed some wine to help me out.

So yesterday and today I have been mostly running though my checklist - I based a lot of mine on this one I found online -  and running to the store for a few last minute things I thought of - like printing a nice 8x10 sign for the booth in the style of my business card, getting extra price tags and plastic baggies, etc.

I also made other little signs to place around the booth, an artist bio, my process, and up-coming workshops for this fall. 
Trying to figure out everything you need to take for this sort of thing can be rather daunting if you've never done it before.  I gathered a lot of ideas from various blogs and sites, and compiled a checklist of my own.  Here it is:

- I read somewhere that work should all be a similar style or aesthetic, you want the viewers/customers to get an sense of your style but without overwhelming them with all the different styles you yourself might have.  So I opted to go with my more "flat" lines, ones that don't have much forming involved.  (At a different, more art oriented show, I would probably include a lot of formed pieces, but I don't think this is the crowd for that - for the most part.)

- Work at various price points, all clearly marked and priced. My range is $8 to $80 for this show, and I have over 100 items (hope it's enough to fill the space!), the majority are earrings and pendants.
- Inventory sheet with prices for us to mark when something sells
- Extra price tags and markers
- Extra earwires and chains
- Tools for fixing or changing things to suit customers' needs
- Boxes, bags, and tissue for packaging fragile items

Tent and Displays
- Because I'm on a budget, I borrowed a 10x10 tent from my parents - thanks! - however, it is blue, which is fine according to the requirements for the show, but I hope it won't be too dark.  But rather than invest in a white tent right off the bat, I thought I would give this a try first and make sure I enjoyed doing shows before investing a significant amount in something so specific.
- I bought three 6-foot folding tables, but after setting up the tent last weekend in the yard for a run-through, Mark and I thought three was a little crowded, and it would look better with just two, plus people would have more space to move around.  Also, jewelry is small... filling up three tables was a bit dauting in itself.
- two chairs
- I decided to wait and see about the weather forecast before I tried to figure out tent walls, tie-downs, etc (the festival is on the street), and fortunately, it's supposed to be nice tomorrow.  yay!  But that is something I'll have to figure out by next time.
- Tablecloths, clean and pressed
- Clear acrylic frames for the above mentioned signage, bio, etc.
- Display trays - I am using six 8x14 black plastic gemstone display trays filled with the coarse sand that I use as my background for photographing my work for my website and as the background on my business card and sign.  (See photos above.)  I think that ties it together nicely.
- Grid displays - Mark made me a super-awesome diptych frame and a single frame with 1/4" wire mesh for hanging jewelry. 

- Harware for set-up - hammer, tape, pins, c-clamps, shims for table legs, weights for tent legs

- Copy of state tax ID / seller's permit
- Copy of load-in info sheet from the festival (since there was no acceptance letter) and copy of canceled check for booth fees
- Business cards / postcards
- Company name sign
- Resume
- Artist statement / bio (which will be displayed in an acrylic frame)
- Descriptions of the up-coming workshops I'll be teaching this fall
- Referrals and invitations to other galleries and shows
- If I had it, I would also include info for other craft shows I had done or was going to do - I read that this was great to have for sharing with other crafters
- Inventory sheet / price list
- Special order forms - I'm just using my sales receipt book which has 3 copies, and allows for me to take a deposit (50%)

Sales and Office Supplies
- Cash box with $200 in ones, fives, tens, and change
- Credit card equipment - I just got a Droid phone and several people recommended signing up for Square which plugs into your smart phone's audio jack and lets you swipe credit cards.  They send it to you for free, and you download their free app, and it only charges you 2.75% per swipe.  You link your bank account like you would to paypal, and the money is deposited in your account the next day.  I'm excited to use it, and think it will definitely help in making sales since people don't always carry a lot of cash, but they're always sure to have their plastic!
- Sales receipt book
- Calculator
- Pens / pencils
- Clipboard
- Stapler
- Pins
- Scissors
- Tape

- Cooler with food and drinks
- Paper towels
- Cleaning Supplies
- Change of clothes/shoes
- Extra make-up, deodorant, etc
- Aspirin, etc
- Bug spray
- Sunglasses/sunscreen
- Camera

I think that just about does it.  Good grief, that's a lot to think about!  So I would recommend giving yourself at least one whole day to get all of that together.  I took two, and I'm glad because that means I had time to post this, do a couple little extra things, and relax a little this evening before the big show in the morning. 

So wish me luck, and I'll have an update on how everything went on Monday.  Happy Watermelon Fest!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Seedless Watermelon Head

Wow, I'm feeling really overwhelmed right now.  If you've been following  my blog (admittedly, there haven't been many posts to follow lately) or my facebook page, you know that I signed up for a craft vendor booth at the Carytown Watermelon Festival coming up soon.  Well, "soon" has become 6 days away, and I am now filled with self-doubt and anxiety.  Awesome.  I have been working my ass off trying to get enough jewelry made for this festival, as well as trying to figure out displays and marketing.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  None.
Last fall, I decided I would have a small table set up at the Barbeque Festival in Lexington, NC in conjuction with High Rock Outfitters, an awesome coffee shop/kayak/outdoor adventure shop which sells some of my jewelry.  Well, the festival was a complete bust for me.  I didn't sell a single piece of jewelry.  Apparently, barbeque folk are not art jewelry folk.  I know, big surprise, right?  Fortunately though, I didn't have anything but time (making jewelry, etc) invested in it. 
This festival is a different story in that regard.  I think I may have bitten off a big ol' piece of somethin' I can't chew.  I have been wanting to break into the craft fair / festival scene for a while, and when I found out about the Watermelon Festival, I thought it might be a great opportunity in my own new town, etc.  I applied in April, and when I hadn't heard anything by June, I figured I hadn't been accepted.  No big deal.  By then, I had talked to more people, and had been given some advice about not applying for shows that were really about something else, like music or food or whatever.  Fine.  Well, one day I checked my bank statement and my check for the entry fee had been cashed.  No email or acceptance letter or anything, just a cashed check.  So I had to dig around and find someone to contact, who got back to me a few days later saying that yes, information would be sent soon, but that if my check had been cashed then I was in.  Ok...... So that was my first clue that this might be a little squirrelly.  But I had paid my booth fee, so I was doing it.  And I got to work. 
Now, knowing that this festival was not just a craft show, I thought I better make some lower end pieces because that's probably the crowd that's going to be there.  Hopefully a little more willing to spend some money on jewelry than barbeque folk, but still, it would be mainly impulse buys.  I'm thinking $30 and under will be the majority of sales.  So I have a stockpile of small simple copper earrings in circle and triangle shapes that I will sell for around $10.  I have sets of wine glass charms that will be $12-15.  I have sun-catchers made of copper wire and sea glass for about $20, and I made watermelon enamel jewlery! 

Now, I was a little afraid that making watermelon jewelry specifically for the watermelon festival was a little whorey.  But I actually like them.  I think they're pretty cool.  And they're not way off from my style.  I mean, yes, it's literal, but I don't think it bothers me.  I'm going to try to keep the prices lower, but I did actually spend some time on these, and I don't want to sell myself short either.  Maybe I will offer a  festival discount on these to boost sales.
I'm also taking new disc jewelry - the smaller earrings are $35-40.  And I'm taking some of the new Reef Jewelry line, even though I don't really expect to sell any of those because I think they are probably pretty expensive for this kind of event - $40-80 - but they're eye-catching, and maybe someone will see them and be drawn into the booth or maybe take a business card for and remember them future purchases.
But I have invested not only a lot of time into this, but a sum of money as well.  The booth fee, tables and chairs (I was able to borrow a 10x10 tent from my parents though, so that's good), display items such as trays and sand to fill them as well as table cloths, Mark made me very nice framed screens to hang jewelry on, and other jewelry-related items such as chains and earwires, and whatnot. 
And now it's six days before the show, and I feel like I've made a huge investment in something that will have little return.  I'm just freaking out a little bit because I have no idea what to expect.  I feel like my head is a seedless watermelon.  I'm excited, too, but mostly anxious right now.  I'm sure my moods will fluctuate a lot as all the preparations come to a close this week. 
I'll post a checklist and other prep stuff in a few days, and definitely an update on how the festival goes down.  So check back soon!  And if you're in the Richmond area, please plan to stop by and see us at the festival!  Thans for reading!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Day in the Life

Lately I haven't been very inspired to write blog posts.  Things have a way of getting a little overwhelming when you're trying to figure out how to build a business, market yourself without annoying - or worse, boring - your network contacts, figure out how to get things together for a craft show, and make the work itself.  Much less deal with all the other distractions of life - family issues, travel, psychotic dogs....  yes, Mr. Buster is still insane.  But we love him.
Especially since finding out that I had been accepted to a craft show in August, The Watermelon Festival, I have had to break down my days into a schedule to help me use my time more wisely.  I'm sure I will have to stop sleeping soon, but for now I can get in a little.  But it helps to see it written down in front of you, so you can see where you are wasting time, and where you can be more efficient.  So I thought I would share my daily schedule here:

6am - wake up, feed Gabardine (our sweet 18lb kitty who, after 2 years of calling "her" my pretty pretty princess, we just found out is a boy.  oops.), stagger downstairs and sit with Mark while he eats breakfast, make sure his lunch is packed, etc.

6:30 - take Buster for a good walk (because he is neurotic and will have an absolute fit when Mark leaves for work if I don't distract him in this manner.)

7:00 - have coffee and a bite of breakfast while I try to plan out what needs to get done today, make lists, play the rope game with Buster, try to prevent Buster from eating the things in the recycling bin, remote control, etc; sometimes I go running or otherwise work out, but not as much lately, tsk tsk.

8:00 - shower, get dressed, more coffee, Buster settles down to nap until Mark gets home. (yay!)

8:30 - computer stuff: check email, facebook, blog list, sometimes do a blog posting, marketing research, check etsy, update calendars and dry erase board lists of daily, weekly, and I'll-get-to-them-soon tasks.

10:00 - start on the physical work for the day - this might be making work, photographing work, editing photos, posting new work on etsy and my website, packaging and post office run if I've sold something, dealing with other tasks at hand (for instance, yesterday, it took me 2 1/2 hours to deal with buying a plane ticket to Colorado for the CoMA Conference - I'm traveling with NC Black Co. to work the vendor room doing demos and selling tools. By the way, don't EVER use cheap-o-air to try to buy plane tickets.  Cheap doesn't work if the flights they "offer" don't exist or are already sold out.  I probably could have done this in 30 minutes had I gone straight to orbitz or something.  And it was only like $50 more than the cheap-o place "offered."  Lesson learned.)

12:00 or so - break for lunch (my poptart is long gone at this point)

12:30 - back to whatever I was doing or the next task at hand

5:00 - snack and tv break with Mark

5:30 - check email and web things again, wrap up loose ends

6:15 - take Buster, who is now wild again, to the dog park

7:15 - cook and eat dinner (I love cooking and trying new recipes, so sometimes this runs a little later)

8:00 or so - if I cook, Mark cleans up the kitchen - best.husband.ever!  so I'll check email and do web things one more time, other administrative tasks - for example, last night I did an inventory of all the items I have so far for the up-coming craft show. 

9:00 - time to relax with Mark and the pets (if Buster will settle down and let us chill - a  peanut butter-filled Kong often helps with that - a glass of wine often helps me)

So, yeah, I have pretty full days.  And some days I do have to attend to domestic duties, which I usually throw in pre-lunch.  You know, errands (we gotta have food), chores (the laundry doesn't do itself, nor does the pet hair miraculously vanish off the stairs... too bad.) 

Now personally, I would prefer to get up about 8 and stay up until midnight-2am or so (In college, not once did I ever go to bed before 2am, and often I was in the metals studio until midnight - then we'd go out for a drink or something - ahhhh, college...)  But that just doesn't work these days.  Things have to be adjusted.  But I will say, I do love working for myself.  For the most part, that is.  Sure, it's totally stressful and frustrating at times, there's not much money in it (yet!), and it takes a lot of discipline to keep myself on track and not get caught up in that silly movie that comes on tv when I sit down to have a bite of lunch, or to get distracted in Target or Trader Joe's on errand day and fritter away a few hours. 

But it's worth it. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The new Reef pieces are now in my etsy shop!  Yay!

Annnnnnnnnd... I just found out that I got accepted to have a booth at the Watermelon Festival here in Richmond in August.  Oh my, slight bit of panic there since I had applied back in April and still hadn't heard anything (and technically I still haven't - I just saw that my check had been cashed so I emailed the people and they said nothing had been sent out yet, but yes, if my check went through then I was in) and I had assumed that it was a no-go.  Way to go with that, guys.  She also said it was a new system they were trying this year, and it had some major kinks, so hopefully I can chalk it up to that and hope that the whole thing isn't a disorganized mess.  A friend did tell me, after I had applied for this by the way, that she would highly recommend doing only juried shows, which I will probably agree with.  But as my first outdoor festival, I'll be happy if I make the booth fee and setups costs back.  So here we go.  I have so much to do, and I'm a little overwhelmed right now.  But I will get on a schedule and make it happ'n cap'n! 

I found some info about setting up for festivals which I will share right here:

So let me know if you have any suggestions or resources.  And I will share what I learn in this whole process.  I'm sure it will be crazy.  But hopefully in a good way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sneak Peek

Here's just a li'l sneak peek at something I've got going on - new coral reef inspired enamel jewelry!  Stay tuned for more to come!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Seattle, Just for Fun

I'm always inspired by shapes and colors and things I see around me, so when I'm in a new or interesting place, I generally have my camera in tow.  Now that I've finally gotten most of the business stuff from the SNAG Conference out of the way, I just wanted to post a few fun photos that I took while I was in Seattle.

Seattle in a very cool city with a lot of great things to look at.  I did spend a lot of time at the conference, but I stayed at the home of my friends Ben and Annie (Annie, unfortunately, was out of town that weekend.)  But Ben took me around and showed me some great Seattle sites I might not have seen otherwise.  Thanks, dude!

Here are a few from Pike Place Market (the market of fish-tossing fame).  I was digging the colors inside:


This was in a neat artsy section of town called Ballard:

Love the troll under the bridge!  That is a real VW Bug he's crushing.

This was a lovely rocky beach called Golden Gardens Beach right on the Puget Sound:

And of course, I had to get in a couple Space Needle shots:

All in all, a pretty fine trip!  It's great to be around so many talented people in such a beautiful, inspiring city!

SNAG Conference (Part 3) - Photography Tips & Tricks

As promised (though a mite delayed), here are some photography tips and tricks I gathered at the Professional Development Seminar at the SNAG conference in Seattle this year.  There were several great speakers, so to properly give credit to everyone, I will divide the info into sections by speaker.

Doug Yaple - Photographer
- when doing product photography for art, the artwork itself drives the decision on how to represent the work. (i.e. if you have natural organic inspired work, you may want to photograph it in that sort of setting, displayed on dirt or stones, or hang a necklace over a branch, etc. - this applies to advertising, not photographing work for exhibitions, etc.)
- it is critical to position the work so that it tells the story.  (highlight the most important aspect of the work)
- bring out important textures
- background is very important to showcase the piece
   - it must highlight the piece but not distract from it
   - body forms can work to display jewelry and wearable art
   - creating shadows can emphasize certain elements
- take several shots and explore from different angles (you might be surprised what looks good in a photo vs. what looks normal in person)
- don't overlook getting in tight to access something critical.  (details are great!)

Christopher Conrad - Product Photographer
- work with good light - natural is the best
   - a room with large picture windows is perfect
   - do not mix different kinds of light
   - no flourescent or incandescent lights
- build a softbox for direct light (frame with pvc, cover with thin vellum or ripstop nylon
- always use a tripod
   - this allows for slower shutter speeds and/or smaller apertures (smaller apertures = greater depth of field)
- don't use a high ISO - lower ISO's reduce "noise"
- be optically square to flat geometric objects
- don't fill the frame, crop images later
- for knockouts (isolating images), adding a drop shadow in photoshop adds a ground to the object and eliminates the "floating" look.

Roger Schreiber - Comtemporary Craft Photographer
- ask yourself, "who is your audience?"  this will indicate how you should photograph your work
   - everything that falls within the frame has an effect on the viewer
   - for advertising, use energy in the background
   - for juries, isolate the image
- when you're setting up for photographing work, make sure to allow yourself enough time
   - think about models if you're using them - clothing, hair, make-up
   - make a list of everything you need, props, etc
- think about the photograph even while you're making the piece (if you start the thought process early, you will think about what are the best angles and details, etc. that you want to include in your shots)

Suzanne Ramljak - Editor of Metalsmith Magazine
- make sure you have a shot that establishes your work for what it is
- acknowledge our media-saturated culture - you're in competition with all the other images out there
- remember that reprouctions on the web are never perfect and will look different than the original
   - you have to just accept that and put your best image out there

Marthe Le Van - Editor for Lark Books
- the body is the best surface for photographing jewelry
   - indicates scale and drape
   - gives life to the work - makes it dynamic and dramatic
- traditional American Craft photography has used a gradated background with careful lighting, but now a white background is becoming more and more popular
- Scandinavian images are using and dynamic models, which creates a very striking image
   - this has the effect of presenting the piece as more wearable and more accessible
- remember that on gallery websites and search engines, you often just have one tiny image and your name to grab people's attention and get them to browse through you work.  use something dynamic!
- have a style for all of your photos to follow to make them work together
   - black or white backgrounds tend to grab readers because they make the piece stand out.

So thank you to all of the above artists for all of your great information and tips!  That definitely gives me a lot to think about when photographing my work.  And it points out some mistakes I have been making with lighting, etc, too.  So I hope some readers will find this helpful as well.  Let me know of you have some other tips and tricks!  I'd love to hear from you!  Thanks for reading!