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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!