Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Daughter - Future Artist?

Up until now, this blog has been about my slight obsession with jewellery design. But today I took a break from creating and tackled a more difficult project - weeding through my daughter's drawings and schoolwork from last year. Lauren is 5, and LOVES to draw. She is just like I was at her age. She draws almost every day which means that, between schoolwork and endless drawings from home, every year I end up with a pile that looks like this:

Each year I promise myself that I will go through her drawings throughout the year so I don't have to do this. But it never happens - life gets in the way. So at the start of each school year I sit down on the floor surrounded by my daughter's creations, and go through them one by one. It's a daunting task - not only because there's so many, but because I really find it hard to let any of them go. I am a tosser by nature. I love to be organized, I love the act of organizing, I actually look forward to cleaning out my closets. But since the first day my 18-month old daughter brought home a paper with a small scribble in the center, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of any of her work. I don't think anyone who hasn't been a parent would really understand such an attachment, but the act of taking anything that my daughter made and placing it in a garbage can was really hard for me. Still, the logical side of me said that we would soon need a bigger house if I chose to keep it all.

Well, after an hour or so of contemplation, I got the pile down to this:

This is pretty good; I think I'm getting better at this. Here are a few highlights from my budding artist:

Princesses continue to be a favourite theme, always with long dresses, long hair and long eyelashes.

Sometimes Lauren copies characters from her favourite movies, like this one from Monsters Inc. (the words at the top are, "I C Mom. I C Dad".

Apart from horses, giraffes are still her favourite animal.

Bugs were big for a while. This one looks rather surprised to have letters on her body.

And ladybugs - the perpetual favourite of little girls.

Finally, the ones that are impossible to throw away. There are countless drawings of
three people: a woman, a very tall man and a little girl. Go figure.

I love you too, little artist.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finding My Own Style

When I started on this journey a year ago, I had no idea where it would take me. I wanted to make gemstone jewellery, and that's about the only direction I had. So I set out making anything and everything, with some vague idea about what I wanted my pieces to look like.

Teaching myself to wrap with sterling wire took some time and patience, but was relatively easy. Once I
knew it, I knew it. Photography was a bigger challenge, but again, with lots of practice and a few choice pieces of equipment, this became easier too.

What I didn't expect is the long road I would take to finding my own style. As I said, I was so excited about making jewellery that I just made anything. I used stones and findings that I liked, played around with them until I liked the design, and assembled it. Done, and onto the next piece.

But how was I going to make myself seen in the huge ocean of jewellery sellers? Any given search for "earrings" on etsy alone yields thousands of listings. How would buyers find mine, and if they did, why buy my jewellery over the others?

Developing my personal style evolved over several months. I honestly don't think that it's something one can force, or speed up. My style showed itself slowly, as I looked at the pieces I'd made. I compared the old ones, like the citrine and pink amethyst bracelet above, and the newer pieces, like these blue topaz earrings:

Suddenly I realized that, without intending to, I was developing my own style.

How do I define this style?

- tiny stones
- small organic-shaped pearls
- colourful
- feminine, elegant and delicate
- clusters of stones and pearls
- double and triple strands

What is your style and how did you discover it?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Jewellery Line for Little Girls

So a couple of posts ago I wrote about my struggle over my line of jewellery for little girls. While I pictured myself using lampwork animal beads (too cute!), swarovski crystals, silver-plated chain, the U.S. government said, "Nuh-uh. If you do that, you have to send every item to a lab for testing". Oh.

So anyway, I have since decided to go to Plan B, which is to design birthstone and heirloom jewellery for girls using only sterling silver, genuine gemstones and freshwater pearls. Pricier yes, but exempt from testing. Rather than be an impulse Christmas present from Santa, my jewellery will be more a special birthday gift from Grandma, or a special flower girl gift.

I have just started on this little adventure, and found that it's a lot of fun to design for little girls. After all, they enjoy beautiful, sparkly things as much as grown women do, and can appreciate jewellery just as much. Of course, because I'm focussing on birthstone jewellery, if I make one necklace, I have to make 11 more in all different stones!

Not sure how well they will sell, or if anyone will even look at them. But I'm having fun.

And I'm lucky enough to have a very willing, very beautiful model to show off my new designs:

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's All Coming Together

So today I picked up a very large package from the post office. Recently I ordered from an awesome etsy seller, a whole selection of display items for my jewellery. The order was delivered in about 2 weeks!

It was like Christmas morning when I unwrapped it - almost as much fun as a new gemstone order. I got eight plastic trays, eight dark purple velvet inserts, two long bracelet bars and 100 dark purple jewellery boxes. Everything was even nicer than I had anticipated, especially the velvet inserts. Because my colour scheme is dark purple, I just couldn't resist them.

I just had to lay out some of my pieces to see how they looked . . .

So now I have almost everything I need for my first open house. The iron earring display stand is on it's way, my business cards are designed and will be on order soon, my price tags have arrived and my packaging is complete.

Now on to the guest list!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My etsy shop is (almost) open!

I'm very excited. The other day I received the graphics from Lynda, of ExquisiteExpressions (http://www.exquisiteexpressions.etsy.com/), for my Etsy shop. She surpassed my expectations, and I would therefore recommend her to anyone starting or revamping their shop. I sent her some product photos and some notes on what kind of style and tone I wanted, and she nailed it. The day that I uploaded my banner and avatar to my etsy shop finally made the whole venture seem real. Never mind that I don't have any items listed yet (small detail). Check out my banner:

She captured the elegant, feminine and classy look that I wanted and maintained a custom look by using my earrings. The business card is just as lovely and I can't wait to get them printed:

The other shop that I have (sort of) opened is called MyFirstJewellery and focusses on birthstone and heirloom jewellery for girls. For these graphics I sent her a few photos of my daughter Lauren, taken a couple of years ago. She was spinning around in her fancy dress before we left for a family wedding. I thought these pictures would evoke the spirit of this shop perfectly. Here's what she did with the banner:

And the business card:

Wow. What talent. Paying for graphics was some of the best money I ever spent. After all, I know what I am good at, and it is not graphic design. I see sellers in the etsy forums all the time, asking why they have no sales, what can they do to improve their shops, and when I look, their shops have banners that are obviously made themselves or cut-and-paste banners with no originality. Now, I'm not saying that a banner will make or break your shop, but it IS the first thing that customers see. Why would you not pay the $20, $30 or $40 to have an expert make it right? I'm so glad I did.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Safe for Kids?

So for the last while I have been making cute little necklaces and bracelets for little girls as well as grown-up ones. My plan was to market these on etsy as well, under the name Jigglers (an inside joke between my daughter and I). So here I am, buying up silver-plated chain and charms, really cute lockets, some swarovski crystal and handmade lampwork beads, thinking I have a plan in place. Then I realized that children's items need to be tested for safety. Duh. Didn't know that part! From the etsy forums, which I have a new addiction to, I learned that any item marketed to children and sold to the U.S. must only use tested materials and/or be tested by a lab. Well, I bought these materials from other etsy sellers, who may or may not have intended them for children, so there is no way that they have completed this testing. And for me to send each and every necklace and bracelet to an independent lab for testing is a bit out of my budget, especially when I look to make about $10 profit, if any. (This was going to be more a labour of love than a money-maker for me).

Now, don't get me wrong. I am all for safe products for our children, and would not want to potentially harm anyone. I just see my dream of a cute, colourful little girls' etsy shop sort of blowing away in the wind.

So . . . on to Plan B. Now I am going to shift to sterling jewellery for little girls. No silver plate, no glass beads, no enamel, no Swarovski (which does contain lead). On to "my first jewellery", with only solid sterling and real stones, birthstone jewellery and sterling charm bracelets. (Sterling silver is exempt from this testing and deemed to be safe). Stay tuned for my first designs . . .

As for now, help me say goodbye to my old favourites that *sniff* will never be sold:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Picture-Taking - The Ups and Downs

Let me just say that I am no photographer. I never wanted to BE a photographer. However, when you plan to sell your wares online, excellent pictures are not just nice, they are imperative. My jewellery is going to be mixed in with thousands of other pieces on etsy (why did I have to pick the most saturated category?) and they need to stand out. So often I spend more time behind the camera than I do making jewellery.
I have seen a lot of improvement though, which keeps me motivated. (Look at my early blog posts if you don't believe me!) As soon as I got a light box, hauled out the tripod and the remote, and got to work, my photos started to look so much better. However, it was the addition of a crummy little worklight from Scott's garage that made the most difference. Now I can move it around the jewellery, taking shots at different angles, to see what makes the gems truly sparkle. I hope he knows he's not getting that worklight back.
So above are four shots I took the other day. I'm not sure which I will use; etsy allows five pictures for each listing, but one will be of my packaging, so I have four to choose from. I also will allocate one photo to show the earrings hanging, and one taken directly overhead. That's the other thing I spend an inordinate amount of time doing: sorting, deleting, editing and cropping.
I have a newfound respect for photographers. It is a LOT of work (at least for me), and truly and art form in itself. Now, back to the camera!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fast-forward 7 Months!

I can't believe it's been seven months since I started this blog. When I first wrote, we were looking forward to Christmas - now summer is here and school is (gulp!) almost finished. Of course, having the G8 Summit here right now is forcing a lot of kids, my daughter included, to take a mini-holiday. We watched President Obama fly over us this morning in Marine One - very cool.

So while a lot of time has passed, my dedication (okay, addiction) to making jewellery has not ended. If anything, it has become even stronger. Every spare penny - and let's face it - there are very few pennies these days - is spent on gemstones and findings, and every spare moment is spent in my craft room. If I'm lucky, Lauren will be here with me, drawing and colouring and playing on the computer. If I'm not lucky, she is whining, "Momeeeee! Play with meeeee! from another room. Ah, the joys of working from home.

So my latest creations featured here are Swiss Blue Topaz and Moonstone earrings, and Rhodolite Garnet and Iolite earrings, both in gold vermeil. Because I only wear sterling and white gold, I never thought I would make yellow gold jewellery. But I learned quite quickly that some stones just look so much better with yellow gold: garnet, pink topaz, blue topaz, peridot, citrine - the list goes on. So I do some of each, and will offer to make the same style in the other metal, should my customer request this.
Right now (in fact, at any given moment), my work table is full of half-finished pieces. These pieces are waiting for a clasp, or a link, or a stone, or else they are just lingering there, waiting for me to make a decision. The funny thing about any project, I think, is that sometimes you can put something aside that's not working, only to come back to it a few weeks later and know exactly what to do! It's like your brain needed time to hash it out while you were sleeping.
I wonder if I'll write again before another seven months have passed . . .