Oct 232010

If you’ve been making jewelry for any length of time, you’ve probably thought about selling it.  There are a lot of different ways to make your hobby pay for itself (or develop your hobby into a full-time business!), including consigning your work in a gift shop, boutique or beauty salon.  Here are a few tips that I’ve found have helped me when I’ve decided to consign work.

Agree with the shop owner on what the consignment fee will be BEFORE leaving your work in the shop.  Most places I have worked with charge a percentage when a piece sells, but some will ask for a flat monthly fee or other arrangement.

Make a list (inventory) of the pieces you are consigning.  A couple of easy ways to do this are handwritten lists, a list on your computer (Excel or Word work well for software), or even a photo of the pieces being consigned.  Make sure your list includes a brief description, item number (which should correspond to a tag on the piece), and the item price.  Leave a copy of the list with the shop owner or manager.

Talk to the owner/manager about how you will be paid.  You should know up front if you will receive a check in the mail, have a deposit made to your Paypal account, if you will need to pick up a check, etc.,  I also like to know when the owner makes payment – once a month, once a quarter, on the 15th, etc.,

Know up front what the expectations are regarding displays – if you are expected to provide displays, make sure you inventory them like you do your jewelry.  I have not had it happen to me, but I have heard horror stories about displays and packaging materials that have been used for someone else’s jewelry…so make sure you know what you are leaving behind and how it will be used.

Have fun with the consignment – chances are, you and the shop owner/manager will develop a good relationship…after all, you both have the same goal – sell your wonderful jewelry!!

Aug 072010

…to sooth the savage beader. 🙂

While I love the sounds of silence, I do like to have some background “noise” when I’m working in my studio.  I’m not much of a TV-watcher, although I find some of the “how to” shows on public television interesting (even if I have no interest in the subject, like sewing!).  More often, I’ll pop a concert DVD in my studio TV, or turn on the radio.

When I’m working online – blogging, Facebooking (I guess that’s now a verb, LOL ), listing items on Etsy, or doing research – I occasionally will have my television set to a satellite radio station.

Until yesterday.

My daughter commented on her Facebook page that she was madly in love with Pandora…I instantly thought of the popular beads with the big holes, but no, she meant Pandora.com…online radio that YOU program yourself.  After just a few minutes of using the site myself, I was hooked.

So, I’m off to listen to one of “my” favorite stations while I catch up on this morning’s news.  What do you listen to you when you are working on your projects?

BTW, your useless bit of trivia for today is the source of the original quote, usually misquoted as “Music hath (or has) charms to sooth the savage beast”.  It’s by William Congreve, in The mourning bride, written in 1697:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

Mar 112010

After 10+ years of doing craft/art shows, I still have the occasional butterflies and nerves about a show.

Scenario:  new event on Friday…myself being somewhat OCD, I want to know all the details (who what where when how) as soon as I sign up.  It’s Wednesday night and I still don’t have them.

Last night, I had one of “those” nightmares about this event.  In my dream, I am parked several blocks from the venue, and when I try to set up, I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.  When I finally find that piece of information out, I start to set up, but discover I don’t have a table or any of my stock.  I run several blocks back to my car to get the table, but then realize I’ve forgotten something else.  Over and over again.

I wake up, panicking.  Even with all the checklists (and my 10+ years of experience) I have at my disposal, I don’t want to recreate the dream!  So what do I do?

Well, it’s Wednesday.  And the show is Friday.  Of course, I pack my car with the tables, displays, and stock I’ll need in two days.

 Posted by at 5:12 am
Feb 212010

I’m intrigued by the Steampunk movement – described as “Victorian meets Jules Verne”, Steampunk combines romantic elements with mechanics for an instantly recognizable design style.

Jean Campbell’s Steampunk Style Jewelry is the first book I’ve found that focuses on Steampunk jewelry…and it does a great job of doing so!   From the 20 projects, to Sidebars, to a Gallery of Designs, this nicely written, beautifully photographed book is well worth purchasing.

Steampunk projects are full of “found objects” – items you pick up in a flea market or garage sale – but Campbell includes a nice listing of supplies for projects at the end of the book.  You’ll probably end up finding Steampunk Style Jewelry offers more inspiration than “follow to the letter” instructions, but the instructions for each project ARE clear and easy to follow.  You find the goods – Jean and the other artists credited with projects will walk you through how to create cool-looking jewelry!

In addition to the great projects, I found the Sidebars to be extremely interesting.  Campbell has written great mini-articles about other facets of Steampunk, from Modding (modifying modern items) to music, films, and costumes.  Yes, the Steampunk movement is not just about jewelry…there are entire conventions that focus around the lifestyle!

Bottom line, if you find Steampunk interesting, pick up the book and be prepared for entertaining reading as well as giving you some great ideas.  At $24.99 US ($31.99 CAN), it’s chock-full of inspriation and information and a great value!

Feb 162010

Sterling silver, fine silver, argentium silver, copper, aluminum, bronze, brass.

I use all of these metals (and more!) when making my jewelry…and a recent conversation with one of my friends (a fellow Karate Mom) made me think that while the characteristics and properties of different types of metals may be second nature to me, my spouting off “.925 silver”, “.999 silver”, and “sterling versus fine” might closer to a foreign language to others!

I thought I’d start with a quick primer on silver, one of the materials I commonly use, along with answers to some of the most common questions I’m asked.

Silver is shiny, but it’s not all equal! Pure silver, like gold, is much too soft to use on it’s own for jewelry. Alloys are added to the silver to strengthen it, resulting in a “less than pure” state.

Sterling silver is comprised of 92.5 parts pure silver and 7.5 parts alloy, usually copper. Because of the relatively high copper content, sterling silver will naturally tarnish when exposed to oxygen and other elements, such as humidity. Sterling silver is usually stamped or marked with “.925” to identify it.

Fine silver contains less alloy than sterling (99.9 parts silver, .01 parts alloy), so it tarnishes much less quickly, but is a lot less durable than sterling.

I generally use fine silver only for components that don’t have much stress on them (headpins used to hang beads from earrings or dangles on necklaces or bracelets) or for links I know will be hardened by hammering. (Hammering is soooo therapeutic after a long week at the day job, it’s a wonder I don’t have ONLY hammered pieces!)

Argentium (pronounced AR--TEE-UM) silver is desirable because it combines the best of sterling and fine silver into one metal.

Approximately 1% of the copper alloy used in Argentium silver is germanium, which doesn’t oxidize as quickly as copper. Argentium silver still has 92.5 parts silver, so it’s strong like sterling, but tarnishes very slowly, like fine silver. Argentium is fairly new to the jewelry making world, and is more expensive than sterling silver, but does make very nice jewelry!

Some of your work is BLACK or really dark, but you’re telling me it’s real silver! What’s up with that? I use chemicals or natural oxidizing agents to artificially tarnish and antique some of my pieces. Complex wire wrapping especially looks great when it’s been oxidized – makes that wrapping pop! All my oxidized pieces are polished in my tumbler for at least 12 hours, then hand polished to finish them off to a perfect sheen.

ACK! My jewelry doesn’t look pretty and shiny any more! What do I do? Cleaning and care of your jewelry is something I’m frequently asked about. If (okay, WHEN) your silver jewelry starts looking a little dingy, or even (shudder) has a yellowish tinge, use jewelry cleaner, a polishing cloth (I like Sunshine cloths) or Lynn’s Super Secret Jewelry Cleaner* to get it sparkling again.

In extreme cases, you can even use Tarnex, but be VERY careful…it’s strong stuff, so use it sparingly! (Plus it smells horrible.)

You do need to be extra cautious about cleaning any jewelry that includes porous stones, such as dyed stones, turquoise, opals or pearls…liquids can potentially damage them! When in doubt, use a polishing cloth.

Okay, what’s the super secret recipe….
Shhhh…it’s a secret! But since you asked, here’s an easy and natural jewelry cleaner that you can make at home!

Combine 1c white vinegar and 1T salt. Stir (or shake, I’m not Bond, so it matters not to me) until the salt is dissolved, and drop in your jewelry. Swish it around for about 30 seconds, remove, and RINSE THOROUGHLY in clear, cool water. Dry (I use a ShamWOW!…they are great for drying jewelry!) and admire how shiny it is!

Hope this helps you to understand silver a little better.

 Posted by at 12:08 am
Dec 292009

Just found out that the Rings N Things “Your Designs ROCK” contest is accepting entries beginning January 1, 2010!  Early entries get a great perk – if your entry is received before February 3, you’ll be entered in a goodie giveaway!  Additionally, first time contestants are entered into a special drawing as well.

Wondering what to make?  Some info straight from the source:

  • 2010 categories are glass & crystal, gemstones & pearls, mostly metal, metal clay, and found objects/miscellaneous.
  • You don’t have to be a Rings & Things customer to enter. You do need to include a majority of parts in your design that are available from us.

Details are available on the Rings N Things web site. Contest deadline is February 28, 2010…so get working on the designs that rock your world!!!

(pssst….R&T has a great “5-day” sale going on through January 3!!  Check it out for fantastic bargains that you can use to create your contest entry!)

Dec 082009

A frequent question new beaders ask is “what is the best beading wire to use?”  I’ll admit, it can be confusing…there is wire, beading wire, seed bead thread (Nymo type), and different weights or thicknesses of all!  Here are a few tips to make sure you are using the best wire for your project!

1. Start with the right type of wire.

If you are stringing beads for a bracelet or necklace, you’ll want to use one of the multi-strand, nylon coated brands such as SoftFlex, AccuFlex, or Beadalon.  These are most commonly referred to as “beading wire”.   These wires are flexible and strong, and even under the toughest conditions, I’ve found they hold up well!

Seed bead projects will use something more like a thread or even like fishing line.  Look for brands like Nymo (thread), Supplemax or Fireline (monofilament).  Flexible and thin, they can be re-threaded through beads multiple times for complex seed bead projects.

Wire wrapping is the one type of project where you will choose actual uncoated wire.  Use fine gauge wire (24g or smaller) to attach beads to a wire frame or clasp.

2.  Select the right gauge and number of strands in your wire.

I’ll focus on stringers in this post…it can be confusing, especially if you are new at making jewelry!  As far as gauge goes, the best rule of thumb is to use the thickest beading wire that will fit through your beads.  Remember that at the end of your bracelet or necklace, you’ll want to run the wire back through one or two beads…so don’t make it too tight of a fit!

Another good general rule is to evaluate the weight and size of the beads you are using, and determine what size wire will work best.  Heavy beads, like the river rock and silver in the first bracelet pictured, need a stronger base.  I used .019 Accuflex for the tan bracelet pictured.

Lighter or smaller beads can use a smaller gauge wire – .014 beading wire was used for the pink necklace comprised of 4mm coral and glass beads.

When it comes to the number of strands in the beading wire, the more strands, the more flexible the wire.  So…49-strand (7 twists of 7 wires!) will be more flexible than 21-strand.  You will usually want more flexibility in a bracelet than a necklace, but 49-strand is a good pick for most projects if you are trying to limit the number of spools of beading wire you have on hand.

 Posted by at 3:20 pm
Dec 022009

It’s been a few years since I began making “mother’s bracelets” using engraved beads from Generation Gems.  I love their products, and their customer service simply cannot be beat!

My most popular design is a women’s bracelet, using hematite, Swarovski pearls and assorted Bali silver beads.  Neutral and understated, most of the folks who look at the sample I have of my own mother’s bracelet have a harder time pronouncing my daughter’s name than deciding on what style to order!

But lately, I’ve noticed a trend…can you believe guys like to brag too?!  Why yes!  I have more and more men who are interested in (and order!) my chainmaille version of the mother’s bracelet.

So I’ve started calling these Brag Bracelets, after a friend ordered one for her husband and used the term.  Recently, a client named Brad ordered his own version, using beads with the names of his children and his wife in a strong Byzantine weave.  I can’t wait to deliver it to him this week.

After all, Real Men like to brag about their family too. 🙂

Nov 202009

As I finished up a batch of my Holly Jolly earrings this morning, I thought “geez, if people really knew what goes into these things…” and had a brainflash. What if I took a photo of all the materials and tools used to make them? I started gathering…..

Wow…for a cute and seemingly simple little pair of earrings, it’s amazing what it takes to make them! After I took the photo, I realized that I forgot a couple of things – a round nosed pliers, a punch pliers, 22g wire, and I didn’t include my tumbler.

Starting with the copper sheet I punch out the discs, then stamp them using letter stamps.  After stamping, holes are punched for the ear wire and dangle, then I carefully file the edges to remove any messy little bits.   A Sharpie marker is used on the stamping to accent it, then I use one of the little white polishing squares to clean off the excess Sharpie.

The discs are then domed, using the dapping tools.  I make all of my own head pins and ear wires, so at some point, I use my butane torch and 22g wire to make the headpins that hang the crystals.  After the dangles are complete, I use 20g wire to make the ear wires, hammering them just lightly.

Last step is to toss the earrings into the tumbler for a last polish and remove any excess burrs.

I’d love to hear what goes into YOUR handmade products…and the next time someone stops to look at your work, or asks about it, be sure to tell them about all the details that go into making handmade!

Sep 152009

Had a fabulous time at the Washington Pavillion Sidewalk Arts Festival last Saturday…we drove to Sioux Falls on Friday night, and stayed at a very nice Super 8 on 10th Street.  Clean, quiet, very roomy room…just what we needed.

Up “before the chickens” on Saturday morning (Jeremy grumbled but was such a great help!) to get to the site by 6 a.m. and set up…we were essentially ready to roll by 8, which was a Good Thing, because there were already folks shopping!

Met some really wonderful people at the show, and while it was a long day (drove back home after tear down at 5), it was well-worth the trip.  I even got to meet a fellow jewelry maker who I’ve gotten to know through a jewelry forum – it’s always great to chat with someone that I’ve just “talked to” online!  Plus, I got to visit again with Brenda Flourish, a fabulous glass artist that I got to know at the 2008 & 2009 Grand Cities shows.

Looking forward to this venue next year!

 Posted by at 10:28 pm