Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We are All Made to Create

Carol Dekle-Foss
To my fellow creative souls,

Do you ever beat yourself up and think that you are not talented enough? 

Or that you don't have what it takes to make beautiful art?

Do you compare your work to that of others and feel yours doesn't measure up?

I'm guilty of this from time to time. If I'm feeling down and depressed, I think why am I creating? Who do I think I am? There is so much talent out there, let others be the creators. 

But then, I step into my studio and just create. I quit judging myself and just have fun.

So what I want to say is this, lets forget about what others are doing and be patient with ourselves. Everyone has to start at the beginning. Sometimes it takes years to hone a craft, and when we are learning, we should only compare our work to OUR OWN. When we practice and experiment we develop a stronger sense of our creative self, and our craft becomes a part of who we are.

Last month, my creative journey took me down a new path. Ceramics! I blame MaryAnn for my love of ceramic beads, I just can't resist her little wood-fired gems!

It took me awhile to figure out the basics, and I am especially grateful for all the talented ladies over at the Beads of Clay Blog. Our very own Marsha did a post here where she shows how she loads her kiln with bead trees. I was quite impressed with how she made all those beads fit so nice and organized. Thank you Marsha for sharing!

Here is my very first kiln opening!

There was squealing involved. I was shocked that none of the beads fell off or that there wasn't drips of glaze everywhere.

My loot. All these pieces were just experiments, and I have a lot to learn about clay and glazes. But that's ok, this is the fun part, the learning and honing of a craft. I have to be patient with this process, and take my time.

 My favorite piece.This little guy has been SANDBLASTED. Who would have thought you could sandblast bisque? Not me. But I experimented and this little odd thing evolved. It's sure ugly, but nonetheless, my favorite piece. I plan to expand on this and maybe even sandblast after glazing. My head is spinning with creative ideas!

We are each on our own creative journey. We should focus on crushing our own limitations, so we can develop into the creative person we were meant to be. 

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Keeping & Increasing Your Online Presence in Ever-changing Social Media....

by Barbara Bechtel

If you promote your work online as many of us do, then it's probably happened to you. You're getting new "likes", comments, and even sales (we all hope!) and then WHAM! No new likes, no comments, and sales flatline. It's sort of like when you go to a big party and you use the facilities and come out only to find everyone packing up to go home.

If you use Facebook, then you've likely read that recently it has changed the way people see "ads" posted by other sites. This has had many discussing how they can still drive sales to their sites and keep the love coming.

The most recent example that is affecting those who sell on other sites (like Etsy, etc.) is that when you "share" on Facebook the item you have for sale, either by using the button from your item or pasting the link directing into your Facebook status, is that the number of people that see that item will be greatly throttled.

Personally, I've never found that method to be particularly useful for Facebook anyhow, although I've long used it in addition to my other sharing. While I'm not an expert, I thought I would share some insights I've gained over the years that have helped me.

First and foremost, what you ALWAYS need to remember is that sites, whether they be social media (i.e. FB, Instagram) or selling sites (eBay, Etsy) are constantly changing the algorithms that affects what you see in your feed (in the instance of FB) or what you search for (sites like Etsy, eBay, or Pinterest that generate results based on what you search for).

That being said, if you sell or share in this way, you need to keep abreast of your numbers and when they start to fall, seemingly without any relation to what you've been doing, they may have changed their algorithms. It is not unlike a card game. They're not going to tell you what or why they have changed, you just notice that you're losing. Therefore, you have to change your strategy. Don't misunderstand me, they're not necessarily out to "defeat" you, but they are constantly grabbing information on statistics about what generates the most sales and what people are most searching for.

Here are some things to think about when trying to increase your numbers:

1) What you're posting. While it might be tempting to post 1000 pictures of your pet or your smoothie, a little goes a long way. The same goes for your work. If you post the same type of work a 1000 times, it becomes boring. If you've made the same ring in 10 variations, don't post 10 photos. Take one photo all together.

2) Describe your inspiration. It's tempting to be minimalist and say "new rings I made" but people want to know why you made it. Maybe it's a collection or piece based on your fascination with a new color or glaze, the weather, a poem, a trip you took. TELL people about it and how it inspired your new work.

3) Show pieces in progress. People are fascinated by the process and the story. Show your sketches, show the process from raw clay to finished bead, show metal while you're sawing or before it's soldered.

4) Time of day: What time do you post your photos? When do you get the most traffic? Schedule your posts at different or varying times and chart their popularity. Posts in your Facebook business page can be scheduled at different times of day. You may reach different people by trying out different times.

5) Challenge yourself visually. Most of us are not photographers by nature and it can be very easy to continue to use what has worked for us in the past. Put the jewelry on the same background and take the photos. With current technology, it is easier to take better and more interesting photos than it has been in the past. If you feel photography is not your forte, than enroll in a class or schedule yourself some time to play with different backgrounds and lighting. Study photographs of you admire and see what appeals to you that you could emulate in your own photos. Change up your photography by doing something different. Play with different backgrounds, get a friend to model (or model your own!) or take a trip to a park, beach, or new location and take some pictures.

6) Engage the audience you wish to have. If you make handmade jewelry to sell, then you need to finding the audience that likes to BUY handmade jewelry. You may be posting photos and getting likes but if few of those people are actually an audience that will purchase it, then all of that love isn't translating to much more than a pat on the back.

7) Paid ads. With the introduction of paid ads on many sites, it might be tempting to follow this route. However normally for small and niche businesses, this is not always effective. It is an option, that does bear research especially to get the word out locally. If you teach classes or do many shows, it may be an avenue to pursue. Check it out and start small to see if it may work for you.

I hope this helps you think about some of these things in new ways! If you have any advice or tips to share, I'd love to hear them in the comments below!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Allow Me to Introduce Myself.....

Hello!  I am Patti Vanderbloemen – the newest member of the Love My Art Jewelry community!  I am humbled and honored to be included in among this group of truly talented artists, whose work I have admired (and coveted!) for years!  This is my first posting – I do hope you will stick around to the end (I was a writer in my "past life" and my blog posts tend to be lengthy)!

I fell into this medium by accident – my mother, who lived in Florida at the time, had been creating all types of jewelry through the on site lapidary store located in her community.  She came up North for a visit and wanted to make a “quick trip” to the local bead store.  Quick – ha!  As I watched her stare at the hundreds and thousands of findings on the wall, my eye caught a book on the counter.  This book, by Irina Miech, is what did it for me.  It was not just the beads – but the METAL elements that drew me in.

I bought the book that day, spent HOURS (could have been DAYS) on the Fire Mountain Gems website, and patiently waited for my order to arrive.  In the weeks/months that followed, I attempted (notice the key word is attempted) each and every design in that book. That was December 2009.

The experience of working through the projects was an eye opener.  Most ended up in what I now call the "scrap pile" - but it did not deter me as I was intrigued.  The picture below (I am cringing here) is my first completed jewelry project.  I only wanted to make the bracelet, but there were so many extra beads!  The bracelet took me FOREVER!  The loops on those "handmade" eye pins are not even round!

It was not long before I discovered art beads.  I immediately fell in love with lampwork beads, and I once again bought book after book so that I could understand the process.  This bracelet below is one of my first creations that I sold in 2011 using gorgeous filigree lampwork beads by Susan Kennedy.

Lampwork Beads by Susan Kennedy of Sue Beads

On a side note, since I began selling my jewelry online in 2011, my least favorite thing to do is take pictures – it has always been such a struggle to find the right lighting, background, layout, props – you name it.  I have no idea “how” this bracelet above sold, as the picture is awful!  I have spent so much time researching how to take an adequate picture of jewelry.  I have done the foray of using an all-white background (HATE IT- so much editing involved and my jewelry looked altered in some way).  I have tons of scrap paper to be used as a background, which meant the background always seemed to distract the eye from the actual piece of jewelry.

I have tried natural light – both inside and outside – but never seemed to find the right “angle”.  The picture of the earrings below, circa 2012, were taken on my back porch stoop.  As I look back on this photo, I see the reflection of my patio furniture umbrella – ha!  I did however, prefer the gray color of my concrete stoop to the all-white background.

Lampwork by Pomegranate Glass - Enameled Bead Caps by Susan Kennedy

So, I tried taking photos at a different time of day – look at the horrible shadows!

Lampwork Beads by Maryse Fritzsch-Thillens of GlassBeadArt

Anyway, because I just could not find the right time of day (if the sun even made an appearance), I went back indoors.  I made a trip to the local nursery and picked up a HUGE slab of granite, and purchased two photography lamps.  I used this slab for well over 2 years – maybe 3.  Last year, it finally dawned on me (I am a slow learner) that the granite has a “green” tinge to it and made all the colors of the beads blend into the background. 
Basha Lampwork Beads

I am surprised that the earrings above actually sold – one cannot even begin to appreciate the beauty of those opal Basha Beads with the granite background – it blends right in! After years of trial and error with my photos – and lots of research – I now use an 18% Photo Gray card (link here) and photography lights (link here).  My studio is in my basement, and there is no natural daylight. It is also too cumbersome to drag everything outside to take photos (this translates to being lazy).  So for now, I am happy with the pictures. 

For the first couple of years, I only used sterling silver - I did not even try using copper until late 2012.  I am so sorry I waited that long!  While I loved the look of "antiqued copper", I had never used liver of sulfur and wasn't even sure of the complete process.  Everything I read said it smelled of rotten eggs (it does!) and I wasn’t sure I could handle the techniques required to achieve the antiqued look that I wanted.  But, I have to say – I am used to that smell and using it on a daily basis is now second nature.
Lampwork Beads by Donna Millard

Since the beginning, my journey in jewelry design has incorporated wire, usually with art beads.  I have taken a handful of jewelry classes through ArtBliss Workshops, a local (Northern Virginia) retreat that was the brain child of Jeannette Blix Oliverio-Ryan and Cindy Wimmer.  It was cancelled last year, and I am not sure if/when it will be resurrected.  Regardless, I am forever grateful for the few classes I did take with Richard Sally, Jessica Jordan, Kerry Bogert, and Stacie Florer.    These classes have proven invaluable to me for learning specific techniques and tips that I could not glean from a book or a video.  Soldering is the perfect example here.

Tiger Eye Cab and Ceramic by Karen Totten of Starry Road Studio

Now, as my work evolves, it includes almost all components made by me (except the beads, of course)!  Sheet metal has become a recent favorite as well – there are so many things that can be made from a simple sheet of metal!  And texture – oh my goodness – next to the caramel color achieved through the oxidation process, my favorite techniques ALWAYS incorporate some sort of texture.

I feel very blessed that I am able to create “what I want”.  As such, I donate the proceeds of my sales to Miracle Horse Rescue, a wonderful organization located in Idaho dedicated to saving abused and neglected horses. 

I am always excited by the possibilities of “the next” piece of jewelry that I am able to create and am so grateful for the support of the total online experience of like-artisans  -- from blogs, to Face book, to You Tube videos - who share, encourage, and contribute their knowledge of this fabulous medium we call jewelry design.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Biting the Bullet

by Staci Louise Smith

Last week we lost two members of our family.  It was a very tough week.  I was honored when I was asked to make a memorial pendant to honor my uncle.  His children were looking for something that could hold ashes but also be made without.  His daughter said it would be cool if we could do something like a bullet, since he loved weapons.

And I was off...................

I have been saving brass casings thinking someday I will make something jewelry related with them and I have just never done it.

I figured to make an easy pendant, by adding a hole, a bail, and polymer clay.  But as I thought about it, I wanted to make it extra special, and I know you can etch the brass

I messaged Karen since I know she etches all the time.  She walked me through the basics as I was terrified to use acid in my house.

I also Googled etching brass casings since they are an odd shape.  I got some great tips.  I thought I'd walk you through the process with pictures.  By no means is this a tutorial, but I thought it was cool to see them come together!

I am so glad I "bit the bullet" and dove into etching brass!  I am hooked.

first I drilled each one through the top.  some did NOT drill well and got tossed aside.  I also broke one drill bit during the process.

then I used my Dremel to clean up the drill holes

Then I cleaned the surface of each bullet casing with a scrubbie to remove any oils and made it ready to take the ink

I used both sharpies to draw on designs and stayz on ink.  I definitely prefered the stayz on designs best and did them for most.

I strung them on wire so I could dunk them in the acid and remove them easily.

acid bath for about 20 minutes

Then they got taken out, neutralized and rinsed.  this was a painstaking part for me, and I used a TON of baking soda because I am so paranoid!  It was messier then I expected as well, and next time, I will probably do this outside- although I manage to contain all that needed to be.  I also bought a plastic place mat to put under everything in case of mess and to protect my counter.  It worked great!

After they were all etched, then I used a brass brush to remove any ink, and rinsed them again, and threw them into the tumbler to shine them up and clean them thoroughly.

post brass brush, pre-tumbler

After the tumbler they got antiqued with liver of sulfur, polished with polish pads and were ready for the next phase.

(I made over 50 of these, so it took me all week)

I torched some brass wire to antique it a bit, and made bails through each of the holes at the top.

After they had bails, I added black polymer clay to the inside.  I stuffed it way in so it went around the wire inside to grab it- and formed the bottom like a bullet shape.

That is the finished product.  I did run into some problems with the polymer in the brass though.  It kept cracking at the edge of the bullet casing....sometimes it just made a ridge and other times a huge crack that made the entire tip break off.  So I filled the ridges with more clay and re-baked.  The broken ones I dug out some of the center, and added sculpey glue and more sculpey and re-baked.  they were better.  I spoke with Ginger of Blue Bottle Tree and she thought perhaps the clay was packed so tight the gasses couldn't ecaspe. I never even thought of that, plus, the brass gets hotter then the clay.......

So I did a batch packing a little at a time, and I cooked the first two fillings at a lower temp to set them but hopefully not overheat it......and they still had some ridges to fill, but not as bad.

Just something to think about and be ready for if you fill bullet casings with polymer.
ready to bake

The last batch had the ashes mixed in with the clay for those who wanted it that way.  That was emotionally tougher for me then I thought it would be.  How I did it was, I put some bigger pieces inside and mixed some thinner ash into the clay, then proceeded as I had for the others.

In the end, I was so happy with them, as was everyone else.  If they didn't want them as a necklace, they could use them as a key chain, or hang it from a car mirror.  I think my uncle would have been pleased and got a kick out of it.  I am so happy I had a chance to go outside my comfort zone and make something special like this.
you could pick a ball chain and pendant off the memorial table, since each one was a little bit different.

Of course, everyone got a ball chain to put it on, but I had to make something I'd wear more often, so I make another charm necklace.

And since there were extra's I put one on my key chain too.

Art really is healing, and it was nice to listen to music and make these throughout the week.  

Have you ever made something special for someone?  A keepsake, or memento?  Jewelry is such a great way to wear a remembrance, that I am sure you all have.  I'd love to hear about what you made- and if you want to share the story and a picture on the groups facebook page, I think that would be really great- and a way to honor those they were made for as well.

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