Sunday, July 27, 2008

Copper Jewelry and Nutrition

I just learned the coolest thing today! I love working with copper, but I always worry about it turning my customer's skin black or green, and there's no way of knowing ahead of time if it will do it or not because everybody is different.

I know that copper is an essential element in nutrition, and I know that skin is a digestive organ, but I never put two and two together before. I just read that if copper turns your skin colors, it's because you're deficient in the mineral and your skin is eating it! The color it leaves behind is the oxidized leftovers. If the color is bothering you just keep washing wherever the metal touches you, and then put the jewelry back on. In a matter of weeks or months, you will no longer get a reaction from the metal, because your body will be "full" of all of the copper it needs, and won't be absorbing any more.

Wow! Who knew?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Little Adventure

Don't panic, it's not my house. This house is up the street and around the corner from my apartment building.

Today, I decided to go on a little photo shoot. I am madly in love with textures of any kind, and a burned out shell of a house turned out to be a treasure chest of images. (full photo set here. )

It was blazingly hot as I approached the house, but I could feel a cool breeze coming from the dark interior. Tall grass and wildflowers competed with the remains of the garden along the walk up, with lazy bumble bees droning about. The smell of linden blossoms and clover was so thick in the air that it tasted like honey on my tongue.

The house has stood empty for many years. It had no scent of it's own. No charcoal or soot scent, or even mildew or mold. I seemed oddly antiseptic. There was no sign of kids partying or vagrants squatting, either. Aside from a couple of tiny spiders, the place was completely deserted. The house stands on a large corner lot, quite separate from it's neighbors, with large laurel and rose hedges all around. I could have been in another country, or on Mars.

As I stepped into the cool, dark interior, it occurred to me that I hadn't told anyone where I was or what I was doing. Part of me thought that it was a stupid thing to do - what if I got hurt? Another voice chimed in that if I had told anyone, they'd just tell me not to go because it might be dangerous. To heck with that! I figured I had my cell phone with me, and that would just have to be good enough.

I stomped my feet each step ahead of me before I put my full weight down, in case the floor boards decided to give in. There was a full basement under me, and I didn't particularly want to end up down there. Some areas were blocked by debris, but by going around back I could reach just about all parts of the house. It was a very small, very badly laid out 1930's starter home, what a realtor would call a "cottage". It was probably sorta cute when it was new.

The location was amazing, the view from the back porch stretched all the way across Rainier Valley and beyond. I walked gingerly through the thick layer of charcoal and plaster dust on the ground, being very careful not to disturb anything. The house had the sacred feel of an Indian burial ground or a crime scene, or maybe a cathedral. I knew that I would only want to take pictures of things as I found them, not in any posed sort of way. The house rewarded me for my respect.

When I felt like I had seen enough for this trip, it was like being full from a huge buffet. The sights, sounds, textures, details were so filling. I knew that I couldn't just walk straight back to my apartment, so I took the long way around and photographed flowers along the way. (I'll save the flowers for another post.) The whole experience was simply delicious.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Little Summer Sparkle

Button bracelets have arrived! Some days I like working on one single piece, fussing and fuming over every tiny detail. Then there are days like yesterday, when Rivka and I sat down and played with my vintage button pile, sorting all the colors and coming up with fun combinations. I made 14 bracelets in 5 hours! Most of them are listed on my Rivkasmom shop, and a couple are in my two Etsy shops. I hope you like them. :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Best Advice EVAR!

Sometimes, you run across an article that says everything you've been wanting to say, only it's better. It's smarter, more informed, and more useful than anything you'd ever come up with in a month of Sundays.

If you have ever wanted to sell your artwork in stores, please read these two blog entries first. Then, go check out Alicia's shop, because she deserves it. :-)
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Joy of Patination

This is a question I see time and time again in various forums. "How do I get a patina on my metal?" There are as many guides and recipes as there are metal workers out there, and Google can be a bit intimidating. I found this very easy and handy reference guide through "Old Home Interiors" magazine, and thought I'd share.

ALWAYS use eye protection, gloves (latex are good, but nitrile are much better), an apron and good ventillation. Please keep all chemicals stored WAY out of reach of children, even if you think your kids are old enough to know better. Patination is a fascinating process, and if your little lab assistant want to play mad scientist, bad things could happen (G-d forbid). If the weather allows, I like to take an old ironing board and set it up outside.

You can't get better ventilation, and the outdoor light really lets you see what kind of colors you're getting. If you are doing heat processs, you can dip the pieces indoors, and then take them out to the ironing board to dry. If you stove has a ventilation hood, make sure that it actually vents outside, instead of just blowing the chemicals around in your house. (You'd be surprised how many vent hoods don't meet code. Mine blows the smoke directly up onto the ceiling, and into the smoke detector. Beep beep beep!)

If you need to do patination when it's cold outside, set aside a room where you can open a window, and then bundle up! Close off that room from the rest of the house so that you don't end up heating the whole outdoors. A bathroom with a window to the outdoors is perfect, and you can plug in a hotplate to do hot process dipping. Do not be tempted to work with chemicals indoors and then think you can just crack a window later to let it air out. You'll end up with a migraine or worse before you know what happened. Remember, children and pets will feel the effects of chemical vapors much sooner than you will, so don't go by what you "feel" is safe. Always err on the side of caution.

This is by no means a complete tutorial. Read up a lot, go have fun, and expect the unexpected! Patination is a very unpredictable process, and you never know what you'll get.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Selling Internationally

First off, I now have the song "We are the World" stuck in my head, so I thought I'd share the misery.

Now, on to business. It's no news to anyone living in the US that the economy and the exchange rate for the US dollar is down the tubes. You can blame any presidential administration you like, but it won't change the facts. If you want to survive as a business, you HAVE to think globally. There have been weeks on end where I didn't see a single US sale, but thank G-d for Australians and Swedes! (smooch! love you guys!)

I'm in a rambling frame of mind, so I'll list some tips and bits of advice in no particular order:

  1. Buy a postage scale and get a chart from your post office for estimating shipping expenses.
  2. If you get an order from Italy, don't turn it down, but DO send an email stating that it can take up to 3 months for a package to arrive. Give the buyer a chance to cancel the sale, and then insist that they pay for extra tracking. From the US, Global Priority starts at $25.00 extra in postage. Italy has an insane list of restrictions on what can be brought into to country, so make sure that the buyer knows that there is an excellent chance that whatever they get will be held up in Customs, possibly forever. Buyer Beware!
  3. Every other country (except possibly Nigeria) is just fine to ship to, and will take a few days to 3 weeks, maximum.
  4. Shipping Global Priority from the US is NO guarantee that your package will actually be received within 2 to 3 business days. It may still get held up indefinitely at customs in the receiving country for weeks and weeks. This recently happened to me with a shipment to Denmark.
  5. When you are writing, get into the habit of being aware that you have a global market. Little things can make a big difference. Instead of saying "things are more expensive here" try saying "in the US". "Here" could be anywhere, and it's annoying to assume that everyone knows where you are. Instead of saying "local shipping" you could say USPS or US postal service. Instead of saying "overseas shipping" you could say "for shipping outside of the US". It takes a bit of getting used to, but it makes your statements much clearer and helps avoid confusion. It's also just plain more polite.
  6. In your website profiles, list more than just your city name. Not everyone knows where Springfield, Ellensburg, or Bjrkvvstron are. (I confess, I made that last one up.) For example, "Seattle, Washington, United States" or "Sidney, New South Wales, Australia".
  7. When you ship, use Tyvek envelopes or sturdy boxes. Anything less will get shredded. I have received bubble mailers from overseas that were hanging together by a fiber, and the contents bursting at the seams. I'd much rather pay a few extra dollars for better packaging, than have my item fall out mid-transit and have to deal with claims forms and grumpy customers.
  8. I'm sure I'm forgetting some important points, so please feel free to add your comments. :-)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Etsy Tip - The "Sneaky" Template Trick

Everybody has been begging Etsy for listing templates for three years now. For those of us who sell similar or duplicate items, this is a royal PITA, especially with tags, which are the bane of my existence. There are two ways to do a "work around" listing template.

1. Wait until you sell something, and then use that sold listing as a "new listing" template, editing the old listing to fit the new item and then renewing. Make sure that you proofread all of your changes really well!

2. If you don't want to wait until something sells, here's the super sneaky trick. Each template you want will cost you twenty cents. You will need to have TWO shops to do this, or have a friend help you out. List an item for twenty cents. Quickly go into your other account and buy it, or have a friend buy it. (If you wait too long, someone might see a twenty cent bargain and snatch it up, and then you're really in trouble!) DO NOT cancel the sale through Etsy once you make it. This will remove the listing from your sold items, you will lose your template and you will have to start over. Just check the "paid" and "shipped" boxes, and don't leave any feedback for that transaction.

(Buying from your other store is technically against the Etsy TOS. Some people do it to bump up their feedback scores or sales figures. The way I see it, you're not doing anything to deceive anyone and you're not pretending to be anyone else, so I figure it's not so bad.)

When you choose option two, make sure that you change the .20 cent price to the price you actually charge! I made that mistake once, and ended up selling someone a pair of $15.00 earrings for twenty cents because I had to honor the sale price. Again, proofreading is your friend, especially if you do your listings late at night, when you are more prone to overlook things.

Either way, the goal is to have a "sold" listing to work off of as your template.

Edited to add: I've recently emailed with Erin in Etsy Admin, she says that this is NOT ok. Now, if everyone starts using my method, maybe admin will be annoyed enough to actually give us a real listing template, just like all the other sites in the world.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Web Host of My Dreams

I love Volusion so much, I want to have their internet babies. Their customer service is so good, it's stunning. There are much cheaper eCommerce sites out there, and if you are not planning on growing a large company then a smaller site will be a better option for you. If you are planning to ever have any employees, do wholesale, dropship, manage a warehouse (or multiple warehouses!) offer LiveChat support, or any other bells and whistles, then Volusion is the only place to look.

I searched for months to find the right web hosting solution for me. In my case, I make several different lines of products, so I needed to be able to sort by an infinite number of reducing categories. Most websites did not allow more than one sub category per main group. Volusion is infinitely expandable, so no matter how big my company gets, I will never have to leave for a company that will be more capable of meeting my needs. This is very important, because I HATE moving!

Volusion offers over a dozen different shopping cart companies, with several different levels of processing. They have stock templates (a bit too spendy for my taste), in house designers if you want them, and in house consultants. They also offer SEO (search engine optimization) services when you are ready to get your name out on the web in a bigger way.

I checked different companies that review eCommerce sites, and Volusion always came in at the top of the list. I was actually getting worried that they were too good to be true, and that somehow this was a scam. "Nobody is that perfect!" I thought.

Here's what really closed the deal for me. I am NOT a computer person, by any stretch of the imagination. I use an ancient iMac because it took me forever to learn it, and I don't want to have to learn a new machine. Computers frighten and confuse me, and generally make me say bad words. Volusion offers step by step video tutorials as well as written tutorials for every single aspect of the site. The tutorials can be paused and backed up as many times as you need to figure something out.

They offer 24 /7/365 "live human being who speaks English as a first language" tech support. You can choose between phone, LiveChat or email as communication. I chose email because nothing I was working on was time sensitive, and the longest I have ever had to wait for an answer was four and half hours - in the middle of the night on a weekend! During business hours my emails are answered in about a half an hour, tops.

I explained that I was not a computer person, and they used very simple straightforward language with me, explained things clearly (speaking sloooowly and using little words!). Then, they checked back to make sure that things were working for me, THEN they asked if there was anything else they could do for me! I think I nearly fainted. This was not a fluke. Every single time I've had a question my experience has been the same. Everyone is pleasant, professional and helpful.

I also want to give a shout out to Jess Bryant ( who did all of my web design and countless little revisions. She's fast, friendly and fabulous. Do yourself a favor - before you spend money on an expensive template, or spend all of your valuable time trying to do it yourself when you'd rather be crafting - let Jess give you a bid at least. Tell her Grace at Rivkasmom sent you! (I don't get a penny, I just really like her.)

Edited to fix typos. Why do I keep wanting to call them Volution? It's Volusion, with an "S"!

I'm so excited :-)

I just made my first sale in my own, personal website! Not Etsy, not Ebay, just :-D I feel like such a grownup, like when the training wheels come off of your bike for the first time, and you're flying down the street with nothing to hold you up except your own skill.

I've heard people over and over say "don't put all your eggs in one basket" when it comes to online marketing, and it's so very true. Ebay sales are in a major nosedive, Etsy's servers were down for maintenance for several days, and I still had a place for people to find my work.

If you are serious about your work, you really need to get your own domain. If you're just starting out, buy your domain anyway and have it point to your Etsy, Mintd, Trunkt, Dawanda, or other selling venue. It will help you in Google rankings and be a great place holder for when you're ready to expand. It's only about $10 a year (if you're in the US) and it will also keep someone else from using your business name.

In the world of commerce, this is a crucial rule: It's not who thought of it first, it's who REGISTERED it first. This goes for trademarks, copyrights, domain names, and just about everything else.

Next up, I'll go into more detail about my website and webhost, as it really deserves it's own post. For now, I'll just say that you should go look at, because they rock my socks.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Grrrrr. Etsy not working right now.

Etsy is currently switching servers, and lots of people (including me) can't get in at all. This makes me all sorts of cranky, because I have a TON of things to list.

In the meantime, here's a picture of some of my new rings. They are made with words taken from scrap booking sheets, sealed under lucite magnifying cabochons, and then mounted in vintage copper ring bases. The rings are adjustable to fit most sizes, and are very comfortable. The words say all kinds of nice things like Live, Hope, Joy, Love, Breathe and Heart - although one of them says Panic.

While Etsy is down, I spent most of my time listing a bunch of my "Cuffless" cufflinks on my personal website. These are so much fun! Some of them are made with watch movements, but a lot of them are made out of vintage buttons. These are great because cufflinks are back in style, and now you can enjoy the look without spending a fortune on a whole new wardrobe of french cuff shirts. Simply snap these onto the buttons of your favorite shirt and they will stay on nice and tight. You can dance the night away without worrying that they will come loose. You can see them all here at (search "cuffless" in the upper left hand search box)