Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where the Wild Ficus Grows

I love my workshop! Sometimes, I think I love it a little too much. I have the great outdoors on three sides of me, with big, double glass doors on all four sides of the room, so that I have a clear view in every direction. Of course, one of those doors just looks out onto my living room, but even that has it's advantages. I can keep an eye on my kids.

I didn't always have a workshop that I love. My first workshop, in our first house, only consisted of my bench shoved into a tiny corner of our laundry room. I couldn't even push my chair all the way back because I'd run into the washer. It was tight.

In my second house, size wasn't the problem with my workshop. It was pretty darn big. But I was still in the laundry room. And the laundry room was in the basement. An unheated basement.

My workshop now is everything I could ever want. It's big. It's sunny. I have great views. It's in the main part of the house. I have my own television. But most of all, everything fits! Even my huge ficus! Too bad he blocks some of the sun, though. This is usually where I take my photos of my jewelry.

The table in my workshop is where I store my laptop and where I can price and tag my jewelry.

My bench has been with me since I graduated from college. My dad made it for me. It has tons of drawers to store all my goodies. The drawer pulls don't match, but my bench rocks, none-the-less.

In my drawers, I store small polishing supplies, my metals, my saw, caliper, and sanding sticks, my mandrels, hammers, draw plate, draw tongs, and stamps. The other drawers are just for storing all those items that don't fit anywhere else.

I love the little shelf my dad added to the inside of my bench. I store my notebooks, findings, and wax carving supplies there. And the catch tray is big enough to catch all of my shavings and stones that like to go flying.

On the other side of the room, I have all of my big tools. This includes my kiln, ultrasonic, home-made polishing hood and motor, and down below is my vacuum caster. The cabinets were recycled from when my parents redid their kitchen, and we just bought a counter top to put on the top. They're not actually built in, so if we ever move, I can take them with me.
This crazy piece of equipment to the left is a wax injector. I have yet to use it, but can't wait until I get to the point where I can. I hope it works; I got it used.

These cabinets are WONDERFUL! They all have pull out drawers, which are great for storing all those little items that might get lost deep in the back of the cabinets if I didn't have them. Here, you can see my casting supplies, such as my flasks, mixing container, and the investment, as well as other odds and ends. Another drawer holds my dapping block, punches, circle cutter, and my scale. Then I have a great storage space for all the items that I don't use very often.
I love my workshop! It's my own private space that I don't have to share with anyone. Even the television is all mine! I had no idea how important that was until I had kids.
This post was inspired by one of the Etsy Teams that I'm a member of, Aspiring Metalsmiths.
There are quite a few of us who cleaned up our work areas (a little) to show them off to those of you who are interested in seeing where we work. I hope you'll go and take a look at their workspaces, too. And here they are:
Jessica Lopour of Abella Blue
Jeanne Milmann of Golden Water Creations
Sylvia Anderson of Sylvia Anderson
Steph Stargell of Steph Stargell Designs
Brandy of The Frogs Pond
Esmeralda of SilverBlueberry
Joy of JoyPeckJoy
Carole Axium of Carole Axium Designs
Gloria of Hemlock Hollow
Stacy of Form and Funktion
Julie A. Mauerer of Jamauerer

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wind in Your... Tent

I wish I could say that I love the wind, but I've got to say it. I really don't!

I haven't always hated the wind. I think I earned my hate for it when I lived in the Outer Banks. The wind DOES NOT stop blowing there. It's relentless, and does lots of damage. I remember pulling out the ladder in 30 mile per hour winds to fix the siding on the house. Once one piece of siding is loose, the whole side can come off if you don't get it nailed back down quickly. It also used to make the water in the toilets slosh during a bad storm. I've told people this story, but I'm not sure they believe me. Also, the same weekend that we installed our new storm door on our front door, the wind ripped it out of my hands and slammed it against the porch railing, putting a huge ding in it. It didn't even last a day!

When we moved away from the Outer Banks, people would ask us what the heck was wrong with us. We were in paradise and we moved? Yes, we did! Sorry, guys, there is no paradise! It's lovely, yes, but the wind will wear you out!

My fellow arts and craft show participants know exactly what I'm talking about. There is nothing worse than sitting under a ten foot square tent, with about an eight foot roof, with the wind shaking your entire display. Well, except maybe for rain to go with it, but we won't go there right now. I have been at craft shows in the Outer Banks where I have total strangers holding down the three other legs on my tent. Luckily, they tend to not mind. People do like to be needed, even if it's only for their weight!

I'm going to give those of you who do outdoor shows a few tips on how to deal with wind. DON'T EVER assume you don't need to weigh down your booth! Gusts can come out of nowhere. Did I tell you that we had to pluck our 16 foot trampoline out of a 50 foot pine once? That was in the Outer Banks, of course. We didn't think we needed to anchor that, either. Have you ever felt how heavy a trampoline is? Anyway, if you're on grass/dirt, I highly suggest you put anchors in each corner. Put them all the way in. The tent can lift the couple of inches that you didn't nail them in, and that can give it enough momentum to lift it up further.

Then I would suggest weight bags. They can be the ones that come with your tent or homemade ones, made from concrete, eye bolts and buckets. Suspend them from the roof corners. You don't need to have them hanging, but the line going to each corner of the roof should be tight, so the wind can't lift it at all.

The last thing that I do is I get those screw-in dog tie downs. Do you know what I mean? They look like a giant cork screw and you screw them into the ground to tie your dog out on a chain, though they don't care for that. Anyway, I'd recommend putting a couple of these outside your tent with a rope going to the top corner of your tent. This, of course, should be somewhere where nobody will trip on it. You don't want to get sued! Usually, I can only do this on the back, when there's nobody directly behind me.

Doing all three of these things have made my craft show in the Outer Banks much more relaxing. But, quite frankly, it's usually not quite enough.

Having the sides off during a hot craft show is a wonderful thing, because the breeze relieves SOME of the heat. Unfortunately, though, it tends to clear my tables, too. Usually, I have to put my sides up. I've tried a bunch of different things to try to get some air circulating through my tent. One good trick is to put a side up, but leave the bottom half open. This keeps my tables from clearing, but still allows a breeze through. But, if the wind is going all out, sometimes having the sides up seems to make my tent more vulnerable to being blown away. When this is the case, I drop the sides, but vent the corners. I have velcro closers on my sides, so I release just the first velcro closer on the top of my tent, on each side, and that seems to be enough of a vent to keep the tent from shaking violently. Plus, my tables don't get cleared. I'm still sweltering, but hey, I can't help you with everything!

I hope my tips on dealing with the wind help those of you who do craft shows. It took me a few years to discover these tips, and I'm hoping to save you some of the trial and error, and stress, that I struggled through. Doing craft shows can be fun! Happy crafting!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bubbles- An Etsy Treasury East

Etsy has designed a new way to do Treasuries, and they call it Treasury East. They say they'll never expire, which is WONDERFUL!!! Thank you so much for including me in your treasuries!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, Bubbles by VeronicaRStudio!

And this one, Selections from the Aspiring Metalsmiths Team by PrairieMoonJewelry.

I hope you'll click on some of the wonderful, hand-crafted items!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Featured! Yay!!!

I am among several Etsy artists that have been lucky enough to be mentioned in a blog, Bee's Busy Blog. I hope you will go to her blog and start following her!

Thank you so much, Bee!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Learning Experience

I have been working on a jewelry project that has been making me CRAZY! I'm not even really sure why things are going so badly with it. I've been making jewelry for about 23 years now, but this one project has me feeling like a newbie!

I love working with wire, so that was the basis for this project. I've gotten kind of low on metal, so I started digging through my sterling drawer to see what prizes I could come up with. I found a piece of 6 gauge sterling silver wire that has already been cut to a fairly short piece. It had started it's life as another piece of jewelry, but was in great shape, so I thought it would be great for repurposing. I pulled the metal that had been soldered onto it back off and went to work.

I took out my hammer and beat the ends thinner. Then I pulled out my 18 gauge wire and started making swirls that I could attach to it. The swirls were more difficult to attach than I thought they'd be because they were so thin and the back was so thick. It was hard to get all of that metal to the same temperature so that the solder would flow. I nuked a wire. I repaired the wire. I had everything soldered, so I went to polish it.

It fell apart! I was heart broken! So I got a new piece of wire, swirled it, and soldered it back on. I wanted the solder to flow just a little more smoothly in one spot, so just a little longer on the piece with the flame, and... I nuked another wire!

So now I've put it away. It needed to go away before I decide to turn it into a pile of molten metal. Someday, I might finish it. For now, it will be a nice little bench sculpture sitting on my bench MOCKING ME!!! I hope to get it finished someday and make a mold of it. That way I can cast a copy of it AND NEVER HAVE TO MAKE ANOTHER FROM SCRATCH!!!

It's been a wonderful learning experience, though. I feel like I'm back in college! But not in a good way...

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Tumbling Project

I just got a tumbler! I'm so excited! I realize that this is something that most children have already had, but this is my first.

I got it to finish my jewelry. If you put steel shot in it with jewelry, it will polish it up and save lots of steps in the finishing process. But for my first project, I'm going to tumble some rocks. I'm not sure where I got these rocks, but most of them have been cut flat and just need a polish on them.

The first few pictures are of the cut but unpolished stones.

These are pictures of the stones once they've been polished for a day or two.

Come back later to see the progression of my "project". This is supposed to take about a month, so this could take a while!

Monday, February 8, 2010


January is a weird month. It makes me think about all the things I didn't get done in the previous year. It makes me think ahead to all that I want to get done this year. It makes me want to clean up and clean out. I end up going through drawers that I haven't checked in months. I even went into my children's rooms and took out all the baby stuff that they haven't played with in years.

What is it about January that makes me do all this? Perhaps it's the clean slate we've just been given. Maybe it's just all the regrets from the past year. I didn't get anywhere near as much done last year as I thought I would. I STILL haven't finished painting the inside of my house, and we've been here almost 5 years! There are still leaves to rake! Household repairs that haven't been made! That's not even including all the cleaning that needs to be done daily! It's all so overwhelming!

It's a new year for my business, too. I keep hoping this is the year that I can jump into my business with both feet. I have been trying to juggle a part time job, raising my children, and running my business for the last few years. I'd love to lose the part time job, though I would miss it and the people that I work with there. But the idea of working for myself, making money doing what I love is just so wonderful that I'd love to make it happen. But how?
I have big hopes for the online venues that I have my work on. I plan to do more craft shows this year. But then there's the economy. Jewelry just isn't one of those items that people NEED. When the economy is bad, it hits those "wants" especially hard. I just need to figure out how to make my jewelry a "need"!

So now I'm off to work at my bench, or work on my house, or pay the bills, or clean. The list is endless! But I have a whole year to get it done, right?

Originally posted on January 25, 2010

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Getting ready for the holidays means something different for everyone. For parents, it means trying to figure out what their children want. It's the same for spouses and significant others. For retail employees, it means more work hours in crowded malls. For retailers, it means stocking their stores with, hopefully, what people really want this year. Retailers also hope that people make it into their store.

It means all of this for artists. Hopefully, people will want the item that they make. Hopefully, they will also be able to find their shop. In the internet age, this seems like it should be easier. However, with so many places that artists can sell their work comes more competition. People know about Etsy and 1000 Markets, but how do they find MY shop among all the others? Do you have any idea how many jewelry artists there are on those sites?

To be an artist is to be exactly what you've always wanted to do. You're your own boss. You make your own hours. You make a product that you love to create. Hopefully, people love it. But you have to market it. The internet makes it both easier and harder at the same time. You have to be seen in order to be found. You have to market yourself. You have to stand out in a sea of other artists. I haven't figured out the trick to all of this just yet!

I spend hours on the internet each day trying to figure out how to get my jewelry seen. I buy ads. I relist my items. I have a Facebook page. I Twitter. I Flickr. I blog. I feel ridiculous! I'm supposed to be making jewelry!
What I love is to go to craft shows. I love to meet the people that are excited enough about handmade items to come out to a craft show and support their local artists. I LOVE these people! Handmade art buyers are the best people in the world, as far as I'm concerned. They're helping their local economy. They're helping starving artists! They're also helping keep creativity alive, in a world where art classes are being removed from schools' curriculum.
All of you who buy handmade, thank you! You make my, and all the other starving artists', dreams come true!

Originally posted on November 30, 2009

Pretty Little Package

Well, it's time to start gearing up for Christmas! For artists, that means, hopefully, sales!!! I have shops on Etsy and 1000 Markets, and there is a lot of talk on these sites about packaging. The consensus is that how a purchase is presented to the customer is very important. So I've changed the way I do things.

I've always offered boxes to customers who are buying gifts from me at craft shows. They are little brown boxes that come flat and I fold them as they're needed. They take up very little room in my craft show display crates. I fill them with paper shred that I use to protect the shells that I use on my display tables. That way, they're doing double duty! I LOVE things that serve two purposes. I have some really cute colored netting ribbon that makes a beautiful bow.

I needed to do something different for shipping items. I needed something that would protect my jewelry, but I wanted it to be shallow enough to slide into a 5 x 7" manilla envelope. The ones I used at craft shows were too big once they were folded. I also chose little brown boxes for this, but they are preformed for added strength.

For all of my packaging, I have stamped the front of the boxes with the three initials of my business, STJ. On the inside of both lids, I have put a label with my business name, my name, my website, and my phone number on it. That way, the recipient of the gift can find me to buy more. Well, that's the plan, anyway.
I wrap the smaller boxes with two strands of contrasting narrow satin ribbon. The color combinations are "Sherbert", which is hot pink and pale orange, "Baby Blues", which are light and royal blue, and "Girly", which is pale pink and purple. I pull the ribbon off to the side so that you can see the initials on the top of the box.
I hope that those who purchase my work like what I've done to improve my packaging. I think they're very cute!
Originally posted on November 13, 2009

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Things We're Forced to Do

As many of you probably know, the economy's bad. People are losing their jobs. Gas is expensive and grocery prices have gone up, too. Well, those of you who don't work with metal might not know this, but metal has gotten expensive, too.

It's not just gold that's gone up. Sterling silver has gone up, too. Both of them didn't just go up a little, either. They went up A LOT!!! So jewelers are getting creative. You're starting to see a lot more of the types of metal that we learned to use in college. Brass, bronze and copper are making a comeback in a MAJOR way.

So yesterday, I spent an hour or so at a home improvement store. I wasn't getting items to improve my home. I was looking through the plumbing department at copper tubing. I looked for brass, too, but they only had brass and bronze fittings, not tubing. Kind of disappointing! I have found brass at hobby stores, though. The gauges of metal are kind of limited, but beggars can't be choosers!

I walked out of the home improvement store with some small pieces of copper tubing, which come in a bag of ten. Now for the inspiration. Using new materials forces you to think outside of your comfort zone. It forces you to come up with all new designs. It's sort of like being back in college. I'm so excited! Too bad there isn't a critique at the end of all of this! That might be fun, too. Now, back to the bench! New creations, coming soon!
Originally posted on October 10, 2009

The Gym

One thing that I've discovered about working at a gym is that it really messes up your sense of what's normal. I know triathaletes! Marathon runners! That's just freaky to me! Before I started working there, I didn't know ANY!

Another thing that's weird is how LONG the people that come in work out. There are some that come back twice a day, or more, for an hour or more each time. I can't imagine spending this long there without getting paid for it. The other thing that's kind of surprising is that not all of them look THAT fit for it, but maybe they're just keeping their weight in check. I guess that works for them. Plus, I know part of the reason for them to be there is social. The gym is fun, I'll give it that!

I have extremely fit friends. They make me feel like a slacker! When you're surrounded by people who are fit, and thin, and energetic, it makes the bar just a little higher. Reaching that bar is very hard if you don't have an hour to spend at the gym every day, if not impossible. Trust me, I know.

All of you out there who are trying your best to get in shape, I feel for you! I know how hard it is! Try not to look at everyone around you. Try not to judge yourself on what other people are doing, or how they look. If you're working out at a gym, I can guarantee that two-thirds of the people who are there are die-hards. Give yourself a break! Hey, you walked in the door, didn't you? That's a start!

Originally posted November 4, 2009

The Internet

I KNOW I'm not the only one who's noticed this. The internet is a GIANT TIME SUCKER!!! I sit down to look at one thing and two hours later, I look up at the clock and realize how much of my time has disappeared! Where on earth does the time go?

I have spent the last few days trying to get my jewelry onto a new website to sell it. First off, NOBODY does their sites the same way, so just figuring out the way this new site works takes some time. Then there's all the tedious work that goes into each aspect of it. I have to come up with a title. How do you title jewelry, especially when it's all abstract? Then there's the description. It's very hard to describe your own work without sounding like you think the world of yourself. Then there are tags, which help buyers find what they're looking for. The more the better. Another problem with jewelry. It's made of three things, usually: the kind of metal, the kind of stone, and what form the metal comes in. So you have to be inventive. You throw in color, type of stone, the kind of setting. Okay. Now for the metal. Sterling silver, gold-filled, or 14K. Wire or sheet. All of this is too much work. It takes just selling jewelry to a lot more work than I bargained for. I like shows, where people pick up the piece, maybe ask a few questions, and either buy it or don't. Then I can see their reaction to my pieces.
I think the internet is a great tool, don't get me wrong. I feel like I can do more one-of-a-kind pieces, and that they might actually sell, if they're seen on the internet. At craft shows, people are always asking me if I have "this" design in a different stone. So, obviously, people don't have a problem with having items that aren't one of a kind when they're standing there in front of me. I think the internet does open the door for more unique items. Plus, I'm really hoping that it ends up being just what I need to really start rolling on my jewelry business. But I really hope it doesn't take all of the personalization out of the buying process. I hope that when people see my work on the internet that they remember that I'm a real, live person. I guess that's the artist in me. I want to be unique!
Originally posted on September 16, 2009

The Family Photographer

I love photos! I take them every chance I get. If we're going on vacation, you can count on me taking about a million of them. It drives my kids and husband crazy.

I also love to scrapbook, which is the next natural step after taking a bunch of photos. You HAVE to document it! How else are the kids going to remember their lives when they were children if it's not in some kind of format for them to look through? Looking at their pictures makes children think they remember exactly what they were doing and thinking, even if we know they were way too young to remember that incident.
It's also the best way to remember those that we loved and lost. Right after my grandmother died, I pulled out her old pictures of her childhood and tried my best to figure out some kind of an order things were supposed to go in. Let me tell you, when you don't know any of the people but one, this is really hard to do. But this was her life, her family, her history. Even though I wasn't there, I am still interested in it.
So now my dilemma. Nobody takes pictures of me. I am not so stupid as to think that if nobody takes pictures of me, nobody cares about me. But sometimes it feels like that. What if something happened to me? Would my boys remember me? Would they be able to tell their children about me if they don't have any pictures to refer back to?
Our last vacation, I did manage to get into a few of the pictures. One of them was of my husband and me on our 20th anniversary. The waitress took it for us. It was out of focus. Another one was also taken of my husband and me on our anniversary, also by a total stranger. She did it from 10 feet away, so we're a little small. It was in focus, though. The rest of the pictures of me I took myself. Thank goodness someone invented the "self-portrait" setting on my camera. Evidently, that's the only way I'm ever going to get a picture of me. Of course, it's really hard to get a good picture of yourself. Great.

When we go on vacation, I know my job. I'm the family photographer. I'm ALWAYS behind the camera. I know that nobody else cares about the pictures I take. Now. I know that one day they will. Will they notice that I'm not in the pictures? Will they wonder if I was even there? I kind of feel like my own mortality is wrapped up in these pictures. That I don't exist without them. Maybe I'm just being melodramatic. But I wonder how many people feel this way. I bet I'm not the only one.

Originally posted September 4, 2009


I'm starting to get VERY excited about our vacation! We are going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We used to live there, so it's sort of like going home. It's a three hour drive to get there, and the anticipation on the drive down is enough to make me crazy. The final part, by far the most exciting part, is driving over the bridge that's over the Currituck Sound. My eyes start tearing up as soon as I hit the bridge! Hitting the bridge at sunset is the best!
Unfortunately, this trip isn't just a vacation. I have to work for part of it. Bummer. On the plus side, I'll be making money, selling the thing I love to make (jewelry) in the place I love (the Outer Banks).

I'm going to be at the New World Festival of the Arts on Wednesday and Thursday, August 12th and 13th. This is a wonderful craft show in a beautiful location, the Manteo, NC waterfront. This show is always a gamble. It's right on the water, which makes for cooler breezes, but it also tends to make the breezes a bit unpredictable. I have had to stand on one edge of my tent and hold it down with all my strenghth before! Talk about exciting! There is also, almost always, a storm that blows through at some point during the two days. I am crossing my fingers that it won't happen this year! If you're there, stop by to see me! My business name is Sandy Toes Jewelry, and I'm supposed to be at space #69.
After the show, I get to focus on my relaxation time. I can't wait! I need this vacation! My husband needs this vacation! I think even my kids need a vacation! My oldest went to summer school this summer. I wish I could say that I feel sorry for him, but it was his own fault. The boy is smarter than he realizes.
I can't wait to hit the beach! We have spent so little time outside this year, we will all definately have to sunscreen up, and we'll probably STILL burn! Once we get out onto the beach, nobody wants to leave until we're starving. One of the things that we learned while we lived at the beach is one of the things that we have forgotten how to do. We have forgotten how to relax! I know this seems like a simple thing to do, but it definately takes practice. I'll be practicing it in the Outer Banks in a very short while. I hope I perfect it!

Originally posted August 3, 2009

Made with Love

Birthdays are one of those days which you generally give a gift. As an artist, giving a gift is always one of those dilemmas that you don't know what to do about. As a child, we're encouraged to make something for the person that we love, just to show them how much we love them. As an adult, it kind of feels self-serving. For one, when we give something that we've made, it sort of feels like we're showing off. "Look what I can do!" Then there's the insecure feelings that come on. "What if they don't like it? They can't very well return it, can they?" Then there's just the money side of it. We are a very materialistic society which looks at how much someone has paid for an item. Making something for someone feels like you didn't care about them enough to spend any money on them. But do they feel that way?

I have a really hard time giving my jewelry to people as gifts. When I do give someone my jewelry, I tend to do it only because I KNOW they will like the piece I've selected for them. As in, they have practically begged me for it. The only exception to this is giving jewelry to my sons' teachers. I like to give them my pieces because I spent time on them, just like they spent time on my children. I kind of feel like we've just made a trade. Perhaps not a very fair trade, however. They've spent a LOT more time on my children than I spent on their piece of jewelry. But it's a token of my appreciation for all that they've done for my kids, and I hope they see it that way.

I always hope that those who have received my jewelry as a gift enjoy it. I hope they don't feel like I'm just giving them something I've made because I had it laying around, and it was easy. I always hope that gifts I hand-make are seen just as my parents saw them when I was little, as a special gift made especially for them. Made with love.

This was originally posted on July 15, 2009.

Moving Day!

I've actually been blogging for a while, but I went with ANOTHER COMPANY!!! Unfortunately, I had a hard time understanding what I was doing over there, so I'm moving! I don't know how hard it's going to be to get everything transferred over to here, but that's what I'm aiming to do. Let me get started here by saying that I'm very excited to be here! This is already MUCH less confusing!

Let the move begin! I'll be back with some new, but older, posts. Stay tuned!