Saturday, January 31, 2009

Items Posted in FAE Exhibition

"Melusine" by Tanocat Gems

Featured at Fantasy Artists of Etsy "Love at First Flight" Exhibition

Thought I'd show you a teaser of the beautiful items that await your perusal at FAE's latest Exhibition.  There's an adorable sculpture of an intrepid steampunk aviator, a "Serenity" necklace, beautiful softly glowing vials of magic, fairy wings, images of winged seductresses, and more.  You really ought to go look.  I'm not telling what I posted, you'll have to find it!  (hint:  both youvegotmaille and SecondRenaissance items are there!)

My Thanks to the Following!





Sending out a big thank you to my top Entrecard visitors this month.  Click on any of the images above to check out their cool blogs... it's no accident that some of them are favorites that I have to visit every day because they're so cool  and I don't want to miss anything they've said.  :)

A thanks to EVERYONE who comments... your comments mean a lot to me (seriously, I check it more than my Heartomatic now!)

In other news, in case you hadn't heard, The Consumer Product Safety Commission granted a one-year stay of testing and certification requirements for certain products to be regulated under CPSIA.  Thanks for all you did to protest this law as it stood!  Maybe in the next year we can get it amended so that it's friendlier to small business and handcrafters.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Creativity Inspiration #1

Whatever your creative outlet, I thought it'd be cool to have a prompt, or a little bit of inspiration.  I used to love writer's prompts.  And, indeed, if you happen to be a writer, there's no reason you should not be able to use these.  They should work with whatever your creativity encourages. 

But... try to think outside the box.  If you don't have a creativity journal, think about getting one, and don't be afraid to scribble in it.  Collage in it.  Put pictures of your work and others' in it.  Don't write in it as if it had lines (even if it does), write big and bold, or sideways, or all different ways, or fill the page with random words.  Use different colored markers.  Let your inner artist play.  I'll probably address this from time to time in these Friday prompts, and some of them will deal specifically with your journal or sketchbook.  If you work better on random scraps of paper, start a scrapbook or at least keep them in a folder.  These things are great to look at later.

So you can start (or continue) in your journal with this one, or if you make jewelry, use it for that.  If you crochet, use it for that.  Use it to inspire your usual creative outlet or try a new one.  Got polymer clay?  Crayons?  Run wild.

If you do use it, please comment and leave me a link so I can see where the inspiration led you.

I'm hoping to make this a weekly feature so subscribe (right column at the bottom is the RSS feed) and stop back on Fridays to check it out.  If you'd rather get them via email, request it in a comment here and I'll send it out that way.

This week's inspiration:

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's getting toward the end of winter when we start longing for Spring.  Some of us are snowed in.  Some are tired of dreary skies and gray/brown earth.  You have the power of Spring in your hands, to make one small thing blossom.  What will you do with it?

I'll post my results next week, I'd love to see yours!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Will You Marry Me? [EBT Carnival]

Ah yes, the long-awaited Valentine's Day tale and Etsy Bloggers Carnival Entry! 

Russell and I had known each other for four months and we were pretty crazy about each other.  He would come to Ohio from Tennessee about once a month to visit, and I already had plans to move there.  So, naturally, I wanted this Valentine's Day to be special.  I arranged for dinner at a very nice, very expensive fondue restaurant.

Over the wonderful cheese fondue he carefully took my hand (skirting the hot fondue pot) and asked me to marry him.  Naturally, I said yes.  He gave me a beautiful ring that had belonged to his mother.  Engagement on Valentine's Day is, yes, incredibly sappy (but easy to remember!  which in fact he does, seemingly better than our wedding anniversary).

Fondue is a curious thing.  He'd make comments for months about "paying so much for food you have to cook yourself."  I grew up in the 80s with a mom who follows the latest gourmet trends, so we'd had fondue parties all the time.  I was around 10 at the time, and trust me, kids and fondue don't mix too well.  We had our share of mishaps, about which I warned Russ, since this was the first time he'd ever had fondue.  Things like:  getting the food on your fork while holding it in your hand can potentially result in twin holes in your hand not unlike mini vampire bites.  Eating off a fondue fork that just came out of hot oil is guaranteed to result in a nasty lip blister.  It's great when you can prevent an accident with someone else's foreknowledge.

Well, I had a potato in the oil (which I think was a little on the hot side), and it gave this terrific fried potato POP! that (according to Mr. Melodrama, with much gesticulating),  "sent a Glob of Hot Oil flying INCHES from my EYE!!"

He still makes the sign of warding against evil at the word "fondue," since naturally he would NEVER miss an opportunity to tell the story about how I tried to kill him on our engagement night.

EtsyBloggers Trunk Show Tomorrow!

EtsyBloggers is having a live trunk show tomorrow at 9 EST. If you've never been to a Trunk Show, they're a lot of fun! The Virtual Labs on Etsy is a really cool interactive chat room. Not only that, but the Bloggers have a huge variety of items so there's sure to be something for everyone!

Click on the banner at left to see our Team page, which features the Trunk Show shops, all of which are having a sale. Especially if You can't make it tomorrow!

Click on your "Community" link, then virtual labs, then the Gallery to find us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We can't afford CPSIA

I had thought, since I don't generally make children's products, that this law wouldn't affect me much.  Here's a wonderful, eye-opening post that proves otherwise.  It affects all of us.  Just the cost of things that your children MIGHT use is going to go through the roof.  This is not what the economy needs right now. 

Do read Altered Events' post on the subject and consider giving your Congress folk a call or send a note.  Since I can't say much better than this, I give you a link rather than an essay.  And if you're a blogger, please give this a mention on your blog.

Bloggers Unite!  Wednesday January 28 CPSIA Blog In

Hey Look, an Award!

I got nominated for the Lemonade Award by Vanessa at Designs by VanessaIt's meant for positive-attitude blogs (you know, when life gives you lemons type of thing).  Wow, thanks Vanessa :)

Now I get to pick 10 blogs that I think deserve one of these!  If you're on the list below,
1.  Put the logo on your blog.
2.  Nominate 10 blogs that show great attitude.
3.  Link your nominees with your post & let them know via comment that they're lemonaded.
4.  Link the post to the person who gave you the award.

Here are my Lemonade-ees. :)
1.  NFall2RT Design Studio
2.  Athena's Armoury
3.  Get Silvered  (her post today is ironic :)
4.  Liv'n Good Jewelry
5.  Youiquely Chic
6.  My Strength and My Song
7.  Doodle Week (darnit i haven't doodled yet!)
8.  Morning Sky Jewelry
9.  IKOW Designs
10.  Theresa's Treasures

There, a bunch of positive chainmaillers and a few others!  =)

I want Wednesdays are really cool, click on the link to check it out. This week:
What do you want to know today?

Most of my want to knows are want to know hows.  I want to know how to speak foreign languages.  I want to know how to make beautiful soldered filigree jewelry. I want to know how to take professional looking photos.  I want to know how to blow glass and throw pottery and create things in a superheated forge.  I want to know how to make music again, piano and violin.  I want to know the secret of having more time to create.  I want to know what I'm making for dinner.  I suppose the "today" more or less limits it all to the last one or maybe two, since I won't be unlocking all the secrets of the universe in a day.  Ah well, I can dream.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So Very Helpful

I was taking some pictures of some chain bracelets to sell on Etsy. What you see at the bottom is my kitten Otto (8 months old) "helping" me display them :) Silly kitten loves chains more than string... the mere sound of chainmaille brings him running. It makes more noise, it's shiny (he loves shiny), and mom plays with them more. Last night he gagged himself on a piece of wire so he is hereafter banned from the bench while I am working wire.

Here he is "talking" to the birds. Handsome, isn't he?

I have a houseful of other animals; 4 other cats who despise this interloper, 2 Sheltie mixes and a Senegal parrot. I'm sure they'll find their way into one post or another at some point, but none of them are as "helpful" as Otto is (although Clio the parrot certainly would be if I let her).

Being helpful is very tiring.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Love at First Flight

Well I haven't had a chance (okay, confession, I've been really lazy with the camera) to take a picture of my entries for this exhibition yet, but there's still a lot of other cool stuff for you to check out at Fantasy Artists of Etsy team's Love at First Flight Exhibition.  And you should!

On another note, keep an eye here for the FAE calendar, coming soon!

Happy Niu Year

Here in the United States we wear green for St. Patrick's Day.  I propose we wear red for Chinese New Year!  Red was once thought to frighten away the beast Nian ("year"), which is why red lanterns and decorations are still used.  There are so many cool traditions associated with this holiday.  To celebrate the Year of the Ox (Niu), I give you some beautiful items from the many brilliantly talented artisans on Etsy.

The Ox symbolizes calm, hard work, resolve and tenacity.  How are you doing on those Western New Year resolutions?  Maybe now is the time to renew your resolve.

Bronze Silk Tarot Pouch Embroidered with Chinese Zodiac Ox by Rainfeather13

This would be very fortuitous to keep your tarot deck in, of course, but if you're a gamer it occurs to me that it'd give your dice some great chi, as well.  (I told you I was a geek!)  Find other beautiful embroidery, including other Chinese zodiac symbol bags, in Rainfeather's shop.

Chinese New Year Inspired Red Origami Earrings by Bashful Bunnie

When I went hunting for Chinese New Year goodies on Etsy, what I really wanted was a pretty lantern.  But look at these cool lantern-like origami earrings!   I love them!  Go buy them before I decide to, they're a steal!!  Or, pick up a pair in black, patterned paper, pink or gold.  <3

50 Origami Lights - Rainbow Shades by Whimsidoodle

It wouldn't be Chinese New Year without paper lanterns, and while Origami is a Japanese art, these would make a fine addition to any New Year celebration... or anywhere you want really pretty lights!  Imagine decorating a ficus tree with them, or hanging them in an atrium or enclosed porch.  Perfect mood, instantly. 

Dragon Vinyl Wall Decal by Singlestone Studios

No New Year would be complete without a dragon for luck.  Now you can adopt one to watch over an area of your home and keep the luck with you year-round.  And how COOL is it!?  I've wanted to do an Oriental-themed room for ages (preferably my bedroom), and this would be so perfect.

There were tons of nifty dragon items on Etsy, but I settled on this one.  If you're a dragon person like I am you owe it to yourself to do the search over there. 

To my friends in places where your New Year is just beginning, Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐  (happy new year). 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bella Casa Etsy Party!

Bella Casa is hosting an Etsy Party January 26-30. Several amazing and talented Etsy artists have donated items to be given away. Given away!!! All you have to do is go look at this amazing stuff, visit the artists' shops, and then starting Monday go tell Bella which of the sellers' items are your favorites. Then win!

For this event You've Got Maille has donated a custom stretchy chainmaille bracelet, so be sure to visit. Definitely check out the other neat stuff, too.

Thanks for hosting Bella!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Expectations

It's the craziest thing... I buy cabochons, or gemstones, or beads... and sometimes I get a really good deal on ones that I like pretty well, but they're nothing special.  Other times, I find ones I LOVE that I MUST have because they're gorgeous.

And the gorgeous ones sit in my box of rocks.  You should see my pretty rock collection.  I sit on my lunch hour and look at them.  I can picture them finished, but there's an intimidation factor in trying to do them justice.

Then, when I go to create something with those perfect cabochons, I HATE it.  (the one above falls into this category... the wire was too thick too stiff, and one of the bail wires snapped... it's not symmetrical... I plan on redoing it)  Especially if I knew just what I wanted to do with it.  It never looks like I meant it to.  I might as well throw away my sketchbook.  But  I take one of my "ugly" rocks and some cheap copper or colored wire, and just play with it...

Those are the ones that come out spectacular. 

And my favorite creations end up being the ones that don't photograph well, and the stuff I was lukewarm about at the bench blows me away when I look at the photos.

Yesterday I decided I have GOT to get some finished products out of that box of rocks, so I grabbed the one my husband said was "ugly" (it's a gray stone with red, chohua jasper) and some copper, and... well, I'll be doing some pictures today so when I get them done I'll put a pic here and you can judge for yourself.  I'm really happy with the wrap, though.

Is nothing ever the way I expect it to be?  Does anyone else have this problem?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nutshell [BF Carnival]

I recently joined Artfire's BlogFire guild, and for the guild's first carnival we're expected to do an introduction. 

Well, everybody likes talking about themselves, and I am no exception. 
The basics:
30something (the something indicates the back half of the 30s, doesn't it)
happily married
one son, scarily near 16
live in rural Tennessee

I have a restlessly creative spirit.  I love poetry and reading, but I like nonfiction, fantasy and science fiction (but it must be well written, I can't stand "formula.")  I have written poetry.  I have journaled for years, but this blog seems to stand in for the most part, these days.  I think I should get back to journaling, most likely.  Lately the poet-muses have mostly left me in the care of the metal muse.

I love animals.  I share my home with Rascal (a shih tzu-sheltie mix), Dink (a yorkie-sheltie mix, Rascal's half brother), my 5 cats, and a Senegal parrot whose only word is "up" although she does some great sound effects.  I rode horses as a teenager and have dreamed of having a horse for as long as I can remember, a dream I hope to realize in the near future now that I've moved somewhere it doesn't cost the same as a mortgage to keep one.

I consider myself nerdily cool.  I adore the Renaissance era, reenacting it, costuming it (although sewing is something I have not conquered yet), and especially learning Renaissance dances, which I teach to middle school kids.  I love Renfaires.  I have been addicted to MMORPGs (but have broken free... they eat your life).  I play D&D or Star Wars RPG on the weekends. 

I am Liberal.  I have high hopes for Mr. Barack.  Nuff said.

My religious journey has been circuitous and I am still a wanderer. The confusion of my past has left me reluctant to discuss my beliefs.  One thing that I have firmly decided, though, is that I shall judge no one's creed.  It is not my place.

I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to rural Tennessee to marry my husband Russ almost four years ago.  I love Tennessee.  The character, the landscape, the relaxed way of life.  The picture above is from our Renaissance wedding celebration, complete with handfasting ceremony we designed ourselves.  It was a blast.  In a few days I shall tell the tale of our engagement, since the EtsyBloggers carnival asked for Valentine stories.

A year ago I took a metalsmithing class and shortly thereafter learned to make chainmaille, which then extended to wire wrapping, and lately I've been doing some bead weaving.  Creating things is my passion and I think, after trying so very many creative things (under my bed are supplies that would fit in nearly every aisle of my local craft store), I have found my outlet. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chainmaille: How We Got Here

Since I have a lot of people breezing through who might not be familiar with maille, I thought I'd say a word or two on the state of chainmaille in the world today.

Of course, in ancient times it was made of bronze, brass, or steel and worn as armor. It's much lighter than plate armor and much easier to fix if damaged.

Some time in the last couple of decades the Renaissance faire-going and SCA-attending crowd started making their own armor out of coiled rings. Usually steel. But steel's heavy, and if you're fighting with PVC swords, or not fighting at all, you don't really need all that much protection. Aluminum is one third the weight of steel, so it was a natural choice. From there it was a short step for the ladies of said geeky persuasions to start wearing bits of their own chainmaille... necklaces, headdresses, that sort of thing. The guys made themselves rings and bracelets. They experimented with the weaves and started inventing amazing new ones.

Along came the hobby jeweler (probably just behind scrapbooking in the hobbyist craze, to judge from the amount of inventory at my local Hobby Lobby). They were using a lot of wire anyway... I don't know who started it, but really, chainmaille is a natural fit here. It requires a minimum of tools, and done in silver is mesmerizing. Plus... if you've never had a piece of well made chainmaille in your hands you're missing out. The feel is extremely sensual and incredibly fun to fidget with if you've got restless hands. Chainmaille went from the bits of "geek" jewelry to sleek creations in glimmering precious metals. And the jewelers carried the experimentation even further, and added other jewelry making techniques and materials into the mix.

I guess I wouldn't call chainmaille "mainstream" yet, although it's made its appearance on the fashion runways in the past few years (wait... that's not mainstream, never mind). But that might be a good thing, because "unique" is the word I hear most often to describe my work, which I like. And you want to wear something unique, too, right?

So whether you're looking for something to wear with your Renfaire costume, a stretchy bracelet to wear to high school, a slinky choker to wear with that little black dress, a sturdy stainless steel bracelet to wear to your blue collar job, or armor against the mundane, you'll find it in chainmaille.

So here's my suggestion: head on over to Etsy and search "chainmaillers team" or go to our Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild blog, where you'll find an amazing array of styles and materials to fit your mood and your personal style. And of course, I'd love to work with you personally to make a custom item exactly the way you want it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day of Service

Check out Daily Coloring Pages
(and discover that it's really relaxing to color and be a kid again for a little while!)

We Americans have so many holidays that are more or less meaningless to us.  Labor day and Memorial Day come to mind as days that are basically just a break from work or school and not much more than that.  There are others.  Has Martin Luther King, Jr. day become that?

This website: says no.  His life was dedicated to service and in that spirit, everyone is encouraged to find a way to serve others on this day, and make it "a day on, not a day off."  I think that's a great idea, especially if you have children, since a lot of children are severely lacking in the area of being taught to serve others.  But I suspect nearly all of us could use a little more of it in our lives.

Check out that website, click on "How to Serve" and "Click here to find a MLK Day opportunity", then find your state for places to offer your service.  Then, make this a yearly tradition.

I think Dr. King would have been proud of us as a nation this year.  Happy Martin Luther King day, everyone.

(Yes, I know, the social commentary is taking over... I make no apologies though)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Sale and Blog Feature (yay!)

I've decided to offer 20% off anything in my shop now through Wednesday in celebration of this historic inauguration, including gift certificates and custom orders. Happy Bushisgone week!

An addendum so I don't end up doing 3 posts in one day!

I just discovered (accidentally) that NanjoDogz has Second Renaissance featured on her blog! Thanks so much! It's an awesome feeling to find someone appreciating my work, when it's someone whose work I've appreciated for ages. Go check out her Etsy shop too. You cannot resist the cuteness!


Kat over at Candles, Crafts and Whatnot tagged me. So cool to be meeting new bloggers via Entrecard.

So you're stuck with eight random facts about me.

1) I'm a horrible sleeper. I'm restless, turn constantly (when I had long hair I had to put it up because it kept trying to strangle me), flip my pillow to get to the cold side (does anyone else do this?) and have stretches where I can't sleep much at all.

2) I'm also an incorrigible morning person. Usually cheerful in the morning. But past 11:00 at night I'm not terribly pleasant.

3) I really don't do movies. You know how some people are restless and can't read for very long stretches? I can't seem to sit through a movie without occupying myself otherwise somehow.

4) I'm kind of the same with TV, although I make an exception for Heroes (I still chainmaille during the show though)

5) I'm a nerd. I need to do a whole post on this, but in addition to my Renaissance geekiness, on weekends I play D&D or Star Wars RPG. I used to be addicted to Guild Wars but I substituted an addcition to making jewelry. I think it's more productive. I don't LARP, though.

6) I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least once a year and have read the Silmarillion, or parts of it, several times. I also keep coming back to other beloved series: Dune (Frank Herbert), A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin), the Assassin/Live ship books (Robin Hobb), and the Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon). I want to re-read the Foundation series some time soon. In between all of these I read books I've never read before. I don't have an attention deficit problem with reading :)

7) Whenever I lie on the couch I usually have an average of 2 cats lying on me.

8) I'm anal retentive about cleaning out my keyboard. It never looks like I am, though.

There, that's me. Here's the rules:

1. Each blogger starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged and to read your blog.
5. For the recipients, leave a comment for the person who tagged you, so they can go and read your answers.

Here are my peeps!
1) The Costumer
2) Theresa's Treasures
3) Delavande (I tagged her before but I don't think she did it)
4) A Rose By Name
5) Five O'Clock Somewhere
6) Spotted Cow Soaps
7) The Copper Cauldron
8) Rose Works Jewelry

My apologies if this has been thrown at you several times. This is my second but since I have a lot of new bloggy friends, I figured I'd do Take 2. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blog Circle Giveaway

I have an idea kicking around in my head... I thought if we crafty bloggers could pool resources for a contest/giveaway, it might increase traffic for all of us by people who maybe don't normally frequent blogs.  Here's how it works:

I'll make a list of participating blogs.  Each of us will do a post on the same day advertising the giveaway.  Each blog will have an item they're giving away, which will be posted on the main page.  We'll let it run for a week or two, and for each blog they leave a comment on, the participants will have their name thrown into the hat once (so, the more blogs they visit, the more chances to win).  Also for each purchase from one of the bloggers they can have their name in the hat another time. 

If you're interested in participating leave a comment here with your blog URL and your email.  If there's enough interest I'll start setting it up. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Make a Difference

Save Handmade!

"I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own democracy again." -- Barack Obama

I mostly avoid social commentary on this blog, although I make no secret that I am a happy Liberal who adores the new President (so far). I have compared him to FDR and he is making great use of the Internet in his own style of fireside chats. At any citizen could go and propose or vote on issues that matter to them. I saw somewhere that voting ended yesterday (sorry, I guess I'm slow on the draw), but the idea is that the administration will now work with nonprofit sponsors for each idea to make some changes.

It is a mark of the power of the blogging community that the request to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was SIXTH on this list of issues and will be landing in a report on the new President's desk. If you're reading a blog I'm guessing you know about this already but in case not, it is a proposed law mandating that those who make products for children pay for third-party testing for their products to ensure safety. It's a good idea, but the way it is written now, it would make it impossible for crafters and small businesses to make anything at all for kids and turn a profit.

Think about that -- sixth! -- out of the volumes of social issues facing our troubled society. For those of you who supported this, kudos. For everyone else, you have an invitation. Go to and get involved. Click on the sticker above and put it on your blog to support this movement. Support other causes that matter to you. The last eight years have created an environment of "whats the point" in the minds of the citizenry, but that is about to change. You don't have to be an activist. You have every opportunity to stay connected via the Internet, and your President has invited you to do so. Even more so, if you're a blogger -- even if you're not a social issues blogger -- you can make a difference.

A note: this site should not be confused with, which is the President-elect's official site, and where you can find his weekly address (and which I also encourage you to check out and subscribe to), although they haven't made them easy to find in one place. You can also search "obama weekly address" on YouTube for the latest address.

Welcome to a new era.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wait, it's 2009? - Carnival

Okay, so I'm a little slow coming to this resolution/goal thing. I know the month is half over. For one thing, I'm a little resistant to resolution (it's the nonconformist streak in me... I refuse to resolve to lose those lbs. along with a million other people, and then fail with them). But I do have goals for the shop, and even if I bore you with them, it's good to have them out there in the public eye if only to remind me throughout the year. Besides, the alternative was talking about taxes, and you don't want that, it'd be a whiny post. So here goes.

1) New techniques, new materials. I'm not bored with chainmaille. I keep coming back to it. But wire intrigues me. I have a box of cabochons that beg wrapping. I have new books and tools. So these will include:
  • Lots more cab wrapping using new techniques
  • More precious metals for the new shop
  • Viking weave
  • Braided and woven wire
  • Soldered wire filigree
  • Bezel making
  • Branching into some metalsmithing
  • Peyote and other bead weaving
  • Maybe some micro-macrame
It's a lot of directions, in some ways, and I fear I will never have that distinctive "style" that lets you look at something and know it was made by me. I think I've decided that's okay. I'll never enjoy making lots of the same or even very similar items. It has to be done sometimes, though.

2) Craft shows. I'd like to go to some bigger/more expensive ones and work on building an inventory for the 2010 Renaissance Faire.

3) Website. It needs work. It needs to be easier to order from. And maybe a new look entirely. By the same token, I intend to increase my web presence and make better use of social networking sites. You like my social networking avatar?

4) Time management. This is the big one. I want to get my "real" work done in some sort of time that lets me create in those normal off-time hours most people have at the end of the day. People have those, right?

5) Manage inventory and "the books" better. You might be getting the idea that I'm not that great at this "management" thing. You'd be right.

6) Develop some leads on local distributors.

7) By the end of the year, I'd like to have the business where it makes (even a very small) profit, rather than costing the family money. I'm making significant strides here.

There, I committed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Naked Against the Sky ... Etsy Picks for the Week

I have always believed that if magic exists in the world, it exists in trees.  Every aspect of their yearly death and rebirth is glorious and magical.  They sleep now in my part of the world, and this is my tribute to them and to several very talented artists of Etsy.

Glass Wine Carafe, Hand Etched by DayDreemDesigns

I think perhaps my wine deserves this beautiful etched carafe.  This isn't the paste on stuff you buy for etching at the craft store... these are diamond-tip etched.  Check the store for matching candle holders.

Papercuts - Picnic by PaperCutDieCut

Go now and look at the other pictures for this item (and the rest of the store!).  This was cut BY HAND, every angle.  If you've ever done any decoupage you know how hard and time consuming this is!  There were so many things in this store I could have included but I liked the reflection in this one.

Sterling Silver Pietersite Tree of Life Bracelet by Shellamie

There are a lot of "tree of life" pendants and other jewelry out there, but no one does them better than Shellamie.  I love the delicate simplicity of this bracelet, so that the focus is on the stone and the tree adorning it.  This is wirework at its best.

A Place of Dreaming (original painting) by Jaime Best of BestArt Studios

Another shop I had a heck of a time picking something from.  If you like trees, Jaime has all sorts of them, with both prints and originals available.  I chose this one because the eerie light of the moon behind the trees, which they seem to be embracing, enchanted me.  A place of dreaming, indeed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Google Analytics

I was planning on posting a little how-to on using Google Analytics, specifically with Etsy.  Now available in the Shop Setup section under Web Analytics on your Your Etsy page.  The directions for setting it up are fairly easy.

But, since Jill of Liv'n Good Jewelry has done a hell of a job with said article already, I give you link.   The info includes how to use the info to determine the best time to list new items, and the excellent advice not to obsess (are you spying on me, Jill?  I'm a Heartomatic junkie....).  It's kind of like starting Weight Watchers and weighing yourself five times the first day (I've NEVER done that......)

Enjoy.  This is an excellent tool a long time coming.

Did I mention she has some beautiful items in her shop, as well?  :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chore Wars

The coolest thing for overworked geek moms: Chore Wars! It's a D&D style online RPG. You, mom, are (for a change!) the Dungeon Master. You create quests and adventures for chores that need to be done. You can include the location, dole out experience points, create random treasure and gold rewards, and a random "monster" encounter. Here's one I did:

Chop Down the Mighty Tree of Kringle
Reward: 100 XP, DEX, STR & CON, 70-80 gold pieces, 40% chance of treasure (Goodies of Momness), 70% chance of a wandering monster (Otto Treestalker -- our kitten)
Quest: Ye shall take down the great Tree and all of its decorations and carry it to the Dungeon of Garage!

Each family member then creates a character (you've already named the adventuring party) and can log in and claim the rewards for a given "quest." Depending on how you want to run it, you can have the gold translate into allowance, or the treasure translate into privileges or prizes (say, a voucher to get out of doing a chore one day, or a request for a special dinner).

How COOL is this!? I think this gamer geek family might actually get something done around here!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Magic Hands, Magic Soap

Winter Grapefruit Soap Bar by Magic Hands Soap

If you've been reading my blog for a while (has anyone?  *echo, echo*) you know that I discovered the wonders of handmade soap a while ago.  And I'm hooked.  The lather, the scent, the luxurious feel of it.  Since I discovered it, I've been so excited to try handmade soap that I keep jumping from one soap seller on Etsy (and at a few craft fairs) to another.  I haven't returned to any.

Of course, some are better than others.  My very favorite of the many I've tried has been Magic Hands' Mulled Cider Shea Butter soap.  The lather was sinful the way a chocolate cake is blissfully sinful, and that homey, spicy scent filled not only my bathroom but my adjoining bedroom, as well.  I bought one of her salt bars and a couple of bars for my mother-in-law, as well (haven't used them yet).  I think - and I hope I'm wrong? - that the mulled cider might've been a holiday promotional scent.  I sure would like more of it, but I'm also happy to try some of her others.  My husband would love the one pictured.

At any rate, I will be buying from Magic Hands again.  I have a little bag (a Bath & Body Works bag... I find that somewhat ironic and amusing, since I will probably not buy anything but their foaming hand soap from them again) almost full of Etsy soap, so once I use some of it up I'll be back to her shop.  My advice to you is... try it!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Close-Up Photography Tips: Using a Light Tent

If you're selling online, pictures are critical.  Customers can't pick up your wares and inspect them themselves, touch them, look at them from different angles.  Bad pictures mean no sales.  Good pictures mean your chances are vastly increased.

Once you've mastered the macro lens on your camera (the subject of another article), the next most important (maybe more important) consideration in photographing jewelry is your lighting.  You want a bright, large spectrum light, but not direct light, because that will cause too much shadow and glare.  The answer:  a light tent. 

You can find these critters on eBay, at Wal-Mart, and in a lot of catalogs for $40 and up, because a lot of people are selling online.  If you REALLY don't want to mess with this, feel free to buy one.  I have seen one at China Super Deals for $15.99.  (Not an endorsement, I know nothing about them).  But you could probably make your own for $5.  Well, a little more than that with lights.

A cardboard box
White fabric
A piece of posterboard
2 to 3 light-enhancing lamps; the clip-on sort used for reptile tanks works well
2 to 3 light bulbs, the wider spectrum the better
a staple gun

Here's how.  Get yourself a box that will comfortably fit your items width and length-wise.  For height, give yourself some extra height, in case you want to put it on some sort of display.  Plus, you want a curve, as you'll see in a minute.  Now head out to your nearest fabric store and buy some cheap white fabric that is opaque but allows some light through.  Typically light filtering stuff is made out of a nylon, parachute type material, but pretty much anything will work.  Don't get anything that you can see through.  Alternatively, tear up an old white sheet.  Cut the top off your box completely.  Cut holes in three sides leaving only about 1" of framework around the edges, so that you have the top and three sides open.  Leave the back and bottom alone.  Now staple your fabric to this framework so that it's taut, one layer, and covers the top, left and right sides of your box.  You can either leave the front open, or cover it and cut a hole in it so that your camera lens fits perfectly through it on a tripod.  Next, cut your posterboard to fit inside your box perfectly.  Make a "ramp" in your box that slopes from the front bottom edge of your box to the back top.  Staple in place  (this gives you a smooth background with no edges or corners in it).

Now position your lights one on either side and one shining down from the top. on the top (you can make do with 2 but 3 is better).  Set up your camera, set to macro, and shoot!   Consider picking up some scrapbooking paper in various colors, or with VERY subtle patterns as backgrounds.  You don't want something that will compete with your item, but it seems to me that items with colored backgrounds make Etsy's front page more often than white does, unless they're having a white day.

As you can see from the picture above, my setup is simple.  It sits on a chair so I have a place to clip the lights, and I sit on a footstool in front of it and shoot.  I normally use 3 lights, but a friend has one of them.  I also dropped the light on the left as I was doing this and knocked the filament out of the 100 watt bulb I normally use and had to replace it with a 60 watt.  Doh.

Anyway, that's it!  Cheap, simple.  And it'll make a huge difference in your photos compared to shooting in ambient light.  I plan on doing another article on using the macro lens, and then some on post-shoot editing.  Keep an eye here!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Book Review: Link It!

Nachtmusik available at You've Got Maille

I got some really nice books for Christmas, and it occurred to me that it might be nice to do reviews on books and tools from time to time. So here's my first one.

Link It!: Colorful Chainmaille Jewelry with Rubber O-Rings is definitely unique. I'm not entirely sure we can still call this "chainmaille" ... it seems more like rubber weaving to me.

My first project was the above bracelet. I'm used to making things like European 4-in-1 braclets with EPDM rings. These are made with neoprene, and they are woven so tightly that what you end up with doesn't really stretch all that much. And they're... chunky. That said, the bracelet above is growing on me. I LOVE the little white dogwood blossoms on the black. It definitely photographed well. Why is it my most favorite stuff never photographs well?

But I was reviewing. If you've got a little experience with jewelry, and enough brains to open and close a jump ring correctly and follow a tutorial, you can make this stuff. The instructions on the basics are easy to follow, and the individual projects are very clear and well illustrated, with a few exceptions (connect what to what...?) If you've been mailling for a while now and are bored with the same dozen weaves, this is good for you, too. There's no run-of-the-mill weave in here.

My favorite thing about the book is that the author encourages you to play (she's an art teacher.. wish my art teacher was that cool). And the different sized neoprene rings are certainly good for that. Do your own colors (some of hers are... a bit much for me). Add different beads. My intent: I want to play with sizes and try to come up with something a little more delicate, since I personally don't wear much that's over an inch thick on my wrist. And I'll probably be adding those little acrylic flowers to everything, I really like them :)

I absolutely recommend (and it's not listed in the book anywhere, unfortunately) that you get your rings from Blue Buddha Boutique. Not only does she have all of the rings you need for the projects, she's about on par with Fire Mountain Gems on the Oh rings price-wise (unless you're buying TONS from FMG), and she has this fantastic, handy-dandy chart with exactly how many of what size rings you need for each project, both neoprene and aluminum. Plus, her site is organized neatly and absolutely clear on which size rings you need, whereas FMGs is scattered and confusing. You'll only need to buy your beads and embellishments elsewhere (recommended: Artbeads and Fusion Beads; both have wholesale prices, free shipping, good variety). Plan on dropping around $30 to make your first project; you'll have rings left over for others but you'll need an average of 4 colors/sizes of neoprene, plus aluminum (which you might have on hand if you're a mailler), and any beads. I'll be making stuff in black and white for a while.

When you do make these projects, if you've been making stretchies in traditional chainmaille weaves, resist the temptation to make these to stretch over your hand. There's not that much play in the thick, woven rubber, so it should be made more like a bangle than a stretchy. That said, it does stretch some.

I definitely intend to try out a few more of these. I tried a second bracelet and did not like it at all, but it was more personal taste than anything. And I will be experimenting with these techniques. If you like the look of woven rubber, go for it. Available at Amazon, Blue Buddha's site, and C&T Designs.

Rating out of 5: 4 Links.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Diamond Rings for meeeeeeee.....

Look what's on the way to my house! These are ultra shiny copper jump rings made of square wire cut on the bias so that they're "diamond" shaped (ha, fooled you didn't I). Tell you what, though, I think I'm more excited than I would be if a "real" diamond ring were headed my way (unless it was everything I needed to make my OWN diamond ring).

These are coming at me from C&T Designs. They are cutting edge. Urban Maille is the only other site I've seen that does odd-shaped rings and I can't find any gold ones on their site (although I seem to recall that they had a site specifically for GF rings that I can't seem to find a link to.)

This is where I put in a plug (since it occurs to me that I haven't blogged one although I have raved pretty much everywhere else about them) for C&T. Are they the cheapest? Nope. If you want Wal-Mart, go to The Ring Lord, where you will find very decent rings mass produced, (please don't buy machine cut!) cheap, and I have to say it, their customer service sucks. I have twice emailed them about orders, once about something that was missed being sent to me, and got no reply. Zilch. So... I use them for anodized aluminum because their prices are unbeatable for it, sometimes enameled copper because they have more than one size, and a few other random things (I was using them for my bright aluminum as well because it was chrome shiny, but the last batch was dissappointingly dull... grrrr!). I use Blue Buddha Boutique for small batches of multicolored anodized aluminum, 20g 1/8" enameled copper (please make other sizes!) and neoprene. For pretty much everything else, C&T. If they're not the cheapest, why?

1) I'm a sucker for shiny. C&T's rings are on the left in both pictures above (copper and stainless steel, respectively), TRL's on the right. Curt tumbles all his rings before he sends them out, then you get a little nontarnish tab in the baggie with any tarnishable metals, to keep them glowing till you make something gorgeous out of them. I am talking SERIOUSLY shiny.... so shiny that when he sent me a picture of the rings at the top of the post I thought they were gold!

2) Customer service. I can email and ask for a specific gauge rings for a project, and Curt will experiment and calculate (something I suck at, so this is hugely valuable) till he finds the perfect aspect ratio. If you want to make a bracelet, he sends you enough for a bracelet, with a little extra. Then I get the stuff, make something stunning, and get to take all the credit. It feels like cheating. (although there is SOME creativity involved on my end ;)

3) Neat stuff. The square and diamond shaped rings are a new thing, but C&T is also the only place you can get rainbow anodized niobium, that is, a rainbow of color on each ring. Recently he sent me a toggle closure made of anodized niobium that was two colors, twisted... without any naked wire ends, which means he'd taken the care to anodize even those. Which brings me to...

4) Precision and care. When I order those TRL AA rings, sometimes I throw out TONS of them because whoever does their anodizing kind of sucks. The colors are not right, the colors rub off, they scratch really easily. C&T saw cuts everything, which means perfect closures (closures are EVERYTHING in chainmaile), even steel, which is nutty :) Everything anodized is completely anodized, and perfect. If I throw out any rings it's because I mangled them myself.

5) Custom service. This fits in with the customer service, but you can ask for pretty much anything round and made out of some sort of wire, and C&T will do their best to get it or make it.

6) Free stuff with every order. Rebecca at Blue Buddha does this too. I tell ya, I'd much rather get a little bagful of free rings than 10% off my order. It's like Christmas every time I get a package in the mail. And since I chat with Curt about the stuff I'm doing on a regular basis (because of the custom thing), he always puts the coolest stuff in.

7) Humbleness. Not too willing to sing his own praises, so I make up for it. :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I'm happy to say You've Got Maille went "retail" today, as my hairdresser at Reflections Salon locally offered to let me put a few things in her store.  I took a carousel full of earrings and a treasure chest full of stretchies like the one above.  It's good for the soul to hear people oohing and ahhing over stuff you've made... a great fuss was made over everything and I think it'll actually do really well there.  In fact, I made a sale before I even left the store. :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

January EtsyBlogger: Rose Works Jewelry

The Legend of Zelda Link Bracelet

Is this not so cool!  The little "yay you found something" Zelda theme immediately went through my head.  She's got the esoteric symbol that ran throughout the first season of Heroes, too.  Yay geekery!

If you're not geek enough to know what the heck I'm talking about up there, there's still plenty to love.

Purple Snake Bracelet

I have an appreciation for a lot of the things in Rose Works' shop that I probably wouldn't have had last month, having completed my first bead weaving (peyote) bracelet recently.  These things are intricate and take a LOT of time.  But her prices are so reasonable!  (maybe she's a heck of a lot faster than I am... I'm guessing so).  I'm also envious over the macrame in her shop (I love macrame!) and at her other shop she has this gorgeous crocheted bookmark (for $7!).   Check it out: