Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Physical Response to Beauty

Breathing, heart beating, blushing -- all beyond our control. We don't make them happen. They just happen.

Sometimes I see or hear something so beautiful that a physical response just happens -- also, beyond my control & always a "wonder" to me. Warmth in my gut spreads quickly upward to my face, which gets hot. I suspect I'm beet red. Then tears spill out, impossible to block. I wish I understood the sensory-physical-chemical inter-relationships that enable this feeling, which is profound.

I absolutely remember the first time I experienced this "severe appreciation of art"! In 1974 we crossed the country in 2 cars to move from flat Louisiana to dramatically beautiful Pacific Northwest. We spent a month along the way tenting in national parks whenever possible. I will never forget the morning when I came out of our tent into the glorious sunshine & saw the Grand Tetons, snow-capped, & framed by the park's huge evergreens & lake.
(Photo by Jackson Hole Photos). I had really never seen mountains or majestic, tall evergreens. It was breathtaking. Also, after 33 years, I still get that feeling whenever I'm driving around a curve in Seattle & see Mt. Rainier looming high above the horizon!

But let me hear certain segments of music & the feeling is even more profound. The bad news is that I simply can't get that musical phrase out of my head. For a day or 2, I'll mentally play it over and over, which can really disrupt any serious attempt to work.

Last night a friend sent me an audio/video clip, which is stuck in my brain today. I've probably played the actual clip 5 times total, & each time this same feeling of almost-aching pleasure overtakes me. (And whatever you might be relating this feeling to, I'd say -- Yeah, almost as good as that!) Then the tears come -- each time! I wasted many tissues over this piece. Today's blog post was supposed to be Part 2 of Photography, the Agony of Defeat. But why fight it? My brain just wants to hum this music & write about the utter joy I feel every time I see/hear the clip!

PROPOSAL FOR YOU: Please watch the clip with the volume turned up & your Kleenex handy. (Click the website link in the column on the right, "Too Beautiful to Bear..." It takes about 3 minutes.) It would be fun to know what "art" (in the broadest sense) you've encountered that gives you this pleasure. Please 'COMMENT' back!. (Just click the blue "Comments" link below this post & write in the box. Then decide if you want to be anonymous, sign your initials, name, or login to Google. No problem, regardless. Your comments will appear after I read them & weed-out the spam & the ultra-weird.) I hope you enjoy the clip! HERE'S A PROMISE: I'll get back on track in my next post :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My New Product Case!

I'm always amazed at how random encounters or events start their own chain reaction, resulting in decisions & actions I didn't foresee in my life. This particular chain reaction began with The Tan Lady, a shopper who visited my table at my first craft fair. In fact, unquestionably the brightest spot in my day as a seller at the Fremont Craft Market. (But to really appreciate the importance of The Tan Lady, you must read my first 2 posts dated August 8 & August 12. She's worth the read :)

Several friends have asked me if I followed up on the boutique lead The Tan Lady gave me. I'll leave you in suspense for now. But I will say that I began the process. I Googled everything I could find about how to pitch my jewelry to a shop owner. Of course, every article mentioned the need to look professional. With years of experience dealing with professionals, I think I've learned how to be professional, even if I know absolutely nothing about sales & marketing. I mean NOTHING! I can even adopt a casual-chic facade, if I must, but I still planned to pull my beautiful jewelry out of ziplock baggies, stacked in a plastic file box. Did I mention they would be stacked neatly? But Google resources said ABSOLUTELY NOT!

A few Googles later, I found what's called a Product Carrying Case, which comes in all shapes, sizes, materials, & prices. My only strong preference was that it needed wheels! The fabric case I bought was surprisingly inexpensive, BUT all the trays -- 17 of them -- would be pricey. Everything from plastic, to wood. Then you buy liners to fit inside each tray, sized for specialty items -- rings, necklaces, or earrings, for ex. Then decide how plush you want the velvet surface of the liners? It's just money.

So here's my new jewelry image -- case unzipped to show some of the trays in their stack & case closed with 1 tray still out.

What's the verdict? Would you buy jewelry from The Woman with the
Black Case? To be continued...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Excuse me. Did I ping you?

I bet there's a question about blogging analogous to this old standard: "If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around, does it make a sound?"

I know I'll continue to make blogging noise whether or not anyone is listening because I'm beginning to enjoy it! It's fun to document this rollercoaster ride through my new jewelry-making business. But a little help getting readership never hurts. So now I'm educating my poor brain cell about Technorati & other blog search engines, PLUS the concept of pings. (Remember, I'm still proud of handling TWO (!) TV remotes:) So if I successfully ping Technorati, I'm going to run from the cops, hoping it's not illegal. Then I'm going to reward myself with some jewelry making. And that is cause for celebration.

Photographing Jewelry - The Agony of Defeat, part 1

I've always known photography was not my strong suit. I bought myself a big treat 3 years ago, before I even discovered the brain cell that can make jewelry. After quite a bit of research, I chose a Canon PowerShot S50, a lightweight 5MP digital camera. "Surely I could learn to use all the manual adjustments," I said to myself, overly confident. I can fiddle with my PC pretty well, set my digital watch, & even handle TWO remote controls for the TV & all the goodies attached to it! However, taking a picture of my 2 grandchildren or granddogs as they squirm like eels or strike like lightning continues to elude me, whether the setting is Auto or manual! Hopeless. But jewelry doesn't move. That should be easy.

WRONG! In fact, when I decided to expand my jewelry-making passion into a business, the first huge challenge almost sent me packing. Photographing jewelry was even harder that wiggling eels! Lighting, clarity, close-ups... I mean reeeaaalll close-ups, with a camera I could barely use & no tripod. But impossible tasks trigger the hard-headed gene from my mother. No exaggeration ==> I took 400-500 pictures of just 20 sets of jewelry that comprised my first official Collection in 2006. I checked each of those jpg files in PhotoShop Elements, spending a month or more trying to substitute realistic colors for the dingy yellow cast over everything. I had much to learn about my camera & lighting, as you can see from the 'before' & 'after' hours with PhotoShop.

My only consolation was that I really liked the 3 minute wedding dress I made for this picture. Can you tell it's a tablecloth? (Please don't say YES!) It's tricky aiming a hand-held camera at yourself without raising your arms so high that the folded tablecloth falls off. But simulating clothing you don't really have in order to photograph your jewelry is subject matter for another blog or two! (To be continued...)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Glad this monitor only sees 1 way...

Dear Readers,

I'm blushing with embarrassment & glad you can't see it. Maybe you've noticed my ever-increasing encouragement to visitors to write Comments under a post. Today I discovered that you have been commenting all along. I'm horrified to think that you've probably been wondering why I didn't post your Comments! Because I'm once again humbled by my ignorance of technology. Shortly after my first post ever, I read some forums advising bloggers to "enable comment moderation" in the Settings tab to keep spam & the ultra-weird off my blog. But I never stopped to wonder into what twilight zone Blogger would send Comments awaiting my approval. Instead I assumed no one was commenting. (So forgive me, but I do mean to "yell" the following...) BIG APOLOGIES TO ==> DOROTHY, BETH, MARLO, & DAWN for the very delayed publication of their lovely posts! An hour ago, I finally had a light-bulb moment & discovered the twilight zone containing the missing Comments, right under the "Posting" tab. Thank you all sincerely for reading my blog & especially for taking the time to Comment. OK, I won't make that mistake again. There are so many others awaiting their turn... The next post will be back on track :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Missing Piece...

(Title with apologies to Shel Silverstein)

I'm lucky. I'm "retired." I do what I do because I love it, thankfully not because I must. I tell people that I make jewelry. Here is how I've spent this typical week, Monday through Thursday so far (Please hang in there with me. There really is a point to all this :) --

1) 30 hours -- computer work involving jewelry business ==> updating blog, changing & managing my Etsy site, changing & managing my Classic Beadwear site,
re-editing 15-20 pictures of jewelry for Etsy site, reading & contributing to Etsy forums & my team's Meet Up blog, fiddling around with new software gizmos to make my websites & blog more visually entertaining, researching the mysteries of pixels vs resolution vs picture size to get clear pictures (Does anyone really understand this!), browsing to find interesting blogs & websites.
2) 10 hours -- more computer "stuff" -- non-business related -- composing & replying to countless emails in 6 email accounts.
3) 10 hours -- activities with family & friends
3) 2 hours -- housework & cooking
4) 4 hours -- household business - paying bills, etc.
5) 15 hours -- sleeping
6) 4 hours -- walking for exercise
7) 6 hours -- personal needs -- showers, eating, etc.
8) 1 hour -- making jewelry!
9) 18 mystery hours -- Where did I squander this time?? I can't remember, but suspect that much of it was work related.

This analysis is an eye-opener to me ... disconcerting, like admitting I'm getting fat. I don't like the pattern & don't like what I see. I know I'm working hard at "the business of jewelry-making" ... 31 hours in 4 days, not counting a fair share of the 18 "mystery hours," no doubt.

My only question is -- Where is the Making part of jewelry-making? After all, that was & still is the passion that drove the creation of my micro-business! I've got so many design ideas in my head, but lately I've left no time to see their creation.

The reality is that to make a business successful, I've got to make it visible to others beyond friends & family. I've decided to tackle online visibility first, which explains the time spent at the computer. I hope all the effort pays off, as I certainly enjoy the Etsy community, which is international.

But today, I had the pleasure of reading a local Etsy artisan's blog that truly touched my heart. Sherrie most eloquently expressed what her craft meant to her life as a youngster, as a young mother, and now. It so grounded me to read her words that I've listed her Sweetest Peas blog in my favorites. I intend to read it whenever I have another week as skewed away from the Making process as this week as been. Hopefully between my zeal to succeed at the business & my passion for the art, I will find that fine line & learn to walk it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Surprise Phone Call

ANGELS AMONG US: The phone rang as I was working on my Etsy website, and a woman said, "This is Carol from the Fremont Fair. Remember me?" OMG, it was THE TAN LADY, my hero on that sad day. (See my first post.) She had done me another unbelievable kindness. Living across The Pond in Seattle, she roams the hub of activity all the time & found a really nice store of local artisan-only craft items. She touted me to the sales lady & called to say that my jewelry would compete favorably with any other in the store. I now have the name & phone number of the owner. There were even customers in the store when Carol was there- & hopefully some sales. Carol also travels quite a bit & promised to remember me as she scouts various stores along the way. SCOUTS ARE GOOD :) Now, if only THE PHOTOGRAPHER would email me....

Isn't life amazing? We impact each other's lives in ways beyond imagining...

Please don't forget to vote on my 2 business cards, on the bottom-right. Poor Perky Bead seems to be behind in the polls.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Jumping into the Deep End ==> Craft Fair

EXCUSES: I'm not going to start this blog with the beginning of my jewelry-making obsession 18 months ago (see Intro above), but with my first attempt to "be discovered" ==> My First Craft Fair. It was last weekend, The Fremont Sunday Market.
To be perfectly honest, several personal friends had suggested doing craft shows as essential for finding a market beyond these loyal friends & family. But I had & still have a ton of excuses for nixing that suggestion. And some excuses are real, especially this one: I have NO ROOM AT ALL to store "fair stuff" like the required 10x10 canopy & large tables! But recently an opportunity came out of the blue, & I said YES, before I could open my bag of excuses.

HOW IT CAME TO PASS: I belong to a group of Seattle-area crafters called the ETSYRAIN Team, a supportive, local selling "family" and part of the national group of ETSY artisans. Marlo had a brainstorm ==> share a booth at the August 5 Fremont Sunday Market! Wow... SHARE!! She & Jenny even offered two 10x10 canopies, plus Marlo's expertise & encouragement as a life-long professional crafter. Yikes! My jewelry was ready. My Aug. 5 calendar was empty. I had no excuse at all to pass this up. So I RSVP'd & my fate was sealed.

CONFIGURATION: I arrived with my trunk full of "stuff" at 7:45 am. Already all the cafeteria-type tables were lined up inside our rectangular 3-sided store. Since there was no room in the table line-up for my card table, I put it in the mid-point of the store's open side & barely under the canopy roof. Marlo's clothing rack of handmade satchels was just outside the canopy roof & right behind my table. So I made my jewelry set-up face the long row of tables forming the back wall of the store.

MY TIGRESS TABLE: I was really proud of the "look" of the table, though I'm not so impressed when I look at the picture! I chose a tigress theme because Wild Roar was about the most popular jewelry set in my latest Spring-Summer Collection.
Besides, have you noticed all the orange & black animal prints in the stores lately -- shoes, coats, purses, blouses? Didn't check underwear or socks, but wouldn't be surprised. Here's a Tiger tank by Fashionista at Nordstrom's.

The only unresolved display issue was how to label each sale-able entity with a price tag, a requirement. I definitely didn't like the ugly white tag on a 3" string. Any ideas on this???

THE WARES OF ETSYRAIN TEAMMATES: Eleven of us showed up to sell, crafting everything from knits & greeting cards; cotton fold-up satchels; decorative cotton letters of the alphabet, funny waterproof shower-art ("Never marry ugly"), knit accessories & bottle cap belts, to at least 3 other displays of jewelry, which is a typical ratio of jewelry sellers to all others. I have lots of tough competition out there. A special thanks to Ambika for giving me the final push into blogging, another challenge. My boothmates are a great group of folks, some with years of craft show experience, but most of us with none.

WAITIN' FOR BIDNESS -- We were all set by the 10 am opening, but where were the customers? Finally about 1pm, great hordes of bodies began entering the fair at the other end of the 2 block street.
Folks finally did make it all the way down the street & walked through the U of our store, but most with their eyes focused on the tables lining the sides & back. Many didn't even turn their heads to notice that tigress growling for attention in the middle! Unfortunately our store had very few sales. The most positive thing we say about our sales is that every seller had at least one. Too bad my only sale was to my daughter, who came down with the baby for moral support, (and because she's had her eye on Coppertones for a long time :)

It was a tough day, if selling was the goal.


a) THE PHOTOGRAPHER -- What do you say when someone with a fancy camera & close-up lens is taking pictures of your unique designs? Another dilemma. But we ended up talking for an hour -- very nice psychiatric nurse, taking a beginner photography class for his own sanity & doing an assignment to shoot one of the local fairs that weekend. He liked my jewelry a lot. I gave him my new "hip" business card (Is "hip" still a word?) & brochure with a request that he email me. I'd love a chance to ask him to snail-mail prints of his shots!

b) THE TAN LADY -- Along came a serious looker with a copper tan. She was examining Wild Roar, no surprise, as it was perfect for her copper-colored strapless bandeau. She said she loved my pieces -- "all of them." Her parents had owned a jewelry store, where she worked for years. She volunteered the suggestion that I approach exclusive clothing boutiques in Kirkland or Redmond to sell my jewelry! And Nordstrom!!! I was speechless as she went on and on. Why would I want to interrupt? She made my day! I gave her a hip business card, brochure, & a little gold-fill earring promo made for this event.

I'M TAKING A POLL: Which business card do you like better? Does either qualify as hip- lol? You can vote anonymously ... no hard feelings :) See VOTE below this writeup.

LESSONS FROM THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS -- When I got all my "stuff" back home again, I didn't know whether to cry, box up my beads & pliers forever, or sleep. After all that effort, so little interest & just one sale -- to my daughter. The bruise on my fragile confidence needed strong medicine. But I went to bed instead.

A glorious 7 hours later, I could easily list in my head all the valuable lessons I had learned during those hours at the fair. Here they are, in no particular order --

A. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION -- Really true. Get a space near the start of the buyer's route. By the end of the route, they've spent their budget, a reality especially painful to sellers with expensive items like mine.

B. LOCATION WITHIN A GROUP STORE -- Get a table surface within the line-of-sight of the traffic flow. I would have done better to squeeze into the cafeteria tables lining the sides & back wall in the |_| configuration, so my items could be facing buyers as they entered the booth. I can only sell if a buyer sees me.

C. SIT NEAR YOUR SET-UP -- Having a table out in the middle means there's no place to sit at the table without blocking the safe flow of people through the store. When I got tired of standing in the street, I'd go out behind the back wall of tables & their sellers. Often I couldn't even see my table from there, but I had to sit down.

D. STANDING AROUND -- Because of (C) I stood around a lot. How? Where? What should I do with my hands? When do you offer to help someone looking at your wares? I felt awkward, as I knew NONE of these answers. Thankfully Marlo, our organizer & probably as experienced at this business as anyone anywhere gave me some amazing tips --

(1) BODY LANGUAGE: Don't stand out in the street near the booth entry like a sentry with arms folded or behind the back. It's off-putting. Standing like that at an angle is slightly better. But standing with a clipboard that gives you something to write on or something to do is the best.

(2) LOOKER VS BUYER: A Looker eyes your wares with her body angled away from the table or with hands behind back or in pockets. A Buyer stands parallel to the table examining carefully. If her hand comes up to her chin in thought, it's time to approach to help with a decision or to answer a question. She's almost ready.

ALL CHILLED OUT: Looking at this experience with some perspective now, I must admit I still feel frustrated. I'm working hard to gain confidence in my new art, and Aug. 5 (except for The Tan Lady & Photographer) shook my confidence. But I'm very hard-headed. Some would say DOGGED! Plus the lessons I've learned are valuable. The only way to test them is to do this again. I can see in Meet-Up's Online Forum that the Etsyrainers are getting serious about sharing other booths before the holidays. But I have no idea when I'll be ready to jump into the deep end again...