Monthly Archives: November 2008

Jewelry Display #5: Organic Design

By “organic”, I don’t mean your jewelry display has to be crunchy-granola, or even of natural materials. What I mean is, choose display that supports the style of your jewelry. Or choose display that falls away so completely, only your jewelry is noticeable.

Avoid display that overwhelms your jewelry. You’ll know this is happening when people try to buy your display fixtures! They really can’t tell what’s for sale and what isn’t.

When this happens, some craftspeople bemoan how stupid their customers are. But that’s not the case.

If your customers really can’t tell, then you have confused them. It’s your job to make the distinction clear, not their job to stand in your booth and wonder if you make and sell earrings, or if you make and sell very cool earring holders.

Avoid display that takes your work down a notch in materials or quality. Display that looks cheap will not reflect well on your hard work and creativity. You can make great display with inexpensive materials , but be sure it looks classy !

Notice when your display materials is working against your story or aesthetic. When I first started out, I used more wood fixtures for display–until people began asking me if I were making my artifacts out of wood.

Now, this is not to denigrate wood carvers, but “wood” does not normally translate into “ancient artifacts”. (Yes, people have been carving wood for ages, but it doesn’t usually last 15,000 except under unusual conditions.

If I wanted people to think I was using fossil ivory or bone or antler, then I needed to eliminate a possible comparison to wood. That’s why I’ll occasionally include deer antlers in my display. Not too much–just enough to suggest animal material rather than plant material. Something that could have endured over thousands of years instead of only hundreds.

“Organic” can actually be “techno”, if that’s your jewelry style, if the display seems like a natural extension of your work. The danger here is going too far with it.

At a major trade show, I saw a new exhibitor with extraordinary handmade cases. Made with ordinary metal hardware combined in a highly creative way, they were absolutely stunning.

They were so stunning that, though people flocked in from the aisles for a closer look, the cases actually overwhelmed her jewelry. Her jewelry was okay, but not nearly as “cutting edge” as her cases. In fact, in comparison to her cases, I was mildly disappointed in her jewelry designs. I don’t think I would have felt this way if her cases hadn’t been so wonderful.

As I looked, I heard her answer another viewer for probably the hundredth time about how she made her cases, and no, the cases were not for sale, and no, she was not taking orders for the cases, she made jewelry.

Of course, if you find yourself in this situation, maybe you could seriously consider a new career in making cases!

The concept of “organic display” is why the typical jewelry store displays like these and these don’t usually work so well with handmade jewelry.

What do they look like? They look like displays you’d see in commercial jewelry stores (where, unless it’s artisan-owned, much of the jewelry is ready-made) and department stores.

They are not usually associated with unusual, handcrafted or unique jewelry. They don’t accentuate what’s wonderful about your work. They just look too ordinary. And yet they can be so obtrusive, they won’t “disappear” and let your work shine.

They’re not totally useless–I like to include a few of these “traditional” pieces in my display, just to mix it up a bit.

You can do the experiment for yourself: The next time you set up your jewelry for your booth, take a few pictures from different angles. Preferably from where a potential customer would walk down the aisle and first see your booth.

If all you see are rows and rows of identical standard units*, ask yourself if this is really the best way for folks to understand what is wonderful about your work.

*(With apologies to the perfectly-nice people who make this jewelry for resale. It probably works for them and their market. But hopefully our market is different.)

Remember, especially when times are hard, people still love to shop. But they also try to avoid temptation. It’s so easy to run through a show and quickly eliminate an ordinary-looking booth by dismissing it as “just another jewelry booth.” I’ve done it.

Let your display stand out enough to pull them in.

But then let your work do the shining.

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Filed under art, booth display, business, craft shows, display, jewelry

SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT from the inside out

It’s funny how one day, I have absolutely no idea what I could write about that would possibly interest anyone. The next, I’m flooded with the same idea over and over and over again.

The last few days, I’ve seen “environment” road signs all over the place. But not the “environment” we usually mean.

I’m talking about our own personal environment.

I saw the first sign yesterday, at an inspirational black belt ceremony in my old dojo. I remember when the candidate began his journey in martial arts. I wrote this article about him in my old blog. To me, this guy epitomizes the powerful and transformative journey to black belt. He is now officially one of my life heroes.

One of the teachers read a speech he’d written about achieving black belt level, about how important our environment is to the process. Everything in our environment–the people we interact with, the support we receive, the choices we make, the food we eat–all contribute to who we are.

If we intend to transform ourselves, we must create the environment that supports our intention.

The second sign was on my way home. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Last night I found the third sign.

It was this odd little book on my dining room table. It’s called As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It’s been floating around my home for months. I kept picking it up and moving it here and there. I think I know who gave it to me, but I’m not sure. It seems like it just appeared on day. (You can download a copy here for free.)

The premise is, what you think is who you are. We create our own reality, and we see the world through our own filter. Believe your life sucks, and that’s what you see. Believe you can make it better–and incorporate the choices that make it happen–and you will.

I finally started to read it last night. I glanced at the back…right where it says, “Environment is but his looking-glass.”

Which stopped me dead in my tracks.

This metaphor–our environment reflecting us–was suddenly very clear.

Yeah, it took three signs, but I finally got it.

Our personal environment is powerful. The environment we create will either support us in positive ways, or in negative ways. You can turn your life around and make it all the way through to black belt. Or you sit around, confused, overwhelmed and troubled, wondering where you lost your way.

Either way, it’s our choice.

I’m sitting here realizing I’ve let my environment slip.

I got a great start creating a better workspace, as you can follow with my series of articles on Cleaning the Attic.

I’ve added yoga to my activities, which has had huge mental and spiritual benefits.

But I’ve let other things slide.

I’ve made it entirely too easy to make unhealthy food choices, and hard to make healthy ones.

I’ve been lax on creating opportunities for daily workouts.

I’m still too quick to volunteer my time and energy to things that either hugely annoy me or endlessly distract me.

I still agonize over whether I spend time with people I “ought to” vs. people who will inspire me and support my artistic vision.

Or maybe even “no people at all.” Years ago, I remember being stunned when an artist said she let days go by where she wouldn’t even answer the phone–because she needed to protect her creative time. She was an amazingly self-absorbed person, but she was also an amazingly talented and productive artist.

I want to be a good mom/daughter/friend/wife/citizen–but I also want to be an amazing artist. I need to find that good balance point again.

So I’m realizing that “protecting our environment” can mean many things for me right now.

I need to be selfish with my time, sometimes.

I need to make sure I have salad greens in the fridge, and I need to make sure there’s no more Halloween candy in my studio.

I need to make just as much time for working on a fiber piece as I do for folding the laundry.

I need to limit the time I spend with people who would be happy to suck up every spare minute of my time and emotional energy. But I’m still hopelessly addicted to “being nice”, so I gotta work on that.

I need to find something, some activity, that demands I work out hard, for at least an hour a day. My fitness has suffered greatly since I left behind my almost-daily kickboxing practice. If I can’t find the self-discipline to do it myself, I have to find a way to have someone else make me do it.

I must decide where/how I can study martial arts, where IF I ever make it to black belt, I can be an asset, and not an embarrassment, to the school.

A friend said once, “When you feel your prayers aren’t being answered, see what’s in the way that blocks them from being answered.” I’m thinking about this right now. Because that blockade is part of the environment we’ve created for ourselves.

I don’t have it all figured out yet. It’s an ongoing process, my biggest “work in progress”.

But that’s what I’m thinking about right now.

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Filed under action steps, art, change, choices, fitness, health, life, martial arts, mental attitude, time management

ON SACRED GROUND

Today’s article is odd because I’m not sure why I’m writing it. I just know I must.

I’m reading a book on yoga called Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope. Not sure why… Just saw it at a friend’s house, picked it up and it looked interesting. Got my own copy and started meandering through it.

I found a section early on that just grabbed me. The author talks about sacred places, and quotes the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead: “There are certain places on the face of the earth where, for no apparent reason, very special things happen, over and over again.”

Now, I don’t know if Margaret Mead really said that. I did a quick Google search but couldn’t easily find it. (She said a lot of other great things, though!) It did get me thinking about the notion of “sacred places.”

I always think of the cave of Lascaux as a sacred place. Over the years, I’ve met many people who visited the actual cave before it was closed and sealed. All speak of a feeling of profound power and mystery. All felt changed by the experience.

My original body of artwork is inspired by this sacred place.

And yet I have never been there.

Two weeks after 9/11, my family and I visited Lascaux II, a detailed recreation of the main section of the original cave. When we emerged from the darkness, my husband, knowing how important this cave has been to my life as an artist, asked me gently, “Was it okay?” And I answered, “It was….enough.

And it was.

Because my sacred place is not the actual cave. It’s the stories in my heart the cave has inspired.

Every time I feel despair, or feel lost, or feel overwhelmed by the evil in the world, I think about that cave. And I can always seem to find a way back by finding yet another story that tells me a different truth.

I’m sharing this with you today because it occurred to me that “sacred places” can be more than a mere physical location.

It could be a person who always believes in you and your abilities, no matter what.

It can be a small group of people–perhaps a support group of other artists, like those described in Julie Cameron’s bookThe Artist’s Way–who always hold up to you the mirror you can see your artist self in.

It could be an activity–yoga, mediation, prayer, even singing a lullaby–that always brings you back to yourself. Your true self.

It could even be your art.

When we recognize and honor these special places–whether actual places, in our hearts, or in the hearts of others–then no matter how lost or confused we become, we can always find our way back home again.

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Filed under 9/11, art, inspiration, life, marketing, mental attitude, mindfulness

HOSPICE

Just a quick note today. My father-in-law, who’s been in failing health for some time, took a turn for the worse last weekend. My husband was able to arrange for hospice care, while the kids and I gathered from across the state, and rushed down to Philadelphia to be with him.

Thanks to hospice showing us how to provide palliative care, it was a quiet, gentle death. He was home, where he felt comforted. Pain, anxiety and discomfort were eased. Friends and family were able to see Gene one last time to tell him how much we loved him and to say good-bye. We all had a the opportunity to simply sit quietly with him and hold his hand.

He died peacefully in the early hours Wednesday a.m.

It was my very first experience with hospice care, and it was incredible. It is, simply put, a gift for all concerned.

Jon plans to interview the woman who was our liaison for an article. Since the kids and I arrived after she’d left, I’m looking forward to learning more about this movement.

I think it eased all our hearts to see how serene this final stage of life can be.

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Filed under choices, lessons from hospice, life

SCARY SHADOW ARTISTS AND ME

Over the last few weeks, a mini-drama has played itself out behind my blog.

I received a “fan mail” from a person who wanted to buy a necklace. By the second exchange, the person wrote an email that sounded like she’d copied my work and had changed her mind about the necklace.

I ran the exchange by several people whose professional opinion I respect and trust. All read the email the same way, and all were outraged by it.

I wrote an article about how this issue affects artists. To make a dramatic point, I published some of the email exchange between this person and me. I felt I had something important to say about the people who–innocently or not–cause artists such misery. It happens to us all the time–the “fan” who says, “I just love your work, and I’m going to go home and make something just like it.”

I didn’t publish the person’s name or any contact information, but her words were out there for all to see.

The person wrote back, deeply hurt and claiming she’d meant no such thing. She insisted I retract the post. She said it was a personal attack on her, and not fair.

She said I was as much to blame as her. And though she said she was sorry things had gotten out of hand, it felt more like, “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive.”

I pointed out that I had a right to my feelings. I said I still didn’t know what her real intentions were. I said MY intentions were not to humiliate her, but simply to write about how much these incidents hurt, and how I got past it.

She responded again, insisting I remove the post, and saying again it was a huge misunderstanding.

I got angrier and angrier. I was determined to stick to my guns. I knew I was right. Most of my community supported me. A very few didn’t.

Then something happened.

I noticed that it just didn’t feel right.

Why?

Several issues came to mind, and they are convoluted. I’ll spare you the tangled workings of my mind there!

I decided to give the person a chance to show they’d acted in good faith.

I emailed her one last time.

Send me one of the little horses you made, I told her. I’d like to see it. Give me the name of the animal rescue organization you were going to give them to, to raise money. Let ME donate a horse necklace to them. It does sound like a good cause, and I’d be happy to help.

Do this, and I’ll take the post down.

Now, I haven’t heard a word back since then.

But I felt much, much better.

Late last night, though, I realized it still wasn’t enough. I talked more with my husband, whose opinion I always respect.

My husband said, “It seems that this particular person–who sounded like she was going to copy your work–took all the brunt of all the pain in you, caused by other people who did copy your work, and bragged about it.”

And he was right.

I also realized I was afraid. By selling my work in a more public online venue, I was opening up the likelihood that more people would indeed copy me. That’s scary.

But recognizing my fear just made me more determined to get back to square one.

I believe the world can only heal from all the anger and evil in the world when we step back from being right, and focus on being whole.

I believe when we make decisions based on fear, we are not acting in our best interest, nor the best interest of the world at large.

My art and my writing have always been about making better choices. Maybe even better choices than I can always make in my personal life. (I can be very impatient and judgmental of people. And I’m afraid of a lot things!)

Regarding this person’s actual intentions….I cannot fully know, or control, other people’s intentions.

I can only know mine.

My intentions are to make the artwork that makes me feel whole. My intention is to write in ways that inspire other people to know their true intentions. And to make their own powerful work. To play it forward.

I got caught up in being right. I may have been right. But maybe I was wrong.

I certainly have a right to my own feelings. And I have the right to write about them. But I can do it in a way that doesn’t make a scapegoat of a person who may or may not deserve it.

I want to focus on the power of my intentions, and get to a better place in my heart.

In that spirit, I’ve removed the post, and I fully apologize for my role in this.

10 Comments

Filed under art, copycats, life, mental attitude, shadow artist

I’VE BEEN TAGGED!

Before I continue with my mini-series on jewelry display, I make this min-announcement:

I’ve been cyber-tagged!

I’m new at this, so bear with me.

My blog was recently “tagged” by Kerin Rose, who makes wonderful hand-carved sterling silver jewelry. I have to keep the tag going.

Here are the rules:


-link to your tagger and list these rules
-share 7 facts about yourself ( random or unusual are ok!)
-tag 7 folks at the end of your post by leaving their names and links to their blogs
-let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Hmmmm….seven facts about myself:

1. I worry a lot & tend to over-think things. (Everyone who knows me is slapping their foreheads right about now and exclaiming, “Ya think??!!”)

2. I took up riding at the age of 52, after tearing my ACL (important tendon in your knee) for the second time while sparring in martial arts. (I now have….ahem….someone else’s ACL.)

3. I love techno/electronica/alternative rock.

4. I’m a sucker for good apology, and will forgive anyone almost anything if I get one.

5. I love chipotle chili powder in my hot chocolate.

6. If I could, I would have a lot more pets. One of the sweetest pets I ever had was a little black rat named Mavra.

7. I reread books I love every few years, like The Lord of the Rings, the Little House on the Prairie series, and the Dune series.

Okay, seven blogs I read and enjoy:

1. MeggieCat, not only the first blog I ever read, but one of the best. She finds wonderful things on the web for artists and craftspeople and shares them freely.

2. MeggieCat’s dad’s blog, Paulz Blog, aka “The Old Professor”… His posts are always good for a laugh, and they also make you think a little more.

3. Christine Kane’s blog, whose tagline, “Be Creative. Be Conscious. Be Courageous.” says it all….

4. Kathy Sierra doesn’t maintain her blog anymore (though you can follow her on Twitter), but you can still read her her old blog posts called “Creating Passionate Users.” It was high-tech stuff with amazing crossover for all creative people.

5. I’m probably the last person in the world who found Indexed, but maybe there’s someone who hasn’t discovered this gem yet.

6. The Crafted Webmaster is always a favorite, because Nicolette Tallmadge is someone who’s helped me into the 21st century re: using the internet to not only market my art, but to communicate with my audience and sell my work.

7. And because he is my constant and best companion, and has helped me every stop along the way, with good grace (usually) and heartfelt support, my darlin’ husband Jon Udell. It’s a hard blog for me to read–beyond my ken–but I know his vision for the internet, and his depth at understanding how it can help us work together to build great things, is astonishing.

Okay, on to the next thing!

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Filed under art, Blogroll, networking, social networking