Monthly Archives: June 2009

VACATION MODE–OFF! Sunburn, Island Dogs and Fire Safety

We’re back from our very first Caribbean family vacation. We spent a week on the Turks and Caicos islands. And yes, it’s as beautiful as it looks in the pictures.

My sun-lovin’ husband is happy, happy, happy, but despite avoiding the sun between 10 and 3, applying not one but two layers of sunblock (we’re talking zinc oxide here, people) and staying in the shade, I managed to get so sunburned I needed medical intervention. I love the idea of a tropical island, but I’m afraid I could never really survive on one.

Most people come back from the islands with seashells, or maybe a t-shirt. We came back with a potcake puppy.

We actually adopted our little sweetie (a male–we’re still arguing over names) from the Turks & Caicos SPCA. The folks there arranged every single detail of our adoption and transportation of this pup, and another one who will be eagerly welcomed at our own local animal shelter.

Our Monadnock Human Society has had such incredible success with their spay and neuter program that we actually have a shortage of mixed-breed dogs available for adoption in the region. The TCSPCA, on the other hand, is desperate to find homes for these abandoned dogs. They already have connections with other shelters in the U.S. We’re hoping this newest connection with our local shelter will result in more wonderful new homes for these amazing island dogs.

Traveling with these two puppies through three airports, customs, immigration, one delayed flight and a long layover, was a piece of cake. Many airport personnel were familiar with the dogs; you haven’t lived til you’ve seen a stern and proper customs official melt at the sight of one of these pups. One former islander laughed heartily and said, “Yah, we say ‘potcake’, but you say ‘MUTT’!” That’s exactly what they are, of course, lovable, affable mutts.

People unfamiliar with them cannot believe how relaxed and happy the puppies were. They really are mellow, loving dogs, and we hope more can find their way to the states.

And to get right back to business, here is this excellent article on fire safety for your booth by Candy Adams in Exhibitor magazine. It’s one of the best I’ve seen on the subject, and though it’s written for “the big guys” at major trade shows, it offers good insight and clarity for us artists/craftspeople and our more humble booths.

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Filed under adoption, art, booth design, booth display, booth walls, business, craft, craft shows, display, life with pets, pets

KNOW YOUR PAYPAL

Using PayPal for online sales can be great, but know the drawbacks of PayPal before you get burned.

I found out the hard way that online shopping can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve shopped on Ebay for years, back in the day when its url was actually eBay with a jillion letters and stuff, and many vendors didn’t even post pics of their products. And I was an early user of PayPal, too. It guaranteed your money was safe with Ebay transactions, and it made everything soooooo easy.

As PayPal expanded its services to other online venues, I continued to use it in good faith. I heard rumors of “issues”, but figured it was mostly the kinds of transactions I didn’t indulge in–gold coins, international purchases, deals that were somewhat shady to begin with, etc.

So when I found an ad with a great deal for custom-printed T-shirts on Facebook last month, I didn’t think twice about ordering a bunch for our family. (“I’d Rather Be Watching FIREFLY”, in case you’re wondering.) I paid with my Paypal account, which actually had a balance for a change.

Weeks went by. No T-shirts. I checked back at the website to email the company.

When I clicked on the “contact us” tab, a funny message appeared. And not “funny ha ha”, either.

It said the company was experiencing “problems” processing orders. And it said to be patient and wait “a few more weeks”, as orders would be processed in the order they were received.

Warning bells started ringing. For one thing, the vendor hadn’t been proactive and contacted me. I’d had to track them down. And “a few more weeks” would put me outside the 45-day safety period where I could still file a claim with PayPal.

I immediately filed a claim with PayPal, thinking of their buyer protection guarantee. But that turned out to be a little more difficult–and ultimately problematic–than I’d anticipated.

First the process and the form to fill out was a little confusing. I was asked over and over to contact the seller myself to resolve issues. Been there, done that, did NOT get the T-shirt. Duh!

Then I was asked to submit “documents”. What documents are there in an online transaction?? I left that blank. For the rest of the process, a stern and rueful “You did not submit documents!” glared at me from my report.

Then I was told I had to escalate the claim before any action could be taken. But if I waited too long, the claim would automatically be dropped.

I waited a few days, then escalated.

I waited a week for a report on my claim. And the results shocked me.

PayPal had indeed determined that I had paid for goods I had not received. They had determined the seller was not responded to emails. And then they determined the seller had no money in her account. Hence, no money could be refunded to me.

So the case was CLOSED. Thank you for using PayPal, the safe way to shop online.

I could not believe it. I called PayPal, and got the same answer.

Short story: PayPal guarantees buyer protection only for transactions made through Ebay. No other transactions are guaranteed.

I think of the hundreds of transactions I’ve made over the years buying books, craft supplies, all the shopping I’ve done on Etsy and other vendors over the years, and I’m floored.

I asked what happened to the vendor who’d disappeared with my money. “Oh, we’ll watch and make sure they don’t open another PayPal account!” Huh? How are they going to do that?? They don’t have any way of contacting this vendor other than an email address, and yet they were sure they could “identify” this person if they ever open up another PayPal account…..??!! Yeah, we all know how hard it is to get a new email account.

I feel fortunate. I am sadder, $36 poorer and wiser. But all I lost was less than $50 and a few hours of my time. It could have been worse, much worse.

And I’ve learned my lesson. I now make sure that when I pay with PayPal, I select the “other funding options” which puts the money on my credit card instead. I may pay extra fees, but if I have a dispute, my credit card company will do battle instead. And I believe they will take better care of me than PayPal did.

So be forewarned. Read the fine print. If “guaranteed buyer protection” means “We kinda tried to get your money back but we didn’t have much luck”, then that’s a guarantee I can do without, thank you very much.

Hellooooooo Visa!

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Filed under art, business, customer care, selling, selling online

NEW JOURNEY: The Tenth Step (I think)

Sometimes you don’t know how you get there, but it’s still nice to know where you’ve been.

I read Canadian artist Robert Genn’s latest newsletter A Treasured Mapbook, this one on the joys and advantages keeping a journal while traveling and painting. Mr. Genn writes often and well about issues concerning art and artists. You can read my tongue-in-cheek response below his article.

What delighted me was another reader’s comment on the accompanying image of my small bear sculpture. She thought that the markings on my little bear looked sort of like a map, too. I was thrilled by her observation, and it got me thinking.

There are so many kinds of journeys we take, and so many ways of recording them. Ways that may help us, looking back, to see how far we’ve come from. Perhaps, in journeys where we feel we travel without a map, this backward look gives a hint of where we’re headed, even when we aren’t sure ourselves.

Perhaps my very body of work is such a map. And so is this blog.

Re: the markings on my artifacts, I’m often asked what they mean. I have to say, I really don’t know for sure. And even when I do, that changes over time.

Some echo the markings in actual cave paintings. Their meaning is not clearly understood, though many new theories abound. Even the myriad hand prints only confirms that many ages of people frequented these places, not why.

So I add my own little handprint, and add mysterious little dots and scratchings.

I work quickly, not thinking too much about where I mark, and how often, sometimes falling into compelling rhythms (“One-two-three-four-FIVE, one-two-three-four-FIVE…”) or compulsive counting (I try to always have odd numbers of marks, such as the incised lines in a horse’s mane.) For awhile I felt I had to etch tiny fern-like patterns on each one, a urge that eventually manifested into this pod series.

Each little animal or artifact seems to call out for a certain “look”, and I do my best to oblige without always understanding why.

Then I listen to the stories my collectors tell about what they see in the markings. One, a musician, sees an ancient scale of musical notes. Another, an astronomy, cherishes the thought that the seven dots in a bull’s face is indeed an ancient star map of the Pleiaides. The hand prints often speak to healers.

I am delighted and enchanted by such stories. It means the piece has left my hands, and has truly become an object of meaning to the new owner.

So the idea of the markings-as-map, as I chronicle this “word map” blog of my latest journey, appeals. Once again, just as I wonder what place my art has in the world, it calls me back. Encourages me to take “one more step” with this work, with this incredible journey called life..

My art still urges me to look around and see, to really see. And to reflect and record what I find.

It’s always been there for me. I’m the one who walked away. And now, perhaps, I find my way back again.

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Filed under art, body of work, craft, creativity, gratitude, inspiration, writing

SMALL THOUGHTS @ LARGE

Something useful, something interesting, something funny and something wise. You get to decide which is which.

Instead of a loooooong deep heavy post today, just some little thoughts and things of interest I’ve read in the last day or so….

From the June 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine, Kristin Appenbrink in the “Moneywise” section calculates that the Lewis and Clark Expedition (St. Louis, MO to Oregon, with nine states in between) today would cost about $308 for gas, roundtrip. I wonder if L & C would think that was wonderful or depressing? Of course, traveling by car, they also never would have met Sacajawea, and she was pretty cool.

From the June 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine, “Health News” by Jane Bianchi features little D+Caf Caffeine test strips to see if your restaurant coffee really is decaf. Sort of like a pregnancy test for coffee.

I tried this cool little free tutorial from JewelryLessons.com on how to oxidize sterling silver with an egg. It was the best one I found online, involving the least mess, with great illustrations. Thank you to Sarah and Jen from tae kwon do, who, when I described the method to them last night, pointed out that I might want to recheck the part where you put the egg and jewelry back in the microwave to heat up. Yep, you’re right, I missed the part where the author said to take the jewelry out first.

I’m at that point in life where, when I put on eye shadow, my eyelid skin stays where the brush pushes it. Scary, but funny, too.

And the words that jumped out at me the last week or so were, “Life is too short to lose good friends.”

Enjoy!

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Filed under art, craft, funny, humor, jewelry, jewelry tips, life, oxidizing silver

HOW MUCH IS THAT HORSIE/BIRDIE/FISHIE IN THE WINDOW?

Thinking inside and outside the box for a special window display.

It’s that time of year again, Keene’s annual Art Walk. Downtown store owners offer their window space for artists to display their work, for nine days. Area schools bus their students downtown to see the art and meet the artists.

I have a special place in my heart for Art Walk. It was one of the very first venues I displayed my artwork, starting a little over ten years ago.

As an art venue, it really has its little idiosyncracies, though. I remember one year when I took my family downtown to see my display. To my dismay I discovered my host store, a drugstore, lowered its blinds every evening. No one could see my wall hangings after 5 p.m.!

Another year, my host store had no way to hang anything in their windows–and I had wall hangings. I was allowed to use duct tape on the metal frame along the top of the windows. It seemed to work. I spent the better part of the morning running up and down a ladder, hanging each of my wall hangings from fish line that I tied to strips of duct tape, taped along the top of the window. Everything looked great!

Unfortunately, as the afternoon sun poured in the windows, the heat softened the duct tape, it gently sagged under the weight of the fiber pieces, and everything began to sadly droop. It took about 3 days for everything to actually peel off to the floor, so every two days I went in to put up fresh duct tape and rehang the work, until the end of the show.

I begged the organizers not to put me back in that store the next year. They gave it to a painter with easels for display. And I thank the Lord every day for my wonderful ProPanels display. They were not cheap, but they have made my art display issues sooooooo much easier.

Last year I was split between two stores. One was down a flight of steps, below street level. The other was right above, up a flight of steps. No problem, I thought, I’ll actually have twice as much display space.

Til I realized that a store window that’s already eight to ten feet above street level is not a good place to hang a wall hanging that’s six feet long. People could only see the bottom half of it, it was hung so high. I reconfigured my ProPanels, using only the bottom halves. I decided to display only short pieces. And I was consoled by the lovely wine tasting my downstairs host store held for me on opening night. We tasted many, many, many kinds of wine. I love Colline the wine lady!

This year I started out in one store. Yay! Then I found out which store it was. Hmmmmmm…..

There’s not much foot traffic in front of the store–it’s actually on a side street–but there’s tons of car traffic. It’s at a major intersection, and if you drive through Keene, you’re gonna get caught at that light sooner or later. As you wait for the light to change, your eyes wander to look in the handful of stores right there (narrow sidewalk, no parking, so the stores are right there)–and right there is where my work will be!

The store has four large windows, but unfortunately they are paned–about 20 panes per window, about 10″x12″ per pane. (I say “about” because I measured them wrong the first time.) (In fact, I’m beginning to realize how really, really bad I am about measuring things….) Anything big I put behind those panes would simply be chopped up and difficult to “read”.

To make up for it, I was given additional space in another storefront about 50 feet down the block for my wall hangings.

But how to create a cohesive jewelry display in those little sections?

After much thought and countless sleepless nights, I came up with a great solution.

First, I decided to just use two of the windows. That would be better than trying to utilize eighty panes! I also decided the top row or two was really out of sight of most pedestrians, and even most cars. So that narrowed the number of panes to deal with, down to about 24-30.

I rewrote down my “Animal Stories” and broke it out into sections, including a separate section for each animal mentioned. I printed out each section into its own individual sign with a huge-sized font. These could be taped directly onto the glass pane.

I would create little vignettes of jewelry and mini collages, one for each section, and each animal.

I have a large stash of leftover mat board pieces from friends who used to own a framing ship. I cut several colors of mat board into pieces that were a little bigger than the glass panes. They actually sat out about half an inch from the glass, creating a little “shadow box” in each window.

Fortunately, after cutting all the mat board, it occurred to me to actually test one to see it if actually fit in the window. Too big! I hastily trimmed them all again. Thank goodness I thought to do that before completing my display….

I affixed a selection of jewelry on each mat board. For the “artifacts” in the introduction, I laid out a sampling of artifacts. For each animal, I laid out a selection of jewelry, netsuke (small hand held sculptures) or tiny fiber collages featuring that animal.

I agonized about how to attach the jewelry and polymer pieces. I thought I could use fine wire to attach them. I have some nifty black annealed wire, very fine, and that would blend in well. But what about punching tiny holes in the mat board?? I remembered that book artists sometimes hand drill tiny holes for stitching bindings. Maybe I could do that…..?

After trying to hand drill ONE measly little hole, I almost gave up. Then I realized I had that little jeweler’s drill, with a diamond bit I use to enlarge holes in pearls and glass beads. Would that work? YES!!! It took seconds to drill each hole. Yay!!!

I marked where each hole would go to fix each piece, drilled all the holes at once, and wired each item down. It worked beautifully, and went rather quickly (considering.)

I even remembered to make a sign to let people know I had more work on display a couple stores down the street.

Again, I agonized over having to use masking tape to secure everything–I didn’t want scotch tape pulling their paint or fusing to the glass. But it didn’t show up very much, so that was a lot of needless worrying. (Please note that perfectionist tendencies are still very much in the forefront of my brain….)

It took less than an hour to fill up about 25 panes. It looked great! The fine black wire actually looked kinda neat, like an old museum displays. I’d worried that using five different colors of mat board wouldn’t look cohesive, but it gave the display some movement and a little liveliness. (The host store is painted sort of a golden yellow, and my mat boards were medium blue, rust, olive green, aqua and bittersweet orange, so the whole thing had a Van Gogh sunflower-thing going.)

I think it looks so good, I’m thinking about maybe using an old paned glass window someday as a display. It would be really hard to get the jewelry in and out of it, so I wouldn’t use it as an actual selling display. But something about the pieces being right up inside the window, only half an inch or so from the viewer, made it look lovely.

A few things were a teensy bit tippy, and after I finished hanging my wall hangings at the neighboring store, I realized I’d bumped the display when I squeezed past it to get out. But I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that.

The whole experience was an exercise in just doing my best, preparing for as much as I could, and then letting serendipity take over.

I’ll see if dear hubby can get some pics.

And I’m going to try not to hang out on the Central Square this weekend to see if I can catch people oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over my display!

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Filed under art, craft, display, jewelry, jewelry display, mental attitude, window display