Category Archives: jewelry

OPEN STUDIO

People have been asking for pictures of my last Open Studio, so I published an album today. You can see it here

The next sunny day we have in Keene, NH, I’ll take more pics and add another album.

My next Open Studio is Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 & 7, 2011, as part of the statewide NH Open Doors event. Hope you can come, and til then….

Enjoy!

Little clown bank.

Dolls

Vintage button jewelry.

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TINY TINY BEADS AND LITTLE LIZARD BRAIN THOUGHTS

Lately I’ve been “shopping my stash” for new design ideas–going through my countless drawers of goodies (beads, findings, wire, chain) to see what inspires me. It’s a concept that’s become popular in home decorating, seeing what’s already on hand that can be repurposed/rearranged/upcycled.

I have some examples today, riffs on an older design. I’m using tiny, tiny hand rolled silver beads culled from strands of Thai hill tribes silver beads. I used these a couple years ago, alternating the silver beads with turquoise chips.

But this week I’m using tiny, tiny, tiny turquoise chips. And teensy tiny pearls. And very, very small faceted crystals of smokey quartz.

How tiny? Well, the pearls are about 2mm. The turquoise chips, about 3mm. I cannot even imagine how the holes are drilled in such tiny beads. (For reference, I’ve put a #2 pencil in one of the photos.)

I thought working with these 4mm pearls would be tough, til I saw these 2mm versions!

My thumbs hurt from picking up such tiny things, and when my eyes began to swim a few minutes ago, I decided to take a break and write instead.

But it’s worth it. Because I love the extreme delicate look of these. And I especially love how the tiniest of my artifacts (stones, otters, birds, bears, horses) look with them.

The weird thing is, sometimes as my brain struggles to wrap itself around this miniscule work, I can feel my thoughts narrow down, too. For example, this is what popped up as I made a little stone for one of these necklaces today.

I realized I’ve always hesitant to show my work in “real time”–as I’m making it, etc. So much of my work has been copied over the years. A “crafter” here in NH actually “borrowed” my popular Sea Stone and Pearl designs a few years ago, to make her own line of jewelry with the same colors, identical components, even a similar-sounding name. She was on my mailing list for awhile, so she either bought some from me or visited my booth the year I introduced them. She now sells them at smaller fairs in the region. Ow. Last year, a customer came in who’d bought a piece from her and raved about her work, saying that I would really enjoy it, because “she does stones, too.” I had to bite my tongue….hard. I see some evidence she is evolving in her designs so that it’s more her own work.

I console myself with the idea that I must be one of her artistic “heroes”. And pray for her to evolve faster….!!!

My lizard brain wants to dwell here, nursing old hurts and grudges. But I try to let go.

After all, I can’t control this. And though it’s painful, I’m trying really, really hard not to give it too much energy anymore.

We are ALL inspired by others. I am. I just try to make sure that, as an idea comes to me from someone else, it gets substantially transformed into something that’s truly mine.

It also happens that different artists work through different ideas from different directions, and innocently converge onto similar territory. That’s happened to me a lot, too. There are, after all, very few truly new things under the sun.

Whatever. It happens. It’s time to move on. And so, in that light, there will more images in my blog from now on.

Who benefits? YOU do! You get to preview my new work for the show. You get to sneak a peek at the less messy parts of my studio.

Hopefully, I benefit, too. I get to spread the joy as I work.

Enjoy!

Older version of silver and turquoise with bird below, newer, more delicate version above!

Elegant neutrals--tiny faceted smokey quartz crystals, old silver, faux lava artifacts with a tiny faux bone accent. Pretty!

Tiny smokey quartz and little tuquoise pearls, with artifacts...

Tiny antique red white heart glass beads, made in Venice and traded around the world. I love how they look with the old silver, my red faux coral artifact and my little ancient horse (with real coral).

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Filed under art, cleaning the studio, copycats, craft, craft shows, creativity, jewelry, jewelry design, show and tell

GETTING READY FOR SUNAPEE

I’ve done the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Fair, or “Sunapee” as we Leaguers call it somewhat affectionately, for eleven years now. Twelve, if you count the year I exhibited but didn’t have a booth.

It kinda wrecks summer. Just as school gets out and the weather gets nice and things slow down, just as I’m sitting in a sidewalk cafe enjoying a well-earned margarita, just as I’m wondering what to do with all my free time, I realize….

It’s time to ramp up inventory for the fair.

It’s time to make sure I have enough gift boxes, labels, working booth lights, spare parts and wall hangings for this nine-day show.

It’s time, in short, to PANIC.

I hate the panic. I hate the hot. (I’m actually not wild about summer. I hate bugs and sun.) I hate the realization that I forgot to order more clasps, wire, chain, polymer clay. I hate worrying about everything I have to pull together to make it work.

Fortunately, I love my customers. And I love making my stuff.

I also love the creative energy that wells up in response to my panic. Suddenly, there are simply too many wonderful ideas and new ideas to work on.

Anything to keep from thinking about the more boring tasks, like updating my mailing list. And looking for those boxes. And wondering if I have ALL the parts to my booth this year. And trying to remember where I put the light bulbs I bought last year when I realized I didn’t have enough the day before set-up???

Yes, making otters and stones and earrings and necklaces is much more fun!

I love playing with these new riverstone beads I’ve made….

I love love love the soft water colors of my new handmade riverstone beads

A tin of teeny tiny beads. How tiny? Each round tin is an inch across!


I drag out all my little storage cases of handmade beads, including teeny tiny beads I use as accents.

I love how all my artifacts look gathered together. I tend to make little “arrangements” with them in between projects. But when it’s time to put designs together, it’s better if they’re neatly sorted.

I love how all my artifacts look gathered together--what shall I make with these today?

I love to see all the little animal artifacts gathered into “herds”. Of course, it’s not so fun to pick all the chains apart after!

Animal herds. Horses and fishes and bears, oh my!

So there you have it, a little peek into my studio today. I’ve having a little trouble putting the photos where I want them. So if you’re confused, trust me, it isn’t YOU.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t show you the four foot tall pile of papers waiting to be filed?

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TRUNK SHOW

I’d never done a trunk show before. You know me–that was all the excuse I needed to over-think and over-prepare!

But I think it was a successful event. You can see the photos of my set-up here.

Here are some of the things I considered as I pulled my display together:

1) A trunk show means you bring EVERYTHING.

But it can’t look like everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink, either. I still wanted a cohesive display. So I set out several “series” of jewelry and grouped them accordingly. I had plenty more samples in reserve.

2) It should look different than a craft show booth.

My artist-of-the-month display looks a lot like my fine craft booth. It’s a formal display, an in-depth look at my work in a museum-like setting.

But I wanted my trunk show to look like just that–like I’d traveled to the show, bringing a personal collection of items for my customers’ enjoyment. I even asked for a few chairs, so that people could sit and talk as I worked.

3) It should still be obvious what you’re selling.

One of the drawbacks of a totally creative display is, sometimes you can’t tell what people are selling. How many times have you walked by a booth at a show filled with wonderful props and eclectic display–only to wonder what the heck they’re selling??!! (Hint: If people keep trying to buy your display pieces, those display pieces are TOO interesting!)

I got around this by sticking to the vintage suitcases as my only “prop”. The rest of the display featured traditional black steel jewelry display pieces–earring holders, necklace holders, etc.

I also confined my larger, bolder, more elaborate pieces to the suitcase display. The smaller, simpler pieces went on the traditional display fixtures, where they were able to be seen more easily.

People did ask about the suitcases, but they also stuck around longer to enjoy the entire show. Because the pieces were simply “laid out”–not elaborately draped and swagged–the message was still clear: “It’s okay to touch!”

4) Give people a reason to hang out.

At a craft show, there may be thousands of people coming with the intent to see as much as they can. If they like my work and my booth, they enter. Then they are in “my world”.

It can be harder when you’re simply a display in a store. Right next to your table are examples of a dozen other artists’ work!

I decided to do make up some simple necklaces featuring my artifacts and torch work with sterling silver wire. This gave even casual observers an excuse to hang out, watch and ask questions.

5) It’s only your time. Have fun!

To quote Greg Brown, “Time ain’t money when all ya got is time.” (From “Just a Bum”

Yes, my time is valuable, but it wasn’t like I was paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be there at the gallery that day. It was a nice, relaxed opportunity to introduce new people to my work.

So by keeping my expectations low, my presentation skills high, by keeping myself busy even during slow times (but totally available during busy times) I ended up having a great time, acceptable sales and met some amazing new collectors of my work!

Trunk display for my trunk show!

Trunk display for my trunk show!

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TRUNK SHOW IN PETERBOROUGH, NH TODAY!

I’ll be at the Sharon Arts Center in downtown Peterborough today, for my very first trunk show.

All my stuff is packed in….suitcases! I don’t have any real trunks, but I have a wonderful collection of small vintage suitcases. I don’t know why I like them so much. Maybe I want to be able to leave in a hurry.

I think I’m done packing and I think I’ll be there around 11 to set up. For Mother’s Day, I’ll be demonstrating simple wire-working techniques–balling up sterling silver wire to make head pins, wrapping pearls and semi-precious stones, etc. to make simple necklaces for Mom (and nicely priced at under $25 too!)

I’ll also have samples of my artifacts and tons of my animal jewelry. Artfully arranged in….trunks! Er…small suitcases. And examples of books and magazines my work has appeared in.

No, I am not bringing Bunster. Something tells me she would wreak havoc in Peterborough…..

Artist-of-the-Month at SAC

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BUBBLES

I got a lot done in the studio today. I promised two of my galleries I’d restock them after the holiday rush on my work. (Whoo hoo!)

I’m working on a popular new series of jewelry using more organic, simple beads of polymer, accented with freshwater pearls, found objects, wrapped stones, oxidized sterling silver and soft ribbons of leather I cut from recycled leather clothing. It seems to appeal to people who like my aesthetic, but want something more “neutral” than powerful animal totemic work.

I’ve been “in the zone” most of the day, moving easily from one production task to another–drilling pearls, making more polymer pod beads and spacers, cutting leather strips, oxidizing findings, making head pins.

This evening I was dashing around finishing up some stuff so I could relax “later”. The last errand took me across town and back.

On the way back, I thought maybe I could practice being “in the moment”.

So instead of wishing I could hit all the green lights, or cursing the idiot who pulled out in front of me at the rotary, I tried to slow my breathing down. Breath…… In. Pause. Out.

I relaxed and paid attention to what was going on right now.

“I’m driving the car,” I thought. It felt like flying.

My knee ached a little. “My knee hurts,” I thought. But that was a good thing. It meant I’d gone for a long, vigorous walk with our dog Tuck. I remembered playing “monster chasing dog” and “kick the pine cone” and “grab the stick and pull” games.

“I’m driving with my dog in the back seat,” I thought. Tuck chose that moment to stick his head from his seat in the back to rest it gently next to mine in the driver’s seat. Sweet.

“I’m cold,” I thought. The car was still a little chilly, but it was just enough for me to sense it, a good feeling.

“I’m on my way home to my family.” That felt good, too.

“This is a pretty town,” I thought. Keene does have a really nice downtown. This is where our kids grew up. No matter where we end up, it will always hold a special place in our heart.

“It’s a beautiful evening,” I thought.

And then I thought, “I’m driving through a cloud of soap bubbles. And I was.

Someone in an apartment above must have opened a window and blown soap bubbles to drift down to the street below.

It was wonderful. Quite a lovely moment.

Then I saw a very flat, very dead squirrel, and the moment was done.

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CUSTOMER CARE: Repair the Goods, Repair the Relationship

What you do for customer care AFTER the sale is important, too!

A question came up in an online forum the other day. People shared their business policy for repairs.

Nobody likes to hear their work didn’t hold up. My heart always sinks when I get a request from a store or customer to repair a piece. I feel slightly guilty. I take pride in my work and always stress the fact that my work is well-made. In fact, my original studio name was Durable Goods. A broken piece feels like I’ve misled the customer.

It doesn’t help that sometimes the customer is already upset and defensive. “It just broke!” is what I usually hear. Who wants to hear that about our product?? Not me.

It helps to take a deep breath and listen with your heart.

I’ve come to realize a few things about the repair process. First, even expensive, commercially-made jewelry isn’t necessarily impervious to harm. A fine gold chain breaks when a jumping dog snags it, diamonds fall out of their settings and rings drop down the garbage disposal. My jewelry is as well-made as I can make it, but things do wear out, get lost, break down. I don’t need to get defensive if one of my pieces gets broken.

I’ve also come to realize that customers often start out on the offensive because they expect to be given a hard time.

Isn’t that awful?? They love my work, they paid their hard-earned money for it, they wore it every day, it broke, they want to get it fixed so they can wear it some more.

And they think I’m going to be snotty about it. Because that’s what they’ve come to expect from other small businesses and vendors when they have issues with a purchase.

The solution is to immediately reassure them that they will be taken care of. And to offer exquisite customer care.

My first response is, “I’m so sorry that happened! Tell me what’s wrong. Let me make it right for you so you can wear it again.”

As soon as they realize I will listen, and sympathize, and then resolve the issue, they calm down. They are relieved and grateful they will be taken care of.

As they describe or show the damage (depending on whether they’ve called or come to my booth at a show), I assess what has to be done. I offer options–repair, replace, restring, etc.

After I’ve assured them the piece can be repaired, then it’s time to gently find out how the damage occurred.

This will give valuable information about whether the damage is their “fault” or mine. This is not to assess blame. It’s to determine whether I need to make changes in my process, or if this is a “teachable moment” for the customer.

Here’s how I think about it:

If I had TONS of repairs, then it might be MY problem.

A lot of repairs indicates I have to review my product and perhaps make adjustments. Maybe I need to look at my construction techniques and ask myself why I was getting so many returns. Is the stringing material durable enough? Was the glue old? (Even epoxies have a shelf life.) When I was just starting out selling jewelry, I thought I could save money by using cheap spring clasps for my necklaces. The clasps didn’t hold up. That, unfortunately, resulted in a lot of returns for repairs. That was a valuable lesson. I now only work with high-quality components.

If I DON’T have a lot of repairs, then providing free (or at least cheerful) repairs is the best customer service I can give.

Either the customer loved the item enough to wear it often and is disappointed she can’t anymore or she paid a lot for item and didn’t get the usage out of it she expected.

Either way, she has paid me a very high compliment–loving my work, and investing in my work.

Either way, a repair will make her very, very happy, and willing to buy from me again.

A refusal will upset her and you can bet she will let everybody know about it.

So what do I mean by a “teachable moment”?

If I’ve put the customer at ease by reassuring her I will take care of her, and it turns out the damage is not my fault, then there’s an opportunity to educate, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

A customer indignantly said the artifact on her necklace “just broke.” I immediately told her I was sorry. I asked her to send it to me immediately, and I would either repair or replace it. I apologized for the inconvenience, and she grew calmer. We talked more. She told me she desperately hoped I could fix it, because she loved the artifact (a horse.) Under gentle questioning, she admitted that when she was nervous, she liked to “flex” a flat artifact pendant I’d made. That “flexing” eventually caused the artifact to break.

Her initial defensive attitude was because she thought I would not help her if she admitted she’d broken it, and she was distraught because she loved it so much.

I made her a new, thicker pendant, jokingly telling her “no more flexing!” Because she loved the original artifact so much, I glued it back together, put a backing layer of polymer on it to strengthen it, and made it into a pin.

When I’m feeling defensive, this is important to keep in mind: An item that breaks with overuse means the item was being worn, and worn a lot. One woman told me she never took off the silk cord necklace she’d bought from me. She even wore it swimming, and showered in it.

It took some doing to convince her that silk cord won’t hold up under that kind of usage. But that was just proof of how much she loved it. And I still restrung her necklace. Free.

Last, when you have wholesale customers and get a customer repair request, remember you are actually dealing with two customers–their customer, and the store owner/buyer/manager. When you show your willingness to stand behind your work, you make it easier for the store to do their work–selling your stuff.

Just my humble opinion, and experience. And of course, there are exceptions.

We’ve all had the occasional customer who simply can’t be satisfied. It happens rarely in face-to-face encounters. It’s more common with online sales if you don’t already have a relationship with the customer. When you feel you’ve gone above and beyond, and the customer is still not happy, it may be worth your while to simply take the item back and refund their money.

And if your materials are very expensive, then of course you may have to charge a reasonable fee for repairs regardless of why they are needed.

But even if you must charge for repairs, these are still ways you can make your customer feel treasured. Listening and taking care of your customers after the sale–offering support and non-judgmental service–is excellent customer service indeed.

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Filed under art, business, craft, customer care, jewelry, listening, mental attitude, selling