20 December 2009

Did You Buy Art This Year? Part Two

This is a continuation of yesterday's post. Check that out to see more of the art that I bought for myself this year.

This fun horse was in the booth next to me at the Boulder Art Fair and made me smile all weekend. I just had to take her home with me! I know it is supposed to be "yard art", but I want to see it every day in my house in the winter. Turns out that it makes good wall art too. I misplaced the business card and so don't know the artist.

Definitely "folk art" but I loved the entire concept. Pam Dyers uses ordinary lumber (some new, some old) and fashions heart shapes of various sizes and styles, paints them all the same color, and then distresses the paint. The brilliance comes in her use of old hardware to embellish and present the hearts. Every one is absolutely unique. I had a hard time choosing amongst them, but ended up with this large piece featuring an antique ice-block carrier. Contact me if you want her email.

Another piece of folk-art, and a long heart-shape too! I don't collect red/pink hearts, but for some reason both of these pieces spoke to me this spring. I think they both appealed to the carpenter side of me. This one recycles corrugated barn siding and uses rough steel wire to hold all the pieces together. Of course, I have a weakness for wire! I cannot find the business card for this artist either; it has been one of those years.

Finally, some 2-D art! John Blowers is a contemporary acrylic painter, and I found his work at the Cantigny Art Fair in Illinois. His paintings are fairly large and normally he only sells originals, no reproductions. This year, however, he decided to have a few giclee prints available, which is what this is. I completely understand the desire for artists to only offer originals, but am very glad that good reproductions exist, because that is the only way that I can afford the work! I love the interplay of shape and color in this piece.

Tomorrow: ceramics!

19 December 2009

Did You Buy Art This Year?

One of the wonderful things about selling my work at art fairs is that I get to see a lot of great art, and one of the wonderful things about having other people buy MY work is that I get to then pass on my good fortune by buying the work of other artists and craftspeople. I am going to devote the next few days to presenting the art that I bought for myself this year.

And for those of you waiting for it, the Booth Evolution thread will continue after Christmas!

I got this woven basket just a few weeks ago at "Art at Ramsey," in St. Paul, MN. The artist, Claudia Nacktsheim, does not have a website.

I wanted this bag for a month before I bought it. I love it! It is wet-felted by a fellow Minnesotan. You can find her work at Vantasticdesigns.etsy.com.

Grassy Creek Brooms has been my neighbor both years that I have been at the War Eagle Fair in Arkansas. Jerry and Judy make the brooms by hand and another artist (I'm sorry, I forgot your name!) makes the copper dust pans. The long broom is for cobwebs on the ceiling and it is the BEST. I use it regularly and no longer have to use either a ladder or a dirty floor broom to reach the ceiling.

The copper is patinaed with real leaves. I appreciate that the dust pan actually sits flat on the floor without needing to be held. Good design!

This is Harmony. Sure, there are other hand-made bears out there, but how many come with the story behind this one? The artist, Nancy Dane, made a large bear for herself (Bentley) many years ago, and so many of her friends wanted one too that she found herself making it into a business. Her bears are adorable and articulated! If you ever get a chance to meet Bentley himself, I highly recommend it as he is quite a character (as is his mom). You think I'm kidding, but that bear has some stories! Read more at the Bentley and Buddies website. If you want a bear from Nancy, you'd better get one fast since she is retiring in a year.

13 December 2009


As you know from reading about my booth design, I do not like the idea of hiding my work behind glass. The benefit to having it out is that people can touch the work and try it on. Many marketing studies show that being able to touch an item is far more likely to lead to a sale. Plus I want people to be able to interact with my work. The downside, however, should be clear: shoplifting. "Shoplifting" sounds too innocent though, so lets just call it what it is: theft!

Surprisingly, I have not had much of a problem with theft. A few bracelets a year, and very rarely, a pair of earrings. 2008 was the worst year (several bracelets gone - usually the expensive woven ones) and I expected an uptick in theft this year due to the bad economy but it was down by quite a bit. By October I had only lost one braided bracelet and one pair of earrings. At the Historic Shaw Art Fair, however, all that ended as I had one bracelet and three pendants taken, all in quick succession. When you see the empty spots it is very disheartening, and there is not much you can do about it. I try not to let the disappointment and anger affect how I interact with patrons, but I must admit that sometimes the shock of the adrenalin rush is hard to overcome.

Now imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when one of the organizers of the Shaw Art Fair left me a voice mail about receiving (anonymously) two envelopes, one with what felt like jewelry and one with money. They were forwarded to me and I just received them this week. It appears from the notes written on the envelopes that a young child took the pendants and this was discovered later by a parent. The parent apologized and returned one pendant in an envelope. The other envelope had a scrawled apology from the child (clearly not very old and still learning to write!) with money for another pendant. I really am very heartened by this and am sure that this is being used as a teaching moment for the child. I never expected to have items returned or paid for and applaud the parent.

If the parent in St. Louis reads this, know that I appreciate having my stolen items returned and hope the child learns a lesson from this. You have integrity I am grateful that people like you are out there. Thank you!! I will certainly come back to Shaw, if I can.

08 December 2009

Booth Evolution-Part Two

I posted about the first booth design in November. Check out that post first to catch up on the evolution.

So lets explore this second version. First of all, it is an outdoor set-up and still has the three original tables. These were OK for a small indoor space but under a 10x10 canopy seem a bit lost in the great open space. Also, I came to despise the appearance of the table tops overhanging the base. It just looks weird.

I made new A-frames (2x2 lumber and 1/4" plywood) and was able to reuse the tops from the old A-frames. The slate is gone and I've painted the frames a neutral dark-grey. I used a jig-saw to cut half-round discs which were glued to the frames. These curved discs allowed the Viking knit necklaces to be displayed with a nice curve, as they would naturally hang when worn. MUCH better than the first display of these pieces!

I made basic earring cards that I hung on the bottom of the A-frames on cup-hooks. I thought this looked neat and nicely displayed, but the wind, again, proved to be a problem for this display. A good gust could sweep all the cards up and off of their hooks! Also, making earrings was not a priority for me then, so not many are displayed and there is no room for growth on these tables. A problem!

The biggest positive change is with the display of the bracelets. I used 1x1 wood to make small racks and then covered them with a coordinating fabric (green silk, actually). This allows the woven wire bracelets to be neatly displayed and makes it possible for me to easily keep track of them!

I added some curtains from JC Penny to create a warmer space and they greatly improved the overall "feel" of the booth, making it warm and welcoming. When the sun shines through the walls the interior glows gold! Patterned curtains are tied to the (ugly) front frame legs to hide them.

All-in-all, a better display, but it still has issues, primarily with the use of the two trapezoidal tables. I still liked the concept of creating a "room" and resisted (am still resisting!) the pull to just put it all behind glass cases. My work wants to be touched and tried on! In addition, because I actively demonstrate the Viking weave in my booth at the work table, I still need to devote some open space to allow me to work and to access the tables. The first booth was used in 2006 and this booth in 2007. The next post in this series will show the booth without those tables!

30 November 2009

Sale Continues!

Items in my etsy shop will remain on sale through today (Cyber Monday). By tomorrow morning (Dec. 1), the prices will revert to normal, so this is your best chance to buy one of my Viking knit necklaces and woven bracelets!

25 November 2009

Black Friday Sale

I should have posted this last week! I am having a sale this weekend on selected items in my etsy shop (janraven.etsy.com), and plan on marking many items down at least 10%, PLUS free shipping to addresses in the US. I only have one of each item listed, so once they are sold, they won't be relisted any time soon! I am certain that all the Viking Knit Necklaces will be on sale, so if you have been thinking of buying one, there won't be a better time.

And while you are checking out my etsy shop, keep in mind that other members of my etsy Street Team, HandmadeMN, are also having a sale. Even if you don't buy from me, I encourage you to buy from another artist!

21 November 2009

Excluding your IP Address from Google Analytics

While working on promoting my etsy shop I took a look at my Google Analytics page and noted, with some satisfaction, that the activity at my shop had increased right around the time that I began listing more items earlier this week. Then I began to wonder if any of that activity was actually ME, looking at my own shop and listings as I made changes. I recalled reading once that you could exclude your own IP address from the Analytics, so I decided to find out how to do that.

I will share how I did it here for anyone else interested in doing this for their own website or etsy shop. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that you already have a Google account and have the Analytics product already set up and tracking activity to your site or shop.

1. Log into your Google account.
2. Click on Analytics.
3. In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, click on Filter Manager.
4. On the next screen, click on Add Filter, and give your filter a name.
5. Choose Filter Type=Exclude IP Address from the menu.
6. Enter the IP address for your own home computer. Find this number by going to MyIPAddress.com. Keep in mind that this IP address is for the network you are using at the time you visit the site. If you take your laptop to a coffeeshop and use their wifi, their IP address is different so visits to your own site will be logged. I'm guessing this won't be too big of an issue for anyone. If you really want to, you can add another filter to exclude all your favorite wifi hotspots! Just visit MyIPAddress.com again to get the address.
7. Select which profiles you want the filter applied to and add them.
8. Click Save Changes. Done!!

Now you can visit your own site all you want and not mess up the statistics on how many people visit your site!

Promoting my etsy Shop

I have had an etsy shop for a few years, but haven't paid much attention to it. Recently I decided that I should pay more attention to it, and after my most recent indoor craft shows (during which I had way too much time to think, unfortunately) realized that I could think of my etsy shop as a type of art show. Considering that the jury/application fee for a typical art show is $30, I could afford to list a lot of items at 20¢ apiece over the next month. By working hard at promoting my shop, I can hopefully generate enough sales to help me through the winter months.

SO! That is what I have spent the majority of this week doing: taking photos, adjusting them, uploading photos to etsy, and creating listings for items. I have also been reading a lot of material online about marketing and promotion. It is quite nice to finally have time to sit back and assess the business!! I have been participating more in my local etsy Street Team: Handmade MN. I've gotten some great information and leads from the great membership of my Minnesota team, and hopefully have been able to give them some useful leads as well.

Another website that has taken up a lot of my time this week is ArtFairInsiders.com. I don't remember, now, how I stumbled upon this site but I am VERY glad that I found it! It is a networking site by and for artists who display their work at art fairs. It is full of great information and I have been spending many hours reading posts and discussions from the past year. And I have been actively participating, too. This is such a great resource; if you are an artist who participates in art shows (or wants to!), then do yourself a favor and check this site out!

10 November 2009

Booth Evolution-Part One

I've been thinking of writing this series of blog posts for quite a while now, and have finally gotten around to collecting most of the photos of my booth as it changed over the last four years. The first art show I did was in March of 2006, and fortunately I didn't have to submit a photo of my booth set-up because I didn't have one when I applied! Once I was accepted, I quickly had to design and build my display. I say "build" because I certainly did not have money to buy tables or other display items, but my years as a carpenter left me with lots of leftover lumber and plywood, and I certainly had the skills to build the tables. Plus I rather enjoyed the puzzle presented by designing and building the display!

For my first display I built two tables with trapezoidal tabletops and one square table to be used as a work table and storage. I had meant to have three trapezoidal tables, to create a U-shaped "room," but ran out of time. All three tables break down into simple parts: the leg sections are 2x3 lumber braced with 1/4 inch plywood and the removeable tops are plywood bases on a 2x3 frame and faced with 1/4" aspen to cover the pine lumber. The tables and the A-frames are covered with slate tile and tumbled beach rocks are scattered around.

As it turns out, it looks nice, but is a disaster from a marketing (and theft prevention) standpoint. You can't really see the braid and weave patterns of the bracelets, plus it is impossible to tell when one has gone "missing." I didn't have time to figure out how to display the viking knit necklaces, so they are just hung on cup hooks -- very ugly presentation! The earring cards are OK for indoor shows, but the first outdoor show I attended demonstrated why this doesn't work; they blow over and off the table! All-in-all, a pretty good first attempt, but clearly in need of a redesign! My next post will explore version Two of the booth display.

03 November 2009

Chaos Earrings: Before and After

I wrote about the Chaos Earrings in an earlier post and this week made several more in preparation for a show this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. I usually make them one at a time, but wanted to be able to work while watching the Vikings game on Sunday, so I did all the prep work for several pairs of earrings in the morning before the game. I thought the resulting bundle of wire and gemstones was quite attractive!

26 October 2009

Flat weaving with wire

I have finally finished the tutorial on making a woven bracelet!! I began work on this way back in March, and actually had most of the work done by April, but then the busy art show season intervened. I poked along on it, and began to make a concerted push to get it done in September. Now it is the end of October and time for release!

This tutorial is 28 pages long and full of detailed photographs of every step. If you have some experience with wireworking, you may be interested in giving this technique a try: http://janra-jewelry-designs.com/tutorials.html.

If you admire these bracelets but have no intention of ever trying to make one, you may be interested in purchasing one made by me!

30 September 2009

Chaos Earrings

I began making this style of earring last winter on a whim, almost, and have become quite enamored of the style. I make the frames by soldering (yes!) a ring of wire (18 or 20 gauge) and then shape it into a teardrop shape. The bottom of the teardrop is then wrapped - chaotically, for me at least - with 26 gauge wire on which I've strung a variety of gemstones. Both ends of each piece of 26 ga. wire are balled with a torch. The top photo shows a pair made with faceted carnelian, red agate rounds, and faceted "pineapple" quartz. The most recent ones I made, shown below, were done specifically for a monthly challenge being run for members of the Minnesota etsy Street Team, in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness month. This pair is packed with freshwater pearls, faceted rose quartz, and faceted pink sapphires. I really like how they turned out and am inspired to make a companion pendant and necklace. I should have time to work on that next week and will post photos when finished!

Both of these earrings, and others, should be posted in my etsy shop by the end of today (Wednesday)!

24 September 2009

A Happy Customer!

When at the Wells Street Art Fair in Chicago last June, I had a special order to make this necklace. I was staying in Chicago for the week so was able to finish it and hand-deliver it to my customer within a few days. I just received this email from her:

"If you recall, you customized that gorgeous gold wire and bronze pearl choker, and delivered it (thanks!) to me at work. I would just like you to know that everyone LOVES it! I even had a vendor at the Gem Show ask about it. It has become one of my very favorite pieces in my quite large collection of jewelry, and there is almost nothing I cannot wear it with: jeans, dresses, t-shirts.

Thanks so very much for a wonderful piece...it gets worn more often than most things I own. Both the workmanship and your generosity in delivering it are very much appreciated."

I feel so gratified that I have a happy customer! Thank you!!

23 September 2009

Copper and Silver Riveted Heart Pin

Last winter (!) I attended an online workshop with Robert Dancik on making cold connections -- wire and tube rivets, among other techniques. It was great and I was fired up to try something new. I also bought a jewelers saw (finally) and sheet silver and copper to add to my stash. I worked away on a heart shaped pin and then completely lost my momentum. So it languished for 8 months, needing ONLY two rivets to finish it. I even saw it every day! Still, it sat there. Until today! I finished the rivets and polished it up (well, I want the scratchy matte finish, actually) and here it is with all it's imperfections.

I had originally envisioned the center portion as being more of a regular weave, but was having a hard time engineering the attachment, so I just put a bunch of bends in a long length of silver wire with round nose pliers. I cut both heart shapes with my new saw and did not break a single blade, so I guess my years of experience with a carpenter's coping saw paid off! The rivets were meant to be flush on both sides, but I did not do a good job of drilling through the silver without reaming out the hole, making it too big for the 16 ga. wire, so I balled the wire for the silver side instead. I think I like it better. The weakest part of the entire piece, in my mind, is the latch mechanism. I did this last January and right now I don't know what I was thinking! Fortunately, this piece is mine and I don't mind how the back appears, I just know it looks good on a sweater!

A long absence....

....for no good reason. In my head, I have written many blog posts documenting my recent show experiences, booth redesign, jewelry experiments, and personal upheavals. Unfortunately, there is no way (yet) to directly transfer my thoughts to the web. If there were, you all would have gotten an earful this summer! So here is the condensed version: The Uptown Art Fair (Minneapolis, MN) went well and I had decent sales, but the crowds were definitely down from previous years. Uptown also saw my first thefts (two bracelets) of the year, which is pretty amazing since at this point last year I had had several items walk off. I spent almost all of my August working hard to increase my inventory for a four-day show that has a reputation for high sales numbers: the Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain Park (Atlanta), Georgia. I could (and may still) devote a long blog post to this festival and my trip, but for now suffice to say that it was relatively disappointing, especially considering that I drove 1200 miles to get there. Before I went to YDF, I put a lot of time into revamping my booth display. Nothing major, but the changes I made I think have dramatically improved the appearance. Again, a separate post may be forthcoming. And as if August wasn't busy enough, the week before I left for Atlanta, my dog sustained a partial tear of her Achilles tendon and had to have surgery to repair it. So now I am back (have been for a week), don't have a lot to do, unfortunately, to get ready for my next show, and am spending a lot of time and energy on my dog. I have also allowed myself to play, a bit, with new techniques. Stay tuned for some photos!

28 July 2009

Sleeping Beauty as a Viking

I decided to splurge last week and buy a strand of very nice Sleeping Beauty turquoise nuggets from MagpieGemstones, along with a few other goodies. I had a particular design in mind, combining the turquoise with some red coral I had on hand for a Viking knit piece with a Southwest look, but when it came down to it, I just couldn't bring myself to combine the two stones. That look may appeal to some, but it just doesn't look "right" to me, so at the last second (seriously, I had to "back-out" a stitch and remove one chip of coral), I substituted baroque white pearls, which I find a better accompaniment to turquoise. Here is the result:

And how about some earrings to go with that?

Show Report: Downtown Boulder Art Fair

The Downtown Boulder Art Fair, held on July 18 and 19, was my first time at an art show in Colorado. I didn't know a lot about this show when I applied, but it fit nicely into a tour of western states art shows that I tried to put together. Most of the other shows fell through (I got wait-listed for three of them), but having gotten into the Boulder show, I decided to keep it. I went to the Brookings Summer Art Fair (South Dakota) the weekend prior, then spent the intervening week in the Badlands and Black Hills (that will be another post coming soon!).

The set-up for the Boulder show wasn't until Saturday morning, but I picked up my artist information packet on Friday and scoped out the show site. About half of the booth sites are located on the picturesque Pearl Street pedestrian mall, where they are scattered in amongst the public sculptures, kiosks, and benches. A quarter of the booths are lined up in a more traditional fashion (back-to-back) on the east end of the mall, and the final quarter are located on the edge of a (closed) street on the west end. This end is purported to be hot and sunny (the few trees are rather small) and get much less foot traffic than the actual mall. I'm guessing that as a first-time exhibitor at this fair, that is why I might have been placed in this location. That's fine, because, guess what? The west end gets plenty of foot traffic! I had a good show, and my work was very well received. I even began to run out of a few designs.

After walking around the show on Sunday morning, I think I might actually prefer the west end. The pretty part of the Pearl Street mall might be TOO shady, making my work difficult to see. I'm also not sure I like the jumbled arrangement of booths on the mall. Plus, I had a nice breeze coming through my booth and several patrons commented on the lack of a breeze in the close quarters on the mall.

The show organizers (Downtown Boulder, Inc.) did a good job, bringing juice and scones by on Saturday morning, and stopping by with water during the day. The booth-sitting was handled by calling the director's cell phone, upon which she would dispatch a booth sitter. Very effective!

29 June 2009

Show Report: Park Point Art Fair

This past weekend I attended the Park Point Art Fair in Duluth, Minnesota, and I have to say that this is one of my favorite shows to do.  Even though it is small (120 artists) this show is very nicely juried and the organizers really, really love their artists.  The show is held on Park Point, a small park at the far end of a barrier island on Lake Superior, and is organized by the Park Point Community Club, whose members are local residents.  It is far and away the easiest set-up and tear-down of any show on the planet.  Not only can you drive right up to your booth to unload, but you can actually park right behind your booth!  Heck, stay there all weekend if you want!  Set up is on Friday, with the show running 10-5 on both Saturday and Sunday (civilized hours!).  In addition, they feed the artists a nice picnic dinner on Saturday evening, and give out category and Best of Show awards.  A nice twist to the awards is that the Best of Show winner each year is offered a commission to design and make the awards for the category winners in the next year.  Last year's winner was David Royce, a glass artist whose color work is phenomenal.  The awards he made for this year's winners were stunning and drew a lot of attention.

This is my third year at this show, and I consider it to be somewhat of a working vacation.  I enjoy camping at Jay Cooke State Park and going up a day or two early to go hiking and to enjoy the park.  That being said, it is still an art show and I do care about how my work is received and overall sales.  My experience in the past two years, and the current economic climate suggested to me that I should lower my expectations for the show this year.  Imagine my surprise when my sales were twice what I expected.  Twice!  I was very gratified to have former customers stop in to say "hi" and to confirm how much they love their bracelets, purchased in years past.  I also had several people come through and look once, and then return for a major purchase.  It seem that although people are buying fewer items these days, they are still buying, but are being more thoughtful about which items they purchase.  I was flattered and humbled that several people chose to buy my work for their one purchase.  I truly do appreciate it!

Finally, I have to say something about the weather!  If you were in eastern Minnesota this past weekend, you already know what I'm going to talk about:  THE WIND!!!  Saturday began with rain, and then was just a bit chilly all day, but Sunday brought strong (warm) winds.  Strong.  The sustained winds were around 30 mph, with gusts routinely over 40 mph.  The highest recorded gust at the Duluth airport was 49 mph!  My sturdy Trimline canopy withstood the onslaught just fine, and I wasn't even staked into the ground!  My only weights were four 40 pound bags of salt, each strapped to the frame.  The wind was unnerving, and bowed the rear wall panel in, but the frame itself never lifted off the ground.  It only began inching along the ground in the last hour when the gusts were at their strongest.

I never really felt that my canopy was going to blow away, but the stress of the wind took it's toll on me none-the-less and I confess that I began removing my jewelry from display about 20 minutes early.  That was also about the time that some ugly looking black clouds appeared to the north.  As it turns out, many artists began dismantling their display around 4:30, so I was not alone in feeling that it was time to pack up.  Fortunately, the show organizers agreed that the wind was getting to be a bit too much!  It was wonderful how artists and show volunteers pitched in to help bring down canopies in the high winds.

I love this show, and am already planning on next year!!

18 June 2009

Show Report: Wells Street Art Festival

This past weekend, June 13-14, was the Wells Street Art Festival, just north of downtown Chicago, and put on by Special Events Management.  This was my first time at Wells Street, and my second show with these promoters.  Like the nearby Old Town Art Fair, held on the same weekend, Wells Street has an admission fee ($7-$10), which is supposed to be a "donation", but I don't think you can get in without paying.

Saturday was a very long day for the artists, as booth set-up could only occur in the morning.  I got up at 5 AM to drive into town for my 6:45 time slot.  In theory you can drive right up to your booth to unload, but once inside the street barriers, all traffic came to a complete stop.  I sat for 25 minutes before deciding to dolly my stuff the 40 feet (didn't realize I was that close!!) to my booth.  Twice I had to move my truck up as the line moved (I drove about 30 feet each time, seriously!), but overall the unloading was rather painless.  When I was accepted to this show I had the option of spending $60 for a spot in a reserved parking lot, which I did, and that turned out to be an excellent decision.  First of all, I did not have to spend any time or mental anguish trying to find a parking spot where you can leave your vehicle for 12 hours.  Secondly, the parking lot was only one long block from my booth, which meant that at the end of the weekend, I could dolly my stuff to the truck rather than waiting for the street to open up to traffic.  

Saturday also became a long day because of the weather.  The morning was rainy and cold, and I know several people, including me, got wet shoes in the morning, which meant that by the end of the day (8PM) we were quite chilled.  Thank goodness I thought to bring a fleece hat and gloves!  I have made a note to myself that in similar situations in the future that I need to pack at least a spare pair of dry socks, if not a complete change of shoes.

So, other than the cold rain for the first half of Saturday, how was the show?  From my perspective, it was a good show.  Other than a few booths which should NOT have been juried in, the caliber of artist was quite high.  I had pretty good sales, considering the weather and the economy.  I had mentally prepared myself for an arduous set-up and tear-down, but both went more smoothly than I anticipated.  I will definitely apply to this show again.

11 April 2009

Viking knit bracelets

Well, it certainly has been a while, hasn't it?!?  I began making these bracelets over a month ago and have only just now gotten around to posting them!  They are basically miniature versions of the necklaces I made earlier this year.  They look rigid and triangular, but actually sit comfortably on the wrist.  The Viking knit portion stays on top of your arm and the other segments are strung on flexible Accuflex wire that curves around the wrist.  They are easy to put on by yourself and stay put once on.   I am having a hard time deciding which one I want for myself!

08 March 2009

Spring Mix of Pearls

I made this set last weekend and find, again, that I adore these pieces!  This is the first time I have done a nearly random mix of stones (three colors of freshwater pearls, in this case) in the Viking knit section.  I wish that I also had different sizes of each color so that I could have the piece larger in the center than at the sides.  I find it immensely difficult, however, to find pearls that are of the same dye lot that are in different sizes, and more specifically, in smaller sizes.  I need pearls that range from 2 mm to 5 mm.  I can find white pearls more easily so I am considering the possibility of dying my own pearls.  Has anyone done this?

The other new thing about this necklace is the hook and eye.  Well, the eye portion, really.  I needed to make sure the eye was truly secure, so I soldered it closed.  Nothing earth-shattering, to be sure, but a new addition for me!

I already know what the next two (TWO!) necklaces will be; I have had the pearls for months and now know that I was waiting for this design to emerge.  I also think I shall make matching bracelets.

06 March 2009

More Heart Pins

I love my new photo studio so much I want to take new pictures of everything! Here are some wire heart pins, made with 16 and 20 gauge Argentium silver wire. One has been oxidized. The first pin I made like this was back in December. I feel like there are too many spirals, so I am going to try something new for the next one. I will post a photo, of course!

04 March 2009

Viking Knit Set, Gold with Amber and Pearl

Here is the last of the photos I took recently of older work (last fall) with my new tabletop photo studio.  I particularly like the contrast between the jewelry and the background, and that the black background does not have any hot-spots.  I am still amazed at how much my photographs have improved!

These pieces were hand-woven using 26 gauge 14 karat gold-fill wire.  I love the combination of amber and pearls!  Both the necklace and earrings are listed for sale on my website.

02 March 2009

Amethyst Necklace and Earring Set

This Viking knit chain is four stitches, with the amethyst chips added during the weaving. I have recently begun making my chains bulkier (5 to 8 stitches), so this represents an example of "early" work. The tops of the earrings are finished in the same manner used to finish the necklace chain. I only started finishing the earrings this way last summer, and I like the clean look very much, so much so that I took all the earrings of this style that I had and added this end treatment. I also removed all the manufactured earwires and added ones that I made. I can truly say that my work is 100% handmade!

This necklace is available on my website!

01 March 2009

TeamMN on etsy.com

I'm posting a quick note here. I just finished attending an online meeting of the Minnesota Street Team, a group of (mostly) Minnesotans with shops on etsy.com. It was a bit slow to get going, but once it did, was quite interesting. We talked about some new guidelines for team participation in order to get more people involved in promoting the Team and the shops of its members. It was kind of fun to sit at my table, work on some earrings, and follow the online chat. Plus, I got to listen to "Wait, wait, don't tell me!" on MPR! Talk about multi-tasking! The end result is that I am enthusiastic about the Street Team again, and will continue to maintain my shop on etsy.

28 February 2009

Turquoise Set

I made this set last week and used my new photo studio set-up for the photography. I must admit that I am thrilled, THRILLED, with the result. I think I am getting close to figuring out how to configure my lights in order to get this look. I have two more photos of older work ready to post, but I think I will spread it out over the next few days, so come back to see the pretties!!

This necklace is 5-stitch Viking knitting with the turquoise chips worked into the weave. I didn't make it long enough, and so had to add the links on the ends. I thought the result would be awful, but I find that I like the effect.

27 February 2009

Art Show Applications

The show season for the summer and fall actually began last month, since applications for almost every show are due in February and March. In the past month I have sent out applications and fees to 15 shows, and I will be glad to be done with that bit of business administration! In March and April there will be two or three more. Now it is time to wait. Waiting is awful! I have spent a good two months looking at shows, putting together a schedule, dreaming about what my year will be like, and looking forward to a road trip out west. Now I must wait to hear if I got into the shows. My jury photos turned out so nicely that I decided to gamble a bit and apply to some shows that I am not at all sure I will get into. If I am rejected from all of them, then I will certainly be in trouble! On some weekends, I also applied to a "back-up" show, in an attempt to make sure I get into SOMETHING! I hope to post a more complete show schedule on my website by mid-April.

On a related note, I wonder if some shows are in trouble because artists are in trouble. Five of the shows to which I applied extended their due dates at the last minute, which could be interpreted to mean that the number of applications was way down and the show promoters wanted to give more people time to decide to apply. Also, one show I have applied to in the past (but not this year) sent five reminders about the upcoming application deadline and encouraging application to the show. It began to feel like desperation to me. I might have applied, but had already applied to a show (Yellow Daisy Festival in Stone Mountain Georgia) that DOES NOT refund your booth fee if you are accepted and I won't know whether I am in until early April.

21 February 2009

Viking Knit Necklace with Woven Links

I am using my new photography studio to take photos of some work I did in January. This piece is definitely one of my favorites, so much so that I may need to keep it for myself. The center piece is 5-stitch Viking knitting with faceted rounds and rondelles of Spinel and Onyx. I made the two side links by fusing Argentium sterling silver into oval shapes that formed the frame for the weaving. The chains at the top are 4-stitch Viking knitting in the same mesh pattern that I use for the centerpiece. The one thing I would do differently next time is to make the center section a bit shorter, so that the links are more visible, and to weave the spinel rounds onto both sides of the the links so that there is no "right" side or "wrong" side. I just love this piece!!

20 February 2009

Art Show Promoters and Payments

Amdur Productions puts on several shows in and around the Chicago area. This year I applied to a few shows with them and I just received an email about their "Economic Understanding Program." Basically, given the uncertain nature of today's economy and the knowledge that cash flow is a problem for artists at this time of year (regardless of the economy), they are allowing accepted artists to split the payment of their booth fees and are waiving the surcharges they might usually add to this convenience. And although they have not accepted credit cards in the past, they have added that payment option. These are wonderful changes and reflect the fact that Amy Amdur understands the position that many artists find themselves in.

Almost all shows for the summer and fall have application deadlines ranging from late-February to early-April. These shows all have application fees, and either require payment for booth fees with the application, or upon acceptance, usually in April. This means that artists have almost all their show fees due within a two month period (last year mine came to $6000), and many of us have had little to no income during the winter months. On top of that, estimated taxes are due April 15! Cash flow is definitely a problem for artists at this time of year, so any way that show promoters can allow an artist to put off booth fee payments until later in the spring or early summer is greatly appreciated.

I'd like to commend Amdur Productions for making these changes!

19 February 2009

"Tabletop" Photography

I finally received my tabletop photo studio and have figured out, more or less, how to configure the lights in order to get decent photos. The entire studio consists of a white nylon fabric light tent and four lights with natural spectrum CFLs, purchased from Steve Kaeser Backgrounds on E-Bay. Overall, I am quite pleased with the quality, especially of the lights. The stands are sturdy and the lamp bases have nice on/off switches. The only thing I had to get (so far) was the appropriate surface and background. I went to a picture framing shop and bought a piece of non-glare glass (there IS a "right" side and "wrong" side) and used a large piece of black paper that I had under the glass. In the photo above, the surface looks grey, but that really is a piece of black paper under the non-glare glass!

After much repositioning of lights, I finally took some photos that are decent. I am still trying to figure out how to get rid of the uneven whitish reflections, but I will get there! And even though this is a "tabletop" studio, I don't have a table big enough for it! It currently sits on my basement floor, as you can see!

Here is one of my newer pieces, photographed in the new set-up. The center is 8-stitch Viking knitting with turquoise chips, and the side chains are 4-stitch Viking knitting and a strand of turquoise. This one came out a bit long. I may try it again with shorter segments.

16 February 2009

Diving into Facebook

As part of my general marketing strategy, I have been trying out various forums and places to get involved. Up until recently I have been keeping this more-or-less confined to jewelry and arts-related sites. I have accounts with Wire Wrapped Jewelry (a Yahoo group) and it's sister groups, Lampworkers Etc., the Guild of Wire Jewelry Artists, Art Jewelry Magazine, Step-by-Step Wire, the Orchid Forum (by Ganoksin), JewelryLessons.com, JewelryGeeks.com, etsy, MN Artists, Creative Wire Jewelry, Sunshine Artist, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly a few more. Not surprisingly, it is not possible to keep up with every outlet. I am active in some forums, a regular lurker in others, an occasional visitor to a few, and the rest, well, I just don't have time for everything!

Now enter Facebook. I have been reluctant to join, but finally did so a few weeks ago, almost on a whim. The first weeks were frustrating because Facebook is complex and rich, but there isn't really a user-guide, per se, and for something that complicated, I need a guide! There is a "Help" section, but it is only vaguely helpful. I finally discovered that books written by third parties DO exist, such as Facebook for Dummies and The Missing Manual. I haven't looked at those, but I did get a copy of I'm on Facebook - Now What?. This is a slim volume, and I had to grit my teeth through a few grammatical and editing errors on the first page, but overall, this is a useful little book if you want some input into promoting your business on Facebook.

I found that not only is Facebook a great way to stay in touch with friends near and far, but it might be a useful way to increase my own exposure in ways I hadn't imagined. Today I put together a Page for my business, JanRa Jewelry Designs. I will be exploring how to promote this page in the coming weeks. My hope is that increased exposure will result in increased sales through my website, or people searching me out when I travel to art shows over the summer. This year promises to be more challenging than last year, in terms of sales, and I am determined to do everything I can to make sure my business survives.

If you are on Facebook, visit my Page and write on my Wall! Send me links to your Page as well!

12 February 2009

Happy Birthday President Lincoln!

It really began by accident. On a whim, almost, I read Jeff Shaara's book, Gods and Generals, followed quickly by The Last Full Measure and then the book by his father, Michael Shaara, that started it all, The Killer Angels. All historical novels taking place during the American Civil War. I have since become VERY interested in the Civil War in general, and in President Lincoln in particular. I am now a great admirer of the man and of his presidency.

When I travel around the country on road trips, I now make a point of looking for Lincoln statues and memorials. The two photographs above were taken in Lincoln City, Oregon and in Spokane, Washington. In both cases I went out of my way to find these statues. I have been to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park outside of Mandan, North Dakota, but no statues (nice park, though). If anyone knows of a Lincoln statue I should see, let me know in a comment! And yes, I will be visiting Springfield sometime this year. I tried to get there last fall but couldn't seem to fit it into my schedule. It WILL happen this year on the bicentennial of his birth!

One final note: I am also celebrating Charles Darwin's 200th birthday today! Two great men born on the same day in 1809, and still influencing our lives today.

08 February 2009

First Robin of.....Spring?

I had a robin in my back yard on February 3rd, when the high temperature was about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Not kidding!!! The is the earliest I have ever seen a robin. This male is either going to have some prime territory in the spring or else he is going to die. Fortunately for him, daytime temps are now routinely in the 30s.

01 February 2009

Wire Braiding tutorial

The tutorial for Viking knitting has been received quite well. I've been getting a lot of positive feedback about it and it has been very gratifying to hear that other people find the instructions and photographs easy to follow! I have plans for a few more tutorials, some on basic techniques, and some that are specific projects. The first one I have ready is a tutorial on braiding with wire, covering three-strand braiding, with a basic wire-wrapping technique used to make the latch. On my website I call these "Simple Braid" bracelets.

I have been spending a lot of time on the computer recently, and even though my first show is still two months away, I am beginning to feel a bit nervous about my inventory level. I really want to push my designs into new areas, and pick up new techniques, but doing so takes time away from making items that I already know are popular. It is a delicate balancing act that I am not sure I have mastered yet!

22 January 2009

Jury Photos

And this is what professional photography can do for you:

Photos I took of these two pieces were posted earlier this month. They were alright for a blog or website, but cannot compare to these! They don't even look like the same pieces! These photos were taken by Larry Sanders, of Sanders Visual Images. So much nicer!!

20 January 2009

Capturing the Inaugural Moment

I did not travel to Washington D.C. for President Obama's (I just LOVE that phrase!) inauguration, and miss being a part of the energy, but my consolation is that you can take some very, very nice photographs from an HD TV! All of these photos are still shots of the live video feed broadcast by ABC. Here is a nice shot of the Obamas and Bushes on the South Capital steps, just before former-President Bush and Laura Bush leave in the Marine helicopter.

What a great looking couple! I watched the inaugural events ALL day (8AM to 5PM, CST) and after a while began to really love Michelle's outfit. The fabric of her dress and coat have a gorgeous texture and I love the warm color. It is very unlike me to comment on anything related to fashion, but her outfit really was quite striking, especially on her! And check out Sasha in the top photo. Her outfit is a bold combination of pink and orange that actually works; I wonder if she picked out her clothes.

I am so thrilled! President Obama!