Saturday, January 28, 2012

Somebody Else's Jewelry

So usually I talk about my own jewelry on this blog.  Because, let's face it, that's the jewelry I'm usually thinking about.  But earlier this week I met up with a friend, Sarah-Lambert, who makes amazing jewelry.  It's amazing both because it's unique - I've never really seen anything else like it - and because it's so beautifully crafted.  I still can't exactly figure out how she does it - I'm pretty sure transmogrification and/or Harry Potter's wand must be involved, because surely no one could paint such beautiful, clever, personal watercolors on such a tiny surface.  So, you can tell I'm smitten.

The thing is, she doesn't just make great jewelry, she also runs a  great Etsy shop - called Tuckoo & MooCow (which, for those of you as literarily-challenged as I am, is a reference to James Joyce.)  As most of you know, I decided to put some energy into my Etsy shop this fall, and it totally worked!  People bought things!  I shipped things!  Joy ruled throughout the holiday season!  And now. . . I want to keep the joy going.   So when I met Sarah-Lambert I asked her if she'd mind giving me some shop advice - critique the good and the bad and the (hopefully not much) ugly.

Fortuitously enough, she also was in need of something, and a trade was arranged.  What she needed didn't require nearly as much expertise as what I needed - she just needed someone to wear her jewelry so she could take some action shots of the jewelry in its native habitat - that is, on a person.

So we met one day this week, and she gave me a *ton* of good advice (which I'm going to go into in a lot more detail in a later post), and then I made faces at the camera and hopped around and tried to pretend like I knew what I was doing while she took pictures.  I'll admit I wasn't expecting a whole lot - so when she put them on the Tuckoo & MooCow Facebook page I couldn't believe it.  I kind of look like I know what I'm doing.  She must have gotten rid of the super-awkward and dorky shots.  My hair  is big (my hair is always big), but not exactly finger-in-a-light-socket big. And I'm pretty sure that if there's anything Sarah-Lambert is better at than making jewelry, it must be Photoshop, because my skin didn't look that dewy when I actually *was* in my 20s!  But, more to the point,  her jewelry looks great.  Here's a sneak peek of her shots - and you can head on over to Facebook for the real deal.

Ok, wait, speaking of dorky though - this one makes me laugh:

She did her usual great photography job, and her compact (which, it turns out, is actually quite useful if one is applying lipstick in public, or more likely for me, trying to do a quick check of whether there's something in their teeth) looks great.  But I almost never wear lipstick, and if I do I'm definitely not organized enough to have an actual compact to use to apply it.  And, plus, I've just never really seen a picture of myself like that, which makes me laugh. I look so intent on making sure that lipstick is really on properly.

But - now here's the truly tragic part.  It turns out, after she processed these pics and put them up on Facebook, her computer crashed and ate them all.  Before she had a chance to put most of them up in her Etsy shop, or back them up, or do anything else useful with them.  I got these for the blog off of Facebook - but that's not exactly adequate for using them as product photography.  So, I volunteered to go do it again.

 But here's the thing - there's no way my hair's going to cooperate, or I'm going to remember how to look like I'm happy-but-not-manic, or she's going to be as successful at recapturing my youth.  It's just not possible.  So instead,  these next ones will reveal me in the dorky, blotchy, crazy-haired true light of day.  And I'll figure that's just the universe evening things out  - some days you're the Louisville slugger, some days you're the ball. *

*I might have been reliving the 90s this week by listening to the CD collection I rediscovered during the studio overhaul.  And that collection might include Mary Chapin Carpenter. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Those Molds, and What the Etsy Front Page Will Do For You

Remember my molds?  So they turned out rather well, but a couple did require a little bit of first aid.  What is that you say?  How does one apply first aid for silicone?  No doubt there's tons of demand for this tip (is there *any* demand for this tip?), so here you go:

First unwrap the mold.  Congratulate yourself - success!

Look closer.  Curse under your breath (not out loud only because your son is in the other room.)  See a thin spot on the inside that means the mold will definitely break when you try to use it.

That dark spot in the middle?  That's actually the bracelet itself showing through the mold.  Not good.

Remember the cure-all of mold problems - silicone putty!

  Roll some silicone putty up like you're playing with play-doh, patch it over the mold, and voila!  Problem solved!  I won't tell you how long it took me to figure that out.

In other news, something somewhat interesting happened the other night.  (Although, come to think of it, this post is mainly interesting only if you either make silicone molds or sell something on Etsy.  Or have an odd, latent curiosity about either topic.  I promise, back to the mainstream next post.)

So, anyway, I'm sitting around quasi-watching American Idol the other night (don't judge, ok?  It was totally Clark's idea), and answering Etsy convos on the iPad, and something unusual happened.  When you're looking at your Etsy shop the activity for the shop shows up in a little box at the top.  And being that January is kind of slow, and I was refreshing pretty often as I went through the convos, the number was 5, or 8, or 13 to show activity from the last time I refreshed.  And then all of the sudden the number was 248.  And I thought - huh?  And then I figured out that something must have shown up on Etsy's front page.  Indeed it had, this ring to be exact:

And here's what happens to the views for your shop when an item is featured on the front page:

Yep, traffic increases by some exponential number.  While the graph looks like no one had looked at my shop before 9pm, actually it had been holding steady around 50 or 100 views every hour.  Which is not so bad for a slow January day, unless you compare it to this:

Yes, that would be 2,532 total views in a one hour period.  Nice.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are those my run legs I hear??

I have, in fact, been running a bit. In a rather casual fashion where I head out to Bent Creek and run around as much as seems appealing/appropriate, and then head home until another window of opportunity presents itself. Which is usually 2 or 3 days later. So you can see I have not exactly been on anything that anyone could even vaguely call a plan.

 My meandering runs have made it up to about an hour in length, but they have not been fast. At all. They have, however, sometimes been quite steep. I figure that has to count for something, right?? Surely if your heart feels like you're running mile repeats, then maybe some other parts of your body actually think you're running mile repeats too?

 Except then I met up with Kelly a couple of weeks ago, and we were jogging along on the dead flat path by the creek, and I was thinking "wow, this is a lot faster than I've been running, this feels like a bit of effort", so I dared to ask her how fast her Garmin thought we were going. The answer was... 8:46. Yikes. Because I was definitely putting forth a little too much effort for 8:46 on a flat road.  Not that I'm jet propelled, but in October, before I finally admitted that my foot was no longer operational, I really thought I was in shape to flirt with breaking 20 minutes for the 5K.  Which is a fair ways off from 8:46 pace.

So then today I met up with Kelly for another run, and we did the 6 mile Hard Times loop, where you (more or less) run up, up, up for about 3miles, and then down a steepish hill for about a mile, and then back along the creek on the flat path for a couple of miles.  It was definitely feeling easier than it did a couple of weeks ago, so when were back on the flat around mile 5, I finally dared to ask - ok, how fast are we going.  And the answer was - 7:40!  Hallelujah!  Maybe the run legs aren't completely in hibernation.  Maybe running 3 or 4 days a week with two dogs and no watch isn't such a bad idea.  It's not like we were flying, but it just felt so much easier than the 8:46 of two weeks ago that I was, quite frankly, happy.  I should also point out that it's not like we were running 7:40 the whole time.  We started at a warm-the-foot-up jog, and then slogged up the hill, before picking it up on the way back.  And after reveling in the 7:40 for about another minute I finally had the sense to say that it was fun while it lasted but I really ought to slow down.  But for a while there - we were chatting and running sub-8 minutes, and it felt good.

My foot - it's kind of sore.  It wasn't all that happy for the legs to have come back, and I think it much prefers the two dogs/no watch approach to running.  So two dogs/no watch is what I'm going to stick with for the time being, but still, the tease of really running was enough to keep me happy for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hot Chocolate 10-K - From the Other Side This Time

The Hot Chocolate 10-K is the biggest fundraiser for Sam's school.  It's  grown to about 1200 runners, and it's a lot of fun.  Last year (due entirely to my own lack of figuring out where exactly the finish line was) it was also the site of my most spectacular racing meltdown of the year.

Now, let me clearly state that the end of the race last year was entirely my fault.  I should have figured out where the finish was - that's kind of a baseline requirement for racing.  But still, I saw this giant graphic on the website and it made me laugh:

Seriously, that's what it says on the website.  And the crazy part is - it's true!!!  But kind of mainly in a technical sense, as in the middle 4 1/2 miles are totally flat - but the beginning and the end are a different kettle of fish.  Here's  the elevation profile:

So, you see that, while technically true, it should also come with a warning that it's the flattest race, with the steepest finish, in town.

This year, due to the cranky foot, I decided we'd volunteer instead.  Note that *I* decided *we* would volunteer.  Clark loved that one.  Especially when we were put on the parking crew, and were told to be there at 6 in the morning.  That included Sam - normally I might have let him con a sleepover with a grandparent, but there weren't any readily available, and besides that I told him it was his school after all - if any of us were going to be there it ought to be him.  So we got up at 5:15 and slogged over to the Chamber to direct parking.  At which point Sam taped two parking signs to himself in a sandwich board, plugged in his iPod, and commenced dancing like a much younger, much whiter Usher.  The kid never fails to surprise.  And people definitely noticed the entrance to the parking.

Turns out parking duty is pretty fun.  Although my favorite are the people who arrive 25 minutes before the start of a 1200 person race and are shocked to find out the closest parking is full.  "What?  It's full?!?" Um, yeah.  It's full.

At any rate, the heavens opened with a major league cloudburst just as we were finishing, and I'll admit some soft, weak part deep inside me thought "I'm so glad I'm not running today!!!"  And what the hell, it's not like I was going to run anyway, so I took that soft, weak part home and fed it bacon and sausage.  Live a little.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This is Where the Magic Happens

Remember when I learned to make silicone molds?  And I was so proud of myself?  Well, that's how I've been occupying the last few days.  Because I found a *bunch* of bangles just crying out to be turned into molds, but I kept thinking "oh, I don't have time for that, I'm in the holiday rush.  And the post-holiday rush.  And the studio overhaul.  And the inventory and accounting overhaul."  And finally, I wasn't in any kind of rush or overhaul and had to face the fact that the time is now.  

So, I pulled out the trusty duck tape and poster board and glue gun - because believe it or not those are the crucial ingredients to making a good silicone mold - and got to work.  People, this is where the magic happens: 

I know, hard to believe right?  And also, it's possible that the real professional mold makers have a different system, but this is the one (after much trial and error) that has given me the best results.  It's not all glamour, here, ok?

BUT, in a few days I should have several new bangles, which I'm pretty excited about.  Will post pics here first for the sneak preview!

And - I'm going to put together a post on Stitch Labs in a few weeks too - that's the "inventory and accounting overhaul" I mentioned above.  I think it might be the coolest thing ever for small artisan businesses.  After being the bane of my existence while trying to figure it out.  Will post the full report once I've totally got it under control.  Fair and balanced coverage - that's what this blog is all about.  That, and glue guns.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Transforming the Beast

My beast of a studio, that is.  I wish I had taken more honest-to-goodness "before" pictures.  But once I was overcome by the spirit of "must fix this now!", there was no time for before pics.  There was mainly time for throwing sh!t out and daydreaming about trips to Ikea.

Here's what happened:  we had a Christmas Party.  We do it every year, and it's super fun (and also somewhat exhausting), because we do it on our last Holiday Market date of the year, which means that, in addition to the birth of Christ, we're also celebrating the end of standing in parking lots selling jewelry for the next few months.  And honestly, by that point in the year, one seems about as exciting as the other.  (But only for a few days.  Then the earth returns to its proper order and I'm back to recognizing the birth of Christ as having perhaps a little more significance.)  So anyway, in one day we work two markets and host a party for 50 people.  I didn't say it was smart, I just said it was fun.

As you can imagine, getting ready for the party requires a significant amount of prep beforehand.  And that's where home overhaul comes in.  The last couple of years it's been a catalyst for change that resulted in good marital harmony.  The first year Clark and I had a knock-down drag out fight (which is fairly unusual for us) over the thousands (yes thousands) of paperback books I had stored all over the house.  I was attached to them.  I LOVED them.  I re-read them all the time.  And they were driving Clark crazy.  And also probably not a good idea for a person with occasional allergy and asthma problems (me).  So finally I recognized that he had a point, gave a fortune in books to Goodwill, and bought a Nook. (Well, except for a couple hundred books I *knew* I was going to re-read again.)  But now paper books no longer cross the threshold in our home, and marital harmony reigned again.  At least it reigned until this year's party.

Because getting ready for this year's party brought up the subject of my studio.  And how not fit for public consumption it was.  For example:

 These don't fully tell the story, because they were taken a few years ago before the jewelry making had fully entered the scene (I was mainly making lanterns and lamps at that time), but trust me when I tell you it had only gotten worse.

So just imagine this scene doubled with stuff.

And here's what happened when I cleaned out the closet.  Seriously, all of this was in the closet.  (That's really a pretty embarrassing picture.  Please don't call Hoarders, just wait until you see the next pictures.)

So anyway, the Christmas party was approaching and through much covert action and sly hiding of crap, the studio looked sort of not as bad as usual.  But not great.  And then I was wandering about on Pinterest, and came across some lovely studios.  And I thought - WTH, why can't I have one of those?  And needless to say, Clark was all over it.   My studio was formerly our guest bedroom, so there's really no escaping it in our house.  (Well, you can close the door, but you still know it's there.)

So, a studio overhaul frenzy took place. I should mention that this also coincides with my getting out of the candle and lantern business, and focusing solely on jewelry, which means it was time to simplify things anyway.  (And, as an aside, if you want any candles or lanterns you might want to head up to Woolworth before they're all gone.  And if you want any candle making supplies I'm going to have a craigslist fire sale in the near future.)

Clark and I threw out literally dumpsters full of stuff.  And then I grabbed my long-time BFF (we met first day of college!) who also happens to be an Interior Designer, and drug her to Ikea with me, and here's what we came up with:

It's like it's not even the same room.

See that closet to the right?  That's the one I was attempting to clean up a few pictures ago.  It's crazy, I tell you.

It's kind of so what I wanted that I don't even want to mess it up by actually working in it!  But I'm getting over it.

p.s. - if you haven't joined Pinterest, and you want to, I think it's quicker to get on if you have an invitation.   If you run into that problem, just email me or leave a comment and I'll send you one.  It's crazy good fun.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January Run

I went running in Bent Creek yesterday morning - 6 miles (more or less), with the first half pretty much up hill, and the last half pretty much downhill.  That's the beauty of Bent Creek - you kind of get fit in a hurry.

It turned out the weather was amazing.  Cold but not freezing, with the bluest sky I've seen in days.  So I tried to commemorate it - but the sun was so bright, and the leaf-less trees so not-really-appealing, that I wasn't all that successful.  As you'll note:

In fact the best pictures were no doubt of my running partners:

 They are the best.  I swear Moose grins at me the whole time, and Eli is on constant alert. (True story - he scared the beejezus out of a pit bull mix that was chasing Moose, and ran the pit back to his owner.  And Eli is the little one.  Except he's a terrier, and thus the normal rules of canine size don't apply to him.)

I also added the obligatory self portrait, although turns out self portraits taken after running in the cold for a half hour are not the most flattering option.  But still, I'm sure you can tell how much fun I was having.  And I'll keep telling myself that's the point of the running self-portrait.

But, the biggest point of this post, and I'm playing it cool so I waited until the end to really point it out, is that I RAN 6 MILES YESTERDAY!!  And my foot was pretty cooperative.  Couldn't be happier about that.  (ok, I could be happier - I could be happier if I hadn't thought my heart was going to explode going up that first climb on Ingles Field Gap - but that's the part about Bent Creek getting you fit in a hurry, and also that small wrinkle did not overshadow my general very-happiness to be running.)