Friday, July 6, 2012

Seeing the Trees and the Forest

I've been working more and more with wire wrapping.  My most recent ventures into it are with tree pendants.  With the success of the two I've made so far, I've started planning out other designs for the trees, though I think I have found my personal style in making these.  I will also be trying out other wire wrapping projects too (as I find time).

I am also planning on slowly adding a line of sterling silver items.  I really do prefer them over silver plated, but the cost is so high for them that I may only be making limited amounts of them.  There are also such a large number of wonderful supplies that are made of base and plated metals that I really don't think I want to limit myself too much, creatively.

Currently, I'm still working on the gold grandmother necklace that was commissioned.  Finally got the last pieces I needed, so I hope to have it done by Monday.  I also have two possible separate orders that I need to work out the details on (pricing for a tree pendant, and more pictures of my Dr. Who inspired watch necklace).  I've been also working out details for a wedding order of barefoot sandals; the design was approved, but details regarding the location will determine if they will be ordered or not.  I've been seriously delayed on a lot of things... my kids were both sick late last week and early this week and they are still a little 'under the weather', so that ate up a lot of my time.

Other than that, I've been selling items on Tophatter still.  I'm changing my direction a little on there, for the time being.  Etsy sales are still slow, but I don't have the time to promote my items there, which is really necessary for success on that venue (especially with jewelry).  Still, the pace of my orders and sales are suitable and balanced with the pace of my job and home life.  That's definitely a good thing.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A moment of reflection...

Even though I do enjoy jewelry making, I've noticed that at times I become a little too focused on the selling aspect of it.  Not surprising given that:

1.  I have a large stash of jewelry supplies I've acquired and want to make up the cost.

2.  The money helps with other expenses, including 'treats' for my kids, my husband, and myself.

3.  If people buy my stuff, it's an ego boost.

4.  If you believe in things like astrology, a decent amount of my planets are in Capricorn... making my chart a very interesting read, apparently.

I love making jewelry, but I was losing interest in it because of how much pressure I was putting on myself.

The funny thing is, when I decided to start taking a more relaxed approach to selling my items, increased my shipping time to give me some wiggle room, and just let things happen as they will... Well... That day, several items I had been listing for a while on Tophatter's auctions in Standby actually sold.

Another funny thing I've noticed is that the items I list on Standby (in Tophatter) seem to sell when I'm asleep or driving.  Basically when there is no way I can be present for the auction (because I have no cellphone currently, so it's not like I can receive an alert that my lot is up).  Items also seem to sell on Tophatter shortly after I list them on Etsy.  But I'm not complaining; I just find it all a little ironic.

In regards to Tophatter sales... I read that you should just keep listing the items because the buyer for that item will eventually show up.  And this is absolutely true!  Sometimes, your buyer just isn't there for a while.  Also, I find that it's best not to reflect on what a price drop some items are selling for, but rather see it as the items moving out fast, with some profit to make up for the cost of the materials and some of the time spent.  It's a good place to get things out faster than other venues and to see what items are a bigger hit than others. Tophatter is very much about concept items too... just to keep in mind for anyone that wants to sell there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ever Onward

Life continues ever onward, whether the movement seems in ebb or flow.

I've had a slew of jewelry orders, have been trying to sell items on (with mixed success), and continuing to live my daily life as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and corporate drone.  It's a juggling act so many people (women, in particular) perform every day.

During the work week, I'm a semi-single parent.  My work day is from 8am-4pm (or thereabouts) and my husband's work day is from 4pm to 12am.  Some people would say we are "like two trains passing in the night."  It's an adjustment, to say the least.

Never the less, I've been pressing forward with my jewelry making.  For a few weeks, I started looking into designer and haute couture jewelry trends and found some ideas I liked (and some things that made me scratch my head).  I also took a look at some DIY designer sites too... and let me say... I definitely plan to paint some of my jeans with metallic paint and maybe later I'll wax another pair of jeans if I find some in black or a fun color!

Other than being a "typical" Viking-esque mommy...

1.  Orders!  Orders!  Orders!!!

I've been working on a custom order for a high end Grandmother's Necklace for a very nice lady who also ended up purchasing three Mother's Necklaces from me for her daughters.  I also made three more items for a co-workers June wedding (two that she is gifting and one for her personally).  I made three new jellyfish necklaces that I have gifted to friends, as a reminder to "Just Keep Jellyfishing."  I created prototypes for two more items, for possible orders from two other customers (one repeat and one new).  The first item is the ring above and the second item is my first attempt at a barefoot sandal (for another wedding later this year).  Both prototypes turned out very well.

2.  Sales!  Sales!  Sales!!!

I've been trying to list things on Etsy and Tophatter.  Both have mixed results, which is understandable.  A lot of my items look so much better in person, especially the "fried" glass.  The interesting thing is seeing how different the interest in items are for each site (whether for other sellers' items and mine), and how much people are willing to pay for the items depending on the venue.  I'll keep using these venues, but am learning how to tailor my items to each.

3.  New Ideas and Directions...

But I'll get to that another time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Ocean and Melusine

I love jellyfish.  I really, really do.  I became somewhat obsessed with them when I moved last year and I'm not sure why.  Even back then, I wasn't sure.  I do know it started with the illustration plates to the left (which are also hanging in my main bathroom).

I've always loved the ocean.  Most of my life, I lived on the East Coast.  For 7 years, I was only a 15 minute drive from the beach, and then for another 8 years, I was only 5 to 10 minutes away (and could walk to the beach in less than half an hour).  There were only two years that I lived far away from the shore, but was still visiting my mother, so the beach was still not far from me.  I'm not sure how close we were to the beaches in South Korea, where my family lived for 3 years of my youth, but I have a strong suspicion we visited the beaches a decent amount of times.

Admittedly, when I was in my teens and older, I didn't really visit the beach as much as some might think and didn't go often during the summer season, except after hours when the beach was free.  The tourists were a bit overwhelming for the 'beach town' I lived in, or perhaps they were just overwhelming for me.  So I saved my trips to non-prime times, my favorites being in the Autumn and Spring, usually with a boyfriend, a friend, or a couple friends.

I didn't walk in the water too often, but followed the staggered lines further up, where the waves deposited various sea plants and shells.  My head turned down, my eyes scanning this bounty to see what would catch my interest, usually various tiny whole shells that are roughly the size of my pinky nail, or small bits of shells that are riddled with holes, or even tiny whole crabs, crab backs, or pincher claws.  At other beaches, I'd find sand glass and even found a sand dollar once.  I remember seeing the tiny clear masses of jellyfish here and there, but not often at the beach near my home.

In my room, I had baskets full of larger shells I collected in my younger years, small trinket boxes and ceramic bowls with the tiny shells I collected when I was older, jars of seashell pieces and a couple jars with seashells my older sister collected in South Korea and Japan that she brought with her when we moved back to the US.  I had a mermaid Barbie doll that sat on my largest basket and a seagull that hung from my ceiling (the type that you pull the cord on the bottom and the bird's wings flap).  I had fishing nets as curtains with strands I made of tiny shells hanging in rows.  I collected old bottles that looked like they could have been on old ships and had a postcard with a Victorian image of a mermaid on it that I placed in a frame jewelry box.  I even had a small beach scene that I put together using sand, driftwood, shells, dried seaweed, a dried tiny crab shell and so on, all placed in a small aquarium my older sister gave me.  I loved the salty smell of the air, and would lose myself while watching the motions of the sea.

From all of this, you'd think I was obsessed with the sea... but I can't really say I was; more like it was just always a part of my world.  Something I appreciated, but didn't really think about too much.  I didn't notice how much I missed the beach when I lived away from it, but when I returned a few years later, I realized how much I missed it.  I felt safe and complete once again.

A year ago, I moved away again, and at that point, I felt drawn to many more things oceanic.  That's not to say I don't like where I'm living now.  I love living near so many farms while still being in a suburban setting.  I love being able to purchase produce, meat, eggs, dairy, and more directly from the farmers.  I like a lot of things about where I'm living, but at the same time, I hate that the ocean is so far away.

The name of my jewelry line is Melusine's Jewels.  Melusine comes from two myths...

In the first, Melusine is a half fairy who was cursed by her mother; a curse that turned her lower half to the tail of a fish/serpent every saturday.  When a noble met Melusine, he fell in love and asked her to marry him, not knowing about her curse.  She only agreed under one condition; she must have complete privacy every Saturday and he must never ask her about her 'alone time'.   He agree, but after a few years, he became curious.  He snuck into her chamber and found her in her half fish/serpent form.  She heard his gasp, turned into a dragon and flew away, screaming.  She did, however, visit her children every night and watched over them and her descendent from then on.

In the second, the melusine were basically freshwater mermaids, the top half being human and the lower half being fish/serpent.

When I started frying marbles and making my jewelry, I kept thinking of mermaids and Melusine.  I actively tried to create items to which mermaids would be drawn, this being my inspiration.  The phrase, "Mermaids are the magpies of the Sea," also came to me.

My jewelry has ventured in different directions, from jellyfish to birds nests to more, but the ocean still seems to keep me inspired in my designs, keeping me from being too organic or too rigid... I just 'go with the flow' of my ideas and see where they take me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I've started trying out for selling jewelry and testing out interest.  It also works well as a form of advertisement.  The set-up is a "live" auction.  People get together in the auction room, wait for the items they are interested in come up, and then bid, bid, bid.  It's quick paced and eye-opening.

The first item I listed was my Lotus Lariat Necklace.  I was so nervous that I had dreams about the auction (especially the morning of the auction).  Also, I ran into a bit a snag with Tophatter, which caused my listing to be unscheduled, but a rep assisted in rectifying the situation.  When the auction time came, I monitored when mine was to come up loosely, as I had both my children climbing all over me with unusually high levels of tenacity and unending energy.  (Nevermind that they were going to bed early all of the week before... That night they were making up for it.)  I did note that only one person seemed to set up an alert for my item, and no one was talking about it, which I took as a bad sign.  Throughout the other lots, people would say comments about different items or the item that was up, but would also talk about shows they are watching and chit-chatting about random topics.

When my lot came up, all the side talk stopped.  There were a number of positive comments about the item, two questions, but mostly, people just bid like crazy.  The starting bid was $12... The end bid was $40 (which did not include the shipping).  I was pleasantly shocked, called my mom, my husband, and my oldest sister (who tends to under value my work because I am her sister).  None of them seemed overly surprised (even my sister, surprisingly).

So I have another item listed for tomorrow (the dark green pendant in the picture with a chain) and am curious how it will do.  Click HERE to see it.  I've been told that my items are a great deal, which is good in some ways and not so good in others ways (because the price of the item also represents to many the quality of the item).  Tophatter might help me figure out a number of things, especially about the interest level in various items I make.
Other than that, I have an order for a necklace and matching drop earrings with possible other orders coming in from the same customer.  His wife put in a good word at her spa (which also sells jewelry on consigment) and they are interested in seeing my items.  I also have April Art Month to try out for at the farmers market nearby (it's a juried event) and another order that I have to experiment with as it involves techniques I haven't tried yet.

So... things are picking up a bit, but still not like Christmas; a much steadier and more reasonable pace for the time being.

Hope to see you at my auction(s).  :-)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Follow Up #1: "Problems and Solutions"

"Problem:  Because my items are meant to be worn, I really need to have them modelled."

I spoke with my younger brother's fiance and four work friends and all were happy to be my models.  They would represent my focus customer base very well, I think.  I'm still working out what payment options I will offer, but am leaning towards giving them a choice between:  a) a discount on future jewelry purchases, or b) free items from a selection of jewelry.  I mentioned the possibility of this choice and each seemed more than happy with it (though none expected payment).  I'm very fortunate to have people like them in my life.

"Problem:  Promoting my items and finding more venues."

I spoke with one of my friends (and model-to-be) and she gave me a number of avenues to look into, both in specific festivals/events and locations.  She definitely gave me a lot to look into and said she's willing to offer up more as well as going on hunting expeditions for stores that might be willing to carry my jewelry.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Problems and Solutions

I've been itching to try out some of the things I've been learning in my online searches about doing better on Etsy sales.  One thing was to finally get new and better photos.

The problem:  I need a white box.  My daily schedule doesn't give me many day light hours after work or before I pick up my kids from daycare.  Due to this, I tend to have to rely on artificial lights, which don't work well on their own.

The solution:  First, I've found tutorials on how to make ones that would work for artificial lights.  That would help to a degree, especially when used in conjuction with photo editting programs like Picnik.  I was fairly pleased with this free online tool when I played with it tonight.  I also decided that, if nothing else, I can use the smallest room in my apartment, which is fairly empty, has plain white walls, and a window that allows a nice amount of light in.  In a sense, it would be a fairly large white box.  I can add tracing or tissue paper to the window to diffuse the light and prevent too much reflection or glare.  I tried it out today and was happy with the improved results over my usual photos.

 Dark lighting.  Flat imagery.  Moody.  Nice but distracting background.

More interesing angle.  Cleaner background.  More interest.
Better composition (less wasted space).  Still needs work.

My 12 year old niece (who also makes jewelry) was watching me work on the new images on Picnik and helped give opinions as I tinkered around.  It says something that after seeing the "After" image above, she shuddered when I showed her the "Before" image.

Problem:  Because my items are meant to be worn, I really need to have them modelled.

(Possible) Solution:  I've talked to two people about possibly modelling some of my pieces, a friend at work and my younger brother's fiance.  They both seemed fine with the idea.  Not sure how I would pay them.  My friend said she didn't need money or a discount, but couldn't resist when I said I could give her free jewelry.  What can I say?  She likes my stuff!  ;-)

I have a couple other people I can possibly talk to about modelling my items.  I really do like keeping it to people I know, at least for now.

Problem:  Promoting my items and finding more venues.  I'm having a heck of a time finding vending events (like craft fairs and consignment shops).  I also don't have the time to go to "local coffee shops on open mike nights" too often because of my busy schedule. 

(Possible) Solution:  Talk to some of the poeple I know who vend at events; they may be willing to give me ideas on how to find these things.

Problem:  There's the idea of giving some of your items to well known singers and such and also possibly loaning some to local photographers in exchange for them to refer people your way (and free or discounted images of your items being used by models).

(Possible) Solution:  Think about the people I do know and who they might know.  My sister owns Cleopatra's Closet and she's also a well known belly dancer in her area.  She has a lot of belly dancer friends, knows a number of photographers, and has connections throughout the US and abroad.  She may be able to refer me to a few that I can contact.  There's also a few other dancers I know.  I may also have artistic connections in other areas as well.  I need to put out my feelers.

Another possibility is to contact several of the authors/owners of the bigger blogs I visit and ask about doing a giveaway through them.  It's a fast way to get exposure.  Something to consider.

I think my biggest problem is... I don't promote myself enough.  I have quality items and I am proud of what I make.  I need to be more proactive about selling them.

The main thing is this (and this is what I told my husband today):
It's about creating, but what's the point in creating if you can't share it.  How can I share it, though, if I can't fund it.  That's why I need to sell more; so I can afford to get the supplies to create more.

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Etsy Store

I've decided to open a new storefront on Etsy.  It felts too confusing for my store name (Melusine's Jewels) and my account name (mankycat) to be so different.  Cohesiveness, I felt, was needed.

So, I'll be starting fresh.  I didn't have much feedback on my old store front; people would forget to leave it or the item was sent as a gift to the recipient and not necessarily the gifter.  I needed to take new pictures for all my current listings using the information I've gathered from my research.  I'm doing a major overhaul.  I may also phase out my mankycat blog... We'll see.

There's so much to take in.  I really believe in my product and really believe it could do well.

As an aside, I've made two more birds nest necklaces.  One is in gold and brown wire with turquoise stone beads and the other is made of wire in three shades of blue with two sades of blue beads and a grey-blue freshwater pearl.  I'd post pictures... but I really want to get better pictures of them first.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bird Nest Necklace: First Attempt

Last night, I tried my hand at making a wired wrapped "bird nest necklace," using the tutorial from Lisa's Craft Blog.  I saw this tutorial a couple days ago and thought it would not only be a nice challenge for someone who is just beginning to work with wire, but also a lovely gift for my friend over at My Handmade Wedding.

This is how my first attempt (the prototype I'm keeping) turned out!

The tutorial has you use only one kind of wire, but I always have to try to do something different apparently. I used two colors of wire: 22 guage silver plates and 24 gauge gold tone. The two colors together make it work with different chains and makes the nest seem to shimmer more!  It was quite a bit more work though and I did stab myself in my thumb, but there is this idea that art sometimes requires a bit of sacrifice (or a bit of blood).  I didn't mind.

Here's a bit of back story:  If you go to My Handmade Wedding, you'll see her theme is laid back but very sweet, based on her cake toppers, which are little blue birds. Her invites and gift tags have hand drawn birds on them, and her accent color seems to lean towards the color of blue of her cake toppers.  My friend purchased necklaces from me for her helpers (who are similar to the standard bridesmaids) and for the mothers of the bride and groom, but I really wanted to make her some jewelry as a gift too (whether she chose to wear it or not).  The dress she was originally going to use was best without jewelry, so we set that idea aside.  She found a different dress (which is very lovely and very "her") and I found the tutorial for the 'bird nest necklace."  When I showed her pictures of this style on Etsy, she seemed very excited by it.  The birds nest necklace would fit the theme (and the style of her "hippie wedding dress") very well.

She is leaning towards an antique gold tone, which will be a little difficult with the wire selections the craft stores have around here, as well as one of my online resources.  I'll check a bit further online.  One idea I had was to make her birds nest two tone using gold tone an brown wires or to simply stick to one of those two.  The chain would still be antigued gold tone, so the nest colors would be affected by which hue of antigued gold I go with (different companies sometimes have different hues for this).  The "eggs" in the nest will hopefully be the blue of her wedding theme, I just need to find some.

I'm also considering what other directions I can take these necklaces...  I could do other, more mythical or fantasy based nest ideas.  I'm also thinking of showing my oldest niece how to make them, since she works with wires more than I do and it could be a good way of stretching her creative muscles.  I think this could be fun.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Melusine's Jewels!

Welcome to my new blog, dedicated to my jewelry line, sales, and perhaps some creative inspirations.  On my other creative blog, Sew Mankycat, I posted two entries regarding my blooming endeavors with making jewelry, working mainly with "fried marbles", which began approximately in July 2011.  These endeavors have been flourishing, and spreading into new avenues of pursuit.  I'm loving it!!!

The first two entries on the subject are Fried Marbles and Creative Movement....  The more I thought of it though, the more I felt I needed to keep my jewelry making and my other creative projects separate.  My jewelry making and my other arts/crafts just feel so different that one seemed to weigh too heavily on the other.

Christmas was a busy time for me.  I had constant orders coming in and was also making jewelry for my family, friends, co-workers, and my son's daycare teachers (actually everyone there since they all help with my children).  That's a lot of work!  Now, I'm in a lull of orders and can pursue other styles and ideas, which is great!  I was getting a bit burned out and bored, but now am feeling a renewal of my interest.  :-)

I plan to make a "birds nest necklace" this weekend using a tutorial I found via the The Southern Institute's "Creative Me Linky Party".  I'll post more on this after I make one.