Saturday, October 31, 2009

Featured : Crafted by Design

Men are usually the hardest to shop for when it comes to gifts.  Getting him something hand crafted, practical and yet memorable,  and something he'll use often (remembering you in the process of course)- well that's almost impossible.  Crafted by Designs has these incredible hand made (turned on a lathe) wooden- European style pens.  Every time he picks it up and feels the elegant wood barrel he'll be thanking you! 

This shop also has a variety of other offerings :  
"sewn crafts, crocheted items, and wood-turning",  handmade cards, scrap booking supplies etc..
"Custom orders are available for all  (baby) slings, aprons, hair bows, and pens/fire pistons." They also have a really nice wooden business card holder.
I have my eye on the gorgeous pink pen and pencil set! But they can probably make more...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Featured: VH McKenzie

I used to paint quite a bit- mostly in acrylics, but oils, watercolors and pastels as well.  Being a painter myself , I can easily spot the work of other artists that have exceptional talent.
V.H. McKenzie, of NY,NY  is such an artist! Her works exhibit all the colors of the rainbow- a colorist with an incredible eye.  I love her Jamaican portraits and lush tropical landscapes.
One of her paintings hanging in a neutral colored room would spice it up temendously.

But don't just take my word for it:

Don't hesitate to check out her Etsy shop or facebook page where you can see more of her incredible works! You'll find me amongst her fans!
She offers, "Original art -- oil and watercolor paintings, drawings,collage AND archival quality prints of same." 
Do you have someone who has everything- or nothing (or anything in between for that matter)?  One of her paintings or prints would be the perfect holiday gift!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Want a Shorter Facebook Link? Easy to Do!

I found a blog that has great tutorials on facebook, blogging etc. and thought I would share it with all of you.

If you have wanted a shorter facebook link- for example - mine is now

go to this link and follow the easy instructions!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shop Handmade for the Holidays

Buy Handmade for this Holiday Season -

With the economy affecting most peoples' wallets, for the upcoming holidays, it really makes sense to consider not only how much you will spend and what you will buy, but also - who will you buy from.  So many are either supplementing their incomes or have been forced to replace their incomes (due to layoffs or reduced hours) by starting small home businesses.  Each of us has a choice.  We can continue to buy from the super stores, that are increasingly stocking their shelves with inferior and cheaply made imported goods, or we can choose to buy from people who are working from their homes and trying to make a difference in their local economies.

To help these entrepreneurs, artists and craftspeople, I've decided to feature at least one each week throughout the season, on this blog.  If you want to be considered for inclusion - please go to my FaceBook page (link on the right side of this blog) and leave me a link to your shop or website and a contact email.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Improving Your Photos for Increasing Sales

Showing your three dimensional products on the two dimensional internet can be difficult - especially when you are not a naturally gifted photographer, like me. I don't even like taking pictures!  Presentation is everything when a customer can't pick it up and examine it.  Your photos need to show your items with detail and accuracy.
I've read a great deal of advice on this topic- from get the best camera to buy a light box and special lights.  I've also seen some alternate setups to save money or at least get acceptable pictures until your business can afford the top of the line set-ups.  Here's a quick synopsis of what I did to get the picture above out of one that looked similar to the one below;

I use a translucent bin with two lights aimed at it. I've been using my daughters camera that has a Macro and Supper Macro setting- that's the one with the "flower" icon on your camera.  You need this to get the detail. It is not an expensive camera and about 3 years old.  The key is having enough light so that the camera doesn't flash. The flash creates glare and washes out detail. By putting the light through the translucent bin- it also prevents the glare on the metal surfaces that causes big problems when photographing jewelry.  Take several shots - its digital- you can erase the ones that aren't good!
Next use a program to edit your photos-I use Picassa (free download from Google) for most of my simple editing.  First I crop it to eliminate what I don't need in the photo. Next I will lighten the photo and add highlights- then shadows (second tab ) Finally I will sharpen the picture (third tab). That's what I did above in the "brighter"  and "clearer" shot.
I still have a long way to go when it comes to photography- but I wanted to give you a starting point- if you are as clueless to it as I am.  For those who know even more and don't mind sharing- post a comment and any links you have so we can all get even better with our pictures!  Remember- we can't sell something that isn't well presented so it is very much worth the effort to get better photos.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Colors in Jewelry Designs

The colors on the ranch are breathtaking - the grasses have turned a soft golden color and the trees are sporting golds, oranges, reds and even warm browns.

In the garden, there's pumpkins and peppers and the last of the very ripe tomatoes..... With so much color around it makes me want to get it embedded in my jewelry as well. I loved the feel of the brisk cooler breezes and the frost this morning was sparkly and beautiful as it blanketed the fields.

Unakite Jasper is a stone that isn't rare, or costly, but has gorgeous splashes of fall colors permanently embeded in it. These are not died but natural colors and won't fade or run. The stones are highly polished so that they gleem. Mix it with red agate (which is mostly a deep pumpkin orange) and you get the necklace in the picture. It is a "one of a kind" since I don't know if I'll ever find the exact same colors in the stones again. I made some earrings to match as well. If you like wearing beiges, tans, greens or corals - these stones will really enhance the look. They work well with browns and warm grays too and will perk up those colors. I also like to wear necklaces like these with a similar length gold silver or copper chain, sometimes twisting them together.

What are your favorite fall colors? Have you noticed that many of the newscasters on your local and national channels are wearing natural stone necklaces?
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making Your Own Ear Wires

Making basic ear wires is really quite simple and making them yourself gives you so much more flexibility as far as sizes, shapes and thicknesses go.  The majority of ear wires are made with 18, 20 or 21 gage wire.  I use sterling silver because it holds its shape better than fine silver (pure silver) and is antibacterial and for most people non allergic.  18 gage makes a fairly thick strong ear wire and is great for heavier stones or hammered hoops.  I don't find it as popular as 20 or 21 gage - which I also find to be most comfortable in my ears.
For ear wires I use the half hard wire. Wire is sold hard, half hard or dead soft. If you have a lot of bending to do and the wire is thick (lower numbers) use dead soft. Hard wire is very spring like and harder to bend - it can also break if you bend it too much. 
For a very simple french style ear wire - first cut  two 1.5 to 2" pieces of wire and make a small loop around the tip of your round pliers on one end of each (see picture at right).  This is where you will later attach your "drop".  Now use a sharpie, dowel or pen to bend both pieces around - this forms the part that rests in your ear.  I do them together so they match.  Then take your flat pliers and bend the back end up slightly (apx. 1/8"). Now file the end that will go through the ear to make it smooth.

Once you are happy with the shape- you now need to "set it". That means hardening the wire so it will keep its shape.  I do this by tumbling in a rotating barrel with stainless steel shot for several hours.  It can also be done by hitting the rounded part of the earring with a hammer several times (flattening it).  "Working" the metal by hammering or tumbling alligns the molecules and makes it stiffer or harder.
If you look through the Fire Mountain Gems or Rio Grande catalogs you can see the huge variety of shapes that are possible - you just have to get creative and find objects to shape your wire around! Have fun designing your own special ear wires!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to Put a Slideshow on Your Blog

It is really easy to put a slide show of a series of photos on your blog. First download a free copy of Picasa from google. It will organize all the photos on your PC so you can find them easily.

Next, open Picasa and chose the photos you want in your slideshow by holing down ctrl and clicking on them with your mouse. Now choose upload to put hem on your free online Picasa album. After they upload click on "view online". On the right side choose the icon that looks like a link. Choose embed slideshow. Copy the HTML into your a "new post".
Save and add any comments to your post. Then "View Blog" and enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Slideshow of the Horses

Testing out adding slideshow to the Blog:  Here is one of the new horse, our old horse and my daughter and her friend- they took these pictures themselves and they haven't been edited in any way. See what you think!

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