A Few of My Favorite Things

I have to admit that, when I organize my inventory, I am often enchanted with my own work. I guess that’s not a bad thing!

Here are some of my recently made items, but you know what?  I have not been able to get time to work with all the newly found beads I have – oh, how I wish the temps would cool down a bit, so I can feel inspired to work with them.

Ruby Red Czech Glass Bead Earrings Copper Accents

Deep Red Czech Glass Beads, accented with Antiqued Copper

Genie Lantern Earrings in Iridescent Blue

Genie Lantern Earrings in soft blue iridescent glass, accented in antiqued brass

Blush Pink Beaded Earrings with Antiqued Copper

Lovely peach pink Czech glass beads, with hand hammered earring pins and wires, antiqued copper

 

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Purchasing to Repurpose

Earrings with Far East Design

One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through antique and vintage shops, whether online or on the street. Mostly, I justify my use of the time(which can be significant) with the idea that I am searching for vintage buttons that I can use for my collection of ponytail holders at Talisman Studios, but just as often I am enjoying the design and practicality of objects which once were part of someone’s home.

When I saw the necklace that I harvested the beads I created these earrings from, I couldn’t resist buying the piece, and I almost completely forgot to ask the obligatory question(“Do you think you could do better on the price?”), because I wanted to get that beauty home and dismantle it!

I am guessing the necklace was a souvenir purchase someone of my mother’s generation made while traveling in the Middle East or perhaps Asia, The necklace was fairly simple, and not likely to be desired in and of itself, at least at this time. Too clunky for current styles, I thought, as I considered the negative aspects of using the parts instead of keeping it whole. But the beads – so wonderful!

The barrel shaped focal beads are almost certainly Bakelite. Though I have not tested for authenticity, Bakelite is fairly easy to recognize.  It has a certain sumptuous look and a saturated denseness that is pretty unmistakable. However, I decided to leave the question open – I do not think the material matters quite so much, in this case. Bakelite or not – they are just lovely beads; a deep chocolate brown, almost black, color.

But the truly remarkable components are the brass bead caps.  Each one was cut individually. Looking closely, one can see the angled marks of the metal snip used to make them.  The design is inspired by a Lotus Flower motif, which is why I wonder if the necklace wasn’t originally sold in some local bazaar in one of the mountainous regions of the Himalaya. They are delicate, thin sheets of metal, and this makes then precious, in my opinion.

I opted to add a simple round ring to the top of the design, when I made these earrings, and am reminded of a lantern shape. I have enough beads to make a half dozen or so pair of earrings, but I would also like to use some in necklaces.

The earrings have some sort of appeal, as each and every time I wear the pair I am keeping for myself, someone has commented on their beauty. This just doesn’t usually happen to me. So I have to believe that somewhere along the line, these beads were handled by someone with a strong and positive energy.  I think it may have been the artisan who crafted the brass beads, and probably the original necklace.I can imagine a man, crouched into the squatting position of rest one sees of the tribal folks of the East, working on new creations as he spent his time selling to travelers passing through.  I see him as a kind man friendly, interested in his visitors, and accepting. I am grateful to have found the necklace, and am confident that man would smile in knowing the pieces will be finding new wearers ho will appreciate their beauty.

You can find the earrings, available for sale, in my Talisman Too shop.

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Hats Off (On!) to Autumn

Winter Hat, made from vintage sweaters

I adore a cute hat, and since I spend the majority of my time in an outdoors environment, these first cool, post summer season days have me thinking about my wardrobe of chapeaus. The picture above is my tried and true standby. It’s made from recycled sweaters, by Face II Face London, and I paid good money($70) for it when I bought it at Barneys in about 1998. (I’ve tried to locate a web source for the designer of this hat and been unable – If anyone has a link, please contact me and I’ll update!)

Actually, my friend, Rita bought this particular hat. I had purchased another coloration, in creams and gray tones, from the same designer, and Rita so adored my cap that she immediately insisted we go find one for her. She chose this one, and we were an awesome pair when we sauntered the streets of Manhattan in these wonderfully original creations. Rita died a few years later, from Lung Cancer, and her partner asked me to help clean out her closets. He kept suggesting I take an item; that Rita would have wanted her clothing to go to friends, but Rita was size 4 or 6, and I am…not. When I saw the blue sweater hat nestled with a pile of her winter accessories I knew I could honor our friendship by donning that cap.

So, most of the time, that is the hat I wear in winter, but I still really love hats! And so I find myself thinking about a purchase…..

Here’s another one, which I bought last year at a local craft show. This piece was made by Karen Lloyd of Knit in Color.  It was just so damned cute that when I saw it, I had to take it home! It has a tassel on the back as well as the two at the sides, and the texture of the yarn is fantastic. She has similar ones in other colors in her shop, and…I know this post is about hats, but Karen also makes doggy sweaters(and my Lucas loves the one she made custom for him!)..

COLORFUL HAT FROM Knit In Color

Another hat I wear, this one from Knit In Color

One of my favorite places to window shop are at the digital boutiques of my fellow Etsy sellers. I’d like to share a few of the finds I have come across in my search.

This, from Wildthyme, is wild! The creator makes each hat with no pattern

Freeform Tam by Wildthyme

Freeform Tam in Hues of Blue

I love the colors in this one, from Dog Mountain Knits. The textured yarn is so pretty.

Handspun Yarn Beehive Knit Hat

Handspun Yarn Beehive Knit Hat

This one, from The Mast Hatter, reminds me a bit of a French beret!

 

Burgundy berry hat by The Mast Hatter

Burgundy Berry Hat

Here’s one that is also made from recycled sweater pieces, from Enchanted Ground.

Blueberry Muffin Elf Hat

“Blueberry Muffin Elf Hat” by Enchanted Ground

Etsy vs Amazon in the Battle of the Handmade Market

Why I’m Sticking with Etsy, the Reigning Champion

There’s not an online seller of indie craft who isn’t intrigued by the announcement that Amazon.com will be entering the market for handmade items, particular those that frequent the forums at Etsy, who’ve been discussing the lurking competitor daily.

For the most part, sellers are excited at the prospect; many feel Etsy betrayed them when the company relaxed it’s definition of handmade to include factory made products. Like myself, they are distraught, if not disgusted, at having to now compete head to head with factory-produced items which always undercut on price and can often be found at malls and street fairs across the country. Personally, I don’t think the person who chooses a brightly colored plastic bubble necklace

Selection from Etsy Search on "Bubble Necklaces"

Selection from Etsy Search on “Bubble Necklaces”

is the same customer who would want one of my beaded pieces

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

A necklace from the Talisman Too Collection

but I can see how this affects many others. My beaded jewelry shop would probably suffer more at the hands of these imported goods if my goods could be found in searches, but I am not fooling myself to believe that even the massive influx of these cheap goods is the reason my items don’t rank highly. There are thousands of “blue beaded earrings” on the venue, and a large percentage of them are genuinely designed and constructed in the minds and by the hands of people in their home studios, just like me.

Nonetheless, I’m under no delusion that a move to Amazon will solve my dilemma. In fact, I may be helped by the behemoth, once the disgruntled and starry-eyed Etsyians make their move to the newly launched platform.

A small seller like myself simply won’t be able to jump through the hoops that will be required at Amazon, once they have populated their community with hopeful selling residents. Right now, the vague outlines of their program seem almost comforting to the casual observer. Sellers must have less than twenty employees or be part of a collective with under one hundred members, but many people don’t seem to realize that China abounds with factories employing numbers that are well within the “collective” range, particularly when the products being produced rely on hand work, such as intricately embroidered or crocheted goods.

Amazon promises handmade sellers a respite on fees that can bite deeply into one’s overhead, but I wonder if most sellers aren’t employing their reading comprehension skills. Specifically, the lowered fee structure is only temporary, and this has been stated outright. Suggestions of a more “small-seller friendly” fee structure have been hinted at, but certainly not promised, an important distinction. The statement’s been nicely framed, lulling the gullible into believing that this beastly creature(the definition of an amazon, after all) will nurture their growth like a kind motherly type, saving them from  the cruel feudal hardships they feel they’ve suffered under the reign of Etsy.

The issue, as I see it, is that once a person puts the amount of time needed to build out their shop, develop linkbacks and all the other efforts that go into online selling, they will be heavily invested in the venue, and the idea that they might have to abandon the project will certainly bring on feelings nausea. They will hold on, struggling to work harder, and many will fail, while hungry-for-revenue Amazon swallows and burps. I’ve experienced something like this with my ClimbAddict shop, part of which is housed on the print-on-demand venue CafePress, where the Terms of Use I accepted upon arrival in 2006 have been changed nearly as frequently as one changes their bedsheets. I won’t go into those details, but suffice it to say that many, many sellers who once cheered and supported the company now write venomously about the cut-throat tactics they’ve endured. Why will Amazon, with it’s voracious appetite, behave differently?

I like the idea for Handmade at Amazon, but I believe they are counting on naive entrepreneurs to flock en mass to the cozy nest they have created, partly out of some vindictive desire to claw at Etsy’s foundation. Perhaps it is because some of the factories and importers which have been part of Amazon’s selling base found it lucrative to move to Etsy during the relaxed-guidelines transition?. When the harsh winds of reality blow the loose straws away from the nest, I feel many a former Etsyian will have been devoured and excreted like a compressed owl pellets

When My Etsy and Real Life Universes Collide

The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 274

These are galaxies, and not universes, but you get the idea, right? Photo Credit: “The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 274” from NASA.gov

People often see their online life as an insular experience. They usually don’t know the people whose comments they read in discussion forums, and they don’t expect to ever meet the bloggers behind the stories that appear on their social media feeds. When by chance they find themselves face to face, in real life, with someone they share a common online denominator with, the experience can be accompanied by unexpected feelings. Usually it’s one of pleasant surprise, but on occasion embarrassment, and even shame(if the participants had engaged in acerbic debate online). Almost always there is at least a small element of having made contact with a sentient being from somewhere beyond our world, as if we were a crew member on the starship Enterprise having an interaction with a holographic version of someone via the teleport.

As a rock climber, I have contacted, or been contacted by, other climbers seeking a partner for a day on the rocks. In fact, over the years I have met hundreds of people that way. One climbing friend I have made, Sonya with StoneMetal Designs, also happens to have a shop on Etsy. but I knew her before she opened her shop. So, that’s not the same as when one is going about their day and serendipitously finds themselves talking with someone with whom they tangentially inhabit an online community.

This happened to me recently, while I was talking with a visitor at my place of work(no, not my studio where I work on my jewelry – that would be pretty strange, since I don’t have a studio, and do most of the work in the passenger seat of my van!). Somewhere in the conversation, entrepreneurship came up, and I mentioned that I make beaded jewelry. The visitor, Amy from Amy Kohn Designs, exclaimed “Me too! Do you sell on Etsy?”

Viking Knit Bracelet Amy Kohn Designs

Bracelet by Amy Kohn, with Tutorial to make available – just click the image for information!

Of course we went on for several minutes, discussing the commonalities of doing beadwork and selling via the Etsy platform. Once Amy and her friend were on their way, I shook my head at the sense on incredulity I felt at crossing paths with a woman who happened to be visiting with a friend while on vacation from her home Israel and making the “Etsy Connection.”

Rainbow Beaded Ankle Bracelet

Rainbow Beaded Bracelet, from Shimmer Shimmer

It’s almost a no-brainer to assume that people working in bead shops might also sell on Etsy, but the energy one receives at making the connection is still unique. While I was in Flastaff, Arizona, a few years ago, I walked into a local bead shop and met Carrie Ann from “Shimmer Shimmer” and Sarah from “Patience Sister.” We had fun sharing stories of how our work has evolved, what inspires us, and how we market our wares on Etsy.

Robins Egg Blue Earrings

This pair of earrings was purchased from another Etsy seller who I met while visiting the bead shop she worked in.

At another bead store, this one in Colorado Springs, I met the very cool June Indigo from “Rainbow Unicorn.” June was so kind – she asked me to bring in my samples to look at, and not only did she make a purchase, right there in the shop, but so did one another store visitor who just happened to come in while I had my earrings laid out on display! The purchased put nearly a full tank of gas in my gas-drinking van, which was quite helpful on the 3,000 mile cross country trek.I am sure that most folks who sell their handmade goods through online selling platforms share similar stories. Please comment and tell about yours!