Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For Shannon

Shannon is a 23 year-old mother of 3 little boys.  She recently suffered catastrophic injuries in Galveston while shielding her baby from a collapsing facade.  She will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life and her poor children will never have the life they should have with their mother.

Here's the link to the newspaper article describing the accident.  WARNING:  there is an emotionally intense photograph.  If this will bother you, please don't even look.  You don't have to.
http://galvestondailynews.com/story/343454

I'm running a BNR for her benefit that's so popular I had to expand it to a second.  I'm not benefiting in any way from these.  Everyone involved has pledged their profits to helping her family cope with the numerous expenses involved with having Mom in the hospital.

Please check these out.  It doesn't cost anything to pray.

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/OTA5MzcwOXwyNzIwNjY1Mzkx/paused-bnr-for-shannon-please-read-rules?ref=pr_treasury&page=13#comments

http://www.etsy.com/treasury/OTA5MzcwOXwyNzIzMjMzNzky/open-too-hot-to-hold-benefit-bnr-for?index=1

If you decide to participate please read my comments on how to do it.  If you're not participating, please pray for them anyway.  Running these has restored my faith in the goodness of people.  A mother shielding her baby from danger is the ultimate and she has done it.  Her baby is fine and is with family.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Technique?

 Yeah, I get bored.  I'm in the summer doldrums, between the long-anticipated vacation and the resumation of real work.  I cast about for ideas.  The above beads are my take on some I saw somewhere and wanted to tweak a bit.  Nothing too outrageous.  Rose cane and green leaves on a transparent base but etched, which changes the whole look.  I'd like to explore etched beads further, but a couple things give me pause.  First, the solution for etching beads is toxic and hazardous every way that you can think of, even when the acid is neutralized with sodium bicarb (baking soda) it's still poison.  If you breathe it or if it touches your skin, it will burn but that isn't the least of it.  It will also go to your bones and hang out there.  Not good.  Second, etched beads don't seem to sell as well as the shiny ones, even if they are more interesting to look at.  If anyone has any insights, I'd love to hear them.
 Above is another technical challenge.  I love pixie dust (another health challenge but an easily dealt with respiratory one.)  But I got bored.  What happens if you add frit and stringer?  The short answer:  Nothing sticks.  By superheating a small section of bead, I can get the frit to stick, then I melt it in and by the time that happens if I apply the stringer while the base is still molten, the scrolls stick and eventually melt in.  Needs more development.  And size control.
Size control is what ticks me off about the above beads.  I made a mushroom of silvered ivory, dotted it with CiM Bordello, and encased the whole thing in Effetre light brown trans.  It's a technique I'm exploring further with different color beads in the kiln but these are meh.  There's a whole mm difference in diameter and when I'm encasing it's so tough to get the same thickness.  I'm trying it with more obvious colors and somehow hoping that will improve my technique.  I'll let you know if that produces any miracles.

I think this must be one of those lulls when I'm keeping my head up until the next breakthrough.  I'm learning quite a bit about the way glass melts and works but will I be able to translate it into anything relevant?  A high point - next week I'll have a new color to play with, CiM Tandoori.  It looks similar to one of my faves, Vetrofond Arancio Perfecto and I can't wait to see how it differs from CiM Clockwork, with which I wasn't terribly impressed.  Why is it that the reds and oranges can't be truly transparent?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pennsic XLI

Every year I try to go to the big annual event held by the Society for Creative Anachronism and I've just returned.  I didn't take any pictures this year, partially out of laziness and partially out of repetition.  People come from all over the world and hold competitions, display their Medieval style art, sell an amazing variety of things, eat, drink and socialize.
This is a rather miserable picture taken at the opening ceremonies several years ago.  Did I mention that over 10,000 people participate at some point or other in the two week event, not including staff.  The campsite stretches over 2 miles.  We camp in groups defined by geography and friendship.  My group has at times been as large as 100 campers but is now down to about 60.

 One of the many reasons to go is for the shopping.  There are products specific to Medieval reenactment that you just can't find anywhere else.  Some of the shops are really great too.  These are not permanent structures.  They are assembled on trailer bases and disassembled afterward and packed up for the next year.
 Most merchants sell their wares out of tents and this is entirely appropriate for the time.  The event is modeled on a war.  The primary purpose is actually to see whether the East or the Middle or the Allies will win the martial competitions.  The reason for the vendors, classes and restaurants (called taverns) is to support the war effort.
Becoming a vendor is a complex process.  Primarily, you will be given a spot if you were there last year.  A few new merchants are accepted every year and that's why I'm writing.  It doesn't matter if you sell handforged Damascus steel blades or electric toothbrushes, these observations might help.

First - go where they want you.  If you've been a vendor at a show before and it worked out for you, go back!

Sell what they want!  Every show has its own market and how well you fit into it will determine whether you will be successful.  At this one, artisans who handcraft authentic items using period techniques are favored.  Artisans who create historic type items using modern techniques also get a bit of a boost.  There are plenty of people who sell T shirts and bumper stickers but if that's all you're planning on selling you're not likely to win one of the coveted new merchant spots.

Have plenty of inventory!  You will not make any sales and you may not be asked back if you don't have enough inventory to cover the length of the event.

Have help!  Everyone has to eat and answer nature's call.  You are open a given number of hours and if you aren't there you will not do well.

Sweeten the pot!  One of the most popular shopping days is Wednesday's Midnight Madness.  The merchants start packing up Friday and Wednesday night stay open late to decrease the amount of stuff they're going to have to cart home.  Some (the popular ones) offer special deals.  Hours will be determined by the show but you can have special coupons for returning customers or on your Facebook page.

Make people want to look for you next year!  You've got the most awesome items the show has ever seen but returning customer coupons and careful customer service will make people remember you.  Every year I shop based on my memories of the previous year.  The merchant who carefully wrapped my pottery and gave me a nice, reuseable, WATERPROOF shopping bag will be my friend next year.

Finally, don't forget to enjoy it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thank You Notes

I've been streamlining shipping lately and am skimping where I shouldn't be.  Namely, the thank you note.  Ideally, it should be an individually written card lovingly enclosed and packaged with the order.  It should thank the customer, remind them who they're shopping with, and encourage them to come back.

I'm of two minds.  I truly believe in my deepest of hearts that most of my customers toss them.  I've seen a couple board posts with people lamenting the waste of paper and packaging on simple orders.  I can't skimp on packaging - all it takes is one order arriving damaged and needing to be replaced and I'm in the red.  Promotion is a different story.  We've all got business cards and enclose them in each order.  Even with returning customers.  I keep business cards in a file on my desk with notes on them as to what I bought and if anything happened but I'm not sure anyone else is this compulsive.

Where does the thank you note fall in?  Again, this is something I have sent but stopped when I started seeing that the same people who I sent them to complained about wasteful shipping.  At the same time, I just received one from a large supplier I placed a wholesale order with and I'm rethinking the whole thing.  It was individually printed, customized to what I ordered, tasteful and shared what they did that made them different from the other places I might have gone.  There was an individual's name (first and last), their phone number (not 800 but we're all on one-price unlimited calling anyway) and an invitation to call for any reason at all.  When I read it I was struck by the thought that someone actually cared.  I was planning on doing business with this company again anyway because they have great prices and their product arrived in good condition, exactly as advertised and promptly.  I confess that the thank you note I received is tipping me more in their favor.  It was a wholesale order.  I'm a small fish in a big pond.  A person with a last name gave me their phone number if I'd like to discuss my order.  I'm impressed.

What does this mean to me as a small business owner?  I'm going to enclose a thank you card again.  I have them, I might as well use them.  The ten seconds it takes me to write one out is priceless.  Please let me know if you find this offensive or tedious.  I will flog an idea to death.  If you disagree I want to hear about it!

If you've stumbled upon something that your customers find extra special, please share it with me so I can steal the idea.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ideas

Sometimes I don't torch for a while, even as long as a couple days.  I've been working on a couple custom orders and I like them because at least I know what I'll be making.

There are times when I feel like I need something different.  I'm obsessed by rainbows and have been trying to get a bead that combines all the colors, in order.  The problem lies in the fact that yellow and green, next to each other on the spectrum, form a black line where they touch.  The idea crossed my mind of doing wraps of color with a hair's breadth between them on a black or clear base and I still might do it, but then I had one of my custom orders.  It was for a bead combining several transparent colors on a white core, encased in clear.  I made the bead and went to bed.  The next morning, lying half-awake, I remembered that transparent yellow and green don't react.  I had my solution, and here's the result.
 I wound up making it into a necklace for the same customer who gave me the idea in the first place.  The shape is very organic and I love it!
These beads are on the same idea, with no clear encasement.  I never noticed with CiM Sangre and Vetrofond Arancio Perfecto that they retain much more of their transparency if they're encased.  Learn something new every day!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Late Night Insanity

Apparently at 3AM I decided that what I needed to make my life complete was a new BNS.  A BNS is a promotional treasury where you buy into one of the featured shops and in return get your shop featured and have people buy from you.  It's a great tool for exposure and while no one gets rich doing them the participants are wonderful supportive people and great gossips.

For some reason I decided that participating wasn't enough - I needed to run one.  I'm featured in over half a dozen of them at any given time, but I wanted the whole enchilada, so I set one up.  It should be harder than it is.  Pick a bunch of shops and a theme, usually color based (I picked purple -surprise!) and put it out there.  Invite a whole bunch of people and welcome to the party!

Here's the link to mine
http://www.etsy.com/treasury/OTA5MzcwOXwyNzIzMTE3MTM4/open-fireinice-bns-bonus-rounds-its?ref=pr_treasury

As far as glassy goodies go, I'm not sure how well the two will mix.  I've already been dismayed by how much time I spend promoting vs. making, photographing and listing stuff and this isn't helping.

Here are some of the new goodies I've made
 I'm not happy with my pictures lately.  I'v been shooting indoors because outside isn't giving me true color.  I've got to compensate, especially the blue range.  Red doesn't do well indoors, as the beads below (on a base of CiM Sangre) prove.  I only wish I could capture the complexity of the dots and beauty of the beads. They're a bit flat.

 Silver and gold are fine and I love the simple look of silver and gold just plain laid over glass.  Easy to work with.  Easy to wear.  Easy to care for - just either wear it or polish it like your other jewelry.

These were a bit of a let down - I used up my last rods of Effetre light aqua and wound up with beads that weren't the same size.  I'm going on vacation soon and can't afford to order more glass so these pretties are relegated to the seconds section.  Less than 1mm from perfection.  Honestly, I ought to have just kept them for myself and made earrings.  No one will notice a millimeter since my ears are more than a mm different anyway.  I could wear the smaller earring on the bigger ear and no one would know.

I don't know how people list new stuff day after day.  It is either promote what you've got or make it.  I'm having serious issues doing both.  Which is why I was awake at 3AM doing a treasury.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting Sucked In

I've been very bad.  It's been a rough few weeks, so I'm going back to some comfortable music.  This one stands out, both because it's a cool song and a cool video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rOiW_xY-kc&feature=relmfu