Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Good Bye 2016... Hello, 2017, Year of the 2Daycation...

2016 was a miserably painful year on so many, many fronts. Good riddance, I say.

My Christmas Tree table at the market this year:

My new invention is the 2Daycation wherein I leave home around noon on one day and leave Toronto the next day noonish, to get back late afternoon or early evening. Gone only 24 hours or so, but straddling two days, it feels satisfyingly substantial.

Tuesday after Christmas I checked into the HI-Toronto Hostel on Church Street  (yep, with three roomies, bunk beds, etc.) and proceeded to have myself a very, very nice time.

The great thing about this hostel is that it's walking distance to just about everything I wanted to do. I met up with Ruth and Christopher, for whom I was bringing lots of fetishes, a few blocks away at the St. Lawrence Market, we did some oohing and aahing over all the bead and crystal goodies, and then Ruth and I went to The Jason George for dinner. It was so freakin' GOOD and very relaxing. Knowing I didn't have to spend three hours driving home in the dark afterwards like I'd normally do, a 1/2 pint of Alexander Keith's was involved.

Wednesday morning, I hung out at Pusateri's in Sak's for an hour or two drinking cafe latte and watching all the people speedwalking through the underground tunnels to work. There's something so mesmerising about watching people go to work when you don't have to. Stocked up on goodies (vanilla bean paste, in particular) at Pusateri's, then on beads and findings when the wholesaler opened at 10:00, then met Ruth at Little India on Queen West where we had another fantastic meal, and then headed home -- in daylight.

I highly, highly recommend the 2Daycation concept to anyone who is going more than a little nutso with whatever pressures they're under but with little time to vacate.

In the interest of escaping further, even for a few hours, one morning after New Year's Lianne the Vintage Lady and I had breakfast at Burger Barn on the Six Nations Reserve south of Brantford. Fabulous, fabulous food, all locally sourced, and super high octane coffee.

Yesterday -- because 2017 has hereby been declared The Year of Being Nice to Me -- I decided that the grey hair had to go and tried out Allanti, a school here in Woodstock that I had never heard of before. Such a beautifully renovated old barn, and they do everything from basic hair cuts and colours to mysterious spa thingies. Allow (a lot of) extra time for your appointment because these are students, after all, but they really do a fine job and for very, very reasonable rates.

Five hours later...

My face was kinda frozen here, it being outside and all, but I'm doing a happy dance inside.

Happy New Year to everyone, and pleasepleaseplease let 2017 be a much better, if not absolutely great year for us all. I promise to make more and post more, too.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Just to let you know...

Due to an unexpected family emergency, I am unable to go to the Gem Expo this weekend. I apologise to those who had planned to see me at the show to buy beads or to take my classes. Please don't hesitate to contact me by email to order beads, and I hope to see you all in March.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Gem Expo Classes Are UP!!!

Sign up soon! 8 students max in my classes. I have three classes to choose from running back-to-back on Saturday, November 26th, but there are many more on offer all weekend. Book your classes online.

A class would make a great Christmas gift, too. Come with a friend, plan a day at the show and then take yourselves out for a leisurely lunch or dinner before the Christmas/New Year's time crunch starts. Learn a great new skill, and make some new friends around the table.

Leather Wrap Bracelets: 
These are so easy-peasy: if you can tie a knot, you can make these bracelets. Bring your own beads (1mm+ holes) and coloured leather to supplement the black leather and beads in the class kit. Add length to the leather to make a necklace. These are super easy to make and because they are somewhat adjustable would make wonderful Christmas gifts for everyone. Dress them up or down.

Just a few of the endless possibilities:

Jewellery-Making Tips & Tricks for the 
When I started out making jewellery ten years ago, many people would ask me, "What are you working on these days?" I'd show them, and then they'd say, "Okay, then you need to know this." Now it's my turn to pass all those "thises" along.

This class will move really fast. Learn about different wire, tools and hammering techniques, crimping and stringing tips. Make your own earwires, decorative headpins, connectors and dangles in the class. Learn where you can save money for your customers. Bring your questions or a project that you'd like help with.

If you have a bench block and hammer, please bring them along with pliers and cutters. We will be working with copper wire of various gauges and tempers.

Totally Addicting Stretch Bracelets: 
Super quick and easy to make bracelets for kids and grownups to suit all tastes and budgets. Great for Christmas gift-giving.

If you buy beads to use in the Totally Addicting Stretch Bracelet class, make sure they have minimum 1mm holes to slightly larger. Stretch Magic cord is provided in the kit, and more will be available for sale. If you want to bring your own, make sure it's Stretch Magic, 1mm diameter.

If you have any questions about my classes, please email me for the quickest response.

Don't forget: book any class and you get free admission all three days of the show. Look forward to seeing you at The Gem Expo the last weekend in November!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Taste of Poland at the Woodstock Farmers Market...

Yesterday the vendors moved inside the market, officially marking the end of summer. But... to make us all happy, there was a new vendor running the snackbar. Taste of Poland from Hamilton. They were giving out free samples of perogies and cabbage rolls. Holy moley -- soooooooooo good. I am not normally a fan of cabbage rolls but these were fantastic. Everyone was raving about the samples.

If the thought of perogies is a bit much so early in the morning, they have some good-looking breakfasts, as well.

I bought a bag of frozen perogies, fried up some Miedema's bacon and onion, splurged on a tub of sour cream, and a few minutes ago had myself a little Sunday orgy here at the computer...

On other fronts, I am already booking custom orders for Christmas. There are tons of gift ideas from food and craft vendors (several new vendors) in two large rooms. Come to the market on Saturday morning, get all your Christmas shopping done and done early!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Copper Curl Pendants...

One of my favourite sources for wire weaving tutorials is Oxana Crafts over on YouTube. I watched this tutorial yesterday, and then this morning at the market tried making it from memory. Let's just say that overdue library books aren't the only things I've not been remembering lately.

My first attempt was an epic FAIL, if for no other reason than I ran out of wire. The bead doesn't look very good with it, either -- white stripes, not blue like in the photo (blame that on my idiotPhone camera):

2nd attempt turned out the best -- it has two distinct layers of wire as one side tucks in behind. The copper looks good with the red glass:

3rd attempt is okay-ish... maybe:

Comparing mine with the original design here shows I really need to tighten up my twirls. My beads are a bit larger than the one used in the original video, and I found that 2 pieces of 30-inch 20 gauge gave me enough wire.

Well, that was interesting exercise... but definitely back to the drawing board. Do check out Oxana's tuts. They're very easy to follow.

I've been told the November Gem Expo classes will be posted later this weekend. Sign up at the Gem Expo website and you'll get an email notifying you as soon as they're up. Lots of fun classes and you get a three-day show pass with your class fee. Where? Downtown Toronto at the Hyatt Regency on King Street the last weekend in November.

Thanks for stopping by and see you at the bead show!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Playing with Leather Wrap Bracelet Designs...

These are four bracelets I made yesterday morning at the market. I've been working on asymmetry lately. For the bottom two bracelets I used randomly selected beads from my bead soup bin. Well, okay, sometimes I specifically choose the beads but they're so wonky it's virtually impossible to find two beads that look the same so I'm forced by necessity into asymmetry. I think these beads might be from India. There are a zillion shapes and such rich colours -- and I love the wonkiness of them. They also for the most part have large holes which makes them perfect to string on leather.

I'm also trying not to think too long and hard about the end result -- just tying knots, playing with buttons versus clasps and seeing what happens, except what often happens is I've cut the leather too short for some great idea that's evolving and I have to start over. Back of mind is always wearability, do-up-ability and adjustability. These all are adjustable to about an inch either way, so in that regard they'd make great gifts (Christmas, birthday, grad...) without being too-too worried about fit. The recipient could loosen the knots, move them a bit, or remove beads (as in the case of the top bracelet), retie the knots and/or cut off a too-long tail.

These and other bracelets are available for sale, please email me for prices or to order a custom design -- or try them on in person at the Woodstock Farmer's Market any Saturday morning, 7:00 a.m. until noon.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Fab news...

The Gem Expo in July was a total hoot, met lots of new and returning customers and friends -- and the class I taught went really well, so much so I plan to offer two or three different classes at the November Gem Expo. Stay tuned for advance announcements on that front, and I'll give you a heads up once the classes are posted. This time, though, the classes will be capped at 5 to maybe 8 students, so don't delay in registering. If we know far enough in advance that there is sufficient demand additional classes can be scheduled.

In fact, think about giving the gift of learning to a friend as an early Christmas present. There are jewellery-making classes at the show for every skill level and interest. You'll definitely make new friends and jewellery buddies in the classes, as well.

My fab news is this summer I sold the smaller copper swirl citrine pendant and the wire-woven Sleeping Beauty turquoise nugget ring. Then yesterday I sold the larger swirl citrine pendant.

Aaaand... three weeks ago I sold the double-sided dragon-skin/crackle agate Backside of the Moon pendant.

People who know me know that I am a big fan of more is more, which means my market tables are usually crammed with stuff. Well... the past few weeks I've been experimenting with putting on the table just one or a few items in a style instead of the five, ten, dozen or more that I have... and it seems to be working. There is breathing space now between each item and sales seem to have picked up. There might be a little of the "uh, oh -- there's only one left, I'd better buy it now" scarcity strategy going on, too... maybe.

We also got new lighting in the market building a few weeks ago thanks to a grant. Makes a HUGE difference, so much so that I don't have to put up spotlights all over my table. Instead of walking from sunlight into a dim and depressing building, it's like walking from sunlight into sunlight. It's quite spectacular, actually, and all the jewellery across the table looks ten times better instead of the spotlit puddles I had before.

This summer I acquired some really great crystals and unusually-shaped tumbled and raw semi-precious stones. I'll be posting pictures when I get them made up into pendants. Meanwhile, you can always contact me here or by email for special orders, and you can find me at the Woodstock Farmers Market every Saturday morning, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

July 1st 2016 Canada Day in Southside Park, Woodstock... & More Gem Expo News...

Lianne Johnson (the Vintage Lady at the Woodstock Farmers Market) and I had a great day in Southside Park where we shared a booth. Lianne's grandson Darien helped out. Thanks, Darien, for standing in line for us at the chip wagon. All the food there was so great (and the Latin American guys from London -- oh, wow, fabulous, fantastic barbeque -- if anyone knows who they are please tell me their business name). Good food, good music, lots of entertainment and rides and games for kids. It was a low-key and fun day, even if I was freezing in that infernal wind. Guess it was better than rain, eh? Great fireworks to end it all courtesy of Toyota. I just found out that fireworks displays like that cost $1,000 per minute. Yikes.

From a vendor standpoint, it was very well organised with dedicated vendor parking, electricity -- and as you can hear on the video, all the tents between us and the stage meant we could hear ourselves think. Both of our sales were very good.

For those jewellery-makers and crafters who are considering doing or are yet to do their first outdoor shows this summer, I'll be writing a more detailed blog post of do's and don'ts.

Reminder to everyone: I will be at The Gem Expo in Toronto at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King St. West next weekend (15, 16, 17 July). Please go to the Gem Expo website, sign up for the newsletter and get $2 off your admission.

As of this writing I have ELEVEN people already signed up to take my Totally Addicting Stretch/Mala Bracelet Course. Bonus with any of the courses offered is free admission all three days of the show. It's perhaps a small show compared to some, but it's packed with gorgeous beads, rocks, crystals, jewellery... and just today I got lots and lots of semi-precious skull beads! I'm also busy sorting and pricing some beautiful vintage hand-carved fetish animal beads, as well. Come and see us next weekend!

Meanwhile, back here in Woodstock, I'll be at the Farmers Market this Saturday, July 9th, back again on July 23rd. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Matte Pink Quartz & Aquamarine Stretch Bracelets...

In between all the jewellery repairs I did yesterday (see the previous blog post) I was able to put together a few stretch bracelets, including these two. I really, really like that matte pink quartz. and the luscious blue aquamarine... not to mention, I have some particularly toothsome matte black and gold amazonite on deck for next Saturday's market if anyone is interested...

See you at the next market, or email me here for prices, shipping & handling if you're interested in these or my other bracelets, earrings and necklaces.

Or... you can learn to make these yourself! I'll be teaching how to make Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker & Mala Bracelets at The Gem Expo, Toronto, on Saturday morning, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. July 16th.

Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you at the show!

Doing Jewellery Repairs on the Spot: Is It Worth Doing?

I'm forever reading in online forums people questioning how to sell more jewellery. Well, guess what? You know where the money really can be? Providing a service: i.e. in doing repairs. You already have the skills, right? Not to mention the tools and materials. In my experience, this can often lead to new and/or (my preference) custom jewellery sales, rather than vice versa.

This isn't necessarily intended as advice for a one-off one-day or weekend show, but rather if you do a regular weekly farmers market (like I do) or sell through a local venue (meaning you live close by). No point in having to drive 20 or 30 minutes to pick up a repair, drive home, do the repair, drive back with it and then home again. At a market or show, people come to you.

Having said all that, because even one, two and three-day shows have their slow times, you'll probably find me working away on something or other between customers. Bead vendors at the big shows are now sending customers to my booth to have their new string of beads made up into a necklace while they wait.

Typical setup behind my show tables. Once the show starts, that little table will be cleared off and my chair set where the Winners bag is. The stacked bins on either side add more space for supplies.

Print out a small tent card sign for your table or print up some small business cards to hand out:

Your Name
Phone number or email address
I do small repairs (often while you wait): 
restringing, restyling, resizing. 

If someone is new to my table or booth, as part of a general conversation I'll tell them I can do small, simple repairs while they wait. I am very clear about what I do NOT do (for example, soldering or silversmithing type repairs, resizing rings or replacing gemstones in prong settings) but specify what I can do.

Many years ago I got into the habit of always bringing my tools, wire and materials with me. I mean, just ask yourself: as a customer wandering around a craft fair or market, would you really want to investigate a booth or stop to buy while a vendor is busy concentrating on their phone or a newspaper instead of you? Me, I just walk on by. But I am always intrigued when I see someone working on something, whatever their craft.

What kinds of things do I offer my customers? 

1. Everyone loses or breaks one earring, and it's inevitably their favourite go-to pair. Suggest turning the remaining earring into a necklace pendant in a way that it remains intact (because just maybe that missing earring will eventually show up) and make a similar coordinating pair of earrings.

2. Change out cheap or broken earwires for better quality/sterling.

3. Shorten the too-dangly/long-for-that-particular-customer's earrings. Sometimes this can be done by simply substituting a pair of leverback earwires for fishhooks. That 1/4 inch saved can make all the difference.

4. Lots of people today are inheriting a favourite necklace from a relative or finding something yummy at a yard sale, but no way will it ever fit them. Offer to restyle the piece. I take double or triple-strand 1950s style necklaces and turn them into one longer necklace, or turn it into a set: a single longer necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings.

5. If my customer is older I offer to use a larger clasp and jump ring, and show her a selection.

6. Team up with related businesses. At the farmers market and antique shows, I sell next to a pal who sells vintage jewellery. I restring her vintage bracelets where the elastic is old and rotten. Lianne also sends me her customers to do all kinds of repairs. I often swap my work for good quality chains and bits and bobs that Lianne has.

You'll laugh at this, but one time I gave one of the produce vendors some half hard copper wire so he could reattach the muffler on his rusty old farm truck.

7. General restringing using either stringing wire, elastic or leather. People will often buy an inexpensive necklace or choker on a beach somewhere exotic, the string has gotten pretty gungy, but they don't want to toss the necklace because of all the memories. That's a super-easy fix -- especially for men. They're surprisingly sentimental about chokers like that, but have zero idea where to get it fixed -- or that it CAN be fixed.

8. Carve a little space out of your table while you're doing other events, even garage/lawn sales. At the antique shows I do these days I bring small wire-weaving projects to work on while I'm sitting there as it often gets pretty slow in the afternoons. I show people who stop by what I'm doing and have cards ready to hand out.

What's in my toolbox and supplies bin? 

These are the things you'll already have in your home studio. Mine live in boxes, bins and divided trays that perfectly fit into those Winners Tyvek shopping bags that I can grab and go. Okay, yeah, I know... I always bring waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much with me.

1. Basic tools: round nose, flat nose, bent nose, wire cutters, crimping pliers, hammer, anvil, bead mat, ruler, diamond files, bead reamer, tiny hand drill w different bits, scissors, pens, notebook.

2. Basic stringing materials: a couple of diameters of stringing wire (don't forget the crimps and crimp covers) and Stretch Magic, memory wire, fishing line, 1.5mm and 2.0mm black Greek leather, 1.5mm and 2.0mm black waxed cotton/synthetic cord/rattail.

3. A (very disorganised) selection of jump rings and clasps in various sizes and finishes (silver-plate, sterling, copper, vintage copper, brass, vintage brass, gunmetal). Don't forget there are plenty of guys out there who need repairs done, so invest in a few sizes and finishes of masculine-style clasps (swivel-style works well for this).

4. Wire in various diameters and materials: tinned copper is my go-to for most things base metal silver-coloured; bare copper wire; sterling wire. I almost always make my own head pins and eye pins when I do repairs, mostly because I might have to match the gauge of other wire in the piece.

5. Assortment of beads and metal spacers: tricky, as this can really explode on you. People laugh at how much crap I bring with me every week to the market.

NOTE: Even if it's just a quick repair they'll be waiting for or coming back for after they've done their shopping, always, always, always write down your customer's name, phone/email, and make detailed notes about what needs doing. Don't forget to settle on a price BEFORE starting the work, and write that down as well. Give them your card, too. I found out the hard way to get people's phone numbers especially if they're going to go shopping while their stuff is repaired as a lot of times they zone out and forget, and drive home without coming back to my table.

Sample Prices:

My pricing method has developed over the years and can only be a guide as it's so dependent on the demographics and relative economic health of your catchment area and the types of shows or markets you do and stores you're in. I have a friend who charges more than double what I do for repairs -- and gets her price. But she lives in a large urban area with a much wealthier clientele that I can only dream of.

As anyone gains experience, the making part gets easier and faster. This is what I've come up with as a component part of pricing my original jewellery, and now repairing jewellery (because, obviously, repairing takes virtually no design time, and any replacement beads are either charged for or absorbed into the cost):

$15 Single strand average length necklace, stringing/re-stringing, includes stringing wire, crimps, crimp covers, basic plated lobster clasp and jump rings.
$18+ Longer single strand necklace (see above)
$5-$7 Single bracelet (see above)
$2+ Individually priced larger plated base metal clasp, sterling clasp
$5 Single Stretch Magic restringing
$8 Double Stretch Magic restringing
$3.50 Short to regular length adjustable choker/necklace using black Greek leather
$4.00+ Longer length adjustable necklace using black Greek leather
$2.50+ Sterling fishhooks (pr) -- choice of several different styles and weights.
$6.50+ Sterling leverbacks (pr) -- choice of several different styles and weights

Is it worth doing?

Oh, yes. Definitely. Depending on the repair jobs, as some are maybe a little more finicky than others, I probably make $45 to $60 per hour. It's cash in hand and, really, it's mostly time. It's not tied up in expensive beads sitting a table waiting months for someone to come along and buy.

The other interesting thing is people see this as a service. Which means you can get tips, and a lot of people tip very, very well.


If you have any doubts at all about the integrity of the piece (is the metal cracked or weak?) or your ability to do a particular repair, DON'T DO IT! I've told plenty of people that their piece can't be repaired, particularly because of the metal. We might discuss the feasibility of maybe incorporating it into a different piece, some type of assemblage type of thing, and they may go for that or not. Sometimes I've been able to drill a hole and do some wiring to get various bits put back together, but again, anything structural like that must be cleared with the customer beforehand.

The Gem Expo, July 15th to 17th, 2016

If you're in the Toronto area this summer and have repairs that need doing, or just want to buy some incredibly cool beads, pendants and fetishes, jewellery and crystals from me and, I dunno, about 25 other great bead, jewellery vendors, we will be at The Gem Expo in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency on King West, July 15th to 17th. Sign up on the Gem Expo website and get $2 off admission.

Register for a class and get free admission to the show all three days. I'll be teaching a class Saturday morning, too -- Totally Addicting Stretch Stacker/Mala Bracelets.

Really hope to see you in Toronto!