Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Good Advice for 2018 -- and beyond...

Agnes, 02.01.18

I originally read this advice when I was 18. No idea where I first came across it, probably some magazine article. I was living on my own for the first time in a new city, working my first job at a university of all places -- stratospheric intimidation factor right there -- didn't know anyone, and for sure didn't have clue one how the world worked, let alone my place in it. Basically, I was one terrified, gibbering kid from the sticks. But I read it, kept my mouth firmly shut, eyes and ears wiiiiide open. Trust me, it worked. Almost too well. But I learned all kinds of interesting stuff.  

Listening well has served me equally well making jewellery; my customers have in many cases become my good friends. It amazes me how many people don't -- or won't -- listen. More than ever, people are starving to be heard. Jewellery is therapy for more than just us as the makers; it's also a therapy vehicle for our customers.

I've been at the market for ten years and this was my first great Christmas season ever. Even the New Year's market was good! But that was then, this is now: these last couple of days I've been proactively contacting people and filling up my new and pristine daytimer with events at which to sell my jewellery: dates and locations TBA.

I'll be offering a third class at The Gem Expo in Toronto in March on the Friday evening after work, plus the usual Saturday and Sunday mornings, course content TBA. If there's a technique you'd like to learn or refine, please tell me! Best and fastest way to get hold of me is email.

And you can always find me at the Woodstock Farmers Market, every Saturday morning from 7:00 a.m. until noon, although I'm usually there by 5:00.

Now to hunker down and back to workworkwork! Welllll... first more coffee.

Happy New Year to you all!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Shaming the consumer, what a helluva way to do business...

In today's Toronto Star newspaper article, Missing the silver boat, Michael Lewis begins with:

"Consumer brands are missing the boat on millions of dollars in potential revenue thanks to ad buyers’ misperceptions about the 55-plus demographic, says the president of a consulting firm that aims to help companies do a better job of reaching affluent boomers." 

Read the article. He's right and it's about time someone said all this, but I don't think he goes far enough.

Remember the movie Network, from 1976? Watch this clip to bring it all back. Netflix, are you listening? Just watching that clip -- wow, absolutely NOTHING has changed in 41 -- yeah, FORTY-ONE! -- years! Might be time to bring it back, yes?

I was an extra in the TV studio audience in the movie, yelling out, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore!" (FYI, you can just barely see me and my BF at 0:09 in the lower left: the lights are shining off Michael's bald head, I'm just to his right.)

Well, I AM mad as hell, and have been for a long, long time. Here's my New Year's resolution a week early: no more being nicey-nice and mealy-mouthed -- and if I offend anyone, well, just maybe you need to be offended. Here's me yelling out loud and clear:

Hi, Michael, 

Man, these people are so missing the boat, and I'm surrounded by them everywhere I go. Arrogance and ignorance out the yin-yang. I'll tell you, though, if you really want to effect change and wake these people up, you need to stop being so polite about it. 

I'm almost 66, get a pension, still alive and kicking, work full time self-employed plus run my own jewellery business and look after my mother, and I and everyone I know have (at least some) money to burn. But you know what? NOBODY seems to want it. 

Along with doing transcription, I make jewellery these days, and I do a good trade in custom jewellery and alterations for kids and grownups into their 90s. Yeah, kids. Kids and teenagers LOVE my stuff (and their parents are so freakin' grateful). I'm a vendor and instructor at The Gem Expo in Toronto three times a year, and 20 and 30-somethings tell me all the time that not only do I have the coolest booth design at the show, I have the best stuff anywhere in Toronto. Yep, I do weird. People love weird. 

Why do they buy from me? Because my jewellery FITS whether they're a size 0 or size 100 (novel concept, I know), it's flattering and the right proportion to aging, sagging necks and changing body types. How do I manage that? All my jewellery is alterable. 

But mostly, I listen to what they want and need. What these marketers don't seem to get is listening to what people have to say is what will encourage them to buy. Don't give them a questionnaire asking impossible-to-answer questions confirming the company's own biases. I used to work for Angus Reid. I know stupid questionnaires when I see them. 

I was in Toronto this summer. Went to the Bay/Sak's to see what they had. Zip, zero, nada, unless you planned to spend 24/7 in the Entertainment District and wear over-priced size 2 frilly nothings the entire time. The whole store was filled with this crap -- what? Six floors, seven floors? -- sitting UNSOLD -- and, even better, not a customer in sight. 

Seriously? Disregard demographics -- and reality! -- at your peril, people. 

Another thing these 20 and 30-something marketers (and newspapers, ahem) need to do is STOP designing websites that have teensy faint flyspecks for type. When I see that, I'm gone -- and I'm not alone. I buy a ton of stuff for my jewellery business online; as soon as I see those flyspecks, I'm gone. I started out life as a typographer and typesetter. My ads sell; "design" today repels. 

When you have a salesperson visibly in-your-face rejecting you when you want to buy something just because you have grey hair, holy moley... it is mortifying and infuriating all balled up into one big hunk of rage, sorrow and shame -- yes, shame -- and you will Never. Ever. Shop. There. Again. 

THIS is what marketing is all about today. 

Get Jeff Weiss to contact me. I have 50 years of design, print/media, travel, language/culture experience across all sectors. While he definitely won't like what I have to say, I do speak very articulately for a whole lot of people. 

Dunno if this Jeff Weiss guy will call -- I'll let you know -- but geez, Louise... I've been pissed off for 20 years. The grey hair story up above happened to me, and I was so freakin' furious and mortified because this little bitch -- YES -- little bitch said what she said in the tone of voice that she said in front of other customers. 

Well, you better believe that everyone I know heard about it. I don't know if anyone I told stopped shopping there, but I will never EVER support a store or business that allows their staff to treat customers that way. EVER. 

The arrogance that business owners/employees (and advertisers) exhibit to their customers in so many ways, shapes and forms is unconscionable. Where does alienating the customer (and their money, hello???) come from? Eaton's, Sears, the Bay, Target, Zellers... has no one learned anything??? Alienating and ignoring -- and shaming -- your customers does not work. Why do you think it will??? 

Thank you for reading, and I'd love to know if you've experienced the same things I have. 

Meanwhile, if you're in southern Ontario, yes, the Woodstock Farmers Market is open this Saturday, December 30th, early*** until noon. Shopping for your New Year's party? We gotcha covered. Didn't get what you reeeeally wanted for Christmas? We've definitely gotcha covered. See you there!

***How early is early? I'm there around 5:00 a.m. and most vendors are up and running between 6:00 and 6:30. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas Shows & Markets...

Most people who know me know that I do NOT do Christmas craft shows.

Yeah, well... that is, until I do.

This past Sunday I took part in a Christmas artisan show and coffee open house at the newly opened Burnt Brick Cafe in downtown Woodstock. It was a hoot and a half, and everyone had a good time. Next year it'll be held it a few weeks earlier -- too many people couldn't come because of family obligations. (But don't despair -- there'll be one coming up in time for Valentine's Day!!)

My table by the window. The light was good at noon -- but by 2:00 it was getting overcast and pretty dim.

Showing crystal pendulums, gradated blues, purples and cream Peruvian opal necklace, semi-precious wand pendants, semi-precious chip & wire trees, carved skulls, pewter bookmarks, quartz crystal pendants... 

Showing Tibetan silver Hamsa hands, rose quartz stone & wire tree, Chakraluscious healing bracelets, resin raven skull pendants, Taxco sterling silver pendants, semi-precious carved skull and heart pendants...

Shots of the show in the main dining area and the other room with the bar/serving area and kitchen with Rene Hoelscher, the owner, behind the bar.

They make great lattes, of which I drank far too many during the show, and the food there is beyond fantastic. Do not let the word "healthy" scare you away. I had a maple bacon scone: just wow. If you ever get a chance to sample their cheddar/jalapeno/bacon soup, it is truly heaven in a bowl. 

This coming Saturday, 23 December, is your last chance to come to the Woodstock Farmers Market before Christmas. Officially open from 7:00 until noon, I'll be there from about 5:00 a.m. for all you early birds. 

Can't figure out what to get the jewellery-lover on your list? I have crystal cage pendants ready to insert their favourite stone or crystal, jewellery cleaning cloths, carved semi-precious skulls and skull pendants, crystal trees (seen in the above pictures), candles in the shape of crystals, dragon incense burners, plus new artisan-made sterling silver pendants from Taxco, Mexico, and Bali. 

With over 120 different beads to choose from, I can make almost any healing bracelet combo you can imagine. See my Chakraluscious stacking bracelets and aromatherapy/diffuser pendants and bracelets. 

Prices range from $1 to $300, gifts for kids to great-grands -- oh, and FYI, I take Visa as well as any pesky cash. STILL can't decide? I'll have gift certificates available.

I already have my custom-cut half a turkey breast from Miedema's at the market. :-))) Made the cranberry sauce this morning. Just need veg and bread. Maybe some more of Peter's orange brandy Christmas cake. YUM!!! See you at the market!!!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Saturday Market Tips: Repairs & Sales...

I can't emphasise enough the benefits of offering repairs and restringing. People are truly desperate for this service, but having grown up in a throw-away culture they have to be educated that, yes, it's possible to inexpensively repair their favourite jewellery, that this service is not restricted to expensive gold and silver items. A couple of dollars (or even less) and they have a new clasp/jump ring or new earwires or a wearable necklace. This has become a lucrative business sideline for me: around $75 on Saturday just on repairs.

 A customer brought in a baggie full of broken 4mm blue stretch bracelet beads on Saturday. We'd talked a week or two ago about possibly adding some other beads when I did the restringing. She sat down and started playing with beads -- she was amazed to see how some colours worked and some just were NOT going to look good, no matter where she put them.

This is what she came up with, still keeping with the fine and delicate 4mm blue beads, but with the addition of 6mm aquamarine, and tanzanite flanking some beautiful moonstone with blue flare.

The lighting is a little off in the photo (taken in a hurry under my OttLite at the market) but her 4mm beads (possibly blue chalcedony or more likely dyed quartz???) and the 6mm aquamarine were almost identical.

Customers can save my design time charge by picking out the beads themselves and making the final design decision to their taste. When they're happy with their choice, they finish their shopping while I string the bracelet (or necklace). She paid for the extra beads and my standard $5 restringing charge.

Later on in the morning... an easy leather bail:

My jewellery-making pal Lynn Dutton in Toronto scored a string of these skulls for me on a recent trip to a New York City bead store. The entire string was scooped by one of my regular customers who loves skulls. Here are the final two chokers I made with the beads.

This is a great style for men's jewellery in particular: about three to four inches of large hole (2mm) mixed metal beads with jump ring spacers on either side of any number of possible pendants, strung on an adjustable leather choker. It's fast, and simple, and looks solid and good on anyone. Changing the proportions of copper to gunmetal beads as I did here transforms the look completely.

When the leather gets gungy, they come back and I restring the beads on new leather.

These pendants had a large hole, so I made a really fast and easy bail out of 1.5mm leather, pushing the two ends of the leather down through the skull and tying it in a knot inside in the back. It's a very secure way of making a bail, and this way I didn't have to fiddle around with wire which would have taken a lot more time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Wrapping a Corroded Old Iron Arrowhead for a Choker...

I bought this solid iron arrowhead from a guy who knew a guy...

Nah, actually, I was wandering around the local antique show a few weeks ago looking for my pal to give her the coffee I'd brought for her and eventually found her. I ended up buying a small box of interesting things, probably paid too much, but "oh, well," right? You want what you want when you want it.

I was told the arrowhead in particular came from Europe and was "old" and "real". That's all the vendor knew. I did some research when I got home and found some information here. Looks to be a longbow arrowhead, vintage the 1600s, used for hunting game like wild boar. Surprising what a heavy sucker it is, too, for its size. It would do some damage, whatever the target.

My next decision was how to wrap it. I didn't want to damage the arrowhead at all and avoid glue unless there's no other way. I figured with all the pitting and corrosion that the wire would have enough to grab onto. The copper wire will eventually tarnish and become a little more blendy. I used a vintage-finish copper jump ring, squashed it down it down to make a D-ring shape to give me two corners to wrap to the arrowhead using 28 gauge bare copper wire. Zig-zagged the wire in back to tighten up any slack. Added three jump rings to jump ring to distribute the weight of the arrowhead on the leather cord.

If you have any old and/or meaningful items that you'd like to have turned into a pendant bring them to me at the Woodstock Farmers Market any Saturday, or contact me here or via email. Maybe I can do something for you.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Fiddly repair of a broken artisan-made glass pendant...

This is a signed, artisan-made glass pendant (not the cheap flower-burst kind), and it means a great deal to my customer. Somehow the curved glass at the back that formed the bail broke off, and she asked if I could rescue her pendant. She agreed that in this case I would have to glue on whatever bail I could come up with, and she also wanted me to use silver wire.

The pendant is barely 1-1/8 inches high.

The break was fairly clean, but I filed the edges first before I did anything else.

First I made a wire yin-yang symbol with 18 gauge dead soft .999 silver and hammered it flat so I'd have the maximum glueable surface on the back. I started wire-weaving with 28-gauge wire to form the bail and, after using a ball point pen barrel to get the curve, wired in a simple hammered S-swirl (no photo) on what became the top front for interest, and immediately below the S-swirl hammered two swirls at the wire ends to glue on the front.

I used Super New Glue, as it dries crystal clear and it appears to bond very well to smooth surfaces.

I did warn my customer to not let her pendant get too cold (we're heading into winter here) as thermal shock might possibly cause the glass to shatter as it and the silver metal expand and/or contract when going from super-warm houses into cold air.

I left it overnight to dry thoroughly. Because I wasn't sure what I was doing, this took me about an hour and a half to do, but now that I'm more familiar with the wire, I suspect this would take 30 minutes tops to do again.

View of the back yin-yang -- and I sure hope the shapes are facing in the correct direction! I still don't have the heart to look it up and find out I've made a grave error. :-)))

I used .999 silver wire for this, and this is the first time I've used it. I'm very pleased with the malleability, but not so pleased with the work produced by my stumpy fingers! I found out the hard way earlier this year that so-called dead soft .925 sterling wire isn't as dead soft as it needs to be, and that I should've bought .999 fine silver wire instead. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, 24 November 2017

November 2017 GEM EXPO...

I haven't posted pix from the shows all year, but here are my setup photos this time, largely unedited. So happy the show was two weeks earlier than usual, we had a much better turnout even with parts of different subway lines shut down on Saturday and Sunday.

Have to start the trip with sufficient fuel: crispy hot french fries from my favourite chip stand at the top of the hill on the western edge of Paris -- Ontario.

My usual show strategy is to get the tables in place and everything out of the bins and onto the tables on Thursday night, then arrive at 7:00 a.m. on Friday and begin arranging everything.

9:03 a.m. everything is roughly in place; behind the scene, it's a mess and didn't improve at all during the show...

...in front of the scene, everything is roughly in place but I was not in a mindset to make decisions about where things should go. I had new bins of beads that were really throwing me off and some I didn't bring.

At 11:45, the doors have been open for 15 minutes, and this is as good and pristine as my booth will get.

I found stretch velcro bands at Dollarama to keep my plastic drawers and bins closed. I'll be cutting the lids off the translucent bins and using the velcro bands to keep the lids on for transportation. Without the lids it will make for a much cleaner display. That does not look good up above!

LOVELOVELOVE these clear stacking containers with partitioned trays as they are the perfect size for my collection of 6mm beads. I now have at least 100 different beads for my Chakraluscious line of healing bracelets and I'm sourcing more.

For now, I'm using a wooden spool holder that I found at the Goodwill for $3 and spray-painted black to hold my Chakraluscious bracelets. I finally had the absolutely delightful experience of selling an anti-negativity bracelet right off my wrist at the show. Very cool when that happens!

Since arriving back home, I scored two more small type trays to put goodies in, pre-loading being the way to go and these trays fit perfectly into plastic bins for storage and transport.

Some great meals:

Dinner crepe, Crepe T.O. is located a few doors south of the HI-Toronto hostel on Church, just above King. I read a great review in the Toronto Star several months before and have wanted to try it. Yum. I think they were planning on closing early, but they stayed open a bit later for me and several other people who'd wandered in after me.

Sunday night, Ruth and I hit the ever-reliable Jason George for a late night shared meal after packing up the van:

Pusateri's on Bay in Yorkville, Ruth launching an attack on an unsuspecting chocolate almond croissant, sitting there minding its own business. We spent a good hour going through beads and assorted loot.

The show was a lot of fun all three days and Sunday was fantastic. Packed with people all day and I had such great conversations. The classes I taught went well, and it looks like I'll be offering a third, different class in March, so stay tuned.

The next Gem Expo will be held the final weekend of March Break when everyone will be back from their holidays! Whoo hoo! See you then. In the meantime, you can find me every Saturday morning 7:00 a.m. until noon at the Woodstock Farmers Market on Nellis Street. I'm also taking part in the Quarter Auction on December 7th next door in the Auditorium, and on Sunday, December 17th I'll be at the Burnt Brick Cafe on Dundas Street in downtown Woodstock.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Woodstock Agricultural Society Quarter Auction FUNdraiser TONIGHT!!!!!

Woodstock Agricultural Society Quarter Auction FUNdraiser

Woodstock Auditorium at the Fairgrounds
7:00-9:30 p.m.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. 
This is a fundraiser to support the FREE ADMISSION to the Fair in August in Celebration of Canada's 150th!

Doors open 6:30 pm, Auction 7 - 9:30. 
$5 admission includes your first paddle
Paddles are $5.00 each 
Two paddles for $8.00 or Three for $10.00 

Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available.

BONUS!!! Refreshments available: Todd's Dogs will be there and a cash bar with wine, beer and possibly coolers. Come for dinner and bid on really great items.  

This is your chance to get great items for a 25-cent bid, also do some relaxed shopping from the farmers market vendors themselves -- and no getting up early on Saturday morning! (But you can still come in your jammies if tonight's event is past your bedtime).
I will be one of the vendors and have lots of exclusive new items to bid on or buy. Grad is fast approaching and there are birthdays and Christmas to shop for.
See you TONIGHT!  
at the Woodstock Auditorium on Nellis Street.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

If you fear change...

The Cavern bar/resto at the HI-Toronto youth hostel where I stayed this past weekend. I really, really like it there!

See you all at the Woodstock Farmers Market this Saturday with all my Toronto Gem Show goodies. I got lots of new beads to make chakra bracelets, as well as earrings and pendants!

Thanks for stopping by!