Thursday 29 December 2011

Crocheted bracelets

I can't believe it's taken this long to write another entry. Time is flyin'. I was typing a ton and making lots of jewellery right up until Christmas. I sold about half of my feather earrings, and bought lots more colours on Monday from The Bead Boutique in Kitchener. For those living in the southern Ontario area, be sure to get up there this week. I left a few things for everyone else to buy: lots of beads, findings and especially chains are on sale and Jess said there would be lots more hitting the shelves and walls as the week progressed. Check out the new website -- lots of cool pix. Yay, Jess!

These are just a few of the last two days' creations. I've been meaning to try making crocheted bracelets for quite a while. Lots more to come plus necklaces, which could also be worn as multi-wrap bracelets or even anklets. I ran out of buttons last night and I'm off shortly to get more, plus some hair extension doodads to make long feather dangles. Dunno how many of those I might sell at the market on Saturday. I have hopes as it's New Year's Eve Day and time to parrrrrrrr-day, but since the market demographics skew somewhat towards the geriatric end of the age range... I dunno about that!

Pink frosted handmade glass beads, base metal button closure,
chocolate brown cotton cord -- $10
Butterscotch browns, ambers and red frosted handmade glass beads,
base metal button closure, chocolate brown cotton cord -- $10
Rainbow of frosted glass beads, base metal button closure,
chocolate brown cotton cord -- $10
Old handmade blue & red chevron glass beads, base metal beads and button closure,
chocolate brown cotton cord -- $30
Dyed jasper beads, base metal beads & button closure,
chocolate brown cotton cord -- $20
Variety of bone, amethyst, sponge coral, glass & base metal beads, base metal button closure, chocolate brown cotton cord -- $20 
I'm using mostly frosted glass beads for now. But if I can thread the waxed cotton through them, every type of bead I've got will eventually be incorporated. Got a request? Email me if you want to order something in your size -- I'll need your exact wrist measurement -- or if you want a particular colour combination. Specify also waxed cotton cord colour: black, chocolate brown (shown), medium brown and beige. Prices will depend on the type of beads used, but for now, the plain glass bead bracelets will run about $10. Packing and shipping starts at $3.50 to the US and Canada. 

Check back here or for more pictures.

Monday 5 December 2011

Plans toward getting on a summer market circuit

Glenn, author of, is my lodestar at the moment.

I am currently in the research phase of acquiring... something vehicular; research consisting of hours of virtual tire-kicking, scrolling through hundreds of pix on Kijiji for ideas, because of course, things I wouldn't want are equally as important as what I would want, and there is always the chance of discovering exactly what I need, but don't know of its existence yet.

Do I go for a travel trailer as my first beast and keep the Blazer to tow it, pretty much reborn given the thousands I've poured into it, or ditch the devil I know and buy and renovate an all-in-one and completely unknown devil? Or do I hold my nose and throw dog, duvet and cooler in the back of the Blazer as is and head out on a practice run this winter to points south and west? My aunt has issued a somewhat standing invite to visit in Miami (if she were ever home!), I've always wanted to see the Florida Keys, and it's been a dream of mine forever to see the Southwest. What's holding me back from that is where and how I would work. Acquiring a laptop and Internet stick, or doing my file downloading at WiFi points is the easy part. I've been contemplating rigging up something desk-like on the passenger side of the Blazer to enable me to be able to sit for hours typing using a footpedal.

This clean and non-claustrophobic layout is very interesting to me -- -- although how to get Max along with me, both of us with crappy knees and backs, up into that loft is beyond me. And up, and down, and up, and down... all night given that both Max and I have to... nevermind. Nah, I think we'll be hunkering down on the couch. My main question of myself, given my particular plans, is how important is having a fixed shower and/or toilet stall? I saw this slide-out porta-potty unit on one website. I know from years spent camping and driving in BC and the Yukon that parking in a campground with shower and laundry facilities every three days and using restrooms to slosh in in the interim keeps me socially acceptable. 

What I really like on the above unit are the two doors at the back, my market idea being that I can drive into a spot, set up my canopy off the back of the van and then open the doors which will have the display grids already built onto them which I can then fill with curtain rods of preloaded strings of stones and finished jewellery out of a couple of bins. Having been caught in a tornado with monsoon rains once was enough: in a similar situation, when it rains or is otherwise crappy I can close the doors in seconds. I might lose the canopy, but everything else including myself will be safe and dry.

Meanwhile, here are pictures of my new market table display as of two weeks ago. My innovation to reduce setup time by literally hours each time was featured here: 

The entire table

The goal is to get all the necklaces hanging off the grid and all visible

Another angle. That's Peter, baker and coffee guy. Location, location, location being what it always is, being beside the coffee pot means everyone waiting for their turn at the coffee pot has to stand still for at least a few minutes either looking at my table or at a mini-mountain of raisin bread.

The curtain rods in action

The loaded curtain rods currently live in a bin wedged in by boards of finished jewellery and protected with pieces of 1" foam. I have to keep weight and heavability in mind, but I will be cutting slots in a taller bin that the rods will rest in, allowing for free dangle into the bin; plus cutting slots will allow the bin lid to be used, very handy for dust/rain/snow/sleet-proofing.

I've since put all my necklaces on another two curtain rods. The turquoise rods are back in the corner up top, and the finished necklaces go here. I also hang more necklaces on the hooks in front of the rods, and I am using longer hooks on this grid so I can spread out the necklaces and they stick out further towards the customer.

For Christmas I have fairy lights twining around the top of the grids. I haven't taken pictures yet because it's been so busy -- yay! --at the market these past two weeks. The setup is getting faster and faster -- it takes about 45 minutes now to unload the truck, bringing everything into the market, and get everything on the table in place. If I've made a lot of new stuff during the week then tweaking and shuffling items takes another 30 to 45 minutes.

I have to do something about the feather earrings. I'm trying to figure out another way of displaying -- and storing -- them that doesn't require putting them out one by one and away ditto while still keeping them up at eye level.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Plus-size jewellery...

This week I've begun producing a dedicated collection of good quality, medium-priced plus-size jewellery to suit all ages for Imogene's, 426 Dundas Street, Woodstock, Ontario. You can check 'em out online, too:

I will be taking the initial pieces in this Friday afternoon if anyone is interested in viewing them over the weekend. The Santa Claus parade is this Saturday: good time to check out all the stores downtown, too. I'd sure appreciate any feedback, positive or negative, and to hear about your wish lists.

Materials will include base metal (pure copper, jeweller's brass, zinc and plated silver) and/or pewter to keep costs down, Argentium sterling silver for the good stuff (weddings, special occasion gifts), Greek leather to make adjustable pendant necklaces, genuine turquoise and A-grade semi-precious stones, as well as interesting pendants in all types of materials. A specific request was feather earrings, so there will be lots of those.
My feather earrings are made with maximum movement and dangle in mind. Each feather is attached separately, so that if one feather becomes damaged it can be replaced; the whole thing doesn't have to be tossed. Yes, it takes a little longer to make and costs a little more, but you'll get a lot more wear out of the piece.

Necklace in progress. I've decided to restring this so that the three ceramic dolphins will be strung in a line on the left (rather than as a pendant) with the other dolphin all by himself on the other side. Earrings to match.

In general, I would also be profoundly grateful to hear from you about what bugs you about jewellery currently available, things like the size of clasps, the weight of chains, how things sit/fit in general, as well as the overall scale of jewellery. What kind of materials do you like? What kind of materials do you hate? If my jewellery style isn't to your taste, I know lots of artisans working in all media I can recommend.

I've developed a list of standard plus-size measurements for bracelets, anklets and necklaces, but pretty much any jewellery would benefit from a little tweaking to fit properly because, quite frankly, everyone has problems with the way jewellery fits.

My favourite wail is: "Don't jewellery designers ever try on their jewellery before they sell it to see if it's actually physically possible to wear it?" Answer? Nope. Except me. The truth is, jewellery irritates me to no end which is why I almost never wear it. My long hair gets caught in chains at the back of my neck (an endless complaint from so many people), or I feel like I'm choking (a length problem), and bracelets drive me nuts. Essentially, I wear what I make and tweak it until it finally doesn't bug me, fall off or fall apart. Then I give them to people who do wear jewellery all the time to test-wear.
One of my customers brought in gorgeous chunky multi-strand stone and glass bracelets and necklaces that she'd bought at a craft show, but which all had grotesquely teensy tiny, itty-bitty cheap-cheap-cheap lobster clasps and equally spindly, flimsy extender chains which made the jewellery look just plain stupid on. Of course nothing fit, the itty-bitty being the problem. I ditched the chintzy findings and substituted chunky, inexpensive but good quality pewter toggle clasps and the wearability problem was resolved. The jewellery finally fit well and it all looked fantastic on.

For people who live in southern Ontario, I am at the Woodstock Farmer's Market every Saturday morning with most of my jewellery on display. I can do simple repairs while you shop at the market.

If you're looking for jewellery during the week, in addition to Imogene's, you will find a range of pure silver, Swarovski and semi-precious jewellery available at Rekindled in Woodstock, pure silver leaf and turquoise jewellery at the Woodstock Art Gallery, and pure silver leaf pendants and earrings at Studio Works in downtown Paris, Ontario.

And I'm always lurking around somewhere online:

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday 9 November 2011

False advertising & craft shows that aren't

Something that I've noticed in the past couple of years that I've been making jewellery is that craft shows, even supposedly juried shows... just aren't. They are increasingly venues for pyramid sales companies of all stripes and resellers of junk jewellery and other so-called "hand-made crafts" made in Far East sweatshops.

My friend who is a baker and I did a small local Christmas "craft" show last year where her competition was store-bought cupcakes someone was reselling!

I thought I was covering myself by asking the organiser how many other jewellery sellers there would be. Only one other jewellery crafter? You're not going to let in 10 or 20, you're sure? Okay... I'll do it. And I lost my shirt. Again.

I ended up beside Avon, behind me were Epicure and Tupperware, and my jewellery competition, who sold over $600 (I made $15, not even enough to cover the table, let alone gas or my time), was a pyramid sales jewellery party company that sells overpriced stuff made in third-world sweatshops. This vendor actually came over to me and asked if I was interested in becoming a sales rep! 
The people who bought her cheap glass and dyed beads put together with base metals of unknown provenance (who then had to wait several weeks for their stuff to be delivered to them, so that they weren't even getting what they'd "bought") were coming over to see me and telling me proudly all about what they'd ordered from the other vendor! I pointed out that my jewellery wasn't any more expensive, mine is one of a kind made by me, here, locally, my jump rings are all closed, not to mention sterling silver and, gee whiz golly, I use genuine stones, not dyed D-grade crap, and if something needs adjusting, breaks or gets damaged I can fix it. They have to throw the other vendor's stuff in the garbage. Oh.

Time to develop a backbone, all of us, and tell these organisers to stop lying to us about whether it's a craft show they want us to participate in, or a flea market. Don't get me wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with flea markets. My issue is with FALSE ADVERTISING.

Monday 7 November 2011

Great weekend and here are my goodies

We had glorious weather all weekend, and it's another beautiful sunny fall day today, almost more like late September than November. It can stay this way as long as it likes!

Friday morning I got a wonderful surprise: my hammered and wrapped spiral heart-shaped pendant has found a new home in Seattle. Now comes the worst part for me, praying equally that it arrives in good time and that the new owner finds it better in person than the pictures they saw online. Thanks, Kittysunlover from deviantArt, my home away from home.

The Saturday farmers' market was good. I have initiated a new policy with myself whereby I siphon off all my market earnings (after I've done my weekly grocery shop) into a cookie tin and accumulate that to buy more materials rather than raiding my bank account in my normal undisciplined fashion. What I have in cash is legitimate to spend on beads, basically. So far, so good. Sunday I was in Toronto at the Toronto Bead Society Show and had a great time.

Here are some of my goodies.
From the all strings/items $2 table (Silver Dawn Jewels, Vaughan, Ontario)

Lucite beads for bridal/cruise/next summer wear (That Bead Lady, Newmarket)
Raw stones from Designers Findings, Toronto
Raw chrysocolla (and more cool zinc beads and hematite) from Rainbow Trading, Toronto
These are from Kirsty Naray. The detail is superb.

Yes, everything I bought is all over the map. But so are my customers. I've noticed that several vendors have gone over to selling partial strings, so that every item on the table is one price. Makes it easy and affordable to get a few focal beads without spending all your money on one item.

This is what my market table looks like before it's moved into the truck:

Doesn't look like a lot, but it's seven trips to the truck just for the jewellery, plus the empty water jugs, plus whatever freezer packs, water and coffee I take with me that day. Then in the truck is the table shelf/riser/whatever, a box of metal display racks and my chair cushion. At the market I now leave three 2 x 6 foot metal grids and two 2x2 foot grid corner shelves. At least with the market, the tables are supplied! I also make absolutely sure to carry a big bottle of Robax Platinum with me at all times.  
Now to work... well, first lunch, then work. Uh, oh... maybe lunch and then a walk and then work. Okay, Max, I'm hungry, too. No wonder he's giving me the hairy eyeball -- he's still on Daylight Saving Time, and to him it's 1 pm, not coming up to noon. Yikes.

Friday 4 November 2011

Carved bone skull choker & 2 pr squiggle earrings

This is a triple skull commission. Hope the guy likes it. The trick is to keep the top skulls in one position while still being a little bit adjustable. I did this by threading 18 gauge wire through the skulls and then wrapping it top and bottom.

More squiggle earrings. Now if I could just keep them STILL I'd be laughin'.

Using zinc beads is something new I'm trying, to see how long they last. If they start to rust or corrode, then it's back to pewter and/or silver. Alas, pewter is getting pretty pricey now.

Wednesday 2 November 2011


The two on the left haven't been cleaned yet -- this is about a week's worth of accumulated tarnish after I cleaned the wire before hammering and making the squiggles. On the right, same wire, same original degree of tarnish, but has been cleaned with ketchup.

They are so squeaky clean they positively glow and are so pretty with the silver. I rubbed a few drops of ketchup into the wires for a few seconds, cleaned off the excess ketchup with a paper towel, washed them in distilled water with a few drops of dish soap, then rinsed them in distilled water because the tap water in this area is full of mineralisation.

Here is a pendant with just a few days' accumulation of tarnish from sitting out, and with only the lower right side cleaned with ketchup. When my camera batteries recharge, I'll clean one of my old pairs of earrings from the market and show the difference.

Annnnnddddd... my most tarnished pair of earrings that have been sitting out for at least a year, if not longer.

Of course, now I have to dig out and clean all my market stuff. Where's the sale on ketchup when you need it??? Just wish it would clean silver this easily.
New Stuff:
More copper squiggle earrings with a slightly longer earwire so that the beads sit a little better. Personally, I like this style. Quick to make and easy to keep them looking pretty much identical. I think they suit the more "tribal/crafted" earrings. I tweaked the overall design and they move super-freely -- again, have to dig out the original squiggles and rejig them.

You can see how shiny and clean these look now, compared to the pix above.

2 more copper pendants from last night...

Who knows who's going to buy them. I'd sure like to know how much to charge for these. They're getting easier and easier to put together. Pretty soon I will move into silver.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

2nd hammered & wrapped copper pendant

Or maybe it's a Christmas tree ornament. This time I'm using plain 24 ga copper wire to do the wrapping. It's less floppy, too. And much easier to wrap.

My whole life I've worked in about six square inches of clear space
On to the next experiment... mixing large squiggles with shorter squigs, same wire gauge. There is method to my learning madness.

Getting hammered again...

Dontcha just love hammering stuff? I sure do. No typing again this week, so far anyway. Got the laundry done in town, bought Max some dog food on sale(!), so he won't starve for the next month. Also noticed my favourite Lavazza Crema e Gusto is on sale, too. Must remember to go back for that. Talked to the HST lady and I'm good for another quarter. In fact, they owe me money. Yay! Now to make lunch and then spend the rest of the day hammering and figuring out a better way to do this wrapping stuff.

Also got a commission to make a set of twirly silver Christmas ornament holders. On Saturday someone asked if I would consider putting my stuff in their store. Haven't heard from the manager, yet. Will give them a call today or tomorrow.

I'm trying to come up with a catchy way to market my copper earrings. Something to do with "Clean Me With Ketchup!"... or just that.

This pendant took waaaaay too long to make. No idea what I could/should charge for it

I think the loose twirls need to be tighter. Off now to work on that. Then I'll add the Argentium sterling earwires, with which I am still experimenting.

Uh oh........ "Clean Up with Ketchup"........ is that bad or what? hahahaha