Saturday 28 March 2015

Two Skull Bracelets...

A busy market this morning. In between restringing a broken choker and selling, earrings and pendants and lots and lots of skulls to the cutest little kids -- man, kids have such great taste these days, don't they? -- I made these two bracelets over... and over... and over. First I didn't stretch the Stretch Magic enough so the bracelet was too floopy, then I discovered the skulls were facing the opposite ways after I tied off the elastic, or then it ended up too small for the person I had in mind. Sigh...

All was not lost: my imaginary customer bought the one on the right.

Red bamboo coral, silver-plated pewter skulls, old chevrons, red picasso and black glass beads. The bracelet on the left is still for sale, $17 plus shipping. I can also remake the one on the right ($10), with slightly different bamboo beads (or turquoise or other beads as requested, price would be adjusted). Email me for details, pix.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday 26 March 2015

New Stacking Stretch Mala Bracelets...

Variations on an agate and turquoise theme.

It never fails to amaze me (despite being aware of this when I'm drawing and painting, but equally applicable when making anything) how any colour imbalance, goink or other oddity will only show up when the item is being photographed, that something minor but off will be what ends up drawing the eye so well when the item is finished. Memo to self: photograph the jewellery before tying off or crimping!

Here is yesterday's production. I'm very pleased with them: I think they look good on -- and more importantly they feel really good, too. Just loose enough. These would fit a ladies' medium wrist.

Prices range from $38 to $43, shipping is extra. Please email me for availability or to request a custom size or stone.

I will have these and more this Saturday at the Woodstock Farmers Market at the Fairgrounds on Nellis Street, and at the One of a Kind Antique Mall on Wilson Street, Showcase 800.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday 18 March 2015

March 2015 Gem Expo Setup & Recap...

Thursday was a gloriously sunny day to drive to Toronto and hang out. In fact, the whole weekend was pretty nice, if a bit bitter-windy at times. But after such a stinking cold winter, any day above freezing is a gift.

11:00 a.m. Thursday, all loaded up:

While I ended up leaving home an hour later than I'd planned, the drive to Toronto was fast and easy-peasy. Very light traffic on the QEW/Gardiner. Guess everyone in Toronto must've left early for March Break. I had to laugh, though -- just before the turnoff onto the Lakeshore, I saw two clowns both pulled over for speeding. Something about sun, dry pavement, light traffic... brings out the idiots who believe driving is just another video game.

I found plenty of parking spots downtown and I even found a new secret parking spot safe from the tow trucks at rush hour because I can't get into the Hyatt parking lot until after 6:00 p.m. Ten bucks overnight parking beats some obscene half-hourly parking rate up until then.

Once I got to Toronto, I went to Arton on Queen West for colourful gauze bags for one of my vendor pals at the market (can't get anything remotely like these in pokey little Woodstock), then parked over on Mutual Street, safe from any mid-afternoon tow truck predation. Picked up a map of Tibet at Open Air Books & Maps and continued walking to the Strath to check in, marveling at the dearth of people on the streets. Where on earth have they all gone??? On getting into my room on the 2nd floor, I discovered I was directly above a live band tuning up who would be playing that evening. Uh... I don't think so. Hiked myself back down to the front desk and they very kindly moved me up to the 7th floor, where for the first time I had a room with a view over York Street instead of a restaurant vent.

On the way back I stopped in at Lacy's to buy more Stretch Magic, which of course were all on back-order, but I was able to get tall skinny bags for Chris the Honey Guy's organic herbs that he's growing this spring and summer. Wandered around the St. Lawrence Market and bought chocolate-covered candied ginger, which believe it or not is a great brain zapper when you're really flagging. My early dinner was simple steamed rice with a squirt of sriracha and a spring roll. Yikes. Less than $4.00 and I was stuffed.

Killed some time people-watching from my free parking spot on Mutual Street and got to the Hyatt just after 7:00 to unload and start setting up.

Remember ol' JD? He's still hangin' by the escalator in the Hyatt lobby. Get a life already.

Found my table this time far off in the back left corner, which I personally quite liked. This way, with my back against the wall versus back against the whole room, every time I glanced up I could see the whole ballroom, except for the pesky pillars everywhere. Only problem being that far from the front door was that by the time many people found me they were already broke -- and heartbroken -- when they saw all my goodies. Oh, well... next time they'll come looking for me first, right?

Isn't that the pukiest carpet you've ever seen in your life?

Okay, time to unload the truck. Lovelovelove my dolly. First thing is to dig out are the bed risers, to raise the table height. Notice how the table is now magically levitating?

Next, get the grids set up. The back table edge is four feet from the wall, perfect to fit two grids edge to edge, then the third grid goes in line along the end of the table, and one grid comes in behind the table. Kind of a wonky T formation. I use plastic cable ties to tie them together. Just don't snug them too tightly or you'll never get your pliers in far enough to cut them apart when you have to take everything down. I have two triangular grid pieces that set into the inside angle up top and just above table height for stability, under which I'll set up my little folding work table perpendicular to and between the main table and the wall.

Got the lights up and checked that all the bulbs work. There's a Shoppers Drug Mart on the corner across from the hotel open until midnight every day, so anything needed after this point can easily be sourced there.

I have to say, though, that those stupid spiral bulbs produce an awful light. I almost lost a couple of sales because the beads looked dead under them -- and that's a quote from one of my customers. I showed her what the beads looked like under the regular warm light bulbs and she was happy and bought the beads, but it really makes me wonder now just how many sales I may have lost.

Started loading the curtain rods and filling the grids.

This far into the setup took about 2-1/2 hours and was about as much as I could accomplish that night. I desperately needed to sit down and was looking forward to my allotted half pint of ice cold Alexander Keith's... Strath, here I come. 10:59 p.m. Just made last call. Whew!

Friday morning: The ballroom was going to be open at 7:00 a.m. for setup. The show opens at 11:30 on Fridays and goes until 8:00 p.m., a very, very long day I knew I'd be spending mostly on my feet so I stopped for my usual Friday morning breakfast at Dunn's, a couple of blocks east of the Hyatt on King Street. I'm a complete sucker for the whole bacon, eggs, homefries, toast and coffee breakfast. Saturdays and Sundays, Dunn's doesn't offer the $4.99 breakfast special so I make do at Tim's a block away. But I do like Tim's cappuccino, so not a total hardship.

Got to the ballroom around 8 or so, finished sorting the beads on the grids and started in on the table surface. I was still fiddling and fine-tuning when the show started.

See those clear plastic boxes in the middle? They're not only divided, they have lids, and are also great as risers set here and there. Got them at Winners. Just to the left of them are turquoise strings on a clear plastic T bar with ridges to separate each string out evenly. I get those at Winners, as well. Any ambient light seems to glow and refract through them and whatever you put on the clear plastic boxes or T bars appears to float.

Sold lots of skulls this show. And earrings -- what was with that? They flew off the table.

Many thanks to all my return customers -- and new ones -- and especially thanks to JR, a veteran market vendor herself who knows what we really go through doing these events, and who brought us a box of organic strawberries, which were soooo juicy and refreshing.

Friday night, Ruth and I went to the Strath Pub for dinner and split an order of fish and chips. She had an absolutely perfect and perfectly hot hot Caesar. Oh, my. I think next time I'm going to have me one of those. Saturday night, we went to Kama -- Classical Indian Cuisine, a block east of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which serves a really good buffet and it is not at all expensive.

Saturday morning I took this picture on the way to the Hyatt:

And that's it for my show pictures this time.

At the July 2014 Gem Expo I'd sold one of my Kingman turquoise hearts to Debbie Benninger of ID Jewelry Design, and her sterling silver wire-wrapped piece sold at this show!!!

For anyone interested, I still have two or three more of these Kingman turquoise heart cabs. They are spectacular. Email me for availability and pictures.

Meanwhile back in the real world, I had shipped a bracelet to Brooklyn, NY, the day before I left for the show. Unbelievably, Brad got it on Monday. FOUR days to the US. He's a very happy camper and I was so relieved, A, that he likes it, and B, that it fit him:

Hi Barbara,
I got the bracelet today looks amazing and fits perfectly! Thank you again! I really like it a lot. I'll be sure to pass your card along to anyone who asks about it.

I've already booked my hotel for the July 2015 Gem Expo, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the 24th, 25th and 26th. See you there!!!

Wednesday 11 March 2015

I'm *SUPPOSED* to be packing up for the show...

Instead, I got sucked in by these beautiful black tourmaline beads that I have had for at least a year or two now... and they happened to rest on the table next to some Nacozari slab beads that I was bagging... and they all happened to butt up and get cozy with my flying bird beads... Not my fault if my table looks a little barren or you see me frantically working away pricing behind my booth on Friday.

This is the best of the photos to show the blue and green colouring of the turquoise.

Cost is $57, black tourmaline, pewter birds, Nacozari turquoise, strung on elastic, comfortably fits a 6.5 to 7" wrist. Shipping and handling is extra, I take PayPal and Square or bank interac/email transfer in Canada. You can also see it in person at The Gem Expo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Thanks for looking, and see you at the show!

Added thought, 7:45 p.m. Okay, kinda goofy, but I was looking at the bracelet again, and a lot of times I tell myself stories when I make things. My story for this bracelet is this looks like two doves drinking from the oceans of earth, floating in deep, black tourmaline space.

Packing Up For The Gem Expo...

Lookie what I found basking in the +1C sun on my deck half an hour ago...

And... last night, Step 1, all the beads came off the grids and into a bin and then the grids moved into the Blazer.

Step 2, bits and pieces of my display, the busts, T-bars and lights all ready to go into the truck tomorrow morning. The weather guys are calling for -10-ish overnight, still too cold to leave things in the truck. I found out the hard way that everything starts to sweat when the sun hits the truck the next day.

Today I drag myself off this infernal computer to finish off pricing the new turquoise and miscellaneous beady odds and sods and doing a final sort into my new display bins. I'm also trying this time to not bring all the extra bins and bags of things that I really don't need... like extra beads, all my wire and findings to make stuff... 'cause, like, yeah, there'll really be time to do all that! Phhht.

The Gem Expo starts this Friday, March 13th, goes 'til Sunday March 15th. Sign up for courses and get free admission!

See you there!

Monday 9 March 2015

Nostalgia Show, Woodstock...

I decided a few weeks ago to take part in the March 8th edition of the Nostalgia Show and Sale here in Woodstock to dip my toe in that water, see how it goes. These are my thoughts and impressions doing this type of a show. I should note that it's not the first time I've done collectibles shows like this -- in the '70s and '80s at least, these WERE the typical offerings at flea markets, not somebody going to a wholesaler, buying a table's worth of electronics, dumping it on said table and that's it.

There were quite a number of one-off vendors like us, first time at the show, not sure if it's worth it and/or if we/they will be back. The lady next to us had a table full of teacups and saucers, cut glass, Royal Doulton-type figurines and assorted old ceramic and china dishes from her mother and mother-in-law that no one else in her family wanted.

Set up for pal Brenda and me was way far easier than setting up for the Gem Expo (I'm already shuddering at the thought of that come Thursday evening). Four or five small boxes and bags of items, a couple of large pieces tossed on the dolly and Bob's your uncle.

6:40 a.m. (Daylight Saving Time, so it was "really" only 5:40):

Note that upside down table with the old wringer washing machine legs on the dolly... because you won't see it again:

Here's the table in action this past summer:

Location, location, location: we are strategically located directly across from the snack bar where just about everyone who comes to the show will eventually end up:

It's always handy for any type of show you do to bring a small folding table. Because no one was allowed to put things in the aisles in front of the tables, and Brenda had brought a small folding rocking chair, we turned the table 90 degrees and put the rocker up top. I used the dolly to prop up her huge framed painting. It turned out we were able to use the considerable space behind the table that we shared with other vendors. A lot of people made great and innovative use to gain extra display space. I had meant to go around and photograph all the different ideas, but ended up unable to leave the table. Next time.

8:15 a.m. Forgot my sales book with all the items written in it and drove home to get it. By the time I got back, Brenda had sold the wooden cart with washing machine legs to another vendor. It had been located underneath the table in that now empty spot for, oh, about five minutes. Still aren't anywhere sorted out on top.

Moving things around, trying to group things and leave some visual breathing room -- something a lot of customers told us they appreciated -- and that we had different stuff from everyone else.

On this end of the table, Brenda's 18th century inlaid black lacquer Chinese writing desk/box, still amazingly enough with its key, with roll top, flip-open writing surface, multiple drawers and nooks and crannies for document, pen & ink storage (still available to buy: $600 obo, email me for contact information or more pictures):

8:44 a.m. Sold the linen/book press to another vendor.

10:30 a.m. Open for half an hour by this point.

11:00 a.m. The final iteration of the table.

2:00 p.m. Almost gone. By this time, we -- okay, I -- had sampled several things they sold at the snack bar and just about mugged more than one person walking by with great mounds of those handcut french fries. Oh, my, they smelled so good! Brenda finally broke down and bought some and she shared. They tasted soooo good, and there's only about a quarter remaining of the original mound.

If anyone is contemplating doing a show of this type, here are some of the many things I've learned over the years, learned from vendors and noticed other vendors doing re setup and selection.

Get there early.

I brought my Square gizmo and had a Visa/MasterCard sign, but I didn't see anyone else with one. This is still primarily a cash business for most vendors and show-goers.

I brought a cheap plastic tablecloth from the dollar store to put on the table. Not a good idea if your stock consists of china or glass. Those plastic tables are hard, and the plastic tablecloth is slithery and slippery. Many vendors used something a lot thicker and cushiony like toweling or woven fabric bought off a bolt. Tables are normally eight feet long at these venues.

Everything for the shows comes out of labeled bins and goes back in labeled bins. Note to self: use LABELS.

I saw people stacking two empty bins close to each end of the eight-foot table which came up to about the table height and the bins were then straddled by a six-foot folding bench (just saw them at Canadian Tire). The whole edifice sat butt up against the back of their table for extra height and display. Very sturdy and non-tippy.

Other people had managed to acquire lightweight folding wooden slat shelves that were about four feet high and a foot deep with folding "wings". (Unfortunately, they are no longer to be found anywhere.) These were placed on top of tables and again were quite sturdy and non-tippy.

Pricing and Selling -- two different things, but interrelated. Always a hard one, pricing has more to do with your geographic and demographic than anything. You can put any price on something you want, but better at these one-off one-day shows to price a little on the low side, but also be prepared to tell someone who's dithering you're open to offers. Always put prices on your items that can be clearly seen. Browsers will NOT ask. You're sitting at your own table with maybe 20 or 30 items, but the customers are looking at thousands upon thousands of items and it all becomes a blur. They say they'll come back, but they never do.

Demographically, this show skewed older. My customers were 30s to 50s.

Always give yourself some wiggle room. You buy something for $2, a book, say, which you looked up online, and you see similar items have sold for $10 to $15 on eBay or Amazon, plus shipping. If you're only there one day, you don't want to be taking that book home. So you price it at $10. A decent return is around 3 times the price you paid. But you don't want to give it away, either. Someone will offer $5, you say $8... they might go for that, or you'll both agree on $7.50. Maybe you have three or four books, or someone is interested in a number of different items. What will you take for the lot? Remember, you don't want to take them home. Have your lowest price firmly in your mind so you don't get blindsided by someone asking for a deal.

Vendors. There are two types of vendors, the ones who have been doing this for years and are always buying and selling stuff and they're at all the shows, more often than not with three or four or more tables. Many of them also have standalone stores or booths at various antique malls. Yes, they want to sell, but they can afford to sit on their stuff and wait for someone to come along to pay the asking price.

Then there are the day vendors, like me and the lady next to us who've signed up for one show in the hope of getting rid of a pile of stuff.

What happens at these shows is the big vendors all walk around during setup and they'll stop you in your tracks to ask about an item on your dolly as you come through the big rollup doors. You'll have noted above that I sold two large items well before the show started; in fact, well before we'd even got the table arranged. I've done other shows before and I know how this works. They are looking for fresh stock for their stores/booths and they need to buy low to have a decent markup. My press was marked at $500. If it was in pristine condition it would've been $1,200. Unfortunately, many years ago a dog snacked on it where I'd had it stored so there went any value.

I can't tell you the number of vendors who came by to look at that press as soon as I walked through the doors. One of the vendors kept coming back and finally he made an offer. He really low-balled it. I already had a price in mind if a customer made an offer, but for this guy I came down another $90 just to get rid of it -- remember, I did not want to take it home, and more likely than not it would've sat there all day on my table, because $500 for something like that...? Realistically, there aren't too many people who'd be seriously interested in the item itself, let alone be prepared to pay that much money. This guy not only knew what it was, he told me he was going to use it and also had the wherewithal to fix it up -- and eventually he'll sell it in his store.

What else...? Bring snacks or go broke buying hotdogs, peameal & cheese on a bun, hamburgers -- and those infernal chips -- and coffee; bring water; bring a friend (bribe them with free admission and a vendor tag) so you can take breaks and go wander around.

How did I do? Well... except for the two big items which were gravy, I made my table ($55) and a few dollars extra. Sold four kids books for a friend, a couple of my own books, and some Padre beads. That was it. None of the china sold, none of the stoneware, none of the enamelware... none of the frames even got a look, and while people thought the sled was pretty cool, nobody was interested. Weird, because these are all items that sell at the Antique Mall. Hmmmm. Gotta rethink this a bit, yes? Were my prices too high? Possibly. But they were no higher than anyone else's. Did they sell their items? Mmmm.... not sure.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I'm in the final throes of pricing and packing beads for The Gem Expo in Toronto this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March 13th, 14th and 15th, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel ballroom on King Street. We are promised beeeeyoooteeful weather. FINALLY! Above freezing! Sun!!!!
Go to the website, sign up for the newsletter and get discount coupons. Free admission for the whole weekend if you sign up for classes. Lots of pictures, stories, vendor profiles and show updates here.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday 1 March 2015

Murphy's Law... Again...

Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhh... You'd think after all these years and doing this so many times I'd learn to check that no extra beads snuck in BEFORE the final crimp. But neeeeooooooooosirreebob. Did it again.

Another game of spot the mistake.

At least this time I didn't have to start over. I was able to crush that pesky extra bead that somehow magically appeared after I'd covered the final crimp bead.

The technical info: mossy green vintage Venetian seed beads, shell bird beads & a pewter bird pendant. $59 plus shipping, email me for availability and exact size. This one is about 20 inches long, and the pendant will add about an inch.

Reminder: GEM EXPO -- 13, 14 & 15 MARCH -- Hyatt Regency Hotel, King Street, Toronto -- click on the link to sign up to get your admission discount! I will have lots of these bird beads with me, as well as handmade glass, old and new chevrons, Roman glass and pewter pendants and skulls. And turquoise -- lots of turquoise.

Thanks for looking!