Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grand (Re)Opening of my Supply Shop

Today's the grand re-opening of my Etsy Supply Shop, SweetGoodies (not a bakery, I swear!)

I started the shop several years ago, but closed it after only a few sales, because I was just too busy with other things to manage 2 Etsy shops AND the bead shop.

But times have changed, and I seem to have more time now, or I'm managing it better, or something, so I decided to re-open the supply shop, with a new focus. The old shop was strictly commercial supplies, the new shop will focus primarily on handmade components, although some commercial supplies will find their way in from time to time.

I got a few listings up today - I have made a pile of copper components, and am getting them listed, slowly. Today's photo session didn't go as well as I'd hoped, so I need to retake some of the shots.

I also have a huge pile of copper components that I am going to enamel for the shop: clasps, connectors, and more. - but I doubt I will get to the torch before the end of next week. But look for bright bursts of enameled color to flood the shop with a couple of weeks!

I already have 2 classes on the schedule for next week; 1 in wire wrapping, and 1 beadweaving. Just as I decided to dedicate my free time to making handmade components, classes are booking left and right. Not complaining, though!

Once I get the first batches of copper enameled, I hope to be able to take custom requests for enameled components in the supply shop, although I'm afraid the turn around will be LONG -- like 2-3 weeks, because of all my other commitments. Plus, it's just plain time consuming to start from scratch; creating the copper component first, and then taking it through the enameling process, and then photos. But I'll make it work!

Some of the items I listed today:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Science, Baby!

Let's switch it up a little - here's what's going on in my backyard:

I know it is technically autumn now, but my South Carolina backyard still thinks it is summer.

I planted a sprig of Passiflora incarnata (Passionflower) in my backyard over 15 years ago, not knowing that it was highly invasive, and you know what? I'm glad I didn't know (although I quickly learned!) - because I probably never would have planted it, and I would have missed out on a lot.

 Passiflora incarnata blooms (Passionflower)

These are a couple of the passionflower blooms, a few weeks ago - surrounded by their pretty, abundant, 5-lobed leaves and their graspy, grabby tendrils. The tendrils will grab anything, and wind around them tightly - so fast, you can actually see it happen if you settle down with a good book, and hold out a finger (not that I've ever done that).

I've blogged about my passion for passionflower before; but what's going on now is new! Let me lay a little groundwork for you, first.

At the time I purchased my little sprig of Passionflower, I was told that it was the only natural food source for the caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) butterfly:
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Sure enough; the year after I planted it, I started seeing these pretty orange and black butterflies; more and more of them each year - but nothing like this year! There are hundreds and hundreds of them! Just gorgeous!

And where there are hundreds of butterflies, you can bet their are hundreds of caterpillars. And did I mention - their offspring are voraciously hungry?

The passionflower vines are covering at least 50% of the other foliage in my yard, as well as my entire deck - so pretty! But within a few days of hatching, the caterpillars start to decimated the vine's foliage, leaving it pretty "moth-eaten."

Compare the picture of the passionflower foliage above, with one I took yesterday:

Decimated foliage of Passiflora incarnata

The leaves you see to the right are from the obviously non-tasty forsythia - a hardy shrub with pretty yellow blooms in the Spring. This particular portion of the passionflower is covering my deck, and the forsythia, and a couple of hydrangeas - and all the passionflower blooms are gone. In this area.

And look what I found when I inspected a little closer:

caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary

This hungry varmint is trying to hide behind a forsythia leaf.

caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary

Mere inches away from the first caterpillar, another one tries to find a few molecules of sustenance. And these caterpillars aren't hard to find - the vine is covered in them.

The new thing that is happening now is that these caterpillars have decided to use my HOUSE for the next phase in their life cycle.

Starting a few weeks ago, every time I'd open the back door to let Bailey out, I see 2 or 3 of the caterpillars dangling upside down in the door jamb. Weird. And the next day, there'd be what looked to be a dried-up leaf in their place, but in actuality it was their chrysalis.

So I took the camera home from the shop with me yesterday, hoping to catch this process. And as I quickly discovered, it's not just the door jamb - it's the whole back of the house!

Here is one of the caterpillars soon after attaching to the house (they apparently have some way to drill into the house (or tree, or whatever) with their back end, and then they hang upside down like a bat. These are 2 different caterpillars:

 early stage of pupation, Gulf Fritillary

early stage of pupation, Gulf Fritillary

Within less than 18 hours, they start to visibly change:

Early pupation, Gulf Fritillary

See the white areas near the head of the caterpillar? If not, allow me to point them out:

Chrysalis formation, Gulf Fritillary

[BTW - pay NO attention to the mold growing on my house - I certainly don't.]

Within another 24 hours, the chrysalis has completely formed - here are 2 of the hundreds attached to my house:

Gulf Fritillary chrysalis

Gulf Fritillary chrysalis

I don't know how long they stay like this - I assume until next spring, since there is no foliage for hungry newly-hatched caterpillars to eat in the late fall and winter. And I wonder what creatures find these chrysalises good eating?

Over to the far right of my deck, I have a Chaste tree (Vitex sp.) that the passionflower vine just discovered this year - yesterday I saw that the tree is partially covered in passionflower, with some gorgeous blooms, and none of the foliage has been eaten. I guess it takes  a year or so for the butterflies to lay their eggs, and for the eggs to then hatch, before the caterpillars can start eating the new portions of the vine. According to the Internet (motto: "We'd never lie to you."), Passiflora incarnata can grow 15 or more feet in one season. I am going with "more," since it discovered and completely took over this tall tree just since this Spring.

Passiflora incarnata blooming on Chaste tree

This was a difficult shot for me to get; the blooms are about 20 feet away from me, and about 20 feet off the ground, so I used the telephoto lens. The arrow is pointing to the large 5-lobed leaves of the vine, completely untouched by hungry caterpillars. To the right of the arrow, and a little below it, is one of the purple passionflower blossoms. There are a few more blooms in there, but they are lost in the setting sun coming in from behind the tree.

 Butterfly life cycle

So, there's today's science lesson!

And on a more jewelry-related note: After 1 full day and 2 half days of steel wooling, here is my pile of polished oxidized copper components (following the Liver of Sulfur treatment a few days ago), ready to go into the tumbler. I was surprised at how heavy this little pile is - I had to split in in 2 for the tumbler runs. The first half is in now, and the rest will go in tomorrow. Now that this chore is basically done, I can set up the torch for enameling (on a different batch of components)! After I teach a beadweaving class tomorrow, though.

ready for the tumbler, finally!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It stinks in here!

I have fallen a little behind on my production schedule; I just took this batch of copper pieces through the Liver of Sulfur, and boy, did I stink up the bead shop!

I need to take the stuff outside and dump it, now that I'm done, but the shop has been steadily busy all day, so no chance to sneak outside. Yet. My customers are too nice to tell me how bad it stinks in here, but I popped out quickly to close the car windows (fixin' to rain again!) - and my eyes and nose started burning from the stench when I came back in!

Next up: I get to take steel wool to these pieces, and polish them up, and then I'll tumble them.

I still need to drill holes in some of the pieces I plan to enamel - that's a whole 'nother pile.

I had really hoped to already be enameling by this time, but it wasn't to be - and I'm teaching classes on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, so it looks like maybe Thursday for the torch, depending on how quickly I can get the drilling done.

Friday, September 13, 2013

In production mode

As I said earlier this week, I am putting down the beadwork for awhile to work with metal.

One of my goals is to re-open my supply shop on Etsy, and stock it with handmade etched and/or enameled metal components and findings. Towards that end, I have been busy all week hammering, cutting, drilling, etching, pickling, sanding, etc....

Here is the temporary workstation I improvised in the middle of the bead shop so that I could get more work done without having to constantly get up to get what I need:

After 4 days, I have finally finished (for this run, anyway) all the etching and cutting.

I still need to drill a lot of holes, and sand some pieces. And I also have some hammering yet to do.

Also yet to come: Liver of Sulfur for the etched pieces.

And also, enameling - I will try to get to this by the middle of next week. There is still much to do before I can even think of firing up the torch! Plus, I am teaching a beadweaving class next Wednesday, so that whole day is shot as far as this endeavor is concerned! But at least I will get to squeeze in a little beading!

And after all this metal drudgery fun, comes the worst part: photos, descriptions, and listing on Etsy. I hope to get the  Etsy shop back open by the last week in September, even if I only have a few items listed!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tangle Tuesday & Etsy SEO

It has been a long time since I tangled! My last one was August 6 - a month ago (seems like longer). I have been caught up in a beadweaving frenzy, taking projects home every weekend and beading like a fool, and after I finished the latest one last week, I needed to get back to some metal working, which isn't really a portable project (although I tried! - but there're so many tools, and chemicals, and heavy hammers, and I just don't really have the set-up space at home. Waaah!)

So I found myself with 2 whole days with nothing creative to do (and I certainly was NOT going to clean house - that's CRAZY talk!). I decided to dive back into Zentangling.

Some of the tangles I used here include:

  • twisty-blob
  • thumbprintz
  • paradox
  • checkerboard
  • sponge
  • go 4th N multiply
  • Hollibaugh
  • betweed
  • seasick
  • aura

Zentangling is supposed to transport you to a Zen place, and I have read blogs by other tanglers, who happily report the peace they achieve through tangling.

Me? Not so much. This one, more than any of the others I have done, was a chore.

I wanted to incorporate some color (I always want color!) - even though what initially attracted me to tangling was the graphic beauty of the simple black and white designs! My mind is such a paradox.

And I failed miserably (IMO) with my color here - I see other tangles with color, and love them, but I just can't figure out the secret. Adding just one color? Coloring the whole thing? I decided for the middle road here, and don't really care for it.

I always have a thousands thoughts at once scurrying around my brain, and couldn't shut my brain down to enjoy this tangle. I just wanted to be done - and several hours later, I started falling back on familiar, space-occupying, simple tangles like Hollibaugh and SeaSick. And voila - I quickly finished.

Not sure when I will try again.

So the tangling was on Sunday - that left Monday with nothing "fun" to do, either. So I decided to tackle something I have been putting off for a long time (no, not housework!): SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in my Etsy shop.

I think I suck at SEO, even though I have read (and read, and read) articles about SEO and Etsy. Etsy SEO is different, because you want to attract searches on engines like Google, but what works for Etsy search doesn't necessarily work outside of Etsy (for instance, the tags that are so important to search on Etsy are NOT even seen by Google). So you have to play games with your titles, your descriptions, these Etsy tags, and choose your keywords wisely - and by wisely, I mean, think like a searcher - in my case, a jewelry customer.

This is WAY harder than it sounds, at least for me - I am a very technical person, and familiar with all the terminology that jewelry designers use. It's a very comfortable little "foreigh language" - foreign in the sense that words I use to describe one of my pieces are NOT necessarily the words a customer would use to search for one of them! For instance - the most popular term used to find my Etsy shop is "kumihimo necklace", and I have several of them - but the problem is, that search term is NOT converting to sales, and I discovered that the reason is while yes, they are kumihimo necklaces, the average jewelry shopper has never heard the term "kumihimo"; hell - the majority of customers in my bead shop have never heard it, and most of the ones that have heard it, don't know how to pronounce it! So why is it the number one search term in my shop? Because other beaders are using it to find ideas for making their own kumihimo designs. Hmmm.

It's kind of like the medical field - the nurses and physicians have a whole different language to describe what's going on in the lay person's body - headache becomes "cephalgia", indigestion becomes "dyspepsia" - and so on, so it boils down to the difference between a physician writing a medical article vs. a lay person writing it - which one could you understand? And my Etsy listings are basically the same - just because I describe something as an "etched Picasso Kumihimo oval blah blah blah whatever" - doesn't make it searchable on either Etsy or Google by the average jewelry consumer. The Etsy forums tell me to look at each piece "as a shopper would look at it" - and there's the rub. I only see my process, and can no longer look at it as a "regular" person (because I am highly irregular, thank you very much.) I need a regular person to wander into my life (please!) and help me think up descriptive terms for my jewelry!!

So I spent all day yesterday re-writing my titles, descriptions, and tags - I don't think I made any real improvement. But I did change quite a few things - we'll see if it translates into sales. Fingers crossed!

And during the whole shop review, I discovered quite a few pictures I need to retake. Oh, joy. Pictures can always be improved, but I just don't know the secret - but I will spend some time trying to improve the worst offenders! Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Black and White Tubular Herringbone Links

This necklace was featured in Step By Step Beads waaay back when I first started beading - the September-October 2007 issue. It was one of the first patterns I ever tore out of a magazine, placed in a plastic sheet protector, and filed in a binder, fully intending to tackle it one day. Unlike most of the patterns that now occupy TWO overstuffed 3-inch binders, I finally got around to this one last week! (I'm sure a lot of you can relate!)

tubular herringbone

I know what drew me to the pattern was the colors - I am almost magnetically drawn to anything black and white, especially if a dash of red is thrown in!

When I was looking for something new to start last week, I decided to page through my binders, saw this one, and was drawn to it all over again - it is tubular herringbone, it's easy, and pretty fast. It's fun thinking up new patterns for the black and white beads, too!

After months of beadweaving, I am going to start working on metal tomorrow - I have lots of new ideas I want to play with! Just gotta clean off my work bench, put tiny beads, needles, etc., away, and make room for all my hammers, the saw, the torch, and more!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tila and Superduo Bracelet

Today, at the bead shop, some customers and I worked on this fun Tila and Superduo bracelet, which is featured on pg. 80 of the October Issue of Bead & Button:

Tilas and Superduos

Tilas and Superduos

 I chose blue superduos (Blue Luster) and paired them with Jet AB2X Tilas.

Here is the bracelet one of my customers (Kate) made: she used cream-colored Tilas and turquoise green Picasso superduos:

more Tilas and Superduos

Our other stitcher, Debbie, had to leave before our photo session - but hers was gorgeous, too.

This is a fun, fast, and easy project - I highly recommend it!