June 30, 2009

The anatomy of a Cluster Bracelet

One day I was looking at all the beads that were accumulating in my craft room and noticed that I had ALOT of lime green beads. I originally bought them for this project, but never really sold enough of the item to justify having as many green beads as I (optimistically) purchased! Looking at my massive supply, I got an idea for a bracelet that would not only look fun, but also help me use up the daunting supply of beads! The result: my Green with Envy Cluster Bracelet. Though I was happy with the end product, I was even more happy with it's reception! The item sold right away, and soon thereafter people were asking me to post it again! I was hesitant at first since it took me 2 full nights to make the cluster bracelet, but, seeing how many of these beads I still had laying around, I caved and listed it again. And again. And again. This time around, I figured it would be a good opportunity to show the steps behind the bracelet, since I think it looks more complicated than it really it! Hopefully this can inspire you to make something new with materials laying around your craft space, too! First I had to empty out my Beadsmith design board (it's amazing how I allow stray beads to accumulate on this thing!). I really like this extra long felted workspace as it allows me to see all my supplies for any given project while keeping them organized. It also works as a tape measure and ruler, which I will admit I don't use as often as I just eye things :) I bought all these green beads from a variety of sources, including a flea market in Beijing, Michael's, Beadnicks, and Ritual Adornments in Santa Monica... 5 types of seed beads, several shell beads, glass beads, and even some green pearl beads. I wired each bead on bright silver Beadalion stringing wire. All each of these tools (crimp tool, nose pliers, cutting pliers, bent chain nose pliers, flat nose pliers) came in handy, too, as you will see below!
I first cut a 7" piece of Beadalion wire. To secure its end, I put a 2mm crimp bead (image 1) on one end and looped in through itself (image 2). Then I took my crimp pliers (image 3) and flattened the crimp bead until it was secure and tight on the wire. The loop will later serve as a means to connect the strand to the ending clasp. (sorry about the blurry images - I was working on my ottoman in my poorly-lit living room!) Next was the most tedious part - beading (image 5) 15 of these strands! Thankfully my husband was close at hand to help me pick up many of the beads I accidentally dropped - those little seed beeds can be frisky! I ended each strand the same way I started them with a loop and a crimp bead (image 6).
Next I needed to create a means to hold all the strands together. Since I was going to use a long bead cap at the end, I couldn't just end with a standard jump ring. I therefore decided to make my own jump ring with some 22 gauge silver wire. I started by taking my nose pliers and clasping the wire toward the bottom of the head.
Next I turned the pliers 360 degrees until I had a bit of a circle at the end of the wire.
Nice, smooth end - but I needed to even the remaining wire out.
I took the same pliers and forced the remaining wire to turn 90 degrees. The result: a perfect eyepin (these things can sell for $.25 each - how much more fun to just make them yourself!
Next I took the 15 strands of green assorted beads and strategically (in terms of texture and color) ordered and strung them on the headpin.
I took my nose pliers and smushed the end of the eye pin together so the strands can't go anywhere. Stay put, little guys!
After repeating the process on the other end, I was ready to attach the bead caps and toggle clasp.
I got these filigree bead caps at Michael's for $.50 each. Bead Caps are great for covering up ugly finishings and ends!
I cut off the extra wire I didn't need, leaving about 3/4 an inch of wire in which I would create my end loop.
My nose pliers finished the eye loop.
After making the eye loop, I opened it up with my flat nose pliers in order to get the toggle clasp on.
I used the same flat nose pliers to smush both sides of the eye loop back together and thus secure the toggle clasp.
Repeat on the other end. Viola! The super fun finished product! I might just have to wear it for the day before I send it to it's buyer, my buddy Nilsa! (Thanks again for your patience with this product, friend, you're the best!)

June 24, 2009

I love you, Wednesdays.

Because, seriously, Friday is still 2 days away.
I love you, Wednesdays is my bloggin' attempt at a.) shutting up about my products and sharing the love of others' with others! and b.) sharing sources of inspiration that often stands behind my jewelry and creative process. In honor of my wedding anniversary coming up, this Wednesday I am lovin' my favorite color/design scheme: Black and White polka dots and Red Roses. Thankfully I am not alone, look at these great finds! I would like to say that, for the record, I am pretty sure I STARTED the polka dot fad. Really. I started buying/making polka dot things back in 2003 - long before Target's One-Spot was exploding with Polka Dot stationary or the scrapbook stores saw the value of investing in everything dotty. Before he even asked, I told the Hubs that I would only marry him if he was cool with a black and white polka dot wedding (with red roses). He figured that, since he was the dude, he wasn't allowed to have a say anyway, and thus gladly obliged. Haha - sweet. At first finding polka dot things for the wedding was hard. Then the rest of America caught onto MY fad and we had stuff coming out of our ears. For the Christmas before our wedding, about 9 out of every 10 gifts I received had something to do with dots or red roses. Even our engagement party theme - and cake - was black and white polka dot themed (made by my dear friend Kris, click here to see the website I created for his cake business!). Before long we had more than enough black and white polka dot napkins, plates, cards, ribbons, even stamps. And when people heard of our theme and saw something dotty there after, guess whose house it ended up in? Don't get me wrong, I was totally grateful for all that we had been given. But it spun out of control after awhile and before we knew it, I had more dots than I knew what to do with. I had three wedding showers and an engagement party - all polka dots and red rose themes. Thankfully the dots weren't too out of control during the wedding - and no one told me they were seeing spots by the time the party was over! Here are a few of my favs:
I wore a Target swimsuit cover-up dress the day of my wedding and matching b/w polka dot flip flops! And yes, that's a fuzzy bride/groom hat on my head. Don't ask.
For their gift, we gave each groomsman a dotted tie with their initials monogrammed on the bottom.
A few ladies from church decided to make us a quilt with Black and White quilt squares, each signed by a wedding guest! The finished quilt now hangs in my craft room and is BEAUTIFUL!
The tables were adorned with real roses in vases, rose petals, rose candies, favors, one-use cameras, and polka dot napkins. Overload yet?
My mom spent months making these faux red rose balls for the white chairs going up the aisle. After the ceremony we brought them into the reception hall and put them on the head table. Two for one! (photo by good friend Josh)
We also had a retro photo booth at our reception, which turned out to be one of the main attractions of the evening! I provided the scrapbook materials, and everyone put at least one of their snapshots from the booth into a scrapbook right there, which became our guest book! (spread the love at their website!)
This is what happens when you have a scarf and photo frames you don't know what to do with.
I even tried to show the black and white lovin' in our outfits. We requested that the guests all wear black and white, which turned out perfectly and added an extra dimension of fun. Everyone looked great! Especially my saucy bridesmaids! (photo by Corey - click on his link to see more of our wedding pictures featured on his front page!)
So, what colors inspire you today?

June 23, 2009

Wedding jewelry - for myself!

In the spirit of my first wedding anniversary coming up this weekend, I figured it would be fun to share with you the first large scale jewelry project I ever did (even before my days on Etsy) --- my own wedding! Finishing my Masters, finding a new job, moving nearly 400 miles away, and working two jobs didn't stop me from creating a very personalized, unique, and, if I say so myself, beautiful wedding. I was having a blast creating everything from the favors, invitations, website, centerpieces, even the flower girl's basket (which I will showcase, whether you like it or not, on Thursday!). But one task was starting to get on my nerves - that of finding the perfect jewelry for everyone involved in the wedding (i.e. 6 bridesmaids, a flower girl, a mom and mother in law, 3 grandmothers, 2 readers, and 3 very special helpers). I searched EVERYWHERE. I visited every online site (except Etsy, as I had yet to hear of it) and trekked all over San Francisco and Louisville with no luck. I finally found myself in the jewelry department at Macy's in San Francisco in tears over what was becoming this impossible task. From there I walked to Chinatown and into one of it's MANY jewelry shops and a light went off. "Duh, you can make it yourself, you OCD crazy lady, you."
(sometimes I felt like this bird - lost at jewelry sea! I took this picture from the boat on the way to Alcatraz... as a visitor, of course!)
I spoke with a lady at Lawrence Trading Company on Grant Street in Chinatown about pearls and crystals. I bought a few string of pearls and commissioned her to make 6 simple pearl necklaces (and managed to talk the price down from her original offer because I knew how much they would have cost me to buy them in China - I swear this is probably the only use my Chinese skills will ever have in my life)! Next I went to Baubles and Beads in Berkeley (say that 5 times fast!) and bought several bags of both real and imitation Swarovski crystals (that way I could tinker with deigns with the fake crystals first). I even asked the lady behind the counter what she thought of putting pearls and crystals together for wedding jewelry. She looked at me blankly. Oh well, lady, I am buying them anyway. Finally I got all the necessary findings at Michael's: silver wire, sterling headpins, sterling clasps, silver crimp beads, etc. I had no clue how I was going to manage to make any of these items, mind you, and half the time I was merely assuming that the supplies I was buying were right for the job. Thus the experimenting began. I was torn between a necklace or earrings for my outfit (I didn't want to clutter myself up and do both). I looked at all kinds of designs online and could only gather that, if I was going to do earrings, that they had to be big, yet elegant. My poor fiance had to watch me try on every design I made for about a week straight and give me feedback on what I am sure looked to him like repeats. "What do you think, fiance? Should I make this 3mm longer?" That poor man... Here are two designs I made yet didn't choose to use for my own wedding - they are now on sale on Etsy (just click on the picture for the link)! Finally I made a design with some briolettes I got from Artbeads (my now favorite bead source - hello free shipping!). The result was perfect - especially since I had the satisfaction of making them myself! I also have them for sale on Etsy because I just couldn't keep it to myself! Next on my list was a bracelet for myself. I had a vague idea that I wanted a funky, bold, yet again, elegant bracelet that I could wear again in the future. I looped ends of silver wire strands with crimp beads and crimped in large and small pearls on about 5 wire strands, and then lots of 3mm - 8mm Swarovski bicone crystals on 5 other strands. To end them, I did the same crimp loop at the end of the wire, and latched them all onto a Sterling heart-shaped clasp. I was very temped to continue adding more and more layers of these strands to the bracelet, but had to remind myself that I needed to save the beads for the remaining 15 other pieces of jewelry on to-do list! (If you look closely, you can see that the non-heart clasp side of the bracelet is a hot mess - the bracelet was too large by the time I was done, but there wasn't enough wire to cut off the crimp bead and re-crimp it... so I ghetto-fied it by wrapping silver wire around the end to tuck it in. Though this totally embarrasses me now - it didn't seem to bother me a year ago - I was just happy I had pulled it off!) Next on the list were my bridesmaids. I duplicated the bracelet I made for myself for them, but instead just had 3 strands of pearl and crystal mixes and only one crimp bead on each side of the beads so as to allow them to more up and down the bracelet rather than just sitting still in one place. (You can also find this bracelet for sale on my Etsy site or by clicking on any of the above pictures!). Since I had the lady in Chinatown make their necklaces (for less money than if I had made them myself, so as to relive my conscious!) all I had left were the earrings. I tinkered again with some ideas, but settled on this simple (yet snowman looking?) 3-pearl design, finished on sterling silver headpins and ear wires. Still not done. I wanted my flower girl to match, of course, so I made her a necklace in the fashion of the bracelet, except with a big glass pendant in the center. I liked it so much that I made one for my mom, mother in law, and grandma. By then I had run out of real crystals, so I used the remaining glass crystals and pearls to make earrings for our readers and bracelets for our helpers. They didn't even notice they were "fake." I of course presented all 25 pieces of jewelry in matching black and white polka dot gift bags with red tissue paper to go with the theme :)
(Notice how Lilly's basket matches her dress, which matched my dress? And the fan as a homage to my love for China? Click on the images to see detail!)
Though I literally spent 90% of my wedding week making all this jewelry, I loved every minute of it! And when someone at the wedding noticed that all my ladies were wearing coordinating jewelry that I made and suggested I sell it, well, the rest is history.

June 22, 2009

My first interview :)

NOTE: This week I plan to feature pictures and inspiration behind all that I did by hand for my wedding, since my one-year wedding anniversary is this Sunday :) Today's post goes with this theme as I mentioned how I got my start on Etsy (my wedding) and some of the jewelry that came out of it. Last week a fellow Blogger/Etsy seller asked if she could interview me for her "Inspirational Monday" feature. RedRubyonFire, a graphic artist out of Australia, features this weekly interview in order to “motivate and uplift the spirits of less experienced sellers.” I, of course, couldn’t resist, and am humbled that someone considers my shop “experienced!” I not only enjoyed the whole process of the interview, but was really surprised with how I answered the questions of how I see my shop and experience as an Etsy seller after just 3+ months since I “officially” launched my site. Here is the interview (as seen on RebRubyonFire’s blog!) “Today we will be inspired by a lovely shop Beadup and it's owner Christyn. Opened in Aug 2008, Bead up has made 60 sales so far. Besides this Esty business, Christyn is employed fulltime at an LA Studio. For all of you who are questioning your abilities as you need to divide time and attention between your Etsy shop and a full time job, read on! RROF - Firstly tell us something about your shop, how you got started and why you wanted to start an online business? Beadup - It all started with my own wedding, actually (a year ago this Sunday!). I will admit, I am a little OCD, and couldn’t find any jewelry that I thought best suited my dress and that of my bridesmaids. I found myself investigating a piece of jewelry posted online that was wicked expensive and thought to myself “Dude. I could make that.” I went to Chinatown in San Francisco, bought a bunch of pearls, crystals, and findings, and got to work. Not only was I thrilled with how it all turned out, but my bridesmaids and attendants were grateful for the homemade effect of their jewelry. “Why aren’t you selling this stuff, Christyn?” I did a double take and realized, “Yeah, why AREN’T I selling it?” I knew that I didn’t want to make things merely to sell them, but rather to share the joy of affordable, homemade, unique jewelry creations. I chose Etsy as a venue because it’s very user friendly and is such a gift to all artisans out there. I am honored to be considered part of the Etsy family.
(above: bridesmaid Quinn and I rockin' our black, white, and red rose ensembles and some of the first pieces of jewelry I ever made!)
RRoF - Is your Etsy Business your full time job? Or what or who does your Etsy shop shares your time with? Beadup - Etsy is my full time passion, though not my full time job. I actually work a 9-6 job at a movie studio in Los Angeles. I get a lot of my inspiration from the fashion I see walking around the lot!
(Right: the studio in the spring)
RRoF - When you started listing your first few items, was the response what you expected? Beadup - When I posted my first (and for awhile only) item, I sat back thinking “Ok, everyone, come and get it!” And no one did. I think I checked the “item views” at least a dozen times in the first hour. Nothing. I was totally bummed, and thought that perhaps I wasn’t cut out for this whole Etsy thing or that my item was not Etsy-worthy. Come to think of it, that one item has NEVER sold! Maybe it’s been in the cards all along! RRoF - Looking back, what are some of the mistakes you think you've made when you just got started, and how you overcome them. Beadup - I think I expected to a.) get featured on the front page right away, because I had seen some sellers get their start there, and b.) get all sorts of people to “heart” my shop immediately. When neither happened, these two disappointments and my self-expectation of initial interest and success really got in the way of allowing myself to slowly launch and bloom in due time. I still get hard on myself sometimes when I don’t make a sale for awhile, but take delight in the sales and feedback I have received thus far and allow that to motivate me to create more. RRoF - Have you ever felt like giving up? What made you stay? Beadup - So many times I just stare at my work space blankly and think “What have I gotten myself into?” Sometimes I get in a creative black hole and for the life of me can’t produce a new item, or have no energy to take the picture of or post an item I may not be 100% proud of. Comparing myself to other Etsy sellers who do this full time and thus have thousands of sales doesn't help either. In these times one of two things works - either to avoid Etsy for a few days and allow my creativity to come back naturally, or to explore some of the amazing things other sellers have created and find your inspiration in them. In all honesty, I keep creating because I find real joy in the creative process, not because I make any profit (in fact, I am still in the stages of only making back fractions of what I have spent at large - it may be awhile until I start profiting off of my sales in total). Besides, if I ever did want to give up, my husband would remind me that I have invested way too much money in this and that failure is not an option!
(above: new materials can be fun, but often overwhelming!)
RRoF - Share with us some of the things you do daily, weekly and monthly, with regards to your Etsy business. Beadup - Rather than paying for promotional ads in print, I instead have taken full advantage of all that the internet offers for free :) I never really considered myself a bloggin’ kind of girl, but I have really found tangible success in tapping into the blogging and social networking world. I first created a Facebook fan page for my Etsy site and sent an invitation to all my female (and some male!) Facebook friends. Within a week I had almost 100 “fans” and several sales! I also post photo albums of pictures of my recent work and status updates of my Etsy progress on the fan page, which comes up in people’s news feeds and reminds them of what my Etsy shop is up to. After much hesitation, I finally started a Twitter account for my site. Though I am not sure if I have made any sales directly from Twitter, it has been a great way to network with fellow Etsy sellers and at least get my name out there. Finally, and most successfully, I started a blog about my “journey of homemade jewelry.” Here I have posted photos of inspiration, steps behind certain pieces of jewelry, pictures of people wearing my jewelry, and even a giveaway or two! After announcing my blog on Etsy, Facebook, and Twitter, I have at current about 70 blog followers. To further promote my blog, I make sure I visit whatever other Etsy or interesting blogs I can find and comment on posts there, which includes a link to my shop. I track all my site visits with a widget and thus can see that many of my blog visitors have come from other blogs and websites! It’s been like a domino effect and has been unexpectedly fun and rewarding. RRoF - What is your largest hurdle with your shop? Beadup - Finding my “voice” has been a challenge. A co-worker asked me recently, “What is your trademark?” I was embarrassingly left speechless. So many things inspire my work - art, photos, fashion, nature, culture, etc. But let’s be honest - I am limited by what kinds of supplies I can find and how much money I am willing to invest. Thus I sometimes make things that surprise even me, and wonder if they indeed have a place in my shop and fit into the sense of coherency I am trying to achieve. Maybe I will soon just allow eclecticism be my trademark and call it a day! RRoF - How do you promote? And in your opinion, which works best for you? Beadup - One of the best kept secrets I have discovered in terms of promotion is Vistaprint.com. When I “launched” my site in April (i.e. when I started confidently telling others about my site!), I sent out 100 postcards to my family and friends with the announcement and shop address. I got them for free at Vistaprint and only paid for shipping! Vistaprint also offers whole design lines, which I have taken advantage of in order to creative a cohesive look to my Etsy mailing and promotional products. I have mailing labels, business cards, return address labels, stationary, and even cards with the same logo and design (and, again, I only paid for shipping! Vistaprint offers sales daily and mad discounts for their returning customers!). That way when people get my products in the mail they know it’s from me and where they can find my site again. I also include a hand written thank you note in every package I send and have had so many compliments on this simple gesture of gratitude.
(above: the postcard I initially sent out to all my family and friends)
RRoF - If you knew then (when you started) what you know now, what would you have done differently? Beadup - I would have given myself more grace to let things happen in due time. If I allowed money and dollar signs to dictate my creative process and shop, I never would have made a sale. Instead, my attitude of creating for the sake of creating has allowed all subsequent sales be the icing on the cake. RRoF - Any other thing, thoughts, advice, links,... etc you would like to share with the Newbies? Beadup - If you don’t love what you are doing, don’t do it. To me, Etsy is the celebration of creativity, not of profit. When it feels like a chore rather than a pleasure, step back and reevaluate why you are selling in the first place. If you love what you are doing, you will never work a day in your life! :) Thanks again, RedRubyonFire – I am humbled and grateful!