July 31, 2009

New Series: Fashionably Friday

Ok, lovies, so here's what I am thinking. So many times I find myself totally inspired by jewelry that is popping up here in Los Angeles. Seriously, I find jewelry as seen the streets, the red carpet, on TV, or even in tabloids often more inspiring than the sunset itself. I often find myself totally appalled by some of the $#!^ that people wear on the exact same venues, that I feel like I do a double take-shake-my-head-to-figure-out-what-I-just saw type of head dance. Since I watch alot of television programs that feature both amazing and astonishing jewelry (if you want to call some of it that!), and since I read so many blogs discussing these trending topics, I figured to start a little review of my own. Introducing: F A S H I O N A B L Y F R I D A Y. Here I plan on reviewing the week in jewelry fashion, or a particular celebrity's jewelry sensibilities (or lack there of). If all goes as planned in the caverns of my crafty mind, I hope to do this on a weekly basis and have it be a place where we can admire and question celebrity jewelry together. So, that said, with no further adu, let's get started, friends! Though it was no Project Runway, the Bravo opps-we-accidentally-sold-our-best-show-and-therefore-have-to-create-some-replacement-BS series Fashion Show did manage to keep me company while making jewelry in my living room this summer. Though it seems that the blogging world has done well to just abandon any hope of comparing it to PR and allow it to be in a (minor) league of it's own, I'm not showing it any mercy. Let's start with the con's, shall we? When judging a fashion statement, I often make a point to look at the designer behind the work. I mean, seriously, do you really want to trust someone who is wearing their mom's 80's clothing and pearl necklaces?
(image from fancast.com)
Opps, well, sorry Hazel. I judge a book both by it's cover and what's on the inside. I'm not trusting you to tell me what's in style, honey, either today OR 20 years ago. Sheesh. For example, I love it when designers try to show how trendy, or even ahead of the trends, they are by making themselves their own canvas. Like Keith.
(image from fancast.com)
OR NOT like Keith. What IS that around his neck?
I can't take it anymore - moving on to the Pro's and inspirations. The winner of Fashion Show didn't make fashion mistakes with her own wardrobe. I was so happy to see Anna win the show, and couldn't keep my eyes off of her wooden beaded necklace (and her sweet shoes on the right and her OWL PRINT dress on the left - guess she read my blog the other week). Not only did she pull it off BEAUTIFULLY with two outfits, but she also had one of her own models during the final Fashion Show sport a similar necklace, but asymmetrically. But do you think it was meant to be worn to the side? Either way, I've had my mind on the necklace Anna wore all week and went to Michael's last night to buy the finishing beads to make a piece just like it of my own. Be on the lookout for a similar product from Bead Up soon! Anna also wore another statement piece during some of the show's interviews. What do you think of this one? I think she wore it well with the neckline of her shirt and it's color. I dunno, the more I look at it, the more I like it, but it's not one of those pieces that I would rush out to buy for myself. I'll let Anna keep sportin' the look on her own. She also had another statement piece in her final runway show. This super cute black dress and beautiful emerald (my new favorite accent color) jacket were finished with a wooden-looking necklace - made of what looks like two elephant charms! I want to know where she goes shopping. The colors of this outfit, included the light brown of the wood, are also inspiring. I can't say the same for runner-up, Daniella, and her collection. The gal never really wore much jewelry herself, but most of her runway models sported necklaces made by Daniella herself. The one in the middle looks to me like random pieces glued on a applique, and paired with the awfully strange trousers just got lost in translation to me. Another one looked like she just drapped a bunch of heavy chain around a thick piece of string. BUT, I give the gal props for making her own jewelry - shows that she can do more than just clothing! Sadly, other than these two, not many of the designers really included jewelry as part of their final, or even challenge, pieces. There was the one Swarovski crystal challenge (which I of course LOVED!), in which Daniella produced this beauty. Since this piece was the challenge winner, they are of selling a dress "based" on this design on Bravotv.com, but of course it comes no where close to the elegance of this piece. I am thinking I need to invest in some cardboard and silky fabric and start making statement necklaces like this lovely! Though I said I wouldn't make comparisons, this piece reminds me a bit of a prom dress Victorya Huang did in Season 4. Love how the dress basically has it's own jewelry built in!I could go on and on, but I'll stop there for today so I have plenty to dish on next week! If you get a minute, drop by and let me know what you think about this new little series ;) Until then, have a great weekend!
(all images are from either Project Rungay or Bravotv.com)

July 29, 2009

I love you, Wednesdays = GIVEAWAY!

We interrupt this regularly scheduled I love you, Wednesdays with a special announcement.
Bead Up is hosting a G I V E A W A Y!
My good friends at Today's Giveaway featured Bead Up this week and are hosting a giveaway of two of my favorite products!
or choose between the words; believe, laugh, love, live, dream & hope. (There will be TWO winners - both winners may choose between the necklace and the earrings)
How exciting is that? Additionally - if you mention Today's Giveaway during checkout from Bead Up - I will throw in a free pair of earrings! So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Today's Giveaway to enter - you can enter up to 7 times and best of all, it's FREE! But hurry it on up - the giveaway closes on Thursday, July 30th at 11:59 PM (MST)!
Oh, and on a somewhat related, celebratory note, guess whose Etsy shop finally hit 100 hearts?

July 28, 2009

The art of thoughtful packaging

Let's start with a disclaimer, shall we? I by no means consider myself an expert on much of anything. I'm the kind of gal who is a jack of all trades but master of none (see: how I am not using my masters degree). Thus, I would never call myself a pro when it comes to all things Etsy - I am still learning and am proud of it! Therefore, this post is not about how you SHOULD package and send your Etsy products. Rather, it's my way of sharing what's worked for me. That said, one of my favorite parts of this Etsy gig is how I feel it bring joy to others. I was actually laying in bed last night wondering what it is that drives me to continue spending my nights making jewelry on the card table in the corner of my living room. I LOVE hearing back from my customers, meeting new people along the way, and networking with other artists. And as opposed to my love for scrapbooking, which is an often isolated, self-indulgent craft, I love how I get to give my creations away to people who actually appreciate them (let's just say the homemade photo calendar I made for my husband now hangs in my office!). My love language is gift giving, so naturally the whole making-jewelry-for-others thing just thrills me. But the giving doesn't just stop at the jewelry - it continues through to the wrapping and packaging process (bet you can imagine what I spend most of my time doing around Christmas!). I therefore see it as important to take the time to thoughtfully and intentionally package my products. I LOVE getting things in the mail (minus the bills), even if I bought it for myself - there is something so timelessly joyful about finding a little package with your name on it on your front door step. Whenever I order things from other sellers on Etsy, I wait until I see their packaging before I leave them feedback, because some (nameless) people really just throw their items in a box and stick it in the mail (last night I got a package of supplies I ordered in a box my husband called "a hot mess." I was surprised the contents were still in tact as it didn't really resemble a box at all... more like a dog chew toy). Above: gift I wrapped for Christmas in my favorite color scheme and pattern :) I thus put a good amount of time into my packaging, and for several reasons: 1.) I take pride in my work and want to make sure it looks professional. 2.) The customer paid for the shipping - I thus see it as my job to make sure the product gets to the customer in perfect shape. 3.) Buying jewelry for yourself or as a gift is an experience, which should include the thrill of opening up a package specifically designed just for you! 4.) Packaging is the last the customer might see of you - I thus strive to leave a lasting impression and make sure the customer knows I value their business. 5.) I see the chance to make what I love and share it as a gift. Each purchase on my site helps me keep doing what I love. I can only give a gift back in return, then! And, hello!? Who doesn't love opening up gifts?! After I get notice after an order is placed on Etsy, I print out a receipt so I can physically keep track of who gets what. I also e-mail the customer telling them that I am grateful for their business and giving them an estimated time of arrival of their product. This is a handy way of opening the lines of communication and reminding them a person, not a machine or factory, stands behind my shop (I have made some great, great friends this way)! I then get out my trusty box-o-supplies. When I started doing this Etsy thing seriously I invested some time (and not-so-serious pennies) into getting some return address labels, stationary, and business cards made, thanks to super-fabulous site VistaPrint. I saw it as important to create a cohesive "brand" in anything bearing the Bead Up name, thus sticking with the brown and lime green color scheme and, on the paper products, this neat-o swirly design. Here are my staples: return address labels, business cards (which have a duel purpose), stationary, brown and green markers, green curl ribbon, and of course, bubble envelopes.
The majority of items I sell are dainty necklaces. Rather than investing in some ugly, white plastic jewelry display holders, I figured the business cards were a better use of supplies! I start by punching two holes about a centimeter from the edge of the card, about 1/2" apart. I then cut two little slits from the top to the holes to make them accessible from the top. Then I put about 2/3 of the necklace in a little plastic bag, leaving the face of it hanging out. I also loop some tape on the bottom of the backside of the card.
Next I adhere the bag onto the tape and pull the two chain strands that are exposed through the slits and into the holes, like so.
I then turn the card over and gently place the necklace on the facade of the card. Viola! I have me a neat-o and super inexpensive way of displaying each piece! And even though I use bubble lined envelopes, you can never be too careful. So I double, and some times triple, wrap the item in bubble wrap, or any other kind of lining. This particular set of bubble wrap is left over from when I moved. I also re-use the puffy plastic lining from the supplies I get from Artbeads - keepin' it green!
Add some inexpensive green curl ribbon (thank you, Target!) and suddenly you have a both safe and cute looking little package! And no package is complete without a little note, right? I make a point to write a little note on my stationary to every buyer. This simple act has prompted the most response when I hear back from buyers - it's a personal touch that is not common with internet buying!
I then use matching stationary and a return address label for the front, and just use packaging tape to adhere the piece of paper and the sides. I find it important to include my website name on everything so that it's nearly impossible for a buyer to lose the address. No one will wonder who sent this package, eh?
Not everything I sell fits in these envelopes, or sometimes they are so small they don't need a whole envelope. As both a way to reduce waste in the environment and as a way for me to reduce extra costs, I make a point to re-use mailing envelopes and boxes whenever possible. I've been known to use old shoe boxes, old watch cases, old mailing bubbly envelopes, and even old ring boxes! Though some of these re-used items means often make the final packaging product look a little gnarly, I have yet to receive a complaint from a customer - and instead make a point to thank them for allowing me to re-use materials! I also custom package items if I know they are for a special occasion. Here's a picture of the packaging I did for a bride who bought these starfish necklaces for her bridesmaids - her wedding colors happened to be lime green and white!
I finished off the package with a little charm that read "To have and to hold" and shipped them all in an old shoebox surrounded by lots of newspaper and reused mailing popcorn. Now, that might seem like alot of work - but, I tell ya', it's been so worth it in my Etsy journey, as it almost always gets the customer's positive reaction and is a reason to keep in touch (which could lead to future sales and a happy customer!). Here's what one of my favorite customers had to say about the efforts in packaging:
"I really loved all of your effort in packaging my items. It was like a lime green birthday party! I loved see all the ribbon tied on my special packages and your hand written note is a wonderful, personal addition. Its always nice to see such care taken and I just wanted you to know that it is appreciated!!"
So, there you have it, boys and girls. Why packaging is more important than you may think, why it is fun, and why it may be important to cultivating returning customers and, if not, at least happy ones! Now, get yourself over to Vistaprint, get yourself some business cards, and get the scissors and tape out!

July 23, 2009

Another custom wedding bracelet

One day I am going to blog about how Facebook has been an amazing venue in my jewelry journey. I tell ya, I get about 1/3 orders via spreadin' the love on Facebook. This week's example: another custom bridal bracelet! High school friend and classmate, Sarah, saw me spreading the word on Facebook a few months ago and asked if I could make her a bracelet for her early August wedding. Seems like she did her research, as she said: "I really like the bracelet you wore at your wedding, and was thinking of something similar while I have been looking, because I don't want to go with a traditional diamond bracelet. I would like it to be more 'beady' vs. 'Stringy' (ie the stringy look is great, but with more beads). I also love the elegant clasp you put on a sample one that was on your website." No problem, Sarah! After seeing her wedding dress, I agreed that using ivory pearls and some crystals would go especially great with the beading detail on her dress (pictures to follow after the wedding event!). I got out my stash of pearls and crystals and decided to approach this one like I did my green with envy bracelet, but with some bead crimping and wire still showing. Since this is going to be a piece to be worn on a very important day, I used all sterling silver components - from the crimp beads to the wire to the clasp! I even managed to successfully sting the teeny, tiny 1mm pearl beads I bought in Chinatown last month, in addition to some 4mm pearls, 6mm pearls, and 8mm pearls. Add some clear Swarovski bicone beads (5mm and 8mm) and lots of love, and we have ourselves a bracelet!
Hope you like it, Sarah! Can't wait to see pictures!

July 22, 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. Every week I take a little walk to Trader Joe's on my lunch break and splurge on a $5.99 bouquet of flowers. When I bring them back into the office, people ask, "Oh, did your husband get those for you?" I laugh, "No! I wanted them so I bought them for myself!" It seems that flowers are so naturally associated with "gift" that it seems odd that someone would buy them for themselves. But why not? Why is it that we rarely every buy flowers for ourselves? Because they die? Because we could grow them on our own but don't have the time? It is for these reasons that the flower IS beautiful! I have become so used to having flowers on my desk that I can see a severe change in my attitude when I finally have to throw them away and am stuck on a flower-less desk for another day. Something about looking at these flowers throughout the day helps keep me balanced. (This flower is one of the few that actually bloomed in our garden this summer - the heat took the rest of them too quickly. RIP, little guys). Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, "The Earth Laughs in Flowers." It goes without saying that, when talking about inspiration, flowers are a no-duh kind of a subject. I have literally typed and re-typed this entry over and over trying to achieve something witty to say about flowers that has not been said before. I guess it's cyclical - flowers do all the talking for us, it seems. And even more so, a picture of a flower is worth a thousand words. I find a lot of inspiration from photos of flowers, since they offer us a closer glimpse into lives cut too short. I usually use my weekly bouquet of flowers in my product photography of jewelry, and it's not ironic that often the products go so well with the flowers - they are often the muse behind many of my color pallet choices :) (pictured: purple Amethyst earrings, $14)
Last weekend I went to a wedding in Minnesota and was thrilled to see the bride having chosen one of the most beautiful, and temperate, of all flowers as her theme: the hydrangea. The pom of a flower was everywhere, even in the bride's hair, and really made alive all that was the wedding and reception. I took a stalk home with me after the wedding to attempt to press some of the petals for the bride, and they turned out surprisingly well, considering how very delicate its many petals are.
So today I share with you one of my many inspirations, the hydrangea. Not so much products of the flower, but stunning pictures of it. Although one of these products is a broach - can you spot which one?
JMcGuinness, saranorris, kathelesage, flandersfield
GabrielleKai, tuscanystudios, GabrielleKai, RDINOZ creativeapples, 5eizen, creativeapples, flandersfield Be sure to visit their Etsy shops for more surreal hydrangeia inspiration!
So, what inspires you today?

July 20, 2009

Custom Bridesmaid's jewelry for an Indian Wedding

A few weeks ago a childhood friend of mine, Chrissy, asked if I was interested in a crafty trade: she would make me some custom screen printed t-shirts in exchange for some custom jewelry for an Indian wedding she is in. I figured I was up for the challenge and could use some "Bead Up" shirts in return, so I accepted. This was one of those projects that I thought over and re-thought over, as I have never really made jewelry for an Indian wedding outfit before and wanted to be sure not to clutter up the otherwise very busy fabric. Chrissy asked for a pair of earrings and a necklace to go with this orange saree:She said that the bride asked the girls to wear silver shoes with the outfit, so silver findings and accents would work best. Also, the bride already provided orange and pink bangles, so adding pink would do well to bring the all together. This is what I came up with: I couldn't really find any beads that were a true crayon orange, but this burnt amber colored bead and cute little faded yellow faceted roundelles seemed to embody the orange and yellow tones. And, duh, I had to add some pink seed beads in there to bring it all together, too! Since the necklace is pretty powerful by itself, I wanted to do something rather dainty for the matching earrings: Since this wedding is going to be a weekend affair, Chrissy has another outfit in need of jewelery - this beautiful green choli: Chrissy will wear the green fabric as a wrap around her waist and an ivory-colored top to complete the look. For this outfit she wanted a bracelet and earrings. When I saw these really pretty stone beads at the store, something about them screamed "I'm ivory" and "I'm green!" all at the same time!
Matched with some little emerald colored bead and we have ourselves a coordinating look!
I can't wait to see pictures of you in the dresses and jewelry, Chrissy!

July 15, 2009

I love you, Wednesdays.

Ever find yourself surprised when you notice something that you typically can't stand all of a sudden inspires you?
For example, the owl. If someone were to mention Owls to me, the first thing that would pop in my head is a nasty ugly wood-worked owl that used to stare at us from my grandma's living room wall. Or I would think of the Chi-Omega sorority house that was full of them... and not necessarily the cute kind. Or I would think of orange and brown 70's nastiness that still creeps the floors and walls of many a mobile home (my grandma's not excluded!). Or I would think creepy bird that stays up all night "guarding" the place. Ugh. Gives me the creeps. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that Harry Potter 6 releases today. My friend Cheryl reminded me that the owl who delivers the mail in HP's name is Hedwig. I should probably know this since HP is all around me, as I work at the movie studio that made it (example: I am staring at the HP poster that hangs directly behind my computer screen. Disclaimer: I have only ever seen the first movie and read it's corresponding book. Don't hate).
However, I saw this charm at
Beadnicks in Minneapolis the other day and couldn't resist. The lady at the counter asked me if I liked owls and didn't understand why I laughed in response. Apparently I like this owl. In fact, it seems the retro/vintage owl movement is back, as seen in the following super cute Etsy items:
Be sure to visit their shops for more Owl-ness!
I dunno... something is so darn cute about each of these items. Kind of like how we as humans have the ability to artistically make lions and other DANGEROUS animals all cuddly and sweet. I definitely don't think of dirty barns or creepy eyes when I see these owls. I think retro, chic, colorful, urban (though it's a barn animal!), modern, etc.
Something about them inspires me to embrace this silly little bird after all - at least if done as tastefully as these examples! So, in honor of today's release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and in honor of that which surprisingly inspires us, I give you THE OWL.

July 13, 2009

Mission: Wedding Jewelry - Accomplished

Let's be honest. Sometimes you are allowed to be super proud of yourself. Exhibit A: I am SO thrilled with how the jewelry for Kelly's wedding turned out, especially considering the story behind it. Kelly asked me several months ago to make necklaces for herself and her bridesmaid sisters. I have been blogging about how I had been going back and forth on ideas for each outfit, and finally allowed the lack of time left to be my final deciding factor. Based on the pictures of Kelly's dress (as posted here), I figured that letting the very lacy and beaded dress do the talking would be the best route to go. This meant sticking with a simple design that could coordinate with a somewhat antique-looking gown. While in San Francisco, I bought a few strands of super cute and dainty 2mm fresh water pearls (that I also used in the bridesmaids necklace, thus achieving some sense of cohesion). My plan was to wire wrap these and bond them between wire wrapped 4mm pearls. This would have worked marvelously if the holes in the 2mm pearls weren't so stinkin' teeny tiny! I couldn't even get my 24 gauge sterling silver wire into them. Darn. So instead I tried out the 4mm pearls along side larger 6-7mm pearls, wrapping them in Sterling Silver wire and positioning them two 4mm for every one 6-7mm pearl. After wrapping about two 7 inch-long collections of mentioned pearls, I connected them together and ended them with wire wrapped freshwater pearl coin disc beads. I remembered Kelly mentioning that her dress had a dramatic back, so I added about a dozen more of the 4mm pearls to the back of the necklace and ended the addition with a larger pearl. The necklace finished with a sterling silver clasp and wire ring. I was grateful that Kelly said she liked the necklace when I gave it to her at the rehearsal dinner, though still didn't know if it would go well enough with her dress. When I saw her before the wedding ceremony, I literally cried - both because she looked so pretty, and because the necklace turned out so well! The bridesmaids necklaces turned out perfectly, too, if I do say so myself. The girls even said they would wear them again, as they seemed to fit their style.
Wedding mission Accomplished!