Sunday, July 12, 2015

Torch Enameling For Beginners and We're Throwing in Some Special Effects

Booyah!  I'm doin' a webinar!  Whoohoo!

This Wednesday, July 15th... 1pm eastern time, 10am pacific time.

Here's the link to sign up.

Now let me tell you all about it.  I'm so excited because I have so many friends in other parts of the country and the world and we're always like, "Man, I wish we could get together and work on jewelry." Or, "Laura, I wish I could come over and learn some stuff from you."

So this is as close as it gets (for now) to me being able to have some of these far away friends "come to my workshop" and play!

The subject for this webinar is torch enameling... and, you don't need to know ANYTHING.  If you've already taken a class from me or gotten one of my tutorials, you know how "hand-holding" I am in the teaching process.  Trust me, I'm here for you.  We'll go over every step slowly and carefully.

I am so excited that some of my friends who've been wanting to try torch enameling but didn't know how to start will be able to do this and totally open up a whole new world for their jewelry making.

I'll spend the first part of the webinar going over the (inexpensive) tools and supplies you need and showing you the steps to torch enameling.  And the second part of the webinar I'm going to show you how to do all kinds of things with your newly learned technique.  You can do sgraffito, blending, cloisonne, decals, stamping, frit, add gold accents (okay, that is the only part that's not cheap), enamel paints, and adding embellishments.


No worries if you can't be there for the live narration.  Still sign up 'cause...

"If you can't attend the live event, don't worry. A recording from the live session will be uploaded to the web seminar area within a week after the live event and the recording will remain available online for 30 days after the live event. You can watch the recording anytime during those 30 days, or download to keep."

BTW, no fancy (oxi-acetylne) torch needed.  You can get some of your supplies from Home Depot or a kitchen store!

Please please please, if you take this class, send me pictures of what you end up creating.  I can't wait to see how this technique opens up new creative avenues for you.

Alrighty... gonna go now.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 6, 2015

EtsyMetal Blog Carnival -- Artistic Influence


It’s time for the monthly EtsyMetal Blog Carnival. This month team members are sharing information about their artistic influences.

This blog carnival is a great way to get to know some of the EtsyMetal team members. Please click on blog links at the bottom of this post to see the other entries for this month.

The question(s):
Who or what are your biggest artistic influences?
Are you influenced by family members, famous artists, art movements...?

My work is mostly influence by my personal philosophies.  I'm sort of the queen of anti-drama... meaning I don't like anything drama-related.  I want the opposite of intense, and my not overly ornamental jewelry shows it.

My work tends to strive for simplicity, minimalism, and ease -- in design as well as wearability.


I prefer my pieces not be high-maintenance.   For example, my favorite pieces are ones you can wear day in and day out without removing and only needing minimal and occasional care.

So in light of my personal beliefs, I'd say the Japanese aesthetic in artwork captures my attention the most when it comes to influence.

I think this enameled pendant was the start of my interest in combing the Zen concepts of simplicity with my artwork.


The ensō in particular (a hand drawn circle made in one brush stroke) fascinates me...

... and I find myself working with circles in a lot of my designs.


I also like the starkness of straight lines (I wonder if my love of math relates to my love of these two binary symbols).
 

But minimalism aside, I'm also a huge fan of the arts and crafts movement of the early 20th century.  The designs are phenomenal and the philosophies of craftsmanship are inspiring.


So once in a while I do something just for fun... something that reminds me of other work I admire... work that makes me feel good.

I've seen so many beautiful Art Nouveau creations that use the moth as a design element.  Look at Lucien Gaillard's work and you'll see what I mean.


It's said that Gaillard applied the lessons of Japanese art to his studies and that seems to make my love of his work come full circle in a way that makes total sense.

Anyway, admiring some of Gaillard's work recently inspired me to create a sterling cuff bracelet with saw pierced moth silhouettes.


So there you have it... a peek into the influences of my thought process for designs.

Here are links to other EtsyMetal team members taking part in this month's blog carnival.  Click on their names to see what their artistic influences are.

2Roses
Beth Cyr



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Social Media Marketing for Your Etsy Shop, Truly Rich Pins on Pinterest... or Not

Two days does not valid research make, but the results are so different I think the conclusions we draw will match the longer term research.

Thursday I made some posts to Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram of items in my Etsy shop.

Friday I did no social media marketing.



There's just such a huge difference in views, it seems very telling.

It's not even the favorites or the orders (although in the end it IS the orders)... but five times the views!  Wow!

I've only got 50 or so products in my Etsy shop and it's a jumbled mess so I don't expect high views right now.

Once I get the shop sorted out, however, I'd like to go to 200 views per day and then 300.  I have some friends who get 5-6 views a day and I have friends who get 500-600 views a day.  What do you all think might be some of the differences?

Really Getting Rich Pins on Pinterest

This post has been edited because the nice people at IndieMade shared some information with me that may help me understand some of the fluctuations I saw.  Thanks guys!

I've reposted their comments at the bottom of my post.  

You are about to read a stream of consciousness.  What I'm about to show you is how I wasted some good work time trying to figure something out and as you'll see in the end, nothing was resolved.  I'm telling you this ahead of time so you do NOT believe any of the things I say at first... when I *think* I know what's going on.  Follow along on this journey through me trying to figure out rich pins and you'll see what I mean.

So I noticed the other day that not all my pins are equal, so I am going about trying to figure out why.

Both my Etsy site and my regular website are rich-pin enabled.

So here's a screen shot of two items I posted this morning.


One of the first things I notice is that when I choose which image I want to pin from my listing, if I select the main photo, I get the better text (example: "Abstract Hammered Copper Scarf Pin -- Bracken Designs Studio Art Jewelry").

If I select one of the other images, the text that's displayed is whatever I wrote for the jpg description if I assigned it some text... not sure if those are officially called metatags or not (that's on my IndieMade website... we'll discuss Etsy in a minute).  So for the non-main photo selected, we see "ring hand model" because that's the text that I used to identify that image in my listing.  If I don't write any text for a photo while I'm creating my listing, the default is to use the listing title in which case they'd all be identical like you'll see with the Etsy photos.

When I select the main photo, I get a nice bold title beneath the photo.

Another thing about using the "main photo".  IndieMade (my website host) uses a main photo for each listing that is smaller than the actual photo.  This gives the customer the option to click onto that (or any other photo) and see the full size version of the photo only if they wish to.  Etsy does the same thing but for some reason Pinterest interprets it differently.

So here is how it looks when I am about to pin an item and it gives me the image choices (BTW, you can click on any photo in my blog to see a larger version).


Here it displays all the images in my listing (this is from my IndieMade website).  Notice that the first image and the last image look identical.  They are... kind of.  What they are is the main image for my listing and the full size image if someone wants to click on the main image to see it larger.

This is important to note because they make a difference where Pinterest is concerned.  The first image (far left) is the blown up full size version of the image.  I can tell because the text beneath the image is just the metatags I used for the image.  But if you don't add metatags (like our Etsy example coming up), the text is identical on each photo.

So then how you'd know if you have the main photo is by hovering your mouse over the two images.  That brings up the size of the image.  The larger one is NOT the main photo.  So if you want that nice bold title on your Pinterest post, make sure you select the smaller photo.

Here, btw, is what the image options look like if I Pin from my Etsy shop.


Some of the differences:
  1. None of the images are the actual full size... they are all less than 600 pixels which is, I'm assuming, what Etsy shows prior to the customer clicking on the image for a better look.
  2. The title that shows on my pin will be the same no matter which image I select (it's the listing title) because you can't add metatags to images in Etsy.
  3. Pinterest also grabs a couple extra photos... from my ABOUT ME page.
And to further emphasize RICH PINS, here's what it looks like when you click on a rich pin.


You see the name of the website URL, the title of the piece (or metatags associated with that image), the price, and the descriptive name of my shop.

Compare that with the pin that was NOT my main image.


My website URL... that's it.

Okay, that was how to Pin from my IndieMade website.

Now for Etsy...

I pinned that same non-main image but from my Etsy Shop.


For this pin it IS a rich pin (see price, store name, listing title, etc).

So it SEEMS as though pinning any photo from Etsy still gives you a rich pin.  Or so I thought.  Until I saw this.

I ran across a pin where someone else had pinned an item from my Etsy shop.


Why oh why is this not a rich pin? 

To make matters worse, here's the same listing... when I pinned it it became a rich pin.



Oh, but it gets better.  Because it isn't getting confusing enough, now I see this.


This is not a main photo... it is from my IndieMade website... and yet it's a Rich Pin.

What gives?

Where's the rhyme and reason?

Yes, I'm one of those people.  I want an explanation for everything.

I was the "why" kid.

Why are some of my pins rich and others not?  I want to know so I can assure they will always be rich pins.

Well, if you look close at the bottom of the one where someone else posted one of my items, it does have the title and price and name of my shop there... sort of all run together.


BTW, thank you Tara Waters (and others) for posting my necklace to Pinterest.  I'm honored when people take the time to add any of my work to social media.  I'm truly delighted.

Okay, I'm getting that overwhelmed feeling trying to figure out a pattern.  I'll leave it for now and if I ever understand it, I'll come back here.

I'm not one for arbitrariness.

Well, I can't go to bed with this hanging over my head, so a wee bit more experimentation first.

I go to my IndieMade website first and pin the following:
  1. Red enamel earrings -- main (smaller) photo
  2. Red enamel earrings -- same photo but expanded version
  3. Red enamel earrings -- model photo 
The results...


Why on earth does the third one say "from Bracken Designs Studio Art Jewelry" and have the nice bold listing title and the other two don't?  Basically, why is #3 the rich pin?!

When you click on each one, as can be guessed at, the only one that is truly a rich pin (and shows the price of the listing) is #3... the model photo.

So not only am I wrong with my theory of WHICH pins become rich based on which image you select, but now we're immersed in arbitraryness.  A place I'm totally uncomfortable.  I'm a pattern person.  I need things to make sense and this doesn't.

Okay, now I'm going over to my Etsy shop and do the same thing and we'll see what I get.


Dumbfounded once again.

Pin #1 was the main image on my Etsy listing.  #'s 2 and 3 were extra photos on the listing.

Why is #1 the rich pin?

Maybe I can establish ONE pattern... maybe with Etsy listings you only get the rich pin if you select the main photo.  BRB

Well, I *did* discover something.  I ought to scrap this blog post and save myself some embarrassment, but what the heck.  If you don't know by now what I'm like, it's time you did.

So I posted three pins from another Etsy listing... this time out of order (1st was an extra photo, 2nd was an extra photo, 3rd was the main photo).

This time I ended up hitting refresh on my Pinterest board page and guess what... suddenly all my etsy posts turned into rich pins.  Here are the images from before and after refreshing the page.


You can see all three did become rich pins (bottom row) after I refreshed the page.

So it's good to know that if your pin doesn't look rich right away, that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a rich pin.

So I still would like to figure out:
  1. Why not all my pins from my IndieMade shop become rich pins
  2. Why it's arbitrary which pins from my IndieMade shop become rich pins.
  3. Why a few of the pins from other people of items in my etsy shop are not showing up as rich pins (it seems most items posted of my stuff by other people ARE turning into rich pins).
EDITED: As promised, here's the comment from one nice IndieMade representative who's trying to help me solve the mystery.

She said: "Laura, thanks for this extensive experiment. I work with IndieMade and they took at look at your questions and here's what I've got. IndieMade includes Rich Pins for every item but Pinterest "caches" versions of a page, to make their software faster. So you might be seeing an older version of the page that didn't have the rich pins. (For example their FAQ on this says "For older Pins, it may take a few weeks for them to appear as Rich Pins.") They're going to run a few tests to see if they can see what's going on."

I very much appreciate their response and I will indeed see if anything changes on my "test pins" a month from now.  As of today, the IndieMade pins made NOT from the main photo are not always turning into rich pins.  These are new pins so... we'll wait and see.

And now I have a date with the third book in the Maze Runner series.  Yes, I'm a huge fan of young adult fiction.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

DIY Drying Rack, Overthinking, Etsy Motivation

Monday it was 104 degrees here and today it's been raining all day.  California Junes can be fickle.

Here's my latest contraption for applying sealant to small pieces.

Styrofoam, bamboo skewers cut in half, scotch tape, and cheap base metal headpins.  I don't even have to remove the pieces to dunk them into the small vial of Protectaclear.

I will say, however, I'm not fond of the two ways I've tried to apply the Protectaclear.  I've read many online instructions and am still less than 100% satisfied.

If I brush the liquid on with either a brush or sponge, it leaves streak marks.  If I dunk the piece into the liquid, it pools at the bottom of the piece no matter how long I babysit it by sitting there wiping the accumulation of liquid.

Sorry if I sound whiny.

Anyway, decided against turning these pieces into a bracelet (particularly since there are still three or four somewhere around the workroom -- after being shot into hyperspace by my JoolTool and now residing in that twilight zone with other missing jewelry pieces).  I will make the disks into earrings and move on.

Now might be a good time to discuss overthinking.  Because I do spend a lot of time worrying (I'd like to say thinking, but the reality is it's worrying) about ... everything? 

I worry the metal will tarnish or oxidize too quickly.  I worry if I put a sealant, it will wear off and look even worse.  I worry that customers won't get "import tax" or "natural metal oxidation" or "international shipping times" and I'll be blamed for all these things.

I worry that every piece of jewelry I sell will be returned to me.  In 15 years I've only had one return and it wasn't even much of a return.  A wire-wrapped earring unwrapped a bit and the problem was solved... the customer still had the earrings in the end... so it was a quasi-return.



Overthinkers

Let's start with this article.  That is the humorous (while still true) side of overthinkers.  Here's an excerpt:  "We’re not insecure control freaks, we just think. A lot. I mean you don’t have to call us back right away when you’re out, but just know that our mind is playing out a bunch of horrible scenarios in which you’ve cheated. Or died. That’s right, if we reach your voicemail, we can’t help but consider that you might not be alive."

This is a less humorous article about the problem.  Here's an excerpt: "I hate not being in control of a situation or myself, or not knowing the outcome. I get scared and can totally induce a panic attack without even trying. I imagine bad things that will probably never happen and analyze everything beyond recognition."

Any of that sound familiar?  If so, I sadly welcome you to my family (my family being that place in my head that I want to work on).

The advice given to overthinkers ("live in the moment", "don't worry", "sh*t happens") is well-intentioned and may even make perfect sense, but putting those replacement thoughts into action isn't easy by a long shot.

I've made myself a personal reminder piece of jewelry.  I think if I can just remind myself, even randomly to start with, to slow down or to be more present or more in the moment.... I mean, at least it's a reminder.

Even if I'm still overthinking, I've got to start somewhere.  So just a reminder, once a day if possible would be better than nothing.

And who knows, maybe eventually it could become habit... to stop my thoughts in their tracks, take a deep breath, and indeed slow down and think about NOW instead of five minutes from now, five days from now, five years from now.

So yeah, what should I call my new line of "reminder" jewelry?  Got any ideas?


And now onto the random information section...

Improve Your Etsy Shop

This video was brought to my attention recently (I spend a lot of time visiting various online forums and discussion groups... there's a lot of great info being shared out there).

I did watch the whole video and what she says makes sense and although it's a long video (in my book) she does get right to the points so I'm passing it along to you.


If you like that one, check out her video called "How to get noticed and increase traffic on Etsy".

And here's an article I want to pass along.  The tagline is: "No excuses, no laziness, no comparisons"

While the author tells it like it is in a "beating you upside the head with a wet washcloth" kind of feel, I think his words are wise and should be heeded if you aren't yet succeeding on Etsy (or anywhere you're trying to sell).  The days of "if you build it, they will come" are a thing of the past.

New Laura Jewelry

And for a sudden derailment of any cohesive nature to this blog, I will now share with you a couple of my latest pieces.

This one is most likely not for sale.  It's saw pierced copper that I made into a 3D frame, and inside is a double-sided enameled panel.
http://brackendesigns.com/store

Oh here's some simple earrings.  I've had these Pink Peruvian Opals for several years.  Finally decided they'd look good in really minimalist earring designs.
http://brackendesigns.com/store

So that's it for today.  Check in again soon for more weird ramblings though my head.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Making Jewelry or Driving Yourself Crazy with Marketing


I've officially "had it".  I can't figure everything out.  I concede.  And maybe it's not even that I can't figure it all out but that I don't want to figure it all out.

Pinterest
Promoted Pins
Buyable Pins
Business Pinterest
Verified Pins
Rich Pins

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! 

And that's all just from one social media form (Pinterest).  Multiply that confusion by dozens of social media forms and dozens more search engine optimization strategies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not leaving the tech marketing world entirely.  I'm just drawing a line.  It's the line that keeps my sanity in check.

And today I blame Google Analytics.  It used to be easy.  Now it's all convoluted and tangential.  Bah!

As far as Pinterest goes... I'm verified, I have a business account, I have rich pins, I'm using promoted pins, and I've signed up for buyable pins... I think.

Trying to keep up with the tech marketing Joneses can be an exercise in frustration to say the least, and a way of avoiding making jewelry in the worst case scenario.

More and more of my jewelry buddies are lamenting the loss of jewelry making time in exchange for social media marketing time.

And yet if we don't do it, we KNOW we're not going to be noticed.

Who are these automatons who can make enough jewelry to have more than 100 listings on Etsy at all times and can still spend almost 8 hours a day with Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and.....  Yeah.

Pulling back the reins and trying to keep my work in perspective.

I can't do it all.  This is so sad. 

The internet is kind of a weird place for "all or nothing" kind of people.  When I do something, I wanna do it... RIGHT... I wanna do it... BIG... I wanna do it... BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.

When I was 14, I collected memorabilia on Jimmy Page.  It was fun.  I'd take the bus downtown every couple of months and look at the magazines in the music store to see if there were any articles.  When I got to go to San Francisco, I'd go to the record store that had bootlegs albums and I'd rifle through them looking for the ever so rare bootleg of Led Zeppelin live.  I'd take my cassette tape recorder and make sure I was at home to record interviews off the radio when they occurred. 

I think you get the picture.  It was fun, like a treasure hunt with rare finds.

Now?  Now, it's not as much fun.  You want Jimmy Page memorabilia, you just need money.  Much less skill involved.  Much less planning and joy when rewarded.

But if you're an "all or nothing" person, you don't want to just get a few things in your collection.  You want the best collection possible.

I have to let go of the "all or nothing" mentality with marketing.  I will do my best.  I will try to learn what I can and I will spend a dedicated amount of time (no more than 30% of my work day) on marketing.

The line must be drawn even if it means losing internet visibility.

This rant had no purpose.  I'm just talking out loud this morning.  Forgive me.







So... on to other subjects.

TV Stuff

Here are my latest offerings to Hollywood.  Remember, if you're the first one to spot any of my work and let me know, you get the piece for free.

Sent these little earrings to the stylist for Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce.

 

And sent this pendant to a new celebrity game show called "Heads Up".  I'm showing you two photos because I made two versions, slightly different.



Copyright Infringement

A topic that comes up a lot in jewelry making circles.  Here's an article that might be an interesting read.

It tries to answer the following questions:

  1. Is it copyright infringement to use someone else's material on YouTube without their permission?
  2. Is it copyright infringement to post a picture you took from a from a google image search (or any other internet source)?
  3. Is it copyright infringement to publish a translation of someone else's foreign work?
While I'm not running myself ragged with copyright worries, I do find these kinds of articles interesting.  I am intrigued with what's okay and not okay in this fast-changing internet world.

And now the ironic part where I share a meme I didn't create.  I kind of get the feeling memes are created solely for the purpose of sharing, but I could be wrong.  And here's an article on the subject (but sort of more the creating of the meme... not the sharing of it once it's been created... shrug).



Still hard to believe there was no practical internet until the 90's (when both my kids were born).  Neither of my children can understand the concept of a life before the internet and yet is was only a really short time ago.  And it's significant.  It's not like when my parents said things like, "we only had black and white tv shows when we were growing up".  The internet (and cell phones) changed almost everything.