Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Day Before Mandatory Introspection

Hello all. I don't have much to say tonight, but I figured I'd say hello.

I had a really nice weekend.

Then, the kids left for Long Beach this afternoon. They arrived safely and made good time.

Oh, did I tell you about my indoor grill? I am TOTALLY in love!

Sanyo HPSSG3 200 Square Inch Electric Indoor Barbeque Grill



I'll probably be taking photos of jewelry tomorrow, which means new listings. My latest kick is gemstone briolettes. :-)

Alright... like I said, just wanted to touch base. I'll write more tomorrow.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

A few useful links

Today’s blog is a mixed bag (you’re probably saying, “And this differs from all your other posts how?”) To which I’d have to say, “Touché.”

But at least this time I have a reason. :-)

I spent some time today going through files on the computer… cleaning up, streamlining, organizing.

Along the way I found some things I saved to share on my blog… but never got around to doing it.

If this first one is a repeat, forgive me. I couldn’t find that I’d already put this in my blog.

A couple weeks ago Mon and I were doing polymer clay projects. It had been awhile and I wanted to clean my pasta machine before sending any new clay through it.

Here’s a link that shows how to dismantle a pasta machine in order to clean it. I have to admit I didn’t put the large face plate panels back on. I didn’t see a need for them.

And here’s a link for quick, up-to-date prices on silver and gold.

BTW, I plan on adding all this info to the SRAJD site. I have plans to expand the RESOURCES section into something monumental. :-)


Okay, here’s one I thought was funny:

Class Writing Project

Remember the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus"? Here's a prime example offered by an English professor at an American University.

"Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right.

One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story.

The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely NO talking and anything you wish to say must be written on the paper.

The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached."



The following was actually turned in by two of my English students: Rebecca (last name deleted), and Gary (last name deleted).


----------------------------------------------------------------

STORY:

(first paragraph by Rebecca)

At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

-----------------------------------------------------------

(second paragraph by Gary)

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago.

"A.S. Harris to Geo-station 17,???*?? he said into his transgalactic communicator. "Polar orbit established.

No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay.

The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Rebecca)

He bumped his head and died almost immediately but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4.

"Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel," Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things round her.

"Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

---------------------------------------------------------

(Gary)

Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through the congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race.

Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet.

With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret Mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid Laurie and 85 million other Americans.

The President slammed his fist on the conference table.

"We can't allow this! I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"

----------------------------------------------------------

(Rebecca)

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Gary)

Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. "Oh shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of F*CKING TEA??? Oh no, I'm such an air headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steele novels."

----------------------------------------------------------

(Rebecca)

Asshole.

----------------------------------------------------------

(Gary)

Bitch.

--------------------------------------------------------

(Rebecca)

DICK!

---------------------------------------------------------

(Gary)

Slut.

---------------------------------------------------------

(Rebecca)

F*** YOU NEANDERTHAL!!!

----------------------------------------------------------

(Gary)

Go drink some tea - whore.

**********************************************

(teacher)

A+ - I really liked this one.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Artisan Jewelry Components versus Mass-Produced Imports

So, here’s what I was going to talk about (several weeks ago) on the subject of artisan components…

There are so many things that are… how shall I say this?... mass-produced?... that we, creative types, can start to feel overwhelmed at the idea of “competing” with what gets shipped in from China (for example) at a price that is a fraction what we would have to charge for the same thing just to break even.

So… if we want to cover our materials’ costs and our overhead (listing fees, kiln use costs, etc) and get some kind of profit or deserving hourly wage… well, we have to do something so we’re NOT competing with the things that are being mass-produced.

Now, you can look at that two ways. One, you can try to stay at the complete cutting edge and/or front of the pack in your creations, setting the trends rather than following them. But most don’t find that easy or even possible to do. In which case we have option two… which is to still make what you make, regardless of if it looks peripherally like the mass-produced imports, and do your best to attract the type of clientele that cares about the differences between SRA (self-representing artisan) made items versus inferior quality, but similar-looking items.

I say “similar-looking” and “looks peripherally like” because if you are a given distance from item A and item B, they may look identical. But once you are close enough, you can see many differences. And those are just the physically obvious differences. There are also things that would/might make your item LAST longer than the other item or wear more comfortably than the other item, etc.

Anyway, the point is that if you want to be in and stay in this business, you have to believe in what you do. You have to decide that you are not competing with the mass-produced imports.

If you ARE making the same things that are being imported en masse, then you are fighting an uphill battle because unless you can live off of a dollar a day you’ll never survive.

If you AREN’T making the same things that are being shipped here daily, then you’ve got to make sure your customers know this.

Tell them how you make your items, what differentiates yours from what they see at WalMart or Target.

If they care, they will buy your items regardless of how much more they cost than the drug store items. If they don’t care, you didn’t have a chance with them anyway. You can’t undercut the import market, so don’t try.

Here, now, are examples of people/shops that decided not to compete with mass-produced imports.

Anne Choi makes beautiful and original bead components by coming up with a design, making a mold of that design, and casting the item in sterling silver in limited editions.



Considering what goes into each piece and how unique it is, I think the prices are quite reasonable.

Please click here to go to her website for more amazing creations.

Another site I’d like to share with you is HandFast Designs.



The third one I’d like to show you is Pacific Silverworks.



It’s not just jewelry, either. Nor is it anything recent.

Look at the difference between Ikea and a place like The Joinery or Northwest Fine Woodworking. There are times when Ikea meets your needs and a time when only a quality, handcrafted woodworking shop meets your needs.

How about handcrafted soap? Sometimes a bar of Ivory is what’s needed… and sometimes seeking out a maker of handcrafted soap is the only way to go.

It is in practically every industry and it’s nothing new… any time anything is created, others try to find ways to make that item cheaper and faster. Luckily for artisans, we don’t all way things made in a cheaper and faster fashion.

I hope maybe something I wrote here has inspired even one person to take a deep breath and say, “That’s right; I’m not in competition with mass-produced imports. The people who I attract as buyers WANT quality and will pay the difference to get it. It’s okay that there are people who want $2 beads for their Pandora bracelets, but there are also people who don’t want those cheap beads. So those are the ones I will target. I will make what I want with love and care and the customers will find me because they WANT quality and originality.”

Okay, gonna jump off the soapbox now. Have a good one!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lazy Saturday... following several weeks of lazy

So…. Gabe, my oldest, graduated from high school this week. Then yesterday he turned 18. We’ve all been spending some quality time together. That means I haven’t been working like a mad woman, running around like crazy. Weird, huh?

We got some movies this week. Watched The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum (watched The Bourne Identity previously). We watched Terminator Salvation last night. And tonight (after Iron Chef America is over), we’ll watch Where the Wild Things Are.

Gabe has his usual for birthday dinner, then Monica and I served the German chocolate cake we made for him. I learned two things about German chocolate cake. There’s no chocolate whatsoever in that trademark frosting. I guess I never really gave it much thought… but making it made me realize about the no chocolate thing. The other thing is that the cake isn’t from Germany at all. “German” was the name of the guy who created the mild dark chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate company. And that’s the chocolate that’s used in this cake.


MEETING PEOPLE

Yeah, it’s not something I like to do. But I was pleasantly surprised today when I met up with someone this morning while the kids were at hockey. We were talking beads (of course). I look forward to starting up my “beading nights”… hopefully soon… now that the kids are out of school.


NEW JEWELRY

Nope. I don’t have any. Weird. I guess I took a little break. I’ll probably get back to it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll actually do something planned. Even though I finding spontaneous beading to be very relaxing, I have been putting off doing anything “serious” lately. Ha ha ha! Oh, except for my Artifact line pieces. I am having a tremendous time with those (and man are they flying off the shelves… whoohoo!).


I HAVEN’T FORGOTTEN

So, two things I’ll probably cover tomorrow (sorry, I did promise them much earlier than now): artisan-made components and a recent order from a large jewelry finding supplier that I was disappointed with.

Just wanted to touch base today… let you know I was still around. 

BTW, thanks for the nice comments everyone!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Google Analytics, Stat Counters, Adding a Customer Survey to Your PayPal Checkout Process

First off, wanted to thank those who take the time to leave me a comment. I love reading them. It’s nice to know my blog is occasionally helpful and/or entertaining. :-)


STUFF

Stuff. Today, “stuff” is driving me crazy. I want to get rid of 95% of the things around me. I want a streamlined existence (first will be material items, then will be tasks).

So… what are the things I want to keep still?
Beads, Tools, etc
Packaging supplies
Reference Books
Photos (maybe can even streamline those someday, when I have the time)
Clothes
A few personal mementos (jewelry, etc)
Files (judicious selection)
Cameras and photo shooting set-up
Computer, software, CDs, DVDs
Jewelry binders (these have collections of inspiration, tutorials, photos, charts, etc)

And, what do I need to get rid of (sell)?
My collection of Carnival glass
My collection of occult books
My collection of estate jewelry
Beads I’m not going to use in the near future
My collection of elpees
My collection of laserdiscs
Gabe’s leg pads

And, what do I need to get rid of (toss)?
Papers that I don’t need to keep “just in case”
Chotchkies
Superfluous clothing, sheets, blankets
Cat toys (take to Mom’s)


NEW JEWELRY LISTINGS (click a pic for more info)

So… here we go… the debut of my first elastic bracelet.




And then four items from my Artifacts line. This is jewelry inspired by ancient Etruscan, Babylonian, and Egyptian jewelry.













I also made a bunch of pendant necklaces using some of the charms and beads I’ve been collecting over the past 15 years… but I haven’t finished photographing them.


Oh, forgot one more bracelet…





WHERE ARE MY CUSTOMERS COMING FROM?

If you’ve ever been curious about this, there are ways to find out.

One popular way is Google Analytics. A free service, btw.

I know a lot of you have Etsy stores. Instructions for setting up a Google Analytic profile for your Etsy shop can be found along the following path: Your Etsy > Shop Setup > Web Analytics

If you have a non-Etsy shop, go to the website (http://www.google.com/analytics) and click on SIGN UP NOW.

Sign in to your Google Account (if you have gmail, that’s your sign in) or sign up for a Google account.

Click on “Sign Up for Google Analytics” and the rest is pretty self-explanatory.

After you sign up (and wait 24 hours for some initial stats to be collected), you can see various things about the people visiting your site.

There’s also Stat Counter. I personally find this one easier to understand than Google Analytics, but that’s probably just because I never bothered too much trying to figure out GA.

Anyway, with these tools, you can see not only how many visitors your site is getting but also which of your pages (aka products) are most popular, what countries people are coming from, how long they spend on your site, etc.

Now, if you wanna be a smidge old-fashioned, there is another thing you can do that you may not know about. You can add a short customer survey to your PayPal set up.

The thing is, you may see different options in your PayPal account based on what kind of PayPal member you are. So some of this is going to be just looking around a bit until you find it.

Anyway, according to PayPal there are three types of accounts:
Personal (for shoppers only), Premiere (for shoppers and sellers), and Business (for merchants). This option may not be available for paypal members with personal accounts.

So… log in to your PayPal account.

Click on PROFILE (under the MY ACCOUNT tab).

For some, under the SELLING PREFERENCES section there is an option for CUSTOM PAYMENT PAGES. You would select that then ADD A CUSTOMER SERVICE SURVEY.

For others (maybe the difference between a premier account and a merchant account), after clicking on PROFILE, you go to the section that states HOSTED PAYMENT SETTINGS and click on CUSTOM PAYMENT PAGE STYLES.

Click on the OPTIONS tab and start playing (I also added gift-wrapping options here).

Hit SAVE when you’re done and … tada!

To see the responses to the survey questions, I hear you can look at the DETAILS of a transaction, but I haven’t tried yet.

Alright… good luck and happy selling!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Does backstory change the experience of whatever it is you're enjoying?

So… an overcast Saturday here in Oakland. The kids are still sleeping. I’m about to ship some orders.

Gabe will be working with some classmates on his senior project (debating the legalization of marijuana) and I’ll be taking Monica to San Jose for some hockey.


NEW LISTINGS











I also listed some stuff on eBay from my personal estate collection. Gotta thin down my hoarding.








DO THOSE THINGS MATTER?

So, I’m watching a tv show and it’s some kind of talent competition and there’s this singing group and I know at least one of the people used to be homeless and then somehow turned his life around.

But then I got distracted and didn’t hear all the rest, but I’m thinking maybe everyone in the signing group used to be homeless or something and turned themselves around.

They sang well and got an amazing reaction from the crowd and the judges, so here’s my question (and it relates to jewelry, so hang in there): Is the audience’s joy of the experience amplified by their knowledge of the background of the singers?

If yes, that lends credence to my theory (or hope) that backstory is important… even in jewelry.

I used to say that each of my pieces of jewelry has a story. What I mean by that is that I am excited about the components and/or the techniques used to create jewelry… and I like to share this information (and hopefully excitement).

I want you to know that the Bali silver I buy is made by silversmiths who take tiny bits of sterling rope and dots and place these into patterns on each base bead with a melding agent.

I want you to know that the glass beads I buy (or make) are created by melting different colored rods of glass in a torch and draping this molten glass onto a metal skewer, creating patterns, designs and shapes then putting the bead into a kiln where it is properly baked at very specific heats and for specific times to ensure molecular stability and longevity for the bead.

I want you to know that the design on the bead you’re holding wasn’t painted on; it was created by the artist taking different colors of polymer clay (playdough-like substance) and manipulating it into the desired design, then baking the bead, sanding it, varnishing it and polishing it.

And so on. Even just interesting facts about different gemstones or backgrounds on the artists, etc.

Does backstory change the experience of whatever it is you're enjoying?