Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ups And Downs

I've just returned home from a trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico, where I exhibited at the Ruidoso Arts Festival. I elected (perhaps somewhat crazily, in hindsight) to drive to and from the festival (that's a 22-hour drive, folks. Each way). You *may* be thinking I'm a little worn out today. You *may* be right.  :)

Unfortunately I did not come home with bags of money...far from. The show was a not all that I'd hoped for, but I certainly learned a lot...and of course, I'm going to share those learnings.  :)

First, the positives:

- The show is BEAUTIFUL. One of the prettiest art shows I've seen, with some really lovely art, ceramics, and sculpture. Caveat - you have to love the West / Southwest, or at least like a little touch of it, to want to shop at this festival. It's VERY South/Western. It's also indoors, in an excellent setting (the Ruidoso Convention Center). Very Southwestern / Lodge feel. There were several bronze artists there with amazing work (I love bronze sculpture).

- I had a GREAT booth. I didn't ask for (or pay for) a corner, but as it turned out, I ended up with one anyway. Which is always nice.  :)   Here's a booth shot:

The shot's taken from the direct corner angle, so that's my tent pole you see right in the center. I changed some things for this festival - mainly the new photos (hanging from the back walls) and the black fronts for the abstracta displays. The black panels look so clean and crisp and it just felt more polished overall. Plus my "inside" curtains (from when I used to do wholesale shows) almost exactly match my "outside" curtains (for retail festivals), which I used to wrap the top of my tent (unseen in this shot) and the side poles for a more polished look. I got lucky on the carpeting - it was provided by the convention center.

Here's a shot without the black panels for my display cases:

MUCH cleaner looking with the inserts.  :)

- I won first place in the jewelry category!! What a nice surprise. I'd submitted three pieces for judging, and this one won:

So a little "yay me". The blue ribbon was a nice attention-getter / conversation starter all weekend.

Now, the negatives:

- Foot traffic was exceptionally light, all three days. Most festivals are a numbers game; to make your necessary expenses and some profit, you have to have a LOT of potential customers coming to the event. Because what's the old phrase? "One yes for every seven no's"? I'd say it's more like every fifteen no' light foot traffic means it's that much harder to get to "yes" because you have a lot less customers to interact with in the first place.

- Apparently Ruidoso is where half of Texas goes to "summer" each year. Okay, I exaggerate a wee bit; Ruidoso, a town of (normally) 10,000, can't possibly accommodate half of TEXAS. But there were a LOT of Texans. And y'know what I found out about Texans? They have decided preferences. It *is* Texas, after all. This should surprise no one:

1. Bigger IS Better.

2. I Want My Bling

3. Bigger is Better, I Want My Bling, AND I don't want to "stand out" too much. I just want to "show off."

What that meant for me was:

1. The designs were too small. The newest pieces with the brightly colored stones got a lot of attention. But they were not bold enough for the Texas ladies.

2. The designs were not bling-y enough. I don't use faceted stones, I don't use crystals...see where I'm going with this? There was a jewelry booth at the end of my row, with very high end work - white gold, yellow gold, big fat blue topaz, tourmaline, etc. They had tons of customers all day long. It wasn't the most *creative* work...usually when working in gold the designs tend to be more conservative - but it WAS bling-y.

3. The designs were too weird. The mosaic metal pieces got a lot of attention, especially with the blue ribbon placed prominently next to my winning necklace, but I think they were a little too edgy for the crowd. Also, I'd run an ad in a local paper, and several people mentioned the ad. But what they said was, "Oh, I thought it would be BIGGER!".


Apparently - several exhibitors told  me - this show can totally tank in sales or it can be phenomenal. Unfortunately I can't afford to take the time / spend the money each year on that much of a gamble. I had a lot of expenses, coming all the way from Georgia, and the driving was hard on my body. So I won't be going back...but I now know that if I get into any Texas shows, I need a different product line.  :)

Additional positives (silver linings, kids!) were parts of the drive - I've said a million times how much I love the West, and driving through New Mexico was awesome. On my drive out, there were huge, huge stretches of land (for hours on end) that were just uninhabited. I love that wilderness; it makes me feel small (in a good way) and makes me so aware of the rest of the world. I drove through a lot of that space in silence, no phone, iPod off, working out things in my head. It was good for me.  :)

A lot of my NM driving looked like this. Except all flat; no mountains. This was closer to Ruidoso than, say...Clovis. :)

I also made a new friend. You know how you meet someone, and everything just clicks? That's exactly what happened with this girl. We had plenty of time to talk (unfortunately!) during the festival, and we went to dinner each night as well. It's amazing when you encounter someone who immediately "gets" you and you "get" them. Such an unexpected and wonderful bonus.

Also...being in New Mexico last weekend caused me to miss out on one of my staple gem shows, so I made a little side trip to Albuquerque, where one of my suppliers has a big warehouse. And I spend two hours picking out some new play toys.  :)  Here's just a little of what I purchased:

Turquoise pairs for earrings. I have quite a few turquoise pendants in my stock, but am low on earrings. The stones in the center are Peruvian opal, but the rest are turquoise.

I have the opposite situation with Larimar: lots of earring stones but few pendants. So these are a few of the pendant-sized stones I bought (The top two are for earrings; they had such a pretty pattern I couldn't resist).

More to come...I got some more fancy turquoise cuts and I'll show them to you soon, I promise. For now...more unpacking and a day of (mostly) resting after the long trip. Back into the studio tomorrow!  :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hi Torch, I Missed You!!

Okay, I'm a geek. I love what I do. I didn't really miss it while I was gone, but I was sad to leave the work table and I'm glad to be back, though today started out a bit slow (and late! Good thing Brett is working late am I).

San Francisco was fabulous. Though cold. And it made me yearn to move West (again...I know. Broken record). But the trip was a really good break, and though I'm struggling a little with getting back into a rhythm, I did manage to finish up some designs I started before the trip:

Morenci turquoise, from Arizona. It had a little issue with one of the balls not staying put. But now it's all set. I love the color of this turquoise - pure, unadulterated blue heaven. And once again, I played with symmetry / asymmetry, stacking design elements on an asymmetrical cabochon. There's a calmness to this pendant that I really like.
Some gorgeous chrysocollas! I love the blue-green combination in these stones. I added slightly vine-y elements to echo the flowing of colors on the stone surfaces.
These designs have been a lot of fun, but I think I am going to step away from these pieces for a little while. I want to do some more Larimar in this style, but lately I've been itching to do more of the metal-intensive pieces. I've got some designs in my head that I can't wait to start executing. I love the color intensity of this jewelry, with the metal as accent, but I really want to explore some new work that's metal I guess we know what I'll be working on this week! *After* I get done with a custom order, that I'll keep this short and get right back to the torch. Lots of lost time to make up for.  :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Knowing When to Take a Break

I woke up today feeling crappy. Which is no surprise, because I went to bed last night feeling crappy. Which is also no surprise...because I'm not sure I can recall the last time I really rested.

Coming back from my father's memorial service on the 24th with a lingering sadness. Realizing that I won't be able to attend my friend's memorial service in late July. Planning for an unexpected destination wedding in August (as well as a destination bridal shower). My mother is coming for a visit (also in August). My SIL and BIL were here for a week and left last Friday. Tonight I leave for five days in San Francisco. Trying to continue making jewelry in all that mess, constantly feeling like I can't stay on top of everything (anything!). Having the a/c out in our house (where I work) for two days (that was the week before last, but it's no fun working with a hot torch when it's hot inside).

I'm kind of wiped. I realized that I was dangerously close to burnout with the jewelry right before we left for Arizona. So it was good to take a break from the studio, but it wasn't for uplifting, relaxing reasons. When I travel to Arizona, as I just did, and all the times I went last year while Dad was still alive, it goes like this:

- Fly to Phoenix, pick up rental car, drive to friends' house. Interact with friends. Stay over at friends' house. Unpack for one night, then pack up again and head to Prescott the next day.

- Stay over at Mom's house. Unpack for 1-3 nights, try to adjust to altitude, interact with family.

- Pack up again and drive to Phoenix. Stay over at friends' house. Unpack for one night, then pack again, return rental car, fly home. Go back to work.

There's not a lot of downtime in this scenario. There's flying (always stressful), driving, talking with friends and family, packing and unpacking, more driving and flying.

I don't begrudge my visits last year at all, or this most recent one, but they're draining. And then I come home and work like crazy in the studio. And I go to bed at night and sometimes I just play games on the iPad until I fall asleep, because I'm problem solving all day and just don't want to think about anything once I'm done.

I thought that this year, with less travel, and less festivals, would be an improvement on last year's craziness. In some ways, it has been. I've been finding a rhythm to my studio days, and my studio work. But I still can't seem to manage everything. And travel is just taking everything out of me (oh, and grieving? That, too).

I'm not sure what the answer is...meditation? Yoga? NOT trying to go to every event, and accommodate everyone? Probably a mix of all of the above, to start. At least this morning, I gave myself permission to get a late start in the studio - without feeling guilty. This is part of the point of RUNNING MY OWN business, right? Flexible hours and all that. I guess I'd just like to feel like I'm not RUNNING quite so much. Figuring that out is going to take a little longer though...

In the meantime, I fly to SF tonight - it should have been at 11 *a.m.* today, but somehow Brett and I overlooked the fact that he booked me for 11 I will arrive around 3 a.m Eastern time. Eep! Tuesday morning will be a little rough! But it's likely my last vacation for the year, so I'm going to make the most of it. It seems like I never have a "good time" to travel for pleasure - so much work to do in the studio - but I think I'm not going to be making any good work if I don't take a REAL break now and then.

So I will leave you with some goodies I was able to finish recently:

Chrysocolla. There are supposed to be two pair, but the other set of stones isn't ready to play nice. : )

These and the pendant below are part of a grouping of boulder-y turquoise stones I set recently. I call them "Waterblooms" because they remind me of flowers floating on the water. Beautifully contrasted, really unusual turquoises.

Two pair of Royston turquoise earrings - the first pair, that I mentioned in my prior blog post, already sold:

And I'm having a hard time letting them go. I have to mail them today...but I'm not ready. Sometimes I get a little *too* attached to my gemstones...

And these, just finished yesterday:

These are just a few of the new pieces listed on Etsy and on the Blue Piranha site. Feel free to have fun looking at all the new pretties! I'll be back next week!