Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Downtime? What downtime?

The booth this past weekend. Couldn't quite crop out the jogger, but what a great glow from the rising sun (I was at the festival at 7 to finish setting up and lay out the jewelry)

I exhibited at the Atlanta Arts Festival this past weekend. It was both wonderful and not-so-wonderful...but it was much more wonderful than the last festival (Ruidoso Art Festival) was for me:

- I sold nine one of a kind, stone-set pieces of jewelry. I've written before about how gratifying it is when customers really connect with "their" piece of jewelry, and the one of a kinds always call to their own. This weekend I sold the most of these I've ever sold at one venue, and the customer interest and feedback was WONDERFUL. At least at this festival, I wasn't "too small, too non-bling-y, or too weird" like the folks in Ruidoso seemed to think. :)

- Weather was about as perfect as it could be. After all my other Atlanta shows have been half-rained out, it was nice to have two full selling days of comfortable temps and no water. Not that having both days helped (see below)...

- I connected and re-connected with some great people. Living the solitary-I'm-busy-cranking-out-work-in-my-studio life, alternating with the I'm-busy-traveling-to-and-exhbiting-at-art-shows life, doesn't leave a lot of time for personal relationships...the hours at an art show are SELLING TIME. It's what I'm there to do, it's how I make the bulk of the income that keeps my business going, it's what I've given both my hard-earned money and time to be there for. So if you're busy at a festival, you can't walk around and chat with your other artist friends, and even if they come to see you, you sometimes can't take much time away from selling to visit with them. But this weekend there were definitely slow patches of the show and I got to spend a bit of time catching up with old friends and making some new ones.

On the flip side...

- I sold nine one of a kind, stone-set pieces of jewelry. Which is awesome, unless you have only about ten days before you drive to Nashville to exhibit at another show...yikes! I should be making jewelry right now instead of writing this, so don't be surprised if I don't post here again for a bit. I love making these creations, but I can only physically make so many a day. And I can't physically work on them every day, because my body can't take it. So I am going to have to be very judicious in how I get this schedule of work done before leaving for Tennessee.

- Saturday sales were not crazy-busy, but steady. It was a good day and profitable. Sunday's sales...I had two. Both before noon. None after (the show ran until 5 pm). Five hours without sales. And the two sales on Sunday morning, together, would not have covered my expenses...so it's good that the buying customers were around on Saturday! The reality is that every festival is a gamble. You jury, and get accepted - yay! - you pay your booth fee, you travel if necessary, you show up with the very best work and designs you have, and then you hope that the show has done their part - advertising, bringing in the foot traffic, that it has the right customer base for your creations, hope that the weather is good, that there aren't other events in the town/city that take people's focus away from your event...I could go on and on but you get the point. Each show is a risk.

So I'm glad it worked out this time. And I'm going to get to work on new items and hope that it works out the next time...I'm coming, Nashville! Let's have some fun together! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Higher, Faster, Stronger. The Best Never Rest. Etc.

Though I struggle against it, I am a perfectionist. It's in my bones, in my DNA. I want the best, I want to *be* the best, I want to be able to...be stronger, fly higher, design and fabricate (and do everything else) faster. It's a driving force in my life but also a constant source of dissatisfaction.

And my own designs are certainly not off limits from my expectations, of course. Usually when I'm designing one of the labor-intensive, fabricated pieces, it's (mostly) a labor of love. Sometimes it's just a labor. And the last time I did one of these, when yet ANOTHER part of the process utterly didn't work, I cried - just a little - and yelled some unrepeatable words. And I do mean yelled. At the top of my lungs. Twice. (the first time just wasn't satisfying enough).

Then I stepped away from the work table. I had a snack. I poked around on the computer. For about twenty minutes. Then I made myself go back to the work table, pick up the torch, and begin again. Some days, that's what it's all about - refusing to give up. Of course, some days I should give up, but this was not one of those days. How do I know the difference? Trial and error. :)

What was frustrating me was not learning something new, but rather running into an issue(s) with tasks I've done before. A lot before. So much so that I should be able to pretty much do them with ease. And most days I do...but not earlier this week. Monday's work was an exercise in picking one's self up after being dropped in the dirt repeatedly. Bloody, but unbowed, and all that.

So what did perseverance get me? Well...

This. Which isn't a bad reward. It's better when you don't start thinking that the reward  might never happen...because this nearly went in the scrap jar more than once. But it's completed and all is good.  :)

It's slightly different from this piece in a few ways:

- I made the overall pendant more lightweight, using a lighter back plate. The other one was comfortable to wear, but rather heavy. By the time I'd finished the three plaques, and the chain, all that metal added up. I wanted to design a bit lighter this time. Less silver = less cost. Metals prices still aren't super inexpensive, and keeping costs down is always a bonus.

- I  also learned from this chain:

to go bigger, bigger, bigger on handmade chain loops. The chain above was nearly the death of me, both the making of and the cleanup / polishing. First, I don't love soldering small jump rings. These are about 3.5 mm
18 gauge rings. And there are a LOT of them. And my soldering didn't get noticeably better after having done so many. And then hand polishing them all...I did not want to repeat that anytime soon. So I made much bigger, wider links on the new necklace. Result? A happier Jill. Also, less labor because I made 300% fewer jump rings.  :)

- I also wanted to try a different connection method. Past big necklaces like these have had a simple jump ring connection, which has worked fine. But I want to push myself a bit on connectors and bails. I think it's time. So I soldered on some tubing and then ran a jump ring through it, for a more flexible connection. I am planning to use this kind of connection on some other pieces, and wanted to see how easy it would (or wouldn't) be.

And in the meantime, I finished these:

Two of the Royston turquoise stones I purchased in February. The bottom pendant had to be completely redone, because of this:

The bezel kept getting these nicks, or divots, in the top. This has happened before and I couldn't figure out why...I got some online help and now I think I know what was happening. But I had to scrap the bezel and back, saw off the top embellishments, and start again. And of course the top piece(s) didn't just want to magically attach to the new bezel...it took far longer to re-do than it should. I'd almost given up on it entirely.

But I didn't. I cried and I yelled and I might have even stomped my feet a little bit...but eventually the studio diva got her way. At least I can exert my will over the inanimate objects...sometimes. :)

So a lot of imperfection manged to add up to more learning...and at least a *little* satisfaction in the end. Worth the journey, every time.  :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...

Oh positive thoughts, if only you were able to manifest so easily!

In my last post, I was SO excited to have a week in the studio. I should have known better. Just when I think I'll get a handle on things, some sort of monkey wrench gets tossed in and the whole plan falls apart.

I won't bore you with the details. I'll just say that my output last week was so much less than I'd planned or hoped for. But at least there was some output. Here's the evidence:

Crescendo necklace and earrings, turquoise

Yes, at least some of the twenty-odd bezels I made last week got all the way through the stone setting process. And I love the way they turned out. The pendant gave me fits at first, but I'm so pleased with the end result. I love the contrast between light and dark in these stones, and wanted the embellishments to reflect that. The earrings don't have room for as much embellishment, of course, but they echo the movement and upward curvings of wire on the necklace.

And then, this:

A lovely Deschutes jasper from Oregon. Deschutes is not easy to come by (nor inexpensive), since the "dig site" is no longer active. I've had this stone for a while, and decided to give it a proper setting. And I like it so much that I may have to go hunting for a few more Deschutes cabs when I'm in Tucson next year...

I don't buy a lot of round stone cuts, because I think they're sort of boring. But this was more about the patterns of the stone, rather than the shape. And of course I wanted to contrast the smoothness of the stone with some pointy asymmetrical embellishments. It's also a bigger stone - and bigger embellishments - than I normally use. But I'm thrilled with the result.

Also, the next mosaic piece is on the way...most of the mosaics are soldered on and it's probably two-thirds of the way finished. Not including making the chain...I love the handmade chains when they're finished, but I don't love the actual process of constructing them. And I'm trying to do something a little different with the connections this time...I'll show you all of it once that baby's done.  :)