Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Earring Inventory

Working at a furious pace (for me, that is) for the past few weeks, I've finally managed to get my earring inventory back to where it should be.  I don't have a count of the number of pairs, I just know that when the the two Rubbermaid plastic shoe boxes are full, I'm happy.  This does not include my etsy inventory, which is stored separately in its own shoebox, clearly marked "etsy".

So I thought I'd share with you my strategy for storing my earrings inventory. 

At the end of a few days of earring-making, I card the earrings on cards that I print myself.  (After so many years of printing my own cards, I can't seem to break with that habit, as much as I think I should.  It's very time consuming to print and cut all those cards.   I basically use that activity as a "filler" when I'm in a creative slump or just not in a creative mood.)  After carding with little rubber backs where appropriate, I price with little white stickers and add a plastic hang tab. 

Now the earrings are ready for display at a show or for delivery to a gallery.  Most of the stores I deal with love the fact that the earrings are priced and have the hang tabs on them.  This saves them some steps and they can get the earrings on display asap!  Good for all of us.

Of course, I have a wholesale appointment later this week.  If all goes well, I'll be back on the earring-making treadmill in no time!

Monday, June 28, 2010

An Eclectic Color Combination

I've been staring at these bright aqua blue apatite briolettes for a couple of months now.  They look great all by themselves, but what if I want to combine them with another stone?  Their color is so overpowering!  I tried a bunch of different stones -- garnets - too dark, peridot - not bad, andalusite - blah, and on and on.

Finally, I tried the tanzanite.  Perfection!  I thought the apatite would overshadow the periwinkle color of the tanzanite, but it didn't.  Here are the results.

Clicking on the photo will take you directly to the listing in my etsy shop.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Alaska Botanical Garden Gala

This past Thursday evening was the annual gala at the Alaska Botanical Gardens in Anchorage.  While we always go the the craft show following the gala, we had never attended the gala before.  This year, Rick invited himself was invited to submit artwork as part of the fund raising event opens with the Thursday evening gala.

Rick submitted two pieces of garden art. Big pieces.

                                                        'Trimorphic' by Rick Potter

'Trimorphic' sold (YAY!) very early on Thursday evening, to a tremendous supporter of the botanical gardens  Rick will deliver and install the piece one day next week.

                                                    'To the Point' by Rick Potter

'To the Point' is still for sale and hopefully it will sell before the end of the weekend.  If not, it will look great in our yard!

Our friend Cindy organizes this amazing event every year.  At least half of the proceeds of the art sold goes to support the gardens, which are a real treasure to the city of Anchorage.  Thank you Cindy!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Overthinking ... don't do it

When I worked at the Revlon manufacturing facility in Phoenix, I was tasked with organizing and running a "physical inventory". For those of you that run home businesses, you sort of know what I'm talking about.  When a physical inventory is conducted at a large manufacturing facility, it's not only a larger task, but it is multitudes more complicated.

First you get a count or measurement (in the case of chemicals) of all items in the factory, you then calculate the dollar value of that inventory.  Then comes the most difficult part: reconciling that number to the number that the accounting systems say you should have on hand.

In preparation for this massive undertaking, I had a meeting with the manager of the chemical department and her small staff.  This woman was exceedingly intelligent and good at her job.  I must also add that she was Russian and had an intriguing accent.  While discussing the plan of attack for measuring her chemical inventory, one of her staff guys came up with a super-simple suggestion.  She looked at him and said, "you are so young".  As I said, she had a heavy Russian accent -- think Natasha in the old Dick Tracy comic strip.  The truth of the matter was that this young guy had a terrific idea that the two of us older women had completely dismissed.

Because we were overthinking it.

                                        photo: isotope

Let me confess, I am as guilty as the next guy of overthinking just about everything associated with my jewlery business.  I analyze my sales after every show.  I analyze my wholesale and consignment sales.  I obsess over my every-growing inventory of raw materials.  I'm not very good at taking my own advice about overthinking, but on those occasions when I do relax a bit, what happens?  The short answer is, nothing bad happens.  And sometimes good things happen.  Most times, your own time can be better spent doing something else -- like creating new designs.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't analyze and reflect and make wise decisions regarding your business.  All I'm saying is that sometimes your gut feeling is just as good as hours of analysis.  Trust that gut.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Xena goes to the groomer

Xena (the wonder dog) was getting scraggly (if that's even a word) and a wee bit stinky.  I felt the need to wash my hands after every petting session -- it was that bad.  Off to the groomer we went!

After a grueling grooming session, Xena rests in her favorite spot.  She sleeps a good 20 hours a day.  What a life, huh?

For those of you that remember how sick she was all winter, well, that continues.  None of the tests came back with definitive diagnoses.  None of the many medications from the vet did any good.  In an attempt to narrow down why the reasons for her illness (chronic throwing up), we took her off the food she had been on for the past 8 years and tried to switch to a super-hype-allergenic food.  The result?  She wouldn't even touch that stuff and then she wouldn't even eat her old food.

Now, I am a kitchen slave to Xena, Queen of Chugiak.  I basically cook whatever she will eat.  This includes chicken breasts, hamburger, brown rice, fish, steamed vegetables.  I try to have all on hand at any given time because I never know what she will want.

Yes, she is still throwing up ... often.  We try to feed her at least once in the middle of the night.  She seems to do much better when there is food in her tummy. 

It's been a rough 7 months, and we see no end in sight.  We are suffering from sleep deprivation and napping has become part of my routine.  Sigh.  Feels like I have a newborn baby on my hands, from what I hear.

We will get through this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I finished another scarf ...

... and even though I adore it, I think I need to list it.  How many scarves can one woman wear?  I used 3 very different yarns to knit this scarf and I knit it the short way.  Most scarves are knit starting at one end, this one started on the side.

It's a bit wider than most of the scarves I make, so it could be worn around the shoulders instead of around the neck.  This next photo shows the 3 distinctly different yarns I used.

I think it's yummy.

Monday, June 21, 2010


When I first spotted these rutilated quartz briolettes in Tucson, I was puzzled.  They were most definitely in the shape of arrowheads!  I had never seen any beads like this before. Plus, the copper colored rutiles were abundant inside the beads, giving them a very complex look.

It's kind of hard to see in the photo, but the top part is "cut out", resembling the top of an arrowhead.

Of course, between the rutile pattern and the irregular shape of these beads, finding 2 to make a pair was tricky indeed!

These earrings are for sale in my etsy shop.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lessons From My Father

A while back, I shared with you some lessons I learned from my mother.  As Father's Day approaches, it's time for lessons from daddy.  Here he is as a little boy.

And here, he's showing his fun side as a carefree teenager.

Now for the lessons from Ben:

1. Take long walks and carry a stick.

My father's father was a quiet man, whose first language was not English.  I have fond memories of him, one of which is watching him carve decorative patterns into a walking stick using his small pocket knife.  My father did the same thing.  He liked to take walks in the country carrying one of these sticks.  I wish I knew where these pretty sticks ended up.  I certainly don't have those particular sticks, but Rick, Xena & I do take a walk through the woods every morning -- carrying walking sticks.

2.  When seated at a restaurant, immediately order some appetizers so you have something to eat (besides bread & butter) while perusing the menu.

I can't tell you what a great idea this is.  My favorite lunch buddy, Nancy, thinks this is pretty spiffy too.

3.  When dining out with friends, always split the check evenly.

The experience of eating out with women friends can often be spoiled by complicated "check math" at the end of the meal.  Splitting the check evenly, regardless of what anyone ate, eliminates this.  It may take some of your friends a while to get used to this practice ("But you had a Pepsi and I only drank water" ), but trust me, it all evens out in the end.  And who cares if it doesn't?

4.  Drink Vodka Gimlets.

For a long time, I followed this advice on a regular basis.  After a few years (like, 15) I realized I couldn't drink like I could when I was younger, so I switched to wine.  Now, I can barely drink a second glass of wine and still keep my eyes open.  I did my best dad.

5.  Spend money like a drunken sailor.

Well, not exactly, but there is a good story here.  A long time ago, my Uncle George told my Aunt Helen (dad's sister) to never take financial advice from her brother.  Why? Because he spends money like a drunken sailor.  Aunt Helen told me this story, which of course makes it a bit suspect, along with every other story Aunt Helen ever tells.  But that's a tale for another day.  Even if it isn't true, I can attest to the fact that my father was a good spender, even when he was young and didn't really have it to spend.  The real lesson here is to enjoy life, which he most certainly did.

6. Be honest.

When my parents were newlyweds, my mother's father owned a small independent grocery store in Queens.  My father used to work for him on weekends, as did one of my mother's cousins, who shall remain nameless.  One day, my dad caught said cousin stealing money from the cash register.  My father confronted him, but never told my grandfather of the incident.  He also never forgave Chester my mother's cousin.

Happy Father's Day!  I miss you dad.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Special Summer Solstice Sale!

In honor of Summer Solstice on June 21, I am having a sale in my etsy shop.  It is only open to newsletter subscribers and runs through June 22.  I this is of interest to you, sign up for my newsletter using the form to the right.  I'll send a newsletter to you as soon as I possibly can.

Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and up here in Alaska, it is amazing indeed.  There's a reason we are known as the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Playing with Copper Wire

One of the best features of copper wire is that it is soft and malleable, making it so easy to work with.  And it also work hardens very easily with some strategic hammering.  I took out some 16ga copper wire and my Wig-Jig the other day and came up with these 2 designs that I really like.  There are several  other designs in my sketch book that proved too difficult to form (so much easier with a pencil and eraser than with actual wire!) and those are on hold for a while.

What's hard to see in these photos is that I oxidized the 16ga copper and then used copper colored craft wire for the wraps.  That wire is tarnish resistant, so there is a great amount of contrast between the earring framework and the wraps.

I used copper colored Niobium earwires in keeping with the color theme.  Niobium is a hypo allergenic metal and makes for really strong earwires.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorite (new-ish) Sweatshirt

While in Arizona last February, Carol & I did a bit of shopping that was NOT bead related.  Shocking, I know.  We found a Tommy Bahama store in Kierland Commons in North Scottsdale.  I had only been in one of those once before, but I recognized the style of clothing as simply perfect for me and my relaxed life style.

I purchased two of these sweatshirts and love, love, love them.  I know I will wear them year-round here in Alaska.  The colors I selected were hot pink and lime green, neither of which are on the website.  I wish I could afford to buy one in every color, except white of course.  (Can you say fuzzy, black, dirty dog?)

Back to Kierland Commons for a minute.  We have nothing like this in Alaska.  Simply being able to walk around outside in the middle of February was a treat.  But the selection of stores there was amazing too.  Again, remember where I live and that my choices are very limited.  Don't pity me.  I do most of my shopping on the internet these days.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Applesauce Cake

Craving something sweet on Sunday evening, I quickly mixed up this super easy recipe that I've made numerous times.  It always satisfies and keeps very well.  But you won't have to worry about that!

Applesauce Cake

2 1/2 cups flour (I have successfully substituted up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and beat well.  Add combined dry ingredients alternately with applesauce and water.  Beat until well combined.  Stir in raisins and walnuts.  Turn into greased 9" x 13" pan.  Bake in preheated 350 oven for 60 - 65 minutes.

Easy peasy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

3 New Scarves

Yes, I've been a knitting fool.  Knitting is my activity of choice while watching movies in the evening, Xena curled at my feet.  This new variation on a drop-stitch pattern has me slightly obsessed.  If I was capable, I would alter a sweater pattern to use this stitch.  I am so not capable of doing anything other than following an existing pattern.

These first 2 scarves are knit with Noro Cashmere Island yarn, in different colorways.  Both are yummy!

Using the same stitch, this last scarf was knit with a variegated blue alpaca yarn -- super soft!

Each of these photos is linked to the listing on etsy, if you simply must have one!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Butterfly Earrings

These earrings are simple, but have lots of detail and NO wire wrapping!  Amazing, right?  I needed a day without oxidized sterling silver wire, so I made a series of brass and copper earrings using many of the sweet charms and other elements I have in my inventory.  This pair is my favorite.

The two elements swing freely.  The contrast of the copper and brass is wonderful.  Click on the photo to go directly to the listing in my etsy shop.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I love me some handmade soap.  But I'm picky.  I don't like fruity or any super sweet fragrances.  I prefer earthy scents.  And, I like a decent sized bar that will last a while.  A couple of my favorite soap sellers have closed their etsy shops for reasons unknown, but a few remain.

Happy Goat Soap features goats milk, generously donated by Pricilla and company.  Here's one of my favorite soaps.  It is scented with sandalwood and is quite large.  Perfect for me.

Theraganics soap is wonderfully natural, using only essential oils.  I especially like this listing, as you can select any 3 scents you like.

Amethyst Soaps has some very yummy offerings.  This Kings Ransom soap is extraordinarily rich and luxurious.

Happy showering!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Funky Little Books

Following a tutorial in my (current) favorite magazine, Cloth Paper Scissors, I made these 2 little books.  I love the fact that the covers are upcycled materials: an old button card and a 6-pack holder.  The tutorial was so easy.  The only thing I needed to purchase to complete the books was some book cloth for the spines.  Of course, I could have used fabric scraps instead, but I didn't read that part of the article until after I ordered the book cloth.

The books are finished with a simple pamphlet stitch, which sews up really quickly.  Love that part of the project too.
I have lots of old button cards, but this was the only one with all of its buttons in tact.

This photo gives you a sense of how small the book is.  Cute, huh?

For this next book, I cut out the logo from a beer 6-pack holder.  I used the same thing for the back cover.

 Now I have people saving their 6-pack holders for me.  I think I'll try this project with Monopoly property cards, old postcards and maybe some game cards.  Any other ideas for me??

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garnets and Labradorite Earrings

Just listed in my etsy shop, these earrings are sleek and sophisticated.  I wrapped tiny rondelles of garnet and labradorite along the bottom edge of a hand formed sterling silver hoop.

The hoops swing freely from the earwire.  All of the silver has been oxidized and tumbled for a super shiny steel gray finish.  Click the photo to go directly to the listing.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Suppliers :: the positive and the negative

As a jewelry designer for almost 15 years, I have my favorite suppliers and I have a mental list of those I steer clear of.  Once in a while we try out a new one and then add it to either one of the aforementioned categories.

I'd like to give a shout-out to my favorite supplier of Bali silver components, Rishashay.  They manufacture and sell beads and findings of all sorts and are members of the Fair Trade Federation.  Sure, they're a little more expensive than some of the other companies out there, but I'm willing to pay a little extra for consistent products.

I recently purchased a large amount of ball head pins from another source, that shall remain nameless, because they were a little cheaper.  When will I learn???  To be quite blunt, these headpins suck.  The size of the ball is inconsistent, the wire does not always exit the ball in the center, and some of the headpins have random "shoots" of silver.  I've never seen that before.  Needless to say, I'm disappointed in myself for straying from my trusted supplier.  I could probably return them, but I'm too lazy for that.  I'll sort through them and recycle the useless ones.

So what did I do today?  I got on the phone with Rishashay and ordered a new batch of headpins.  I ordered 24 ga long and short and 26 ga long and short.  One could order online, but I like talking to these nice people.

End of rant.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some New Flowers

Every spring, I plant 7 hanging baskets for the front (actually the side, but it faces the street).  It took me several years to figure out which flowers work best in this mostly shady/partly sunny spot.  The best results for me have been begonias.  This year, we visited the nursery a week earlier than usual (because of the awesome weather) and I was able to get begonias in 7 different colors -- a color for each basket.  Pictures of these will have to wait until they bloom a little more.

I also planted some pots of flowers that I had never done before, just because they looked so pretty.  Here are some multi-colored portulacas.

And a beautiful selection of multi-colored celosia.  The fuzzy part in the middle reminds me of a caterpillar.

And, I tried a new type of geranium this year, which I found at a new-to-me greenhouse in Anchorage, Suttons.  What a fun and funky place!

Let's hope I don't kill these 3 beauties.  They all require full sun.  This is something that our property, with all of its birch trees, doesn't often get.  I'll be moving them around to the sunniest spots all summer long.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ruby In Zoisite

Ruby in Zoisite is a super interesting stone, that I don't see much of, even while gem shopping in Tucson.   It is the occurrence of ruby and zoisite crystals, all in the same specimen.  Zoisite is generally green with black inclusions and everyone knows that rubies are traditionally pinkish red.

These earrings feature gorgeous briolettes of Ruby in Zoisite.  I added a genuine ruby rondelle alongside to highlight the red component of the briolette.

As always, you can click on the photo to go directly to the listing for these one-of-a-kind earrings in my etsy shop.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Notecards

I have not spent any time recently making notecards.  It's an activity I enjoy, but was too busy rebuilding my jewelry inventory to do it.  Until last week, that is.  I was in need of a break from the jewelry -- a healthy break -- and notecards was my activity of choice.

Opening my huge 3-ring binder of Technique Junkie newsletters, I chose some of my old favorites.  This first card uses the Colorwash Collage technique.  I love the splotchy effect achieved with the use of the yummy colored colorwash sprays from Stamp Zia.  The stamps are all from Stampin' Up.

Next, I tried the Gesso Resist technique, which I have had mixed results with in the past.  Usually it's because I've applied too much gesso to the image, or selected the wrong type of image.  I think I got it right this time.

The simple layout in the next card is one I've used many times before.  I matched the Spritz & Flick technique (bottom piece) with some patterned paper on top, separated by a length of coordinating ribbon.

Lastly, this card features the Watercolor Distress technique, which gave me another opportunity to use my new colors of Distress Ink.  The image is simple, but delivers a great message.

I made a whole pile of cards (maybe 35?), but these were my favorites.  Now, back to some jewelry making!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lessons From My Mother

This past December, I marked the 20th anniversary of my mother's death.  That day of her passing is a sad one every year, but huge milestones like 20 years feel even worse.  I still miss her every single day.

This photo of her was taken in 1953, probably right before she and my father were married.  The house, in Elmont, NY,  belonged to my Aunt Helen (my father's sister and still kicking at 95!) and Uncle George.

Here are some things I learned from my mother, Carol.

1. Always postpone ironing for as long as possible.  I mean, seriously, none of us will run out of  things to wear, so wait for the pile to become enormous and then spend most of a day doing it.

  Seeing as I rarely iron at all, I think I've pretty much followed her advice here.

2.  The family should eat dinner together every night, at the kitchen table.

   This is an old-fashioned tradition that I still believe in and do to this day.

3.  Never go to someone's house for a visit empty handed.

    I live by this rule.  When invited for dinner, I either bring a requested dessert or a bottle of wine.  If the
    host and hostess say "don't bring anything",  I bring a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

4.  Life is too short to drink instant coffee.

    This goes without saying.  Instant coffee isn't worth the time it takes to make it.

5.  Play Mah Jong.

    Well, she taught me how to play, but I've never lived anywhere where other people knew how to play and
     one can't play Mah Jong alone.  With regret, I must confess that I've never played with anyone but her.

6.  When playing the slot machines, always make the maximum bet.  How would you feel if you hit  
     a  jackpot and you only had 1 quarter in the machine?  Pretty stupid, I imagine.

    When in Las Vegas, I follow this sage advice.  Usually it means I lose my money faster, but hey, why take
    a chance?

My mother was a wise, wise woman, wasn't she?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Brass Charms and Pendants from Artbeads

I was invited to be part of Artbeads Summer Blogging Fun and what fun it is!  I selected some really cute floral charms and one very unique pendant to create some summery necklace and earring sets.

To see their huge selection of charms: Artbeads Charms, and pendants: Artbeads Pendants.

This first necklace and earring set features outline style flower charms that are very fun to work with.  They have a convenient hole at the top, but you can also dangle drops off of each of the petals, if you want to.

The square panel on which the outline flower charm rests provides a perfect backdrop and continues with the floral theme. The matching earrings (below) are pretty cute, if I must say so myself!

Continuing with the flower theme, I selected this folded fan pendant mainly because it has lots of loops at the bottom to hang drops.  Plus, I have never seen one like it and the uniqueness appeals to me.  I chose glass beads from my stash to dangle and used a different set of beads in the same colorways to include in the chain.

At the bottom of the brass fan, I suspended another wonderful flower charm.  This one is solid and has a very different look than the outline one.  And the matching earrings:

One more pair of earrings featuring detailed brass leaf pendants and white freshwater pearls, because pearls are always in season!

Disclosure: Artbeads invited me to join their blogging community. I receive these products free of charge in return for honest reviews. I have not been paid for doing this

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Necklace . Soft Colors

These three understated stones work well together.  There isn't one trying to get all the attention.  This is because they all low on the saturation scale.  Harmony, for sure.

From left to right: moss aquamarine, rose quartz, lemon quartz.  All of the metal is oxidized sterling silver.  This lovely necklace is for sale in my etsy shop.   Click on the photo to go directly to the listing.