28 February 2009

Turquoise Set

I made this set last week and used my new photo studio set-up for the photography. I must admit that I am thrilled, THRILLED, with the result. I think I am getting close to figuring out how to configure my lights in order to get this look. I have two more photos of older work ready to post, but I think I will spread it out over the next few days, so come back to see the pretties!!

This necklace is 5-stitch Viking knitting with the turquoise chips worked into the weave. I didn't make it long enough, and so had to add the links on the ends. I thought the result would be awful, but I find that I like the effect.

27 February 2009

Art Show Applications

The show season for the summer and fall actually began last month, since applications for almost every show are due in February and March. In the past month I have sent out applications and fees to 15 shows, and I will be glad to be done with that bit of business administration! In March and April there will be two or three more. Now it is time to wait. Waiting is awful! I have spent a good two months looking at shows, putting together a schedule, dreaming about what my year will be like, and looking forward to a road trip out west. Now I must wait to hear if I got into the shows. My jury photos turned out so nicely that I decided to gamble a bit and apply to some shows that I am not at all sure I will get into. If I am rejected from all of them, then I will certainly be in trouble! On some weekends, I also applied to a "back-up" show, in an attempt to make sure I get into SOMETHING! I hope to post a more complete show schedule on my website by mid-April.

On a related note, I wonder if some shows are in trouble because artists are in trouble. Five of the shows to which I applied extended their due dates at the last minute, which could be interpreted to mean that the number of applications was way down and the show promoters wanted to give more people time to decide to apply. Also, one show I have applied to in the past (but not this year) sent five reminders about the upcoming application deadline and encouraging application to the show. It began to feel like desperation to me. I might have applied, but had already applied to a show (Yellow Daisy Festival in Stone Mountain Georgia) that DOES NOT refund your booth fee if you are accepted and I won't know whether I am in until early April.

21 February 2009

Viking Knit Necklace with Woven Links

I am using my new photography studio to take photos of some work I did in January. This piece is definitely one of my favorites, so much so that I may need to keep it for myself. The center piece is 5-stitch Viking knitting with faceted rounds and rondelles of Spinel and Onyx. I made the two side links by fusing Argentium sterling silver into oval shapes that formed the frame for the weaving. The chains at the top are 4-stitch Viking knitting in the same mesh pattern that I use for the centerpiece. The one thing I would do differently next time is to make the center section a bit shorter, so that the links are more visible, and to weave the spinel rounds onto both sides of the the links so that there is no "right" side or "wrong" side. I just love this piece!!

20 February 2009

Art Show Promoters and Payments

Amdur Productions puts on several shows in and around the Chicago area. This year I applied to a few shows with them and I just received an email about their "Economic Understanding Program." Basically, given the uncertain nature of today's economy and the knowledge that cash flow is a problem for artists at this time of year (regardless of the economy), they are allowing accepted artists to split the payment of their booth fees and are waiving the surcharges they might usually add to this convenience. And although they have not accepted credit cards in the past, they have added that payment option. These are wonderful changes and reflect the fact that Amy Amdur understands the position that many artists find themselves in.

Almost all shows for the summer and fall have application deadlines ranging from late-February to early-April. These shows all have application fees, and either require payment for booth fees with the application, or upon acceptance, usually in April. This means that artists have almost all their show fees due within a two month period (last year mine came to $6000), and many of us have had little to no income during the winter months. On top of that, estimated taxes are due April 15! Cash flow is definitely a problem for artists at this time of year, so any way that show promoters can allow an artist to put off booth fee payments until later in the spring or early summer is greatly appreciated.

I'd like to commend Amdur Productions for making these changes!

19 February 2009

"Tabletop" Photography

I finally received my tabletop photo studio and have figured out, more or less, how to configure the lights in order to get decent photos. The entire studio consists of a white nylon fabric light tent and four lights with natural spectrum CFLs, purchased from Steve Kaeser Backgrounds on E-Bay. Overall, I am quite pleased with the quality, especially of the lights. The stands are sturdy and the lamp bases have nice on/off switches. The only thing I had to get (so far) was the appropriate surface and background. I went to a picture framing shop and bought a piece of non-glare glass (there IS a "right" side and "wrong" side) and used a large piece of black paper that I had under the glass. In the photo above, the surface looks grey, but that really is a piece of black paper under the non-glare glass!

After much repositioning of lights, I finally took some photos that are decent. I am still trying to figure out how to get rid of the uneven whitish reflections, but I will get there! And even though this is a "tabletop" studio, I don't have a table big enough for it! It currently sits on my basement floor, as you can see!

Here is one of my newer pieces, photographed in the new set-up. The center is 8-stitch Viking knitting with turquoise chips, and the side chains are 4-stitch Viking knitting and a strand of turquoise. This one came out a bit long. I may try it again with shorter segments.

16 February 2009

Diving into Facebook

As part of my general marketing strategy, I have been trying out various forums and places to get involved. Up until recently I have been keeping this more-or-less confined to jewelry and arts-related sites. I have accounts with Wire Wrapped Jewelry (a Yahoo group) and it's sister groups, Lampworkers Etc., the Guild of Wire Jewelry Artists, Art Jewelry Magazine, Step-by-Step Wire, the Orchid Forum (by Ganoksin), JewelryLessons.com, JewelryGeeks.com, etsy, MN Artists, Creative Wire Jewelry, Sunshine Artist, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly a few more. Not surprisingly, it is not possible to keep up with every outlet. I am active in some forums, a regular lurker in others, an occasional visitor to a few, and the rest, well, I just don't have time for everything!

Now enter Facebook. I have been reluctant to join, but finally did so a few weeks ago, almost on a whim. The first weeks were frustrating because Facebook is complex and rich, but there isn't really a user-guide, per se, and for something that complicated, I need a guide! There is a "Help" section, but it is only vaguely helpful. I finally discovered that books written by third parties DO exist, such as Facebook for Dummies and The Missing Manual. I haven't looked at those, but I did get a copy of I'm on Facebook - Now What?. This is a slim volume, and I had to grit my teeth through a few grammatical and editing errors on the first page, but overall, this is a useful little book if you want some input into promoting your business on Facebook.

I found that not only is Facebook a great way to stay in touch with friends near and far, but it might be a useful way to increase my own exposure in ways I hadn't imagined. Today I put together a Page for my business, JanRa Jewelry Designs. I will be exploring how to promote this page in the coming weeks. My hope is that increased exposure will result in increased sales through my website, or people searching me out when I travel to art shows over the summer. This year promises to be more challenging than last year, in terms of sales, and I am determined to do everything I can to make sure my business survives.

If you are on Facebook, visit my Page and write on my Wall! Send me links to your Page as well!

12 February 2009

Happy Birthday President Lincoln!

It really began by accident. On a whim, almost, I read Jeff Shaara's book, Gods and Generals, followed quickly by The Last Full Measure and then the book by his father, Michael Shaara, that started it all, The Killer Angels. All historical novels taking place during the American Civil War. I have since become VERY interested in the Civil War in general, and in President Lincoln in particular. I am now a great admirer of the man and of his presidency.

When I travel around the country on road trips, I now make a point of looking for Lincoln statues and memorials. The two photographs above were taken in Lincoln City, Oregon and in Spokane, Washington. In both cases I went out of my way to find these statues. I have been to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park outside of Mandan, North Dakota, but no statues (nice park, though). If anyone knows of a Lincoln statue I should see, let me know in a comment! And yes, I will be visiting Springfield sometime this year. I tried to get there last fall but couldn't seem to fit it into my schedule. It WILL happen this year on the bicentennial of his birth!

One final note: I am also celebrating Charles Darwin's 200th birthday today! Two great men born on the same day in 1809, and still influencing our lives today.

08 February 2009

First Robin of.....Spring?

I had a robin in my back yard on February 3rd, when the high temperature was about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Not kidding!!! The is the earliest I have ever seen a robin. This male is either going to have some prime territory in the spring or else he is going to die. Fortunately for him, daytime temps are now routinely in the 30s.

01 February 2009

Wire Braiding tutorial

The tutorial for Viking knitting has been received quite well. I've been getting a lot of positive feedback about it and it has been very gratifying to hear that other people find the instructions and photographs easy to follow! I have plans for a few more tutorials, some on basic techniques, and some that are specific projects. The first one I have ready is a tutorial on braiding with wire, covering three-strand braiding, with a basic wire-wrapping technique used to make the latch. On my website I call these "Simple Braid" bracelets.

I have been spending a lot of time on the computer recently, and even though my first show is still two months away, I am beginning to feel a bit nervous about my inventory level. I really want to push my designs into new areas, and pick up new techniques, but doing so takes time away from making items that I already know are popular. It is a delicate balancing act that I am not sure I have mastered yet!