Thursday, December 30, 2010

Firing Up the Kiln for the First Time

Finally. I've had this new toy since August and have just had no time to create any silver pieces. But with the new year I've had fewer obligations and more time.

With my stash of clay ready to go and pages of sketched designs I began with a few simple things. I stamped a couple pair of earrings and a simple pendant. These are similar to designs that have sold well in the past and a good way to get my "fingers wet".

I moved on to a couple of layered pendants. I like the contrast of combining dark oxidized areas with sleek, shiny silver. And I'm trying to do more in the Art Deco style--simple geometric designs. After molding about 100 grams of silver and was ready to bake it.

I have to say firing up my first batch was a process. I won't go into all the details but my husband couldn't get far enough away from me that afternoon. I've never owned a kiln so I had no idea what all the codes in the digital program were for. The instructions sent were all about firing potter's clay complete with "cones" to test the temperature. They also sent me a pyrometer. Why? I have no idea since I purchased a digital kiln that already reads the inside temperature. I spent a couple of hours just trying to find out how to program it for a simple 30 minute firing. The kiln is in the garage and since the manual I got was no help at all, I ran up and down the stairs, to and from the computer, looking for information...anywhere.

Thank you YouTube!!
What did we do before people started posting instructional videos? While the first video I found was for the Paragon SC2 and none of the codes matched what was on my kiln, I later found one specifically for the Firefly. I took a few notes and ran down to give it a try.

Although my practical husband thought I should just put a couple pieces in to try it out, I laid out my whole first batch. Some instructions said to fire at 1200 degrees, others at 1300 degrees. So I split the difference and fired at 1250 degrees. Presto! Pure silver!! I'm so excited.

So here are some of the pieces after firing and polishing. Some have been oxidized and others I'm leaving shiny. There are a few pieces that still need to be partially oxidized. It's a tricky process that requires the liver of sulfur to be put on with a small sponge or paintbrush.

But I have learned how to get those nice rainbow colors on silver. I love how this ring turned out.

Now that I've gotten the basics out of the way, I'm working on an Art Deco style bracelet with hinged components. I've never done hinges and can't find a video to show me how so I'm learning as I go. But here's what I've done so far.

The next challenge I'm going to take on is soldering. I'd like to solder the rings I use to attach my components together. But I'm not worried. I'm sure there's a video somewhere.

Monday, December 27, 2010

So What Craft Shows are You Applying to for 2011?

It might depend on whether you are creating as a hobby or trying to earn a living with your craft. As a hobbyist you may not have a state resale number or a federal business ID number (EIN). If so, you may not be able to sell at the bigger shows that actually ask for that information on the applications. Although very few of the Mass. show applications ask for my state tax id, every show I've applied to in Conn. asks for it on the application. And while I've never had anyone come to my booth and ask to see my Mass. resale number, the possibility exists. And every show I've applied to in Conn. asks for your Conn. tax ID number on the application.

Registering as a business and getting a tax resale number also allows you to buy supplies without paying sales tax and often lets you to buy at wholesale prices. On the other hand, you will have to charge tax on your products and send sales tax payments to the state. You'll have to keep records of income and expenses and file income tax. In my town I also pay property tax on my inventory and equipment.

So whatever your situation, you have now compiled a small list of possible craft shows for 2011. Some you attended and feel they would be a good fit and some your friends have suggested to you as possibly a good fit. But you still need to find a few others to fill in the time in between?

Do you apply to the local church bazaar because the table fee is only $25?
Do you shoot for the the $300 arts and crafts show because it's big and should bring a large turnout increasing your chances for sales?
Do you do the high school show because it's indoors and you won't need your tent?

As this is a "learn as you go" business, any of the above could work. And any of the above could be a total waste of money. The additional pages of this blog (on the left) where I have reviewed several local 2010 shows may help you out.

Whatever you decide...

start early looking for shows and information about them even if applications aren't yet available.
--Don't do first time shows. They don't always have their act together yet, may not have advertised enough, and don't yet have a customer following to rely on for traffic.
--Don't do any shows completely blind. Think about your product and if the show is the type or in a location that will attract potential customers. Contact the show promoters and ask about traffic at previous shows. Find out how big a space you'll have to display. Ask for names of vendors who have done the show before and contact them. It's a shame to waste even $25.

Crafts Shows are divided into two categories, juried and non-juried. The non-juried shows are usually easier to get into. Organizers want to fill the spaces and aren't selective about who shows up. They're usually less expensive and loose about the application deadline. Some do try to limit each category so if you sell jewelry, apply early.

Juried craft shows are more selective and usually require photos and detailed descriptions of the crafts that you sell. Entry fees can range from $50 to thousands of dollars and often ask for an additional jury fee of $10-$30. Many have craft show websites where you can download their applications. Some require photos of your craft display in the form of slides or as a CD. They are strict about getting applications by a certain due date.

Finding "your " craft shows is a process and takes time. And even once you've found some great shows, there's always the possibility that you won't get accepted the next year. So always have a Plan B--other shows you can apply to.

Jansjems has a Website!

I feel so official! My youngest daughter's Christmas present to me was my very own website. It's just a front page for now but you can link to my Etsy shop, this blog, or contact me. And prominently listed are the shows I'll be attending in 2011. Check out



In an attempt to clear out the last of the 2010 gemstone jewelry designs and make room for new products, I'll be having a 20% off sale beginning tomorrow (Dec. 31) and running for the whole month of January. Stop in to my Etsy Shop and have a look around.

Are You Ready for the 2011 Craft Show Season?

With the holidays now over and 2011 only a few days away, I'm working on my craft show schedule for next year. You think it's too early? Not really. Last year I applied to a show in Virginia and the application deadline was Jan. 2.
I learned to start early a couple of years ago. I had heard good things about the Mattoon St. Festival in Springfield which takes place in September. I looked for an application online but didn't find one. So around the end of January I emailed the contact on their website. The jewelry category was already full! As it turns out, Mattoon St. only juries you the first year. Once you're accepted you only need to send in the next application with the booth fee. And they send you that application 2 weeks after the show. If you sell jewelry you need to return it immediately or they quickly find people to fill your spot. So I have already sent in my check for the 2011 Mattoon St. show. Live and learn.

After 3 years of research and experience I now have a pretty good idea which shows I want to apply to. But if you're new to all this, here are a few things to think about when making your selections.

How do I find shows?
--Talk to friends and fellow artisans to get suggestions
--Go online and google "New England Craft Shows" or "Massachusetts Craft Shows" and you will often run across websites that list shows. Some want fees to give you more information. Instead, write down the show names in the list and then search for their websites or information about them in other places. If they don't have a website, there might be a phone number listed for information.
--Join a local artisan group. They share information.

How do I know if it's a good show?
Well, often you don't. But if you're unable to attend the show to check it out and don't know anyone who has already sold there, you need to consider your product and your expected customers when you're making your best guess.
--If you're selling inexpensive, fun items that appeal to children or teenagers, you need to find a show that attracts them. Perhaps a fair or music festival. Will your product also appeal to mothers and grandmothers buying for children? Then maybe a church fair or high school craft show is a good choice .
--If you're selling higher end products like gold jewelry, quilts, or handmade clothing then you need to find shows that attract professional women who like to dress well and decorate their homes--and can afford to do so. Shows in or near major cities would be my pick. Or shows in wealthier neighborhoods.
--And with fine art, you might want to consider "art shows" rather than craft shows as they will attract customers who are looking specifically for paintings and sculpture.
--Are you creating for a niche market? Steampunk art and jewelry is one example. And while that would sell best at a steampunk show, I have found through experience that my steampunk jewelry also sells well anywhere there is a young crowd or tourists.
--Stay away from economically depressed areas where factories have closed or people are still struggling the make ends meet. And while I admit that this is true almost everywhere, some towns are doing much better than others.
--Some products just sell well almost anywhere. Canvas bags, silk screened t-shirts, fabric purses, and hand painted, holiday inspired, wooden home decor seem to do well at many of the shows I attend.
--And the fall (September & October) seems to be the best time to do craft shows, at least here in New England. People have started buying for Christmas, they have their Christmas Club checks, and they're not yet fully involved in the holiday party/family dinners chaos.

For lists of shows in Mass. & Conn., check out the websites below frequently as they update often.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting Ready for Santa and the Family

Yes, I've been busy since the library craft show. Christmas is coming fast and I spent a few days decorating, baking cookies (dozens of cookies), and cleaning in preparation for Christmas guests.

Mom & my youngest daughter are both coming in on Thursday. So here I am 3 days before Christmas getting ready to hit the grocery store for supplies for the weekend.

We still celebrate the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner called Wigilia. My sister-in-law and I switch off and each year provide pierogi, kapusta, zur and other meatless dishes as well as pastry. It's one of the days that the entire family comes together and we wish each other good things for the New Year.

As I'm really hoping to get started after Christmas on some new silver clay designs, I've also been shopping for a few little things I still need--long handled tweezers, fine silver wire for jump rings, a bezel pusher and burnisher. I can't wait. Yes, I'm even going to attempt to set stones. Now I just need a large block of time to set up and roll out the clay. So while everyone else is anxious for Christmas, I'm actually more anxious for the week after Christmas.

Wishing everyone who finds the time to read this blog a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So Nice to be Back (But Just for a Little While)

The craft show circuit brought me back to the Umass Library. Funny how I can't seem to stay away. The main floor was packed with students and all the computer stations were occupied. Except for the Circulation Desk and department now on the main floor, nothing has changed.

The Social Committee once again sponsored a gift fair and invited Jansjems to attend. This year they advertised campus wide. With the prospect of greater traffic than usual, there were 10 vendors this year (up from 6). The library's student workers also had a table and were doing a brisk business selling muffins and cup cakes. As someone who forgot to pack a lunch, I suggested they sell sandwiches next year.It was nice to see people I used to work with all of whom asked how I like retirement. Well, what's not to like? I chatted a little with Jay who always stops in to check these things out.

Karen, Eva, Rebecca, and Barbara did their rotations at the raffle table. The committee raised $100 for the Friends of the Library. And Barb was nice enough to take pictures and send them to me.

I was happy to see Scott finally selling the beads he often talked about when I was still working there. His lampwork beads are beautiful and, of course, I bought several. They're going to work really well with the silver designs I'm planning. I know I bought his best ones. Well, Scott, you'll just have to make more--in blue next time.

Thanks for inviting me back. That was fun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Year End To Do List

The year is almost over. I get really busy 2 weeks before Christmas with decorating, baking, Christmas shopping, and house parties. Mom comes to visit for a few days. So I'm trying to get my year end chores done now before I no longer have time. It's not hard work, just not much fun.

I could wait until January, I suppose. Unfortunately, unlike Irma here, I seem to be very disciplined; a remnant leftover from 37 years of obsessive/compulsive supervision in the library.

The silver clay I bought is burning a hole in my stash box and there's a new kiln in the garage. My plan for January is to create silver clay pieces and set up my own website. Nothing more.

So in the next few days I'll--
**Go through ALL my inventory to be sure my lists of what I still have are accurate.

**Weed out some of the oldest pieces to either be dismantled or redesigned.

**Check for things that need any repairs.

I'd replace some of the most worn tags, but I'm all out. Which means...
**I need to make a list of what supplies (tags,bags,boxes, etc) to buy going into next year and place orders.

**Get my income/expense spreadsheets up to date for my own records as well as for the tax accountant. He likes things nicely itemized.

**Pay the sales tax I owe to the Mass. DOR and make the last yearly payment to Connecticut.

**Pay my business property tax to the town of Deerfield.

**Create new inventory spreadsheets for 2011 that include "in stock" items & that I can add to.

**File away all receipts and tax info from 2010.

**Start a new list of potential craft fairs to apply to.

If anyone has any ideas on how to make this part of having my own business seem more like fun, let me know.


It's been 5 months since I retired from the library. I'm still connected to the campus so I do read about changes there--departments moving, new digital initiatives, new elevators. Someone has finally moved into my old cubicle as the department rearranges itself again. It's nice to know what's going on but I don't miss it at all.

I do, however, miss many of the people who have become friends. So it's nice when I get a call asking if I want to join some of them for a trip to the outlets and I can get caught up with the office gossip. I've had a few "girls' nights out" with Linda or Eva. And I just got an invitation to Lucy's ornament party. So nice that she didn't forget me.

Yesterday several women who still work there and several who have retired met for lunch at Atkins. There were 8 of us in all but Barb was behind the camera. The retirees all look younger than I remember and seem so much happier. Julie is doing a lot of biking and hiking. Lucinda has bought a camper and has a new Windows phone that she actually knows how to use. I say that because I still have one that ONLY makes calls. Linda, who was the first to leave, now works full time again. She just can't stay home. And I, of course, have become and "artisan" (and I use the term loosely). So we're all changing too, but doing only what we want to do.

Life is good.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Glimmer of Light on a Sea of Sameness

When Jansjems first began we did a few church fairs to try out our displays and get our feet wet. We learned quickly that our customers didn't attend church bazaars. Its been about 3 years now, so since I wasn't selling anywhere, I decided to drop in on a local church bazaar just to see if things had changed.

I was surprised how this craft fair had grown. There were definitely more booths than my last visit maybe 3 years ago. But in touring the room I noticed that 5-6 of them were raffles of one kind or another. I recognized a few members of the congregation selling hand sewn and knitted items. Really beautiful things that were selling well at prices that didn't cover the cost of materials. Food was also selling well.

Glimmerstone was one of only 3 people there with professional set ups, business cards, and packaging. I bought a Christmas present for someone from her. She weaves beads to frame gemstone cabochons. It's the kind of jewelry that takes a great deal of time, and patience that I don't have in great supply.

She'd make a great addition to the Artisans of Western Mass. I'll have to ask her if she wants to join us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey as a Side Dish

Thanksgiving is still a week away but I just did most of the grocery shopping for the event, anything that I can freeze or that will keep until then. I have a craft fair this weekend and my youngest daughter is coming home for a few days, so I try to get some things done early. I'll be cleaning house and baking on Monday & Tuesday.

We always have Thanksgiving at our house and we'll be about 14 at the table this year. Those craft show Lifetime folding tables sure come in handy as the dining room table only seats 10 uncomfortably. I usually have good attendance for Turkey Day. Is it about the great turkey I roast, or the pies, or maybe it's because the pumpkin soup is so yummy? No, it's all about my mom's stuffing. Everyone comes for the stuffing.

The year my dad died, Mom just wasn't up to making stuffing so I did. I have the recipe and I've watched her make it often enough but somehow it just isn't the same. It's that Babci cooking magic that somehow makes it better.

At my house the turkey is just a side dish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Craft Fair Conundrum

To apply or not to apply, that is the question.I seem to be always looking for a new craft show in the hope that I will find my customers there. We've had several successes this year and I'll reapply to those but I'm looking to replace the poorer shows.

Knowing that high school shows and church bazaars are definitely not good shows for us, we decided to take a look at a show at the other end of the scale--the professional promoter shows.

There are a few big promoters who run shows along the East Coast. Sugarloaf Craft Shows, Castleberry Fairs, and Craft Producers are the biggest I know of. Spaces at Sugarloaf start at just over $500 with electricity extra. It's a lot of money but would it be worth it?

This past weekend we drove down to Hartford for the Sugarloaf show at the Expo Center. It is definitely huge. We went on Sunday and by 1:30 the parking lot was full and they were sending cars to an open area at the end of the street. People were piling into the show despite the $9 entrance fee. My first impression was that this was the place to be.

But on closer inspection, most vendors were not doing well. Some were barely covering the booth fee. Higher end jewelry wasn't selling and pottery was selling only if it was unique. One potter has perfected a purple glaze that you can't miss. Though this show didn't have the usual mass of country craft vendors (I don't think I saw even one), the food vendors clustered in one aisle seemed to be getting most of the business.

Had we done the show this year we would have had no competition in the steampunk jewelry catagory. We might have been able to take in $800-1200. But after subtracting the booth fee we wouldn't be left with much. I can make that much at a much less expensive show and end up with more profit.

So Sugarloaf is out for now but there's a Castelberry show in the same location in December. It's $450 for the booth fee and their most expensive show. Is that because it's their best show or because the Expo Center costs so much to rent? I'll try to get to that show too and find out.

For anyone interested there is a more detailed review on my Arts & Crafts Shows Review page for Oct/Nov.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Me, Myself, & I (small rant)

As a former English teacher I tend to be a little more sensitive than most about grammatical errors. Over the years I've managed to stop flinching when reading something online that misuses the words your, you're, there, they're, or their. And I'm becoming resigned to the fact that punctuation has become a free-for-all with writers making it up as they go along. Though I have to admit I was a bit stunned recently when someone on a forum wrote that she "was not aloud to use the computer".

But spoken malapropisms still make the hairs rise on my neck, specifically the ever increasing misuse of "myself". All the pronouns that end in self or selves are reflexive. That means they refer back to the subject of the sentence. Like looking in a mirror.


I can see MYSELF.

You get the idea. But if someone else is looking at you...
JOHN can see ME.

We're taught as children to name ourselves last and say "you and I are going shopping". But saying that "he gave money for shopping to you and I" is bad because he should have given it to "you and me".

I, me, and myself are pronouns with very different uses. Using "myself" all the time is silly and wrong. And while its use is sometimes meant to sound educated or formal, it really reveals the opposite.

Sarah didn't give the spreadsheets to John and MYSELF. She gave them to John and ME.
Arthur and MYSELF won't be taking the train to NYC. But Arthur and I will.
YOU and ME won't be around to see the change. But maybe YOU and I will.
When in doubt, remove the other person or people from the sentence and you have "Sarah didn't give the spreadsheets to me, I won't be taking the train to NYC," and "I won't be around to see the change."

The opinions of people like MYSELF should be ignored. But the opinions of people like ME shouldn't.
But you can't really correct people. They would hate you. And with everything that's going on in the world, does grammar really matter?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Think I Need to Hire a Techie

I'm not making much jewelry these days but I'm working really hard (and out of my comfort zone).

Jansjems as a business needs to move forward. I have an online presence and I have found a few shows that are successful for me. I network a little both with AWM members and other crafters I have met. So what's next. Well, maybe I should set up my own website. Etsy is fine but it could get sold like 1000 Markets did. Or it could turn into something else that I don't want to be a part of. There's lots of speculation on the forums about where Etsy is going. People talk about moving to Cargoh, Big Cartel, Zibbet, Artfire, Bonanza. But none of these have nearly the traffic of Etsy and each one has its own issues. Having my own website would be a little safety net. And another source of exposure, I hope.

So I've purchased a domain name--I now own And I've spent hours on the web looking at host sites and asking people for information on them. I got into the forums and found people who have actually tried several. I think I know who I'm going with but I'm hesitant to make the big plunge. I have to play with templates, design pages, etc. Oh yes, everyone tells me it's easy. But it's never really easy.

My computer has crashed on me a couple of times in the last 5 years, and always in November. Every November I start feeling anxious. So I've decided that I need a backup system. I thought about buying an external hard drive but got talked into an online backup program instead. So once again I spent about 4 hours on the computer looking at websites, reading reviews, going through tutorials. And I finally settled on one of the 4 best as reviewed by PC Magazine. Sugarsync isn't terribly expensive, it automatically backs up your work every time you save a change, and it was very simple to install. It also advises you what you actually should back up, in case like me you're not sure. I think it was the 30 day free trial that I noticed about the same time I started to get a headache that finally sold me.

When I worked in the library we had a systems department that made decisions about software, upgrades, changes. They installed, did the trouble shooting, and fixed any problems. I got really spoiled. Now I am not only the designer, I'm the CEO, COO, CFO, AND the systems department. While I'm happy to handle all the other work, I really miss having a Systems Dept.

Monday, November 1, 2010

As Seen on Oprah....??

MAKE $250,000 IN WEEKS AS SEEN ON OPRAH AND 20/20. Well, I don't know that anyone is making anywhere near that amount on this pyramid scheme, but the mailing list sellers are cleaning up and the U.S. Post Office is making up for some of the money lost to emailing.

My husband and I have received this chain letter 4 times in the past week. People are really gullible (or desperate). Ignoring the fact that these chain mail schemes are illegal, this one is also expensive. They aren't asking you to send this to 10 friends but to hundreds of people. And they provide addresses to mailing lists that cost from $30 to $625 depending on how many people you want to send to. You have to photocopy 6 pages of propaganda. Then there's the postage. It costs $183 to send this mailing to 300 people at $.61 per envelope. No, Oprah hasn't endorsed this scam. And those promoting on the web and using Paypal to collect their money are being shut down as Paypal discovers them.

My husband recently answered a nuisance phone call which offered him a "free" month of restaurant and travel coupons. He knew he'd have to remember to cancel the subscription before the month was up or be charged $30 but he thought we might get a few usable coupons out of the deal. He didn't give anyone a credit card number but in 2 days we had 2 charges for $2.95 for P&H and later another charge for $1 for a "free" subscription to US Magazine. The offers did arrive but no coupons were enclosed, only instructions on how to subscribe on their website. But when trying to bring up the website my security program tells me that it "can't confirm that your connection is secure" and advises I don't go there. I wonder how many people have paid the $6.90 for this scam. And, yes, I've canceled the credit card they were able to access without anyone giving them the number.

Lastly, as an online retailer I'm always looking for new ways to market my products. Recently in the Etsy forums someone mentioned the Facebook Marketplace as a way to increase traffic. It's a free service so I've listed 5 or 6 items with a link to them on Etsy. And it's true that traffic has doubled and even tripled in some cases though this hasn't yet brought me a sale. What has increased is the number of scammers wanting to buy my products. This week alone I've had 2 requests for jewelry but the customers want to pay with a Western Union money order and will actually send more than the item costs. As usual the emails are written by someone for whom English is not their first language. And they want the item asap and ask that I return a check for the overage so they can pay for a "private delivery service". What's wrong with the post office?

For those of you who aren't aware, a Western Union money order can be faked. And if you deposit a fake one in your bank, it can appear to clear, so you ship. It can sometimes take awhile but you will be out the entire amount of money order plus your merchandise. If you have to take a money order, the ones from the Post Office are much safer. For all the complaints about Paypal, it's the safest way to get paid.

As Sgt. Esterhaus would say, "Be careful out there."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Little Polish Folklore

Legend has it that long ago a dragon took up residence in a cavern in Wawel (pronounced Vavel) Hill. He was called the Smok Wawelski (the Wawel dragon). Each day the evil dragon would kill the civilians, pillage their homes and eat their livestock. Many brave and wise men tried to dispatch the dragon and all failed. One day, Krak, a poor cobbler’s apprentice accepted the challenge. He stuffed a sheep skin with sulphur and set it outside the dragon’s cave. The dragon ate it and soon became incredibly thirsty. He turned to the Vistula River for relief and he drank and drank. But no amount of water could quell his aching stomach, and after swelling up from drinking half of the Vistula river, he exploded. The people of the settlement were so grateful to Krak for the demise of the dragon that they named the place after the young shoemaker. That is how Krakow got its name.

A metal sculpture of a dragon stands outside the Dragon’s Den and it breathes fire every five minutes.

Hubby and I spent Friday night at the Krakow Festival, a yearly fundraiser put on by the Elms College Polish Center of Learning and Discovery. They served a 6 course meal! Thankfully Eddie Forman played polka music for the dancing needed in between courses of great Polish foods. I do not need to eat for awhile.

Posting Great Pictures @#$%$!

According to the people in the forums on Etsy, great pictures (among a few other things) are a MUST for grabbing sales. As I sell very little on the website, I've been working diligently with my digital to perfect my photos. (Don't you just love alliteration?) So with my steampunk styles back from Virginia along with some new pieces my daughter made, I once again set up in my sunroom to try again for "great pictures".
Light is really important and I've found that a bright overcast day is usually the best. I've experimented with various settings on my camera and even have notes about what each setting looks like. But sometimes good ol' "automatic" just works best.

Anyway, this weekend I accidentally put the camera in "aperture priority settings". Suddenly the background was white, really white! I've seen pictures on Etsy that look like the ones I took this weekend but never knew how they happened. The Etsy gods must have taken pity on me deciding I'd never find the right setting myself.

On the left is an old picture.

On the right is a new, improved photo.

What do you think? The big question is will this influence sales.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm Saving Money by Not Going To Gem Shows

As all the steampunk designs are in Virginia (still waiting for news how that show went), I decided to create some new designs from items I still have left in my stash of watch parts and vintage jewelry. Who knows. She might have sold out.

Just as I'm thinking I may have to visit Ebay for supplies, my older daughter has found a new source for watch parts and we split the booty this afternoon. He's local and apparently may have more.

I took my sewing machine down to West Springfield to have it cleaned and tuned up. It hasn't been done in many years. Mark, knowing that we make steampunk, put together a box of vintage sewing machine parts for us. Thanks Mark! I'm trying to get my husband to make a steampunk sculpture out of the bigger pieces that we can't use for jewelry.

And have you ever been in Forever XXI in the Holyoke Mall? Well they have gaudy jewelry with lots of bling. Lady Gaga would love it. It's also very affordable! So I bought a 4 strand chain necklace and got 16 feet of chain for half of what I'd pay for it at A.C. Moore.

All in all it's been a productive week.

I'm not sure that the Steampunk Genre is becoming more popular, but there are certainly more people familiar with it. Even people my age (old people) recognize it more often at craft shows. But for those of you who think it's just about jewelry, check out

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's Next?

In my new incarnation as a jewelry designer my focus is often on the next show or the next piece or next year. I have 3 shows left (4 actually as Kris is doing one alone near Richmond, VA) so I've started looking at my list of shows to see which ones I'll be applying to again and which will be eliminated. Some applications are actually due in early January. If you've read my show reviews you can probably guess some of the hits & misses.

My next challenge will be to start working on some silver clay designs. I have a notebook of pictures and sketches some of which I hope to turn into real jewelry.

We've had a good year so far so my next big expense could be a trip to Tucson to the world's biggest gem show. I say "could" as I'm not sure it makes sense to go there anymore. The gemstone jewelry doesn't sell as well as either the steampunk or the silver clay so I really shouldn't be buying beads anymore. But I really love creating gemstone designs so I find myself in the same pickle as many other artisans. Do you make what sells or what you love to create?

The next step in a business like mine is to consider selling wholesale. I've had some shops express an interest in the steampunk & I actually will be talking to a couple between Thanksgiving & Christmas. This a big step as it means raising my prices. It could also mean I would need to increase my inventory.

So, with all that looming ahead, I've decided instead to clean closets, pull out my winter clothes, and sort several boxes of pictures. It's just too much to think about right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life--Jean Paul Richter

I had the honor this past weekend to exhibit in an art show at the Sinai Temple in Springfield that included some outstanding fine artists. Having a line of steampunk jewelry I was particularly intrigued by Geoffrey Houghton's "Steamfolk" watercolor illustrations. Marcia Reed who teaches at Williston Northampton School set up a beautiful display of her very colorful paintings. I particularly liked the Tuscan scenes she painted while teaching workshops in Italy. Nice. Leon Comstock and I shared a pegboard wall. And both days I had a very nice view of Frederick LeBlanc's photographs of boats and water scenes.

I was told that in the past this festival was strictly fine art. This year other artisans were invited to participate and the Men of Sinai were fortunate to have Peg Gerard and her polymer clay jewelry. She's been featured in books and magazines and creates incredible patterns with clay. Lori Mader, whom I saw at Mattoon Street, was there with her stoneware. And Jan Charbonneau, a member of the Berkshire Made group, showed off her purses made of recycled men's ties.

On the second day I learned that fellow South Deerfield residents, Jane Trigere and Tony Faith also had booths set up. And, of course, there were the representatives of the Artisans of Western Mass., Katie Richardson, Nicole Werth, Aviva Sieber, Adele Tanner and me--Jansjems.

If you want to see uncommon artistry, click on any of the above live links.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Artisan Window

The Artisans of Western Mass. are on display in a window at Copy Cat in Greenfield. Several members contributed their wonderful creations which Lou, Vickie & I arranged in what we hope is a well balanced eclectic display.

If you're in Greenfield, stop by and check it out. We'll be there until mid November.