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.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Garlic & Arts Festival

I've never been to the Garlic & Arts Festival in Orange. It seems I always had somewhere else to go. I managed to get there this past weekend and was very surprised at how much was going on. There were lots of crafters, food vendors, and informational booths. And a zydeco band was playing on the main stage.

The many tents were set up on hilly and uneven terrain. Up on the hill to the left of the entrance were several food vendors selling everything from gourmet soups to Thai cuisine. I saw two members of the Artisans of Western Mass. with tables set up in a larger tent labeled "Community Marketplace" and they told me that sales were good.

I was impressed with the crowds, the entertainment, and the variety of vendors. There were several people selling wonderful hand spun yarns in incredible colors. A couple of farms were set up with fresh fruits and vegetables. There was fine art and photography, glass pendants, hand sewn wallets and bags, herbs, massage, copies of old town maps, dyed silk scarves, honey, salsa, and cooking demonstrations.

And of course there was garlic, many varieties of garlic.

New Craft Show, Same Theme Song

Weather couldn't have been better for the Old Wethersfield Fall Craft Show at Cove Park. We were among 100 artisans displaying a good variety of arts & crafts. We had a good day and met some nice people.

As usual I took some time to walk around and talk to other crafters. It's always good to get an opinion of a show from people who have done it before. It was our first time there. And once again I heard from 3 separate vendors that traffic and sales were less than last year. We heard that same song in Lenox and again in Old Deerfield. The economy certainly wasn't any better last year yet I think that because it hasn't made a momentous rebound, people are even more cautious than ever.

Susan from Three Sisters Jewelry has been doing this show for years. She designs what she refers to as "outrageous" jewelry. It's actually a nice mix of vintage pieces and gemstones and quite wearable. She said that she missed the excited conversations of customers who spot a new design or unique item and call over to their friends to see it. People were quieter, more introspective, and thought hard before actually purchasing something. We had one customer return 3 times to look at a bracelet before she finally gave herself permission to buy it.

Perhaps because this was our first year in Wethersfield and our steampunk jewelry is still quite new to most people, we had a successful day. And, fortunately, our prices are still in line with what people will spend on a unique piece of jewelry. But what will next year bring?