Monday, May 31, 2010

Find my resin jewelry in New Hampshire!

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I am pleased to announce that I can now be found at Tulips, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The store is owned by a mother/daughter team.  They have been in business for 29 years and recently moved into a new location at 62 Market Street.  While I was getting their order ready to ship out UPS this morning, I thought it would be fun to show everyone what I do to get resin jewelry ready to ship to customers and boutiques.
I've got my items laid out on my kitchen table.  I store the resin pieces individually in plastic ziploc bags and identify them with an inventory number on the outside of the bag.  I try to be environmentally friendly and reuse bags whenever possible.  I go over every piece one more time before sending and give another light coat of wax before it goes on its way.

The orange and yellow resin pendant on the right is in its storage bag.  Before I ship, I wrap the resin jewelry with tissue paper and repackage back into bags.

I include artist information cards to go with each purchase.  It gives customers a chance to get to me and my resin jewelry a little better.  I also include resin and sterling silver jewelry care instructions.

I also include a general "fact sheet" about KMS Designs and my resin and silver jewelry.  It gives the businesses more in depth information about me, my resin jewelry making processes, and resin jewelry care.  I also include information about how I make jewelry with sustainable jewelry making production methods.  I also recycle boxes in good condition.  The box at the right has been saved from a previous shipment of jewelry goods and materials.

Finally, I add some extra packing materials (recycled styrofoam peanuts) and send the package on its way.  I generally send items via postal mail, but this box is going UPS ground.  I can also do FedEx as well.  I have email notifications set up to let the customer know when the package ships.  Plus, there is a tracking number so anyone can find out where the package is at any moment.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New resin bracelets

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I have found some great papers and vintage postcards and stationery that I'm working on getting into resin bracelets.  I am still in the prototype stage, but you can look at the samples and get an idea what I'm thinking.
Part of using these papers in resin bracelets is that they need to be covered with a sealant first.  On this batch, you can see the two closest to the front didn't get sealed very well.  (Although I thought I did.)  The dark purple "watermarks" in the papers are because the resin actually got the papers wet.  I've also had problems with some of the other vintage papers creating a look of Alka Seltzer in the resin if I don't get them sealed completely as well.

I'm excited these will be soo cute when I get them done.  Stay tuned while I work out the kinks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A few crafty ideas

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So as I realize that my kids will be home a lot more often here starting next week, I have to make sure to keep them occupied!  (Otherwise they will find something to do and not necessarily in a good way.)  I was searching the web for children's craft projects and found the All Free Crafts website. The site has a huge range of projects from seasonal items, to homemade gifts, to projects for different age groups. Many of them can be done with simple household materials. I will have to report back to the group on what my kids like best.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My little indulgence

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Everyone has something they like to indulge themselves on from time to time.  For me, it's wine.  I love the artistry of flavors and textures of the wine.  My love of wine also pairs up with my interest in food and cooking quite nicely.  (Yes, I know it's supposed to work that way.)

I didn't start drinking wine "seriously" until about 10 years ago.  Since then, my tastes have changed, but overall, I enjoy a large majority of the wines out there.
While enjoying the season finale of LOST Sunday night, I opened a bottle of pinot noir from Cottonwood winery in Oregon.  For those of you who aren't wine drinkers, I wouldn't suggest starting with a pinot noir.  It's an acquired taste as they tend to be quite dry.  This one was a good one.  It started out light on my tongue, but as I was thinking to myself that it was lacking in body, it had a nice strong finish.  The more it breathed (open to the air), the more I liked it.  (Tasting notes for you wine enthusiasts:  moderately peppery, slight hint of jam and berry.  I would expect this wine to get better with age.)  Looking forward to enjoying another class tonight.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My tribute to Law & Order

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I can't believe the television show Law and Order is over!  I have always felt like it was the perfect show on television.  It didn't matter if you had never seen an episode before, you could sit down and watch it and be perfectly entertained; no backstories to worry about understanding or characters to know about.  You can watch episodes from the 90's and still find them interesting.  It was simply an hour of entertaining television.  Now it's gone!

For those of you who see me at shows, you may also remember seeing my friend Maggie helping me with sales and customers.  She too is a Law and Order fan.  We watched it many times in hotel rooms while doing art shows on the weekends.  When I was expecting my twins, I joked that they will know the "bloop-bloop" as soon as they're born.

Oh well, let's hope the Law and Order: Los Angeles is a good replacement.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The cost of being unorganized

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I have been working for some time now to get my studio cleaned up so that I can get pictures and a video for everyone to have a "virtual tour."  While it may not be as bad as the picture shown here, that's what it has felt like some days!  I have learned in the process that my lack of organization skills have not only cost me the time of looking for stuff (aargh!), but I have also spent more on supplies than I should have (bigger aargh!)

Here's what I have learned:

  • I have ruined some equipment and/or materials because I didn't put them away properly.  Files have rusted, flux got spilled, materials dried out.
  • I have bought more of something because I couldn't find it.  Mainly I was finding out that I bought multiples of mostly metal findings because when I couldn't find them, I assumed I needed more.  Not so.  I had just put them in a place that I didn't think to look in when I needed more.
  • I have cost myself a small fortune in returning things!  When I ordered something, it went to the studio.  When I ended up returning items, I didn't get them all returned.  Either I ended up paying return shipping charges twice or I ended up not returning them at all since they were out of date.

So, I post all of this in my blog so that I can share with you my new "Studio Resolutions".

  1. I will start to clean up and put away materials 30 minutes before my intended quit time.  (Before, I would work until the absolute last minute of when I needed to quit.)
  2. When in doubt, find it a new home!  I'm finding all sorts of fun rocks, findings, silver, and other neat things that I have made the decision that either I will never use or don't need anymore.  I won't list them here, but if someone reading this has a specific request for something, email me
  3. I will remind myself to "put it away" or find it a logical home.  I've really been concentrating the last few weeks on getting things organized in a logical fashion (e.g. all the metal findings in one place, tools in another, etc.).  This also includes labeling the outside of containers or using clear containers so that I can more easily find jewelry supplies and tools.

I will let everyone know how this goes.  Maybe I will inspire the rest of my family to keep the house cleaned up just as well.  (laughing hysterically here.....)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How can I become a jewelry artist?

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I get asked this question a lot from students and other people I meet that buy my jewelry. Making the cross over from a jewelry enthusiast or part time crafter is a big step. There are certainly a few things to keep in mind:

1. Business versus hobby is a big difference, especially to the IRS. Are you committed to keeping accounts and records separate for business and personal expenses and receipts?

2. Are you ready to invest time into marketing your jewelry? It's one thing to have a few family members and co-workers buy your jewelry, but selling to the general public is a whole new challenge.

3. Do you have the resources to invest in producing a lot of inventory? Potential customers need to have more than just a few pieces to buy from.

4. Are you ready to pay other associated business expenses? Government licenses, business bank account fees, invoice pads, accounting software, associated presentation items, boxes, (and the list goes on).

5. Are you ready to be "on call" for your business? There will be no more, "yeah, I'll get back to you." You'll have to be ready to serve the customer!

6. Outside marketing is a must! Websites, business cards, making contacts with galleries.

7. Are you thinking about doing the art show scene? Plan on spending $1500 to get you booth ready. That doesn't even include jury and entry fees.

8.  Have you considered your costs in producing your work?  It's one thing to not be concerned about making a profit on a piece, but once you're in business, you need to be able to pay for your materials and overhead and (at least a little bit ) to yourself.

Phew! It's a big list, but certainly something everyone needs to consider. If you're not ready to make the full plunge yet, sites like Etsy or Ebay may be a better choice to "get your feet wet."

Monday, May 17, 2010

New resin jewelry making tool

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I've been playing around with resin jewelry for a while now. I've had a lot of fun and enjoy reading about other jewelry artists and their adventures in resin jewelry making.

I've been reading about how different jewelers remove bubbles from their resin.  Some use toothpicks, others blow on the resin, but I had read about a few using a heat gun to get the bubbles to rise to the top.  I ended up buying this heat gun from my local Michael's craft store.  Ironically enough, I purchased it to make the class project for another jewelry making class at Gifts of Avalon I hope to teach over the summer.  While I was pouring resin a couple of days ago, I decided to give it a try to see what it could do for bubbles in resin.

I have to say I was thrilled with the results.  It almost works like a hair dryer, with a couple of differences.  There is only one temperature (fairly hot) and the end of the heat gun is smaller than a hair dryer.  You don't need to apply it for very long to see the bubbles rise up out of the resin.  (I stayed back about 10 to 12 inches or so.)  You also have to move quickly because there is a fair bit of velocity behind the air.  Wow!  It's one of those things I wish I had tried sooner.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My little garden is growing!

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Remember my plants I put in pots in my patio?  Well they are growing and thriving!  (much to my surprise).  I'm not a green thumb at all, so I'm quite excited to see them doing well.

This is my cherry tomato plant.  He is growing pretty good.  (He looks a little droopy, but I gave him some water right after I took this picture.)

Little green tomatoes!

My pepper plant with some baby peppers on it (bottom center).  There is another one hidden under a leaf.  I don't remember exactly which kind this is, but I remember it was "medium" heat.  I thought it would be something good for fresh salsa.

And the basil is thriving!  I've heard they love it hot and humid (perfect Florida day for them I suppose).  Can't wait to have enough to make some fresh pesto.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jewelry making class pictures

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Last night, I taught my forged metal bracelet class for the first time at Gifts of Avalon.  This was a brand new class, which is tough for me sometimes because I never know if people are going to want to come and learn a new technique or not.  (The woman at the far left in this picture, Claudia is actually responsible for pushing me to come up with new classes!  Her partner in crime, Judy, couldn't make last night's class).

This was a large class of seven students.  Sometimes they can get a little crazy for me as I try to make sure everyone is being tended to, but this class had some great chemistry and they were really focused!  I wish I could play a sound track for this class.  They all had to hammer bracelets and it sounded just like what I'm guessing it does in Santa's workshop during the month of December.  Lots of dinging and hammering!

I wanted to share the finished projects everyone got done.  Most of the class had no metalsmithing or jewelry making experience, but everyone had a new bracelet in under three hours (some even a little faster)!  This bracelet is made from sterling silver.  Chris, one of my class regulars, gave a shiny, mirror, polish.

These bracelets were done by Rebeccah (below) and Christine (right).  They made both of their bracelets from copper.  I showed them how to finish their bracelets by applying heat with a torch.  They got some beautiful pinks, blues, and touch of gold color on their bracelets.

Chuck was my only guy in the class.  He was kind enough to come and make his wife a bracelet.  (Is that dreamy or what??).  Chuck finished his bracelet with a matte finish using steel wool and liver of sulfur to highlight the details.

Remember Claudia from earlier in the post?  This is her bracelet.  She said was HOOKED on making these and wanted to make one for her daughter.  We also talked about what she wants to me to teach next.  *wink*

JoAnn also took the class but managed to sneak away before I could get her bracelet photographed.  (Probably was so good she didn't want to put me to shame.)

 The last two bracelets are from Trude  (copper one on the left) and Susan (sterling silver one on the right).  Both turned out great and Trude completely amazed me by putting her own flair to her bracelet.  (By the way, Trude is one of the shop owners and is always happy to help customers.)

Wow!  It was a great night!!  There were several people on the waiting list for this class, so I will be running it again in early July.  You can contact Gifts of Avalon now to get on the waiting list.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My mother's day tribute

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Mother's Day is the only "official" day to thank all the mother's in our lives for everything they do. On this day, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Susan Chastain, for being the "mother" of my jewelry career. I met Susan in the summer of 2001 at a mutual friend's barbecue. We instantly hit off (we both love animals) and I was completely enthralled with the fact that she was a jewelry artist. As luck would have it, she was teaching a class in Gainesville in a couple of weeks and still had some openings. I took the class and was immediately hooked!

The relationship could have stopped there, but instead Susan took me under wing and made me her apprentice. She taught me everything she knew about jewelry, lapidary work and metalsmithing. Her unselfish sharing of knowledge is something I truly treasure. Outside the first class I took from her, she never asked for a dime for all the other lessons she gave me. She has grown to be a dear friend who continues to encourage me about all my jewelry making. I can't ever possibly thank her enough for all she has done for me. Happy Mother's Day to you Susan!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Death by chocolate

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Sounds like a good way to go doesn't it? Actually, it's one of my favorite EASY dessert recipes. It works great for serving a large group of people and looks beautiful if you can assemble it in a large glass serving bowl. It has gotten rave reviews and it is so simple I almost feel guilty for letting people think I'm a gourmet cook. (notice I said almost)

Death by chocolate

1 boxed brownie mix (I prefer Ghirardelli)
2 packages of chocolate mousse mix
16 ounces of cool whip, thawed
4 to 6 Heath bars
1 thick chocolate bar (optional)

Make the brownies according to package directions. If you're a Kahlua fan, you can poke holes in the brownies after they come out of the oven and drizzle with the Kahlua. I have done it both ways and found it to fine either way. Once the brownies are cool, crumble into large pieces. Make the chocolate mousse according to the package directions. (You can do this while the brownies are cooking and keep the mousse in the refrigerator when finished.) Layer half the brownies, half the chocolate mouse mix, and half the cool whip. Crumble the Heath bars (use 4 to 6 based upon your toffee preferences). Sprinkle half of this on top. Repeat the layers. Shave chocolate on top of the mix as a pretty garnish, but this is optional. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

That's it! I would suggest making it no more than 8 hours before you need it. It lasts at least two more days in the refrigerator after making. This can serve 8 to 12 people easy. This recipe easily fixes my chocolate dessert cravings!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Tips for using resin to make jewelry

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I've had a few followers email me with questions about my experiences with using resin in jewelry making. I thought I would share a few tips and what I've learned from my mistakes with readers.

Picture credit: "Pink and green epoxy resin, sterling silver french wire earrings"

  1. Everything you are using must be completely dry. If you're using a setting that you have made yourself, make sure it is "bone dry" before putting the resin in it. Resin does not like additional moisture and even the slightest amount of water in the corners of your piece may keep the resin from setting properly. If my sterling silver setting has just come out of the pickle pot, I will put a heat gun on it for a few seconds to evaporate any water before pouring.
  2. Follow the mixing directions exactly. This may seem like "duh", but I'm also the type that just kind of shakes off the excess flour in the measuring cup when I'm making a recipe. In order for it to cure properly, things must be exact. (And by the way, every resin is different in it's mixing instructions. I always reread the directions every time I mix a resin.)
  3. Measure the resin and catalyst in two separate cups before mixing. I know cups get expensive, but that way if you overpour one, you can put some back without messing up your ratios.
  4. Have everything ready to go before you mix and pour. Resins have what's called a "pot" time. This is the amount of time that the resin is fluid and you can work with it. The polyester resin I use has about an 8 minute pot time. I don't have any time to waste! I have my molds and inclusions (usually glass pieces) ready to go so that my resin doesn't set up in the mixing cup before it gets poured.
  5. If something goes wrong, call technical support of the company that made it. They know a lot about their product! I have done this for a couple of the resins I work with. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes it was the Florida humidity. I would also suggest being "boy scout honest" with these people. If you're using a pigments and inclusions, let them know. They certainly can't give you the best pointers without knowing all the information.
  6. Plan on experimenting, then abusing the pieces before selling. I will experiment with different pigments, colors, inks, inclusions, found objects, etc., then let the "elements" take over. I leave them in the sun, close to heat, etc. I want to know that even though the piece looks good when it pops out of the mold, I want to make sure it doesn't get icky later. (Remember that resin doesn't like water? Some of the pigments I put it can attract water. I want to make sure the piece doesn't go haywire in a couple of weeks or so.)
Those are my basic tips. I know there are some discussion boards out there too with people's comments. Happy jewelry making!

Picture credit: "Gotcha candy heart, epoxy resin pendant"
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