Thursday, October 29, 2009

Charleston

And so my vacation comes to an end...I got to sleep as much as I needed during these two weeks. I shopped with my mom. Saw my nieces everyday and spent time with family. On Monday, we went to Charleston. I love old things. This is something I miss in Hong Kong...it's such a modern city, which has it's advantages. As a glass half full person, I'm learning to find the best in that. (I think I liked Beijing because it preserves the old things of China.)

Since I will be falling off the face of this earth (well at least the face of this hemisphere), I have learned it usually takes at least a week to recover from the travel. So, it's possible I may neglect the blog. To stave off blog starvation, I will feed it will some delectable photos from Charleston over the week. I have scheduled a series of posts from my meanderings in Charleston, South Carolina in the autumn. Toodles for now!





Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Within these woods...

My dad took me out of his way to bury Bijou's ashes in northern Wisconsin where our other special family pets lie. It was significantly out of the way. But, he has a soft heart like me when it comes to our animals. Maybe even softer.


Within these woods
Lie our special family fur friends
Ellie - our Maltese who never complained (September, 2006)
Kodi - our wild, red-headed golden retriever (July, 2008)




and now joined by Bijou - my clumsy boy, who always made me laugh (January, 2009)


I'm very grateful for the opportunity to have known my little Texan Maltese. He was born, raised, and died in Texas. He visited Wisconsin on family vacations. And he was always funny. I was happy to have had the opportunity to be his mama while he lived and to spoil him just a little and give him a happy, secure doggy life. He is well missed and thought of with happiness and funny memories. It helps me to have a "back-up" Maltese in Molly. For some reason, I had always assumed Bijou would have been the back-up Maltese. Either way, my strategy worked...Molly has been a huge help with the grieving and filling the void.





And while on vacation, I have an Alt Malt (Alternate Maltese), my dad's little six-pound Maltese named Madison (Maddy for short) who is your friend for life if you give her lots and lots of belly rubs. Which I have been carefully tending to the belly rubs and making good friends. She is my dad's dog...she follows him around, watches him to see if he's going to sit down and if she should sit with him. But, I've made inroads into her belly-rub heart. She even slept with me once. She is trying to share herself with all three of us (my dad, mom, and me). She is ridiculously cute, and well, must get smooches and bellyrubs and backrubs. She helps fill the Maltese void while on vacation. But, I'm missing my Hong Kong Molly Dolly...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Beginner Work

A beautiful early hit. I don't remember all of the beads, but I think the colored beads were citrine and carnelian. I think. This was one of my first necklaces that I gave to my mom. And she won't part with it. I looked at it with fresh eyes (three years since I've seen it) and "oohed" over it before I realized it was one of mine. That's kind of a nice feeling...to have your mom, who is knowledgeable about jewelry and you, who has progressed in skill, look back on an early piece and still admire it.




This one, not so much. These were the very first lampwork beads I ever bought. They are from Grace Lampwork Beads. I think I was headed on the right track, but missed the station somehow. I love the green, enameled beads with accents of copper. I plan to re-configure this necklace. It's not a complete miss, but with additional understanding and skills, I know how to refine this into a quality piece that I will like much better. The main thing that bugs me is that the "Swarovskis" are fakes. I didn't know the difference at the time. I do now!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wandering Around the States


While in Texas for a business trip, I had the pleasant surprise of having an impromptu "trunk show" with my colleagues. Thank you, Valerie and Dawn, who helped me learn quite a bit from this experience about how to prepare, answer questions, and not be nervous. It helps to practice small "shows" on friendly people you already know before you try anything bigger. It was a really pleasant surprise for me to sell some of my jewelry! I'm glad I brought what I had been working on! I also learned a lot about what people like, how to pack and display the jewelry, determine what is popular, then continue to develop a line that will resonate with people in general and still play with the "art" side of jewelry. In short, it was a pleasant surprise, full of fun, and a great learning experience for me.

I was in Wisconsin to attend a friends wedding and am now visiting family in South Carolina. My vacation is flying by so very quickly! I really do not miss the cold. Or the winter. But, I miss autumn. Caramel apples. Hot cider. Custard. Bratwurst. Wisconsin cheese.

My mom likes vintage jewelry and we've gone through her stash of jewelry. Her stash also includes some of the jewelry I have made for her...a beautiful double spiral chain maille bracelet, some earrings and necklaces. I'll do a post on that later. We also spent some time in the antique malls checking out vintage jewelry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hong Kong Headlines

I must be missing a gawkers gene.

Gawkers carry cameras. And videos. Or both. Or at least a video phone.

Like Cathy (who missed the Squirrel with his face in an empty peanut-butter jar but got the Oscar-Meyer-Weinermobile instead...you need to bookmark her blog...seriously funny).

Only I didn't get an alternative for you to ogle.


So, back to missing DNA...the gawkers gene...I'm really excited to be setting foot in the US again to see friends and family. I hope I will behave properly...i.e. habits I've picked up in HK won't unnerve my old friends.

Back the instigation of this post, I was finishing up the family trinket shopping and noticed what was normally a moving throng of people a stopped throng of people. Looking up. In addition to looking up, there was an impressive display of mobile power recording the event with whatever they had at hand: camera-phones, video-phones, i-phones, video cameras. If they didn't have video, they were on the phone telling someone about it. Since this was a major thoroughfare for tourists, this also included a fair amount of tourists in this gawkers crowd. When I looked up, I saw an anemic plume of smoke from a burning window air conditioner.

On the Richter scale of dramas, it might have been a 0.001.

I really wasn't impressed. I was more impressed with the display of mobile power. Once I determined that I was not really interested in gawking, I was trying to assess whether there was a trickle of non-gawkers moving through the crowd or if police had truly cordoned off the street to pedestrians.

Just at the time I had dismissed the burning air conditioner as a drama princess, the burning air conditioner decided to amp up the feeble display with a tiny, spluttering explosion. There was a collective in-take of breathe, cry of concern, and a micro-stampede about 20 steps backward.

Sigh...yes, alternative routes must be found...

At least Hong Kong is almost to scale. It really it just a matter of a few steps this way or that way. You pick.

And if I had the gawkers gene I would have something to show you. But, I am missing that piece of DNA. So you only get to hear my story about it.

P.S. - I have finally reached the vacation part of my US trip. I have many stories to tell, but was caught up in the whirlwind of work, friends, and travel and have not had any spare minutes until now. My stories are a little out of order. This was one of the stories that happened the day before I left. Since jewelry and blogging are hobbies...they get included in my vacation...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I exist

I'm on a business trip (this week) and family vacation for two weeks. Yeehaw! I brought my jewelry with me, so my shop is still open. And I know where post offices are in Texas, so shipping will be faster! (I'm still hunting around in Hong Kong.)

I am operating within functional parameters. Functioning within normal parameters? Debatable. I'm awake at 2 a.m. writing a blog post.

What's it like to come back? Kind of boring. People drive normal. I didn't have an urge to drive on the left side of the road. Driving is almost relaxing. Although Dallas can be known for aggressive driving, I don't drive in Hong Kong and I never will...it's on the left-side of cramped, curving, winding roads, and in wild crazy traffic.

One of my friends asked me what I wanted to do first. Book & craft stores everywhere... beware... I'm coming for magazines I can't get in Hong Kong. Already scored a gorgeous of set of bead and metal clay magazines and a tres chic book on making your own findings. Yeehaw!!

Aahm in Teexaas this weeek praacccticiinnng drawwwling out ma words. And patiently waiting while the elevator doors close instead of quickly clicking the door closed. I didn't spit out undesirable food on the table. But, I did drink hot water without the need to add tea or hot chocolate...merely to keep warm. I have some milk tea packets my friends got me that are quite nice, too. Oh, and I enjoy heat! You know when it cools down and you turn on the furnace and warm up the house or car? Heat! (Yeah...too hot most of the time in Hong Kong, so heat isn't installed. You survive with multiple layers of clothes and space heaters.)

It feels normal to be back in Texas in a fourth dimension way: everything is the same...sort of... and slightly different.

New Stuff

When Etsy was on meltdown last year and then they decided to transition to a professional CEO, they went through some major changes. I'm pleased to see some professionalism coming through. I think they're turning around and heading in a positive direction. When I get back to glass, I will probably maintain a presence on Etsy for glass beads.

During Etsy's transition, other options became available and one of them was Artfire. When Etsy was on meltdown, I developed a list of things I would do as an ecommerce app to support artisans. (My alter ago is a girl geek project manager in IT). I looked at my list and realized it contained work that was way beyond me. Then someone introduced me to Artfire. As I poked around I was immediately impressed as they took the approach to learn from Etsy's mistakes and improve on it. The list I had? They did it. And more.

Another thing, they have also formed what they call a Mavens team (you can email Sara and let her know you want to join the Maven team.) You'll be able to get previews of what's coming, help test new features, and make suggestions for new features. I'm just getting my feet wet in this activity and can tell you more later.

Artfire will be introducing studio blogs soon and my business model is morphing to adapt to the new features this will offer. I will be moving some of the content over to that blog to be closer to the point of sale. Some of these articles will be able to be submitted for publication on HandmadeNews.org. If this happens, I will be re-tooling my newsletter (details to come).

Features that I will move to the Artfire Blog:
  • A Business Bite - business ideas and mistakes I've made for you to learn from
  • Made Me Click - pretty items that made me click featured on the blog
  • Made Me Click Artist Interview - sometimes I've been finding artists simply by their unique style...they not only made me click, I wanted to browse their whole shop
  • Designers Challenge - I create my jewelry to a monthly theme and want to share that designers challenge with you in your art medium if you're feeling a little creatively empty or stuck. It's not a pressure challenge...just a fun challenge.
  • Artfire Features - when I made my list of "things I wanted" Artfire did a lot of them. They are a small company, but very responsive to the need of artisans and very good about communicating when new features will be in place.
  • New Jewelry: I'll be releasing new jewelry on this blog since it will be closer to the ecommerce site and even easier to purchase

I will link out to my regular blog when I have updates on the Artfire blog and vice versa, but I will not do complete copies of the posts as that is a "no-no".

What will remain on the Kanna Glass Studios blog

  • Funny Friday - entertaining stories of a klutzy American stumbling through life in Hong Kong and cute pictures of the Maltese that owns me
  • Hong Kong Art & Craft finds - it has taken me a while to unearth the art & craft scene in Hong Kong. I stumbled onto a piece of it and it is seeming to spiderweb out by guanxi (relationships)...and I'm just stumbling around finding various things. I'll share them as I find for anyone who might be wandering through Hong Kong at some point in their life.
  • Favorite Things - I decided to keep Favorite Things on this blog since it will feature books, Etsy finds, and other things that may not be on Artfire.
I was clicking through the jewelry section to find my pieces and see how it stacked up against the rest of the jewelry and if there were additional tweaks I could make. As I clicked through the jewerly, I couldn't help but find some standout artists. One of them is my friend at Moon Katty Studios. She's the one that really helped me get started with jewelry by taking me to my first bead show. I own two of her sumptuous jewelry sets and have bought some of her beads to include in my own work. We also took our first lampwork class together. I get to see her this week and I plan to feature her as one of my first "Made Me Click - Featured Artisan" when the Artfire Blog goes live which should be in the next 2-3 weeks. I've been wanting to feature her for a while and it seems like the right time...we've both re-tooled our Artfire shops and our regular blogs...I've hearted most of her shop as I searched through the standout items. So...stay tuned. I want her interview to the the first Artfire blog post...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sprucing up the look of Kanna Glass Studios

Have you noticed?


It has been looking fresher around my web presence?


I have Marina H to thank for this beautification. The main thing I want to say about Marina's work is she captured the thoughts right out of my head. Back in March, I had started re-branding everything...new business cards, new logos, new banners, new avatars, new look, etc. Graphic artist is not something I had carved out time to do. I was getting the hang of a few things. I was creating some things I liked. They were pretty rough. With time, I probably could conquer Photoshop and Illustrator. But, I really prefer to spend my time on glass and silver.

In rides Marina to save the day. It all started with Nancy hosting a blog party for our favorite poet/metalsmith, Ms. Jillian, de la Noisy Plume. Lo and behold, I clicked through the participant links and I swooned over the western poster Marina created to honor Jillian.

(That was a link-fest, wasn't it? Need a minute to catch up?)

Swoon. Happy dance. Tripping over feet with joy. Someone was doing western!!!! And it was smashing! So, I contacted her about doing a few western things with some of my Texas pictures for my Southwestern theme I did in July. I got a little sidetracked in July and forgot to use all of the posters on my blog, but the one below is my favorite. I have it on the main page of my website now.



With each successive poster she sent me, I got happier, and happier and knew I had to work with her to re-do the branding, even though I had just done everything. You see, I still wasn't satisfied. Despite my best intentions, I felt my look was still too homemade, fractured, and clunky. I did want rustic, rough, and western...but I was struggling to achieve that.

So, I gave Marina a few ideas...green, green, green, and green, turquoise, brown. Western. Rustic. Green. And I did manage to create some simplistic flowers that she snagged, spruced up and carried over to the new image to carry a theme I started through to the new brand. The result?

!Oila!

The Avatar




A lovely bouquet for inserting randomly


New Business Cards





Plus, the new banners in this blog, my Artfire shop, the "wallpaper" backgrounds I use for photographing my jewelry, and my pillowbox packaging...which is the special treat reserved for customers who order from me.

As I mentioned, she captured the ideas right out of my head. Her fees were very reasonable (contact her!), she worked with my budget and on my schedule (i.e. spacing the projects out to make it affordable). In short, she was a dream graphic artist for a new business owner to work with.


Thank you, Marina! Please take a bow!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mindful


I have been mindful of several things lately.


I know that, despite predictions of a rebounding economy, people are still being cautious about spending. I think that's wise. I'm being cautious myself. This spills into my fledgling jewelry business. I have been cautious about additional supplies and have been challenging my creativity to make my supplies stretch or do things a little differently to get the most out of the materials I have. When I make purchases, they are carefully thought out and well planned.

As I reflect on my own spending habits, I realize the type of person following my work probably has similar financial instincts. With that in mind, I have been re-working and re-scaling the pieces and designs in my shop. At the moment, I'm holding back on full-scale one-of-a-kind art pieces while waiting to find an outside studio space. This is giving me the opportunity to design the everyday line I have had in my head for some time. These are "one of a design" pieces...examples are the Trailing Vines bracelets, Lasso earrings, or Classic Lariats...similar in design but tweaks on colors and components.

The Materials

A quick word on materials...glass is still what makes my heart do a flip-flop. I'm quite attached to it. I have to be patient while searching for external studio space. But glass is always on my mind. I dream in it.

The main metal I use is genuine silver: Sterling .925 or Argentium .925. Argentium is a newer silver that uses germanium instead of copper and resists tarnish for a longer period of time. I also use fine silver .999. I really enjoy mixing in copper with silver for a western, rustic look. I occasionally use antiqued brass or gold fill. I purchase glass beads from other lampwork artists as well and include their work in some of my finished jewelry pieces. In short...I use quality components in my jewelry because I want the piece to have lasting value.

Quality

As I was writing and editing this post, I put one of my new bracelet designs through an unintentional severe abuse test. I was grocery shopping and a heavy grocery bag slid down my arm and pulled on the bracelet. Although the bracelet gave way at a weak point and one of the disk beads broke when it hit the tile floor, I was actually pretty surprised at how well the rest of it held up. I mean...glass beads hitting a tile floor? And only one of the disks broke? Kiln annealing really does work!



Although I was initially disappointed...I really liked this Corsage design and I don't have access to my torch to re-create the broken bead...I can still re-work the piece into a Trailing Vines bracelet.

So, why do I talk about a mistake? Because it leads me to the main point I wanted to make. I don't just make my jewelry and send it off. I test it. With the everyday designs I have been making lately, I make one for me, test, twiddle, fiddle, and tweak. If it works, I then make subsequent designs for the shop.

For the truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, I do a test wearing. The first reason, is that it takes more than fitting on a model or checking in the mirror to make sure it lays right. It also takes regular activities to ensure it doesn't flop or dangle awkwardly. Second, I check for reactions...as in, "ooooh, that's a really cool piece!" If you're buying an art piece, you want a reaction. Then...once it passes these checks, it gets cleaned up (sanitized or tumble polished in dish soap) and ready for you.

Guarantee of Me

As noted in the above picture of my Corsage bracelet, although my beads are manufactured to be durable, they are still glass. In particular, disk beads have a greater sensitivity as they are thin and can spend more time out of the flame. While I have inadvertently "tested" a lot of my beads by dropping them (I'm a klutz, don't forget), glass is still glass and should be treated with care.

However, things will always happen. This is why I offer the Guarantee of Me. I back my work. First of all, I only make what I love and I only want you to buy what you love so you'll wear it over and over again. I want to you be happy with what you received in the first place.

The additional part the Guarantee of Me is that I realize things can happen to jewelry. I strive to make the best pieces I can, but sometimes things happen. Perhaps there is a weak point in the jewelry. Perhaps it suffered some kind of trauma like getting dropped or the dog ate it. (This really happened to me...Molly ate one of my favorite necklaces when she was a baby.) After I started making my own jewelry, I realized those favorite little pieces that I discarded in the past were often very simple little fixes.

I offer that same backing, whether the fault is mine or yours...just email me and we can either work out the quick fix for the cost of postage...or if the damage is more extensive (i.e. the dog ate your jewelry), salvage what you can and we can work out a new design for you.

Value

As a fledgling business and being mindful that people are seeking a good value in this economy, I have reduced prices on everything in my shop to give people the opportunity to sample some of my work. I have deliberately kept prices in line with or slightly above what you pay for costume jewelry. This is not because I don't think my work has value...actually, it's because I think you will enjoy my work and would like to make it affordable to have as I'm fledging this little business. I want to you to try it. Like it. Come back later. And tell your friends.