Thursday, January 28, 2010

Elevator Etiquette

I think I'm getting used to life here. Nothing has hit me as strange lately...um...maybe it's more appropriate to say, I haven't done anything strange and out of sync with the rhythm in Hong Kong lately.

But, I do have something I just figured out lately regarding Elevator Etiquette. Even between Wisconsin and Texas, I found general differences. For example, in Texas, ALL men allow women to go first...through a door, on the elevator...even to the point of stacking up awkwardly to allow a woman to go first. That was kind of fun the first time I realized that. I really didn't know what to do. Wisconsin...well, let's just say it's a little more egalitarian...sometimes men let women go first, sometimes they don't...I mostly grew up there, so I never noticed the pattern until I moved to Texas.

From my point of view, the quirk over here in Hong Kong is when people get off the elevator, as soon as your coattails clear the door, someone is pushing the "Close Door" button to get the elevator moving. In other words, if you're daydreaming, fixing your hair in the mirror, or taking a nap, you'll miss the elevator. Heck, you may even miss it if you are paying attention! In Texas, this would be interpreted as a rude, "I-don't-want-to-be-on-the-same-elevator-with-you" move. Not here. This is an efficient traffic flow move. You should see the stacks of people lining up in the morning and at lunchtime! After the first few months, I jumped onto this habit. Now, I even step up to the elevator operator position to keep the elevator moving as the crowd peels off to their respective floors (although most people don't expect a foreigner to be manning the elevator buttons).

The other habit is one that just swam out of my subconscious into my stream of awareness. It's something that's been niggling at me for months, but my brain was busy processing so many other things, this hadn't pinged my radar of consciousness until recently.

It has to do with the Bunching Factor.

Observations about US characteristics...first, that people are individualized and personal space comfort zones are about 3 feet. When in a crowded space (such as an elevator or underground train) people will bunch and disperse based on the socially ingrained comfort zone. When a crowded space disperses, people generally reconfigure to the socially acceptable distance.

A few observations about Hong Kong: the culture is much more collective...you do things in groups. Combine that collective nature with smaller personal space zones, the tendency is to bunch into a group...and stay bunched, even when space frees up. This niggled at my subconscious for a long time...people would get off the elevator but maintain their position, much to the chagrin of my claustrophobic self. I had this feeling that something was "off" but just put my finger on it a few months ago...people didn't de-cluster from their groups even if space was available.

It was strange to go back to Dallas and have people evenly space out in the elevator as space freed up and actually wait for the elevator doors to close. I think I'm going to have reverse culture shock going back to the US...people will be looking at me strange as I stand at inappropriately close distances and close the elevator doors on them.


To sum up Elevator Etiquette by location:
Texas = Chivalrous
Wisconsin = Egalitarian
Hong Kong = Efficient

What is Elevator Etiquette like by you? Have you noticed differences when you visit somewhere else?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Color Mixing

Ah...I finally had time to get to a color exercise I've been dying to try out for a while now. I've been hunting out polymer clay blogs to give me ideas about things I can try, learning what level of quality I should strive for in finished objects, and new eye candy.

In the process I stumbled across Maggie Maggio's site and, in particular, her post on color scales. It looked like it would be a great way to learn the nuances of color. I ordered her book, but it's still in the mail. In the meantime, I was able to figure out the exercise. I made a necklace with it (below). The colors below were mixed from Fimo colors of Cobalt, Fuschia, and Yellow (I can't remember the name). Oooh, I enjoyed this exercise! I was a little frustrated with Fimo at first because I found it to be quite hard and more crumbly to get started. However, the finished pieces are shinier than the Sculpey I've been using without any sanding or buffing. I made organic rounds. It's a necklace for me to figure out what colors I want to use in a project. It took a long time to mix up with the Fimo clay. But, the results were worth it. (I did get a little obsessed...as in, it was hard to tear myself away and go to sleep.) I'm thinking of taking time to pre-mix the color palette so I can just work on designs.



A rough mosaic pendant. I strung it up into a necklace with these new stones that I found...Adulite...a Brazilian stone. I used to think it was dyed turquoise, but learned it was Adulite not long ago. Oh, these are SO my stones with the green and turquoisey blue. Anyway, I'm sure I'll retire this pendant immediately once I get a good pendant. This one is too rough.



I had stacked up the colors I didn't use into a pile of colors. The color gradations were so pretty, I sliced cane and made these pendants and buttons. I need to improve the joints/connections between the canes and retain the clarity.


More practice. I think these buttons and small charms are getting closer.


This pendant looks better in person. The picture blows up the imperfections...but, also make me want to work harder at improving how to join the slices more cleanly. Practice, practice, practice.


I made some tube beads and a Quilted Heart. Still rustic, but I strung it up with Amethyst and Onyx beads. This one is a keeper for me of my polymer clay beginnings.


I do believe I might be about to jump off the precipice into polymer-dom. I'm on a tool hunt. I must remember that I only used about 4 tools (of the many, many I bought) for lampworking. I'm thinking of "stuff I want" for clay, but trying to figure out "what I'll really use."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How do you create? Are you messy or organized?

I was reading through last year's journal and trying to pull out the creative ideas and designs for this year's journal. I ran across this little thought: how do you create? Are you a messy artist? Or are you an organized artist?

I go both ways. My artistic breakthroughs come from a messy desk, from serendipitous moments where things that I wouldn't consciously place next to each other somehow end up next to each other and create an unexpected "aha" moment for the creative side.

On the other hand, productivity comes from a clean desk. My most prolific moments come from a nice, neat, freshly cleaned desk and workspace.

So, I try to make room for both...embrace my messiness for a while and then take time to clean up to embrace productivity.


Explorations

I don't have the space/money to invest in seed beads for now, so I've been purchasing some of Beverly Ash Gilbert's dreamy bead soups and medleys. Here is my first practice at one of the projects. I need to wait for the official thread, needs, etc., but I've enjoyed playing with her medleys. They are so rich and deep, I can't wait to do more and include gems in these pieces.

Polymer Clay

I've been seriously dabbling in clay. It's nice because you don't need a ton of tools. Unfortunately, I've had to sacrifice many pieces as I figured out that my little toaster oven was way too hot. I think I have it on its lowest settings and it still burns things from time to time.

Below are my first efforts. Kind of messy and splooshy. And toasted. But, every little ugly experiment moves me forward.


I really want to make beads for jewelry, so here is a first attempt at beads. I'm trying to figure out if I want to make holes before (so far, they're very messy) or drill after curing. I'm undecided for now. Another struggle I'm having is making the decorations clear and crisp. They're very smushy.



Eni Oken started a sister site to Jewelry Lessons called Clay Lessons. I've purchased some of the tutorials (particularly the ones by jkayjewelry) and I've been learning the exciting side of slicing into cane. Below is the first attempt at cabochon. (All pieces are unfinished as I still need sandpaper and varnish.)


Second cabochon. I really like this one and want to finish it off.


These last two pictures are my latest batch...I'm progressing! I love how a simple technique like the Skinner blend can really make a basic piece look much more sophisticated. I'm learning some cane techniques that I would love to experiment with and try in glass at some point.

The same pieces as the above picture, but the back side. I've decorated both sides of most of the pendants.


I'm beginning to embrace working between mediums to see if I can cross-pollinate some of the techniques and move my overall skill forward. Funnnnn!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Progress Report - Learning New Stuff

I've been a little frustrated as I've started experimenting in new art mediums. All beginning work has been about making mistakes. I was much more forgiving when I started with glass. I worked at it for 6 months before I even tried selling. I feel like I'm starting over again. Lori, (An Artist's Year Off) you're keeping me inspired with your new blog as you experiment, too. I need to remember to give myself permission to make ugly things.

So, just for some visuals (not eye candy...it's too ugly), is the progress report. It's leading me to think of the potential opened up by exploring multi-media art. I'm thinking of my eventual goal: be able to make all of my jewelry completely from raw materials. Make my own head pins, clasps, beads, chain, and components.

Regarding the semi-precious gems, I haven't make a final decision on whether I will continue to use them in my multi-media work. I love the gems I find. I've found two stores in the wholesale district that have good deals on the semi-precious stones. Way fun! But, there's a certain element of excitement in having made the whole piece myself.

I am still making jewelry with the basics I learned at the beginning of my jewelry journey... stringing, wirework and chain. I have a huge batch of jewelry that I need to finish photo editing and will let you know when my Artfire store is updated.

Seed Beading

Seed beading had not caught my attention until I started reading Beverly Ash Gilbert's blog. Her approach of freeform bead weaving is what captivated me. Also, her approach to color and the depth of her jewelry pieces is so exciting. I snatched up her new book Beaded Colorways. I'll do a more in-depth review later. In the meantime, I've been itching to try the ideas in her book.

So. I hunted out a seed bead store in the wholesale district and bought a bunch of beads. They had needles and some kind of thread. But, it was the wrong thread. Below are my first three attempts at doing a Peyote stitch.



Argh. This thread is NOT going to work as it's called Crystal String or Wire or something like that. So, to practice, I'm just using regular sewing thread. The other thing I couldn't find was bees wax, which you would use to coat the thread. I may eventually find both components, but since I'm just learning, I'm not going to stress over it. I bought some candles to see if I could use the wax for coating the thread, but it's working good enough with the regular sewing thread. I'm enjoying beadweaving. Below is the larger beads in the peyote stitch and the second one is making my own bead color combo.

I wanted to play with creating a peyote pattern...kind of freefrom...I sketched out a flames / wave pattern and converted into an Excel spreadsheet pattern. I was attempting it, but I think I'm going to wait until I get better beads. I'm not liking the beads I bought. I've read about the Japanese seed beads and how they are well-made and consistent in size. I looked at Artbeads. Oh. My. I'm overwhelmed with the color and type selection. I still have huge stash of glass and I don't know if I'm staying in HK yet, so no bead investment for now. (With the glass, I didn't buy a kiln for a few months until I thought my beads were improving. I think I'll do the same with the bead weaving.)



Polymer Clay

I have a nice little stash of Sculpey clay. It's just the amateur stuff. At the beginning of "making-my-own-component" precipice, I investigated polymer clay versus lampwork because of the lower overhead and portability of clay. But, the torch won. I love that I can play with a torch and make pretty little glassy treasures. I had a little clay kit that I tried to make earrings and they were awful. So, the siren call of glass lured me and sucked me into it's vortex. But, clay is starting to take on a new excitement for me.

I was doing some Google searches on polymer clay and stumbled across this fabulous blog, Polymer Clay Daily, with jaw-dropping, uber-inspiring polymer clay art. Every post is very inspiring, but this one sparked the ideas in my head for inlaying polymer clay into silver clay. I have to admit, I haven't been wanting to play with silver clay. Two reasons: I had to figure out how to program my kiln (not easy to think under the waves of migraine and programming a stupid kiln was more than I could handle. I can barely speak English, let alone programmerish). Also, I was a little bored with the idea of silver. I know it's great for everyday. But, I'm a color addict. The fact that artists were combining silver with the bright, crazy colors of polymer clay has spun my brain off into a tizzy of ideas.

I found some YouTube videos on some basics techniques (making cane and creating the Skinner blend). I was able to duplicate some of the techniques to a fairly decent extent as a beginner. I even had a few pendants and one button that I was quite happy with. I had badly scorched my first beads in my kiln by accidentally setting it to Fahrenheit instead of Celsisus. Bad. So, I found a used toaster oven for $13.

I still scorched the pendants and button I liked.

Bummer.

I threw out the totally scorched (blackened) ones. Below is some of my early work with blending. These buttons were lightly burned as I experimented with the temperature setting of my toaster oven.



I finally figured out the right temperature. It runs about 10 degrees C hot. On the left is the very first blend...it ended up as a muddy green. To the right are some better blends. I'm going to play with clay tonight to see if I can get a little better. As well as programming my kiln for the silver clay.



Wire Wrapping

So, to make myself feel a little better, I thought I would improve my wire-wrapping skills. I've been looking through the tutorials on Jewelry Lessons. I already had one tutorial from Kristin Smith at KS Jewellery Designs for the flower tutorial. As you can see, I hade a few issues with the wire thickness. I started with too thick of wire, so I tried the thinner wire. It was turning out until one of the leaves turned brittle and broke. I'll have to search out the appropriate width wire. Someday. To the right is some more wire-wrapping that was a little more successful. I still need to create a matching earring for the spiral. The other two have mates and I'll be posting them in my store. (Sometime soon, provided my migraines stay away.)



Which leads me to some things I've figured out about why the art/craft scene is different here in Hong Kong, China than the US. I'll share those observations in a future post.

That wraps up today's tour of my adventures.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top 10 Principles for Success

I am a big fan of my Artfire marketplace store. The CEO and COO produce a weekly podcast. I have become addicted to it. Here is the official blurb about the podcast, "CEO, John Jacobs and COO, Tony Ford give handmade sellers an inside look at best practices and tips for promoting your business and your handmade brand. Marketing techniques, business tips, upcoming and new features."

Personally, I geek out over the technology things they cover that relate to growing my business. (Example: they covered Google Wave. I'm drooling over the potential.) They cover marketing ideas, SEO, and social media suggestions that help me grow as a small business owner. They aren't just owners of a marketplace for artisans. They also share their own personal experiences with running online businesses and use these examples in relating to the artisan audience.

Their 12/24 podcast summed up the "best of" their podcasts for the year and distilled it into a useful list of Top 10 Principles for Success. In fact, I found it useful enough that I wrote it down in my journal. They had a good dose of "reality" sprinkled into this list...yes, we're going to deal with difficult customers, yes, the business activities will sometimes make it hard to carve out the creative time, yes, we need to make products the buyers want. With John and Tony's permision, I am summarizing the Top 10 and giving a few links to the page with the 12/24 podcast.
  1. Decide if you are running a business or a hobby.
  2. Make products the buyers want.
  3. Try hard to compete on value, not price.
  4. Take magazine style pictures.
  5. The business activities of a successful business will take more time than you expected.
  6. Make your own marketing mix. Test and measure every channel you use and invest in the ones that work and keep testing.
  7. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) - make friends with Google by understanding your buyers, running your own tests, and getting links.
  8. Utilize social media by having frequent and unique content, engaging in the community, and by being entertaining and teaching and not being only sales-focused.
  9. Hang up your customer hat and put on your merchant hat.
  10. What happens if your business becomes successful? You will have more work, stress & complexity than you thought possible.

I'm three years into my creative journey and just over two years into running a creative business. I left the bullet points deliberately generic because the podcast itself is worth the time to get more in-depth thoughts from John and Tony. The link again.

Thought it was worth sharing!