Marketing Report

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Just a quick report on my first attempt at online advertising at ArtFire. 

I purchased a two week ad placed on the Jewelry Supplies Main Category page that ran from January 9th to January 23rd.  The ad cost $10.00 and got 27 clicks, averaging about 37 cents per click.  During that time I sold almost $60.00 worth of goods, all supplies from my ArtFire shop. 

That's nothing compared to my Etsy shop but it is much better than average for my veeerrrry slow ArtFire shop.   If I assume that all of my sales are a result of the ad, my $60.00 worth of sales cost me $13.50 in shop fees and advertising.   (I pay ArtFire $7.00 per month for my shop so I figure that $3.50 is a reasonable shop  cost to set on this two week ad period.)   That's significantly more than my Etsy fees for listing and paying commissions on sold items.  However, it was a very cheap way to get more people to look in my shop.  I need to set up a stats page that will give me some graphs on studio visits per day so that I can track whether or not people clicking on my ad stayed in my shop and looked around at all.

Next up - an ad for jewelry and scarves on ArtFire.  That may take a while as I'm still learning how to make GIMP work for me to create ads.

January's Bead Crop

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My friend Suzy questioned rumors of my new beads because I hadn't posted any pretty sparkley pictures on my blog so I decided to go ahead and show off my new beads today.  I mentioned that I discovered a new supplier before the Holidays and was waiting for the new year to place an order - here are the results of that long wait.

I got some new shapes- daggers, spades and buttons - that I haven't worked with before.  Oh, I've had small dagger beads before and used them as dangles but never as a real design element.  As soon as I saw these variegated pink & crystal daggers, my mind went to daisies.  Bryan and Molly both say the daisy needs more green - I'm not sure.  I think this will become a pin and/or a pendant design, though I can see it making a rather funky oversized bracelet motif, also.

Spades make another lovely floral shape and the Buttons are just so cool all strung together.  They look like a fascinatingly constructed caterpillar!  They also make nice flower centers.  The dark buttons are a really gorgeous deep purple - it is hard to photograph the dark purple without blowing the other colors out.  I should have photographed them alone.

I also got some spindle beads in a few opalescent colors, some funky groved and distressed table cuts, more fire polished roundelles, a few fire agate barrels and some rich purple and cream smooth table cut rectangles. 

I'm not sure if any of these will end up for sale as beads.  Because this supplier allows smaller minimums, I have smaller amounts of these than most of the beads I buy.  I chose these not for perceived resale value but because I am interested in designing with them and I plan to begin a few lines of limited production designs for sale in local galleries and my online shops.  I'm sure some of them will eventually end up as clearance items when I am done with a production run but I'm not sure about stocking them as regular items for sale.  (Speaking of clearance, there are still lots of clearance beads over in GoblinsMarket, Etsy.)

I'm currently building some online shopping carts full of fabric and fiber.  I really want to experiment with dyeing fibers for embroidery work - partly because I want to play with it myself!  Now that I have a dye area near a water source, I feel a bit less intimidated about adding to my dye work load.  I've decided to put off preparing my breakdown printing screen until I have my new fibers, then I can jump in and do a bunch of dye work at once.  I also need to find some industrial felt to cover my dye table with before I can get good print quality so that represents a bit of a delay as well.

Time to bring in more wood and clean up the studio today.

Book Report - Breakdown Printing

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A few months ago I bought Breakdown Printing, New Dimensions for Texture & Color  by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan of Committed to Cloth.  Dharma had just got the book in and featured it in their monthly newsletter. In peeking at in online, it looked veeerrrry interesting.  I've been wanting to play with some real printmaking techniques and even went as far a buying a Yudu machine before Christmas, which I'm fairly certain I'm going to regret.  (The idea of setting up a screen prep site in my studio has seemed intimidating and having the whole shebang in a little box sounded like such a good idea but now I realize that the Yudu machine has a lot of limitations, not the least of which being that the mesh screens that fit the machine are 25 bucks a piece, not counting the $7.00 emulsion sheets that you have to use to make a design.    Maybe I'm wrong and will end up really liking the Yudu machine but I'm skeptical.  I am currently working on my first design for printing - I need to stop being so "precious" about the screen and emulsion sheet and just make something and put the blasted thing to use!)

Anyway, I bought Breakdown Printing around the same time as the machine because I'm actually very interested in non-traditional printing methods, too.  While I like the idea of being able to reproduce an image over and over onto fabric or paper, I'm more interested in organic design - what happens when dye bleeds over its boundaries, or when non-traditional materials are used to create color (like in rust dyeing - some of my most beautiful scarves have been rust dyed.)  The idea of working a single silk screen through multiple layers sounded intriguing. 

Dharma's pricetag of $25.00 felt a little steep for a book only 33 pages long so, being the cheapskate I am, I headed over to Amazon to find it.  Sadly, because this is a somewhat obscure Arts and Crafts book published in the UK and is not available from Amazon U.S.  In fact, Claire and Leslie have just a couple titles that are available through Amazon third party sellers - if you want to spend $100.00 or more.  That knowledge made spending $25.00 seem a lot less expensive.  Knowing that Claire and Leslie regularly collaborate with Jane Dunnewold was also encouraging.  I've never been disappointed with information from Jane.

Now that I have the book in my hands and have read through it a few times, I'm eager to start working with this process.  For breakdown printing, a blank or open silk screen is coated with thickened dyepaste which is allowed to dry on the screen.  A single layer of one color, multiple colors and layers of dye, designs squiggled on with clear or colored paste and/or distressed and patterned layers of paste may be used.   Once the paste is dry, clear or colored paste is pulled through the screen multiple times, leaving a series of constantly evolving prints.  I think it will fit in well with the way I work - messy, complicated but not rigidly organized, fabric and tools sitting "in process" for a long time, unpredictable results. 

The book contains very good basic information about working with color, how to prepare screens, fabric and a work area, batching (or setting) the dye and caring for tools.  Recipes for mixing dye, chemical water, soda ash soak and print paste are found at the end of the book.  This text is very comparable to Jane Dunnewold's Complex Cloth - just distilled and focused towards one technique instead of many.   The text is full of reassuring hand holding and encouragement.  After clear and specific instruction is given on tools, recipes and prep, the message seems to be - you can't really know where the process will lead you until you get there so just get going!

I'm going to try to prepare a screen today to use later on this week.  That is, if I can leave my new beads alone long enough to get to mixing up some paste!


New Scarves and a Bead Clearance Sale

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What a week! 

Life is more hectic than usual as we adjust to having a busy drama club high schooler in the house.   Maxx is sick with a cold again already, which is about right - it has been 3.5 weeks since his last sick!  But worst of all, Bryan was attacked by a Kamikazee deer Thursday night that may have totaled out lovely little Honda Fit.  Luckily, Bryan is fine.  We're waiting for the insurance company to give us a list of options before we panic about the Fit.  I really don't want to start over with a new vehicle loan at this point.  The plan was to pay the Fit off and enjoy driving a very well cared for car for several years before making another purchase so that the Fit could become Molly's college car.  Let's keep our fingers crossed!

I did manage to make some progress in my shops.

Over at GoblinsMarket - Etsy, I have a number of bead strands on sale.  Remember I mentioned finding a new wholesaler with slightly higher prices but smaller minimums in the last post?  Well, I'm waiting for my first shipment from them and I'm eager to move out some of the extras I had to order from my old wholesaler last summer.  They are beautiful beads but now that I have played with them a bit, I don't see myself designing with them much and my new philosophy on bead inventory is to focus on stocking things that I want to design with.

I have also posted 6 gorgeous Alchemy scarves in my ArtFire shop.   I have such a hard time selling my Alchemy scarves because I end up wanting to keep them all to myself.  They're so sumptuous and colorful.  You can wear them with anything (or with nothing) and they look great.  They're long enough to wrap around in several different ways and they're quite warm and durable in spite of being such a lightweight silk.  I made my first Alchemy scarf over 6 years ago and it is still beautiful and wearable.  They are wonderful for gifts - remember that Valentine's day and Mother's day are coming right up!

While GoblinsMarket-Etsy is fully functional right now, I still haven't re-opened my LunasBaublebilities shop. I  am concentrating on uploading scarves and jewelry designs to my ArtFire shop right now.  There are a lot of reasons for this shift in focus but the main one is that I hope that my work will be found faster on ArtFire.  I'm waiting to see if Etsy fixes their PayPal link and how many of Rob Kalin's new bright ideas actually get implemented over at Etsy before I decide whether or not to re-open LunasBaublebilities over there.  For the past year, I've felt like almost every minute dedicated to that shop was time wasted because of low visibility for jewelry and accessory sellers on Etsy.  I'll be doing some advertising experiments for both my ArtFire shop and my Etsy shop(s?) in the next few months that I will let you know more about as results start to come in. 

Onward!  Saturday is almost over and there is much left to do before we  have friends over for games tonight.

. . . . .

Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe

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A blog post is NOT what I intended to work on tonight.  But. .  .

Maxx has been having some serious adjustment issues with back-to-school and had a violent meltdown tonight after dinner, including punching me several times and saying "I wish I didn't even HAVE a Mommy!"  This as a result of being instructed to NOT allow the dog to drink from his cup of milk.  Maxx and I did a hold down on the kitchen floor while waiting for Daddy, who dispensed an appropriate spanking and talking to and sent the boy to bed before leaving for meetings tonight.  Boy hasn't slept and keeps coming downstairs.  I am frustrated, discouraged and angry and can't work at any projects upstairs right now.

I've been having a hard time finding my feet after vacation.

I'm no longer a home schooling mom.  That's O.K.  Molly is having a great time in HS and is enjoying the musical immensely.  She's even starting to catch on in Algebra. Wisely, they put her in the slow class and she is doing just about as well as the kids who have been there from the beginning of the year.

I'm trying to lose weight the old fashioned way.  You know - eat less and exercize more.  So far so good but with tonight's stress I really want some chocolate and I've already broken into the popcorn.

I'm struggling with my calling.  Primary Secretary is very administrative which means that I don't have a lot of prep time for Sundays since I'm not teaching but it also means that I'm not growing spiritually because I'm not teaching.  I'm also not doing a very good job in it.  I had to miss a meeting tonight because I needed to get Maxx in bed.  It is simply impossible to have both Bry and I out of the house on a school night and since Bry is the BP - his responsibilities at church come before mine do right now.  I also feel that Maxx clings to me and acts out more in Primary than he would if I weren't stationed there every week.  I'd like him to be more independent on Sundays and I feel like my being available in the room impedes his development there.

I'm trying to determine what to do with my business.  Bry is already playing the "There probably won't be a job for you next year" game with BOCES.  Patterson's budget cuts to education on top of the general economic downturn keep Bryan's position at risk, even though he has been at BOCES for 10 years.  Don't ask - its a bunch of administrative stupidity.  When we began planning for the Beorningstead, I felt sure that I could start producing and selling enough scarves and finished jewelry to pay off some of the extra debt we would have to incur at first to make the transition work.  I still think that is true and that once I do find my feet and get a working routine going, the money will start rolling in the way I need it to.   But I'm pretty sure that I can't make enough to support the household.

Who knows, maybe I could.  But at this rate I just don't see how.

The Goblins' Market supply business contributes a steady cash flow which comes in really handy but the amount of income it provides compared to the amount of time I have to spend is really not worth the hassle.  I need to narrow my inventory and the scope of my supply shops.  I need to do this without taking a loss in my current inventory or slowing down the cash flow.  I need to find the balance between this side of my business and the finished works side - which is where the real profit and enjoyment is.

Where do I narrow things down?  What do I cut out from supplies, what do I increase?

Ribbons and hand dyed cord are very fulfilling to sell.  I spend a lot of time and have lots of fun devising new colorways and the ribbons bring a good price.  They also represent a large layout for raw materials in order to have more than a few lengths of each colorway.  Having regularly available color choices means either doing HUGE lots of each colorway at once or dyeing the same colorways again and again throughout the year.

The enameled brass dragonflies, bead caps and birds?  Love them.  And so does everyone else.  I've managed to restrict enameling to one day a week when Molly and I work together which means that customers wait several days to get their orders shipped out but it keeps that task manageable and trackable for me.  I'm thinking of expanding to include a few more colored metal pieces like butterflies and other repousee findings. 

Beads?  Oh here's a dilemma.  I LOVE having tons of beads to play with and lots of variety.  But since most of the beads I stock are so inexpensive, I'm really not making much of a profit.  Between listing fees and inventory management time, I think that one would have to be selling in huge quantities to make any money with selling beads.  I think I will dig back through my sales records and choose out the best sellers and keep those on hand.  Then I will concentrate on finding a few really special beads for designing with each season and offer a few sets of specials in my supply shops.  I recently discovered some new wholesalers who have slightly higher prices (1-2 cents per bead) but lower minimums and better variety so I don't have to tie up all of my bead money in a few massive strands that I'll get bored with and that may or may not sell.

I love having filigree bead caps and components around for designing with.  Thse will stay, but I will probably start to lean more towards larger and more specialty pieces.  Smaller findings will go.  I realize now that I do not intend to be a "full service bead shop."  There are plenty of those out there.  I want my supply shops to be known for the really luscious stuff - the addictive stuff you can only get from the Goblin Men down in the glenn.

For finished works . . .

I really want to play more with the beads I've got.  I love sparkley stuff.  I need to market it better, though, because jewelry is such a flooded market online.

Scarves.  If I dye, they will buy.  Again, more marketing will help move inventory quicker but I have no fears about losing money on any style of scarve that I produce.  Except maybe the gorgeous hand dyed velvet wraps with the incredible beaded fringe, but that kind of labor is never wasted.

Tee shirts?  I've got some half dyed and waiting for me to finish a silk screen design.  If they don't move well, lots of family members will get pretty tee shirts with peacocks on them for Christmas next year.

But before I can be successful with these finished beauties, I have to actually make some more stuff and get photos of them and list them in my shops.  All of that takes time.

And I haven't even discussed the state of the household.  My studio is a Groggoch's den right now and the bathroom isn't far behind.

I think the boy is asleep now.  Perhaps I can sneak into the studio now?  Or at least upstairs to put my laundry away?

. . . . .

Happy Birthday, Meemo!

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Happy Birthday to my Mom!

And to Elvis, who would have been 75 today.

I won't tell you how old my mom is.

There's an interesting interview with the man who designed the King's sparkley costumes over on The Story today.  What a fun job.  How sad that he was never well compensated for his labor or truly recognized.

Wednesday Wishes - Mary Harding Pendants

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It is January 6, 2010 and it just keeps on snowing in Upstate NY.  The more it snows and the cold creeps further into houses and bones, the more apparent it becomes that The Beorningstead will not be move-in ready before March or April. 

Alas.  I will be asking Bry to move one of my large counter tops destined for my new studio into the livingroom here this weekend and will set up a dyeing area right here.  I've wasted enough time waiting for my new studio (curse you, banks and housing council!) and with both kids back in school, I'm ready to start really working here at home. 

Another thing I'm ready to work on are some more Mary Harding pandant necklaces.  I mentioned earlier that I had purchased a beautiful ceramic pendant from Mary at the Beading Party in October and that I had created a lovely beaded strand to attach it to - well here it is!    (Sorry about the poor photo quality, there's a lot of glare on my pendant.  My new studio will have a better photography set up, too!)

I used gold colored beadalon, copper colored toggles, some of my favorite Czech Glass beads, several interesting brass filigree components and created a big bail with a large brass filigree.  When I finished, I realized that the necklace was the perfect length for the plain turtleneck I was wearing while designing it, but a bit short for my favorite draped cowl neck shirt so I made a matching extension that allows the necklace to drape deeper OR that can wrap around twice so that I can wear it as a choker length bauble with tee shirts or open necked sweaters.  The bail I created is very wide and can slide off the necklace entirely so I can wear the bead strand alone or trade it out for a wide ribbon if I want to wear the pendant with a slightly more feminine style.

It is very versatile and I've had lots of compliments on it so I want to make several more to offer in my shops.  Mary has a very nice wholesale policy and I will be purchasing several of her pendants when my Christmas commission check come in.  You can find Mary's work on her blog, in her Etsy Shop or on her independent website.  She's a wonderful woman and her gorgeous work has been featured in beadstyle and a few other publications - stop by and take a look at all the amazing things she does with glass and clay!

Now - I'm off to work. Today I plan to finish a project that got stalled months ago.  I picked it back up yesterday and was re-inspired!  It may even turn out to be worthy of an article to submit to Beadwork.  Photos coming soon.

 . . . .

Santa is AWESOME!

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Maxx was totally thrilled with the fact that Santa found some "granola bars" that he can actually eat.  He enjoyed opening up his stocking and all of this other gifts but the stash of the new Chex Mix bars that DO NOT contain any tree nuts and are not manufactured in a facility that processes tree nuts brought the most enthusiastic response.  He exclaimed "Santa is AWESOME!" and insisted on eating one right there, for breakfast.

Maxx is a picky eater and does not enjoy many foods.  He loves granola bars and, until recently, he could have the Quaker brand snack bars.  They were the only brand on the market that were safe.  The last time I went to stock up on these favorites, the company had either moved their production to a new facility or introduced a new product to the old facility because suddenly tree nuts appeared in the allergy warning label.  No more easy granola bars for Maxx.   We've all been sad about that and I started looking for reasonable home made granola bar recipes without much success.  (If you have a good recipe - please share!)

The whole Christmas Holiday season has been a bummer in terms of goodies and treats for Maxx.  He was given several diferent fancy wrapped novelty chocolates that I had to take away from him because of tree nut contents.  (Did you know that ALL of the little foil wrapped Santas and reindeer and polar bears and large Santas and even all flavors of LINDOR BALLS are potentially deadly for a person with nut allergies?) Lots of people gave us cookies  - some with nuts, some without and because we do not know which were produced where or whether or not there was any cross contamination, Maxx was not allowed to eat any.  Christmas Eve was an especially big bummer for Maxx because all but one of the chocolate containing treats available at Gramma's snack spread that night had tree nuts in them or were contaminated with tree nuts.  Gramma had very carefully made a fudge especially for Maxx to enjoy but it acidentally was cut into pieces After the same knife was used to cut the fudge containing walnuts. 

"Is that really a big deal?" some of you may ask.  Maybe, maybe not.  If there's any tree nut pieces or tree nut oil in a product, yes, it is a big deal.  Trace amounts may not cause a full blown reaction including anaphylactic  shock, but those small doses can contribute to his general respratory irritation levels and that could result in an asthma attack hours or even days later.  In fact, I'd almost rather have someone come up to my kid and stick a walnut in his mouth than give him something with small traces of nuts in it.  He'll spit that walnut out immediately, scream, cry, foam at the mouth and start to swell up.  I know how to deal with that and I feel pretty confident that between the epi-pen, Benadryl and rescue squad he would have a pretty darn good chance of survival.  But an asthma attack in the midle of the night while the rest of us are sound asleep brought on by trace levels of tree nuts that he ate hours or days earlier really could be deadly.

Sometimes I feel like Thetis trying to convince the local school master that Achilles really does have to wear those brass sneakers in gym.  People who haven't seen or experienced an anaphylactic reaction or a near death asthma attack just don't get it.

So discovering 4 boxes of granola bar-like things that he could actually put in his mouth on Christmas morning was a wonderful Gift - for both of us.   Thanks Santa!

Oh - and if any of you out there find a case of these - buy 'em and send them to me.  I'll pay you back!
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