ArtFire Contest! Buy Handmae This Holiday Season!

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ArtFire is running a Promote Handmade contest this season.  Anyone can enter and you can read about the contest here.

The requirements for entry are to find a handmade item you like, blog or tweet about it and post your link on ArtFire's Handmade Gifts Facebook page.  I would love to win one of their cool prizes but more importantly, I want to help other people find wonderful hand crafted items to give as gifts or buy for themselves.  I love real-live-artists and I want to contribute to their success.  Today, I'm featuring some beautiful rings by LinneaSilver.  Here's why:

Molly Bryn came home a few weeks ago with a flier from Jostens and spent several days on the Josten's website designing a ring.  A $350.00 ring, which is about as inexpensive as they come unless you want to but their ugly-butt cheapo $75.00 ring that no teenager really wants to wear.  It was perfectly clear that no one in this household had that sort of cash for a ring this year so she was content to wait and start saving her pennies for next year but then . . . I spent a night laying awake feeling sick about ever spending that sort of $$ at Jostens.

You've heard my School Photo rant?

Same thing with class rings.  Let me tell you a story.

Back in the day you waited until mid year Junior year to get your class ring and they arrived just before the end of the school year - you know - just to be reasonably sure that parents who shelled out big bucks for a class ring would have a graduation to attend in the same year listed on the ring.  So in 1987 I happily browsed through catalogs of designs and chose a ring and my dad handed over an astoundingly large chunk of cash and I skipped down to the Jostens booth in a dark corner of the lower floor of the school to order my ring and get my finger sized. 

My fingers are really small.    Really really small.  My wedding band is a size THREE & 1/2

The Jostens salesman would not accept the fact that I have very long, skinny fingers.  He insisted that my fingers were only so skinny because it was a cold day and they must be shriveled up or something in the cold.  He refused to sell me a ring the right size.   So the day that everyones' rings arrived, I happily took out my ring and wore it with my fist clenched tightly so it wouldn't rattle off my hand.  I've taken the ring in twice to be re-sized and they've never gotten it right. 

Knowing what I know now about the commercial jewelry industry, they probably can't make a ring the right size for me and can't re-size the one I have without losing the stones because they made it so stinking big to begin with.   (It has fit for only the last year or so with the extra 40 pounds I'm carrying but I'm hoping that won't last for very long - when the weight comes off, the ring will again be too large.)

I also know that their retail mark up is despicably large.  The ring MB was looking at was actually pretty small, made out of some cheap metal alloy with faux stones in it.  The rings are mass manufactured - yes, there are custom additions - name, school name, date and maybe some special club names or something but all of that stuff is pretty easily switched out in their process.  I get the trade catalogs.  I know that the materials costs for these rings are under $30.00.  The other $300+  are going straight into ad campaigns, traveling salesmen's expense accounts and some CEO's pocket.  You can bet your booties that no real-live-artists are seeing fair value for their labor in their plants.  (To be fair - they do seem to have a clean environmental record and their manufacturing facilities are here in the states but I have heard lots of complaints about their quality and customer service.)

So, I'm having a hard time justifying spending that kind of money on something commercially made.  Especially with a company that provided me with such poor customer service.  However, I love the idea of getting Molly a very special ring made out of real jewels and precious metals, to commemorate her school accomplishments and graduation.   Molly and I are now looking at ArtFire jewelers to see what other options are out there and we will probably contact a few of them eventually to see if they are interested in making a special real-live-artist made class ring.

LinneaSilver has some really beautiful things in her regular line.  She might be a good bet for a custom piece sometime in the next couple of years.  Molly Likes the celtic design and the southwestern looking one.  I like the medieval textured band with the carnelian set in.  All of them look very well crafted.  At the prices these are listed at, these rings would make great Christmas gifts!  The best part - if you buy one, you know that your money is going straight into a real-live-artist's checking account to help pay bills or feed her kids or buy more silver (which is skyrocketing, this month, BTW) or take a much needed vacation.  That's SO much more fun than throwing your cash into the maw of some giant corporation this holiday season.

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