My adventures on the information superhighway...

This blog chronicles the activities of my Etsy and Artfire shops, and my adventures as both a jewelry designer and information specialist.



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Friday, February 26, 2010

My photography tutorial - for myself!

This post is inspired by what I've learned about photography, and related matters, over the course of running my Etsy shop this past year. While I have access to a lot of computer programs and technical training due to my Library Science background and my husband's connections (he's a computer guy), I have absolutely no photography training whatsoever. *I* like to think I have a good eye. But who knows? Please, don't enlighten me...

When I first ventured onto Etsy as a seller, I took photos willy-nilly. It wasn't good.
Obviously, I needed a little help! Outdoors, in the direct sunlight was a no-go, and indoors under incandescent lights, while artfully arranged, skewed the colors too much.
I did a little digging - something I do have some background in! - and found this forum post and these instructions for how to build a photo light box. Now, I will readily admit, I can be lazy. I never got around to making the photo light box. But I took the forum thread to heart, set my camera on macro, turned off the flash, and got some white poster board as a background.

Here is one of my earlier attempts taken indoors, near a window, but not directly in the sunlight.


It's actually not that bad in terms of sharpness. The blues seem pretty true to their actual color, and the cat eye beads are captured especially well, but the white background seemed a bit stark to me, so I started experimenting.

I dug out the reams of scrapbook paper - yes reams, I kid you not. I am the queen of not finishing projects. These were purchased for my son's baby book. He's now 2 1/2, and I've finished chronicling approximately the first 6 months of his life so far [ack!].

Some of the paper was too flashy, but I did find lots of different greys, some black, and cream. These proved to be much better backgrounds for shooting photos of jewelry, when so many different colors - or tones - are present in one particular piece. As an illustration, here is the same bracelet which is mostly minty greens and silver on both a white, and a darker grey background. Now, the white isn't bad, but it just seems a bit washed out when compared to the grey.


Granted, a lot of my growth as a photographer is due to my willingness to experiment, and to simply reject photos and take them over again. And living here in the north with at least six months of winter and a "nighttime" that begins at 4:30 for a portion of the year, experiment I have. Above is an example of what I call my "maglite" technique ☺ Obviously, that's not the only photo I'd include for that piece, but it does the trick of catching someone's eye and hopefully causing them to click to see more.

What's especially difficult for me is to resist the urge to take photos at night. As a mom, who has a "real" job during the day, I often complete my jewelry pieces at night. And then I really want to take pictures of them and get to the listing process because everyone knows that Etsy is most active between about 7pm-12pm EST.

Also, because I have photoshop, I can get fairly good photos at night, with editing - in terms of clarity and sharpness - and I'm fooled into thinking that they might be good enough to list. OK, that glass of wine doesn't help the judgement either! But I was reminded yet again this week of why that's a bad idea.



Witness my nighttime and daytime photos of the same piece, a mostly white, clear, and crystal bracelet. Photo #1 (above) is taken on our kitchen table, at night...being very careful not to cast shadows onto the subject! It was then photoshopped to look its best. Photo #2 (right) is taken mid-morning, in front of a SE facing window, but not in direct sunlight, and is the original, unedited, unphotoshopped version. Which do you like better for best representing the item "how it is?" [monitor issues aside]

The difference - as pointed out to me by my husband who has won photography awards and also posesses a science degree - is that natural light, and incandescent light, have different wavelengths. So, the nighttime photos are always going to appear a bit "yellowish". Of course, I repeatedly forget this until I see the evidence in front of me the next morning of new, natural light photos. So this post is a reminder to myself that I should not get too over-excited upon completion of a new piece - no matter how fabulous it is!

And my final point? If you're the model - in my case - the hand model (why can't I get George and Seinfeld out of my head on that one?). Remember to apply lotion before taking pictures!!! This is partly motivated by my own vanity, I readily admit that, but also...don't you want your items to look their best? The above photo? Really not showing the bracelet to its best advantage.

My tips?
• Play around and don't be afraid to discard shots. Play with light, perspective, backgrounds, and props.
• Try to put yourself in the mind of your buyer. What grabs your interest about a photo?
• If you can, get yourself a good photo-editing program. It's not entirely necessary, but it's certainly helpful.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Inspiration...where do you find it?

Today's post represents a bit of self-reflection on my part. Here in Montreal, and in most of Canada, it's still quite definitely winter. Today we got some gorgeous, fat, fluffy flakes that turned to heavy, wet snow on cars, stairs and sidewalks. It was so heavy I had to resort to brushing my car off with my hands, not the brush. And to top it off, while my son romped about in each and every snow bank and puddle between the daycare, the car, and the house and remained completely dry, I was soaked and had to change before any dinner could be thought of. That may have been due to some wishful thinking and poor clothing choices on my part, but really, when is spring going to come?

I read all the news and Storque articles on Etsy, and they're announcing that the spotlight for March will be on spring-like items, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, and March's birthstone - aquamarine. Those colors...they're happy colors. Me, I'm still thinking grey, grey and more grey...with a bit of winter white and the occasional muddy brown. Now, grey is a gorgeous color, as evidenced by the beautiful, soft notes of the treasury "Grey Skies" curated by my OhCanada teammate, SimplySundries. And it's one of my favorite colors...I have two boxes of grey beads for my jewelrymaking. But I don't think people see it as springlike, however close to reality it is for those of us in the north; so what to do?

My own past three pieces have been largely grey, and black and white, because I simply can't get past the influence that the weather has on me. How am I supposed to create in happy pastels and vibrant springtime hues? Last night I was determined to be more cheerful, and I forced myself to create something in color. What I came up with...something inspired by vacation, spring break, anywhere south of here...preferably the Carribbean, and the idea of relaxation and pampering. The colors? Blues, greens, and the iridescence of sparkling, sun-drenched water. I think my "Ocean Blue bracelet" accomplishes all of that, but I worry that I'm not going to be able to keep up this show of spring-i-ness amidst all the shovelling.

Where do you find your inspiration? What keeps you going?

On a happier note, many more treasuries have been curated by my team in the past few days, and I cannot be happier to be amongst such a friendly, supportive, and vibrant group. We should make the front page for our team spirit alone! Here's another beautiful treasury, "Canadians Love Etsy", curated by teammate Joanniel.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring is coming!

Well, I can now say that I've finally gotten around to starting my "spring line". I call it that with the intention that you should start as you mean to go on. As in, I aspire to be a "real" designer (self supporting), and "real" designers have seasonal collections. Mine is going to feature spring colors, with a bit of a proviso (see below) as well as the butterflies that are in this bracelet:

that I just listed on Etsy this evening.

I find myself continually influenced by the weather, it affects not just my mood, but what I am inspired to create. I guess that's typical of those of us that live in the north. Although magazines and stores are featuring sunny brights and creamy pastels, I can't stop thinking of greys, muted blacks, and ice-like crystals. Which are all the colors that presently surround me in nature. (I'm trying to ignore the yellowish grass and dismal mud of last week!)

So, I suppose my "spring line" is going to be composed of two types of jewelry. A transitional period, marked by somewhat muted colors, and a more definite springlike period which will feature more traditional happy colors. I'm presently still in that transitional period, as evidinced by my recent creations.

(above) Labradorite and paua shell &(right) Petoskey & quartz.

Stay tuned for more butterflies, and a more cheerful color palette!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The power of treasuries

I have been lucky enough since joining the OhCanada! Etsy team to have my work featured in two treasuries, but until today, had not been able to grab a spot for creating my own treasury. But this morning I was lucky! I had been preparing over the weekend with a Word doc. and links, so I was ready to go. Here's my first attempt at being a curator:


I have no idea how these things normally go, but my treasury has gotten lots of comments, my shop has more hearts, and I sold another bracelet. So, all in all, a good thing!

As I mentioned, one of my pieces was also featured in a treasury curated by a fellow team member, soapstarcanada. It combines beautiful caramels and warm peachy apricots, and makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. Here it is:

With this post, I am also adding the widget which will link this blog with the team's main blog page. I am planning to step up the level of my blogging (soon!) to be deserving of potentially higher traffic!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quiet day and some reflections...

Just a short post today, a few reflections, and no pictures.

I listed my Smoky quartz earrings and Tartan bracelet last night. They were featured in my previous blog post. They've gotten a few hearts and some views, so I hope they do well.

My husband is on a business trip this week leaving me alone with the little bear, who is sick, so I'm not getting as much done as I thought I would, but I did manage to create another bracelet today which I hope to list soon. I haven't quite decided if it's "done" or not.

Also, I was featured in another treasury again today, curated by one of my team members, Soapstarcanada. You can see it here: http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list_west.php?room_id=87464

Curating my own treasury remains an elusive goal, even though I have a Word doc and Etsy poster tool full of beautiful pieces all ready to go. Hopefully, I'll be able to snag one sometime this week. Which brings me to my final point.

Although I took the plunge and set up this blog and a rather sorry-looking Facebook page, it's really only my team members - from the wonderful OhCanada! team - that have been looking at either one. I don't mind, as I needed the practice and skill development, but I have to say that joining a team is the single most influential thing so far in the life of my shop. I joined Etsy (as a seller) in March of 2009, though I didn't set up my shop until the following fall. Between Sept. and Dec. I sold four things. I figured, well, I'm new, it's a learning process...since joining the OhCanada! team I've sold 4 more things! When they say you should join a team, they're right. Also, I've met an amazing group of artisans, and am really enjoying the sense of community that comes from being part of a team. So, thanks guys!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New bracelet style

This past weekend was relatively quiet creatively speaking, as we usually spend most of our weekend time skiing as a family, but I did produce two new pieces and make another sale. Sales seem to be picking up lately - 1 sale per week for the past 3 weeks - but the shop is still an endeavor of love at this point.

Tomorrow I'll be listing a pair of dangle earrings of smoky quartz and sterling, similar to others I've made before,
except these stones aren't faceted, and are amazingly smooth and clear.


I've also been working on a new bracelet style for awhile now. I've been thinking and planning for a few weeks, and I finally bit the bullet and started wire wrapping it this weekend. All the beads are affixed, but I can't decide if I'll close it with a toggle and cut off the excess chain, or use a lobster clasp and put a nice sparkly charm on the end.

I call this my "Tartan Bracelet", and my inspiration is the beautiful mohair Nova Scotia tartan throw that we received from my husband's godmother for our wedding.



The blanket sits on our bed in the wintertime, and is dominated by a beautiful, vibrant cobalt blue that is a perfect match for the Swarovski capri blue color. The pattern of the beads mimics the pattern of the weave and I was able to get a pretty good match for all the colors. If it generates interest, I'll probably do a red-based tartan next. Today was horrible for taking pictures, so tomorrow I'll hopefully be able to finish off the clasp, take better pictures, and list both the earrings and the bracelet.

I've also spent the past several days picking and arranging items for a treasury. I finalized my picks last night and was hoping to snag a spot today, but no such luck. Hopefully I'll be able to watch the clock a bit better tomorrow and be able to post it in time since the treasuries seem to generate alot of interest for the team and for the shops.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another sale!



This will just be a short post, but I am still so excited about selling a pair of my earrings that I had to write about it.

Last night I was working online when suddenly an email popped into my inbox stating that I had received a payment. I'm new to this selling biz, so I thought "what for?" It took a little clicking around before I realized that I'd sold the very same pair of earrings, my "Sunkissed orange drop earrings", that I'd featured in my first post. And that I'd just created over the past weekend. So, my sales seem to be picking up slowly but surely.

I'd also like to announce that I've become a member of Etsy's Oh Canada! team, a team of crafters and artisans all based in Canada. I've been warmly welcomed and am very pleased to be part of such a diverse and talented group.



A pair of my earrings were also featured in a Treasury starting today, created by one of my fellow group members, Deb, of FostenDesigns, also on Etsy.
You can see the Treasury there for the next few days...unfortunately I cannot for the life of me figure out how to embed a clickable link.
I promise I'll learn before I post again

Sales and treasuries are spurring me to get creating again, so I'm off to work on a pair of earrings and a new charm-style bracelet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First post

This post marks my first foray into the world of blogs. You'd think that after doing a degree in Information Studies I'd have more experience in this realm, but sadly, I don't. (Note: those of you who took Web Design with me, you can stop snickering) Although I set this blog up over a week ago, a certain amount of shyness, and writer's block, have kept me from posting until now. So, musing to myself, what should my first post be about?

I've been taking photos for the past couple of weeks, and I've decided that I'm going to write a bit about my process as a jewelry designer. How I decide to create things, and what affects me.

About a month ago I ordered a strand of absolutely beautiful tangerine orange chalcedony briolettes from a fellow Etsy seller. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I've had a bit of an obsession with the color orange for awhile now, OK, since junior high, and I just had to have them. Also, winter is bleak in Quebec. And long. And cold. Did I mention that it lasts a long time? From freakin' Nov. to May sometimes...

Orange reminds me of Florida and all the many spring break trips I took as a child to visit my great-aunt and grandma. It conjures up images of the beach, joyful music, the hot sun, the warm sand, and a nice umbrella drink. It's just such a happy, cheerful color, and those of us that live in the north really need a little cheer right about now!

I don't like to rush my jewelry because it either comes out sloppy, or isn't very creative. So, in the meantime, I made several other pairs of earrings and a few bracelets...but those orange chalcedony brios were in one of my many plastic storage boxes of beads...just calling my name. I used some - along with some similar brios in fuchsia - to create my Tequila sunrise necklace:



...but I still had lots left.

Finally, over this past weekend, I took them out and started creating earrings.



While I'm satisfied with my first pair (below), which I've recently listed on Etsy:




I'm just not quite certain about the second (below) . Although they also have 6 beads per earwire, they just don't seem to hang right. Maybe it's the combo of round beads with brios that makes them fall differently? I don't know. Here's a pic:



I'm not quite sure if I should add more beads at the bottom or not. What do you think? The only opinions around here are those of my husband and my 2-year-old!

The contents of this box also arrived recently:




(though not actually *in* this box - that's for the pictures!) and I'm mulling over how best to use them. I'm obviously a little behind with the amethyst since it's already February, but stay tuned for pieces in aquamarine coming soon (it's March's birthstone), as well as pieces in turquoise and labradorite. Not together. Pieces featuring turquoise, and pieces featuring labradorite. The latter is especially close to my heart as my husband, who is a trained geologist, worked in Labrador many years ago.
 
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