“Working with handspun yarn provides a perfect opportunity to free yourself from the constraints of formal patterns by allowing the characteristics of the yarn itself to dictate the work’s form. There are many ways to do this, and a few examples will follow, but the idea to teach yourself to really look closely at the yarn, and let the details and eccentricities that you find there guide you in your creative process. Many people are hyper-focused on the act of knitting or crocheting, and oblivious to the yarn itself as they work through it.”1
I’ve been in a bit of a spinning & knitting slump as of late which I find happens when my days are more consumed with jewelry making or fleece processing. This quote reminded me why I got into making yarn in the first place. It’s easy to get into concentrating on technique only, esp. when you are out of practice. But for me that takes away from the joy of spinning. I’m a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of spinner. I’ve come up with the best skeins this way. They are in no way reproducible, but isn’t that why we love handspun anyway, the uniqueness of each skein?
I really enjoy Lexi’s book as she is about pushing the envelope as to what we think of when
we think of handspun yarn. I don’t tend to click with many spinners I meet since their goal many times is to get the thinnest and/or most even yarn usually for a particular pattern or project. I would much rather let the fiber take me on the journey and then decide after it is spun what it would like to become. It usually takes me several attempts to make something out of a skein of yarn because it doesn’t always want to do what I want it to. I find a pretty pattern in one of my books, and convince myself that this particular handspun will do the trick. Most of the time, I am wrong. Instead, I have had to train myself to look at the yarn and decide from its feel what it should become. I do look at patterns for inspiration, but most of the time, knitting (or crocheting) just spontaneously happens.
If you think that a jewelry maker making the jump to spinning yarn is odd, here is where the parallels are drawn. When I make jewelry, I like to sit down with a component – such as a gemstone bead – and let it develop into a piece. Sure I have a sketch book with designs and this is more useful for the engravable jewelry. Even then do the designs rarely look like what is in the book. I like to let it develop as I go. Much like mixing different colors of fiber for spinning, I like to take beads and metals to find a harmonious blend. It’s painting, only on a 3-dimensional level to produce a tangible product or textile. To me spinning is the perfect compliment to jewelry making – not to mention the ultimate mash-up: spinning beads into my yarn (I also got tired of boring plastic and rubber stitch markers too so I make my own – that I call knitting bling). 🙂
When I started spinning I just went for it. The opportunity arose where I could buy a wheel and I seized it. It made absolutely no sense at the time, but I am so glad I left logic on the shelf, and delved into spinning yarn. It is an absolute bliss for me, even with every ache and pain that goes along with it.
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-promotion. I like to make things, and would rather spend my time making things, than promoting my work and getting it “out there” and known. Plus I just feel like what I make is not exactly critical to one’s survival: it is not a food staple or a cure for cancer. It’s just pretty, handmade stuff. Certainly money is not a motivating factor for me either: anyone who is in the handmade community knows what an uphill battle that is.
That said, I have no problem supporting and promoting others in the cottage/handmade industry. I totally see the merit in what they do, the quality in the goods they make. So when thinking of a topic to write about this month for the newsletter, I thought, why not get to know me a bit better? I offer to do artist spotlights on other people, so why not me?
So here are my answers to the questions posed for the artist spotlight.
Who I am & what I make
My name is Leilani, I am married and a mom from Nova Scotia. Currently my creative outlet of choice is jewelry making: particularly personalized keepsakes that I manually engrave an initial or monogram on, and producing fiber for spinning and felting. The name of my creative work is the bb3 project or studio bb3. I used to go by the name “heavenly flower” but now the name is an ode to my 3 gems: my 3 little girls, and based on the superstition that things (good or bad) come in 3’s. I call my work a project and not a business as it is impossible for me alone to really devote the time and money needed to make this what the mainstream world would consider a business.
How long have you been creating?
I have been making jewelry for over 15 years: I started in the late 90’s but didn’t seriously get into it until a few years later. My first creative outlet was writing, and my family always saw that as a career path for me as I was growing up. These days I still enjoy writing, but prefer creativity in a more tangible form: things I can create and feel with my hands and allow colors to blend and compliment each other.
What made you start creating?
I always found solace in working out my feelings in story or verse. I was encouraged in my early 20’s to find an outlet for my time as I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Writing is always cathartic but I needed something – shall we say – happier to bide my time with. So jewelry making helped me express myself and gave me something joyful and tangible to enjoy. I also appreciated the challenge & tediousness that goes along with learning a new skill. I think that is one reason why I love to spin yarn now, as well.
What inspires your designs?
In the beginning I started making the things that I couldn’t find in the stores. When I was younger I was more into fashion & accessorizing. I always liked to have something different to wear than everyone else. These days life in general inspires my work. I like my jewelry to be more classic, everyday wearable – as well as be a keepsake or daily reminder of what is good in one’s life, a milestone, or a loved one we hold dear or are missing…(although I am overdue to play around with statement pieces once again!). My yarn is definitely inspired by color play – it’s like painting but by mixing fiber. But mostly I just love to spin: to hear the whorl of the wheel, to see the transformation from fluffy fiber to twisted rope. The wheel spins and all my thoughts and wishes and desires and negativity and positivity – all spin around with it, meld together and melt away…
What are your favorite pieces to make/creations you have made?
Certainly “Wings” is the piece that means the most to me – I rarely leave the house without it on. It has my mother’s monogram, and she is my angel, my protector. Certainly the jewelry I made for my wedding is also very dear to me, especially the charm bracelet, that has evolved into a mother’s bracelet (coincidentally 2 of my girls’ birthstones is sapphire – which was my wedding color theme). Mostly I love to hear people’s stories regarding the personalized jewelry I make, and becoming a type of support mechanism for them. Everything from honoring the death of a loved one, to happier events & milestones from weddings to friendships honored, breastfeeding goals reached etc etc. I am humbled to be part of their lives in this capacity: It gives what I do purpose, and I spend a lot of time convincing the negative side of me that what I do *does* have purpose outside of my own emotional well being. Sometimes it feels rather futile & pointless.
I have a few skeins of yarn that I am coveting because I cannot bring myself to turn them into something, I just love to stare at them in skein form. They are curly and fluffy and soft and a whole lot of fun. I probably broke every rule about spinning when I made them, which only makes me love them more…
Where do you sell your work?
Currently my products are available online only. My family tends to spontaneously roam so I have never been one to commit to doing a market regularly or even a show. We have moved into the direction of permanent residency in Nova Scotia (where we are originally from) by selling one of our properties. Whether or not I will open my North Mountain studio up for shopping or classes remains to be unseen.
Sure, so long as the request is within the scope of the style I am currently offering. Custom work is tricky because it takes me hours to develop a new product. There are many factors to consider including wearability, color, flow…if the request is not an esthetic I can put my name on, or if I know it will take several hours in research and development I will politely turn it down. Time is definitely not on my side these days. I encourage everyone to ask though – I will always consider your requests and are honored you asked.
The August Newsletter and Giveaway is available. This month I have several new gold-filled necklaces & yarn: I call this series my confetti yarns. The giveaway is for your choice of one of six personalized necklaces.
I have talked at length about the fact that most of my yarn is made from the ground up. The only thing I do not own (yet anyway) is the sheep, rabbits, goats or alpaca the fiber comes from. That’s not to say that I can pass up a nice looking roving at the Fiber festival – but I do spend the majority of my time at the Fleece sale. My main motivation in the beginning was to save money. Now, it’s mainly because I enjoy it. I love taking dirty fleece, washing it (sometimes even skirting it before hand to get rid of the poo!), carding/combing it – then dyeing it into gorgeous colors to then be blended into batts to be spun into yarn. I also enjoy meeting small producers and getting to know them, their flock, and where my fiber is coming from: something you can’t do at the yarn or craft store.
This past month I have been washing some merino fleece – from Maine – from Rivercroft farm in Starks. If you are an Easterner & spin you may know Joe & Judy Miller: I love chatting with them at the New Hampshire show, which I sadly missed this year due to a relocation. This lot was from last year’s show. I am embarrassed to say it sat around that long and some of that time in storage in fact. But that is what happens when you embark on home renos and then a move. Last year was a dud for me, as far as fleece prep is concerned.
Thankfully, these bags were already skirted – so no poo for me to remove. 🙂 I am a fleece rescuer – I drift towards the more inexpensive bags of fleece that most hand processors pass up. I see the potential in every bag. Unless it is totally full of VM (vegetable matter) or has signs of lice or fleece rot, I’m in (and I have bought duds of fleece before – live and learn). It just takes a little more elbow grease, and a little more patience.
For fleece this dirty I just reach for my bottle of Dawn dish detergent. If we were talking good quality locks or award winning fleece, I would reach for the Unicorn Power Scour or Namaste Farms Wash & Dye Bastard. But for this quality, I find Dawn works just fine. I start to fill the sink up with hot water, and while it’s filling I will place pieces of fleece to float on top. Once the top is covered, I squeeze on a bit of Dawn in a zig-zag pattern, then add another layer of fleece. Squeeze on the Dawn, and so on – until I have enough in the sink that I feel is comfortable to clean – usually about half the size of the sink. It’s fleece & soap lasagna! At this point I gently start pressing the fleece down into the water, and let soak for approximately 3 hours. This soak happens 3 times, only on the third time, I do not add soap but about a quarter of a cup of vinegar to the hot water to remove the soap residue. I usually will flip the fleece between on the 2nd and 3rd soak. If it mildly felts I don’t worry about it too much as it will be carded and then combed.
The difference in color is quite dramatic. I didn’t even realize just how yellow the unwashed fleece was until I saw it washed. Gets pretty darn white, if I don’t say so myself!
The washed fleece is run through a salad spinner to get out the excess water, then out to my deck to dry in the North Mountain air. It can get very windy here, and after chasing drying fleece all over the lawn, I have learned to put a cover on it. These racks are from a store that closed a few years ago (Zellers – for all the Canadians reading along). I would eventually like a set up so that the air can circulate both top and bottom, but for now I just flip the fleece after drying on one side for awhile – and this has worked well.
I’ve already started carding this into batts to then be dyed – and then combed into top. This is by no means a quick process but it certainly is satisfying, especially when a one of a kind skein of yarn is created.
Many of the charms I use in my theme name necklaces are culinary grade pewter (AKA Britannia pewter alloy – you can drink or eat off cutlery or cups made from this form of pewter). The charms have been FDA certified lead free. I love these charms: they are made in the USA and have an amazing, beautiful detail. Plus since they are an electroplated pewter they are a fraction of the cost of sterling silver cast charms. My pieces that contain sterling silver cast charms can be double the price simply because of supply price.
Even though these charms are pewter you can polish them much the same way as you would sterling silver or gold-filled items. This is because the charms are electroplated with pure silver (AKA .999 silver or fine silver) or 22kt gold plate. The silver charms can be polished with a polishing cloth or liquid cleaner but it is not recommended that you bench polish them, or use abrasive paste polishes as vigorous friction may “burn off” the electroplated layer. The gold charms will not tarnish. You can shine them up with a soft cloth to remove dirt and oils when needed.
Don’t let the fact that these charms are electroplated turn you off. Unlike ordinary plated items that we are all accustomed to, electroplating leaves a thicker and more durable surface area. Regular wear and tear will not harm these charms. You will also find the pure silver tarnish to be more subtle than sterling silver. From my experience it will start to cast a pinkish hue. It is easily removed with a jeweler’s cloth, which is my recommended product for cleaning this type of jewelry, although a mild liquid dip cleaner works as well.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I love that spinning accessories are relatively inexpensive – and are often times handcrafted. You can easily purchase a drop spindle and get started spinning without the investment in a spinning wheel (I know this will mortify spinning purists, but I hate the drop spindle. I broke the cardinal rule of spinning & bought a spinning wheel before ever mastering the spindle).
A niddy noddy is one of those inexpensive but must-have tools. It has a very amusing name. I picture someone a few hundred years ago, designed a skein wrapping tool and when asked what it was called, “niddy noddy” was what they came up with while put on the spot. Perhaps this nonsensical name has a clear meaning and if so, do tell! 😉
If you are still wondering what a niddy noddy is, it is a wrapping tool used to make skeins of yarn after spinning. They are traditionally made of wood, but I have seen homemade varieties made out of PVC pipe, and even metal/wood hybrids. There is one central bar where you hold it, and crossbars at each end that are offset from each other by 90 degrees. Here in North America, niddy noddies are most known to come in 1 yard and 2 yard lengths. I prefer to use the 2 yard length on my Lendrum niddy noddy. Before removing the skein I count the wraps & multiply by 2 to give me the length in yards.
Making more and more funky art yarn on my Spinolution wheel these days, I was finding the Lendrum niddy noddy to be too small to fit some of my skeins. I would make them fit, but it was not easy. I was excited to find that Ashford had a jumbo Niddy Noddy. I purchased mine from Gemini Fibres for $39.
I’ve put in a lot of hours with my Lendrum and can pretty much wrap without thinking (it takes a bit to get the right rhythm the first few times). Due to the larger size of the niddy noddy jumbo it took a bit of getting used to all over again. The pro is that I don’t have to worry about running out of space when skeining my bulky art yarns. It holds over 1 kg (2.2lbs) of yarn. The cons are that it is heavier and more cumbersome to use compared to my standard Lendrum. I also like that my Lendrum has notches on the cross bars so that if I need to squeeze the wraps together more tightly they are not overlapping the wraps on the other side which can get confusing when you pull off the yarn or tie it off.
Another quirk is that, coming from New Zealand I have to remember that this niddy noddy measures in metres and not yards. So when counting wraps if I forget and calculate yardage rather than converting the meter length to yards (1 metre = approx. 1.09 yards) I will end up with more yarn per skein. This is not a bad problem to have of course, but I like to try to be exact so that I can keep track of my materials & how long it takes me to spin it.
Despite its nuances I am really happy to add this tool to my studio and suspect I will use it very often in the coming months.
This is the culmination of 4 years of hand spinning. All the experiments with both dyeing and spinning: locks, roving, all of it. All the hours put in to hone this skill. Some were hits, some were misses. I would say the majority are acceptable, if not pretty darn good for a gal who hated the drop spindle but decided to just to throw caution to the wind and buy her first wheel in 2012. I adore spinning. To hell with knitting. I will sit and spin all day any day. 😉
Now with two wheels (first my Lendrum and then my Spinolution wheel) I can work much more efficiently and that means the yarn stash has the potential to grow even bigger, faster. I didn’t do a lot of processing (skirting, washing, or dyeing) fleece last year. We seemed to be in a perpetual state of renovation. But that didn’t seem to stop me from combing, carding and spinning.
I laid all this out on the table the other day, and I was a bit disturbed at how big the yarn stash has grown. With all that time sitting and spinning I haven’t had, well, any time to knit or crochet or weave. It feels a bit stagnant to me, in the sense that – as much as I feel you can never have too much yarn, having these around is stunting my creativity and zest to try something new. There is literally too much choice right now.
One reason why I find it hard to let go is because spinning is such a cathartic process for me. It really is therapy – if not a spiritual experience. So the finished yarn carries a lot of those emotional qualities for me.
The other reason is that I look too critically at my work, and assume it is not good enough for anyone else to enjoy.
Excuses aside, it’s time to get these ready for listing and hopefully into some new homes (my handspun is probably the only thing I sell that I am not unhappy about if it doesn’t sell ;)). I have a few skeins drying now – some of these have been in storage so have become compacted and needed to be fluffed up and looking their best again. 🙂 I also have my pricing spreadsheets set up and shipping rates worked out. I just need to get photographing and listing. I’m not sure if that is all going to gel together by the end of this month – which is fast approaching. I was hoping to get a least a skein or two up this week but I guess you just can’t rush a good thing.
You will find the prices will be affordable if not downright rock bottom. These yarns have served their purpose as a teaching tool to hone my skills and I am happy to give away the time and possibly even partial cost of materials in order to make way for new skill building. The hardest ones to price will be my merino and alpaca yarns, since they were the most expensive of my fleeces to obtain. They are so soft and fluffy and – the hardest ones to part with. But I am all about intention and energy and my hope is that these yarns will make it into the hands of people who can appreciate all these qualities that come with them.
Then when I am done with all that, you see these two containers in my closet? The label on the top bin says: wholesale overflow. And that is exactly what this is. 13+ years of wholesale, clearance and closeout jewelry supplies. In my lifetime, I will never use all of this. So these materials will have to find a new home as well. Now, to clone myself several times in order to get all this done… 😉
Last month (and on my birthday no less) I picked up over a dozen bags of alpaca fleece – and I didn’t pay a cent for them. Above you see my trunk – filled to the brim.
Mother’s Day is a holiday I don’t care much for, but for the majority of the afternoon the weather was nice to sit out on the deck off my studio and do some picking. I have been (im)patiently waiting for a day to go through some of this, not really knowing what condition the fleece would be in. It had been stored for sometime, in a shed – so somewhat exposed to the elements and critters.
I only got through one bag before the fog rolled in, but boy, did I ever pick a great bag to start with! The fleece came out in all one piece – and you could picture how this laid on the animal. It is a beautiful butterscotch/cream color -probably my fave alpaca color. It’s shorn nicely with very few second cuts – and a low to moderate amount of VM (vegetable matter). Pretty much not at all dusty. It is also quite long stapled as shown in the picture below.
I separated this into two bags: one with the fleece with very little VM, and then a bag of seconds that has a ton of VM and is stained/discolored. The seconds batch I will do first: comb and card out the Vm and then most likely dye since the color is uneven. I will store the bag of “firsts” for now. i like to experiment with the lower quality first before diving into the good stuff. 🙂
I’m ready to start my second bag and it’s not so great as it has a ton of VM – but, it will still be nice fleece to work with, it just needs more elbow grease to remove the unwanted bits. I will chronicle the processing of this fleece as I go. BTW – this is the view from my studio – isn’t it breath taking? When the fog doesn’t roll in, that is…
In the bb3.ca May 2016 newsletter, I recap the month’s new products including 2 new gold-filled necklaces and of course the most popular part: the giveaway! Since my house seems to be full of ladybugs this time of year, it’s for your choice of a sterling silver or gold-filled personalized ladybug necklace. 🙂
The cover picture this month is what fingers look like after polishing metal. I bench polish all sterling silver disks so that they have a bright finish. It also removes surface scratches. I am just starting to make the gold-filled versions of the jewelry and was really excited to try polishing the gold disks last month. It really helped buff out the edge of the disk where it has been punched out of sheet.
I’m still (re)introducing sterling silver products this month with a sneak peek of the gold-filled. The piece I was most anxious to make this month is the revamped “Wings” that bears my mother’s initials. I am happy to say that I am really satisfied with the end result. Other than that, I am (desperately?) trying to wrap up the jewelry prototypes so that I can get back to playing with fleece in my “spare” time. 😉 Read More…
This month the giveaway is for a 14kt gold-filled initial necklace with culinary grade pewter butterfly. If you have never tried gold-filled now is your chance. To enter fill out the form (link in newsletter below) before April 30th, 2016 11:59EDT. I’ll randomly draw for a winner after that. Open to all newsletter subscribers (subscribe at: bb3.ca/newsletter).
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I have been revamping my work to sterling silver since mid-January. This month, I was honored to revamp the one piece that is most dear to me: a necklace that I developed bearing my mother’s monogram. I called it “Wings” and it is a memorial necklace.
I stumbled upon the original design quite by accident, playing around with charms and engraving blanks- and I really liked the 2 angel wings together. It was as if they were hugging the disk in protection. At the time most pieces I had seen with angel wings only had one wing – or were a completely different design altogether. I knew I stumbled upon something I was really feeling, but with the current fonts I had it simply did not seem “finished”. Wings was benched for awhile – until I purchased an interlocking monogram set.
The original design was made out of silver plated components and when I finally offered it up to sell the original price I listed them at was $17 – because I still felt weird selling a remembrance piece. It seemed really wrong as it was a memorial necklace for my mother. But over the years I have heard the stories that go along with the necklace: loss of children, mothers and fathers. Friends and relatives. I was beginning to feel part of one’s healing process, and that in turn was very healing for me.
I’ve been “test driving” the new design and really like it. It’s smaller in design compared to the original, and I am finding the older I get, the more I like to either have a very subtle piece – or the option to layer with other jewelry. And although the price is significantly higher than the silver plated “Wings” (double the $23 price the original had been currently selling for) you really can’t argue with quality. Most of the cost incurred is due to the fact that these are cast wings. Unlike the culinary grade pewter charms I tend to use, these wings are completely sterling silver, making the cost significantly higher. Unlike the silver plated option, there is no fingers crossed that the item will not tarnish to ruin: you can polish the sterling silver version again and again.
Switching this piece in particular to sterling silver means it will stand up to the elements and I know I will cherish my piece for years to come.
If you loved the original “Wings” piece don’t despair: it will be coming back as a keychain/bag charm & a metal bookmark. I had a purchase for a rear-view mirror charm once, and I love that idea. That is a possible development as well. For those of you who love gold, I have not had any luck finding 14kt gold-filled wings yet that I like. But I do have the engraving blanks ready to go, for when the time comes.
I’ve been using gold-filled components for many years now, and I don’t find it to be as popular as sterling silver for my products. I think the reason is many people don’t know or understand what gold-filled is, and why it is priced higher than sterling silver.
Not to be mistaken for gold-plated
So just what is gold-filled? The easiest way to describe it, is layers of brass and gold sandwiched together. These layers are bonded (clad) together with extreme heat and pressure. There is two or three layers within this sandwich. The result is a very durable product that has all the benefits of karat gold without the hefty price tag. The top gold layer does not chip or flake like gold plated items which has a minuscule amount of gold covering. Gold-filled is very popular with jewelry makers like me because it is affordable and easy to obtain. You can expect gold-filled to not tarnish just like a gold wedding band.
Legally gold-filled must contain 5% – or 1/20 gold by weight. If you compare with a gold plated item – which has 0.05% or less gold in the plating – you clearly see the value: 5% vs. 0.05%. Gold-filled products can be purchased in 10 karat, 12 karat or 14 karat gold. I purchase 14kt gold-filled disks and chain for my engraving. You will often see it listed in the industry as 14/20 gold-filled. I put 14kt gold-filled in my listings as karats are more recognizable to the general public.
I have had requests for “pure” gold items, and this may still be an option in the future. I priced one of my necklaces out with 14kt gold components, and the supply price alone was approaching $100 CAD. That is a steep investment for little ol’me. 🙂 It is not out of the question, just out of my reach currently.
It’s March and I’m pretty excited, as it was a productive February & spring is just around the corner. I’m happy to present to you more revamped goodies. I’ve been watching spinning videos again just to get back in the game: I’ve been so focused on the sterling silver jewelry that I inadvertently took a spinning hiatus. This is surprising since I tend to spin every single day. The goal is to have skeins of yarn up for sale again over the next few months. I want to go through what I have, and rewash/set them just to get a good feel for what I think is worth selling (and what I can let go of… ;)).
New items means lots of choice for this month’s giveaway. Read More…
I should clarify: why I switched to sterling silver for my engraved necklaces. For now I will still be offering bracelets in silver plate and cord, and the engraved stitch markers will remain silver or gold plate (but I’ll certainly take requests for sterling silver versions ;)). As far as my most popular items – which are my necklaces – we’re going sterling silver all the way. 🙂
Time for Change
Back in mid-January it hit me: it was time for a radical change. I was slogging through my list of sterling silver requests. The list of, “if you ever do a sterling silver version, let me know…” and I was feeling both overwhelmed and under-whelmed. There is no fun remaking something that you already make, and happen to make a decent amount of. Quite frankly, I was bored. Normally I combat boredom by developing something new. But by necessity I was pushing myself to do sterling silver versions of certain designs. People asked for them a year agoand I had to make it happen. It was the key to shaking this stale feeling, the unmotivated feeling that has been creeping up over time. I was going through the motions, with something that I am passionate and love to do.
To throw another wrench into it, I think too much. I over think everything. One reason why sterling silver versions had not yet been completed, is because I over analyze and essentially talk myself out of it. It seems too complicated. So finally one afternoon I asked myself, what do I find the most complicated about it? And the answer was juggling all the options. Having a silver plated option, vs. a sterling silver option. Then add to it a gold plated option vs. a gold-filled option. That’s up to 4 options for one necklace design. The answer was to upgrade everything to sterling silver, and concentrate on 14kt gold-filled later.
What? Discontinue successful products? Why in the world would I do that? But this time instead of thinking it over (and over) I just did it. Like, when you have a really stuck band-aid. Just rip it off really fast, rather than peeling it slowly and feeling every single tug on the skin. This is the analogy of my entire life. Otherwise, I would never make a decision!
You know what? The decision has been just what I needed. By discontinuing many products I was able to see more clearly what needed to be done, instead of feeling overwhelmed with too many products, too many options, and too many what-ifs. I got so much done in a week. Many prototypes were completed, and photographs taken. The pictures were okay – but they were good enough to get the items relisted and presented for the February newsletter (I have since re-taken the product photos and my photography skills aren’t the strongest, but the final set of photos has the energy and vibe I want to convey). I have that excitement again: the sweaty palm, bubbling from the pit of my stomach feeling that I get when I create something wonderful.
A few years ago (okay, maybe a tad more than a few) I would never dream to use plated items or base metal for my jewelry. That’s because sterling silver was so. cheap. I used to do all my prototypes in sterling silver – I considered it scrap metal! When I purchased my manual engraver and started teaching myself engraving, I had bought some silver plated blanks for practice. The price of silver soared, and the landscape of selling handmade online totally changed. All of a sudden, everyone was selling something they made on the internet. Plus, there were mass-produced companies popping up everywhere that needed individuals to sell their products, often times masquerading as handmade. And the prices were all. over. the. place. On top of it all, many people were struggling financially so there was no room for life’s extras. I had to look at where I could cut cost, and the best way to do it was in the supply cost. My cost: AKA my time and expertise was already as low as I could go.
I rarely get complaints on my silver plated and gold plated items. I think most people understand that plated items are a crap shoot since there is no guarantee the level of tarnish or when tarnish will happen – everybody’s body chemistry is different. And the pieces were priced accordingly. It was certainly affordable. But even one disappointed customer is a disappointment to me, especially when you consider most of the purchases are as gifts and have stories attached to them. Many people are hurting and grieving, or have overcome a hardship that they want to honor. The silver plated items were intended to be a gesture – I never dreamed that people would become so attached to their necklace, that they would wear it often, even to the point of not taking it off.
Sterling silver does not always agree with everyone’s body chemistry, I do know a few individuals who can’t wear it at all. But for the majority of people the main issue with sterling silver is tarnish. Luckily, tarnish can be removed via a polishing cloth or even with hot water, tin foil and baking soda. Offering products in sterling silver gives me piece of mind that they will stand up to much love and wear.
Keeping it affordable
The biggest issue with offering sterling silver is to how to keep it affordable. I design with the philosophy that everyone deserves a nice product that they can be proud of. Silver has stabled in price, so it makes it more attainable. I buy in bulk: wholesale lots. So I have to make sure I have the funds to front the cost of large orders. It is the only way I can offer my work at the prices I do. That, and I donate a lot of my time. A lot. That’s the truth. Being the sole designer, sales person, marketer, photographer, copywriter, graphic designer, web designer (with help from my developer husband), and accountant means I really should be tripling or even quadrupling my cost (a topic for another day…).
Knowing where my supplies come from
I buy my sterling silver engraving disks from US suppliers. The disks are made in the USA and one supplier in particular smelts scrap metal to make their sterling silver sheet (disks are cut from sheet). The culinary grade pewter charms are made in the USA. The sterling silver cast charms are European or US made. The older I get, and the more informed I get, the more I would prefer to buy as close to home as possible. Plus, I have an established relationship with these suppliers. I can trust them.
An over-all product I can be proud of
I am confident with my skills and abilities. Am I perfect? No. Do I make mistakes? Of course. I am happy to fix and honor them. It happens. But I have no control over supplies that are simply not up to par. I am at a different place in my life. My philosophy has always been, would I wear it? And these days I don’t wear many of the items I originally developed. So after it is all said and done, this is the crux of change for me.
bb3 is still a project: I hesitate to call it a business as I just don’t have the time or resources to hire or grow it. It is a labour of love born out of the belief that we truly can get back to basics, express ourselves, be creative – and support local and small industries. It’s my reflection of where we are as a society – where mass produced, non-personal, bought without a thought does not always equate to better. It’s about spreading a little joy, a little positivity, a little healing, one item at a time.
This month’s newsletter is jam packed with new products, and the giveaway is for a sterling silver necklace. Read all about it here.
I think the most exciting news is the revamp of products in sterling silver as well as 14kt gold-filled…and yarn…coming soon. I have so much to do but I am really excited to do it. If you are a subscriber and have entered the giveaway, good luck! And if you are not yet but would like to enter, register here first. Entries will be taken until Feb 29th, 2016 and all non-newsletter subscribers will be disqualified.
It’s been 2016 for 3 weeks and now that I feel like I have a good foothold into the year I have set my creative goals. I’m not big on resolutions: they always seem to be unattainable and are easily forgotten/broken. But giving myself a list of goals always keeps me excited to continue learning and growing, and always gives me a place to start from when I feel like I am unproductively spinning in a circle.
I can’t say enough about how important creative projects are to me. They have not enhanced my life: they have saved my life. They gave me a place to focus nervous energy and stress after a day at work, and eventually gave me a place to focus my sadness and anxiety when these emotions overcame me and left me unemployed. They allowed me to turn negative emotions into something beautiful and tangible, and much to my surprise, that others wanted to share in as well. Not every day was motivating, but with some perseverance creating made me feel that my existence was just as important as everyone else. It was a way to express myself when words could not properly articulate my feelings. I believe that in our hectic world of work and schedules (even the “fun” stuff is scheduled!) we all need creative balance; creative voice; creative outlet.
Whether you are looking to advance your skill level or add a creative project to your life a simple list is all that is needed to get started and get motivated. You need not make a fancy vision board – unless you want to. Pinterest is a great way to visually plan your projects and it can always be with you via your smart phone. Let’s face it, they are handy little gadgets – they need not consume your everyday life – use them to your advantage. You will not find me spending much time on social networks. But you will catch me checking my phone often as I work on a new knitting pattern I downloaded or do a web search for some creative inspiration.
Like most things, getting started is the hardest part. I started creating because a therapist told me to 16 years ago. So I just started exploring. In my school days I loved to write. So I bought a nice book and starting writing poems, and did a bit of journaling. But I found this to be a bit intense for me, so I turned to making goods instead. First it was making books that I could write my thoughts in. We’re not talking anything complicated here. A hole punch, some ribbon, and some pretty paper. Eventually this lead to playing around with clay, to making beads with clay, to jewelry making. I forced myself to set some time aside at least once a week to explore what I enjoyed doing.
You don’t have to spend too much money
One of the common excuses we tell ourselves as that we don’t have the extra income to purchase supplies necessary to be creative. We walk into a craft store and are overwhelmed by all the options available. The price tag can climb high if we are not careful, but it doesn’t have to. Thrift stores are great places to find skeins of yarn for only a dollar or two. I am constantly finding unused skeins at my local second hand store. Costume jewelry from thrift stores or rummage sales can be dismantled for jewelry components. I have picked up some great beads for as little as a quarter by buying costume jewelry at a flea market. I’ve also expressed to family & friends creative items I would like to have for my birthday: a coloring book, a how to book, a nice set of pencils or markers, a tool…
Building on a skill
If you already have a creative skill under your belt but want to expand on your knowledge, You Tube is a great place to start. This is where I am now. At the tail end of last year I taught myself how to magic loop knit by watching You Tube videos. This gave me the confidence to say that this is the year that I would teach myself how to knit cables.
Don’t be hard on yourself
If you don’t do every goal on your list, or you feel unsuccessful, be proud that you took the time to attempt it. You made some time for you, and that is what matters. Tomorrow is a new day. If you decide a particular hobby is just not for you, swap your items with a friend for a project they have not had the chance to do. It’s okay to change your mind. Just be open to change, and be open to exploring the untapped talents we all possess.
Read the January 2016 Newsletter to find out the winner of the sterling silver necklace from last month. As well as what’s new, I’m launching a monthly gift with purchase and blog reader’s discount. Read all about it above. I wish you all a creative 2016 and thanks for your continued support!
In 2016 I’m kicking off monthly promos for blog readers rather than one static discount for the year. This month receive 15% off your entire order at bb3.ca – even on sale items. That means on an item that is 30% off you will receive an additional 15 – for a total of 45% off. many items in the clearance section are at or below cost.
Simply use the January coupon code: BLOGJAN15 at checkout. Discount good until end of day January 31st, 2016.