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What Happened to the Canada Post Shipping Option…?

Several alternative shipping options are available during Canada Post rotating strike

Here in Canada, Canada Post Employees have been involved in a rotating strike since October. At first, this was not a problem: I found that my packages were still being delivered and were only slowed down by a day or two. Canada Post is now stating that the backlog of mail due to these rotating strikes is so large, they don’t see it all getting delivered until sometime in the New Year. Although back to work legislation just passed in the House of Commons, I still doubt disgruntled employees will clear up the backlog in a swift fashion (I certainly do not agree with back to work legislation).

I know I have at least 2 packages to my knowledge held up in the system. Instead of running my usual holiday sale on Etsy, I put my Etsy shop on vacation mode until I could figure out what to do next. On my website, I have disabled shipping with Canada Post until further notice. I have become increasingly frustrated with Canada Post over the past few years, the reasons could be a blog post on its own. Sad considering I have been satisfied with their service for several years prior. I’ve been selling goods off & on online since the early 2000’s.

I’m treating this as an opportunity to do find new carriers to work with. Here are the current shipping options for my personalized handmade jewelry, knitting accessories and handspun yarn:

MARITIME BUS (NS, NB & PEI provinces only)

My husband has picked up orders for computer gear from the Maritime Bus before, and I thought it was a really neat idea. They are continuing the tradition of shipping small packages via the bus much like Acadian Lines did back in the day. I can remember as a child my mom packaging up my dad’s dress shoes or other items he may have forgotten, to ship to Cornwallis where he worked in the summer with cadet camps.

PROS

Maritime Bus is an affordable, quick option. Their staff in my experience is really nice & helpful. They run 7 days a week, and you’ll receive your package same day or next day once your package is dropped off (with the exception of inclement weather).

CONS

You must live near a Maritime Bus stop and they only travel throughout the Maritime provinces (and not everywhere within those provinces).

FREIGHT FORWARDING TO BORDER, delivery handled via USPS and UPS (US customers)

This is now my recommended way to deliver packages to the United States. Your package will be driven over the border by a Freight Forwarding company, where it will be then dropped off at USPS or UPS for delivery.

PROS

You will always have tracking on your packages, whereas the economical Canada Post Shipping option does not. Since your package will be driven over the border by a bonded carrier, there is less to no customs hold up of packages, and your package will be delivered quickly once it is over the border.

CONS

This option is 100 km away for me, thus I can only plan to drop off once a week, or use a local courier company to get it there. Therefore, the perception is that your package takes quite awhile to ship, but in reality, you will receive your package far faster this way than if I were to mail it immediately with Canada Post.

TRADITIONAL COURIER SERVICE (USA & Canada)

Choose a courier such as Purolator, UPS, Fed Ex or CanPar (for Canadian customers). Please note that the prices given on the website are approximate. Because I sell items of varying size and weight, I took an estimate loosely based on shipping quotes to destinations as far West as possible. Should the cost be lower you will not be overcharged.

PROS

Courier service tends to be reliable with tracking and faster delivery compared to the mail service.

CONS

The cost is astronomical in Canada to ship via courier for small businesses like me that don’t do the volume to qualify for discounts. I wish they would become more competitive with their rates!

FREE SHIPPING OPTION

Don’t forget you can bypass the whole shipping headache by ordering a minimum. Orders $75 or more in Canada ship on me. For US orders, $100 (that’s Canadian dollars – so approx. $75 USD with the current exchange rate).

Don’t forget to use these voucher codes on the website for free shipping:

Use code FREESHIP75 for Canadian orders 75+;
The code FREESHIP100 will give you free shipping for US orders over $100

LOCAL PICKUP/DELIVERY

If you are located in Kings County, Nova Scotia, we can arrange pickup at a convenient location or I can possibly deliver to you. I also frequent Hants County and Halifax/Dartmouth/Sackville – if you can wait to receive your order until the next time I’m in the area.

I don’t live in a heavily populated area so I recommend meeting up in town (Canning, Wolfville, New Minas, Kentville, etc).

NO ECONOMICAL OPTION FOR REST OF CANADA

Unfortunately, I have not found an economical shipping option for outside the Maritime provinces for small orders. I would suggest taking advantage of free shipping with a minimum order (above). I’m hoping that this will change in the near future as more carriers see the growing need for competitive reliable shipping in Canada.

These shipping options are available on my website and will continue to be available once the strike and its backlog is over. I haven’t decided if I will re-open my Etsy shop before the New Year. Currently, I am informing Etsy shoppers to go to my website if they want to order anything before the holidays.

 

 

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Selling Handmade Online: The Anatomy of a (Handmade) Listing

selling handmade: a folder full of new items to list

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at selling handmade online: this is a screenshot of the many products that I have made and yet to list. Some of these items have been around for over a year.ย The problem is this: I love to make things and I would spend my entire lifetime doing just that. Taking the time to get items ready for sale and listed, not so much. I wish it were as simple as: I make something, I take a picture of it, and magically customers come along and buy it. Not so. When you are an artist/maker of any kind – in charge of selling your work – you wear many hats/learn many talents to make that sale. We don’t have a MLM company to back us with promotional kits on the ready to help promote our goods. I’ve considered hiring outside help but any kind of PR I’ve researched was too out of reach for me cost wise. When you think about the price that we have to charge to be competitive with the mass-produced, selling handmade online is a losing battle.

Let’s look at the anatomy of a (handmade) listing, shall we?

Conceptualizing and designing the idea

Although my items have evolved into simple keepsake designs over the years, there is still more to it than pairing charms on a necklace. Everything I make is something I would wear. When I am inspired by a theme I then have to choose: will it be sterling silver or gold-filled or both? What size engraving blank should I pair with the charm? What font should I use? I have to then engrave the prototypes, and assemble a sample so that I can assess wearability and aesthetics. Do the charms look good together? Do they hang well together? Is there movement/flow? Should I add a bead? Or add/remove another element?

This is another reason why I normally turn down custom orders these days. Not the personalization I offer, but built-from-scratch requests. All the time that is put into conceptualizing the design would be out of reach price wise for the customer. Add to it that the majority of the time changes or tweaks are asked for, or interest is lost entirely and the piece is never purchased. For these reasons custom orders are simply not worth the time involved for me. Before I had kids I was more willing to donate my time for custom work, but these days time is a precious commodity. Of the requests that I do take, it is because I already have something in mind that has not yet left the design notebook. In this instance if the potential customer changes their mind I can still sell it as a new product. Bottom line is I have to be mindful of the time taken to develop a custom piece and the compensation involved, all the while staying true to my aesthetic and personal style. And goodness no – I will not copy someone else’s work…

a page of notes from my design notebook

Photographing the new design

I wish I was talented enough to get a few good shots of my products in just a few minutes, but the truth is, it takes quite a bit of time and patience to get a good shot. I have to set up the camera on the tripod, after I put on the macro lens. Then turn on/position the lighting. It has a dedicated spot in the studio but it always gets knocked out-of-place between cats and kids. Plus natural light will determine which direction the lights will be. Placing the item within the lighting so that it stays at the right position is also tricky. It is very tedious to set up a piece of jewelry and have it stay in place without falling over in an unattractive position. Sometimes I can use a bit of sticky tack to help keep charms in place. But for the most part, I like a natural drape over an object such as a smooth stone. Once I get the item positioned, I have to carefully move it ever so slightly left and right to get the lighting angle in the “sweet” spot: not so much light that it drowns out the engraving, and not so little that it appears dark which is also hard to see. When I find the sweet spot I will snap several pictures. I do have the added bonus of computer software so I can sharpen focus directly onto the computer before taking the pictures. Once I get several shots in one position I will try at least one more, plus a hand shot for scale. The hand shot turns me into a contortion artist while I get my hand in frame, focus the shot via computer with other hand, then hold still enough to take the picture. I would say the photography aspect is my least favorite thing to do. I procrastinate on it a lot. Like, until the “take photos of these new items” bin is over-flowing. Part of the reason is that photography is the most frustrating. You can take a ton of shots only to discard every single one when reviewed later. I have logged hundreds of hours over the years with different cameras, tried all kinds of set up and contraptions and watched many videos/read many blogs and I still think my pictures are acceptable for selling on the internet, but they aren’t stellar. I did purchase a short online course many years ago that I found the most helpful. But what works for me is based on putting in the time. There is no shortcut.

my current photo setup

Editing pictures

Photo editing can take even more time than taking the pictures. I don’t do any color correcting – just some brightening if the photo is too dark and cropping the photo square. The goal is to have a crisp and clear photo. Different resolutions on devices will have the items looking slightly different color and tone wise anyway. I don’t want to misrepresent what I am selling so I do very little touching up. I’m told my items look even better in person – and that always makes me feel really good. The pictures are attractive enough to make the sale and people are happy with their purchase, rather than disappointed. That is a good thing!

As time-consuming as editing is, I enjoy the process. Seeing my work on-screen is where it comes alive for the potential customer. I love choosing the final images and it is only discouraging when none of the images turned out to be viable for the web (it means I have to repeat the picture-taking step – WAH!).

Finally, I do watermark my photos with my website for copyright and recognition purposes. I know this is sometimes frowned upon for many different reasons: like it’s distracting, or Etsy doesn’t feature watermarked images…however I have witnessed photos being stolen and misrepresented as others’ work by scam artists over the years. Plus photos often get shared on different social network platforms without context as to where it came from.

RAW photos ready for editing

Pricing

Another daunting task that I don’t enjoy is pricing my work. In the beginning I would eye ball the piece and price it from the top of my head – which meant that I was rapidly losing money: not covering even my expenses to make the piece. So I soon moved to spreadsheets to price my work. I have a master spreadsheet with the cost of supplies: I price out to every last jump ring and component. Then I have spreadsheets for the items themselves: one for the keepsakes, and one for yarn as they are very different in pricing structure. This is where I add my costs for my time, packaging, and listing fees. The sad truth is I don’t make very much an hour. I honestly don’t mark up my work very much – and for this reason it’s hard for me to have sales or discounts. When I do run a sale, I am losing money at least on my time. I end up writing sales off as advertising (as well as giveaways).

So why don’t I mark my items up more? The market is solely dictated on the buyers and I have to go with what people are willing to pay. I’ve tried pricing my goods higher and they simply don’t move. Plus I’ve always had the philosophy that everyone deserves to own something nice and well made. I get it, money isn’t always there for the extras. I want my work to be accessible to as many people as possible as it is an expression of me from the heart. The many positive comments I have had over the years is a feeling that money could never buy. Yes I have expenses and bills like anyone else. But I do feel the handmade movement is far bigger than that. Sure I’d love to make more money at what I do, but I’d also like the cost of living to go down for everyone, too…

It never ceases to amaze me the misconception of how expensive handmade goods are or that they are not as good as the mass-produced products that have flashy ads or brand names to go along with them. Oh and if you are getting a lot of free stuff along with your purchase – or for signing others up – don’t think for one second you haven’t paid for it several times over in the markup.

Excel spreadsheets are a necessary evil

Listing items online

I currently list items on two places online: my personal website and Etsy. I’ve sold on other platforms before but it’s too time consuming for the handful of sales, so I’ve stuck to the two places that I get the most bang for my buck.

I’m quite fortunate to have a software engineer for a husband as well as being a tad geeky myself so a lot of things I can take care of on my own on the front end and all the technical stuff hubby can deal with on the backend. For sellers who constantly complain about Etsy: please stop. Listen, I am not always happy with everything they do over there nor do I agree with every decision that has been made in the evolution of this company. However, once you try to maintain your own website – you come to appreciate that you just have to pay the fees every month and the technical issues are someone’s else’s problem.

Listing items online means writing a decent copy description of the item, making sure it is placed under the right category on your website, uploading the pictures, setting the shipping costs, and doing SEO for each individual item. Nevermind the hours of setup it took beforehand to have a working site – and we use out-of-the-box software to power my website. I am fortunate enough to host my own site thanks to my partner’s business…sort of.ย  By that I mean, don’t forget I have to babysit the site daily to make sure it doesn’t go down due to hosting issues, getting hacked, or the myriad of other issues that can happen that render it useless:ย  like your payment gateway failing or a file corrupting. As for SEO, I admit that I find SEO tedious and it falls to the wayside a lot – and I instead rely on Social Networking for promoting my items and getting them out there. Once again, I appreciate paying Etsy to do my advertising for me. I have a very small budget to promote my listings but there is always a return for doing so.

Promoting items

Touching a bit of this in the previous section – promotion is a full-time job in and of itself, something that I just don’t have the stomach for – I admit it. The online pond is very big and you have to scream really loud to get noticed: I’m not so good at selling what I’m selling. I don’t mind sharing and showing what I make, but doing so over and over feels egotistical to me. I am not doing anything life saving here; it’s pretty things. It’s fun yarn and accessories for knitting. None of which is necessary to survive. I also rarely discuss what I do with my friends and family because I don’t want them to feel obligated to support my work. I get it, it’s not to everyone’s taste. I don’t want people to feel like I look at them with dollar signs in my eyes. It is such a good feeling however, to tap into that crowd that loves and gets what I do. Etsy has been wonderful for that. And I appreciate all the good feedback I’ve gotten over the years there. Ifย  I ever doubt my talent or abilities, I can read that feedback and know I make good things and provide a positive experience to others.

My facebook page is the hub for new product promotion and sales/discounts

Keeping items fresh & relevant

I used to make beaded jewelry – and I still do, I just find the simple wearable keepsakes translate as “in style” for a longer period of time. The time it takes to design and make beaded jewelry, plus the uniqueness of the designs means more effort to move the finished product. I like to stick with daily wearable pieces, like my ” wings” necklace that I wear everyday.

tray of pulled supplies for the new items I have yet to design

 

So if it is so hard why do it then?

It’s a drive to keep going that I can’t really explain. A passion for handmade and what I create. Wanting to get my items part of people’s online shopping experience: offering them an alternative to the norm. I do it because it makes my customers feel good, and therefore it makes me feel good. It’s my pay-it-forward. But mainly I do it because I have a drive to create like nobody’s business. It truly does keep me alive and sane, and if I want to keep creating, I have to move the things as they pile up. ๐Ÿ™‚

I recognize that when I get resentful or feel stuck & anxious about it, it’s when all my time is spent online rather than making the things I love to make. The ideas run wild in my head and there is no outlet to get them out because I feel I must be responsible and do my social networking today, or list new items today. Once an item sells, most of the time I have to make the item with the customer’s personalization, then package and ship it. So if all my time is in doing just that and no new ideas are flowing, I feel stuck really fast.

I’ve just come to realize it’s about creating balance and even after 16 years at this, I haven’t struck the right chord. I tend to go from one extreme to the next. Now that I have made that revelation, I hopefully will find some motivation to list. Because there are some goodies in this folder that I’d love to get into people’s hands. It makes me happy that I get to share my talents with others.

If you stuck it out and read all this (thank you!) I hope you gain some insight on the behind-the-scenes of the handmade goods you buy online. If you sell or are looking to sell your handmade wares know I feel your pain, and I am here to support, if ever you need…

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Are you on Instagram?

follow me on IG @leilanihandmade

I’m having a huge work block lately – I’m totally unmotivated to do the heavy lifting as far as listing and promoting my handmade items. I’m currently writing an extensive blog post about it – The Anatomy of a (handmade) Listing – that is rather involved and detailed so my brain can only write it in small bits at a time (I’ll link to it here when it is finished). I’ve been really busy making things with no real desire to list them – which, defeats the purpose of selling my handmade goods online. I feel like I need to get the details out in words so that I can move past my block and get things listed. As far as the deadline I gave myself for new items for the holiday season, well, I am really behind…

Luckily, I still have orders for jewelry and paying requests for yarn to keep me busy until the motivation returns.

In the meantime, I wanted to mention that I have been taking Instagram out for a test drive and I really like it! I have been meaning to check it out for some time but feared I lacked the time for it. Finally giving in to a smart phone a couple of years ago certainly makes posting pics online easier. I love seeing life in pictures – so if you are on IG please follow me: I need people to follow, too! The content is much different from what you would find on my Facebook page or even Twitterย (although a bit of overlap is inevitable). It’s a behind the scenes glimpse of my creative life: and my cats with a few appearances of my kids (the cat thing, was supposed to be temporary while I tried out how the app worked – who knew people liked seeing pics of cats. So. The cats stay… ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

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Washing Merino Fleece: Before & After

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washing merino fleece: before (right) and after (left)

 

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.

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Thankfully, these bags were already skirted – so no poo for me to remove. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

washed merino vs. unwashed
washed merino vs. unwashed

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!

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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.

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Jewelry & Supply Organizing in my Makeshift Studio

My diningroom aka temporary studio here in Nova Scotia
My diningroom aka temporary studio here in Nova Scotia

I’ve taken over our diningroom here in our little vacation home in Nova Scotia. It serves as a makeshift studio space for me when I’m in town. When we want to do sit down lessons, the girls will also do “schoolwork” here. It is a high traffic area in this home and prone to clutter. Creating tends to lead one into the direction of a…creative mess, but I cannot work in an area prone to chaos. The energy simply doesn’t flow. If the energy gets stuck my ideas feel stuck too.

Which brings me to my early New Year’s organizing today. I had originally set up binders with business card/baseball card inserts to hold my supplies (as shown above). Tiny ziplock bags organize all the components necessary to make one item from the website. I usually have on hand at least 3 of these pre-pulled supplies per item. I try to aim for 6, if not 12 for very popular items. Efficiency is very important. It is the main reason why I can keep my prices so affordable. If you can imagine, it takes less time to pull the supplies needed for 6 necklaces at once than to pull them one at a time after each order. Having the supplies pre-pulled means they are ready for assembly and engraving at time of order. It is also the secret as to why I usually can turn around an order in 24 hours, and is handy for travelling when you are working out of more than one location.

I am finding though, as my product base grows I am becoming more and more frustrated with the binder setup. It is easy for things to become misplaced, particularly since the binders are becoming so full. Most of the time the item I am looking for is staring me right in the face in a sea of supplies that all look the same. The fuller the binders are also means spillage, and more misplacing of products that are located…somewhere in there. Not being able to find what I need will send me into a feeling of panic, and I usually enjoy what I do. But not when I am stressed out unable to find something, or taking more time than usual and my family is waiting on me to get done.

After scouring the internet, including jewelry suppliers and wholesalers with somewhat pricey solutions, I found the most affordable option today at Canadian Tire:

A supply organizing dream! I am excited to fill orders again. :)
A supply organizing dream! I am excited to fill orders again. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a small parts cabinet with 60 drawers. I got two for $39 each! They are lightweight, stackable and can even be mounted to the wall, which is great when space is at a premium. With my handy Dymo label maker everything is clearly and neatly labeled. This is going to make me really efficient; so much so that it’s time to reassess and adjust the pricing on some of my items…lower. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Studio Closed for 1 Week

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I am in need of some time away from the studio but will be back by December 7th, 2015 and shipping from my Nova Scotia address. Thank you for your patience and sorry for the inconvenience!

Je besoin de temps personnel Je expรฉdie ร  partir de mon adresse Nouvelle-ร‰cosse, le 7 Dรฉcembre 2015. Merci pour votre patience!

Feel free to browse while I am away.

Return to bb3.ca

retourner ร  bb3.ca

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Studio Closed for the Long Weekend

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This up-coming weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. So the studio will be closed for the long weekend. I will be unavailable to make orders from October 9th to October 13th, 2015. Orders should commence no later than October 14th. You may still order via the website but expect a delay in the shipping of your order. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Je ne suis pas disponible pour rendre des commandes d’octobre 9 – 13. Les articles seront expรฉdiรฉes par le 14 octobre. Contactez-moi si vous avez des questions.

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Cats Love Yarn: Here’s Proof.

We all know that cats love to play with yarn. Anything that moves, it seems. But how about cuddle up to a ball of yarn? Here’s my photographic proof that cats love yarn, they really, really do. These are my 11 and 13 year old cats, cuddled up to some of my handspun on two different occasions:

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Life would be so boring without pets! ๐Ÿ™‚

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bb3.ca available for non-urgent orders only

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I’m closing the studio for a much needed break. I am around to work on orders if they are not of a time sensitive nature, so do shop away if you are finding the urge over the last few days of 2014. I cannot guarantee my usual quick turn around, however. I will be taking this break time to work on new designs and catch up on blogging.

Catch you in the New Year!

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The Studio is Officially Open for 2014 but…

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I’m finally finished inventory & the supplies got a total overhaul as far as organizing is concerned…as in, they are actually organized! During the Christmas rush I was so annoyed at myself as it took way too long to find supplies needed for orders. So now everything is neatly put away & I have the “to reorder” list in hand.

You may notice certain products missing from the website. I pulled a few that I want to re-examine/revamp, either because I ran out of a component & it is either unavailable or not in a price point that works for me, or simply because I want to change it/freshen it up a bit. They will return shortly as soon as the new prototypes are completed. I have ordered 2 new engraving fonts & I am excited to relaunch these products new & fresh!

All that said, I did have to raise the prices slightly on some items. Nothing drastic, but with both the cost of supplies & shipping increasing this year, I have to adjust accordingly.

Here’s to 2014 and a brand new year of inspiration & creativity!

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Cat meets Angora…

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Oh, this cat, whom I affectionately call “my boss” as her curiosity in the studio resembles that of a person keeping me in line.

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She provides an endless amount of comic relief. See, this is angora the girls’ & I laid on the rack to dry. This silly cat decides to give it a thorough inspection, as she may want to LAY ON IT. Keep in mind it is freshly washed, meaning wet.

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I was poised ready to take a picture of when she actually got comfortable & laid down but I totally missed the shot. It didn’t take the cat long to realize her possible comfy bed was actually quite damp, and I don’t know one cat who likes to be wet in any capacity… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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A Welcome Guest

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Cats are the most curious creatures to me. Some people despise them but their unpredictability agrees with me. This cat in the 6+ years we’ve had her, is my “boss”. She likes to observe/inspect anything I am doing, but a lap cat she is not.

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Until today! I’m spinning away, minding my own business, and I could have almost screamed…because *something* jumped in my lap…then I was shocked to see this furry thing settle in for a spell. I called for a camera because there was no way I was going to get up – this was such a rare moment…

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…I didn’t even mind that she interrupted my spinning. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Cat in Charge…

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This little fuzzy butt totally thinks she owns the place… ๐Ÿ™‚

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I always joke that it is technically her house. We adopted her when we bought the place, as the seller’s of our home were building & didn’t think she would be happy living in a work in progress…

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And indeed, we found out very early that she really possessive of our home. But like most cats, if you feed her & give her lots of space & love she will accept these humans invading her space. She;ll even share. But never forget, that she’s in charge – or you might get a present you don’t want. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Portable creativity

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This installment of “in the studio” is actually outside the studio…literally! Summer is here and the season is short so anytime I can spend outside creating I’ll take it. My kids have way more energy than I do for playing outdoors, so I do a bit with them, then supervise inside the screened gazebo. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Luckily jewelry making is fairly portable…you do have to be organized, otherwise there is a lot of running back & forth inside. My spinning wheel is pretty light/compact too (it folds flat) so I can take it outside or even with me say, camping if I ever choose. ๐Ÿ™‚

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My Stash of Handspun…

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This is my stash of handspun yarn in my studio…I consider this the “good stuff” – yet I am not ready to let it go…

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Part of me wants to keep it for my own enjoyment, and part of me want to sell in/barter it for someone else enjoyment. I still am not sure what to price these at, I know I could never make all my time back, esp. for the stuff prepared from scratch (raw fleece). It is something I will most likely ponder for awhile longer. In the meantime, I will enjoy its colorful addition to my studio space. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Studio Tour…

I realized I had not shared photos of my studio space, since the renos last year. These photos were taken last January and (sadly) the space is still only 80% done, & the renos were complete *last* June. Nonetheless I am still really happy to have my own dedicated space to work in, even if the paint/trim is not completely done…

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This area of cabinets, I was going to make into a photography area…but it is right beside the sink, so it made an awesome drying area for fleece (I dry wool outside in the summer, these were taken in the winter). The racks are shelving from a local Zellers store that closed last summer – the fixtures were being sold for next to nothing.

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Here’s the sink – with some fleece ready to go for a soak. This used to be a utility room – so where the sink/cabinets are is where my washer & dryer used to be (now relocated to downstairs bathroom). Our contractor scratched his head as to why I’d want a laundry sink away from the washer & dryer. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I love chalkboard paint! The sides of these old cabinets were uggg-ly! This paint came in handy in areas that were impossible to spruce up with regular paint…(not to mention fun!).

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You get a better view of the lazure painting I did in the space…my first attempt, not perfect but I do love the effect in the room overall…Oh, that painting is of me & my husband: we were dating at the time, done by Nova Scotia artist Richard Rudnicki.

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The utility room has already came equipped with many cabinets. We don’t use microwaves for food, but they sure come in handy for crafting. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh yeah and best. bumper. sticker. ever. ๐Ÿ™‚

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My drum carding area…it’s on a glass desk for now, not ideal – I have these sturdy wood flea market tables I think I will bring back into the space…it’s a pretty desk but I’m constantly concerned about damaging it…

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This is the inside of a cabinet where my carded batts & rovings live…it was pretty full at one time but now looks as empty as this since I have been spinning them…

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Several skeins of handspun yarn…this is what I would call my “good” stash…the stuff I am pretty much happy with, not sure if I should sell it or keep it…I have no idea what to price it as the fiber stuff is all new to me as far as the commerce side. Barter perhaps? Admittedly, I have a hard time letting go of it… ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, I digress…they are organized in a retired shoe organizer. Works great (better than it did for shoes)!

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That picture there: on the right – my dear friend & mentor Aurore Henze painted of me/for me…I was amazed that it matched the color of the pillar perfectly…when I started out lazuring it, I did not have that color in mind at all, but since I didn’t like the first pass I covered it with a darker shade of purple…then I got this painting and wow…fate! ๐Ÿ™‚

Missing from these photos are my jewelry & soap making cabinets…I’ll add them in another post…I’m hoping these will give others ideas as to what to do for their own creative space, no matter what the size or purpose…

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Cat vs. Fleece…

If you think this pic is funny, wait until you see the second one… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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The cats really like to zen out in my studio, but for some reason this particular day, this one decides to dive right into a couple of pounds of Icelandic sheep fleece I had laid out on my work table for processing. Zen, he was not. He went crazy: rolling in it, biting it, kicking it with his back legs while he held a large tuft of it…and then…

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…decided he needed to try to *groom* it all. Proceeded to try licking it…gagging insued! ย Ah cats! Originally posted on my Facebook a few weeks ago, it got enough laughs I tried to upload it to icanhazcheezburger (lol cats) tonight…but my connection timed out. Oh well, I may try again later… ๐Ÿ™‚

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My New Investment: A new DSLR Camera

I’ve been quiet as ofย  late, & that is because last week I finally decided it was time to upgrade my camera & invest in something less automatic. I have been using a digital point-and-shoot camera for 4 years now,ย  & it has served me well. However I felt very limited. I wanted to be able to customize more, and also achieve true macro photos, rather than ” macro”ย  (close ups) with a telephoto lens. I wanted to get more detail in my photos; that 3-D effect you see with a true macro lens.I also found photo taking time consuming, as I would have to take several shots, then download them onto my computer, sift through the different angles and choose the best. Time is money. Being able to take a decent picture the first time, crop & go would be heavenly! Especially with the amount of jewelry I have been making lately.

So I assessed my needs. I knew for my budget and experience I wanted something relatively entry level as far as ” pro”ย  style cameras were concerned. For me that meant being able to add a macro lens. I needed speed & ease of use. I needed something I could learn quickly & start taking decent photos right away without much of a learning curve, but still be able to customize.

So I narrowed it down to the two main players. Will it be Nikon or Canon? In the end I decided on a Canon camera specifically because it comes with computer software (Nikon has software too but you have to purchase it separately). Computer software means – you can control your camera & shoot your photos directly to your computer – which is a huge time saver!

The other reason I was sold on a Canon is because Costco sold them. With Costco I can return the camera with no questions asked, so if it didn’t meet my needs it would be easy change. Also Costco products come with a 2 year warranty with my membership. For my budget, Costco had the Canon EOS Rebel XS and XSi series. The difference was about $200 on the price. In the end I went with the Rebel XS as I wanted to have cash for accessories like a macro lens & a remote switch. I figured a sacrifice of megapixels for a great lens was worth t.

Costco sold both cameras with an add-on package which included a bonus lens (comes with both EF-S 18-55IS and EF-S 55-250IS…I guess “IS ” is a relatively new technology for them that stabilizes the lens to compensate for camera shake) & camera bag. The macro lens and switch I bought from a local camera store. The switch is great because you don’t have to worry about moving/shaking the camera when you press the shutter, but honestly I’m not using it as much as I thought I would since I am controlling the camera from my computer. Still a handy accessory to have.

As far as the macro lens goes, it was a painful decision for me. I knew I wanted the 100mm macro lens, but it was a hard pill to swallow cost wise – more than the price of the camera. So I decided on the 60mm lens: EF-S 60mm f/2,8 Macro USM. It was roughly the same cost as the camera, which was easier for me to live with. I have to be closer to my subject to take the photo but it still photographs wonderfully and the motor is whisper quiet.

This is my old camera…good ol’ย  point-and-shoot Fuji Finepix. Bought for approx. $300 CAD 4 years ago. Served me well and we will still use it as a back up camera.

But how does it do for taking pictures, you ask? Is it really worth the investment? Keep in mind, I am still learning. But I am impressed by the results despite my limited knowledge of camera settings.

The one on the left is taken with my Fuji camera. That is about as close as I could get to the piece, and about as white as I could get the background without ” photoshopping” .ย  The one on the right is with the new Canon Rebel camera, absolutely no cleaning or tweaking of the image. Taken by someone who didn’t know what the heck they were doing. The macro lens was pretty much fresh out of the box here. I immediately fell in love. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d say not bad for straight off the camera. I know many would argue it is washed out – that is a camera setting thing – I personally like the artistic merit of the image in this form.

Here’s my set up. My old laptop is controlling the camera. ๐Ÿ™‚

I think my only disappointment is that there are some tools in the software unavailable for the XS and XSi series that the higher end cameras have the ability to do (like setting custom white balance).ย  I guess that means upgrade in the next few years. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Read about my other new gadget that I love:ย  The Nook on my other inspired blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Why I don’t Get Anything Done on a Saturday Afternoon…

I step out of the room for a brief moment, and look who found a new nap spot:

Before I assess the mound of jewelry to be photographed you plowed over, the tools you knocked off the table, and the amount of hair I will now have to delint…

I might as well get some nice shots of you. You are after all, in the photo box!!

That’s the Zany cat – 13 years still ticking & boldly going where no cat has gone before (because the other two are scared as to what I’d do to them if they attempted this!). ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in a day’s work. ๐Ÿ™‚

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My New Comfy Work Chair

So the other day I was at Costco and broke down & bought myself a “proper” chair. I’m not sure exactly what a “proper” chair for jewelry work would be – before my house I was an apartment couch beader, so it’s all new to me.

All I know is, the chair I was sitting on previously – which was lovely by the way – handmade by the previous owner, sturdy and high backed, was still a dining room chair meant to enjoy meals with & not sit for long periods of time hunched over an engraver or beads.

So this was not too bad, $100 plus an instant $20 rebate. It is definitely comfy. My legs don’t fall asleep anymore, and if I lean back while thinking or doing certain kinds of work it is great. But there is still the problem of leaning over to do accuracy work. I still get pain at times in my middle back/between my shoulder blades. Hubby thinks I need a lower desk – I am using a flea market table due to its large size – but then wouldn’t I be hunching over more? Sure sitting on a yoga ball would probably be the best for my posture but terribly impractical – can you imagine – pliers in one hand and jeweler’s glue in the other – yeah, I see an accident waiting to happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

So this will do. For now anyway. What is your work bench set up and how do you find it?

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Bringing The Beads Back to The Bench…

I haven’t done any beadwork in quite awhile since I have been teaching myself some metal techniques. Today I brought the beads out again in order to work on my Artbeads Blogging for Beaders Project for Summer.

I doubt I will finish both pieces today…actually I know I won’t, esp. since this beautiful weather is calling me outdoors!

I have to admit something: I have WAY too many supplies. I am serious!! Not exactly a bad thing – but over the past two and a half years, I seem to have had more time to BUY beading supplies than MAKE jewelry! Plus I scope out suppliers, buy wholesale and volume discounts and close outs – well, you get the picture. When I sat down to look at colour options for these two necklaces, I had too. many. choices.!!ย  In a way it was overwhelming – too many possibilities! I spent a half an hour this morning just looking & considering colour schemes!! I came to the conclusion for example, I have way too many gemstone beads in the hue of ORANGE!! I went to get large guage headpins and paused to consider dozens and dozens of different metal components. And I am organized – believe you me – it’s just too many choices staring at me. At this point, I think I could open a small store…if I had the time! HA!

Anyway, I mean that somewhat in jest of course – but still…anyone else feel the same way – even some days?? The possibilities are endless when it comes to beads…I thought I was limiting myself by not buying glass anymore but nope… ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Creating! I should be posting this project within a couple of days…