Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Made my first sale!

Last week, I had an "almost" sale at Etsy. Someone convo'd me about a mini cookie pendant. She wanted it sent to a country I hadn't figured postage for (so far, I only list postages for the US and Canada, with the offer to calculate it on an individual basis for customers in other countries), and asked me to charge her account through Paypal. I could have done that, I guess, but I preferred to have her buy it through Etsy. Partly because Etsy probably doesn't like it when you "bypass" them that way-- partly because I really need some positive feedback to encourage others to buy from me. Anyway, I figured the postage, added her country to the item (so she could order it directly through Etsy), and convo'd her back, but she hasn't replied. :o( I suppose she either forgot about it, changed her mind, or never got my message.

Oh well! I guess that sort of thing is bound to happen from time to time, and I'm somewhat less disappointed now, because I've sold a different item. :o) The payment came through yesterday, and I put the package in the mail this morning, so now I'm just waiting to hear that she's received it.

I'm a little bit nervous that something will go wrong yet! There's not much that could go wrong. Either the package could be lost or damaged in the mail, or she might get the earrings and think they look worse in person than they did in my photographs. Either of those things would be horrible, but there's no reason to expect catastrophe. Still, I'll breathe easier when I know the package has arrived safely... and it would be nice if she left a positive rating of the transaction, too. (g) I went ahead and left some positive feedback for her, so maybe that will remind her to return the favor, assuming that she's satisfied with the earrings.

So, my first sale. Yay! :o)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Found some new blogs!

I've been editing my blogroll a bit over the past few days. I deleted one, I think, because I noticed that it hadn't been updated in over a year, but mostly I've been adding new ones that I somehow missed when I first made my list.

It's amazing how many blogs there are out there, and that I can actually find so many dealing with polymer clay as a (more or less) primary subject!

Here are a few of the blogs that are new on my list:

CraftyGoat's Notes-- Interesting projects, and there's a "tips and techniques" section that could be helpful.

Polymer Clay Artist Guild of Etsy Blog-- I'm a member of the guild, now, so I'm curious to see how this develops. It hasn't been around for long, but someone's already gotten together a project in which members donate pendants that will go to a charity.

Laura's Blog-- Not "polymer clay only", but still. Some of her other interests seem...well, interesting... too.

Wanda's Designs-- I've seen photos of her teapots before, but didn't know she had a blog. The pots are lots of fun to look at, and she uses so many techniques on them that I find myself inspired to try something new, too, while I admire them.

Karina's Blog-- I've seen her around the PCC forums and Flickr for a while, but never knew she had a blog.

Polymer Paula-- She makes illustrations with polymer clay-- and some gorgeous cookies, too.

Ha! While skipping from link to link from some of these blogs, I've come across still more I want to add to my list! But that'll have to wait until later. Even polymer clay-obsessed individuals must wash dishes sometimes. ;o)

Bilar -- aka "car candy"

I think I mentioned that I'd made my candy-loving husband a cell phone ornament? Using polymer clay replicas of his favorite candy, Bilar? Well, even if I didn't before, I have now. ;o)

The candy is Ahlgrens Bilar-- a Swedish candy, so I doubt many non-Swedes have seen/eaten them. However, I think they do carry them in some IKEAs, so maybe... Anyway, they're marshmallowy candies in white, pale green, and light pink, all in the shapes of... well, they claim that they're car shaped, but you really have to use your imagination to see the car. (g)

In the photo below, the three to the left are the real candies. the other three (yeah, the ones with metal loops sticking out of them (g)) are the polymer clay version.

I think the shapes turned out pretty well-- maybe a bit too big, some of them, but not too far off. The colors were a mixed bag. I think they white and pink turned out pretty well-- though now that I see them compared with the "real thing", I can see that the pink was a bit too peachy/flesh-colored, but oh well. The green one was much closer to the actual color prior to baking, but because it had too much translucent in it, the color changed during curing. Overall, not bad, but the could use a little tweaking. However, since I doubt these would be in high demand, what with the rarity of the candy (outside of Sweden), I don't think I'll bother making more right now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ponsawan's texture plates

Was just wasting a little time looking at some of the polymer clay blogs you see in the column to the right, and was impressed (apt word choice, if I do say so myself! (g)) by Ponsawan's homemade texture sheets.

As you might recall, I've done some of these, myself, but I haven't given it another try since my first effort. After seeing these, I'm inspired to give it another go! :o)

I also want to try carving designs in cured sheets of clay. They wouldn't necessarily be texture-sheet style designs, though-- more of "stand alone" images. We'll see how it goes (when I ever get around to trying it).

Pretty vs. Cute...

I've been thinking lately about what the vast ;o) marketplace for polymer clay jewelry wants.

Every time I go to list another item at Etsy-- or to photograph a batch of items, since I have to do that before I can list them-- I ask myself, "What do they want? Which item out of the inventory I've been building will be the one that catches someone's eye-- captures her imagination-- and makes her reach for her wallet?" (g) And now that I've been listing things for a couple of weeks, I'm even starting to ask myself that when I sit down at my clay table. (Not everything I make is made with a view to sell, but it's certainly something worth thinking about. Why make a hundred versions of something that no-one wants?)

At this point, my Etsy shop is still in its infancy. I have one person so far who's interested in buying something, but the sale isn't even official yet. So needless to say, I haven't quite found my niche in the polymer clay marketplace. Maybe I never will, in fact! But I prefer to be optimistic and believe that eventually I'll be able to make a little money on the side from my craft. I'm not expecting much, but something.

Even though it's probably too early to be drawing any conclusions, I can't help but gather data and analyze it. Which items get the most views? Why? Is it because there are more people doing searches for that type of item-- or are they finding it in some other way? I have a Flickr page with lots of polymer clay photos. Which pictures get the most comments? Do these people look at this item in hopes of making their own version of it, or is it something they might be interested in purchasing? There's no way to know the story behind each and every view an item gets, either at Etsy or Flickr, but I can't help speculating.

At first, I was disappointed that my faux opals at Flickr got so few views. I began to think that perhaps no-one liked faux opals these days-- so passe! (g)-- or that maybe my photographs weren't showing them to their best advantage. Then we got the opal tutorial on-line and I posted another photo of some of the same faux opals-- just fixed up into pendants-- with a link to the tutorial. Lo and behold, several people commented on them! Maybe they simply hadn't seen the other photo, or maybe the tutorial prompted them to comment-- or maybe they liked them better in their more "finished" state. Who knows?!

So I'm fairly certain that I shouldn't draw too many conclusions just yet, but I can't help but make a few observations:

--Observation 1: My most popular photo at Flickr is a "crackled inlay" bead. Four people count it as a favorite, and it's been viewed 116 times. A similar bead, made into the focal point of a necklace over at Etsy, hasn't been "hearted" and has only been viewed 18 times since Feb. 9th. Not bad, but not my most popular item.

+++Conclusion: I don't really know... That people at Flickr and people at Etsy like different things? The people who frequent my Flickr photos are, I know, almost all polymer clay hobbyists/artists themselves. They're probably looking at things more with a view to find inspiration than the people at Etsy are. They're more interested in new techniques, etc. than someone at Etsy is.

--Observation 2: My second-most-popular photo at Flickr is a set of mokume gane beads that are probably some of my least favorite MG beads. Or at least some that I wouldn't have listed as favorites.

+++Conclusion: People don't necessarily react to things the way I expect them to-- or how I myself react. Yes, I know it's basic, but I have to constantly remind myself that my perception of the world isn't the only perception. I'm such an egoist! ;o) Just because I love something doesn't mean that it will sell well, and just because I don't think something is my best work doesn't mean that it won't sell. So I shouldn't be afraid to put something out there for consideration, even if I'm not blown away by it, myself. Maybe I'm just not looking at it the right way.

--Observation 3: To date, my most-viewed item (58 views) at Etsy is a miniature cookie. The miniature cookies seem to be attracting a (comparatively) good bit of attention at Flickr, too. Meanwhile, though I get an occasional flutter of activity over my mokume gane pieces, they're not getting as many views or "hearts" as the cookies.

+++Conclusion: Maybe people aren't as interested in "pretty" (the mokume gane) as they are in "cute" (the mini cookie). (Or maybe I'm better at cute than I am at pretty...? Or my idea of pretty isn't other people's idea of pretty?) Maybe there's more of a market right now for "cute" than there is for pretty. Or maybe the market at Etsy in particular is more geared toward "cute" stuff. It is more of an "indie-art" community, I think, than some larger places, such as eBay.

--Observation 4: Throw everything I just wrote right out the window, because my second-most-viewed item (44 views) at Etsy is a heart-shaped faux opal, which while it might be considered slightly "cute" (heart-shaped as it is), would fit more neatly into the "pretty" group, I think.

+++Conclusion: I shouldn't be drawing conclusions yet. I should just continue to put up a wide variety of pieces until I make enough sells to get an idea of what my customers like. And even then, it can't hurt to have some variety out there. In some ways, I guess it would be good for me if people wanted to buy my "cute" cookies, because they take a lot less work than my "pretty" mokume gane pieces. But on the other hand, I really enjoy making the mokume gane pieces-- well, until I've been sanding for an hour and still have more sanding to do. (g) Even if they're easier to make, I'd get bored making mini cookies all the time, if I couldn't take a break and do something else.

+-+-+Ultimate Conclusion: I need to just let things be for a while. Do what feels right and not worry about anything else. Or at least worry as little as I can manage. ;o)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mokume gane tutorial up and running!

My DH, Donald, has uploaded the latest tutorial to our clay website. The tutorial is for one version of the mokume gane technique. I call it "This 'n That Mokume Gane", because it uses a little of this and a little of that-- just whatever you have on hand, really. It's one of my favorite techniques. I think the results can be stunning-- certainly a whole new look for those who are more familiar with polymer clay techniques that don't involve lots of translucent clay.

Here are a few beads made with the batch of MG I created for the tutorial:

Now I need to start thinking about what to do for the next tutorial... ;o) Oh, and write about tons of other things for the "techniques" section of the webpage!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Studio Friday - Drawing a blank

This week's Studio Friday is about "creative block"-- drawing a blank:

"It's one of the most feared events in the life of an artist. Sometimes it can take a long time to overcome this sudden stop of the creative juices. What do you do? How do you act and react? How do you get back to splashing around in all colours? Do you fight it or work with it?"

I have to admit that in some areas of my creative life (cough-writingfiction-cough), I've let this stop me from even trying, anymore. (I guess I need to work on that...) Or rather, I let fear of not doing well enough stop me from even starting. (To tell the truth, it's been so long that I don't even feel like writing fiction, these days. I once loved it, though, and I have a feeling the old love is still in me, somewhere...) The key thing I have to remember with all artistic pursuits is that nothing will just "come to me". I won't be sitting around one day and then suddenly have an idea that I know will yield great results. It's always a game of uncertainty, and if I can't accept that and move forward in good faith, nothing will ever happen-- good or bad.

But that was just a little something for my own benefit-- it had little to do with the topic. (g)

So, a sudden cessation of the creative impulse... I think the first thing I do is just wait a little while and see if it will come back on its own. I focus my attentions on some other area of my life until I find myself running back to my comfortable creative niche. Usually, these things will pass on their own, I think. While I'm waiting, however, I can hurry things along by taking one of a number of actions:
  • I find new inspiration while looking at the work of others, so I visit on-line galleries and message boards and other websites for peoples who work with clay. Seeing what others are doing usually gives me at least one idea for something I'd like to try, myself.
  • Looking through a good project or inspiration book can also be a creative impetus.
  • I keep thick notebooks full of ideas for things I want to try, so paging through those almost always results in excitement over some technique I'd forgotten that I wanted to try.
  • Just looking over my supplies and tools-- and the things I've already made with them-- can give me a kick in the right direction. The supplies look so nice that I want to get back to using them again!
  • Possibly the best thing I can do is just turn on some music, sit down at my table, and start kneading the clay. Getting my hands on the stuff is enough to get me thinking of new things to try.

More than creative block, I find myself facing the "what do I do next" dilemma; there are simply too many possibilities to narrow it down to just one! ;o)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's been a while...

I've been busy lately. The time I might ordinarily have spent doing clay stuff or possibly posting here, I've been spending getting my Etsy shop updated with new listings, making a new tutorial or two, and doing other such things.

Speaking of the new tutorials-- one of them isn't on-line, yet-- still needs the PDF file-- but the other is up at www.polymerclayweb.com. It's a tutorial for the "Crackled Inlay" technique I've been using: http://www.polymerclayweb.com/crackledinlay.asp Looking over it again, I'm inspired to try it again, myself! There are at least two different "twists" I want to put on it... One with uncrackled, thicker layers of paint on thin, thin sheets of translucent clay. The other, with translucent clay tinted with alcohol ink and covered with aluminum leaf. I think both could be gorgeous.

So... what else? I finally got around to trying to make a few miniature cookies. Some of what I did pleased me-- other parts need more work-- but I think the results of the first batch turned out pretty well. Here are a few photos:

The first is an overview shot of a grouping of the mini cookies:

Here's a close-up of the M&M cookie with a bite taken out of it. I think this is my favorite of the cookies so far. This type of cookie has sentimental value to me, since I remember making these when I'd spend the night at my grandparents' house, back when I was a kid. :o) The texture on this one looks maybe a bit too perfect... It reminds me more of a store-bought cookie than a homemade one. I have a couple of ideas that might possibly give a more realistic texture. I'll have to play around with it a bit.

The last picture is of an oatmeal raisin cookie. I impressed myself with the raisins (if I do say so myself! (g)), but I'm less thrilled over the oatmeal cookie itself. I need to do a little more experimentation. Maybe get a few other people to help me brainstorm things to play around with...

Inspired by the (relative) success with the mini cookies, I decided to try my hand at another food. I made some replicas of Bilar-- a "car-shaped" chewy candy that my husband loves. I think they turned out pretty well for first tries, but unfortunately, no-one outside of Sweden is going to know what they are, probably. (g) I'll try to get some photos one of these days...

So, there's more to say, I'm sure, but this will have to do for now. :o)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Studio Friday - Perfect Art Book

This week's Studio Friday topic is "the perfect art book":

"As I was talking about books so much lately... if there was the ideal book for you as an artist on studios and life as an artist what would be the absolute most important thing in your eyes for it to have in it? What kinds of topics, elements, images would you love to have in it? A few words from your favourite artist as well? What would inspire you, what would support you, give you courage? Would you like it to be a big book with tons of pages or a small book?"

I don't recall ever seeing a book about life as an artist-- or studios-- so I have no idea what usually is in them... But I'll give it a go, anyway. ;o)

--My first thought is a big, flat book-- the traditional coffee table book-- but the idea of a small, fat book is very charming, so maybe I'd prefer that.

--It would need gorgeous, luscious photographs of artistic works in progress and work tables. I want to see the balls of clay, tubes of paint-- whatever the artist uses-- scattered across the table or arranged neatly in rows-- however the artist truly works.

--Overviews of the studio as a whole are nice, but what I really want are more detailed shots of work areas, projects at various stages of completion, material stockpiles, etc.

--Again, beautiful photographs of supplies, work stations, and "art in progress" would be the key for me, I think. When I see those things, I am inspired to create something of my own that is also beautiful.

--As for topics... I really don't know.

--The prompt mentions things that would support us or give us courage. Maybe it would help to know that even this artist has moments of self-doubt. S/he could explain how s/he deals with them. That might be encouraging. Or just someone simply stating what I already know to be true-- It doesn't matter if no-one understands your art. It isn't vitally important that you be successful with the art-buying market or with other artists. All that really matters is that you do something that you love. Try to just enjoy the process and not worry about anyone else. ...Of course, this works better if you're an "on the side" artist or hobbyist. If you're making your living from your artwork, you need to find someone who likes it, I guess... ;o)

I'm more of a project/technique book junkie than a "gorgeous studio book" fan, so nothing more than that comes immediately to mind. So that's all I'll write... (g) Gee, I'm awkward today!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stamped mokume gane

I finally got around to taking and uploading some photos of my attempts at stamped mokume gane (aka ghost image mokume gane, according to me, at least). I think I've already mentioned how some of these have bumps from air that was trapped under the clay (somehow). I also had trouble photographing these. I think I've figured out a couple of ways to remedy this-- take photos on something other than black-- or maybe try both and see which works better-- and take at least one photo without the "diffuser". Taking away the diffuser allows some of the shine to show, which gives a more accurate picture, I think.

Anyway, here are the photos I took before I learned these valuable lessons. ;o)

The colors are a little off on some of them. I took some better photos of the butterfly pendant, which I have listed at my Etsy store. You can go there to see a few different views of it.

New kid on the block...

As a "new kid on the block" over at Etsy, I'm still learning how things work-- or don't work, in this case.

Yesterday evening, I noticed that my "views" (that is, the number of times that someone had clicked to see each of my items closer, read about them, etc.) had fluctuated. One had gone from 11 views down to 1! I wasn't quite sure what was going on until I looked at the forums (where I have yet to jump in and get talking). Apparently, this is a new issue with v2. Twice since the switch to the new version, the view counter has gone whacko. Some numbers stay the same, others revert to 1 (or something like that), and evidently, once the numbers are gone, they don't come back. You have to start from scratch, all over again.

Now, this shouldn't be a big deal, really. The view numbers don't mean anything-- aren't worth anything-- unless someone should strangely decide not to buy from you just because they see that you're lacking in views. But it's still kind of annoying. I'd like to be able to see quickly and easily which of my items are getting more attention. It's also fun to say to yourself, "Wow, 10 people have already looked at my pendant!" Still, as someone else wrote, it's not the views that matter. You can have a thousand views, but the only one that's worth anything is the one that prompts someone to make a purchase.

So-- the moral of the story is-- I shouldn't get too attached to my ever-increasing (I hope) counter numbers, since they can disappear at any time. ;o)

Monday, February 05, 2007

My Etsy shop is up and running!

I finally have my Etsy shop up and running! Yay! :o)

Now let's see how long my enthusiasm lasts without a single sale. ;o) I'm trying to be realistic and remind myself that this kind of thing probably takes time. Even if I don't ever make a sale, I haven't invested much in the attempt. (It's currently 20 cents to least each item.)

Still, just an hour or two after listing my first item, I can already feel the anxiety creeping in. I'm already asking myself (as I have every time I've contemplated doing this kind of thing), "What if no-one likes anything I've made?" (Well, so what? It's certainly not the end of the world if I only make stuff for myself.) ...or... "What if someone buys something, but then they aren't happy with it because they think it looked better in the photos?" ...And so on. Really, the negativity never ends! ;o)

But all that self-doubting aside, I'm glad to have at least made an attempt at something like this. It's been in my mind for a while, now, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. It would be so exciting to make just a single sale, I think. :o)

Once I started listing things, I found that I enjoyed it-- well, apart from the trying to decide what price to put on things. I've listed four items so far, but I think I'll let that be it for today. Tomorrow I'll probably list a few more-- and a few more the next day-- and so on, until I've built up a little bit of an inventory. I don't want to list too many things-- because it's a waste of money if I don't sell anything, but also because having too mnay things in your store might mean that lots of your stuff never gets seen. But on the other hand, having too little isn't good, either. Anyway, it's advised that you try to list at least one new thing every day or two, to keep yourself more "in the eye of the public", so I'll try to do that for a while, to see how it goes. I'll also try to visit the Etsy forums and make myself visible there, too. ...And just generally give out the link to my new store wherever I can. (g)

Speaking of which-- I'd better go back and put a link at the beginning of this post... Done! :o)

Well, off to answer the call of the clothes dryer!

Silver-tone mokume gane, take 2...

I went ahead and used up the rest of the silver-tone mokume gane block. (I'm trying to finish projects before starting new ones. True, there are glittered, tinted translucent clay mixes sitting around, remnants from my opal obsession, and other items of evidence to the contrary, but from here on out, I'm trying to do better.)

Since I wasn't quite thrilled with the results from my first experiments, I decided to try something a little bit different.

For instance, here's a red base bead (metallic red, I think-- since I already had some custom-mixed) rolled in as thick a covering of chunky red glitter as I could get to adhere to the bead. Then, of course, covered in slices of the silver mg. I think it turned out better than the first batch. It's at least more interesting to look at, IMO.

The piece below is a pink/peach base bead with (if I remember correctly) iridescent "confetti" glitter (the type you use to make opals) between the base clay and the mg slices. It turned out ok, but I don't think the iridescent glitter showed up much.

One more example from the new batch of silver-tone mg: It's a green base bead covered with chunky green glitter (same brand as I used for the red glittered one above).

I think I prefer the ones with glittered base beads to the other type, with this particular mokume gane block.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Studio Friday - Portfolio

Today's Studio Friday topic is the portfolio:

I've never put one together. I would be very interested to see and hear what everyone else has as a portfolio and what makes up one" ~ Jo

Well, neither have I, really... I guess you could say that my Flickr account is a portfolio (of sorts) for my polymer clay work-- but in my opinion, a portfolio should be more streamlined than my Flickr page is. Instead of quantity, it should be about quality. If I were buildnig a portfolio, I would choose only a limited number of examples of my very best work. I would take painstaking care to take the best photos of these items-- professional and attractive, but careful to represent the items truthfully. (These days, with Photoshop, it's just too easy to manipulate photos into something better than the original.) I would include detailed, but precise, information about the media used, dimensions, etc. for each piece. I would also write a "cover letter" (or whatever you'd call it, in this instance) briefly explaining my history, the media I use, and my "vision" for my art (or something like that). I would probably also include a list of websites, galleries, etc. where my work could be found.

But I can't really see myself needing anything of that sort-- not ever, really. Right now, I'm still just playing around with the possibility of someday (soon, I hope) selling a few things on-line. I don't think I'd need a portfolio unless I were trying to get my work included in a gallery or show somewhere, or trying to convince a boutique to carry a line of my products-- not something even remotely on my horizon. (g)

Chitter chatter

So, what have I been up to, clay-wise?

  • I just joined 2o groups over at Flickr. A few of them have nothing to do with clay (instead being about my dogs' breeds or a few locations near to my heart), but most of them are related to it in one way or another. It seems like a good way to get to know other people who "do" clay, see some inspirational photos, and maybe even get more traffic at my own pages.
  • I just finished baking a batch of beads to be featured in my "Crackled Inlay" tutorial-- if in fact we decide to stick with that name. I don't know if we'll think of another one that's better. It's hard to see exactly how they'll look when they're completely finished, but they don't look too bad right now.
  • Yesterday, I typed up the tutorial itself, so now "all" I have to do is sand and buff the beads-- then photograph them and put together the tutorial and photos into the webpage tutorial format. Well, Donald'll probably fix up the photos and plug all the info into the webpage-- unless he teaches me how to do it first. ;o)
  • I used up the rest of the silver mg block I made (just to get it out of the way, mainly). Those beads are finished now, all the way to buffing, even. I also sanded and buffed some/most of the "ghost image" stamped mg pendants I made. I was disappointed with how some of them turned out. A couple, because the contrast between the colors was just way too little to be impressive. A few more because somehow or other, I got little pockets of air trapped in the pendants-- probably between the decorative mg veneer and the stronger "backing" clay. So now there are unsightly little bumps where the air expanded during curing. :o( Very sad. But I guess it's part of the learning process. I'll be more careful the next time I do something like that. I haven't had that much trouble with air pockets before this, but now I see what a pain in the neck they can be.
  • I salvaged a little-used bulletin board from the pantry, repainted it, and hung it in the craft room to give me a place to hang some of my finished jewelry. It's nice to have a place to put them-- rather than having twenty necklaces getting entangled while they all hang on the doorknob! (g)
  • Probably more things I'm not thinking of at the moment...

So now I need to make myself get out the sandpaper and work on sanding the beads for the tutorial. I'm not really looking forward to that, but at least some of them are bigger items, which makes them easier to sand, I think. And there are only... 4 or 5?...round beads in this batch... (I hate sanding round beads!)