Friday, October 30, 2009

Sales still slow, learning how to work with bronzclay and dealing with children in small spaces

The last two days have been "flu" days at school, and the schools have been closed -- which means that in addition to my 2-year-old son, who enjoys being at the caboose -- I have had my 6-year-old daughter, who does not. The two of them alternated between hitting/poking/jabbing each other and complaining that the other one touched them. Grrrr! Very hard to concentrate and get anything done in that environment. Luckily Dad got off early today and came to get them. Yeah!

I worked on several projects this week -- a two-tone belt buckle made of bronzclay, PMC and sterling silver; two bronzclay pendant and earring sets; and a bronzclay prototype pin for the B.R.A.N. (Bike Ride Across Nebraska) riders that will be coming through town next June. I also made two pin prototypes in my signature colored pencil mini paintings on plastic.

I am working on a wire pendant in sterling and black onyx as well.

The bronzclay gives me fits as it bubbles when fired, and comes out of the kiln with totally unpredictable patinas. I have also found it shrinks more than PMC3, so I have to figure out how big to make a ring so it is the right size after firing. I can't rely on my regular PMC3 ring sizers, apparently, since my size 6-1/2 ring broke the mold, cracked its shank and became a size 3 in the kiln. Arrrggghhh!

I mended the shank and refired it, but it still needed more work and made a return trip to the kiln tonight. I have a leafy pendant and earrings in the kiln as well, and another leafy pendant and earrings drying on my workbench to be fired tomorrow.

The pin prototype needs some tweaking tomorrow and I will let it dry all day then fire it tomorrow night. Bronzeclay takes so long to fire that I just put it in the kiln as I leave the shop at night -- that way it can fire overnight and be just cool enough to remove from the kiln in the morning, plus it helps keep the caboose warm at night!

I miss my syringe clay when working with bronze and copper clay though! I really rely on my syringe for stems, vines, squiggles, pasting, etc...

The stuff is new, so I am pioneering along with the rest of those using the stuff though. I am a self-taught artisan anyway, so why not teach myself on this stuff too!

The buckle is finally finished, after numerous snafoos while soldering. I like the two-tone look and it is very simple, but showy as well.

My needle texture pendant and earrings will be finished up tomorrow.

I mailed out a special order this morning and another earlier in the week. Now, I just need some actual customers to come to the shop and make some purchases. Business is SSSSLLLOOOOWWWW!


Oh well, Christmas is coming -- hopefully people will buy local. I will be having my Grand Opening sometime soon. I will know by the end of next week, I suppose.

Lots of work to do and I had better get back to it. Happy creating!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Work benches, slow sales and new fun with clay

I have spent the last three weeks carefully tending to my back -- despite injuring my neck somehow in my sleep one night - and I am now back up to snuff, as long as I don't overdo things. Good thing, as I go back on ambulance call tomorrow night for a week.

Business has been extremely slow (only one customer in the door in the whole three weeks) so I have been slowly building up inventory in prepration for Christmas.

I ordered some CopprClay and some BronzClay as they are more affordable than PMC (for me and for my customers) and I played with it a bit this week. I made some beads and a belt buckle from the copper version and then made and fired a buckle blank from the bronze version.

The copper came out great! The bronze, however, had some issues. The buckle came out all bubbly and rough. I called my supplier and they told me that even though it was thin, I should have fired it like a thick piece because it is so big. Okay, back to the drawing board on that one. It did come out with beautiful colors though! I love the patina that gets fired onto it, and if you polish it up, it is the color of spun honey -- gold with a hint of autumn.

I can't wait to make some pieces that combine all three types of clay!

After waiting over four months for my neighbor to build a workbench for me (I have been getting by with a sheet over a plastic folding table -- much to rickety to do much with and I can't bolt anything down) -- I decided to design my own. It was going to cost about $100, so the project was on hold.

Today my hubby and his dad surprised me with a workbench! It is shorter, narrower and far less fancy than the one I designed, but since my father-in-law donated all the materials from stuff stored in his barn, the price is more than right!

The formica may be orange, but it is certainly easier to clean a mess up from than that darned sheet!

I can hammer away and not worry about it collapsing either, and I can finally bolt down my vice. Yea!

Now, if the customers will just come!

Better get to work on some more inventory -- Christmas is just around the corner, I need stuff for a storefront in a mall about an hour away and there is a craft show just about a month away.

I also need to work on my prototype for a colored pencil painting pin to commemorate the Bike Ride Across Nebraska stop in Thedford next year. The pin would be given to each of the riders that stays in Thedford when they stay overnight next June.

So much work and so little time! Happy creating!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bad backs, horse sales and falling leaves

This past week has been a blur of pain meds, chiropractor appointments and aches and pains mixed in with a frenzy of creation as I have worked feverishly to get ready for my first "show" at a horse sale where the sellers are also holding an "invitation only" vendor show. I was invited and it was of no cost to me, so hey, what was there to lose?

Okay, first the back. Last Saturday I bent over to get something out of my purse and slipped a disc very badly. I saw a chiropractor before attending the funeral of a friend and the chiropractor would barely touch me for fear of making things worse. I could hardly walk. I saw him again two more times last week and now I can walk, but by the end of the day I am still in a lot of pain. Frustrating!

I knew I was going to the horse sale on Sunday, so I spent the week, bad back and all, trying to make as much inventory as I could. I was nearly out of clay so I made what little I had into small earrings, a small leaf pendant and matching earrings, and a new piece for my "In the Garden" series.

I also finished up the grape leaves I have been working on for weeks (painstakingly painting on layer after layer of clay slip to build them up to be heavy enough to wear). I finished the grape leaves just before closing yesterday, and after much prodding from fellow jewelry artists, I tried a patina. For once it came out great! I loved it! The patina came out an awesome coppery color with irridescent blues, greens and purples all through it - - perfect for fall leaves. I had formed "ivy tendrils" with syringe clay and then carried the design through into the bail and ear wires by making them into "tendril" too. I was really happy with how it came out. I planned to run them through the tumbler for a high shine, but didn't have time. I figured I would do that Monday. Not going to happen. They SOLD! So, now I have to get some new grape leaves at my inlaws' house before they freeze so I can make some more of these. I have lots of new ideas for grape leaf jewelry.

Today I worked on a new woven cross, but it is not finished yet. It has a turquoise stone in it and I am making a chain with turquoise stones scattered through it as well.

This next week I need to make two PMC pendant/earring sets for a customer who wants to give them to her granddaughters. I have already made two pendants for another set of granddaughters who don't have pierced ears. I also have a custom order PMC ring to make and about 12 repairs to do.

My PMC cross "In the Garden At Gethsemane" sold yesterday to a teenager who was brought in by her grandfather and told she could pick out "anything in the store." I was surprised (as was the grandfather) when she picked a large showy cross out of all the items in the shop. It only took her two seconds to choose it too. She honed in on it the instant she walked in, so it must have been meant for her.

I am still working on my woven mother's ring design and I had a new design for a woven cross pop into my head today. I also had a design for a very dressy woven necklace begin to take shape, as well as two new PMC necklace ideas. So many designs, so little time!

OOOh, a new PMC cross design just popped in too! A new addition to my "In the Garden" series that is also a "family" piece. OOOh, I can't wait until the PMC order arrives on Tuesday!

I had better close and try to get some sleep despite the design ideas running around in my brain.

Happy creating!