Wednesday, May 4, 2011

William Holland: Day 2

As some of you may have already seen on my Facebook status, I hit my frustration level with jewelry making today.  Perhaps it was a lack of sleep (I posted my blog at 1 am last night) or too many of my classmates needing assistance at one time, but I was at a level 10 for about an hour or two.  I'm sure we've all been there a time or two when you REALLY want to do something all by yourself and find that it just cannot be done.  That was me today!

The day started off relatively easy.  If you have seen my post from yesterday, I made a "basic bracelet" out of copper wire.  I decided to make that one over a twisted bracelet first to work on my technique.  After all, I intend to use the heck out of what I'm learning so I must be able to do this on my own.  In my free time yesterday, I twisted some wire and began constructing a variation of the basic.  Given it did take me some time to do it all by myself, I finally finished in between the other projects we worked on today.  I love it and it turned out beautifully!  Here are some photos:

 The front of my lovely new bracelet.  There was no help from the teacher here.  

 The back of the clasp.  I now love hook and eye clasps.  They are better than a toggle and easier to get on if made correctly.

The side flares out similar to the front, but just a little less.

In between the times I was working on the bracelet, my instructor introduced to us how to wrap a freeform or cabochon stone.  This is where my day fell apart for a bit.  I've never considered myself a perfectionist until now.  Until I was challenged and pushed further.  Suddenly everything was wrong with me.  My head hurt, my hands were sore, my back was sagging, etc.    By the time lunch rolled around, I was so ready to flee the scene and take a breather even though lunch kind of resembled leftover refried beans five days after you've eaten them.  (Salad bar it was!)  I practiced some encouraging self-talk, told myself you CAN do this and managed to finish the pendant with help from the teacher.  The result was a beautiful carnelian pendant:

 The front of my pendant complete with twisted wire carefully placed around the bail and over the cabochon.

The back of my pendant is just as pretty as the front.  

New goal:  make another pendant without needing assistance.  My perfectionist attitude is demanding it.  
Tomorrow brings another day at William Holland and most likely my "wish list" will get longer!  : )

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

William Holland: Day 1

So here I am in Young Harris, GA at the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts.  I meant to blog about my fun adventures getting here from Lexington, but it was such an exhausting trip that I can't even begin to put it down on paper (computer) yet.  Let's just put it this way.  I left Lexington at 11am on a trip that was SUPPOSED to take me approximately 5 hours.  Seven hours later I arrived at my destination just in time to drop my bags in my room, eat dinner, and meet my instructor and classmates.  Much to my surprise and delight, I have a quiet room to myself with plenty of room for all the supplies I brought and a very clean bathroom.

Day 1 was absolutely awesome and exciting!  Class started at 9am and I pulled myself away from the last unfinished project at 9pm thanks to our wonderful instructor working overtime for her eager to learn students.  I could probably go on and on about my day, but most likely the few readers I have would stop reading at this point.  Pictures are worth a thousand words so without further a do, here are the pretties I made today!

 My instructor calls this a "basic bracelet."  I can assure you there is nothing basic about this bracelet other than its elegance and simplicity.  

The back of the "basic bracelet" includes a handcrafted hook and eye closure.

 A simple ring with a carnelian bead.

This is the second piece I made on day 1.  Due to skyrocketing silver prices, we are using copper for practice and other projects unless we choose another type.  If you look closely, I twisted a few pieces of the wire (second in from each piece of wire in the middle). 

Three beaded ring with purple pearl beads of course!!
 Three bead ring with purple pearls of course!!

The side view of the pearl ring is stunning.  I love the way this one turned out.

Phew!!  I can hardly wait to see what Day 2 brings!  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Social Network(ing)

Photo courtesy of Google

If there is one important piece of information I chose to take away from my time at the seminar on Saturday, it is that in order to be successful in business, you have to have a presence online.  I consider myself to be a fairly tech savvy person when it comes to following the online trends although I resisted Facebook for a while.  (Eventually I gave into peer pressure because it must be a sign that you are behind the times when Mom is sending invitations to your email!)  Nonetheless, when I heard about the many ways a business can dominate the competition, I decided to catch that train without looking back.  I'm not sure I knew what I was in getting myself into.

My entire day was spent online yesterday.  No, I'm not exaggerating.  It really was.  It started innocently enough with reactivating my long lost Etsy account.  I abandoned Etsy less than a year ago when Facebook launched my sales and then left it to its own devices when my website got up and running.  It made me a little sad to see my empty store shop when I googled my company name so adding some new spice to Etsy worked for me just fine.  I have to say I am pretty impressed with the new social features they've added to Etsy.  Treasury lists, social circles...dare I say Etsy has stepped up their game?  (Go check out the treasury list of local items I'm creating.  There are some seriously talented people in this town!!)

The next stop after I left Etsy land was Facebook marketplace, a free service for Facebook users.  Marketplace resembles Craig's List without the creepiness.  I've even seen houses listed on Facebook marketplace.  Why not put a couple items of jewelry on there?  A little extra publicity can't hurt.

Twitter was my last stop after a couple registrations with business listing sites.  I'm not a big fan of Twitter.  I guess I just don't get the whole point of tweeting.  Sometimes you can't sum up how you feel in 140 characters or less which is probably why I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon.  Plus with Facebook, I feel more connected to the people I'm friends with.  That being said, imagine my surprise when I logged into my personal Twitter account and found pornography reels in my timeline.  I'm talking hard core, thumbnail size pornography videos!!!  Yuck!  At that point, I "blew up" my personal Twitter account and decided to open a more tame business Twitter account.  Twitter is still silly to me, but I've joined the social network like it or not.

By this time in the day, I had spent more hours in front of the computer than is healthy.  You know it's bad when your dog tries to stage an intervention.  Sophie, my sweet adorable lab mix, actually put her head on my keyboard in an effort to stop me from typing and pay some attention to her.  Her cute puppy dog look was enough to make me shut the computer and rejoin the flesh and blood social network.

Monday, March 21, 2011

To Market, To Market: A Day at Kentucky Crafted

Kentucky Crafted:  The Market was this past weekend.  Even though it was a Saturday and I dislike getting up early, I made myself rise that morning to attend a seminar about Successful Business Practices and check out the Kentucky Crafted Market.  Fueled with iced mocha coffee from McDonald's, my friend and I headed to Louisville.

For my readers not apart of the art community, which is probably almost all of you, Kentucky Crafted is an organization sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council.  It's designed to support emerging and established artists as well as promote the arts in Kentucky.  They have a number of grants artists can apply for and of course, it's a juried program.

The main reason I had to get up early was for the very a.m. seminar about running a successful business in today's economy.  I won't go into full detail about everything I learned, but here are some conclusions I've come to:
1) I'm on the right track when it comes to social media.  I have a Facebook fan page, blog, website with e-commerce, Etsy account (which will have some new items posted) and Twitter.  

2) A small business can never advertise too much!!

3) Like it or not, if I want to succeed in this business, I have to play the game and that game is joining art organizations and jurying into shows.

Number three is probably the hardest conclusion for me.  For one, the business started out as a hobby and turned into a business only after Sean put a moratorium on buying more beads without making a profit.  (I'm halfway kidding on that one.)  Secondly, I feel like I walk the line between jewelry designer and artist.  At what point does a love of beautiful jewelry become art?  I can't exactly remember at what point people started calling my jewelry art, but apparently it has morphed into art over the years or it has to be in order for me to join said organizations.  No one likes to be judged or rejected so I'm going to have to work on building a tougher skin if I'm going to go the route of artist rather than jewelry designer.

After the seminar, the fun really began!!  I actually got to attend a festival without working!  Granted I didn't buy anything, it was still fun to look at what everyone creates.  The Kentucky Crafted Market is a privilege for any juried artist in the organization.  At Kentucky Crafted you'll see up and comers in the art world as well as sample some Kentucky Proud food products (yum!!).  I have to say, it's an intimidating situation for an outsider, but what I'm learning is if you don't try, you won't succeed.  Hopefully, I will be a chosen one some day.  Until then, I can keep bouncing between the title "jewelry designer" and "artist." 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alot to Celebrate!!

AmandaMade has been noticeably absent from the blog scene for a few weeks.  I don't really have an excuse for that other than there has not been a whole lot going on in my world.  I would hate to be one of those bloggers that writes just for the sake of writing and bore the heck out of my (4) readers.  Today there are a couple reasons to celebrate and therefore worthwhile stuff to write about.

1) Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone of Irish and non-Irish descent!  My maiden name is Doyle as anyone on Facebook can tell you.  It's one of those very Irish sounding last names that even got a few shout outs in the movie Billy Madison however it was O'Doyle.  Don't think I didn't go through high school without that reference a time or two, most notably on St. Patty's Day.  If you'd like to know what the heck I'm talking about, here's a montage:

2) Back in January, I posted a blog about the jurying process of art shows and festivals.  Well, the jury is no longer out and the result is I am in!!  I'll be at Art in the Arbor in Louisville on May 14 and 15.  Cue in Sally Field from the Academy Awards, "You like me, you really like me!"  Man I have a lot of work to do!  In a matter of weeks, I'll be in the midst of festival season.

3) Number three is something I've kept under wraps for a bit until I was sure it was going to come through.  Sean and I spent Christmas in was kind of one of those bucket list items for both of us and it was glorious!  Warm, sunny days on Christmas is amazing for a girl that's lived in Kentucky all her life!  The sunsets were gorgeous, the food was delicious, and New Year's was out of this world.  Picture Panama City Beach on a Saturday night during Spring Break!  THAT was Negril on New Year's Eve.  Our beloved sleepy fishing village came alive and there were jerk chicken carts everywhere.

But that's not the reason I mentioned Christmas.  Traditionally, Sean and I go completely  overboard on gifts for Christmas, but this past year our gift to each other was the trip.  So we decided we would give each other just one gift each.  In the spirit of sharing the same brain, we both gave each other experiences instead of "things."  Mine to him is the gift of relaxation...a couple sessions of massage since he's always so stressed out.  His to me is the gift of education.  I will be attending the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts for a week of my choosing to learn whatever jewelry technique I choose.  At this point, I think I'll be choosing the class Wire I.  Until now, I've been able to teach myself the skills I need to be successful in the jewelry business.  I'm starting to find that I need to go outside the comfort zone to become the best artist I can be.  The date isn't determined yet, but I'm hoping I'll be heading to William Holland next month.  I cannot wait to expand my skills!  : )

So as you can see, I really do have a lot to celebrate right now.  Before I go overboard and write too much, I'll leave you with a fun, spirited picture this St. Patrick's Day!  Be responsible, don't drink and drive!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo Shoot Fail

Last Friday I started working with dried pressed flowers and resin to create some truly unique looking pendants for my creations.  As I finished up four gorgeous pendants, I grabbed my camera before the natural light disappeared for the day.  (I love to shoot my pictures in natural light because it's just easier and I'm definitely not meant to be a photographer.)  I pressed the power button, only to discover that my camera battery was dead.  There would be no pictures taken that day so I popped the battery into its charger and decided to pick it up on Monday.

On Monday, I grabbed the battery out of its charger noticing the happy green light was flashing, indicating the battery should be fully charged.  Imagine my surprise when I placed it into the camera and pressed power.  Nothing happened.  I pressed it again.  Still nothing happened.  Sadly, I am pretty sure the battery has gone to digital camera battery heaven.  I was really happy to discover that Batteries Plus carries the correct battery, but crushed when I discovered it is on backorder until May 11.  Hmm.  That probably won't work for me.  

You may be wondering why I'm obsessed with my camera and its battery right now.  Well, it's because I depend on my camera to get my product out there.  Without a camera, there are no new products on Facebook or  Unfortunately, this is one of the inconvenient realities of owning a small business working out of the home.  It looks like I may be in the market for a new camera soon.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Waiting Game

Back in the days when I was taking college classes to become a special education teacher, most people commented, "You must have a great amount of patience!"  I'm not sure if transitioning from a teacher to a small business owner has changed me or what, but nowadays my patience for waiting on others has definitely changed.

January 15th was the day I sent off an application for an art show of which I would really like to be included.  Apparently I won't know anything until somewhere around the end of February.  This is a cruel, cruel joke.  The reason I am impatiently waiting to hear the news about the application is because it is a "juried" art show.  These shows are just as one would guess.  A small group of people take a look at photos you have submitted, including the booth set-up, and the kind of work created.  Based on the photos and information provided, the "jury" decides if your work would be an amenable addition to their show.

Last year the bulk of the shows AmandaMade participated in were not juried, which means I could send off my money and application with the assumption that I would show up at the designated time and place to sell my wares.  This year, I have my eye on a few juried shows just to see how they go.  I have never been a fan of the waiting game, but until I'm comfortable enough with my work to know an art fair would be lucky to have me, it's going to be a reality.  Until then, the jury is still out.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paying Uncle Sam

Alright, I'll go ahead and say it.  I am late paying my sales and use tax for my company.  I'm not super late, just a few days which is long enough to warrant the government charging me interest and penalties.  Now since this is my fault, I'm not going to complain about the interest and penalties or even the sales tax.  Filing paperwork and paying money is the least fun part of owning a business.  When I decided to start AmandaMade, I had NO idea how many different papers there were to file and the number of fees there were to pay.  But that's not really what this blog is about because taxes are inevitable.

The funniest part about being late on paying my taxes is that my mother is an accountant and has been for years. You would think being the daughter of an accountant, I could send my money in on time.  Do me a favor and don't let her know I'm late.  ; )

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting To Know Me: Part Deux

This is a favorite picture of mine from my childhood.  My mother made this Halloween costume for me one year and I just loved it.  I think I made a pretty darn cute bat too!  ; - )  If I'm not mistaken, I think my sister dressed up as a devil that year; also made by my mom.  

I've given you the background of me and my family so now I'll tell you about some of my interests.  As a child, I took ballet for a number of years.  I was enamored with the grace of ballerinas and also the tutus, sequins, and costumes they wore.  I think in total, I took ballet for around 12 years all through high school and a couple classes in college.  It was not the same in college, but I think I was still trying to hold onto the dream that maybe one day I could be a ballerina despite my obvious lack of superstar talent.  Still, the memories I have of those days are wonderful and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  

Choir was another one of my favorite activities throughout middle and high school.  As with ballet, singing was definitely not my calling, but I loved the class.  In high school, my choir got to sing in Carnegie Hall for a concert.  My mom was even able to come watch it.  I know it was a very proud moment for her as well as me!  Choir was such a big part of my high school experience.  This is probably why I am such an advocate for keeping the arts in schools.  The feeling of belonging to a group and doing something you love is so important.

Fast forward a bit to my last semester of college.  (I promise you're not missing too much...if I think of anything good, there's always rewind.)  This last semester is when I met my husband, Sean.  It seems the story of how we met gets embellished for the laugh factor, but I'll tell the real story.  Sean will probably "correct" me in the comments later on, but here's my version.  I was out with some good college buddies of mine celebrating a birthday at an often frequented bar of mine and Sean's when the inevitable bathroom break came about.  As my friend and I approached the bathroom, I started to groan when I saw the line.  (Men always make fun of women for going to the bathroom together, but have they ever seen the line at a bar on a Saturday night?  We need the company!!)  When we discovered the reason for the line was a girl passed out in the bathroom, it became obvious that this would definitely be a long wait.  Just then, the bathroom attendant, Schmitty (I told you I frequented this place), flagged my friend and I into the men's bathroom.  Now, up until this moment I would have never used the men's restroom, but at that moment he was insistent that we use the stall to shorten the line. Who am I to argue with Schmitty and my bladder?  So in my friend and I went.  Averting our eyes, we shared the stall and got out as quickly as possible then went to wash our hands.  If you stop the story here, Sean will say we met in the men's room as he was washing his hands (an EXCELLENT quality in a man I might add), but he was actually introduced to my friend.  I tell people he saw me, but didn't know my name.  

The rest of the story goes like this.  For the rest of the night, as I made my numerous bathroom breaks, he stood in one spot near the end of the bar and conveniently located at the end of the hallway near the bathrooms watching me go by.  I'm not oblivious so eventually I just waved to let him know that I had noticed him noticing me.  Finally, toward the end of the night, fueled by liquid courage and my acknowledgement, he made his move.  As I was coming out of the bathroom for the last time of the night, Sean flagged me over to talk to him.  He was so polite for a guy in a bar and obviously nervous!  Not, a drunken jackass like I had encountered before.  He said, "I would be honored if you would give me your number."  Now, here's where the story kind of goes sideways.  In my head, I was thinking "Man.  A guy in a bar is asking me out. This won't go well."  I didn't want to be mean, so I just said, "Well, I don't have a pen" hoping this would be enough to dissway him from pursuing my number (To this day Sean doesn't believe I didn't have a pen because I always have pens now.  I really didn't).  Little did I know, he had a bartender friend with many pens so there he was, writing my number on his hand.

In the dating world, there is a well known rule that dictates a guy should wait three days to call after getting a girl's number.  Fortunately for Sean, I don't generally follow or even care about those rules.  I was actually pretty surprised when he called me the next day and he was articulate AND seemed normal.  I kind of freaked out a bit when he suggested we go rock climbing on our first date because I am a notoriously klutzy and non-athletic person.  Thank goodness he agreed to a conventional dinner date which turned out to be the absolutely best first date of my life.  

So, we met on a Saturday, talked on a Sunday, and went out on our first date on a Monday.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  I realize I've gone way over the length of what a blog should be, but when you're on a roll you have to go with it.  I have many more stories to tell about Sean and I, but I also have a looming deadline for donation pieces.  Until I can blog again, check a picture of my love and I on our wedding day in Jamaica.  Ain't we cute?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting To Know Me

After looking through a couple of blogs over the weekend (because I'm still getting used to what makes a blog interesting), I decided I need to add some pictures to mine to spice it up a bit.  I don't have any mind blowing revelations about running my small business today, but it occurred to me that my readers, if I can get some, might want to know a little more about me.  The picture you see above is me a few years ago in St. Louis.  I had just bought the hat at a second hand shop.  As a birthday present, I took my husband on a trip over a long weekend as I was still teaching at the time.  Hats were really coming back in style and we just happened to find that one.  I had never enjoyed wearing hats until I tried that one on.  In my early 20s, I was really self conscious about being cautiously fashionable.  I would wear cute stylish clothes, but not take many risks.  I personally think a hat is a fashion statement all on its own.  People notice a person in a hat and I didn't want to be noticed THAT much in my early 20s.  But enough about the's more about me.

I grew up in what could only be described as a modest house with my parents, brother, and sister.  I shared a room with my older sister until she went to college.  We are less than two years apart in age so it wasn't long that I got my own room before I graduated high school and got a new roommate.  I always enjoyed sharing a room with my sister because I felt closer to her even though we had different groups of friends as we got older.  I don't really understand the mentality that every child should have their own room.  The relationship you have with your siblings should be treasured and you are only young once.  I felt a kinship with my sister because we shared a room.  I kind of felt lonely in my big empty room once she moved out.  I missed the times neither of us could sleep and we stayed up late talking about nothing.  I even missed our messes.

My older brother (yep, I'm the baby), always seemed to take care of his baby sister.  Some of my best memories with him are staying up late watching Saturday Night Live in his room.    He would park on his day bed and I would bring a blanket and pillow to hole up on the floor.  He had a tv in his room AND the original Nintendo so it was always a fun place to be.  Even though he is five years older than me, I was always welcome in his room especially when my sister was on my nerves (we didn't ALWAYS get along).  I don't remember when he got an aquarium, but he had a fish tank for years.  His room always had that fishy aquarium smell, but watching them swim was always fun.  It got more interesting when he bought a box turtle in high school.  Tubs are great for turtles to move around, but the turtle poo in the bathtub was always gross to clean up.  (Did you know turtles LOVE tomatoes?  They totally do.)  He's a boy and boys don't always clean up after themselves.  But he is my brother, and he always had a soft spot for his baby sister so I tried not to complain about it too much.

My parents divorced when I was nine years old.  I remember the day they told us about the divorce, but I'm not sure I understood how much it would change our lives.  The modest house was sold eventually, and we moved into a three bedroom townhouse with our mother in a different county.  My dad went to live with his mother and father.  I had a hard time adjusting to not seeing my dad everyday, but I loved getting to see my Nana and Papa more often.  Looking back, I know the divorce was necessary because both of my parents were unhappy.  My dad remarried in 1991 and my mom has remained single and fabulous.  It has taken some time, but I'm pleased to say that we are now able to have a family Christmas that includes everyone.  To be able to say that makes me smile.  Time may not heal all wounds, but it will ease the pain.

Four paragraphs into my "Getting To Know Me" blog, I think there will need to be extra chapters.  Stay tuned to chapter 2!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Year In Shows

If you read my "About Me" section, you'll discover that up until last year I was a special education teacher.  I have all sorts of stories to tell about that part of my life, but I'll save those for when I get some more readers.  When you are a teacher, your entire life revolves around the school year.  When is winter break?  How long until state testing?  When is spring break?  How long until summer break?  And of course, the SNOW DAYS are always a fantastic surprise.  I've basically spent my entire life functioning on a school schedule, be it elementary school or in the "real world."

Now that I've started this new venture, AmandaMade, my life is scheduled around shows.  For those of us in the business world without a brick and mortar store, shows are the best way to get our product in front of someone in hopes of either making a sale or making a contact.  I threw myself into them in June of 2010 and immediately got addicted.  I LOVE looking for the next one, getting my product out there, and talking to the public.  It is a completely different kind of life than I was living.

I started looking at my schedule yesterday and making a wishlist of shows I would like to enter for the year 2011.  I got to thinking about the way my world functions now.  It doesn't revolve around state testing, breaks, or meetings anymore.  It is literally all about me!  I am the boss and I decide where I'll be when.  I am the decision maker and determine my own success or failure.  It's a frightening, overwhelming feeling at times, but I don't think I'd have it any other way right now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Blog or Not To Blog

     So here I am starting a blog with the title of my company.  I've been debating for a while now about whether it makes sense to start a blog.  After giving it considerable thought, I'm gonna try it out and see how it goes.  I know many of you reading this right now are probably wondering what I could possibly have to say about jewelry that could necessitate starting a blog.  Trust me, the past year I've come up with all sorts of fun stuff to share relating to my business and beyond.  I intend to use this blog as a way to get out my frustrations about running a small business in a world dominated by the "Walmart Mentality."  I'll also share the victories that come along with hard work as well as trial and error (Can we say flea market???).  So sit back, pull up a comfy chair, and laugh or cry along with me!