Saturday, August 27, 2011

More eye candy!

When I posted my first creativity challenge, I never included pictures of the actual projects. This is because it took two photo shoots to get things right. The first batch of pictures was spoiled by the appearance of little dust particles, which took me by surprise like tiny, stealthy ninjas.

The second batch, however, turned out well! And so, without further rambling about ninjas, I present to you....

This is my very first successful stone wrap. Note the use of wire coils and just a hint of wire weaving along the sides. I'm very proud of this piece, and I can't wait to return to American Science and Surplus to buy more rough amethyst.

This was my very first attempt at wire weaving a ring, and also the first version of this particular design. I love the way the sequin flowers look paired with the seed beads! My only complaint is that I didn't add quite enough dangles -- because the way I see it, you can never have too many sequin dangles -- but that's an easy enough detail to fix.

This is my first attempt at a different type of weave from the one featured above, and I have to say, I'm thrilled with this one! Besides the weave, I'm most pleased with the fact that I was able to find copper headpins with a nice, flat head to them, as opposed to the tiny wire-wrapped ones I make. I may just have to get more!

This is an attempt at this particular weave using 24, as opposed to 26, gauge wire. I've decided I like 26 best! Still, I think this ring looks adorable with the layered sequin flower dangles. Best of all, it fits my tiny fingers!

And finally, my favorite! This was my first time working with cupped flower sequins, and I promise it won't be my last! They're at the top of my list of sparkly things to buy. Especially in red. *Drools.*

And there we have it! If you haven't checked out my Creativity Challenge series, I gently nudge you to do so. They apply to anything creative, not just jewelry. Not even just to sequins -- but come on, why would you want to leave those out? ;)

Thanks for reading! Have a sequintastic day.

Sequin Sighting!

Say what you like about Barbie as a role model for little girls, but this older girl loves her, and has for years. Growing up, I had my dolls act out a number of complicated story plots -- a sign that I was always a storyteller at heart -- and even attend classes I'd designed. With tiny notebooks! And textbooks. One of them even had a little cardboard artist's portfolio.

Most of all, I made lots and lots of doll outfits, often with accessories. Yes, a fair share of beads and sequins made their way onto my creations. Barbie was my very first muse and very first fashion model, so I'll always have a soft spot for her. Which is why I'm a huge fan of fashion doll makeover artists like Jim Faraone. Isn't his work amazing? Sequintastic.

So when I got the latest Barbie Collector catalog in the mail, I was tickled a dozen shades of pink to see this and this. So many sparklies! I'd wear the second outfit, if only it came in my size.

It almost makes me want to get out my doll collection and makeover supplies and start playing again. Maybe not entire outfits... but I bet my favorite models could use some shiny new jewelry! I'll let you know if I get around to it.

Thanks for reading, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sarah's rules for self-marketing

Jewelry making. Fine art. Writing. No matter what the field, you'll hear that promoting not just your work, but yourself, is essential. As important as creating pieces that capture people's interest.

I can't say I agree with this completely. I'd rather not think of myself as a Brand, because I'm not Goldfish Crackers (no matter how much I love them)! I'm just me, and I'd like my jewelry to speak for itself as much as possible.

However! And this is a big however. There's just no arguing with the fact that if I want to sell my work, I need to find people to buy it. It's like the old question of a tree falling in the woods with nobody to hear it. Sound waves need ears to translate them into sound. We need people to translate our art into sales.

That said, I think staying true to who I am as a person is important, and one thing that makes my pretty curly hair turn white from stress is the idea of pushing myself on people. Of, frankly, being rude. Or unhappy. Or bored. Or unbalanced. This is why I came up with a list of guidelines for myself. I'll share them with you, in no particular order.

1.) Make it fun!

Quite honestly, I wouldn't keep a blog if I didn't enjoy it. I like writing. I like giving myself advice. I like talking about the cool people and things in my life, and for the love of all that's sparkly, I love anything related to sequins. I think that if I'm not enjoying myself, it will show. I won't seem genuine. Which leads me to...

2.) Be genuine!

I pledge that I will only read and subscribe to blogs that I find interesting. I'll leave comments on Flickr photos that impress and amaze me. I'll enter contests for companies whose products I love, and I'll support charities whose causes I would support, exposure or no exposure. Promotion for the sake of promotion is for car dealerships, not me. This is because...

3.) I'm dealing with people!

I always want to keep people in mind. They're not sales, they're not blog stats, they're individuals with their own wants and needs and thoughts and feelings, and to treat them otherwise would be terrible. I pledge to leave interesting comments on blogs, not just invitations to check out my own. To support other artists in the way I'd like to be supported, and should the opportunity present itself, to mentor fledgling jewelry makers/writers/whatever. To make friends!

4.) Because it's not always about me!

I think this one speaks for itself. I'll just add that I want my work to be noticed, but other people work just as hard (or harder) and deserve their share of the spotlight. Who am I to try to steal it away from them?

5.) Stay balanced!

With all the available options for promoting my work, it seems like it would be easy to get so wrapped up in submitting work to contests, looking for teaching opportunities, posting and commenting on blogs/photos, that I start to neglect the rest of my life -- especially if I've followed the first rule and am having a blast. I pledge to pay attention to Mr. Sequin, my friends, my health, my other interests. To laugh, create, love, eat, sleep, bathe, and to spend time in the real world where there are blue skies and chocolate cupcakes and bunnies. Never underestimate the importance of bunnies!

That's all I can think of, but I'd love to hear your suggestions. What are your rules for self-promotion? How do you maintain that manners/exposure/life/work balance? Curious sequin enthusiasts want to know.

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Edit: I almost forgot to mention this post by author Maureen Johnson. A few months back I did I search for "I am not a brand" on Google, and her post was the first to come up. It was a breath of fresh air and sanity, and re-reading my own post, I can see how much she inspired and influenced me. Kudos, Maureen! And cookies. With chocolate chips. And toasted coconut. And caramel.

Edit again: Also, check out this post by Christine Kane. Marketing tips for authentic people!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Eye Candy!

What's this, you ask? A bonus post? That's right! One with pictures. And also an announcement that on August 7th and 8th, I completed the application and sent off samples to teach at next year's Bead and Button show!

(This is one of the crazier pieces I've made. I call it Superhero Necklace because the members of my writing group thought it looked like a magic necklace that would grant superpowers to the wearer. Sounds like a story-in-the-making to me!)

I'm proud of myself for applying. I put a lot of time and effort into every aspect of the application process, from creating the pieces to making supply lists to writing out some detailed instructions. I was also brave enough to send work out to complete strangers. I'm also nervous! I'm just beginning to believe in myself and my work enough to put myself Out There. I'm not sure what's going to happen, or when I'll know what's going to happen. The only thing I can do is hope for the best and distract myself with my next Big Project.

(This is a multimedia pendant I created. I don't have a title for it, so for now I'm just going to call it Wearable Art Heart. What's it made of? I'm going to be a tease and not tell you. Details will be forthcoming if I end up teaching.)

I do know one thing, however. No matter what happens, I'm happy. This comes from a philosophy I'm trying to cultivate called Either Way, I Win. I created beautiful and unusual pieces. I sent them, and instructions, off to be judged, which takes some strength. I also wrote some tutorials with clear instructions (they passed the Mr. Sequin test) and thoroughly enjoyed the process! In short, I learned, I grew... and I rewarded myself with a chocolate peanutbutter brownie to celebrate. ;)

That's all for today! Thanks for reading, and have a sequintastic day!

Creativity Challenge

Take apart something you dislike

As artists and craftspeople, we make plenty of things that delight us. Things that are interesting, well made, and reflect our sense of aesthetics. But! Sometimes our ideas don't turn out quite the way we expected, and while this can open up a lot of exciting opportunities, it can also be a plain old disaster.

Don't worry. It happens to everyone, I guarantee. The important thing is to trust your instinct; if something seems off, step back and decide just what that something is. Then wait awhile -- maybe a few hours, or maybe a few days, depending on how much work you've already put into the piece. Come back and look at it with fresh eyes. If you still feel that things didn't work out, there's no sense in hanging on to your project in its current state. Find a way to turn it into something you love.

I like to approach this challenge with the mindset that I'll waste as little material as possible. That if I end up throwing anything away, it will be something that isn't very important -- like thread as opposed to, say, beads or metal. I also like to keep in mind that I don't have to stay true to my original design in any way! I can combine the old with the new, using new techniques and materials. Whatever works.

For example, two years ago I created a necklace out of aluminum and wire rings, a precursor to my Honeycomb necklace. It was OK, but there was something off about the way it hung. Away it went in a box. This summer I finally gave myself permission to take it apart. I rearranged the different components and added some new ones. I also added my signature sequins. The result? A piece I like as much as Honeycomb, and which earned me a fair bit of praise at the Bead and Button show -- from two of my chainmaille idols, even!

(And here's the necklace!)

This experience helped me realize that taking apart a piece, whether it's a painting or a necklace or even a novel, doesn't hurt it as long as I make it into something extraordinary. It hurts a piece more to sit in a drawer or box, to seem like a pile of unused/wasted materials. You can bet I'll keep this in mind when I tackle my next less-than-stellar piece -- one I made last week.

And that concludes this week's Creativity Challenge. Stay tuned for eye candy, possibly today. Also, be on the lookout for a series of posts I intend to do on one of the most talked-about topics in just about any artistic community -- self-promotion.

Thanks for reading! Have a sequintastic day. :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10 Things...

Hello, and welcome to another post at Saturday Sequins!

I don't know what it is about me, but I really love doing a series of posts on the same topic. First there was Do What You Love, a series of posts on how to do what you love for a living. Then there was the first in my Creativity Challenge series. And now there's 10 Things -- a series of lists of my favorite resources, people, books, etc. Today's post is:

My 10 favorite suppliers

1.) Cartwright's Sequins.

You know they just had to be first on my list. I've been ordering from Cartwright's for over five years now, and I continue to be surprised at both the variety of sequins they offer and the incredibly, amazingly reasonable prices. If I had my way, and enough money, I would order something different every day!

2.) BeadAlgo

Speaking of sparkly things, this is the company whose selection of Chinese crystal beads impressed me so much at this year's Bead and Button Show. And I wasn't the only one! The table was crowded with women. In order to pick anything out, you had to get at the end of the line and shop on your way to the register -- which, incidentally, worked out to the perfect amount of shopping time. I was also very happy when the saleswoman recognized me when I came back a second time. You can bet they'll be first on my list if they're in Milwaukee next year.

3.) Blue Buddha Boutique.

I've mentioned Rebecca and her shop before. Well, here it is! Her store carries an insane variety of rings, from aluminum to steel to colored copper. I find that these are perfect for making sequin chain. She also offers classes in Chicago, which I highly recommend. The atmosphere is relaxed, the instructors are wonderful, her instructions are precise and easy to understand, and her level of knowledge of chainmaille weaves is extensive. Oh, forget extensive -- it's unbelievable!

4.) Rio Grande.

They have a huge selection of tools, display/packaging items, and they're my first place to go to for copper and sterling silver wire in just about any shape and size available. I also trust the quality of their bead strands -- I don't usually order strands online, since I like to inspect each one carefully, but they have never disappointed me. And have I mentioned that they recycle precious metals for cash or store credit? I plan to take advantage of this soon. I'll let you know how it goes.

5.) South Pacific Wholesale.

Remember Willis, the bead store owner I mentioned in my post on support systems? This is his online store. Again, I don't usually order bead strands online, but I know him, and I trust him. He's very upfront about the quality of his beads, as well as whether they're popular with customers. I miss his sense of humor and conversation, and visiting his site, which is infused with his personality, always cheers me up. And if you're ever in Montpelier, go see him at Cool Jewels! I paid him a visit last summer, and it's still a great place to hang out. I scored some gorgeous bead strands, too.

6.) Beadsmith.

Beadsmith tools are sold in many jewelry stores, and even in craft stores, and it's no wonder. I've had their wire cutters for four years now, and they're still in excellent condition and still perfect for getting into tight spaces to trim wire. I'm also in love with their chasing hammer. Some hammers can scratch the surface of your wire, but these ones produce clean results every single time.

7.) Beyond Beadery.

I first met the Beyond Beadery people at the bead show two years ago. I was very happy with their selection, which led me to purchase yet more beads from them online. The great thing about them is that they indicate which of their seed beads have been dyed -- something that's really important to me. I also have plenty to say about their prices and quality, but I'll just say, its good. ;)

8.) Fire Mountain Gems.

Theirs was the first beading catalog I'd ever ordered! The same goes for Mr. Sequin. They have a wide variety of things, from Swarovski crystal to stone beads to displays, and their quantity pricing is pretty awesome. They also host beading contests and post the winners both online and in their catalogs. My only complaint is the quality of some of their stone beads. If you're looking for high quality, opt for some of the other places I've listed today.

9.) Dakota Stones.

I visit their booth every year at the bead show, and they get a lot of my (and Mr. Sequin's) money. Their selection is incredible, and the quality is excellent. I see a lot of really pretty stones there that I don't see in other places. I have never ordered from them online, but if I needed any more stone beads (yes, I've bought a lot from them) I wouldn't hesitate.

10.) Artistic Wire.

I was disappointed not to find them at the bead show this year because they're one of my regular stops. I love their selection of colored copper wire, which is just perfect for making my own colored jump rings in any size I want. Make sure to tape or Tool Magic your pliers before working with it, though. If you use a Death Grip on your pliers the way I do, the color can flake off. Otherwise, it stays on nicely. I especially like this stuff for multimedia -- and yes, sequin -- jewelry projects.

And that concludes this installment of 10 Things. Please note that none of these companies is paying me to do this. They don't even know about it! I list them out of love and respect for the products they offer and all the fun I have using them, as well as to help the new or seasoned jewelry maker find the Good Stuff.

Thanks for reading! Have a sequintastic day. Check back soon for lots of eye candy! Last night we took some awesome pictures, and I'm just itching to show them off.