Monday, October 31, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday: Soup Week!


As you may know, one of the many hats I wear in life is that of chef. I love, love, love, experimenting with food and coming up with new recipes -- almost as much as I love eating them.

I also love sharing the things I make. There's something incredibly satisfying about feeding people delicious things, especially when they're starving, and maybe in need of cheering up after a long day.

I wish I could invite all of you over for a dinner party. We'd have such a blast! But since many of you are far away, I'll settle for sharing the recipe for one of my favorite soups. Today I'll be a guest blogger over at Pink Audrey's blog, and I'll post the recipe for my vegetarian black bean soup. So spicy, so good, and so good for you! The perfect soup for colder weather.

I hope you get to make and enjoy the soup! Have a spooktastic Halloween and a sequintastic day!

Edit: Also check out Tasty Tuesday on For the Love of Blogs (http://forblogs.blogspot.com/2011/11/tasty-tuesday-lovers.html). There are plenty of recipes there, too!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Share With Me Sunday: favorite suppliers!

Hello, everyone!

Welcome to another Share With Me Sunday!

Today, I'll be sharing more of my favorite suppliers, and asking you to share yours.

In this post, I shared some of my favorite suppliers, but I didn't share all of them. In no particular order, I present to you...

1.) Fiskars. Oh, Fiskars. They make so many wonderful products! I love their hand drill, and I'm so, so happy with their series of hand punches. I have the 1/16 inch circular punch for adding holes to confetti to make sequins, and also their heart punch, which is perfect for making tiny heart-shaped sequins and confetti. Now I've got my eye on their paper trimmers. But which one? Hmm....

2.) M&J Trimming. I haven't ordered from them yet, but I know several people who have, and I've heard only good things. I had a look at their sequin selection, and it's fairly impressive! I see an order in my future. :)

3.) My elements. Yvonne makes these beautiful, colorful, incredible, and often sparkly, Plexiglass components, and I look for her booth every year at the Bead and Button Show. She also sells colorful rubber rings, which are perfect for chainmaille projects.

4.) The Ring Lord. What a selection! I love the rubber rings, especially the black ones. They're so pretty, and so sturdy! One of these days, I'll have to post some photos of the little handbags I made with those and aluminum rings from Blue Buddha Boutique.

But enough from me -- what are some of your favorite suppliers of all things crafty? Whether you're a beader, a maille expert, a book artist, a knitter, a scrapbooker, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day... and a spooktastic Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Maybe it's the process.

(Before I get started... here's a photo of me wearing my new favorite earrings for Show Off Your Maille Week. I love the way the matte silver sequins look with aluminum jump rings from Blue Buddha Boutique!)


Maybe it's the process.

When I started writing fiction, I had a steep learning curve. Sometimes it felt vertical -- you know, kind of like a brick wall?

I had no shortage of plots and characters that excited me. My work hours were flexible, so I could schedule my writing whenever I wanted. I also had an ideal workspace. When it wasn't the living room couch, it was everywhere else. The car, hotel rooms, restaurants.

But for the first few years, I never finished a thing. At first I thought I wasn't meant to be a writer. While people who read my stories said they were good, good wasn't the same as complete.

It took some time, but I realized that my process was all wrong, and not necessarily my writing. I'd write these random, unconnected scenes and try to piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle... and what I ended up with was the world's craziest crazy quilt. Then I'd print out my manuscripts and proceed to fill them with tiny, cramped letters, upside down in the margins. Little arrows everywhere.

(What were you pointing to, arrows? To this day, I'm not sure.)

In short? I made writing harder than it needed to be!

I started refining my technique. I wrote pieces from start to finish, like knitting a scarf instead of piecing a quilt. I typed my suggestions to myself in nice, clean, readable letters. No arrows! As a result, I finished rough drafts of a novel and six novella-length pieces.

What I've learned is this: whether you're writing a novel or running a business, the wrong process can hold you back. It can disguise itself as a lack of drive or talent, but once you recognize that you need a better approach, (usually a simpler one) you can change the way you work.

How do you do this? Identify where you're creating needless work for yourself. Then brainstorm ways to make things easier. You might have to experiment a little, and you might discover what doesn't work before you discover what does, but I promise, it will be worth your while.

Don't rule out the possibility of asking other people how they work. You can learn a lot that way! If I hadn't listened to a friend who insisted that sometimes a total rewrite is the only way to salvage a story, I wouldn't have written one of my novellas.

Keep in mind, though, that there's no such thing as a one size fits all approach to process, or to success -- so do your research, ask around, but if something seems wrong to you, or makes you want to give up completely, then don't do it! Better to have an overly complicated approach for now than to adopt one that makes you miserable.

Certain writers and artists go on about how their field is cluttered with mediocre, undisciplined, untalented people who just aren't meant to do the things they love. I think that 7 times out of 10, that's a bunch of hooey (and 10 times out of 10, nobody's business -- but that's a story for another time)! There are plenty of people who are phenomenally gifted, but who are also disorganized or prone to over-complicating things. The wonderful thing is, they can learn to ditch work habits that don't work.

So if you find yourself having a tough time, don't despair. Odds are, it's not your product that's the problem -- it's just the process!

Are your work habits solid, or is there something you need to change? Please share!

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Work in progress Wednesday!

Hello, everyone! Welcome to my very first Work in Progress Wednesday. The theme, as you might have guessed, is jewelry projects I'm working on, but haven't quite gotten around to finishing. To motivate myself to complete them and to share my creative process, I'll post pictures... like these!


I thought I'd share my favorite one first. This is a beady bag I'm working on. After an eight year hiatus from weaving seed beads, I found myself inspired by the wonderful work Kate McKinnon and Dustin Wedekind have been doing and absolutely itching to start weaving again. With a sequintastic twist, of course.

My plans for the bag include: adding more sequin fringe and turning the bag into a necklace... possibly adjustable. I've decided to keep it simple-ish because I want the color pattern to stand out, and not be lost in a sea of sparklies.

This is my first experiment with 10 gauge copper wire, and may I just say... I'm in love? I want to marry 10 gauge copper wire and make lots of little neck wires with it. ;)

I'm also very fond of my stainless steel utensil holder as a necklace mandrel. The ones they sell at Rio Grande are gorgeous, but too expensive! The utensil holder is just the right size for a fraction of the price. To get the nice round shape I taped the ends together and hammered the wire in sections with my rawhide mallet. Kind of like shaping a ring on a ring mandrel.

Plans for this neck wire include: adding lots and lots of sequin fringe! Which will mean making lots and lots of jump rings. I'm probably going with a red and orange color theme, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

And finally, here's another neck wire I made with the swoon-worthy copper wire. The loops in this one are a little more even because I formed each one around a mandrel. I also wrapped the wire all the way around this time, and I like the effect.

So far I've tied some ribbons to it, but I have a lot of other plans for it. It's hard to describe, so I'll just say I'm going to add a lot of colorful, crazy stuff to it, most definitely including sequins, but also including beads and metal and... and we'll see.

And that concludes WIP Wednesday! So tell me. What are you working on?

Also, check out what the awesome Artists in Blogland have been up to.

Thanks for reading! Have a sequintastic day!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Share with me Sunday: Exciting things!

Hello, everyone! Welcome to Share With Me Sunday! A chance for us to get to know each other and share the things we love, whether they're books, projects, ideas, blogs, or even pictures of our socks (which I always welcome).

The rules are simple! Share anything related to the topic. I only ask that if you include a link, you also copy and paste the entire URL into the comment box for those who want to be sure they're clicking on what they think they're clicking on... and not, say, a video of Rick Astley. ;)

Today's topic is things we're excited about! Here's my list:

1.) Did you know that November isn't just National Novel Writing Month, but Art Every Day Month? I recently found out from one of my favorite blogging buddies and book artists, Miss Jennibellie. Want to join in our fun? Sign up here!

I'm not just excited because I'll be making art each day. I'm excited because I'll be making different kinds of art! I have my work table in the studio set up with jewelry, painting, and sewing projects, and I'm going to let myself move from project to project with total freedom. I'll even be making some itty bitty books out of playing cards.

2.) It's almost Halloween!!! I'm going to a costume party, and then after that, I'm eating Thai food and telling scary stories with friends. What's my costume? Well, the theme is Evil Carnival, so I'll be an evil fortune teller. Using this as my excuse to wear my Big Flashy Jewelry and twirly skirt.

3.) Soup week over at Pink Audrey's blog!!! I'll be a guest blogger and sharing a recipe for my favorite soup ever... spicy black bean soup. I can't wait to see what she and other guests are making.

4.) Three words. Creative Reuse Centers. I'll be writing more about them later, but for now, did you know they're all over the United States? They're a great way to turn your trash into someone else's treasure, keep useful materials from ending up in landfills, support struggling artists and teachers who need supplies, declutter, and find a lot of cool stuff for cheap. Yes, I've found sequins in places like this. And beads. And rhinestones. And cardboard and paper for my first ever book art projects.

5.) Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. This is a book I'm recommending to everyone, and with good reason! For most of my life I thought I was scatterbrained for liking painting and jewelry making and writing and foreign languages and cooking and singing and writing music and embroidery and physics and all the other things I like, and for not settling down with just one. Then I decided to accept it... and almost as soon as I did, a friend blogged about this book. As I was coming to realize, it's actually amazing and awesome that my mind works the way it does.

This book is great for multi-talented people, but it's also great for anyone who has trouble with time management and organization. Each and every time I read this book, I learn something else that changes my life for the better! Which is why I only read little sections at a time. It can be overwhelming, in a good way.

There's a lot more I'm excited about, but I want to hear from you! So start sharing, whether it's today or three months from today! And keep sharing. If you forget to add something, come on back and add it. :)

Have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Beyond "can't."

When I was younger, my philosophy was this: get by doing what you're good at, and don't even bother with the rest. This led to a life of avoiding things that were the slightest bit challenging. Math. Riding a bike. Learning to read music. As you might guess, my skills in problem solving and persistence were sorely underdeveloped.

I might have continued in this direction, if it wasn't for one amazing person. In an earlier post, I mentioned my time in the pre-med program where I took nothing but math and science courses. All subjects that weren't my strong points, or so I thought at the time. My very first science course was General Chemistry, taught by the toughest professor in the department. His tests were legendary and could take five to seven hours to finish!

He was also the nicest, most caring professor -- and person -- as I found out during my first week. I showed up in his office asking for help with the homework assignment, and in my usual fashion, I'd done none of the problems and expected him to spoon-feed me every step of the way. He told me he was happy to help me any time, but that I'd get more out of our sessions together if I tried the problems first. Even if I just wrote down what I knew and what I needed to know.

I didn't like this answer. Doesn't he know I can't do this on my own? I thought. But part of me trusted him, so I went home and did as he suggested. The next day I came to his office slightly embarrassed, because I only had two questions, and they were little ones! He wasn't surprised. He just laughed and said "I told you so," and that was the beginning of a lovely friendship -- with him, and with science (as long as it had a little math in it -- apparently, I'm better at it than I'd thought!).

It was also the beginning of a long road to developing my problem solving skills and improving my attitude. It's taken some time and hard work, and I've had some setbacks along the way, but now, when I catch myself thinking "I can't," I say to myself: "Oh, yeah? We'll see."

I most definitely used this approach when it came to doing what I love for a living! At first, I considered all the steps involved in having a successful jewelry making business and thought there was no way I could do it. But then I took this thought as a challenge. I decided to call my bluff. "You can't, huh?" I said out loud. "Fine. Then prove it." It was only once I'd put some actual time and effort into my dream that I would allow myself to decide whether it was impossible.

So far, I've found that making an informed decision is hard! But every day I work on it. I take intimidating tasks and break them up into tiny little steps. As tiny as jotting down ideas for a blog post, drafting an email, setting up an empty Etsy account. I push myself to take one or more little steps every day, depending on what else I've got going on in my life, and I congratulate myself after I complete each task. And then I keep pushing.

And even though this is tough for someone whose ability to problem solve is still developing, I've noticed something interesting. A snowball effect. The more I push my boundaries, the more I find myself doing things I never would have imagined. I have to say, these little successes feel wonderful! Just like my Chemistry class, they're an invaluable learning experience.

They also help me realize that often, "I can't" doesn't really mean "I can't." It can mean "I don't know how... just yet." It can mean "I don't know how to get started... just yet." It can mean "I'm scared." These thoughts are much easier to deal with. :)

So how about you? What things do you believe you "can't" do? What's one tiny step you could take towards finding out if this is really true?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

PS: Also, today I was featured on The Beading Gem's journal! This makes me more excited than I can express in a blog post, and so I'd like you to picture me dancing around the living room with my Halloween socks and my pajamas on... which is what I was totally doing this morning. :)

PPS: I recently wrote an article for the Daily Muse on coping with a muscle injury. Check it out, and check out the Muse, itself! It's run by really kind, caring, sweet, wonderful people and has a lot of good stories.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spooky Sparkly Sequin Spiders!

Saturday Sequins Presents... a very scary Halloween tutorial.



Hello, everyone! Welcome to today's Tutorial Tuesday post.

As you might have guessed from my blog banner and collection of colorful socks, Halloween is a big deal to me. So big, in fact, that I don't just celebrate it on the 31st, but throughout the entire month of October... and any time I need cheering up.

There are few things I love as much as I love Halloween. It's tied with my love of sparkly things, so I thought... why not combine the two and create these spooky sparkly earrings?


(Aren't they adorable? I mean, for spiders...)

To make the earrings, you'll need the following tools: wire cutters, two pairs of chain nose or flat nose pliers, and a 1/16 " circular handheld paper punch, which you can find in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store. I prefer the Fiskars brand, which you can also order online.

You'll also need the following materials: fine silver-plated chain, earring wires, size D20 jump rings (20 gauge, 3.2 mm inner diameter) from Blue Buddha Boutique or a similar size from your local craft store, 20 mm paillette sequins in the color of your choice, and spider confetti.

(Yes, that's tape on my pliers. It keeps me from marring metal with my... death grip.)


Now, here's how you make them:

1.) Open 2 jump rings with your pliers.

2.) Cut a length of chain about 1.5 inches long, or longer if you prefer.

3.) Attach the chain to an earring wire with a jump ring.

(First the ring goes through the chain...)

(And then it goes through the earring wire! And we close the ring.)

4.) Use your paper punch to punch a hole in two pieces of spider confetti. If the confetti gets stuck on the metal part of the punch, gently pry it loose with your fingernails (I use my thumb nails).

(Don't worry, spider. This hurts me more than it hurts you!)

5.) Add your sequins to the other jump ring in the following order: spider, paillette, spider. That way, no matter which way you're facing, there will always be a spider.

(Normally this isn't a good thing. I'm so glad these are just sequins!)

6.) Then attach this rings, with the sequins, to the bottom of the section of chain.


Make your second earring, and voila! You now have a pair of adorable sequin earrings. If you'd like, you can make a matching necklace, like the one pictured above.

For future projects, add more sequins using additional jump rings, vary the length of your silver chain, swap other shapes like hearts and stars for spiders, or try multiple lengths of chain. Now that you know how to make sequins out of confetti, you're not limited to the sequins in craft stores -- so have fun!!!

Thanks, and have a spooky, sequintastic Halloween. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to get noticed... part II

In this post, I started a list of things you can do to share your work with the world and, in doing so, make meaningful connections and friendships. Halfway through, I realized it was getting long and decided it would be better if I broke it up into two parts. As promised, here's the second.

1.) Become a performance artist. You've already become your own mannequin, wearing your pieces for all to enjoy. Well, it's been my experience that not only do people love to admire beautiful art, but they love to see it being made. Pick up your latest project and any supplies you'll need to work on it, put them into an easy-to-carry bag or container, go to a library, coffee shop, park, or other public place, and get to work! Chances are, people will ask questions about the finished project, which gives you the chance to talk about your work and to hand out contact information. It's also a great way to meet interesting people -- because anyone who loves art is worth getting to know! You might also meet future students this way.

Of course, this won't work for all artists. You may not want to bring your torch to the park for some soldering -- it's bound to get you attention, but from the fire department! And if you're in a crowded place, you might want to leave the paint behind, or else prepare to see adults, children and animals wearing it. This approach works for beaders, knitters, embroiderers, and even creators of art journals, though -- can you imagine how excited you'd feel, as a passerby, seeing someone doing some creative doodling in the art journal she'd just made? I think I'd swoon.

2.) Postcards. Business cards are great, and of course, I encourage you to have them (they also make great earring cards!). But you know what else is great? Ordering a set of postcards with photos of your best work on them and handing them out where it's appropriate. Postcards give you a little more room for nice pictures, and they give potential friends and customers a better sense of your work. I use Vistaprint, but there are plenty of other options. After some searching, I was impressed with the selection available from Zazzle, and I've heard good things about Inkchaser.com.

3.) Magazine articles. Here's another way to pass your knowledge on to fellow artists and, at the same time, get some recognition for not just your talent in art, but in making art accessible to others through clear photographs and instructions. You're also more likely to get a book deal or be asked to teach face-to-face if you have some publication under your belt.

Articles are also a way to help people find your website and get in touch with you, as long as you provide contact information in the Author Bio section. This is just my personal preference, but I love it when artists share interesting tidbits about themselves, like hobbies or previous lives in other, unrelated, careers. Just as I'm passionate about promoting friends and former teachers, I'm passionate about promoting people I'd want to be friends with. I don't think I'm alone in this.

To get started, go to the website of your favorite magazine. More often than not, it's easy to find the submission guidelines. Also, check out this article from my favorite bead store in Maine.

4.) Flickr. Flickr is a great way to get your photos in front of an audience. I've only had an account for a few months, but already, I've shown my work to people around the world, joined and posted to groups, gotten some nice comments about my pieces, and encouraged other artists -- including someone whose piece was so lovely, I pointed her in the direction of the Bead Dreams contest. I hope she enters. :)

Flickr is great if you're a seasoned artist or if you're just testing the water, so to speak. You can see how different people react to your work -- and I bet you'll be pleased, like I was. Just make sure you follow the rules! I've heard of accounts being suspended or deleted, especially for aggressive Etsy shop promotion, and I don't want that to happen to you.

5.) Photo galleries. These are a bit like Flickr, only they come with the excitement of being chosen. They also get your work in front of a larger audience than Flickr, for less effort on your part. Fire Mountain Gems gives you a chance to not only post photos, but to talk about yourself as a jewelry artist. The Ganoskin Project will accept your work as long as your photos are jury-quality. I've also seen several gorgeous reader submissions to Art Jewelry Magazine.

6.) Make a Showoff Box and carry it around with you.

7.) Participate in Blog Hops and Challenges! For jewelry-related challenges and hops, three that I've come across are Lori Anderson's Bead Soup Blog Party, Erin's Challenge Of Series, and Art Bead Scene Blog's Art Bead Scene Challenges, which take place monthly.

Hops are a great way to make new friends and show off your creations, and also to stretch your creativity!


There we have it! If you have anything you'd like to add, you're welcome to share your tips. I'd also love to hear how you've made use of any of the items I've listed either today or in the previous post.

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Showoff Box!

In my post on Micro Projects, I discussed the idea of taking a larger project, like setting up a brick-and-mortar jewelry store, and turning it into a smaller, more manageable project, like creating a tiny portable store, or Showoff Box.

Lots of people expressed interest in the Showoff Box, so I thought I'd devote an entire post to it.


(Here's the box. Isn't it cute?)

To make your own, you need a container with a handle and a latch to keep it closed. I bought mine at Michaels, but you could use a small, sturdy handbag, a plastic lunchbox, or even make your box out of a repurposed book or sunglasses case. You'll also need an assortment of rhinestones, sequins, or stickers, and some glue. I used Weldbond, but I'm sure E6000 will work just fine.

Before you start gluing, play around with your sparklies until you find the right composition. Then glue them, one by one, onto the box, so you don't lose your design. Wait until the glue is completely dry, as per the manufacturer's instructions, and then you're ready to start filling it!

Link(Here's the interior of the box, with some of my jewelry in it. Did you know that business cards make great earring cards if you punch holes in them with a 1/16 inch circular handheld punch? I like the one from Fiskars. To make sure they come out the same every time, use one as a template and line up the holes each time you punch!)

I filled my Showoff Box with things I plan to sell, either on Etsy or in person. I have several colors and styles of sequin earrings -- pendants coming soon -- and a few sample sequin kits. Everything is stored in its own plastic bag to keep it from getting tarnished or scratched. I had a tiny purple calculator, but it died, so I'll have to get an equally adorable replacement. I'd like to stock some receipt slips, as soon as I get some. I may just make my own... maybe with pink paper?

One of my favorite parts about the Showoff Box, besides the fact that it's so pretty, is that it's not just for jewelry artists. Painters can carry smaller prints of their favorite paintings (last weekend, during a trip to the MCA in Chicago, I was thrilled to discover that artist Marcel Duchamp had his own portable gallery). Writers can carry signed copies of their books, or even tiny little handmade books with snippets of their work. Book artists can make a series of smaller art journals. Who doesn't just melt over tiny little books?

In short, it's a perfect way to help get your work noticed.

What about you? Do you have, or are you going to make, your own Showoff Box? What will you put in it, and how will you make it?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!



Link

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to get noticed... part I.

In my guide to self-marketing, I listed the rules I'd like to follow when I promote my work. Today's post is another guide to self-promotion, specifically, how to get your work noticed -- and at the same time, meet amazing people, encourage other artists, and have fun. I firmly believe that when it comes to self-promotion, if it isn't fun, make it fun. And if you can't make it fun, it isn't worth doing!

So without further ado, here's my list!

1.) The usual suspects. Read any advice on promoting your work, and you'll hear the words Facebook and Twitter. A lot. Rather than tell you what you already know, I'll cover them briefly to give me more room to talk about other ways to share your work.

Twitter.
I always thought I wouldn't enjoy Twitter. As it turns out, it's a great way to support, and be supported by, other artists. I like to share excellent articles and blog posts that come my way, draw attention to artists on Flickr and Etsy who knock my Halloween socks off, and mention my favorite suppliers of sparkly things whenever I link to pictures of my work. And in turn, several wonderful people have helped me in similar ways. It's always so flattering.

(May I also mention that I follow Neil Gaiman and John Cleese? That's reason enough to be on Twitter.)

Facebook. I haven't enjoyed Facebook quite as much, but it did give me a chance to enter Blue Buddha Boutique's Featured Product of the Month Contest for October, and a few terrific friends have linked to some of my blog posts there. If you'd like to share your Facebook experiences, feel free to do so in the comments -- I'm still feeling my way around, and I'd love your input!


(This is my entry, by the way. I call it Cotton Candy, and it's made with aluminum rings and sequins. It's one of my favorite pieces!)

2.) Blogging. I know. It seems pretty obvious, given that you're reading my blog, but if you enjoy writing, blogging can be one of the most rewarding ways to display yourself, and your work, for the world to enjoy. It can also help people see a side of you that they might not see in an Etsy or Twitter profile, which is a great way to make friends with other artists and potential customers and to explore who you are as an artist.

You might make some interesting discoveries about yourself. For instance, I've learned that I love helping people. I love giving them advice that inspires them or guides them through a rough patch, and I love introducing cool people to other cool people -- and I know a lot of them! It's wonderful and thrilling to get compliments on my jewelry and my writing, but it's equally rewarding when someone can relate to what I'm saying or learns something new from one of my posts.

3.) Teaching. Whether you're posting tutorials online, or teaching in person, teaching gives you a chance to share your work and your skill, make some income (unless you're teaching for free, which is commendable) and, most importantly, help budding jewelry artists get started. There's something electric about sharing something you love with other people and seeing their faces brighten when they have that "aha!" moment. That moment that lets you know... they get it. And they're going to keep doing it after the lesson is done.

I've had a lot of wonderful teachers in recent years, and I have to say, I promote them with as much love and enthusiasm as I would my own favorite jewelry pieces (in fact, I'll have to devote a separate blog post to all of them). A good teacher changes you for the better, in both small and significant ways. Who wouldn't want a chance to be that person? Those who can, teach.

4.) Contests. So far, I've entered two contests in my life. It's only taken me that long to see how valuable contests can be to an artist. Following a set of criteria for submitting to a contest can challenge you to create pieces you might not consider otherwise, and that kind of boundary pushing is always good for creative growth. You also have a chance to show your work -- or photos of it -- to a jury of professionals, and if that isn't a message to yourself that you take your craft seriously, I don't know what is!

And if you win? There's the exposure. People will see just how awesome you are. Lots of people, all at once! Sometimes there are also prizes, such as gift certificates, products, or even cash, and I count these as income earned for hard work -- as legitimate as sales.

My experience is in jewelry making, so I can't offer much in the way of advice to other artists, but jewelry designers have several options. There is the Bead Dreams competition, Fire Mountain Gems holds contests in several categories, there's the Blue Buddha contest, as I already mentioned, and this year, Jewel School hosted a contest -- and while I didn't enter, I'm excited for everyone who did. There was also a contest hosted by the Soft Flex company. Those are just the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure! It's just a matter of looking around.

Link5.) Be your own mannequin. One of the best ways to get your creations in front of people is to wear them. To parties, at bead/craft/art shows. Even to the post office! People love to admire beautiful work, and once they learn you made it, they love to ask questions, including... do you have a store? How much would you charge for a piece like that? Which is why you should always carry business cards and have your work priced.

When you become your own mannequin, you'll develop an important skill, which is the ability to tell when people are really interested, and when they're just being polite. If they're genuinely excited, fetch that business card. And if they're not? Be polite, and stay open to people who are.

A word of caution. This applies more to people who create wearable art than, say, writers or sculptors -- I don't want anyone getting paper cuts in odd places or breaking bones! This could work for painters, though. If you can paint a canvas, you can paint a t-shirt, your sneakers, or a reusable canvas grocery bag. Or even frame a small painting in one of those plexiglass keychains they sell at craft stores.

Whew! I realize I'm only halfway through my list. For the sake of my hands, and your eyes, I'm going to stop here and continue another day -- shall we say, a Miscellaneous Monday? Until then, what are your favorite ways of getting noticed and becoming a part of the artistic community?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!

Edit: Here's the second part!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday: Micro Projects!

It seems to be a common theme among creative types that we have more ideas than we have time to actually put them into practice. In the past, I suggested prioritizing them in terms of how exciting they are and how easily we can get them done. Well, today I'd like to explore another way to tick off the items on our creative to-do lists, and that's micro projects.

What's a micro project? It's a smaller, more manageable version of the original project, and one we can complete in just a fraction of the time. Think of it as a regular project, distilled down to the very best parts.

For instance, I've always loved the idea of having my own jewelry store. Not just an online store, but one of the brick and mortar variety. I know that setting up such a store would take a huge commitment, in terms of money and time and energy. Frankly, it would take more of those things than I have!

Which is why I made myself a portable store, also known as my Showoff Box. It's a small metal box that I decorated with plastic rhinestones, and which I've filled with jewelry samples, business cards, and sample kits. I bring it with me wherever I go -- that is to say, wherever it's appropriate -- and I use it to show off my latest projects. Experience has taught me to be prepared, so I have everything I need to make a sale, just in case. Honestly, I'm thrilled right down to the roots of my pretty curly hair every time I lift the latch on that box.

(And here's the box! Rhinestones and box from Michaels.)

The little store doesn't need sweeping. I don't have to pay rent for it. I don't have to hire employees, and I don't have to worry about giving people directions on how to get there -- something I'm notoriously bad at. It's all the fun, none of the fuss, and just the right size to carry around. A truly micro project.

So that's my advice to you. Turn some of your larger projects into micro projects. Have a book idea that's distracting you from your current writing project? Just write the best scenes, or turn it into a short story. Want to make art quilts? Make itty bitty ones. Always dreamed of making a wire replica of Liberace? OK, actually, I want to see the life-sized version, but if you're pressed for time, make a tiny one and turn it into a pendant. And then send pictures. I promise you, you'll feel better for having tackled a creative project and doing so in a time-conscious way. :)

Do you have an idea for a micro project? Do you need help distilling a larger idea? Please, share!

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day. :)

Edit: here's the interior of the box!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Overcoming Creative Block

Hello, and welcome to another post at Saturday Sequins! Today's topic? Overcoming creative block.

Creative block happens to all artists at one point or another, and it can take many forms. Maybe you've just run out of ideas. Maybe you have all the ideas you'll ever need, but you don't know where, or how, to start. Maybe you've just finished a huge project, and you're sleep-deprived, dehydrated, achy, and both emotionally and physically drained from all the hard work you put in.

No matter the source of your blockage, you can get through it! I know it. This is because creative people have something in common, namely resilience. No matter how bad things get, we keep creating because it's a part of who we are, as essential to our health as food, water, oxygen, or... chocolate.

But! Sometimes we need a little help getting back on our feet, and that's OK. This is where our fellow artists come in. Today I'm going to share a few of my tricks for getting through various types of creative block, and I invite readers to chime in and share!

Inspiration Overload. I like to think of creativity in two ways. First, as a set of batteries that needs to be recharged every so often. Second, as a pitcher of water that needs regular filling so it doesn't run dry. Whichever analogy you prefer, my advice is the same: seek inspiration, and seek plenty of it, wherever you can find it! Read books. Watch movies. Go to galleries. Browse photos on Flickr. Go out in the world and observe. Read or listen to interviews with other artists. Do this until you're just bursting to create.

Explore another, similar area. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone to get our creative muscles working again -- there's nothing like a new perspective to help us approach our work with fresh eyes! If you write novels, try poetry or song writing. If you paint with watercolors, do acrylics. If you quilt, try embroidery. If you write about vampires, try witches. This gives you the perfect chance to learn things that might carry over into your own area of expertise while giving you a break from your normal routine.

Explore a completely different area. And sometimes... we need to take a flying leap out of our comfort zone! The fact of the matter is, our minds are curious and hungry things. They thrive when they learn new skills and have different experiences.

Combine random concepts. The author of The Creating Brain describes the creative process as idea fragments colliding and combining in random ways until something interesting happens. Well, I see no reason not to do this consciously! Go to a dictionary. Pick two words at random. Now, mash them together, and see what you get! You can also try this with your favorite themes, colors, concepts, materials, or anything else that comes to mind. Keep mashing until you get something you're excited about.

Variation on a current project. Take a piece of work you've made that you absolutely love. Prepare to do it again, only this time... make a slight change. And then another. And then another. And then another, until your idea has evolved into something you can hardly recognize from the original!

Change your work habits. Routine can lead to stagnation for creative types, so try switching things around. If you tend to work early in the morning, try working later. Work in a different room of your house, or take your things to a cafe or the library or the park. If you write freehand, try typing, and vice versa. If you work from a sketch or outline, try creating randomly. If you work in colors, try black and white, and if your work is busy, try for simplicity. Obviously, you want to own what makes your work yours, but there's nothing like a change to help you strengthen that definition... or expand it.

Break up with perfectionism. Mastery of technique is a beautiful thing, but it's possible to take it so far that it turns into crippling perfectionism. Perfectionism isn't your friend, even if it tries to convince you otherwise. So for the day, if not longer, tell it you need to see other people. Don't focus on creating something precise and flawless, but something that is uniquely yours and fun. If you want, be intentionally messy! There's something freeing about creative chaos.

Make something just for you. And while you're making something unique and fun, make something that isn't intended to impress publishers, beta readers, gallery owners, judges in a contest, clients, or your friends on Flickr. Make it exactly how you want it, to your very own specifications. Who cares if it's trendy? If it's the right length or word count or colors for Fall? This is your present to yourself, something just to make you happy.

Make something for a friend or loved one. I've found that collaborating with a friend to produce something special can be just as fun as making something for yourself because you get to work with someone who loves your work and appreciates you for the creative, awesome person you are. Also, a new, but gentle and loving, perspective could introduce you to interesting directions for your work that you might not have considered before.

Take care of yourself. If you've just finished a huge project and you have no energy, then you might just need a break! Go ahead. You deserve it. I'm giving you permission. Dr. Sequin* prescribes the following: Take a deep breath. Congratulate yourself on a job well done and give yourself a reward to celebrate. Have a nice, hot bubble bath with candles and maybe a book, and keep your favorite beverage handy (mine's Ghirardelli hot chocolate). Deep condition your hair, give yourself a guacamole facial, and take care of all the other grooming you might have neglected in your rush to finish your important project. And then, if you can, devote a few days to resting, relaxing, and catching up on all the other things you neglected. Like food. And sleep. And friends. If you feel guilty, remind yourself that taking care of yourself is actually an important part of the creative process, and that happiness is an important part of life.

Participate in my Creativity Challenge series! There will be more to come, I promise. If you like what you come up with, I'd love to see it! Especially if it has anything sparkly on it.

Now it's your turn. What do you do to overcome creative block?

Thanks, and have a sequintastic day!


*Dr. Sequins is not a doctor of anything except sparkly things, and these should not be taken internally.