Saturday 12 December 2015

Oops, it's been ages. . anyway - Necklaces etc

I hadn't realised how long it was since my last installment. Oh well, keep 'em wanting more is what I say. Conveniently. . .

Anyway, I've been taking it a bit easy on the bead front this last week or two, since making loads of things to list bit by bit etc. I'll have another burst of enthusiasm next week I reckon.

But meantime, I am having a bit of a hiccup in confidence on the jewellery front. I sell a few things, mainly cufflinks and earrings, so I am OK with those, mainly, though my earrings are a bit plain compared to a lot of the wonderfully eclectic artists I admire. My hiccup is more about necklaces.

I don't really know what level of sales to expect, so may be reading too much into it, but it feels as though I need to raise my game a bit. I like the things I make, I know that they sit on the crude side of 'simple', and I realise that might not resonate with many people. Necklaces are more of a special purchase perhaps and they need to look a bit more consciously 'special'. Also, I do rather wing it with the design, following my instincts rather than considering the end user or what the 'rules' (perfectly valid rules or 'best practice') might be. I do like to go with my own flow, I think it is important, but perhaps I am putting potential buyers off by not being very aware of how necklaces are 'used' or worn. Not being female or a jewellery wearer myself and all that.

It makes my approach original but quite likely not altogether appealing. I dunno. Rightly or wrongly, it has made me stop making necklaces until I get my head round it all. Price may be an issue, but I don't think I'm too optimistic in that regard. I wouldn't want to charge less.

I research necklaces on pinterest and Etsy to see what I might need to change, and a few things are slowly sinking in. I am also coming up against another bit of resistance. I don't like tying up a load of beads into one piece when I could probably sell them separately as components.

Aye well, I'll work it out in the end. My work tends to go in cycles, so some new necklaces, or possibly pendants if they are more saleable, might appear soon - ish. Once I get over my hiccup.
Ah the insecure life of the creative soul. . . ;-)

Jon x

Saturday 21 November 2015

Manic making. . .

Well, so much for stated good intentions. . . 
I have departed from my plan to lay off the component making and maybe do some larger more complex things. 
Aye well, given a choice between backwards or forwards, I will find a way of going sideways. . . That's just the way I am.
What I have actually been doing is somewhat manically making even more organic textured components these last couple of weeks. 

In my defence, the intention was to get a pool of draft listings together so I can add a couple every day or so while engaged in other stuff, like endeavouring to earn a living. You know, that stuff. . .
I'm sort of getting there, but the temptation is to add lots of items to the shop at once 'because it's there'.
I need to resist this.

I did, however manage to play around with multiple textures, as in the groovy limpet like thing above. The texture in the middle was from a kind of hard wormcast found on mussel shells and the like, and the other texture was from a digital image made into a texture sheet and a further texture stamp or roller made from that, then impressed round the outside. That was fun, and it came out looking well organic and crusty. But mainly I followed the simple rolled texture sort of fascination. . .

Some of the things below are in my etsy shop, and some aren't but will be in the next few days I should think.

I made some basic rolled texture beads influenced by a pic of some neolithic beads I saw on pinterest. 

Some strange organic fungoid alien bean shoot dangles.

Some satisfyingly crusty drop charms. Which have obviously been lying on the sea bed for about 100 years.

some entertainingly spotty blue beads, using the outrageously intense colour that is Indigo alcohol ink. That stuff should have a health warning ;-) I love it, but cleaning the brush very thoroughly afterwards is advised.

Some square texture beads.

And most recently, some more organic spike things that remind me both of seaweed and of microscopic creatures somehow. . .

At some point soon I will take my own advice and take a break from manic making. I would like to produce some more considered work as well as my more instinctive reactions to the material that my most recent work has been at root. 
Jon x

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Multi listings and all that

I keep thinking about writing a post, and then putting it off until I have something I think is 'worth writing about'. . .
Yeah, well dream on ;-) The usual drivel will have to do, it's been long enough since my last post.

I have been busy though. I've taken the concept of the Psuedoshard a step further, making thin image trans drop charm sort of things with the usual distressed image transfer stuff on the front. I used some of my black and white images on some of them, which worked quite nicely I thought. I always think they look African for some reason. To do with my mental image of what African looks like of course, and perhaps not all that close to what something African actually looks like, but there is such a thing as a national characteristic that comes through in work from a particular place. It's a vague concept, and involves that other vague concept, 'feel' as well as direct visual clues, but I maintain it does exist.
In my head anyway.

I have been trying out a time and effort saving concept too. I have made some multiple listings. The trouble with listing four (say) different examples of the same sort of thing, (Four sets of image trans earring charms for instance) is that each ideally requires 5 separate photos. General shot, close up, the back, one for scale and one wild card. . . Each shot has to be resized and tweaked in Photoshop before being saved in a different folder. Then a listing has to be written out, tags sorted out etc etc. Sometimes for a potential $5 sale. Not ideal. There has to be an easier way. . . So I have tried photographing and listing multiples when the items are variations on a theme. The buyer tells me which ones they want and I adapt the photo accordingly and relist. Early days but it's working OK I think. I will have left over items which I can then list on their own, but that is less trouble than making loads of small listings. . .
Of course I could stop making small beads, but that would be a shame.

I have made some more organic form spike things too. They are fun to make and the last lot sold very quickly. We shall have to see how these do.

Other than that I made some big hollow beads by pre-baking two halves and sticking them together.

And some bi-colour bicone beads, which I quite like. haven't listed them yet, but will do so over the next week.

I think I need to make some more eccentric style stuff, maybe some large focals or something, as I have been in component making mode for a while and need a change, just for a while.
Still enjoying the process, so all good there.
Jon x

Sunday 25 October 2015

Textures and upcycling your accretions. . . ;-)

Just a quick post to keep the momentum going here. I've been fairly busy messing about making new things and trying out a few ideas. Nothing enough to post about in any depth quite yet really.
But one of the things I was playing about with was textures. I found a somewhat gross but useful texture source that you would quite likely have in your home. You know those wire wool type things you put in the bottom of the kettle to crystalise out the limescale stuff that makes hard water 'hard'? Well, apart from scaring you by making you aware of what the hell your kidneys have to cope with on a daily basis, the crusty accretions kind of bursting out of the wire mesh that you get when the wire wool thing badly needs changing, (I know, I know. . .) makes a really cool texture.
Once you get the loose stuff off, you can use it as is, or make a mould with it using whatever substance you normally use. I have some 'Mold Maker' I think it's called, left over from a while ago, so I used that. It worked OK. You could use scrap clay, it wouldn't be flexible though.

I used it, via a sort of texture 'mask' to make this textured connector bead thing. The texture mask was a plastic sheet with regular holes in it, left over from something I can't quite remember. I laid it over the polymer clay and pressed the texture sheet onto that. The texture only appeared where the holes were, if that makes sense.

I also made a bunch more photopolymer texture sheets using my digital images. They came out Ok too. I need to do a post about that process I think. I made a some flat textured beads to test them out. Here's a couple of them.

Anyway, have fun with your hitherto unwanted limescale catcher. . . ;-) or not of course, your call.
Jon x

Friday 16 October 2015

Clayhem 3

Just thought I'd document the state of my workspace as it has got a bit ridiculous. It may even be bad enough for me to actually tidy it up, but the jury is still out on that one. I still have about 12" by 6" blank space, and anyway, I tend to work on my lap for some reason. I bet this level of disarray is familiar to some of you out there ;-) If not. . . I am in awe of your environmental control. . .
Explore the chaos. There are beads, little image trans squares, raw clay, baked reject things, cutters, real shards, a chunk of concrete, earring beads hanging up on my improvised rack, some flint and other wondrous goodies. . . enjoy.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Psuedoshards. . .

Anyone who might have come across my work will probably have noticed that I like to make things look a great deal older than they really are. I have always liked the patina that age and use, or neglect come to that, gives to things, both natural and man made. So I age things up a lot.
This especially applies to me image transfer work. All those 'little squares' I wittered on about in a previous post. I love the way that an object with a brand new, digitally derived pattern or image, that could only have been made in the last ten to fifteen years, as the technology didn't exist before then, can be made to look as though it has just been dug up from an archaeological site somewhere, where it had lain for 200 years. I say 'somewhere' as the pieces in question resemble ancient artifacts, but you can't quite put your finger on what era or geographical location they seem to come from. They exhibit 'ancientness', and tap into whatever idea of ancientness we carry in our minds. They are the manifestation of an idea, rather than the reality that idea was formed by. I hope that makes some sort of sense. I could go on. . . and make even less sense, but I won't. 

So, as you can see by the pictures, I have been taking this idea a bit further. I have always liked broken shards of pottery, and the fact that (in the UK at least) they turn up in the ground almost everywhere. In cultivated land I should add. Little bits of blue and white pottery turn up in ploughed fields, allotments and urban gardens, not to mention washed up on beaches. I used to joke that there was a Victorian society whose object was to scatter broken crockery in every field in the UK. You could imagine the special outings they had. . . ;-)

So I made some 'Psuedoshards'. Fake shards made from polymer clay, with my digital images on, distressed to high heaven in my usual manner. I really like them. And judging by the reaction of the nice people on Facebook, so do others. They seem to fit the zeitgeist of a certain section of the jewelry making fraternity sorority. . . I am really looking forward to exploring this avenue further. So keep an eye out for these shards turning up in my shop over the next few weeks and beyond.
Jon x

Thursday 24 September 2015

Plans. . .

An attempt to reproduce a set of earrings the post office ate

Just a bit of musing on the creative process. . . I like a bit of a muse from time to time.

Having a Plan. You know, the process whereby you start off with a strong idea of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.
I always feel it's something I should have, that if I was serious about what I am doing I would have it all worked out. So I make a plan and sit down to produce what I had planned to produce. Trouble is, though it starts well, after a while I find it all starting to feel a bit flat. The results are perfectly acceptable, but there's no spark somehow.
Maybe that's the trouble with plans, there's no room for distractions and discursions, or even abstractions and obfuscations. . . For me that's where the important stuff happens. The stuff you trip over in the back alley can lead to more interesting and satisfying things than you will find if you keep to  the clearly defined track.

Something I tripped over - an earring charm, probably.

This is my take on it anyway. But that said, I still get caught out by this little emotional trap despite supposedly knowing better. It happens to me when I have decided that I want to make copies of something that sold, or was quite popular. Sets of textured disk beads for example. I can usually remember the process, or at least reverse engineer 'how I did it' in my head, and consequently that process becomes the 'plan' I need to follow. So I follow it and usually manage to come up with something pretty close to the particular popular/strong selling thing in question. All well and good, but before long I find myself missing the excitement and satisfaction I felt making the original version.
It seems to me that when you make a copy of something you don't say to yourself, "I wonder how this will turn out.", instead you say, "I hope I don't mess this up." Which is a different emotion. Not curiosity, but anxiety. I know which I prefer so I don't try to make copies any more.

'In the same vein'

Not to say that I don't make things that are like things I have made before, things that are 'in the same vein as', things that occupy the same niche, that are the 'same sort of thing as', but not copies. A subtle difference maybe, but one that makes the process more enjoyable and satisfying for me. Which is a large part of the point of doing this art stuff. . .

I have to conclude that my particular buzz is the creative process. Ideas, diversions, creative meanderings. Following the Fascination ;-) Where have I seen that phrase?
It's a self indulgent approach I guess, and not sound commercial good sense, but it fits my idea of who I am, and that is important to me.
Finding something people like and are prepared to buy is a buzz too, but homing in on what is popular and exploiting it is not something I am driven to do. And as such not something I would be very good at. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not what I'm after.

 A variation based on a basic principle

So why am I selling stuff at all if that's the way I feel?
Because I love it when someone likes something I make enough to buy it. It's a very solid form of affirmation. And it gives me a reason to make things other than because I feel like it. However small, there is an audience out there. Artists want their stuff to be 'out there' in the world, being seen, and if they are lucky, appreciated. It's a pleasant kind of motivation.
Also, running an online shop is another learning curve. Another aspect of the Fascination I am following. I find it interesting, mostly. . .

I'm up to 150 sales now btw.

Go, me! ;-)

Thursday 10 September 2015

Been a Year. . . Blimey. .

Early stuff

One year ago, I had been playing around with polymer clay for a couple of months, discovered that people made beads with it and got interested in the whole subject of what beads were and could be and what polymer clay could be made to do and be. . . And had started making beads.

Early pod like things

I realised very early on that I had a feel for the more crudely handmade or 'rustic' side of things. Especially when I started to work out what paint and inks and gilder's paste etc could do the surface of said beads. making them look like ancient artifacts or strange tribal beads from somewhere dim and distant.

First sale. I still like these ones. . .

I liked what I was producing and decided to try putting them up on Etsy to see what would happen. I had very little expectation that anyone would buy anything for months at least, if that. And anyway, it wasn't exactly expensive. Amazingly, I sold something within a couple of weeks. Then sold something else. So I took it a bit more seriously and started making more and listing more.

So my shop has been active for a fraction over a year now. I've learned about SEO and Relevancy, well, up to a point, but what I have managed to put in place has helped me get seen in what is a very saturated niche on Etsy. Sales have slowly grown in frequency and I think my work and style is gradually becoming more widely known.

So I'm really pleased that I started on this strange polymer clay adventure. Strange, because it is such a departure from anything else I do or have done, and also strange, because I seem to have managed to get something pretty much 'right' from the get go, which is not my normal pattern of learning.
Let's hope the next twelve months are as interesting.
Jon x

Recent stuff

Wednesday 26 August 2015

On the other hand. . .

Despite what I said in my last post, about just making what I like when I feel like it and what the hell coz I'm a Nar-tist! . . . I think I have reached a certain saturation point with the little squares.

They are very cool, and have a myriad of uses, hence all the cufflinks and earrings I've been making. But I am in danger of churning them out if I am not careful, and anyway, I have now got 50 earrings listed in my shop, which is enough to be going on with I think.
I have sold some, but I have been overcompensating I reckon, so no more earrings for a bit. though, that said, if I get a cool idea I might do a U turn on that, but I shall try to avoid little squares, exquisite little things as they may be.

I shall turn my attention to more organic, rustic stuff. Probably. Different sorts of beads and maybe a bracelet or two as that is something I haven't tried yet. Maybe some more complex, weirder stuff if the spirit moves. Upcycle some bits and pieces perhaps. . . Not short of scope or ideas round here anyway.

August has been pretty good sales wise, and I have even sold some prints in my other shop, which was pleasing. I need to turn my attention that way too. To my prints, and my tiles and coaster designs. Knock out some more of them, as they do sell in their own slow way. Plenty of scope to big them up a bit and stick them on pinterest etc more often.

Ay well, onwards and upwards and they say.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Throw it at the wall and see what sticks.

Seems to be my selling strategy at the moment. It may sound a bit random, but that's because it is.

As a non jewelry wearing non bead buyer, who makes beads and jewelry, ( I know. . . )  I can't really second guess what a potential buyer will want. Actually, I'm not sure to what extent even expert beaders and jewelry makers can second guess the market anyway. .

So I just follow my own ideas and if all goes well, put the results up for sale in my shop. As it only costs 20 cents to do that, what have I got to lose?

I suppose my only worry is that I will eventually have a shop full of unpopular unsold items just sloshing about looking sad. And that my time might be better spent just making loads of the things that sell.

Well, OK, I do that a bit. If disk beads are selling well, I will make some more, but I won't drop everything else.

People say that the more items you have for sale, the more choice the buyer has, which makes sense to me, but I guess there is a point at which you say 'enough is enough'. If nobody was buying cufflinks, I could keep making them until I had 200 pairs, but it would be somewhat pointless.

Beads are less of an issue than jewelry, bead supply shops have hundreds of listings, so I guess I'm fine with keeping on knocking them out as the urge dictates.

So I guess my selling strategy is 'Throw it at the wall and see what sticks - within reason'.
What do you think? Does that work? Have I missed some obvious disadvantage? ;-)

Monday 3 August 2015

An Amazing, Scientific Comparison Test, honest. . .

Well, I had a thought the other day. A dangerous concept I know,
"You don't want to go messing around having thoughts" I said to myself, "You never know where it might lead. No good will come of it, mark me words. ."

Yeah, well, I needn't have worried, nothing much came of it.

The thought in question came upon me when I happened to notice that I had four different brands of white polymer clay lurking in my clay storage box. This same thought led me to suppose that I could do one of those super efficient, scientific, comparison type things you see online. I could compare how well different brands of PC cope with the image transfer process, and I could intelligently but casually point out the differences etc, thus adding to the sum knowledge of mankind, and keeping the polymer clay community informed and and forearmed against the vagueries of image transferring onto whichever was the clay of their choice. . .

Well. . it didn't really turn out like that.

OK, this is what I did. I rolled out a suitable sheet of four different clays,
Kato white, Fimo Pro white, Sculpey original white, and Cernit opaque white.

Then I did my usual - like everybody else does - water and rubbing technique, image transfer thing on each of them, using similar images from the same sheet of lazer printed paper.
Below is how they turned out. The image quality was pretty much identical. One 'interesting' point was that the surface of the Fimo pro, where the image wasn't, started to turn a bit grainy, a sort of floury texture as it was eroded by rubbing. The image bit was fine. Also Fimo white is 'whiter' than the others, just a bit.
The image on the Kato white felt slightly rougher somehow, as if bits of it were very slightly raised. None of these things had any bearing on the image quality at all. Even the much maligned Sculpey original performed well.

So then I baked them for about 20 or so mins at 135 degrees C. Below is how they turned out. Again, nothing frightening or unusual as far as I could see. The Sculpey orig seems to have moved slightly towards the redder end of the spectrum, but only very slightly. They all look marginally darker, but that is mainly due to the photo.

I cut the squares out, as I figured I might try to use them at least, as they didn't do anything exciting in my supposed experiment. I cut them out with scissors, which was novel, as I usually cut them out with a craft knife before baking.
Once cut out, I painted the backs and sides with 'Ginger' alcohol ink and treated the whole thing with Renaissance Wax and buffed them up a bit. 
Then I decided that they were too 'bendy', meaning they hadn't been baked enough, so thinking 'What the hell." I chucked them back in the Halogen oven for another 20 mins. 
Maybe a bit long, as they all bent up a bit as the image side seemingly shrank a touch. They were all suitably stiff and hard though. The odd one out was the Sculpey Original, it went a pinky purple! I 'think' it was the renaissance wax melting and dissolving the ink or toner and diffusing it across the surface. Very odd. (Ren wax and toner don't get on.) Might be something to play with in future and see what cool effects could be got. . . hmmmm. .
The Kato came out the hardest and stiffest, with the Fimo and Cernit being a bit bendy but v tough. The Sculpey was pretty strong, but would probably snap if you really bent it hard. But then, why would you do that?

So, my expert conclusion about which brand of Poly clay to use for image transfer is? . .
That it doesn't really matter. Sculpey Original would need to be a touch thicker or have a thin backing sheet made of one of the tougher brands to be useful in more demanding applications, but it is perfectly ok, as long as long as you don't rebake for too long after using ren wax on it. An unlikely circumstance, unless you are me. . .
Oh well. . . . Mankind's knowledge will just have to wait for another day for my input OK?
Jon x

Thursday 23 July 2015

I remember how to do that. . No problem. . . er. . .

The trouble with combining the desire to constantly experiment, with overconfidence in your own powers of recall is that you aren't aware you are doing it. . until said powers of recall are called upon and found wanting owing to the sheer amount of experimental data clogging up your brain. . .
I was running out of image trans tube beads, (I made a bunch a month or three ago and have used most of them in different necklace projects and such) and wanted to make some more anyway, so I got everything I needed ready and set to. Only to find myself hitting issues I must have solved before, but had forgotten I had ever come across.

Like how thick to make the base bead I wrap the raw image trans clay squares around. Which has a bearing on how thick the image trans square needs to be. If either or both are too thick then the image doesn't wrap the whole way round and you have a larger seam than you anticipated, and/or a gap that needs filling. Not to mention the issue of the image coming off on your fingers unless you are very careful.
Looking at the ones I made previously, it is obvious that I had got the whole thing sorted out. They look very neat, by my standards at least.

Previous, neat ones

The new ones came out a bit wonky and bit fat. Luckily I had intended to unleash my drastic antiquing/distressing technique on this batch all along , so the imperfections would probably work in my favour. As it turned out, after I had wielded the sandpaper, alcohol inks and ren wax, they looked pretty cool.

Recent wonky fat one

I had a few squares I didn't use to wrap round tube bead bases, so I added a polyclay square back to each for re enforcement purposes and distressed them up too to make groovy faux ancient 'tile' beads.

The image trans tubes and the tile beads looked quite good together so I made a couple of pendants out of the combination.

I shall keep on with the image trans tube making, as I want to get back to the non wonky form I showed previously. This time I shall remember what I did. Was that a hollow laugh I heard? Watch it!

I could write it all down, but I know I wouldn't ever look at my notes again if I did, even if I remembered where I wrote them down. I know myself enough to know my mind doesn't work that way.

Still, I dare say I'm not alone in not remembering how I did stuff. . . Or am I?

Jon x