Friday, February 26, 2010

Photo Editing - Just a Touch

A lot of the colors in my photos turn out just right, but maybe one single bead or charm is way too bright, which can be misleading to potential customers.

Basic editing programs will usually only allow simple retouching or not allow you to pinpoint exactly the item you want to tone down, so the effect is a blanket filter that effects the tonal value of everything in the photo.

pretty, but the color pink is much brighter than the actual item

So, I use Picnik. You can buy a membership for extra features, but this feature is free and easy and an invaluable tool for helping edit your photos.

First, go to "create" on the top tab bar, then "effects",  then choose "sepia" on the left hand menu column.

click on photos to enlarge

Then a pop up box will appear and hit the "reverse" box. All you have to do is select the hardness of the edge, strength and size of your brush to shade in the item with your sepia tone, then slide the sepia bar to the degree of fading you need to adjust the color to the correct tone you need.  I like to keep the fade level at 0% when I am coloring the item so that I can see if I miss anything. After it is fully colored in, then I adjust the colored levels.

once fully colored, adjust the fade to get your desired tone

Afterwards, you can adjust the photo however you need, add a signature or have fun trying out different effects, just remember, for online selling, try and keep the colors as close to the original item. I have another example tutorial for fixing products here, here (using photoscape) and here (editing faces) and some good posts on photography, here, here, and decor8's amazing post on product staging.  I also have a simple little tutorial on making heart bokeh here. Necklace in photos is one of my Jeweled Ambrosia handmade designs.

This post is included Kimba's DIY Day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bibliophiles Unite

shan man flickr

What's this? A post entitled bibliophiles unite, with no images of any books? That is correct my dear friends. Because being a book lover, one must also appreciate all things bookish, readerish, writerish.

Such as, oh so stylish pipe cleaner reading glasses (or are they crochet around a frame?). A placebo for all you poor folks out there who wear your glasses with scratched up, out of date prescription lenses and missing earpieces (such as mine), that gives you a headache beyond repair.

I was never taught about the "bossy r" until I watched the new Electric Company with my kid the other day. But obviously, the method was being taught as proven by this way awesome vintage poster. Or maybe I was being taught the bossy r, but wasn't in class that day. Yes, it must have been the one day I was home sick with a fever or the day I got 6 stitches in my face from a cat attack.

Emails are so, impersonal, and quick, too easy. If and when I get my lazy self to script a romantical letter (or a bill) via snail mail, I shall send it with my own wax seal. Elitist? yes. Curious? you betcha. Memorable? ding ding ding!

Love wax seals, but not making your own? I get that. Fantastical wax seal jewelry is all the rage! Tons of different styles and colors, all over Etsy from different sellers.


I love to write. Perhaps I will pen a fabulous story worth publishing one day, or perhaps not, but either way, pencils and erasers are so much more forgiving then an ink pen scribbled out of entire paragraphs. (though writing with smooth, flowing ball point pens are amazing!) Perhaps writing with a quill and an ink well would make for a lovely sport.

Bookplates. I adore them. Fancy stickers that shows this little trophy of a book is mine, all mine. I know some people prefer the library, but I like books for keeps. Still though, I cannot spend full price on a book. I'm all about amazon, ebay, etsy for vintage, or finding my own at second hand shops. Where is your favorite book finding place? (lots of great bookplates on etsy... I LOVE this vintage blue bird one by oiseaux!)

What about repairing books? Or binding your own. Does anyone possess that skill? I know there are tons and tons of ways to do this in this comprehensive list of compiled tutorials, it is something I would love to learn how to do one day. This coptic stitch how to video is pretty easy to follow! Or, you can get your own handmade book on Etsy. Tons of varieties and price ranges.


What do you do with a book that has lost it's savor? Why, make something beautiful from the pages! I'm all about the little stamped mobiles and garlands, and even the novel page roses, what about a wreath? Just, how would one dust it?

Happy reading, writing and hoarding bookish delights!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homefront: A Horse's Tale {and Vintage Globe Bookends}

I finally had to chance to scour the neighborhood antique mall last week and oh, what a joy it was! I am itching to go back already. And the wonderful thing, is that my two young sons love going and seeing the treasures as well (strapped safely in the confines of our bulky double stroller, that is).

I came home with a few vintage bottles, an amazing metal enamel daisy chandelier that I got for a song, some prisms and this lovely book and globe bookends.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis is a tale of a horse brought overseas, survived a shipwreck and brought joy to a little family. Apparently, there is an actual foundation for this book to preserve it and the history, as well as a fanbase since it was based on a true story! If you are interested in taxidermy, this is Misty and her daughter in the flesh.


I was wanting a lovely old story to read to my children, and I'm so happy to have found this little treasure. There is something wonderful about seeing the names and dates of the library card (last checked out in 1976 by a little James Harris), and the smell and feel of old, worn, yet treasured pages.

I also have a love of horses, as evident in this post here. This painting of the horses swimming reminds me of the rescue of the Netherlands horses. (If you watch the heartwarming video) it may be wise to have  a box of tissues near by).

For those wondering about the music in the video, it is *believed* to be Vangelis' main theme from the film 1492 — Conquest of Paradise.

These wonderful vintage globe bookends I found are amazing as well. The globes have such detail and they actually spin! My boys, as well as myself and enamored of them. Don't you love them? If so, I found some that are very similar on Etsy HERE, and some on Ebay HERE.

Do you collect old books? Are they more for stacking together and as design elements to you, or do you also read them? 

*ps for moms... that blue spined book you see on the left, Busy Book by Trish Kaufner... excellent activity book for kids! Tons of crafts and recipes for playdough, paints, edible crafts and more fun learning ideas.... this one I have is for toddler age, but there are other age groups available as well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Consignment Warning Signs

Today, I am going to talk to you about consignment. I have consigned at a few different places, and only some of them were a positive experience in which I sent a few retired designs and was sent a Paypal payment whenever something sold. It worked out great and I got rid of some items that no longer fit in my shop.

(some of my necklaces displayed at Oak Boston for consignment, which has been a semi-good experience so far)

**Now, while my post today is mostly on negative experiences with consignment and seeing warning signs before hand, it can be a wonderful thing as well! There are great shop owners and contracts and such, but do your homework and make sure it's a good fit.** 

This post in the forums today made me smile. It was written by Unique Art Pendants and you can glean some insight from the thread that follows:

"Hey! Can I borrow all of your inventory? Of course, YOU have to bring it over here to ME and I'm going to show it to all of my friends and let them try it on and stretch it out and stuff - my friend Lucy might get some of her red lipstick on it, but I'm pretty sure it'll wash off when I give it back to you. Lucy's friend Michelle has sticky fingers sometimes and things tend to disappear around her but I promise I'll watch her real close if she's standing by any of your stuff. AND - guess what?! If my friends like something and want to buy it I'll give you 60% of the price you usually sell it for. I'll just go ahead and keep the remaining 40% for myself.
And, oh, not sure yet - but I may move two states over in a couple weeks but I'll for sure remember to get your stuff back to you somehow because, of course, you won't know where to find me after I move with all of your stuff.
So can I borrow all of your inventory? I'm looking to make some money but I don't want to actually spend my own money to do it. I just wanna use your stuff instead. Lemme know!"
Well, I can surely relate to this statement. Consignors take this route because they have very little invested in the products. They want them to sell, but if they don't they haven't put any money into the products. They may not dust your jewelry, fix the display after someone has rummaged through it, you are not protected if your items get lost/stolen/broken (which I assure you WILL happen). Their sales team may not promote your products.

Not all consigners are bad, some are amazing, but the only way I would consign, is if I knew the store well, knew the client base, lived close enough to be able to manage my display and rotate piece out on a weekly basis.

My Story of the Warning Signs

I once "consigned" at a little boutique that I was impressed with. I did my homework, read reviews online, checked out their website, learned the story of the place. I called ahead and made an appointment, came with my goods in a pretty display to meet the manager and see if my items would be a good fit there. It was very pleasant, exciting and the owner loved my jewelry and we set a date for me to move my things in the next day.

I had to pay them a lease fee and sign a 6 month contract. I "rented" a very small space for a relatively large amount of money (that I had already negotiated way way down), and I would also have to pay about 20% of each sale for credit card and advertising fees. I did the math and figured I would have to sell at least 10 things a day, just to make my rental coverage back. Having worked and managed retail, I knew this was not very likely and definitely not profitable, and how could I maintain that kind of stock there as well in my Etsy shop just to cover the cost of supplies? Well, the night I organized my tiny display, the manager whom I liked very much was not there. This is when more warning signs manifested themselves.

I was at the store during peak shopping hours and very few people came in, and those that did, were not in my customer base. I looked around the boutique and noticed it was full of jewelry. I spoke with the manager prior to when I signed the lease and she stated that she had only one other jewelry person leasing and very little jewelry to compete with. BUT, when I finally took the time to look around, jewelry... cheap, trendy manufactured over the seas styles were every where! I went in the backroom for some fixtures and there were boxes upon boxes of even more jewelry to replace any that sold.

Then, I noticed the sales staff. They were too busy trying on clothes, ignoring customers and talking about how their shop was overpriced and not on top of the trends. They actually talked about how they were going shopping at Target and Ross after work to get similar styles... and they did this in FRONT of customers!  Well, no shock that they did not make one sale the entire night. I finished my display right at closing time.
As I left the shop, I noticed they had 2 huge signs in the parking lot that they were accepting consignors. Knowing their leasing fee, this told me that sales were low and they were using the consignors to pay their rent as opposed to sales. Also, the owner had expanded and opened a second store across town, so she was spending more time over there trying to get it off the ground and neglecting this one.

I finally finished my display and was going back in the morning to fix it up a bit since I forgot some of my fixtures. I came home and tossed and turned and stressed and did the math all night.

My items are in this semi-high end boutique, in a hidden corner of a good shopping district, but located in a high theft area. I am paying a butt-load of rent, no insurance or protection if my items got lost or stolen, a very unlikely chance of profit, with an incompetent sales team who drive customers away and tons of competition within the store from mass produced cheap jewelry. Also, I was moving an hour away in the next 2 weeks. I originally thought this wouldn't be a problem, I could drive down a few times a month when I came to visit family and check on my items, but after seeing all the red flags, I knew this wasn't a viable solution.

Well, what did I do? I stressed all night long over what I got myself into. I drove down there first thing in the morning before they opened, waited outside until they unlocked the doors, walked back inside and packed up my jewelry and left. I of course told them I thought about it and realized the move was going to be too much for me, but that was the last thing on my mind.

Because the manager wasn't there the night before to accept my lease agreement, I technically didn't break the lease as I never turned it in. They weren't going to give me my money back either, even though my jewelry was never in the shop during opening hours, so I paid $35 bucks and canceled the hefty lease check.

I know there are lots of great experiences and lots of bad ones with consigning. But I think that with my experience, you need to look for red flags and listen to your gut when you check out shops. Look at the sales staff, the location, the types of shoppers...

Overall, I have done wholesale, and even though it does not make as much money up front, there is way less of a hassle, a guarantee that your items have sold and a management and sales team that have invested in you and will do more to sell your products.

Read Rosie's amazing article on the basics and inner workings of wholesale vs. consignment, how to approach shops and how it works from both the artist and the shop owner's perspective. Very insightful and valuable advice. Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homefront: Soul Salsa

We used to make our own salsa and guacamole all the time, and we eventually just stopped as life got busier. I had a really good food chopper, but gave it to Goodwill (brand new) b/c we never used it. As we've begun cooking more, we have re-realized how fun it is to prepare dinners (and snacks) together.

We love standing at our tiny kitchen counter together, chopping our own herbs and veggies. That 15 minutes or so that would other wise be "saved" by using a food chopper, is one of our favorite parts of these moments. We get busy in our own worlds, with the kids, work... but making a little snack and spending that time talking, laughing, chopping... it's good for us. Almost therapeutic. Of course, snacking on the delicious treat is most excellent as well! Do you have something like that for you or your relationship? It may even be something you do not even realize. Once you figure out what that activity might be, try and cultivate it and make it part of your weekly routine.

Salsa Recipe:

1/2 can well rinsed black beans
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped (or jalepeno if you like spicy)
handful fresh cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 T vinegar (though we usually skip this)
salt to taste

Sliced avacodo, shredded cheese and chips for serving. Or serve over rice and cooked cubed seasoned chicken with corn for a "Chipotle" like meal.

Combine all, seal in airtight container and let stand for approx 30 mins for the flavors to blend together. I like to put a slice of avocado on my chip, dip in the salsa and then sprinkle on a little cheese. Delicious.

*tips... I freeze onion and herbs, and some other veggies I chop!! I only use a handful in my meals, but I put it in almost everything I make.  So, when I chop a fresh onion (or bell pepper or whatever), I use what I need, then cut up the rest and put it in an airtight freezer bag and freeze. (Some veggies need to be blanched first for the best freezing, and some veggies don't freeze well at all, this link has good advice).  Of course, they are best when going to be cooked in the next meal, as they lose their crispness when they thaw, but still excellent if you are going to be using them soon. Cilantro is easy to grow and freeze too,  read about it here, including the comments.

Freezing makes it easy when cooking, just throw in a little frozen onion and it cooks just fine. For herbs, chop them up, and fill an ice cube tray with them. Cover with a bit of water and freeze. When cooking, just plop in your herbed ice cube, here's an easy tutorial with pictures at bananablender. You can do the same thing with pesto herb mixes (directions here) as well .

Happy chopping!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Homefront: My Paper Valentine

I put my 4th "A" on my Christmas wreath. We have an A for each of us, so I need to hunt down another!
This little "love" sign is just 2 pipe cleaners shaped together. Easy, fun and cheap. You can see my mantle last year, I added a feather boa, a few extra goodies and some red Swarovski crystal and vintage glass hearts for some extra color and sparkle. The display looks off to me, but I am satisfied.

The white paper doily heart garland has just been tied loosely with white string.

I love this archway. A few strands of taped white doily hearts hanging from string make a sweet, inexpensive garland. The simple and pretty garland adds a bit of modern and airy romance to an unexpected space.

Whether you are single, in a "complicated" relationship, or ready for a romantic adventure, may you know that you are loved on this Valentine's day! Oh, and watch this little video with your sweetheart, family or friends for a heartwarming, special message on truly loving another. It is a little excerpt but the full talk can be seen here, or read here in it's entirety.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Family Time: Blessings of Snow (and a snowman)

Living in Texas, means we are used to the idea of not having snow that sticks through the day. So, imagine our surprise and delight, when we had a White Christmas for the first time in Texas for over 40 years, AND we had enough snow to make a snowman yesterday... and it stayed around and even almost doubled today!


*above trees from yesterday, and I thought THAT was a lot of snow*

I'm quite certain we will not be able to attend our little Valentine event this weekend since the roads will be too icy to drop the kids off at the grandparents, but that's okay by me. For more reading about our family snow day, visit my blog post here!

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