Saturday, March 29, 2008

March Project of the Month

The project for March in my BeadStyle Project a Month Calendar was the Aquamarine and Pearl Bracelet and Earrings, a project by Paulette Biedenbender. As usual, I waited until the end of the month to look for materials, and almost ran out of time. I was shopping the other day and I came across some white glass beads with a pink floral pattern.

These beads reminded me of the Franciscan Desert Rose Dinnerware pattern that I've seen in antique stores. This pattern originated in 1941, and is the most recognized Franciscan pattern followed by the 1940 Apple pattern set which I inherited from my grandmother.

I already had flat oval pink beads which a friend of mine gave to me when she heard of my interest in beading and jewelry making, and they match the shade of pink in white floral beads perfectly. I was ready to go!

Basically following the pattern provided by my calendar, I added in my own little tweaks. I mixed in some sterling silver beads and a sterling silver hook clasp. The bracelet is 8.25" (21 cm) from end to end including the clasp. It is slightly less than an inch wide, and in my opinion, has an antique look to it despite the fact it's made with all modern materials.

To purchase, follow this link, or contact me if you'd like a custom order in a different size.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Crafty April Fool's Day Pranks

The topic for this week's EtsyBlogger's blog carnival is April Fool's. I thought it would be fun to see how people have used artistic talent, or at least creative talent, to trick others in All Fools Day history. After browsing through The Museum of Hoaxes' Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time, I have found several pranks that were rather crafty.

Talented gardeners:

A respected news show on BBC titled Panorama announced to its viewers in 1957 that the Swiss were celebrating a great spaghetti crop, including footage of spaghetti being plucked from trees. The report narrated by BBC anchor Richard Dimbleby can be seen below:

Many fell for the hoax, calling the station to find out where they can get these spaghetti trees.

Photo Shoppers:
In 2005, Popular Photography magazine published a controversially edited photo that was origianally taken by Dorothea Lange. This historical photo, "Migrant Mother," was edited to removed the children as well as her wrinkles to "save the photo." This changed the woman from being a symbol of having the ability to endure hardships to one of having a relaxed state of motherhood. Outraged readers wrote to the magazine; the editors referred them to the date of publication.

Helpful Hints from Kjell Stensson

Before Heloise and Martha Stewart were giving household advice, Kjell Stensson, a technical expert at Sveriges Television (STV) advised Sweden on how to turn their black and white television into color TV using materials around the house. At this time, in 1962, it was the only television station in Sweden, and it broadcast in only black and white. Stensson recommended ripping a pair of nylon stockings and taping the material over the television screen, causing the light to bend back and forth. If one was to sit at the right distance and move their head back and forth just right, it would create a color image. Many admitted to falling for the prank. Color broadcasts regularly began in Sweden on the eighth year anniversary of this hoax.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hometown, Small World, Big Etsy: My Interview with Lucid

The Ironies

It really is not surprising that I would meet a fellow Etsian in a bead shop. This story, however, is a little unique - at least we think it is!

I was at the counter paying for my supplies at a local bead shop, chatting with the owner, when it came up that I sell on Etsy. She yelled to a woman in the back room, "Another Etsy!"

Winnie, of Lucid Studios, emerged from the back and we excitedly talked about our businesses. The conversation then took a twist - turns out she is the older sister of the Saluditorian of my class who was friends with my now-husband when we were in high school!

If that wasn't strange enough, it turns out that we went to college in the same town as each other, with the years 1999-2001 overlapping. To top it off, we bumped into each other again at a local restaurant about a week after we were first introduced!

Meet Winnie of Lucid Studios

I thought it would be interesting to do an interview Winnie since we had gone to the same high school. One thing I learned off the bat - she is an amazing writer, which made putting this together really easy.

Tell me about yourself.
My name is Winnie Chai. I was born in South Carolina but mostly grew up in upstate New York - land of trees, rivers, towns and cities with Native American names, and long, sobering winters as well as gorgeous crisp autumns.

I currently live in a ghetto fabulous apartment in the small, charming downtown of my hometown. Over half of the apartment has been converted to a great studio/workshop space which is painted mint-green and mango-yellow – the “Studios” part of “Lucid Studios.” It's an old building - fourteen-foot pressed tin ceilings, giant picture windows – five different kinds of tile on the floors and ambient entertainment from the bar below at all hours of the day and night. It's cheery, it's cluttered, with a sort of organized chaos; it's cozy and endearing but I hope to be able to relocate to a more convenient work area with better lighting and ventilation some time in the near future.

I have tried on, in the past, being a student of English literature, a dental assistant, a graphic designer, a classical musician, a web producer, a teacher, a traveler and vagabond and various other hats before becoming fascinated with jewelry design and metalwork.

How long have you been making jewelry? What sparked your interest in jewelry design?
I fell absolutely in love with jewelry and adornment when I was backpacking through Asia a few years ago. Before this, I had been a modicum minimalist, wearing little to nothing in the way of ornament – Now I've become one of those women who will be a little old lady with great big chunky bizarrely stupendous necklaces made of god-knows-what strutting around. It really began when I experienced how the Tibetans in Western China wore their wealth in their ears and around their necks; hoarded, traded and passed down sacred stones, metals and beads replete with myth and meaning so beautifully, with such serenity and grace. The bright blue turquoise echoed the Tibetan sky, and creamy coral simply shone against their dark, weathered faces. It struck me, and I've never recovered.

As soon as I returned to the United States I set up my first workshop in a dank basement and I've never looked back.

What inspires/ influences your creations?
I am inspired by the moment and the process of creation. Sometimes there is a lot of drudge work involved with metal work. It's dirty; it's dusty; there is a lot of manual labor and busywork that just takes sweat and time. You might have to file a piece over a thousand strokes to get the shape you desire. But sometimes you just get an idea in your head and it keeps buzzing around and won't go away. It keeps you up at night; it makes you absent-minded at the supermarket. To exorcise it, I make it.

Also, often during the best moments of absorption in a new project or artistic piece there is a state of focused concentration that is so peaceful, attentive and meditative that I can feel only something near to bliss.

I am also inspired by the beauty of everything I see around me, especially natural forms and the incredible work of other artists and jewelers in particular.
How did you come up with the name “Lucid Studios”?
Lucid, to me, means light, clarity, simplicity. These three things are aspects of my aesthetic sensibility. Without light, we cannot distinguish colour, and I love colour in its myriad transformations and hues and emotions. Mental and emotional clarity is something I seek in life, and I believe that the best and most beautiful things are, at heart, very simple, and I strive to create forms and designs that are simple yet clearly inevitable ....

Beauty is spiritual to me.

How do you come up with your titles?

Words don't usually enter the picture until after the work is finished. While I'm making, I'm purely making; afterward I kind of wake up and look at what I've done. Then all sorts of associations come to mind and poetic license comes into play. As I mentioned earlier, I'm an avid reader and graduated from Vassar College with a degree in English literature so words have always befriended me.
Tell me about your favorite piece.
My favourite piece tends to be the piece or series I am currently working on or exploring but if I had to choose I would have to say that I really like the Elemental necklace in my Etsy shop. It is like a sketch of a tree in sterling silver; organic, intuitive, extremely graceful and beautiful when worn. It speaks to me.

What are your favorite materials?

Sterling silver, fine silver, opals, pearls, gemstones, beads both ancient and modern, glass, polymer clay, assorted found and recycled objects ....
How did you learn how to sculpt silver?
When I returned from my travels I immediately set out to learn everything about my passion as quickly as possible. I set up a basement workshop, I ransacked libraries, I lurked online forums, I took classes, I experimented and made mistakes and asked so many questions even Scheherazade would've been impressed. My intense interest drives me every day.
What do you do when you aren't crafting?
I dole out sushi and teriyaki chicken for a living to support my jewelry classes and gem and metal buying habits. I love cooking and eating ethnic food and in another life was probably a decent chef. I read voraciously, developed a penchant for long mountain hikes while living in Colorado, and am an active member of a local chamber music group.
Future of Lucid: What items can we anticipate in the future?
I would like to increase my knowledge of working with metals and also branch out into other related media like glass, enamels and resins. I am currently taking an excellent class in wax carving and casting, and I anticipate making many more designs in sterling silver that are unique and wearable. I'm really into earrings right now, so expect more of those in the near future!

Where else can we find you?
I keep meaning to start a Flickr account or jewelry Blog but I never get around to it and I don't want to be a Bad Blogger*, what's the point...

The one time I was a really Good Blogger was when I was in China and backpacking through Asia. You can find raw and unedited accounts of my travels at the following link. Not for young children or the faint of heart as it contains some profanity - and strong opinions.

* Editor's note: With these writing skills, how could she be a bad blogger???

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Bunny Cake

My newest creation was of the edible variety. Of course the Bunny Cake is not new to me, it's an annual tradition in my family. My mom made it every year when I was growing up, and I always got to help. My involvement began as making the bunny ears, and I slowly graduated to sprinkling on the coconut and giving him eyes and whiskers, then eventually to getting to ice him. I knew I was grown up when I got to carve it.

This is not the traditional two dimensional bunny cake that many are familiar with, with the round face and a second round cake cut in half for two ears. This is a magnificent 3-D cake sculpture. The best part is that it looks really hard but it's really quite simple to make, it's only as hard as you want to make it.

The cake recipe can be anything you want from vanilla to carrot cake, and from a box or from scratch. I always make a carrot cake and use cream cheese frosting, because thats how my mom always made it and it wouldn't be right to me any other way.

You can add two tablespoons of meringue powder to the cake batter to reduce the rising in the center during the baking process if you want. I prefer my bunny to have a little roundedness to his body, however.

Make the cake according to your favorite recipe, and pour into one or two 8" or 9" round cake pans, depending on the amount of cake your recipe is for. I split it into two 9" rounds in case something goes wrong in the carving process. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan and carving. If you are of the "Type A" impatient variety, like myself, make it in the morning or the night before so it has plenty of time to cool. Still-warm cake is difficult to carve and manipulate, and it tends lace your icing with crumbs.

If you want a skinny bunny you can use a cake leveler to remove "the hump", or if you like you bunny rounded or are feeling lazy, just leave it be. Place the cake upside down on a flat surface such as a cutting board. Cut a straight line right down the diameter of the cake, trying to get it in the center as best as possible. If your oven is not level, no need to get out the tools or yell at your handy man, just line up your center line as symmetrical as possible. Congrats, the hardest part is over.

So you have your cake cut in half, with the bottom side facing up. Frost both halves on the bottom-side-up side only. Take the two frosted halves and make a semicircular frosting sandwich with them. Place it so that its standing up on the plate/cake board that you plan on serving it on. Choose a cake board or plate that will accommodate for the length of the semicircle, as well as a couple extra inches for the bunny tail.

Cut a triangular wedge for the neck. To do this, figure out where you want its head to end and back to begin. Cut this triangular wedge so that the side of the wedge closest to the head is maybe 1-1.5" long and the side by the back goes straight down maybe 1.5-2". Move this wedge to the opposite side for a tail. Now ice the entire body. If you use white frosting, you can sprinkle shaved coconut on top for fur. For chocolate icing, I guess you could dye to coconut brown or drop it all together.

Decorate his face with candy. I use jelly beans, but you could use M&Ms, Skittles, whatever. My mom always used three pieces of raw spaghetti noodles for whiskers, but I like my candy and use red licorice.

Cut a paper plate or large index card in the shape of bunny ears. These materials are thick and sturdy enough to stand up on their own and slide easily right into the cake where they stay in place. I put them into the neck groove.

You can garish the plate with green dyed coconut for grass and jelly beans for easter eggs.

  • Let the cake cool before manipulating it
  • Make two rounds, it will be a skinnier bunny but you get a second chance if something goes wrong. You can always bulk it up with frosting.
  • Frost the neck area last, thats where you'll pick up a lot of crumbs.
  • Sprinkle coconut on right away before the frosting begins to harden
  • Make sure you have the coconut before beginning so you don't have to send your husband to the store. By the time you get the coconut, the frosting will be hardened and your bunny will shed coconut. Not that I would know from experience; I just assume that is what would happen ;-)
Check out some other cakes I've made

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going Green

With focus on global warming and rising oil prices, it seems everyone is trying to go green, or at least more green, these days. By finding ways to cut down on waste and find new uses for things that would normally be discarded, the outcome is better for the environment and for the wallet. I have recently discovered a few crafty people that find creative uses for waste, turning trash into handmade treasures.

"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt,
finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
sermons in stones, and good in everything."

~William Shakespeare

According to Wikipedia, an average of 55 greeting cards are sent per person each year. It seems like a waste of a caring thought and a postage stamp to display them for only a short period of time before they are discarded! Why not turn them into something that can be reused? RunOnTheSun takes old greeting cards, as well as cereal boxes and anything else of similar structure that would normally be tossed, and punches them into mini jewelry tags. They are the perfect size! It shows customers not only the price of an item, but that the seller has taken a step toward going green.

SimpleLifeDesigns helps clean the earth by going to the ocean beaches of the coast of Central California and picking up beach glass. This sea glass is formed when the ocean waves beat down on the littered glass, typically from broken bottles, giving it a beautiful smooth and frosted appearance. She literally turns other people's trash into beautiful treasures. Below is a creation made with green sea glass and sterling silver.

Another seller I have come across recycles her empties, but not in the traditional way. MadeFromTheHeart makes jewelry and buttons from her empty soda cans. A pair of earrings is shown, recycled from a Mountain Dew can! She even has jewelry made with pop-tops! The backs of her empty can pieces are backed with foam and have no sharp edges.

Mother-and-daughter team Pouch are true environmentalists. They have certainly done their research to educate shoppers on the harm that plastic shopping bags do to the Earth. Not only are they promoting the use of cloth bags in lieu of the plastic ones that they offer at stores, but they use old clothes and vintage material to make the bags. The denim tote below is made from recycled jeans, even the waist band was used.

These artists uniquely turn would-be trash into common items, and are truly inspirational. Before throwing something out we should ask ourselves if there is something better that we could do with the item.

Some "green" suggestions for fellow craft sellers:
  • Instead of a light box, use natural light for your photos
  • Replace the traditional light bulbs in you studio/craft room with energy-saving compact fluorescent ones
  • Combine your trips to the post office if you send out several orders a week
  • Reuse boxes/containers for shipping
  • Instead of buying new fabric for quilts, use old clothes that you were going to get rid of
  • Save your scrap paper from scrap booking, even if you can't use it in a scrap book, you can use it for notes to your self, or for gift tags at Christmas time.
  • Random left-over beads make great earrings
You don't even have to be crafty to go green. Instead of wasting paper towels, if you need a rag use the lonely match to the sock that the washing machine mysteriously ate. If you have plastic grocery bags, use them for bringing your lunch to work, for wastebasket bags, or donate them to a local business to be reused. Combine all of your errands into one trip to save gas and try to start a work carpool.

"Many must feel the earth to know himself and recognize his values...
God made life simple.
It is man who complicates it."
Charles A. Lindbergh

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Alchemy is Back!

Not in the historical context of trying to find ways to change ordinary metals into precious gold; if that was the case I could quit may day job and design jewelry full time instead! Alchemy is a tool that Etsy provides and it has finally returned after a five month long sabbatical. It is the "philosopher's stone", so to speak, used to change a buyer's creative ideas and a crafter's creative talent into a custom made item.

"Renel the Alchemist", by Sir William Douglas, 1853

How does Alchemy work on Etsy?
A buyer posts their request in Alchemy describing what they would like and maybe uploading a picture to help the sellers visualize they request. Sellers then bid on the item. They describe what they would do and how much it would cost. Bidding can go above or below the "ideal price" that the buyer suggests. The buyer reviews the bids and accepts, declines, or requests to change the bid. Once both parties accept a bid, a message is sent to both buyer and seller and the buyer submits payment according to the terms they agreed upon. The seller then makes the item and sends pictures of it. Once it is finished, the seller clicks "complete" and mails the item to the buyer. This custom item shows up in the sellers "sold items" section. A full description of the process is provided by Etsy here.

What does this mean for buyers?
Buyers now have two options. They can submit a request into Alchemy for sellers to bid on, or they can submit custom item requests to specific sellers if the seller has their shop set up to accept custom requests. The advantage to requesting directly through a seller is that you already know their style from other items listed. A seller may be more willing to bargain back and forth one on one. The advantage to alchemy is that you get a variety of crafty people bidding so you may see a style you like more.

So have fun with it! Hosting a party and need favors? Shopping for someone with unique interests? Its amazing what the people on Etsy can come up with. As for my jewelry, you can request a custom item directly through my shop if you like something but would like it a different length or different color. I will be taking requests for my custom letter/word/phrase/name bracelets through this new direct "Request Custom Item" option as well. I've been browsing the public requests in Alchemy as well, perhaps I will see you there!

Interesting requests that I have seen on Alchemy so far include polymer clay broccoli charms, a Bjork swan dress, and a beard and mustache cozy?! The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Selling on Etsy

Chapter I: What is Etsy?
Chapter II: Registering and Shopping on Etsy
Chapter III: Selling on Etsy

Welcome to the third chapter of my Etsy Tutorial, a series designed to help craft aficionados buy and sell handmade goods online.

So you're a crafty person and would like to sell your creations? Etsy is a great place to do so, and the fees associated with using Etsy as a host for your shop are very reasonable. I recommend using Etsy, especially for those new to selling online. You do not need to be a computer wizard to set up shop, Etsy does all the hard work for you.

What are the benefits to using Etsy as opposed to other hosts or just setting up your own private website?
  • Low fees compared to other hosts (fee details below)
  • All shops are created equal: Each seller is allowed up to 5 pictures. No sellers are allowed bold, flashy colored, or different fonts. Banners and avatars are all the same standard size. Everyone is entitled to the same privileges, so aside from items that the sellers offer and the quality of their picture taking, each shop has equal capabilities, regardless of the seller's ability to write HTML protocols and so on. Like I said, it doesn't take a computer wizard.
  • The shop is all set up for the seller. The only thing left to do is customize it with your shop announcement, profile, banner, avatar, create up to 10 sections (categorize your items) and of course, add new items to your shop. Everything you need is included. No need to import shopping carts, set up a connection to PayPal, all those things you'd have to do when creating your own private website.
  • Forums. You have a question? Someone has an answer. You can use the forums to promote items, sales, and your shop. You can work with other members and share ideas about marketing and materials. Administrators often jump in to answer questions or to close threads if they get out of control.
  • The people. For thousands and thousands and thousands of people that are in competition, its amazing how much they can help each other out, promote each other, and critique/make suggestions for improvement.
  • The advertising that you aren't directly paying for! We've been mentioned by Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart, Oprah. Etsy is getting exposure.
What are the fees associated with selling on Etsy?
Unlike other hosts, there is no "rent" fee meaning you do not pay for opening your shop and you do not have a monthly fee. It costs only $0.20 to list each item, and Etsy charges you 3.5% of the sale price of an item, not including shipping. So if you list an item once before it sells for $20.00, Etsy only makes $0.90 cents off that item. PayPal also charges a fee (usually 2.9% plus a 30 cent fee) when you receive money. It is important to include these fees when pricing your item. If you want to make $20.00 on something, plan ahead and account for the Etsy and PayPal fees and charge $21.78.

How do I sign up to sell?
You first register, see Chapter II. If you are already registered as a buyer, just sign in under your name and click on the Sell tab. You will be directed to an online form to fill out. Follow the directions provide your credit card number. Nobody will see the credit card number, it must be submitted because that is how you pay your Etsy fees. Your Etsy bill is due the 15th of each month and you just pay with the credit card on file.

Keep in mind, as mentioned in Chapter II, you cannot change your user name once you register, so the user name you register with becomes the shop name when you decide you want to be a seller. Your store website will be http://your user

How do I customize my shop?

There are only certain ways you can customize your shop appearance, so it is important that you make it as eye-catching as you can so that you stand out. Etsy walks you through the process of setting up shop here. Instead of reinventing the wheel that Etsy has provided you with, I will just make some suggestions:
  • You need a banner and avatar, it adds pizazz to your shop so you stand out from others. If you are not graphically inclined, have no fear - you can even shop for a custom banner/avatar on Etsy! Yes, people sell those on Etsy too! You can use a picture of one of your items for an avatar too. You can always change your banner and avatar in the future.
  • I recommend putting your store policies in your profile, saving the announcement section for sales or important current information, such as if you are on vacation. The larger your shop announcement is, the less items will display on your first page.
  • Feature items - you're allowed three, use them! I suggest choosing your three feature items as items that are not on your front page. Why show the same items twice on the same page when you can have the opportunity to show off three extra ones?!
  • Sections! You are allowed 10 - utilize them. As a buyer, you do not want to flip through 6 pages of items when looking for one particular thing. If you sell handmade clothing and I want to buy a pair of women's pajamas, I do not care about looking at all the men and baby clothes you have. I want to be able to click "women" and see items that pertain to my search. You can always change your section names and what you put in them.
  • You need to include your policies, either in each listing or refer the shopper to your profile for them. Policies should return how you handle shipping and returns.

How do you put items up for sale?

This is called listing an item. Etsy has posted a step by step process in the Help Guides, which I suggest checking out. What I've learned from experience is:
  • When you first open your shop and you're all excited and you have so much stuff and you want to sell sell sell and can't wait to get everything up and you're on a roll and you have all your pictures and shipping supplies and you're ready to go and list your entire stock.... STOP! List a couple items a day. Spread them out. Etsy features the Time Machine which lists items most recently listed in the beginning. When people do searches, the search defaults to the most recently listed. For example if you list 10 handbags tonight, and next week someone searches "handbag," your handbags are going to buried below a weeks worth of handbags, they may never find your shop. But if you list one a day, someone may see your handbag that day. All it takes is one click on your item and they are in your shop. Even if they don't want to buy the item, they may still want to look around your store. Most of the sales I've made have been within 24 hours of listing an item, usually not even the item that I listed that day!
  • You only get to show five pictures of each item. Make them good and use as many as you can. OK, so there are only so many ways you can show off a pair of earrings... but say you sell handbags. Show the whole handbag, show the inside of it, show someone modeling it. Get a close up of the pattern. Show how much you can put in there!
How can I get the word out without spending a ton of money?
There are many things you can do on your own that don't cost much if anything. You can make your own business cards for a relatively low price. Throw a few in when you ship your items out, maybe the buyer will pass them on to your friends. If you make things of everyday practical use, make some for yourself. I've made some jewelry for myself and for my mom. If someone gives me a compliment on a necklace, I shove a business card in their face. Just kidding. I DO say "Thanks, I made it." I've gotten a few jewelry repair jobs through my mom who has a pocket shrine of me that she shows to her coworkers.

I put a poll up on my blog a while ago asking visitors with Etsy shops what their best promotional online tool was. The winner by a mile was having a blog. Flickr also was at the top of the chart. Low votes were Twitter, Facebook, and Squidoo, but only 36 people participated.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Think Spring

It seems wrong that Easter is less than a week after St. Patrick's Day this year, mostly because there is a chance that we could have more snow on the ground for Easter than we did for Christmas. That's a risk you take when you live in Upstate NY, I guess.

I've had a good winter, enjoyed snowshoeing with my sister. There were days when I'd look out the window during a snow storm and think how beautiful it looked. Then I'd go out in drive in it. Spring officially begins on March 20, only three days before Easter Sunday, but the weather around here certainly doesn't have to follow a schedule.

I look forward to opening the windows and getting fresh air in the house, and finally putting the winter coats away. And how great it will be to go for a hike without my husky boy over the ribs snow pants on (long story).

You can tell I am about to explode from having my fill of winter, my four newest pieces in my Etsy shop involve flowers or eggs!

My Easter Egg Hunt necklace was inspired by my world famous Bird Nest Choker (OK, I exaggerate a little) which was featured on in post #2. Instead of a nest, I made a basket, filled it with Easter grass (green wire) and egg shaped Cloisonne beads. I double crocheted the necklace this time, and discovered that by doing that you can scrunch it or stretch it to adjust the length a little.

I have made two sets of Egg Earrings using blue egg shaped Cloisonne beads for one, and black ones for the other.

I love my fourth spring piece, Garden Variety, because I found beads that all come together. I bought the shell pendant when I went down to the city to visit some friends. The flowers painted on it have a metallic sheen. I was able to find metallic blue-green twist beads (not actually metal) that match the leaves on the pendant. The blue beads match the blue paint of the pendant and have almost an iridescent effect with hints of green and purple matching the flowers as well. Little glass tear shaped beads accent the pink flowers and the shades of blue and green in the pendant. All on memory choker wire so it naturally adjusts to the size of your neck without an uncomfortable squeeze.

Springing forward with the clocks this weekend will make for a long Monday, but the sun will be out for an hour later!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lead Awareness

I love my Californian customers. I do. They have been a large part of my customer base on Etsy. However, if you live in California, or if you are shopping for someone that lives there and you happened to stop by my Etsy shop recently, I can see why you'd think I don't. Several of my items will refer Californians to my profile where I state that if they were referred to my profile, I cannot sell/ship that particular item to California. It's not that I don't want to, it just that I'm probably not allowed to.

The State of California has passed a law that went into effect March 1, 2008. The details of this Lead-Containing Jewelry Law can be found here.

Lead poisoning is a serious matter, and lead is especially harmful when dealing with developing children. The law in California was prompted by the death of a child after swallowing a lead-containing charm from a piece of jewelry. Lead is not absorbed through the skin, but through ingestion and sometimes inhalation. If a child has handled something containing lead and sticks their fingers in their mouth, they could be exposed that way. It's usually not an acute problem, like the case of the child that swallowed the charm, but it tends to be something that builds up over time.

According to this law, adult jewelry sold in California must be made with Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 materials.

My problem is that since I can not recall the brand of some of my metal components in the jewelry that I have for sale now, and therefore, I cannot assure my Californian customers that it falls within the legal limits set by their state. I am in the process of contacting the manufacturers of the materials that I know I use to get information regarding the amount of lead in their materials. I tend not to use sterling silver to keep the cost of my jewelry down. I will be using more sterling silver and gold filled components in my jewelry in the future.

After I buy many of my metal findings, such as clasps, earring wire, metal beads and so on, I dump them into a little jewelry tackle box organizer. When I see them on sale, or have a coupon, I stock up. Once they are out of the bag and into my box, I usually do not remember where I got them from and what brand they are. I'm kicking myself for that now.

Unfortunately, if I do not know who manufactured metal components of my jewelry, I cannot sell it to people in California because I cannot guarantee the lead composition. Some manufacturers are difficult to get in touch with as well and have not responded to my emails and voice mails.

Does this mean that my jewelry is dangerous? No, of course not. All of my materials are purchased within the United States, and must meet US standards. Lead is not absorbed through the skin, so unless you gnaw on metal components and beads in jewelry, you should be fine. You should not be putting random things in your mouth anyway, they could be dirty and have germs.

This bracelet is one of my items still available for customers in California!

Adult jewelry, however, should be kept away from children - regardless of the lead content. Children put random things in their mouths all the time, its part of their learning process. Not only could there be trace amounts of lead in jewelry, but glass beads can break, earrings are sharp, or they could break a small pendant loose and choke on it.

Other items known to contain lead include:
  • Toys painted in other countries
  • Dirt and soil
  • Furniture and houses painted before 1978
  • Tap water from lead pipes
  • Imported dishes/pottery
So, to my valued Californian customers:
I do have items available that I can sell to you for sure. I will also be looking for jewelry components guaranteed to be within the limits set by California in the future. I will also be using more sterling silver and gold filled components, unfortunately those items will cost more. If you see something you like that I can't sell to you, contact me. I can try to replicate it or make something similar using materials that I am sure are Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3.

Feel free to leave comments if you have any information that I've left out or if you know of any brands that sell silver/gold plated findings that are definitely within California's limits. There are a couple manufacturers that I've been able to get in touch with that have told me that their items are safe for sale to California.

For fellow jewelry designers-
I'm compiling a list of companies that will guarantee they sell beads and findings that are lead-free and/or within the standards set by the California state government:

According to the Director of Product Development of Sulyn Industries, all of their products are tested domestically and are within California and USA lead-free standards. Sulyn Industries distributes items under the brand name "fashion accessories" that are s

Blue Moon Beads says that all of their materials contain less than 200 ppm of lead.

Beadalon, a company that makes beading wire, such as the memory wire that I use in my chokers, has issued a statement that their products are within the limits and that they have purchased an analyzer to routinely test their products for potential lead content. Here is a copy of their statement.

Cousins Corporation has replied that their materials are checked in China and again in the US and are nickel and lead free.

Darice has issued a statement saying that the manufactures produce materials within federal regulations, however, they cannot guarantee that they fall within the standards set by California.

Nicole Crafts states that their findings are all within the limits set by the State of California. They have been within these limits since 2006.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Registering and Shopping at Etsy

Etsy Tutorial:

Chapter I: What is Etsy?
Chapter II: Registering and Shopping at Etsy

So... you've seen Etsy on Martha Stewart, checked us out, and decided you wanted to buy something handmade from one of the nearly one million sellers or maybe even me.

Chapter I of my tutorial explains why Etsy makes you register a secure account and in this post I will explain how to register to buy handmade.

How do I register an account on Etsy?
1. Go to the Etsy website and click register in the top right corner. Complete the form creating a user name and password. Choose a name wisely, particularly if you plan on selling in the future, as you cannot change it and if you choose to sell, your user name will become your shop name too. Provide your email address which will be private and it will only be made available to sellers if you purchase from them.

2. When you finish filling out the online registration form go to the email account that you registered under, and open up the email that you have received from Etsy. Reply to this email (no need to type a message) to verify your account.

3. Congrats! You are now registered and can log in.

Etsy also explains this process here.

How do I make a purchase from a seller at Etsy?
Now that you have your account set up, its easy. Here are some important points to remember:

  • All items on Etsy are listed in United States Dollars (USD) regardless of the buyer's/seller's location. Paying with PayPal will automatically convert your currency to USD if you are from outside the US.

  • When you find an item you like, add it to your cart. By adding it to your cart, you will be redirected to the shopping cart page. At that point you can continue shopping and adding to the cart if you'd like, or proceed to the checkout.

  • Keep in mind if you are shopping from multiple sellers, you have to go through the check out process with each one separately.

  • Etsy has provided a detailed explanation on how to actually add items to your cart and how to check out.

    Things to keep in mind as a buyer
    • Sellers that have PayPal as an option usually prefer PayPal for payments because it is fast and easy

    • For their protection, sellers typically do not mail items until they receive payment. That includes check clearing

    • When you set up a PayPal account it takes about 5 days for the money that you put in to clear through PayPal. It is an Etsy policy that if payment has not been received within 3 days that the seller should cancel the sale and relist the item, but not all sellers are that strict. Still, its not a bad idea to make sure you have the funds in your account before buying or just pay through PayPal with a credit card.

    • Refer to the shop announcement at the top of the page at the seller's website, and also to their profile. They usually post their policies, shipping information, and promotional sales.