Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Basic Metalsmithing Skills Presentation by Laura Bracken

I had to put this "temporary" Google Slides show here because my laptop doesn't have powerpoint and I was doing a presentation today at an art center. Unless you know how to "enlarge" this to full screen it looks pretty bad.  The "full screen" icon is in the lower left... looks like four arrows pointing in different directions... or you can hit Ctrl+Shift+F... there's also a slider bar so you can center it if you don't want to make it full screen.

I do plan to turn this into a YouTube video when time allows so it doesn't bleed into the advertising and right hand menu. :-)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Having Fun with My Rolling Mill

I have to admit, I don't use my rolling mill often.  Maybe it's because it's not in my studio workshop and out of sight, out of mind.

But when I do think to use it, I get so excited that I continue to use it usually at least for a few days, or even weeks.

A month or two ago, I made this piece...

The background texturing was done via a rolling mill and a wonderful design texture page from Rolling Mill Resource on Etsy. 

A lot of you have seen my rolling mill "tulle" snakeskin design...

... and my jewelry made with the rolling mill and real leaves...

... but today I am sharing one of my most awesome resources... The shop with a huge array of texture designs:

I actually first used their texture sheets when I was working on metal clay.

I purchased the texture sheets while at a bead show in Oakland several years back.  And then a few years later (yes, that's how I role). I noticed the name of the company.  Rolling Mill Resource.  Ha ha ha!

So that Larimar piece (above) was the first time I used these texture sheets in a rolling mill.  LOVE the effect.  What a great way to texture as an alternative to hammering or etching.

Here are my recent pieces...


Yes.  Definitely having fun.

Now you may ask, why is Laura sharing such a great resource?  I like to think I'm a sharing kind of person, but mostly it's because this company does what I think sets us small businesses apart from very large businesses.

Aside from offering a great product, they have outstanding customer service.  Customer service is a deal maker or deal breaker for me.

Let me segue for a second and tell you a little story from 23 years ago.  I was in the market for a car.  I had arranged via multiple phone conversations with a dealer about 60 miles from me for the car I wanted at a mutually agreed upon exact price.  The night I was to pick it up, it was pouring rain, I was in rush-hour traffic forEVER and I had my infant son in the car with me.

Got to the dealer and they showed me the paperwork with the price on it.  I said, "This is $80 more than we agreed upon." 

"Well, there were things we didn't account for."

"Well," I said, "We agree on THAT price not THIS price, so THAT price is what I'm willing to pay."

"So," the dealer said, "You're willing to lose this sale over $80?"

"No," I said, "You are."  And I left.

I know lots of people think I'm insane or stubborn beyond all reason.  After all, what's $80 when you're talking about a $35,000 car.  But for me, it was the point of the matter.  I felt I was being manipulated.  They thought once I had driven all the way there and was so close to getting the car I wanted, I'd surely think nothing of forking over another $80.

But to me, a deal is a deal.... and I don't like feeling like I'm being taken advantage of.

So as far as *I* was concerned, THEY are the ones who lost the deal over a measly $80. 

I ended up getting the exact car I wanted from a local dealer for a better price than that first offer. 

That experience stuck with me as an example of bad customer service.  There have been others.  But there have also been many experiences of good customer service.

I was reading an article a couple years ago that was talking about how we (small, independent businesses) can set ourselves apart from big-box competition.  One of the most important is customer service.

So to bring it all back, I want to tell you that Rolling Mill Resource has exceptional customer service.  That makes me want to tell all my friends about them.

It has been my experience that, aside from selling great products, they go above and beyond to ensure the customers are satisfied and happy.

If you use their products, I'd love for you to comment here and share images.

And don't forget this cool tip for cleaning your rolling mill:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Downsizing... Part 4

So I'm cleaning the bedroom (again!) because things accumulate.  This means, to me, that I have too much stuff.

I am methodical, though.  I do my "clock" again.  Pick one spot in the room and just pick up EVERYTHING in that one spot and deal with it... then rotate to the right and do the same thing to the next spot and so on until I've made a 360 around the whole room.

I just picked up a box of strings.  Well, I mean, not strings exactly... it's cords, I guess.  Pieces of leather cording and hemp and cotton, etc.  These are all for use in jewelry making.  And I look at some of these and it's easy to see why I purchased them in the first place... they're lovely.  I see this beautiful shade of teal in a soft suede cord and I hesitate.

And I hear that voice again: "I might need this some day."  And there it is... the phrase that is the bane of every hoarder.  I might need it some day

So the other side of me reasons, "I have no current idea what I'd use that for and if I ever do create a design that needs something like that, I can purchase it again."

"But isn't that a waste of money?  'Cause I already have it here, now.  If I sell this at destash pricing, and then buy it again down the line for full price, isn't that wasteful?"

"No, because it costs me more (in many ways) to keep an entire box of cords with the thought that someday I may need something that's in there."

And so... to destash it goes!

I've got my bins set up on my bed.  12 boxes...
  • Jewelry to work on
  • Jewelry ready to list online
  • Jewelry for the gallery
  • Things to photograph
  • Beads
  • Findings
  • Tools
  • Jewelry to cannibalize
  • Things to list on destash
  • Items currently on destash
  • Items that sold
  • Garage sale
I will be listing in destash soon.  If you want in, it's a public FB group.

I actually destash in three places:
Okay, back to work now.  Will report on my progress in a day or two.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Downsizing... Part 3

Been busy with holidays, problems with house repairs, custom orders, duties as my new position as president-elect of the gallery, and my first workshop of 2017.

I have been watching a lot of "Tiny House" episodes and today is my first day where I have time.  I had to decide "work" vs "organizing".  Since I don't have ideas for specific designs at the moment, I went with "organizing".

To repeat, I have no desire to live in a tiny house (although there are caveats to that, but I'll explain at a later time).  So yeah, not downsizing in order to live in a tiny house but it's definitely inspiring in the way of ... well, downsizing, organizing, streamlining, etc.  I think that is good no matter where you live.

Putting clean laundry away at the moment.  Do I need 10 kitchen towels?  Yes, it's awesome in so far as I don't have to do the laundry as often, but.... they take up space whether they're dirty and in the hamper or clean and in the storage drawer.  So I'm limiting certain items to the storage bins I have assigned them.

This is one of those standard size canvas boxes that fits into a wall unit.  I have four bins in that wall unit so whatever fits in one of those bins is it.

They contain:
  • Small towels (kitchen and bathroom)
  • Large towels (bath towels)
  • Pants and shorts
  • T-Shirts (my work shirts)

My nice shirts get hung up.  In my closet is an open bin each for: socks, undies, bras. Sweaters and jackets are on hooks, along with scarves, gloves hats, and purses (well, bags really, but to some women they're purses).

I am pretty good in the kitchen... I don't have a TON of cutlery or dishes.  It means I have to do the dishes a lot.  :-)

Books.  That could be considered one of my downfalls.  I have given away and sold many of my books in the past five years, but I still have a pretty healthy collection.

A lot of the jewelry books are keepers.  They're inspiration and references.

Then I've got some "thinking" books... they're the ones on philosophy, physics, neuroscience, astronomy, and psychology.  I'm not ready to part with those.

There are some cookbooks I have to leaf through before deciding if I want to keep them or not.  Same with the "self-help" books.

I have a large collection of horror books... those are going up for sale.

The jewelry magazines... sigh... I really don't want to keep them.  It'll be hard, but I must force myself.  I will start going through them and will clip out anything of interest.  The only problem with that is my "interests" change.  But as someone who could excel at hoarding (BUT WHAT IF I NEED IT SOME DAY?!), I just have to convince myself that the possibility of losing something that I'd never be able to find on the internet or in a book elsewhere is not as important as the idea of having a less cluttered living space.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Downsizing... Part 2

So here are my two main organizing/downsizing strategies.

The first is that I pick one spot in a room, then I go around the room as though it were a clock and I'm the minute hand just moving from the beginning of the hour all the way around until the end of the hour.

It makes it seem doable as opposed to looking at the room with that "deer in the headlights" look.  It's easy to see an overwhelming amount of "stuff" and just freeze into inaction.  The clock method helps.  It's like putting blinders on and staying focused on task, even if the immediate task is just little... just that one little spot in front of you... then moving to the next tiny spot.

The second thing I do is compartmentalize.  I take between 3-10 boxes (depending on the task) and label them.

Sometimes they're labeled with the names of other rooms: Bathroom, Bedroom, Garage, etc.

Sometimes they're labeled with categories: Papers, Not This Room, Clothes, etc.

Those "category" boxes can be further sorted later.  But in the interim, if you have to find something this gives you a better chance of finding it.  For example, I needed my DMV registration form and it was so much easier to just grab my one box of papers and go through that until I found the letter than it would have been to search through every nook and cranny of the house for a letter with piles of papers everywhere, stuffed in drawers, laying on top of book cases, etc.

This "downsizing/cleaning/organizing" that I'm doing is being done in my spare time, which for someone who takes care of 3 acres, a senior citizen, a 2000 sq ft house, and 3 cats... while trying to run a business that includes working at a gallery, teaching, making jewelry, marketing, and running a jewelry makers' organization (whew!) is kind of a joke.  But we do what we gotta do, right?

At least that (the above) might help to explain how things tend to get out of hand.  I just finished two shows.  One was three days, the other was two days.  I was prepared for neither so lots of last minute creating and packing.  Which means that a lot of other things didn't happen... like baskets of clean laundry didn't get folded and put away, mail didn't get sorted and dealt with, labels that didn't work didn't get sorted for salvage, accoutrements for sending out orders didn't get put away, etc.

As I said yesterday, nothing's really dirty or dangerous... just stuff ends up piling up into a center of the rooms like a magnetic vortex or something.

So here's today's progress.  Unfortunately I don't have a good "before" photo of the computer corner, but here's a bit of it...

So I took everything out of that corner of  the room, one at a time, cleaned each item (I do have a dust problem) then put back only the things that belong there.  I put my new power strip down (yay!), removed some electronics I wasn't even using, taped some of the cords to the back of the computer desk (I hate all that stuff on the floor)...

... and here's the corner now.

I added some aloe plants because I have no plants in my room and I don't mind having something in there that produces oxygen.  Aloe is supposed to be an air purifier too (see NASA's clean air study).

I moved my label printer and my postage scale to much more convenient locations (get a surge protector with lots of holes!).  Actually, let me show you which surge protector I got.  Aside from lots of holes, the holes are in different directions for optimal use AND there are two really nifty latch holders on the end that keep the cords down.  Really spiffy.

And notice that thing on the wall to the right of my desk.  THAT is perfect for tiny homes.  It's a 2-dimensional (okay, not really, but nearly) file cabinet!  All my important and often used files are there.  I got them on Amazon.

 WAY better than this...

And while it's true that the traditional file cabinet will hold more, it takes up way too much space in my prime real estate.  I keep my 3-dimensional file cabinets in the garage, while all the papers I deal with frequently are on my wall at my fingertips and out of the way. 

This one I did yesterday.  Took some of the things that I wear frequently so don't want to "put away" (I hate putting things away... so much work) and here they are... again, at my fingertips.  This was a bit of empty wall space in my living room so I just put some Monkey hooks into the sheet rock and voila!  I don't have to LOOK for this stuff that I use every day and they aren't cluttering up my bedroom.  IMO there's no point in putting things out of sight if you use them every day.  This is neat enough a solution for me.

Here's something I spent about five minutes debating about.  It's a set of glass coaster that you can put photos into.  But I can't justify keeping them because I've HAD them for over a year and never did anything with them.  Ugh!  I was originally going to put poppy images in them then give them to my mom, but I think she's already got coasters.  I don't need coaster because I have a glass table and if I did want coaster they wouldn't be glass... my glasses and coffee cups would be lethal with glass coasters.  I'm NOT a gentle person.

So now they're in the give-away pile.  Yay me!

Oh, look what I found when I moved my computer desk out.  A Labradorite and a Moonstone.  Whoohoo!

So here is (a side view) of the couch in my bedroom.  Well, it's just a little love-seat but I call it a couch.  It's not FILTHY... I just end up piling stuff on it.  In this photo I see clean clothes, winter things (that I ended up putting on those Monkey Hooks), my surge protector, mail that I have to deal with, and stuff I use to wrap out-going packages.

And here's the couch after I dealt with that stuff.

I still have a short stack of books I need to deal with, but at least a person can sit down now.

Watched a couple more episodes of tiny house stuff while I was doing this organizing.  There are some cute ideas.  I think the "tiny house" aesthetic can (and should) be utilized everywhere, not just necessarily in 200 square foot living spaces.

To see the start of this journey, go to PART 1.