March 22, 2011

Sneak Peek

handmade, crystal necklace, cluster
Here's a sneek peak at something I've been working on. It is almost finished and I will be listing it on my ArtFire studio in a few days! I'm excited because I wasn't sure how I was going to use some of the components when I first bought them, and then it just hit me, the way things sometimes do.

(Please pardon the awful photo. This was just a quick snapshot.)
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Becoming Collectible on ArtFire

During my lunch break today, I popped on over to ArtFire to do my daily Check-In, and I noticed I had a message in my inbox. This is not a frequent occurrence at this point in my crafty business venture, so I was super excited to see what it was all about. I had a message saying that one of my items had been featured in a handpicked collection by another ArtFire member. Yippee!

What's a collection, you ask?

Each member can pick some sort of theme and choose at least twelve items to feature that are somehow related to that theme. Collections are featured in a separate section on the site, they can be rated, and they can be commented upon. Basically, they are a nice way for other members to promote each other and themselves. Thanks to JazzitupJewelryDesign on ArtFire for including my earrings in your collection!

March 18, 2011

House Hunting

Time for a small detour in my topics. My husband and I got married in November and are currently in the market to purchase our first home. It is both exciting and a bit scary at the same time. I can't wait to have my own place with walls I can paint whatever color I like and just generally feel like it's mine. Not to mention, after living in a one bedroom apartment for the past five years, we are ready for a little extra space.

Our current apartment is actually pretty cool. We live in downtown Raleigh within walking distance to everything our growing downtown has to offer, including a cupcake shop about 25 steps from our front door (yes, dangerous!). At the same time, our street is quiet despite being in the thick of it, and we have become spoiled with the combination of being able to walk home from a bar and still get some sleep at night without a ton of city noise. We are hoping to find a house in downtown that still allows us to walk to many of the places we enjoy, yet our modest budget certainly limits our options.

Our current building is over 100 years old and was renovated just over 10 years ago, so it is a great combination of old house charm and modern conveniences (can you say dishwasher? Yay!). It has high ceilings, lovely hardwood floors, those old heavy doors through which sound cannot penetrate, and glass doorknobs. These little details add so much character to a dwelling, and I just love them. The majority of apartments that I have lived in have been similar, and I would love to find these same details in the house we eventually purchase.

But as great as our apartment is, it is only a one bedroom, and well, we need more space! Both of us are creative and crafty people, and our living room and dining room table are always morphing into studio and workshop. This kind of hinders things like watching TV on the couch or eating dinner. Hm. So it is time for something bigger, and ours.

March 16, 2011

To Blog or Not To Blog...

Blogging can be fun and inspiring, but it can also be intimidating. This is not my first blog, but it is the only one I've attempted in about seven years, and it is the only one I've actually hoped to share with others outside of my circle of friends and family. It is also the only blog I've started with the hopes of starting a business!

Fatdogbeads had a post featured on Handmade Spark  about actively entering the blogging foray as a regular blogger. She talks about the reasons excuses she has found not to blog, as well as the very good reasons that she should. I found myself relating to a lot of what she mentioned, and I find myself making some of the same excuses. But, like her, I'm determined!

So far, one of my biggest barriers to blogging is when my ideas occur to me. Since I started this blog a month ago, I've had some really good ideas come to me - during the most inopportune times! I have great ideas driving down the road at 70 mph, while I'm washing my hair in the shower and mentally following rabbit trails, or when I'm at my full-time job (when I'm supposed to be working on someone else's work, not mine).

Another barrier is that I want to make things based on some of my findings in the blogosphere. I've found some great DIY projects that I can't wait to try out and put my own spin on so I can post about them. Right now I've got a list of about five projects I want to blog about, but I'm still working (in what little spare time I have) on building my inventory for my ArtFire studio. Some of the blog projects will hopefully end up good enough to sell, but there are no guarantees when you are trying new techniques out for the first time!

But I know that blogging will help my business aspirations. I'll be able to chronicle my work, the interesting things I find from other artisans and crafters, and hopefully provide inspiration to others.

Like Fatdogbeads, I also promise to blog.

March 14, 2011

Salty + Sweet

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for salty and sweet flavor combos. Something about the two flavors balancing each other out make me unable to control myself. So a cookie made out of potato chips sounds right up my alley.

I found this recipe for potato chip cookies on Handmade Spark that sounds amazing.  I decided to put my own spin on the recipe by adding crumbled Heath bar. Delish!

Oxidizing Sterling Silver With Lime Sulfur

how to oxidize silver with lime sulfur @ Things Uncommon

After my failed attempt to oxidize silver with a boiled egg, my next experiment was oxidizing with lime sulfur, and I thought I'd whip up a quick tutorial, since I had not seen one online for this method. Lime sulfur is easily found at a garden center and relatively inexpensive (about $10). It is a potent chemical, so be sure to use gloves and work in a well ventilated area - it stinks like rotten eggs (that's the sulfur for ya!).

I never found detailed instructions mentioning time or specific measurements for this oxidation method, so I just made some educated guesses the first time I tried this. I used this method to oxidize a few jump rings.

how to oxidize sterling silver with lime sulfur jumprings @ Things Uncommon

I placed about ¼ cup of hot water in a plastic container (cut off bottom of a soda bottle) and added about four drops of lime sulfur (just eyeballed it out of the bottle, though I may try to get a dropper for better control next time). I added my sliver findings and let it sit, checking on it every five minutes or so, and giving the liquid a little swish.

oxidizing sterling silver with lime sulfur @ Things Uncommon

After about 20 minutes, the silver had completely oxidized to a dark gray finish and I removed the silver from the wash. I rinsed them off thoroughly, of course.

oxidized sterling silver jumprings lime sulfur @ Things Uncommon

I like the gray finish, but will try this experiment again to see if a darker finish can be achieved if I leave the silver in the wash a bit longer.

And here are a pair of rose quartz earrings I made with my oxidized findings.

rose quartz oxidized sterling silver cluster earrings

March 13, 2011

Oxidizing Sterling Silver: A Multitude of Methods

Call me crazy, but I adore the look of oxidized silver. There’s something very romantic and organic about aged silver, not to mention that you never have to worry about polishing it!

What do I mean by oxidized? Oxidation is the dark coloration that forms on silver over time, also known as tarnish. It is caused by a chemical reaction between the metal and chemicals in the environment. Usually, oxidation occurs over time and is something that people generally try to prevent or correct by polishing silver to a high sheen. However, the antiqued look of oxidized silver can be very attractive in a jewelry application (not so sure I’d want to eat off of oxidized silverware, though).

Since I hadn’t really worked with sterling silver until I decided to create my own craft business, I had never really thought about oxidizing it on purpose. When I finally realized what I had been missing out on, I searched and searched to find different techniques for hand oxidizing. There are several different methods (it is only a chemical reaction, after all), but I never really found one good place that compared the most popular ones. I’m going to try to do that now!

Liver of Sulfur (LOS)
This is the most common method of oxidizing sterling silver. LOS is a potent chemical used by jewelers to create the dark patina on silver. It can be used to achieve several different shades of oxidization. I haven’t tried this yet for a few reasons: it is a hazardous chemical making it expensive to ship and it has a short shelf life. Since I’m just experimenting at this point, I don't really want to invest in something that goes bad quickly! However, if you simply search for “oxidizing silver”, this will be the most common method you will find. I think it is considered the industry standard, so I know it will work. If I don’t find any of the other methods to be adequate, I will probably go with LOS.

LOS comes in several different forms such as pellets, premixed liquid, and a gel. It generally needs to be diluted in warm water before applying to your silver.

Lime Sulfur
While reading forums about using LOS, I noted a few posts that mentioned lime sulfur, which is a chemical used in gardening for pest control on plants. This chemical has a longer shelf life than LOS, is a bit more economical ,and is easy to find in a local hardware store or garden center.

Lime sulfur comes in a liquid form. The information that I found said to dilute a few drops of lime sulphur in a larger portion of hot water, then soak the silver.

Hard Boiled Egg
There are tons of tutorials out there for oxidizing silver with a boiled egg. I tried this method with a few headpins and earwires. I boiled a large egg (it had been in the fridge for a while), broke up the yolk and placed it in a plastic container with some findings. According to the tutorial I read, I should have noticed some oxidation after five or so minutes, but I had nothing after 10. Bummer. I thought my yolk cooled off too much, so I heated it up (without the silver!) in the microwave and placed it back in with the silver. Ten more minutes passed and my findings were merely eggy. Then I thought that maybe I just didn’t have enough yolk to do the job, so I boiled up another egg (a little fresher than the previous egg) and added it to the container. After another 10 minutes I still had nothing. What the heck? Everything I had read said that it works great, takes a bit longer to achieve a black patina, but you should be able to see oxidation after a little while. Maybe my container isn’t airtight, I thought. So I switched everything out to a ziplock bag and forgot about it until the next day.

Disappointment. I noticed just a very small amount of very light uneven oxidation after a full 24 hours and stinky eggs. It just didn’t work for me this time, but I do plan to try this again because I would rather oxidize my silver without having to use harsh (and toxic, I might add) chemicals. Unfortunately I did not take any photos of my findings after this process, but I will the next time I try this method.

Household Bleach
I found very little information about using this method, but it does seem to work. I tried oxidizing a ring I don't wear anymore in straight bleach, and it oxidized to a nice dark black. I’ve read in a few other places to make a 50/50 bleach/water solution as a straight bleach solution may damage the metal.

Next time I’ll post the photos from my experiment with lime sulfur.

March 7, 2011

Necklace from Nature: An Awesome DIY

I found this very cool DIY via the One Pretty Thing Jewelry Making Roundup for a necklace using pieces of wood you can find around your yard: Wood Disc Necklace: Guest Tutorial by The Scrap Shoppe.

What a great way to use natural elements in your projects. I tend to forget about the use of glue and adhesives when I make my pieces, but it definitely opens up more possibilities for the variety of materials that can be used. I can't wait to try my own variation of this technique!

March 2, 2011

ArtFire Rocks: Things Uncommon

So far I've opened a studio on ArtFire.
Things Uncommon ArtFire studio
Some of the benefits I see with ArtFire versus other online handmade sales venues are:
  • ArtFire offers a free Basic Membership. This means that you can set up a shop (called a "studio" in the ArtFire world) for free. You can post unlimited listings in your studio, and they will be active for four months (assuming they don't sell, but hopefully they will!). You get to personalize your studio with a banner and an avatar. Once you get your sealegs you can go Pro for a flat monthly fee (currently $9.95) - ArtFire does not charge listing fees, nor do they take a percentage of your sales!
  • ArtFire does not require buyers to be members. To me, this is an awesome benefit compared to Etsy, where all buyers must sign up for an account with Etsy in order to make a purchase. I know how I feel about constantly having to create new logins and memberships (and the associated spam that inevitably comes with them). So I feel that potential customers would appreciate the ease of putting items in a cart and checking out without having to create yet another login and password to forget remember.
  • SEO. ArtFire is big on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They offer tutorials and information to sellers on how to get the most bang for their keyword bucks. They want you to be found, because buyers who do not know about ArtFire most likely do know about Google. They also like to keep members informed of changes in the internet search world, such as the latest changes at Google and what they mean to sellers.
It was super easy to set up an account and get started. Listing items is fairly straight forward, and navigating your studio is generally intuitive. So far so good. I need to get busy and get to work on some more items to list. Like I said before, it's going to be a slow process, and so far it has been. I feel like I've been working two full-time jobs despite not actually having the free time of another full-time job. But it is exciting, especially since I've already made one sale!