Monday, November 9, 2009

More ways to remake vintage jewelry

Part of my giant lot of jewelry included some post earrings in the shape of square frames decorated with stylized leaves and birds. The earrings had bezels inside the frame and were finished with antiqued silver plating.

I had planned to rework these earrings into dangles with pretty cabashons set in the bezels. However, even though I have a pretty good selection of cabs in different shapes and sizes, I didn't have a single one that fit the existing bezels. So I cut the bezels off and started filing those spots smooth.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that these earrings were not plated brass, but plated copper! As I said in my earlier post, most of these components are at least 20-30 years old, and these clearly date from the time before copper became so expensive. When these earrings were made, copper was as cheap as brass, and was often used as an inexpensive base for jewelry. Also, copper was not popular as a focal metal in itself like it is now.

So I carefully removed the plating from the earrings, leaving small amounts in the incised details, and the results are beautiful! After removing the bezels and the plating, I drilled holes to hang pinecone charms, wrapped the original earring posts into loops, and hung these from elongated copper ear wires.

The final product is a completely new design, with only a passing resemblence to the original earrings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reworking Vintage Jewelry

I can't believe that it has been five months since I last posted on this blog! I shall try to do better in the future. :o)

I recently purchased two large lots of vintage jewelry components, totaling 48 pounds of components in all. These components are "new old stock" from the people who manufacture these pieces for costume jewelry designers. It's clear that these pieces have sat in a storeroom somewhere for the last 20-30 years. The first lot that I purchased was made up of several large batches of the same type of item, and I spent about four hours sorting those into useable categories.

The second lot was composed of four bags of mixed components: raw brass, plated brass, copper, chains, finished and partially finished pieces, all jumbled together with no rhyme or reason. This lot took about 10 hours to sort and categorize! (It's also the most fun and interesting.)

I sell my own handmade jewelry on Etsy, and so I have been remaking the finished pieces to reflect my own designs. I thought that others might be interested in seeing how old jewelry can be used to create brand new designs.

The first piece I'll write about is my Romantic Charm Necklace:

Above is a picture of the original components, followed by two pictures of the finished piece.

As you can see, I removed the star charm from the art deco style hanger and used the hanger for the top piece. To that I added an earring base with an oval bezel and bottom ring. I removed the cameo caboshon from a post earring and reset it in the bezel, then wrapped the earring hook to create the top loop which connects this piece to the main hanger. Finally, I scavenged charms and a teardrop pearl from other pieces to hang from the charm ring.

Of course, I still had to add the chain, clasp, extender chain and back charm to finish the necklace.

Isn't that a fun way to design jewelry? I can't wait to play with my new components more. Too bad I have a day job to go to tomorrow.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Important is Pretty Packaging to You?

A few days ago I posted the following question in the Etsy forums:

"I've seen several posts advising people to use pretty packaging with ribbons, fabric bags, etc. I've also read that one should include pictures of their packaging in the listing...So, what do you think? Does pretty packaging make you want to buy again? Is it worth the extra cost to you? Also, as a buyer, do you care about seeing pictures of packaging in the listings?"

There were over 100 responses to this post, and the results caused me to rethink my own packaging strategy. Fifty people stated that attractive packaging was very important to them; thirty-one stated that it wasn’t important to them, and twenty people stated that pretty packaging was nice, but not really necessary.

For the most part, the "not important" and "nice" responses sited concerns over reducing waste and expense. Not surprisingly, everyone agrees that pretty packaging is worthless if the items are not well protected. All of the ribbons in the world won't make up for receiving something that was damaged en route.

I also found that nearly everyone believes that some sellers go overboard with the pretty packaging. One poster complained of having her purchase wrapped in so many ribbons and tape that she struggled to get it open.

A reoccurring theme throughout the thread was that packaging should be minimal, but pretty, elegant, or colorful. Many people expressed a preference for environmentally-friendly ("green") packaging – if it can be green and pretty, even better.

Many people who showed a strong preference for pretty packaging stated that it would influence their decision to purchase from a shop again. Even several of the "nice but not necessary" responses showed an inclination to buy again from a shop with nicer packaging. One poster (lovelymuch) summed it up nicely, "I'd like to say I don't care that much about packaging because I try to be eco-friendly however, to be honest, if I found 2 necklaces I liked from different sellers and one had pretty packaging and the other didn't, I'd opt for the pretty one."

Very few people commented on the practice of showing pictures of one's packaging in their Etsy listing, but all of those who did said it was not necessary. Apparently people would prefer to see another shot of the item they were buying instead of packaging.

Another interesting point that was made repeatedly in this thread is that different products require different levels of packaging. Large, fragile, and/or more utilitarian items simply need to be packed carefully, neatly, and safely in clean materials. Jewelry and other luxury items require a higher level of packaging. Throwing a pair of earrings into a bubble envelope is not acceptable; and the more expensive the jewelry, the nicer the packaging should be.

Finally, one poster pointed out that several studies have shown that packaging has a strong influence on a buyer's perceived value of the product. Basically, customers are willing to pay more for products with nicer packaging. (This whole concept is incredibly interesting and will be the subject of a later blog post from yours truly.)

So, to sum up, here is what I gleaned from that thread:

- It is worth my time to create attractive packaging for my items.
- This packaging needs to be simple, green, and inexpensive, yet elegant.(Being reusable is a nice plus.)
- A handwritten thank you note is essential (I have always included this anyway).
- Extra little gifts are not necessary.
- I do not need to include a picture of the packaging in my Etsy listing; although I will be describing it in my shop policies, to let people know how much of my packaging is recycled, upcycled, and green.

Thank you to everyone who commented on that thread, I found it interesting and very useful. More to come on the packaging issue…

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Featured Artist - Margie McNutt

Today’s featured artist is Margie McNutt, a charming lady who creates beautiful items from fused glass. (

Margie calls fused glass “a functional art form,” which is certainly well demonstrated with her beautiful platters and bowls. In our modern world of mass production, where the same items appear in every store, it’s wonderful to be able to find true artists who carefully design and hand make each piece.

Along with her functional art, Margie creates some amazing glass sculptures of trees and lacy tangles of grass. It was one of her trees that first attracted me to Margie’s shop, and they are still my favorite items in a shop full of beautiful things.

Margie’s prices are quite reasonable, especially when you consider the time, effort, and sheer expense involved in creating these lovelies.

Since I knew almost nothing about working with fused glass, Margie was kind enough to share with me the steps involved in creating one of her trees:

“The Wild and Tangled Tree is a kiln-formed or fused piece of glass. To achieve it there are three different firings in the kilns. In the first fire is the body of the tree; strips of glass are piled at different angles on a kiln shelf then they are fired at a full fuse (1500 degrees). The second firing is to put the 'leaves' on the tree. Without moving the first firing from the shelf, I use a mixture of greens in coarse frit (frit is a small piece of glass), putting the frit on the outer edges of the full fused strips of glass. I then do a second firing in the kiln. The frit is fired into a soft fuse (1380 degrees).

After going through the proper annealing etc. in the kiln, the glass is removed, washed and prepared to be draped. Draping is done by placing the flat glass on a tall cylinder mold, (solid side of mold up). After centering the glass, it is once more fired to drape over the mold (1255 degrees). With all three firings the glass spends over 24 hours in the kiln heating and about the same time cooling! When the glass has cooled to 150 degrees or less, I open the kiln and remove the now upside down tree from the mold. It is always a thrill to see the finished product, each different, each with a personality of its own.

Glass is a passion for me; it is a medium that is capable of becoming so many wonderful functional pieces of art. I truly think I dream glass! There is always the next project forming in my mind, ready to become a reality. Perhaps not exactly like I pictured, as glass at times has a mind of its own, but always a thrill to open the kiln after the final firing to discover what my dream has become!”

Please visit Margie’s shop and check out all of her beautiful works of art. We’re in the season of weddings – think how wonderful it would be to give the bride and groom something this beautiful and unique!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Featured Artist – Wendy’s Stitchworks

Wendy’s Stitchworks is another shop that I discovered while lurking in the Etsy forums. Wendy’s avatar is a white cartoon poodle that I couldn’t resist following to a shop full of cute and clever hand stitched felt items.

One of Wendy's designs is a child’s felt necklace with a smiling cloud pendant. Cute? Of course, but what I like is that the cloud is actually a tiny purse with a snap closure. Not into anthropomorphic clouds? Then check out the zippered coin purses that are made to look like slices of fruit (watermelon and lime).

If you’re really into cute (and I know many of you who are), you’ll love, love, love the tiny bunny, kitty, and squirrel doll trio. These little critters stand only 3” tall and each wears a different, but very mod mini dress. Yes, these little ones look like they are heading out for a girls’ night out at the nearest dance party.

Finally, there is the piece that won me over completely: a hand-stitched mouse pad with a non-slip bottom and a tiny white cat standing guard over your mouse. Who could resist this? Not I, certainly.

Wendy’s items are also very reasonably priced, with everything currently selling for under $20 and many items under $10.

Move over, Hello Kitty, there’s a new cutie pie in town!

Wendy’s Stitchworks

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Featured Artist – impulseART

I came across this shop just the other day while lurking in the Etsy forums, and immediately fell in love with her work. ImpulsART is owned by Hailey Rose, who sells her own beautiful photographs, which are mostly of nature. Hailey lives in Utah, so she has some pretty spectacular nature to work with!

Hailey’s prices are very reasonable, ranging from under $10 for a 5” x 5” print to $45 for a 20” x 30” print. Once you see her work, you will want one of her photos for yourself.

This is my favorite print, “His Hand,” which features her fiancĂ©’s hand holding a very tiny lizard. Beautiful and evocative, the subject is simple, yet lends itself to so many interpretations. I was captivated by it immediately.

Please take a few minutes to visit Hailey’s shop (or should I say her art gallery?). And by all means, buy something now, before she becomes so famous that you can’t afford her work any more!

Hailey’s bio:
Raised in a farm lifestyle I have always revered Mother Nature from the soil to the trees to the sky with all the wonderful living creatures and plants among her. "She" inspires me along with "life."

As it seems many photographer’s bio starts out... I got my first camera when I was 8. It was one of those obnoxious long skinny cameras that took that odd ball size film that cost a fortune to buy and develop. But this was "my" camera until I got older. In High School I took a year of photography where I worked with mostly black and whites and developed all of my own film and prints. At 18 my parents bought me a Nikon N80 (film, not digital).

I then took up a job working in a photo lab for almost a year processing lots of film. After a couple years I decided to jump on the digital band wagon and I could say "never looked back," but I do day dream about using film again. I have since graduated to using a Canon Rebel XTI. Besides my Ford Mustang ... my camera is my first love.

My fiancé' and I love our road-trips and all the opportunities to make memories and take great photos. Besides photography, I love to paint. I paint a bit of everything on anything. All just depends on my inspirations at that moment. I also enjoy working with wood and I like to putter with a little bit of jewelry, mostly made out of wood with some sort of painting involved.

Etsy, Etsy, Etsy.

Etsy has taken over my life! Anyone who has seriously attempted selling on Etsy will know exactly what I mean.

I have a “day job,” but it seems as though every spare minute for the last five months has been spent making jewelry, photographing jewelry, posting new products, marketing, reading Etsy forum threads, re-taking photos, re-working my shop, re-re-taking my photos, etc. etc. etc.

And I’m loving it!

So, what exactly is Etsy, you ask? To quote, “ is an online marketplace for artists and crafters to sell their works. Officially, it is "Your place to buy and sell all things handmade." Etsy is a venue, not a retailer; it is collection of independent shops, each run by a different artisan. “

What does “Etsy” mean? Good question – if anyone ever finds out, please let me know.

As stated above, Etsy is an online marketplace. On Etsy, one should only find handmade, vintage, or supply items for sale. (Commercial resellers sneak in, a lot, but that is another post.) Each person sets up and maintains his or her own shop on Etsy. It’s sort of like a craft or trade show, only it is online, covers the globe, and is always open.

My shop is Funny name, I know. I first set up an Etsy account back in 2007 to buy some items, and then didn’t realize that this would be my shop name when I decided to start selling in January 2009. That’s okay though, Dan and I are partners, so this name is appropriate.

I sell jewelry here, and Dan sells clay creatures, and very cute ones at that. Anyone meeting my somewhat burly, bearded, Harley-riding husband for the first time would never guess that he could easily be crowned “The King of Cute.” (OK, he’s going to kill me for that. lol)

This blog will mostly be about my experiences on Etsy, although other ramblings will probably creep in here and there. I especially want to highlight some of the amazing artists that sell on Etsy.

If you’ve never been to, I encourage you to do so. Your bank balance will never be the same.