Friday, August 31, 2012

Idiot Proofing

NOTE: In an effort to pay more attention to my day job, I'm starting a new Friday Series called Inside the Rubber Room. The subject matter will be rubber stamping but, I'm hoping my crafty audience will follow along!

For more years than I can count, I have sold two sets of 12 stamps each geared toward artists making jewelry using rubber stamps. These 24 stamps are the very first I ever designed myself. I created them after becoming certified to teach PMC on a lark and hating the rubber stamps used in class! I knew I could do better!
Blacker images are darker and not as deeply etched as images with more white in them.

After having them tested by many of the professional stampers, polyclay and PMC artisans I know from my Carol Duvall days, I pursued the PMC Corporation as a customer. I could land the account BUT, the sheets had to be in one piece. This would make it easier to hang and display in stores! What I didn't learn about packaging and presentation in those early days!

And manufacturing! Cranking out thousands of dollars of rubber stamps from a 3 man factory! OY! What an education! And no, those sheets didn't always come off my vulcanizer in one pretty sheet. But my mom is a child of the Great Depression. I simply couldn't throw those slightly imperfect stamp sheets out! I started cutting out the damaged images and saving the rest. Before I knew it, I had several complete sets of the 12 images. I would sell these as 2nds... because the sheet was not whole. The images were just fine!
Darker images still stamp beautifully!

We went along like this for YEARS. Until some wiseacre bought a set of seconds off our site and then wanted a refund as if it were a perfect set. She claimed she cut them apart... like we couldn't tell from the discounted price! So as a result of that lovely customer, we moved all 2nds to Etsy. And all was well for YEARS.

 How the seconds arrive...

Until a few weeks ago when a glasser I know bought some of them.  She took one look at them and declared them inferior! And wanted a full refund including shipping. I gladly offer refunds on actual items but unless I made some grave error - like packing the wrong set - I rarely offer shipping refunds. As a business person, it's near impossible to offer a refund on money the post office has taken!

Samples of PMC using the stamps!

After a week of emails, I finally begged / pleaded / cajoled her to try them! She wrote to say I was right... they worked on clay but they didn't on paper. And she sent me a picture. I could tell from the heavily inked lines through her images that either her pad was getting dry or newly inked. It was the later. She ended up keeping the stamps but suggested " you offer a refund with postage to those of us who are unfamiliar ."

It left me banging my head against that rubber wall... My customer is an idiot who has no idea how black and white line drawings translate into rubber and I'm supposed to offer a refund with POSTAGE??? OY! It's days like these I want to chuck it all and get a real job...if only I could find one!

So last week, I sat down and wrote disclaimers for all my seconds on Etsy.

ABOUT THESE STAMPS: I manufacture and sell full uncut sheets to retail outlets. Sometimes the sheets do not come off the vulcanizer in ONE full sheet. Any damaged images are THROWN AWAY and the remaining GOOD IMAGES are kept and sold at a discount here. You will receive all 12 PERFECT images but most will be cut apart in the 2" squares. Because they are not a perfect 7 x 9 sheet, they are called "seconds" on your receipt reflecting the discounted price you have received. PHOTO 3 shows an uncut 1/2 sheet of rubber.

PHOTO 4: is most likely how your stamps will arrive. 12 PERFECT images, cut apart. Questions? Just ask!
Hopefully this will hold for a few years until I run across another idiot! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

China Bead

Meet China. She is a very large display bead containing the cremains of a beloved pet. Her owner wanted a simple way for China's dad to remember the love she brought to them. The cremains are cased in a solid color so they won't be seen. Since they didn't know how they would display this bead, the heart was to be placed both horizontally and vertically.

The colors were chosen to be color of China's furs and to represent the love.  And here is a photo of the beautiful China on my work table, snoopervising:

Unfortunately, we had a nightmare getting this China's precious package to her owners! What a lesson I learned. They only live 12 miles from me... I shipped priority mail figuring delivery confirmation was an accurate thing!  I received a notice it had been delivered. And a few hours later, China's mom wrote how she was anxiously awaiting the arrival! Wha????

What followed was days of begging, pleading, cajoling and crying on both our parts! It took almost a week to sort out that they temp postman had placed the package through the door of an empty house a block from my customer's home!  The occupants had recently moved away!  After days of phone calls and emails and research, China's mom took matters into her own hands and shoved a not through the door of the empty house. She got her package the next day! The previous owners had come by to check mail, found the note and the package and walked it down the street.

Now, packages containing cremains REQUIRE a signature; the price of avoiding stupid postmen!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just a Story

I'm blessed to have a few very dear friends and my best friend lives around the corner. She is often the first to see my beads.... the good ones and the ones that I think are disasters.

Yesterday, as we were running errands, I showed her my latest rejects from the kiln. I was most upset because I got a big order and I need to do remakes of a large focal.  (NOT the one of a kind focal in the photo that has nothing to do with this post!) Because I'm so unhappy with the beads...I'm NOT going to show you those!

Because I've been so busy in the stamp shop, the daily specials on the Fan Page are "Oldies but Goodies!" Sunny is 10% off today for fans only!

In my effort to make a bead from another glasser's tutorial and change it up to be my own, I was leaving out some crucial steps!

My friend sat in her car analyzing my latest failures:

"This one could pass for the old design...hmmmm.. so could this one. But THIS one... I should KEEP!"

And now you know why I love her!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Retorch

This the Fresh Glass photo I posted on my Fan Page last week. It makes me laugh so hard because, it's a study in what NOT to do while refiring a bead!

REfiring a bead??? Did you know you CAN introduce an annealed bead to the flames again? I can't tell you how often I do this. I didn't always do it successfully in the beginning but now, unless it's a bead with cremains, I think nothing of refiring to make the bead a more successful version of itself.

The bead that needed refiring was the cougar print. I had accidentally picked up a darker brown and there was zero value difference in the dark brown and the black...yet it was such a cool bead. Knowing I would toss the bead if I left it alone, I decided to refire.

Normally, this is a fast process... I stick it in the kiln for safe keeping (the kiln is off but the bead is less likely to get knocked around.) The goal is to SAVE the graphite bead release on the mandrel. You must protect it and keep it in the best condition for a successful refire.

I did not do this! As luck would have it, we had a massive heatwave right after I made this bead with days on end of temps around 105. My a/c went on the fritz and my contractor showed up to repair my fences that came down in December. I was BUSY. I carelessly laid the bead on the back porch's brick bannister to bake in the morning sun.  It was so hot, the last thing I wanted to do was torch.

Until I work up at 5 one morning.  I grabbed that bead and dashed to the kiln and reprogammed for a slow start - 600 degrees per hour. Now... knowing full well that my kiln would take an hour and a half to get to annealing temps, I found some busy work - I packed a stamp order and cleaned up in the shop a bit and decided it was time to make beads. The kiln was still at 400. I pulled several stringers and got out a mandrel.

Normally, I would make  HUGE bead... something that could take an hour with layers and such because that bead needs to go into a HOT kiln. But what did I do??? I made a piece of candy! Tiny! Done in five minutes. I looked over at my 600 degree kiln and back to the bead in my hand... Now what do I do???

I spun the bead in the far end of the flame for a good five minutes... The kiln was 650.... What to do??? I sure couldn't hold on to one tiny bead for another 30 minutes! I debated: Fiber blanket or toss it in and hope for the best? I opted for the latter.

Knowing I still had a chunk of time to kill, I set out to make a much larger bead.... One I had not prepared for. I kept searching my table as I spun that bead looking for the perfect color I had in mind... and NEVER found it. Instead, I added a bit of this and a dash of that and couldn't tell you how I made that bead if I tried! I was not happy and figured if it were to be saved, I needed to reduce and encase.

Only... the phone rang. It was 6:30 and even without answering, I knew it was my hiking buddies headed out for an early morning swim in the creek. It had been so hot, my pup had not seen her friends in a while! My heart leapt... I just wanted to dash! But, I still hadn't fixed that cougar bead!

I finished the bead in my hand... I didn't encase... the disastrous morning was eating away at me. When things start going bad, I always stop, because they rarely get better. I was off my game and I knew it!

I grabbed the cougar bead, slowly heated it in the flame to glowing, added the proper brown dots, melted them in slowly, pressed and ... The bead release broke and the bead started spinning on the mandrel... meaning I could never heat it evenly! Bad to worse! Angry, I tossed that still glowing bead in the kiln... and tossed the dog in the jeep and raced to our favorite swimming hole for a few minutes with the RottRovers.

It wasn't until I pulled the beads out later did I realize, I should have cooled that cougar more carefully! I could have pressed it again to take some heat out quickly! DROOPED in the kiln. So, I can't sell it... but it makes me laugh, so I'll probably wear it!

The good news is... the bon bon made it just fine and that bead I didn't encase??? It's STUNNING!  It will be the Fan Page special today! 

For those of your wondering about refiring, here's my DO list: 

  • As soon as you take a bead out of the kiln and know you need to refire it, place it back in your kiln for protection. Do your level best to keep the bead release in tact!
  • Fire the kiln SLOWLY! 600 degrees per hour MAX! 
  • Make sure the mandrel is sticking far enough out of the kiln to NOT burn your fingers when you need to pick it up!
  • Keep yourself busy until the kiln reaches annealing temps. Leave the studio if you have to.  Clean, pull stringer or make a bead that takes an hour and a half...
  • Allow the bead to be refired to sit at least 10 minutes at full annealing temp. Have your torch on! Take it out of the kiln.
  • If you forgot to leave the mandrel out of the kiln (step 3), grab it with pliers and dunk just the mandrel in water to allow it the rod to cool enough so you can hold it! Don't dunk the bead or within a few inches of the bead! 
  • Introduce the bead to the back of the flame. Gently heat it up, moving closer to the working area of your torch in stages! Slow, gentle, constant heat will get you there. 
  • Don't freak if the bead cracks... again, slow, constant heat!
  • Once the bead gets that glow, add what you need to add. swirl or decorate til your heart is content. Press gently if needed. 
  • Get a light glow going but not so much your bead will droop. Turn off your oxy and increase the propane for the nice dragon's breath polish.
  • Garage in the kiln and anneal normally.

If you enjoyed this tut and found it useful, please consider supporting the starving artist that wrote it.
My glass beads and tools are here.

My Starbucks account. Click the link and enter my card # 6044305060554270
My Paypal:

Thank you!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

My Beads of Courage Necklace

Earlier this year, a member of the Beads of Courage Team asked me to make her name in glass. She said it didn't seem right that we use so many glass beads in the Beads of Courage projects but that the name beads were not glass. I made her name and my brain started stewing.... Why don't I make one for me to wear at our local Beads of Courage events???

And just like the cobbler's children with no shoes, the beadmaker is the last to get some beads! I originally started with an "L"... those of you who know me will understand. I do EVERYTHING bass ackwards! I read the last page of any book first; learned to crochet by making a king sized blanket instead of something small. Heck, I even started fusing when I really wanted a torch!

I knew I wanted something colorful and fun as kids are often at these events and purple is my favorite I made a matching "O" but then I realized I should make beads I LOVE.

Most of those are multilayered and colorful...hard to do in a precise press. But, I'm fairly happy with the results... except I hate the matchy matchy O and L! One of those will eventually GO!

The H was done in Kim Neely's Ether style. The first L is in the Rio Party Beads colors I've been toying with and the Y is in another silvered glass style.

The Beads of Courage disk, the NASA shuttle bead and Courage bead were all given to us by the Beads of Courage team for various events we've participated in.


Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Logo Your Photos

Many people have asked me how I logo my photos. It's a simple brush in Photoshop. If you are selling on the web, Photoshop is a program you need. While it's not the easiest thing to use, many community colleges offer classes. It is a wonderful program to have skills in!

Why have a logo? It sets your work apart. It gives folks something immediate to reveal the maker. They don't have to look at my bead and wonder, "Who made that?" The logo is a great reminder! I also belong to several bead teams on Etsy and Facebook. It's easy for my work to get lost in the crowd... but not with a logo! It also makes it a little bit harder for those photo stealers to swipe your work! First, a look at that logo: 

  1. SCAN the image: For the Holly's Folly logo, I scanned the image into my computer and I kept it fairly large. It's best to use black ink on clean white paper. Scan the image at 300 dpi even though the logo may be used mostly onscreen which only requires a dpi of 72. The higher resolution keeps the image crisp and clean and if you ever need to print your work, your logo will always look snazzy! 
  2. MAKE the Brush: Open your image file in Photoshop. Go to your Edit Menu / Define Brush Preset. A new window pops open asking you to name your bush. Keep the title short as the brush selection window will be tiny. I made three brushes for Holly's Folly: HFlogo (flat / straight), HFlogoR (angled to the right), and HFlofoL (angled to the left). 
  3. SAVE the Brush: Just because the brush appears in your brushes window...doesn't mean it's saved there! If you change brush palettes, you can lose that brush! To save: a) Make sure you are in the brushes palette. b) Go to the Brushes pull down menu and c) over to the brushes fly out menu. d) Select Save Tool Presets. A menu will open requesting a name. I store my brushes in my Basic Brushes that came with Photoshop but I name it Logos.

  4. USE the Brush: Select the brush palette from the left side tool bar. A brush menu appears across the top of the screen with a pull down menu. To the right of that is a symbol & number that represents the current brush selected with another pull down menu. Click that and all the brushes available in this tool preset appear. Click on the logo you want.  Here, I've selected the logo for my stamp business.
An outline of your brush will appear and it is usually too large for your photo. I had to take a photo of my dusty screen for an example you could see.The red arrows are pointing to the white outline of my logo and it is way too big! To make it smaller, I hit the [ symbol repeatedly until it fits the area needed. To make it bigger, hit the ] key. Click where you want the brush to appear.

Here is the finished photo of the image using that logo:

5. Use COLOR:To make things more interesting and make your logo stand out, use the eye dropper tool on the left tool palette to select a color in your image. This changes the color in the foreground color palette of the left tool bar and that changes the color your tool will stamp.

1) Scan image / large file / set to black and white.  
2) Edit / Define Brush Preset
3) From the Brushes flyout menu / Save tool Presets
4) Select the brush from the brushes drop down / size using the bracket tools [ & ]
5) Change the color to match your image  using eyedropper or foreground color palette tools.
6) Click to make the brush appear on the photo.

If you enjoyed this tut and found it useful, please consider supporting the starving artist that wrote it.
My glass beads and tools are here.

My Starbucks account. Click the link and enter my card # 6044305060554270
My Paypal:

Thank you!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Doing the Numbers on Credit Card Processing

My contract with the oh-so-crappy credit card processor, TransFirst is expired! All I can say is "YAY!"  I had originally thought I would return to Costco Merchant Processing. They were exactly what they promised: fees clearly stated up front and never came up with "charges-charges" like TransFirst did! There were months where half my earnings went to that shyster company!

But in doing the math, I realize my business is not what it was when I started. And, I have more and more in-person sales at shows and classes than I did in the beginning. Yet, I cannot afford to have two "gateways" or merchant accounts.

I signed up for square and then realized that Paypal HERE is just a few pennies cheaper (and in my world, pennies MATTER!). Plus, I'm familiar with Paypal. The money is there immediately. But still, that 3.5% for my mail orders seems high!

I can pay a cheaper amount by diverting my web customers to paypal directly... 2.9% + .30 transaction fee... which on a $30 sale saves me 3 cents! Hardly worth paying a web-developer for!

But the fact that Costco "seemed" so much cheaper kept bugging me. When that happens there's nothing to do but sit down and do the math!

For comparison:

Costco  1.99% on keyed in transactions + 25 cents per transaction. Costco also has a monthly fee of $20.
Paypal Here 3.5% / keyed transaction + 15 cents per. No monthly fee.

I started with what I wish I made: 4K a month. I guestimated 80 transactions.  Using those numbers, Costco would cost 119.60 vs. Paypal Here's 152.00. But... I don't make anywhere near that!

So I put in 1750 and 70 transactions. Here the prices were close: Costco came out to 72.33  vs. Paypal's 71.25

I upped it a bit to 2000 a month and 70 transactions... and Paypal edges ahead to 80.50 vs. Costco's 77.30.

Now I know that somewhere between 1750 and 2K a month, I need to get a cheaper processor. While it's nice to have goals, I haven't seen that kind of dough in five years.  Anyone wanna buy a swiper??? ;-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Last Day of the Fans Only Sale

The secret Fan Sale - celebrating my page FINALLY reaching 250 fans - got under way over the weekend. I'm offering 25% off beads and jewelry from either my Glass beads site or my Etsy to fan page members with a special coupon code. The code is available on the fan page.... heh heh... see how that works??

You'll find some real gems: Beautiful glass beads on sale, including my fave from the past year, Catfish:

 Jewelry is on sale too!

...and big hole European Charm Beads for Pandora, Troll, Links of London, etc. 

But, don't forget to check Etsy too... I will happily combine shipping! All of my holiday beads are there, including beads for Halloween and Christmas.

...and I'll even part with my current favorite!

But you better shop fast! The fan sale ends at midnight PST TONIGHT!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fun for Fans

July was a REALLY prolific month for me artistically. I made a TON of beads! And... I posted them to my fan page first... where, they often sold! So... I created a new policy to benefit the fans! Buy any item on my fan page within 24 hours (or before I get it up on the glass bead site) and save 10%! How cool is that?

Just convo me on the fan page and save!

Now, on to the pretties. I fell in love with an old favorite glass that changes color depending on the light. This set is called Moody Melon (shown in fluorescent, natural and incandescent light) :

I played around with more Bent Bead styles... this one is Galene. She's my fave!

I made a few more Glass Pacis... this one sold to a member of my bestie's family and lives in Hungary now! (remakes available).
I made a striking but simple bead. I love LOVE stuff like this! Two colors just reacted! This was to be a color test for a Memorial Bead. I knew right away it would not work for the intended project but it was so pretty, I annealed it!

I made a few keys... The vessel is here... still need to list the other one.

And a made a stunning focal that sold to a friend from high school. I had to make her matching earrings...just 'cause! I'm so happy with the finished piece:

And that was just the tip of the iceberg! If you haven't visited my glass bead shop in a while... there's TONS of goodies! And be warned... my fan page finally hit 250... the number of fans I walked away from because of SEO... so there's a fan only sale coming. It will be generous and last minute!

Hope your July was prolific!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beads of Courage May Bead Drive

Back in May, Beads of Courage sent out a call for bead donations, asking artists to donate at least 50 handmade beads by the end of month of May. The charity is an arts in medicine program that allows children with serious illnesses to tell their story through beads.

 I cleaned out my donation drawer and bead bowl and came up with more than 60!

What was cool about this year's bead drive is that Beads of Courage mailed all the bead makers who donated a Beads of Courage t-shirt!

I'm so happy to have the shirt to wear to our upcoming Beads of Courage fund raising event in September!