30 Nov 2007

I did manage to make those earrings yesterday and put a new pendant up on my website. Here are some photos.

29 Nov 2007

so that bending tube didn't go so well. I've ordered some more and will be sorting that out over the weekend. today I'm working on new silver stud/post earrings. I put one new one on my etsy shop yesterday and will try to put either one or two new designs up today.

it's sunny! shock!

yesterday I installed "stumble on" which is a nifty little addition that you can add to your browser bar. You just tick what your interests are, in my case art, crafts, internet tips, cyberculture and such. Then you just click "stumble" and it just goes to a page which has been recommended by someone to stumble for one of your interests. Then you can give it a thumbs up or down to make it more accurately show stuff you would like in future. It's pretty addictive! I think it's hard to just browse the web, since there's so much out there. This is a good way to browse to things you're interested in and it filters out 'adult' sites. You can also recommend sites you come across and pass them to your friends, etc. Oh and you can recommend your own site ;-) If you're interested, it only takes a couple seconds to install and it's here: http://www.stumbleupon.com
It also has loads of other services like blogs, etc but I don't need yet another site to keep up with! ha!

Something that I found through the above is a site that when you give it the URL of your site, it makes screenshots of your site in loads of different browsers - IE, Firefox, Opera and ...another one that I can't remember the name of. Anyway, it could be a useful tool. I can't find that particular site back, but I think if you search Google you can find sites that do the same. (It was free.)

Anyway...must get back to my earrings, they are languishing in the pickle...(pickle being the acid bath silver needs after being soldered)

28 Nov 2007

it's maybe, maybe a fraction of a teeny amount less dreary today than yesterday. maybe. more exciting post though - a cd from my friend in holland which is a compilation of German music. Some of it is 2raumwohnung, who I think are brilliant (the website is also viewable in English, click top right hand corner). I think he's using a couple of their songs at the beginning of the cd to lure me in and get me into more German music. We'll see if any of the rest is good! ha!

Jewellery-wise, today the plan is to bend some tube. That's not easy. If you just go bent a piece of tube, it will bend but the tube will collapse, like when you bend a straw it gets a kink in it. So much fiddling will need to be done in order to bend it without ruining it. right, well, i'm off to attempt that now...

27 Nov 2007

dreary again today. but I did get my copy of Art Jewelry magazine today! So I'm going to be browsing through that.
Went to meet some arty Reading people yesterday afternoon in town and met some new people. Amongst others, I met textile artist Julie Roberts. I asked for her website so I could have a look at her work and I accidentally typed in .com instead of .co.uk at the end. That was confusing. I didn't think her work was about men and mascara...
Anyways....her website is www.julieroberts.co.uk in case you want to have a look. I like the blue vessel and the lampshades.

26 Nov 2007

Well, it's Monday again and suitably dreary outside. Had a lovely day yesterday, walked to Henley along the Thames. Went to a classic English tea room in Henley which was, funnily enough, run by a Spanish family.
Thanks for the comments on the site! There's one photo that doesn't look so hot, so will change that one today. Then hopefully take some more photos of the small stud earrings for etsy with a thimble next to them for size. I read a lot in the etsy forums about displaying items next to regular objects to give an idea of size. Coins are out, as are every other item that is country-specific. Someone used rice, but I thought that was too messy and anyway you can have long and short grain rice... but seeing as it's a crafty site, I figured a thimble should be a good item.
I'm going to write an article about Reading artists for Blah Blah - this area's what's happening guide. I haven't completely settled on a format yet, that's another thing I'll be sorting out today. So hopefully tomorrow I will send a questionnaire around to the knitters who agreed to be questioned!

23 Nov 2007

yippeeeee - major website update achieved!!! see www.magpienest.co.uk
and if anyone spots any errors, broken links, etc - please let me know!!
Arggghhhh *still* working on photos!!! But, getting much easier, thanks to the new light tent I made yesterday courtesy of this website. I have been meaning to make this light tent for ages and it was easier than I expected. I didn't have the right size box, either, but adapted a much larger one. For anyone having problems with their photos, especially for shiny jewellery, I'd recommend this!! As an example, I was able to take this photo with no clean up in Photoshop:
Note for anyone with a fancy pants camera: you do need to adjust the white balance. That sounds more technical than it is. There's a switch somewhere on the camera, usually somewhere in the menu, where you choose if you are taking photos in sunlight, shade, fluorescent light, etc. So if you are using a light, you can indicate that so your photos don't turn out all yellow.

It's a lovely blue sky out there today! hurrah! Maybe it won't rain today. Last night we did loads of cleaning, so no excuses anymore not to go for a 'jog'. Hopefully a 'jog' will happen this evening. I put 'jog' in quotes because I'm so slow it probably qualifies as a fast walk.

21 Nov 2007

Knit night was last night and thanks to Ella and Emma who posed for some earring photos! Zoe also offered, so thank you Zoe, but she was in the midst of learning to purl (not quite sure if I spelled that right). There were quite a few knitters in attendance and they were all working on impressive stuff, like this:and they were fueled by books and tea and biscuits, like these:
well I am still taking photos and this one made me laugh....the first photo of the ring has a dark reflection in it, which I then realised was ME. oops. Need to sort out the light tent!! you can kind of see in the second close-up that there's a dark figure hunched over a camera... !!

I'm working on the ton of photos I need in order to start posting more on Etsy and update my website. As predicted, it's taking ages. Tonight I'm tagging along to knit night (see this blog) to hopefully get some willing victims to be models for me. I still have to wait another 3 weeks before I can put in regular earrings and anyway, it's very hard to take a photo of one's own ear!! So hopefully I can get a couple of decent photos to show the size of the earrings and how they look on.
Photos, photos. The hardest part is getting the colour balance right....which you can correct in photoshop, but it doesn't work well for all colour items. So the purple earrings are hard to get right, they generally end up looking black. So both of these are (the first is a bit brighter in real life) purple, but the second one looks black:

20 Nov 2007

i feel rather disheartened today. maybe it's the weather. or maybe it's the whole anti-climatic-ness (that's probably not a word) of the craft fair. but i got some good preliminary photos of the japanese paper earrings yesterday. i need to take proper photos of each pair, which is going to take up some time...
these are the photos:

19 Nov 2007

So it turns out that the other craft fair I was thinking of doing depending on how this past one went is on the weekend that we are going to see Portishead. Portishead are one of my favorite bands and this will be their first live show in about 15 years. So I really don't want to miss it! Besides, we already have the tickets. So that fair is out the window. sigh.
On the one hand, that's too bad. On the other hand, at least I'm getting a very clear picture of what I should do next year. I'm also getting a better idea of what lines of jewellery I want to work on, keep and expand. And which ones I don't want to make anymore!!
I'm getting quicker and better at making my crossover ring. I can make the lines neater and crisper now. It's this ring:I also want to make this ring again, which is not on my website. I'd like to expand it into a collection as well. hm...can't seem to find any photos of it. Right, I'll go take a photo and add it in a bit....and here it is:

18 Nov 2007

Ehem. Well, chalk that one up to experience. At an event aimed at primary school aged children, handmade silver jewellery wasn't ever going to be a raging success. The lady next to me did very well with childern's books, though. Eh well, at least I figured out that in terms of display, preparation, etc. I had done very well. Next time a ring display where people can try them on a bit easier, that's about it. At least I'll have loads to list on Etsy now.

And now it's the middle of the night and I can't sleep so I'm off to lurk in the Etsy forums...

16 Nov 2007

So tomorrow's the fair. I have nearly everything ready....well, it's all piled on a table at the moment. Tomorrow I'll do the last polishing and packing it all in a suitcase. Hopefully it all fits. My friend kindly gave me a possibly Victorian insect box - you know, the kind of glass top shadow box that insects are pinned in? As seen in old museums? It's a lovely box, with old style glass in it. Anyway, it has now been de-insected and I will be displaying most of my rings in it.

I should write something about FTP...it just means File Transfer Protocol. It is literally just for transering your files. So you make a website, for example, on your home computer. You have folders with files in them. Then you need to move those files to a server (either the server space provided free by your internet provider or the server space you paid for as part of a hosting package). So there will be site name given to you (by internet service provider or hosting company) which will start with "ftp:" (instead of "http:" as usual). You then paste the ftp address into your address bar in either Firefox or Internet Explorer or whatever web browser you use. Then you will most likely get a screen asking for your login. If you get an error message but no login request, just right click your mouse and there's an option for "login as...".
Then you log in and you see a bunch of folders. You paste your files from your computer to that computer. Then if you've set it up properly, your site will be live.
Note: opening an ftp site in Firefox doesn't work very well for me, so I usually use Internet Explorer. If that gives an error message, I go to "page" on the right hand site and choose "open ftp site in windows explorer". I really want to just open it in Windows Explorer, but that just doesn't seem to work for me. Here's the screen grab:

Anyway....hopefully that is of some use to someone.

15 Nov 2007

Well, the FTP stuff will have to wait til tomorrow as I am still working on the earrings that must be done by Saturday. Actually must be done by tomorrow evening, really! So here's a photo of some other earrings that I finished yesterday instead:

14 Nov 2007

So the interesting thing about the advert that I have in Glamour is that I now get emails from PR companies and advertisers. I wasn't expecting that, although I could have guessed had I thought about it. Today I met up with fellow etsian skeinqueen, since she works near where I live. Check out her shop, some beautiful colours there!

I was going to write a bit about setting up a website. Sometimes I talk to people and they seem to be very aware of what one needs to do to set up a website. Sometimes people really want to set one up but don't know where to begin. There are three basic options:

1. free
2. pay for domain name only
3. pay for domain name and hosting

(a domain name is the name (aka URL) of your site, for example, mine is www.magpienest.co.uk)

So the details are:

1. Free. If you just want to set up a website for fun and don't mind too much what it looks like, then your internet service provider will most likely give you some free space on their server (usually there is a limit on space, but it's often plenty to set up a basic site.). Your internet service provider is the company that you pay for your internet access - either dial-up, or broadband. This means that you can use some space on their computer to host your site. That means the name/url/address of your site is likely to be something like this:
That's fine but the limitations are that it's not an easy name to find or remember. It also does not look professional if you are using it for business purposes.

2. pay for domain name only. You can buy your domain name from many different companies on the internet. Usually you buy the name for 2 years and then you renew it. You must not forget to renew, or someone else can buy it! Usually you go to the domain name buying site and then type in the name you want and it will tell you if it is available. Of course many are not available, especially if it's something popular or obvious, like www.madonna.com! Names ending in .com are more expensive than those ending in .co.uk, .org, .de, .fr, etc etc. An example of a company where you can buy the name is www.blackfoot.co.uk
Once you have the name, you can ask the domain name company to "redirect" the name to your free hosting (see #1). This is what I did for my mom's site, which is www.mariekedewaard.co.uk
So when you type in that name in your address bar, you will get directed to the site but the name will change to http://freespace.virgin.net/dougall.dougs/Website/
The benefits are that you have an easy to remember name/url/address. The downside is that the name/url/address shows as your free space url once you are on the site. It's up to you if that's important or not. You may even want to buy more than one domain name and have some of them redirect to your main name or site, such as www.mysite.org and www.mysite.net etc.

3. pay for domain name and hosting. You can also buy your domain name and then also pay for hosting. If you use the same company, it makes things a bit easier, but you don't have to. You buy a hosting package - there will be options depending how much space you need and how many extras you want for the backoffice of your site (email addresses, etc.). Once you pay, the company will send you details on how to access your hosting site and how to connect to your FTP site (the location of your website files). What this means is that your whole site will have the name that you bought. For example, on my website, all the pages' names start with www.magpienest.co.uk (e.g. http://www.magpienest.co.uk/about.html) Once you pay for hosting, you can also get detailed usage statistics to see what the traffic to your site is. You also get at least one email address which matches your site, such as machi@magpienest.co.uk
and you can create forms for people to email you directly from the site, such as on this page:
All this adds up to a much more professional looking website.

Prices vary, but domain names that do not end in .com are around 10 UK pounds per two years. Hosting varies quite a bit as well, but roughly 50-60 UK pounds a year.

Ok, tomorrow hopefully I'll have some time to explain a bit about what FTP is and how to start building a basic site. That's all for today...

13 Nov 2007

We are definitely heading towards December - it's sooooo cold out!!! Brrrr
I am working on some tourquiose earrings again. They are in the style of the ones I made for my sister, but the stones are skinnier, longer ovals. I'm also working on those 10 pairs of Japanese paper earrings, the ear wires are working out. I had my lesson this morning (I have a lesson roughly every week or so with a jeweller) so I had my teacher try on the earrings to see if they hang correctly and they did. So I'm happy about that. So this afternoon is all about soldering ear wires. Tomorrow should be about finishing all the polishing for these earrings and hopefully preparing the paper. Thursday should be glueing the paper and getting last things ready for the craft fair. And friday should be doing a test run of setting up the table, adding price tags to all items and polishing everything that needs to be polished. Then I'm ready for Saturday!

12 Nov 2007

I had my tour of the Assay office is London this morning. Hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection. If an item is hallmarked, you have a guarantee of the precious metal content of that item. If you see silver with just "925" stamped on it, that is not a hallmark. It must have the hallmarks of the Assay Office. There are international hallmarks and country specific hallmarks. I usually use the UK hallmark, since it is internationally recognised. Not all items have to be hallmarked, for each metal there is a weight limit above which an item has to be hallmarked in order to be sold as that metal. For silver the limit is just under 8 grams, so most of my earrings are not hallmarked, since they are so small.

When I registered with the Assay Office so I could get my items hallmarked, they gave me a time and day for a tour of the office. That was this morning, so I guess they must give a lot of tours!! But I was the only person, so private tour, great! They showed me the whole process, from the package arriving to being laser or hand punched or tested. They don't test every single item in great detail. Basically all items (or a percentage of items if it's for a big client who sends in 3,000 of the same necklace, for example) are xrayed to see if they are silver/gold/sterling silver/etc. If it's clear from the xray then they get hand punched or laser marked depending on what the client asked for. If it's not clear, then they run tests to determine, for example, the carat of gold. It was also interesting how they test scrap. In jewellery, no scrap is waste. You can sell your scrap back to companies like Cooksons and then they melt the scraps together (silver together, and gold together) and then the Assay office can test them with their spectrometer to see exactly what part of the scrap is pure gold or silver (or platinum). It was quite interesting and I even got a dvd about the history of Goldsmith's Hall. You can find more information on their website as well: http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/assayoffice/

9 Nov 2007

I'm working on about 10 pairs of the Japanese paper earrings which I hope to get done before the craft fair. I should be able to do that. I have all the circles made, just need to sand them and then add the ear wires. Getting there!
Last night I met up with Sarah and Louise - we meet up to discuss our business plans. We all do totally different things, but are able to help each other because we each have our own area of expertise. It is also very helpful to set goals for the next meeting - a good motivation! Yesterday I got the new Glamour magazine with my ad in it!! It looks good!! Hopefully I will get some responses from it. Exciting!

8 Nov 2007

My mom bought this old advertising board in Indonesia. It has been restored a bit and is in fantastic shape. My grandmother said she can remember these advertisements when they were originally used in Indonesia in the 1940s. ('Tandpasta' means 'toothpaste'.)

7 Nov 2007

These are earrings that I made yesterday. They are silver rhomboids? rhombi? whatever the plural of rhombus is. I put a small 14K yellow gold ball in the top corner. The gold was really smooth to work with, it balls up easier than silver with a smoother finish. Opinions, anyone? They are small, about 7mm across at the widest point...
(you can click on the photo for a bigger image!)

6 Nov 2007

My grandmother gave me some antique ceramic buttons which might be Chinese, or Japanese, I'm not sure. I made one of them into a pendant and it turned out pretty well, I thought. If you click on the photo, you can get a super close up!
The craft show is creeping ever closer, so I'm working on loads of earrings. This pile of earrings is ready to go. It's hard to guess what colours will be popular, but seeing as it's all getting nearer to christmas, I used a lot of red!
I made all the ear wires and pins for these, and I'm definitely getting quicker at it! ha!

I'm still working on these earrings - they are with Japanese paper. The part I'm struggling with is the ear wires. First I thought it would be better like in this photo, with a hole and then attached to fish hook style ear wires. But next I'll try it with the ear wires soldered to the back of the earring with a safety catch, like the tourquoise earrings in the post below. I should get around to sorting that out this week.

Did anyone else go watch fireworks for guy fawkes last night? We went to the pub next door, it was fun, the pub was packed and they did do a fair amount of fireworks!

5 Nov 2007

To go back to the tiara story, this is the tiara that the bride did wear. I say the bride wore it, and she did, but she sure wasn't the only one!! The boys in attendance all seemed rather jealous, so after the ceremony bit, it did the rounds. Pretty much all the boys managed to run around with the tiara on at some point. Amusingly, all the boys who wore it also ended up being kissed by other boys. It was a fun wedding!! :-) That's what you get when the reception is in a pub. An amazing, old, beautiful pub with a gorgeous view over the something-or-other downs. Sussex downs? The forest that's famed for pooh bear...where pooh and christopher played pooh sticks. not that I knew any of that before I went there....
wow, check this out. I used to love this show, Daria, on MTV. When MTV was still cool, that is. I just realised that one of the people who worked on the illustrations for Daria is on Etsy:

This is my work bench. The boy made the bench and the shelves next to it. I have a bit of steel that another friend, who inexplicably works at a steel bending factory, made for me to cover the part of the bench where I solder. Thus I do not burn the house down.
The lamp is from Ikea, nice & cheap. Everything else is either tools that I bought or random stuff that various people have given me. This is where I spend pretty much all my time.
You can't see my chair, it's from Staples. We have Staples over here in the UK too, oh yes. The excitement, huh!?
Ehm, what else can I say. There's a radiator in the room, but it never seems enough when it's cold out, so I also have one of those little fan heaters. I know it's not that great in terms of energy consumption, but I just put it on for a couple of minutes so I don't get hypothermia.

3 Nov 2007

This is a tiara that I made early this year. My cousin got married in May and his wife-to-be wanted a tiara. I ended up making three tiaras and she picked another one (i.e. not the one in this photo). The one in the photo is a strip of solid silver and the crystal beads are attached with silver wire. It was interesting to make, with a lot of hammering and polishing of the silver. I went for a satin finish, as you can see. I still like this tiara....it's quite regal-looking when it's on...makes me think of queens in that book Mists of Avalon.

It's saturday today and we have blue skies again here in the UK, which is quite amazing. I just got a load of things back from the hallmarking office, so I'm planning on finishing some things today. Anyway....i'm off to have breakfast....

2 Nov 2007

On Saturday the 12th of November I am participating in my first craft show! It was arranged by a friend of mine and it will be at her kids' school. It's an xmas fair and apparentely there will be wine and snacks! I will be bringing water and snacks anyway just in case, since I read all the tips for craft fairs on etsy: http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=5288383

Some other sites with tips for craft fairs:

I have a list of things to take and am working on stock. I have a lot of rings, a lot of earrings, and a bunch of necklaces. I think I'll have 12 necklaces or something like that. I'm getting a bunch of things back from the hallmarking office today so I can finish them over the weekend. There's SO much to do for this show. All the actual items, the marketing materials, the display equipment, etc. etc. At least I have LOADS of experience of standing around at conferences. I'm hoping this will be more fun than the boring conferences I used to go to. I think it will be, although the principle is the same I have more interest in what I'm selling, of course.

Anyway, I am treating this as a tester, so I will see how it goes and take notes for next time. Exciting but scary! Only 2 weeks left to get everything ready!

In other news, and it is news since I'm in the UK, it's sunny! blue skies! amazing.

1 Nov 2007

I made these earrings for my sister with some tourquoise stones that my mom got in India. Everything went fine with making them, but when my sister got them and put them on, they were a teeny bit bottom heavy so didn't hang straight. SO....i took a drastic measure to prevent this issue with future earrings....I got my ears pierced!!!! A big deal for me, as I am a fainter. But I did it! So from now I can try earrings on myself instead of pestering earring-wearing friends and relatives!!! :-)
Right, well, I guess I need to start posting! So, erm, I thought I'd start with an extremely nerdy post about why I love Google. Google is brilliant for lots of reasons that are very useful for people trying to run their own business from home.

First of all, there's the calendar. The calendar works just like the microsoft outlook calendar, but you can access it easily from anywhere! brilliant! It makes it very easy to keep track of appointments and so forth.

Second, there's the documents - you can create, save, and access documents from anywhere! So for instance, if you need to access your budget (in Excel) then you can do so from any computer. And change it AND save those changes. No more carrying around a USB stick! Not that carrying around a USB stick is terribly difficult, but it's annoying when you forget it and a lot of email cafe's that I have been to don't allow customers to use USB sticks since they are afraid of viruses. So anything that you can do in Word or Excel, you can do in Google Documents.

Then there's iGoogle. If you use google as your main search engine, you should set up iGoogle. It's SO easy. basically, when you go to the google homepage, in the top righthand corner, you can sign in. Then you click on igoogle (also top right hand corner) and you have your personalised google homepage. Very useful for getting to everything you need easily. So, for instance, I have links to various websites I use a lot -- but this is the minimum -- of course you can use favorites for that as well. But I also have a world clock that tells me what time it is where my parents are and where my sister is, so I don't call them in the middle of the night (ok, i have done that several times). I also have a quick mini currency converter. And a to-do list. And a summary of the current BBC news headlines. There are hundreds of extras you can choose from, you just make your page useful for yourself!

There's also Picasa. I know lots of people use Flickr, which also seems great, but I like Picasa 'cause it makes uploading photos from your own computer so quick and easy.

Ok, last thing I'm going to mention is google checkout -- if you have your own website and want a cheap way of allowing people to buy directly from you, this is super easy! It's also free in the UK until the end of 2007. If you are not a web whiz, then you can use put the "buy it now" buttons on your site. It's not super sophisticated, as it doesn't work like a shopping trolley, but at least people can buy items on your site. And you can customise the buy it now buttons for whatever purpose you need - multiple items, single items, etc. You can see how I used it on my site - www.magpienest.co.uk I think you need to know a little HTML to get the most out of these, but google even generates the code for you, so it is pretty easy!

The great thing is that all these things are available for free! so why not use them....more info is on google. hopefully some of the above is useful to someone....
I am reviving and revamping my blog! Soon it will be a crafty blog! Hopefully with useful links and tips and a hopefully at least vaguely interesting running commentary on how it's going with magpienest!