Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Time to do something different -- chainmaile!!!

I haven't done chainmaile in months, and I need a change of pace so I'm going to dive in and learn a new chainmaile pattern this week-- not sure which one yet.  I find chainmaile very relaxing ( at least once you know the pattern!) and even meditative.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Build A Line Challenge from B'sue Boutiques, Kat of Midnight Kat Productions, Part One

Trying to figure out what I am going to make for the Build-A-Line challenge

I've been struggling with my project for Build a Line Challenge sponsored by B'sue Boutiques

Let me back up a few steps.  For those new to me, Hi!  My name is Kat BarronMiller, and I'm a jewelry artist From Iowa.  My Company Name is Midnight Kat Productions, and I make steampunk inspired jewelry that I call Mechanical Romance.  I can't just call it steampunk because while there are gears, cogs and watch parts, there are also bits and pieces of vintage typewriters, sewing machines and cash registers.  I don't always put things together in a steampunk way either, I adore taking vintage bits and making a modern statement with my jewelry.

I really wanted to participate in this challenge, because I think it will help me face up to a fear I have - that if every piece I make isn't OOAK, I'm not a real artist.  

I know that's a silly fear, but like anything that involves feelings, you can't just talk it away.
but maybe I can do it away... the whole idea of this Build A Line challenge is creating a line of reproducible jewelry.  I don't have to stop making OOAK pieces, this is just adding to the mix.
Now that I've decided what to do, it's time to do it.  I've cut out the heart from a cookie tin, embossed it and now I'm sanding it so the relief pops out.

I've been making jewelry since 1996.  For many many years I made this one design over and over, using hematite rings.  It was by far my best seller... and I made them until I was ready to vomit.  I was so happy when I decided to stop making them, even if they made me money.  

I don't ever want to feel like that again.  like I only make things that I think will sell, without any heart and soul.  

I need to make items that are sellable of course, but I don't have to sell my soul in the process. 

Matching up watch faces to backgrounds and hearts
Part of the challenge is to pick a theme for your line of jewelry.  Honestly the last few weeks have been very rough on me emotionally, as several family members are battling illness.  This reminds me that time is short, and love is precious and you never know when you will loose someone you love.  I decided on a line of broaches, and each broach had to have a heart to represent love and love ones and a vintage watch face for the time element.  In additional I wanted teardrops involved... for all the bittersweet memories that come up when you lose someone.  And I want incorporate chain, because we are all connected.

I have been playing around with design ideas for the last couple of weeks, but it was only last night that I came up with the winner.  The problem was the heart.  Honestly,  I'm not a heart gal, so using hearts as such a central part of the design, it threw me.  I decided I needed to make the hearts myself.  
Probably my favorite part! Riveting everything together.  Do you know I hated riveting at one point a couple of years ago? Now it's the Bomb!

Each heart is cut out of old cookie tins, then I emboss them.  I also like this because I can cut each heart from a different tin, which will make each piece alike but oh so different with minimal cost and effort.  

I'm pretty pleased with the first broach.. I use a B'sue bezel for the background.. I love the border on this one, and I've turned it 90 degrees so I can use the bail for the chain.  I found some great vintage teardrop pearls that I used on this one.  

So what do you think of the prototype?

This is the first one, all done!
Be sure to visit all the members of the challenge -- and the next blog hop is February 20th!

Brenda Sue Lansdowne, B'sue Boutiques
Jewelry Making Outside the Box
Marcia Tuzzolino
Aurora Designs
Jann Tague
Clever Designs by Jann
Judy King
Apt to Wander Studio
Linzi Alford
Magpie in the Sky, Spoil Heap Tales
Cynthia Wainscott
Exotic Peru
Carole Carlson
Lynn Stinten
Marica Zammit
Bead Lovelies
Catherine Shattuck
Michaele Collie
The Vintage Gem
Mary Craig
Jewelry Alchemy
Lee Koopman
Strega Jewelry
Erin Whitacre
Shattered Time Jewelry
Monica Casady
MJCasady Copper Works
Leila West
Leila Nicole Designs
Cindy Peterson
Howling Dog Jewelry
Leila Belcher
Leila Bee Designs
Gloria Allen
Wings and Beads
Pamela Anger
Novegatti Designs
Tammy Adams
Paisley Lizard
Lynda O'Mara
LOmara Creative
Elizabeth Hildreth
Dana Hickey
Wind Dancer Studios
Janet Calardo
Jan Lea Designs
Maria Clark
Sweet Willow Designs
Lori Beekman
B. Accessorized
Jennifer Kroeger
Relic Charm
Amy Jorgensen
Hoarder's Corner
Robin Reed
Artistry: Handcrafted Bead Designs
Ingrid Anderson
Lilis Gems
Louise O'Shields
Desire Divine Jewels
Susan Killam
Killam Creative
Mary Katherine Deis
The Rose Sword: Artisan and Vintage Collectible Jewelry
Nike Bottalico
Nike Bottalico
Susan Bowerman
Woodside Wireworks
Kristy Le
Kristy Le Trendy Jewelry Designs
Jan Peters
Stylized Vintage
Mitzie Crider
Needful Luxuries Occasional Blog
Gina Hockett
Freestyle Elements
Linda Anderson
From the Bead Board
Alexandra Sefton
Imaginary Jewelry and Altered Art
Melida Boman
The Journey of Pens and Things
Teresa Shurter
TreeZ's Treasurs
Melissa Latimer
Smithed Up
Renee Hong
Fine and Dandy Jewelry and Art
Nadine Edris
Moondance Jewelry
Lori Meyer
Parisienne Girl
Jennifer Merrill Williams
Artists of All Stripes
Denise Lussier Poirier
Jewelry by Denise
Renee Allen
Small Stuff Design
Autumn Adams
Autumn Dawns
Elizabeth Owens
1996 Shabby Lane
Kat BarronMiller
Midnight Kat Productions Art Jewelry
Sandra Ballard
Mama San's Mojo
Coral Law

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Big Reveal for Build a Line challenge is Friday....

Vintage Pocket Watch, hand painted brass butterfly, crystal and chain.
Whaw!!!!!! I'm not ready yet.  My first design idea didn't work out like I wanted to, and neither did my 2nd, 3rd or 4th.

Tomorrow I have all evening scheduled (barring something coming up) to work on my challenge and get my blog ready for the 1st reveal.  There are 3 of them total, but this one will set up the tone for all the rest. 

I don't have to make supper or anything, and housework can slide for 1 night... and tonight I cleaned off my principle work desk except for what I'm looking at for the line.

I'm kicking around shaving a few hours off my day job, but I probably can't get away with that.  Whaw again.

I'm sure I'll figure out something out and I have a new idea --I can only hope this one works more like I want it to.  If it wasn't so late tonight, I'll go up right now and fiddle with it.  Unfortunately I'm getting too old to stay up half the night working in the studio and then be at the day job by 7:15am in the morning!! Ugh!

So look for my first official Build A Line Challenge blog on Friday.

Monday, January 19, 2015

tehehehehehehe.... what Kat is up to.....

5 bags and 4 large heavy box of beady goodness!

Sorting sorting sorting.....

This pile still needs to be sorted...
Just Saturday I typed about how much fun I have pawing through a big pile of stuff..  Well, I just bought out a fellow jewelry maker's stash of 6-7 years.  The Gal is retiring and everything had to go.  I got a good price on it, and while most of it is stuff I'm not using much right now, seriously half the fun is discovering what she had !!

So far I've picked out some base metal findings and most of the sterling for my "keep" pile.  The displays, glass beads and stone beads are not really something I'm using much right now, so they are mostly going into the "sale" pile.  I've already got another jewelry maker friend of mine interested in what I don't keep, but if that falls through, I'll just bag them up and take them to the flea market with me to sell.  Eventually whatever is left will go on my Etsy Destash site.

Still, I have this large box still to dive into.. I know I should be cleaning the house or working on my build a line challenge ( my original design didn't work like I wanted it too, so I'm sort of mulling over other design ideas... ) but I"ll probably be having a grand time rummaging through my pile of treasure! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dad out of the hospital! yeah! and clock parts

This is a pin, using old clock gear.
Yeah! Dad is out of the hospital, so yes, he's doing much better thank you all for your support.

Today I don't have to leave the house, so I'm wearing my celestial thermal jammy pants and one of my favorite heather gray old run around shirts and of course my dark grey jacket cause like always in Iowa Winter, my 1920's house is COLD.  Not complaining.... I keep the thermostat set very low, so it's my own fault.  I like heating bills I can afford to pay, thank you. 

Besides if I get up and exercise I warm up quite nicely, consider it incentive to keep moving!

I've been doing one of my favorite things on the net: bead porn.  OK in my case it's probably more like vintage clock or vintage watch porn.  I've been scouring eBay and etsy for good lot deals on clocks and watches.  Can you believe I'm getting low on clock parts?? specifically the medium size gears, like 1 inch to 1-1/2 inch.   I've been using them so much in my art jewelry, I'm getting low.... Now there are clocks around the house we got at flea markets and such that haven't been rendered for parts yet.  The problem is finding them and then getting Jerry to render... and today is such a great day for that.  We have been watching Grim together, and he said last night he wanted to pick that up again this weekend.. so I just have to find the clocks. 

Since clocks are smaller, they get chucked into bins in the closet and larger stuff like the typewriters get shoved on top and so things get hid. 

Still, even if I can find every single last one of the puppies and get Jerry to take them apart, my hoarding instincts are telling me I'm low low low.  And frankly how likely is it I can find all of them in this wonderful big house of mine, and then get the hubby to do something?

And I love to Internet window shop!!

I've got several lots I'm watching at eBay, and I actually bought this one today:

I paid  more than I wanted, and the postage seems insane, but from what I can see I can make this work.   I'm sure at minimum I'll break even... and I should get it in time to sell bits I don't want ( like the giant clock weights --- try making a necklace out of something like that!) at the flea Market in Feb.

And if not, well that is all part of buying the lots like this... the wonderful sense of discovery when you find a real treasure.  And since I make jewelry, real treasure can be anything from, well, treasure - to something that simply screams ""me ME! I want to be a necklace!! Right NOW!"

Why I have so much fun at flea markets to begin with. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

busy busy busy........

started out as a flat piece brass stamping, I pinched in the smaller end for the bail and added the crystal.  I think it looks pretty good!

Most nights after work we go and visit Dad in the hospital for a couple of hours, then do supper, maybe stir the dust around alittle in attempt to bring order to my house, and if I'm lucky an hour in the studio.  Once I'm in the studio I can't say I'm the most productive... but that is my stress release.  Just watching TV in my studio is relaxing the kinks in my back.  I went up tonight to watch Criminal Minds, and I worked about 10 minutes on jewelry.... by wire wrapping a dragonfly on a pocket watch and by sealing a brass piece I painted yesterday.  Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to put the pendant necklaces I'm working on together.

I'm also trying to shift my hours earlier, as I now end up at work by 715am... which is almost an hour earlier than last year.  Between stress and getting up earlier, I can tell I'm not sleeping well enough or just enough in general.  I've made it a goal that I need to be in bed by 11pm.  I'm averaging maybe 1145pm?  Tonight I'm gonna do it for sure.  (as I type this it's 1020pm)

I have a quick repair for a customer as well on the desk, and of course I'm in the planning stages for my build a line challenge.  My hope is this weekend I'll really get to work on it.  The first blog hop is a week from Friday.  We need to have at least 1 piece done for that.

I'm also going to split a booth with a friend at the big flea Market in a couple of weeks.  While I'll probably bring a few pieces of jewelry, i'm mostly trying to sell destash, including around 100 books on beading.  Listing books on Etsy is kind of a pain, so I'm hoping I'll really make several someones day by selling them cheap, and me a few bucks and fewer headaches than trying to sell them online and deal with the hassle of mailing them.  A couple of them are out of print Russian and Japanese books and they are actually worth something.. so I'll probably list them on Etsy eventually.  But the rest need to go!! I'm really looking forward to this.  It's cheap to do, and since I"m sharing a booth even cheaper, and I'll be good to connect to my friend who is also my Neighbor of many years.  She sells her handmade soap.

So that's my plan for the rest of the week.  The fun parts anyway, still have to clean, cook, bills, budget, get ready for taxes, etc etc etc etc etc etc

Monday, January 12, 2015

Time for a Challenge.....

well I'm sorry I've been so maudlin the last few entries.  My Dad had a heart attack a week ago Sunday.  He's finally doing better, dare I say OK, so I finally feel like I can type it out loud and not burst into tears.  I'm still alittle sniffly thought.  There is other stuff going on as well but I really can't go into it just right now.   

brass stamping bar from B'Sues which I bent to fit the wrist, added holes for the chain and crystal to dangle.  fun!
But it does remind one how short life is.

I've been watching Glee ( the tv show) in the studio the past week.  I netflix the first season and then we picked up season 2 & 3 cheap on a half-price book store run. (10 bucks for both!! thanks to my sis in law Karla for spotting them!)   While the Sue character just breaks the suspension of disbelief way too often, the marvelous singing and dancing more than makes up for it.  And it deals with real issues -- bullying, sexuality, religion, wanting to be popular and how that drives crazy behaviors, mental illness, etc.

I totally forgot  (spoilers!) that Kurt's father has a massive heart attack in 2nd season.  oh my, I bawled like a baby considering I was going through the same sort of thing.  If I had remembered, I might not have watched it!! But all the magic music helped calm me down.   ( the episode based on Fleetwood Mac's rumors album... one of my favorite albums of all time!)

Anyway, the major, over-reaching theme of Glee is accepting and facing the challenges of life, and when you fail you pick yourself up and charge again.

I feel like I need that challenge in my creative life right now, in my business.  In the winter in past years I've often done online challenges like Year of Jewelry, the Bead Party Blog Hop, etc.  I've enjoyed them, and I love being challenged in this way.  It's so easy to let life distract you from your art, especially in the winter when I don't really have shows and deadlines to worry about.  (and let 's admit this, sometimes art helps me distract from the ugly of real life)

This year Brenda Sue of B'Sue Boutique is offering a unique challenge: build a line of jewelry.  It's an exciting opportunity, and I'm really glad I'm doing it... I hesitated.  I've mostly been doing OOAK jewelry, and even with a "repeat" a design it always turns out differently.  But what I'm really looking for in this challenge is greater cohesiveness in my jewelry overall.  I think with my Mechanical Romance line I'm getting there, but this should help me really find my sweet spot.  And in general, I love a challenge.  And it's gonna be fun!! so far there are 57 of us and they all seem like a great bunch.

there will be "assignments" and they will be documented on my blog, so you will be hearing more about this in the next 3 months.  Here is my introduction to the group :
since folks are introducing themselves, I guess I ought to have a go at it myself. Hi, my name is Kat. I've been making jewelry for 19 years, selling it for 17. I started out as a seed beader, then did stringing, metal smithing, wire wrapping and flirted with PMC, lampwork, etc. The last few years I've been having a blast making steampunky like jewelry ( which I call mechanical romance) using mostly cold connections and real pieces of history from typewriters, sewing machines, cash registers, clocks and watches. Heck anything old and junky with mechanical moving parts has a big old target painted on it. I love the variety of the parts!

I've been doing this as a side business while I work full time, raise a hubby, kid and 4 cats. 3 years ago my hubby lost his job, so my job and my business has keep us floating while he's gone back to college. He graduates this spring with a degree in applied mathematics and a BA in education, math certification. The hope is he will be employed as he graduates... since match teachers are in short supply, it's an actual possibility.

I admit I dream of him supporting me as I quit my day job and go full time on the jewelry front, but even if that's possible (when student loans are paid off, and the kid is done with college) it's 5-10 years down the road... but a gal can dream right? Part of the reason I finally decided to take the plunge on this class is figuring out if that's possible in that murky wistful 5-10 years down the road. While I'm one of the OOAK queens, if I do jewelry full time it's gonna be more limited addition lines of jewelry, not each piece individualize. I'm not sure I'm cut out for that world but this seems like a really good way to dip my feet in that pond.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Brain not in the game today.......

Here is me on a good day.  On a bad day my kitchen is clean.
I'm not feeling very creative today, so I'm trying to get stuff done that needs to be done now, so if inspiration strikes later, I can meet that challenge.  Major stuff is going on in my personal life with very important people ill, and it's hard to sit down and let that positive creative energy flow when I"m, frankly, mad at the world.
You know that sound you can't always get what you want?  I'm having having trouble trying real hard to even get what I need.

But it's also January and you know, I don't need to push it.   So I"m trying to concentrate on the non creative stuff, like getting the rest of my end of year paperwork finished, getting listings up on Etsy (I'm up to 150 as of today! woot! ) and cleaning and organizing my studio.

Honestly If I just relax & de-stress enough, I"ll probably get ideas putting components away.  If I don't, I'll still probably feel better and my studio will be clean.  When the big things in life are completely out of your control, then taking back the power on some of the little stuff goes a long way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I found a book I hate........

I swear, I will do a blog entry on my big eye monsters soon... but here is a pic of one of them!!
I'm having terrible concentration issues tonight.  I'm sooo easily distracted.  Course when I'm suppose to be doing my sales taxes, it's easy to get side-tracked.

I still need to do IL and MN for the end of year.... sign.... MN isn't too bad but I  find the IL website for sales taxes way too confusing.  Especially since I haven't had any sales to report for the last 2 years, but for 2014 I do... I will muddle through, but I keep putting it off. 

I love to read, and I will read just about anything.  Right now I'm probably most fond of regency romances ( something I've been stuck on for the last 2 years.  Hubby thinks I read nothing else and that's not true, but I do read more regencies than anything else right now.  )

Most books I read I at least like, some I love.  Very few do I loath... unfortunately I have another to add to that very short list. 

I picked up a book by Jane Feather.  I've read a few of her books, most have been ok, one I really liked.  so when I see her on the dollar racks at the half price books stores I'm gonna add it to the pile.  This one is called "Vanity"

I cannot recommend it, I loath it, I couldn't finish it.  Within the first 40 pages in the book ( and if you, despite my words, want to read it and don't what to know what happens, don't read the next part)

the hero lies, abducts, drugs her and rapes her.... yet by the end of the book they are a happy married couple.

I'm sorry, but that's not right.  What kind of message does that send to young girls? what kind of example is that?? our culture is so messed up on rape to begin with, and this kind of stuff just feeds into it.

Imagine someone you know, say, YOUR DAUGHTER , tells you on the first date her now hubby rapes her, but since they fall in love afterwards it's ok.

I know , it's fiction, not real life, but there are some lines I cannot cross.  And I don't have too.  I did skip around in it to see if at anytime the hero shows remorse, but it must have been a quick scene cause I didn't find it ( I went up to good reads and from the reviews there, he doesn't really seem sorry.  why should he? he gets the girl, the earldom and riches... by raping her.  what's to be sorry about for from his view point?? What I find chilling is how many reviews didn't seem to find this objectionable... since he didn't slap her around and did it so it was "pleasurable" it's ok??? )

This book will not be finding itself on my bookcase.  I usually pass on my romance books to my Mom to read, and I'm seriously considering whether I should inflict it on her or not. 

In fact, I'm going to be leery of reading books by her in the future. 

by the way, my loath list is 4 books long. (well two of the loath books are series, so it guess I probably don't like any of those series, but since I couldn't finished the 1st book in them, I'm sure as heck not gonna go seeking the rest)

sign.  Back to taxes....

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Etsy won over galleries...

here's my set up last night for pics... you can't see it but the lights have a fabric panel over it to reduce glare.

the picture after it's edited.  I know I need to work on photos!
I trust and hope everyone had a lovely Holiday Season!! (if you didn’t, go buy yourself a piece of jewelry as a pick me up.  If you did, then buy one to celebrate a great holiday!! )

A few weeks ago I was debating if I would look for gallery opportunities in the area or really work on my Etsy.

I admit galleries is probably the best option money-wise, and less work overall . Etsy involves lots of time : selecting jewelry, taking pictures, writing descriptions, coming up with tags and researching people's search patterns... in hopes of increasing sales, and doing what I can to promote my listings.

But Etsy allows me much more flexibility and to keep control.

I admit, I have control issues.

I've been in several galleries over the years, and most of them were really good experiences while they lasted...but most of the galleries folded on me. ( I suspect most galleries have a short life -- it's a hard business!) I've had one "bad" -- it closed without me knowing about it, and I never got all my jewelry back. I'm unsure if pieces sold that I wasn't paid for, if things were stolen, or mixed up with some other artist's items. one piece was broken... again no idea how that happened.

I admit, this makes me a wee bit leery of galleries.  The stress of the worry that something will happen… I have enough stress in my life.  At least listing on Esty I don’t have to worry about stolen items and galleries closing without notice.  And when I sell on Etsy, I’m only losing about 8% in fees, instead of 50-60% which is the standard commission at most galleries.  Granted to date, my sales on Etsy have been meager.

Becides if I do Etsy I have that backlog of jewelry available to me for shows.  If get low in inventory during show season, it's a snap to deactivate that listing and put it on the table.  Honestly this happens every year by late July.  If it’s in a gallery it’s not reachable or usable. 

Checking out and chatting up galleries requires time during the day, not something I have much of as I work full time in addition to my jewelry business.

Etsy I can take photos, edit and list whenever I wish. I've got it set up so I can do it from my iPad in the studio, which is darn handy. ( I bought key board for my iPad which I love)

So Etsy it is. I"ve already started listing more jewelry ( I"m over 130 entries already) and my goal is to list 20-30 pieces each month, until I have at least 200 in the shop.

I"m also listing items from my main line, Mechanical Romance. That category is now over 25!

In the coming weeks I plan to update my Etsy banner and icon .   I’ll have periodic sales in the hopes of increasing traffic.  I’ve started to pin my listings on Pinterest, which has already helped increase it!

I don't like the idea of investing so much time creating the listings and sprucing up my shop front if I'm not going to get anything for it.. I"m just going to have to take a leap of faith.

It wouldn't take more than a few sales a month to make it worthwhile.

 So that’s the plan.