Friday, September 30, 2011

Visually Mapping Your Ideas

How do you translate your creative thoughts into the tactile elements you want to include in your art jewelry?  What process is involved?  It's not as easy as you may think it should be.

First, try to visually map your stream of conciousness, writing down on paper the ideas associated with the theme you want to emanate in your piece.  Start with the images that come to mind.  Add the words or phrases, colours & textures, materials & techniques and emotions that are evoked.

When finalizing your design, select the components for your piece by pulling information directly from your visual map.  Take your notes to the store with you when you go to buy what you need.  

Don't get discouraged when the materials you want are not be readily available in your local area.  This can be really frustrating, I know, but do your best to stick with your original concept or idea. 

You may, at times, have to adapt or modify your design a bit as you go.  Or you may be able to find just the right item online or in a little antique shop you visit on your next vacation.

Don't give up and don't compromise your vision.  Set the project aside until you do find the right components.  They will come along when you least expect it.  Good luck on your artistic travels!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jewelry Challenge: Haunted Vintage Jewelry

I found this 'challenge' online this week in a free weekly e-newsletter I'm subscribed to, devoted to home jewelry business success tips.  Here is the challenge...create a piece of jewelry that somehow embodies the concepts of both 'haunted' and 'vintage'.

After you finish your piece, share photos of your creation on the challenge page and tell a bit about it....

- What's the story behind this design?
- What components did you use, and what inspired you to use them?
- What was your process of creating this piece?

You can add the URL of your website, blog or online storefront at the end of your story. The challenge closes on October 23, 2011 at midnight.  It's not a contest, there is no prize given.  It simply sounds like a fun idea, don't you think?

I've been contemplating trying out some new techniques to create a piece to share.  I'm looking at using shrink plastic, which I've never done before, to make a unique pendant and creating a mixed media necklace using leather lacing, organza ribbon, beads & wire-work.  It's still very much in the planning stages and it will evolve as I go along but it's got my creative spirit in gear.

If you want to check it out the e-newsletter, click here.  For the challenge, click here.  I can't wait to see what people come up with!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creating a Brand

I've been putting some thought into 'branding' recently, both for my company and my product.  What steps do I need to take and what elements do I need to include to establish myself as a 'known entity'?

Let's first define 'brand' and 'branding'...

Brand: a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer

Branding: the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand

Here are some of my initial thoughts on what I need to do...

A mission statement is probably a good place to start.  What does your company want to do, how do you want to do it, where do you want to do it, why do you want to do it and how do you want to do it?  Make it short & sweet, clearly understandable to all.  Do I currently have a definitive mission statement?  No, but I'm thinking I should start working on that right now.

I believe that having a customized logo is very important.  That's why I asked an artist friend of mine to create one for me last year.  I'd been using a free fairy clipart that I'd found online.  It was more cartoon-like than classy & grown-up.  See my current logo to the left and my old one below...

Big difference, eh?  It's the same basic theme (a fairy on the moon) but the impact is much more dramatic with the new logo, I think.  Your logo should be unique & easily identifiable.  When people see it, they will think of you.
It is my opinion that you need good quality business cards.  My first cards were purchased from an online printing company, and while they totally served my purpose when I started out, I quickly learned that I needed to step it up a bit if I wanted to reach a more sophisticated audience.

Next, I believe there needs to be consistency across the board.  Your logo & colour scheme should be reflected on your business cards, flyers, website, blog & wherever else you have a presence; facebook, etsy, craft shows, etc.  This blog will be definitely be getting a much needed facelift to bring it in line with my company colour soon as I can figure out how to do it.

Have a core set of products that customers 'know' you for.  That brings some repeat business, but even more importantly, referrals.  I can't tell you how many times people have stopped in our booth and told me that their friend had told them to come over to see what we had.  The products, for me, that would be 'core products' are the Tree of Life pendants and cloak clasps. 
It's still important to continually bring in or create new products to keep your customers coming back....just to see what delightful treats you have this time....but they should complement or enhance your core products.

I certainly will be put putting some more time & thought into this branding issue in the next few weeks.  I think there is real value in establishing your company and your work in this way.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

History is All Around Us

I've been a history buff for as long as I can remember, and that's a LOT of years.  How many people really put a lot of thought into it though?  Look around...history is all around us.

What was happening 100 years or more ago on the ground you are standing on right now?  How did your town gets its name?  Where did the street names in your neighbourhood come from?  A little bit of research online or at your local library can provide you with a wealth of interesting information.

Here's some of the information I've discovered about the town where I grew up....

The main street was originally planned by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe as a military road from York (Toronto) to Fort Penetanguishene.  Surveying began in the spring of 1794 but the road was not fully opened until early 1796.  Although Yonge Street was conceived as a military road, the possibilities for settlement along its length were obvious.

The village of Richmond Hill began about 1801 when Abner Miles, an innkeeper and merchant from York, settled on the lots each side of Yonge Street at Major Mackenzie Drive. He established an inn, store, and ashery, thus creating a nucleus for future development. On his death in 1806 his son James inherited his lands, eventually donating land for the Presbyterian Church and a school.

Above:  Home built by James Miles (son of Abner Miles) at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Major Mackenzie Drive, as it looked in 1885. The home was occupied for many years by Miles' nephew James Playter Jr., and later by the Boyle family.  Unfortunately, the house is no longer there.

By 1830, the name 'Richmond Hill' had become well established.  The village was known briefly as Miles Hill and then Mount Pleasant.  According to popular history, 'Richmond Hill' may have come from a visit of the Duke of Richmond to the area, in 1819.  However, the family of Benjamin Barnard believed that the name was adopted when their father taught his school classes to sing "The Lass of Richmond Hill", a favourite song from his childhood in Richmond, Surrey.

This is only the tip of the information I've found.  There is so much more to discover.  It might not be the most exciting stuff to you but I love history!  You'll have to excuse me now, I'm off to do more research.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Peaceful Santuary

Are you weary & discouraged from trying to keep up with everything you think you need & have to?  This modern life we call 'normal' is not normal at all.  It's not designed to help us have happier or more meaningful lives, or even a more productive one.  Do we really have an option though?  I think we do.

You won't be able to shut out everything, I agree, but you don't have to fight every battle either, especially when they are not your own.  Don't surrender your sanity to someone else's insanity.  You can choose to create a separate peace for yourself.

How do you manage this?  Quite simply, find or create a place to retreat.  A refuge where you can rest and renew yourself before returning to the fray. 

This place could be a comfortable chair in the corner with soft lighting, perhaps some candles burning to the side, and a good book.  Step through the pages to another world, a simpler world, a more peaceful world.

Your retreat could be a long walk in the woods listening to the sounds of nature.  Take along your binoculars and bird watching guide.  Turn your cell phone off, guilt free.  Absorb the ambience.

Your place of retreat will be different from mine, the specifics don't really matter.  As long as the place or activity gives you a chance to unwind, that inspires & challenges you.  Make it beautiful, use it often.

Learn to say 'yes' only to things that matter, and 'no' to whatever gets in the way of that 'yes'.  You will ultimately find yourself more energized and productive.  Peace and calm will settle into your life.  It's a peace worth seeking.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fibber McGee's Closet & The Thing In The Hall

I drove home from work a different way yesterday and found myself passing by the property where my grandparents' house used to be.  A flood of fond memories washed into my head.  One thing in particular came to mind.

There was a closet in the small hallway next to the bathroom of that old house that my grandmother called 'Fibber McGee's Closet'.  I remember that it had all kinds of cool stuff in it.  If something wasn't somewhere else, it was in there.  As a child, I had no idea why it was called 'Fibber McGee's Closet' and I didn't think to question it.

I have since learned that back in the 1940's and 50's there was a weekly radio show called Fibber McGee and Molly.  McGee kept everything, he never threw anything away. Where did he keep all that stuff that was either "too good to throw away" or that he "might need some day"?  In his closet, of course! 

At some point during each show, McGee would go looking for something in his closet.  It was a recurring gag where he or someone else would open the closet and everything would fall out on top of them.  He'd eventully find exactly what he was looking for, including some obscure and unusual things.

I have a closet like that in my house.  It contains bedding, towels, glassware, fabric, holiday decorations, lightbulbs, matches, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, dolls and who knows what else!  Maybe I should start calling it 'Fibber McGee's Closet' too.  *smile*

Also in my house, interestingly enough in the hall by the bathroom, stands what my mother called the 'Thing In The Hall'.  The 'thing' is actually a tall, narrow chest of drawers.  Inside you will find batteries, new toothbrushes, sewing supplies, patterns, tissue paper, extension cords, appliance manuals, yarn, knitting needles, safety pins, hair brushes, old eyeglasses, scotch tape and tons of other stuff too. 

If Fibber McGee had had a 'Thing In The Hall', I bet it would have been much like mine.....a junk drawer gone wild!  *smile*

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Birthstone: Sapphire

Sapphire is the birthstone for the month of September.  It is the non-red variety of corundum (the red variety of corundum is ruby).  A 9.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness, sapphire is the second hardest natural mineral.  It is one of the four most precious gemstones (the other three being, diamond, ruby and emerald).

Blue is by far the most popular color for sapphires, but they can be found in many other colours, including yellow, green, white, colourless, pink, orange, brown, and purple.  Sapphire has been mined in Sri Lanka, since the 7th century.  It is also found in Australia, China, Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria.  Sapphires are commonly heated to improve their color and reduce cloudiness that is caused by rutile inclusions. The rutile inclusions are responsible for the "star" or "cat's eye" in star sapphires. 

There was a notion in ancient times, that the Earth is set on sapphire, and hence, the sky is blue. It is also believed that the Ten Commandments, were written on sapphire.  The ancient Egyptians associated sapphire with the 'eye of Horas' (the eye in the sky).  It was also popular amongst the Romans, for its beauty.  Sapphire was worn by kings, as it was believed to possess the property of wisdom.  Priests wore it because it was also said to symbolize purity. 

The sapphire helps bring spiritual enlightenment and inner peace.  It is believed to offer healing properties for rheumatism, colic, and mental illness.  It is also considered an antidepressant and an aid to psycho-kinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance and astral projection.  Long ago, it was used as an antidote for poison and as a cure for a number of illnesses.

Sapphire is associated with physical and emotional balance.  Attributes like wisdom, purity and sympathy are linked with sapphire.  It also stands for the qualities of loyalty, faithfulness, truth, sincerity, constancy and reliability.  Therefore, it signifies long term relationships.  Sapphire also said to inspire clarity of thoughts and improve problem solving capacity.  It is said to protect the possessor from evil thoughts.  It is also believed that sapphire strengthens the power of intuition.