Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rebirth of Creativity

Lately I've been bemoaning the loss of creative time that I don't have any more. So in a desperate attempt at soothing my soul, I spent some time crafting jewelry with my newest obsession, handmade ceramic beads made in 1973 and reprised anew with fresh designs by the same artist. Just looking at them organized in my segmented drawers puts a smile on my face!

Well, one thing led to another, and I found myself making up stories to go with the jewelry I was creating. Here's one of those stories, accompanied by the jewelry that was inspired by it.


It's a miserable day, a low-sky kind of day blanketed in fluffy gray clouds, like so much laundry dulled from years of washing. The wind is howling through the house like a freight train. The rain is beating on the roof like a fist hammering to get in. It's so miserable out that I'm engaging in creative procrastination, anything to delay venturing out into the world to face my daily routine.

I look out my studio window. The long yellow leaves of the willow cling to their branches for dear life, long beyond what the other trees have accomplished. And then I see it: a small volunteer tree, nearly a half mile down the driveway, at the end of the scrubby line of wild growth that separates our little patch of earth from Farmer Bob's soybean acres. A cottonwood, perhaps, or maybe a crabapple. I can't see anything from the warmth of my creative space except for its perfectly symmetric form and its brilliant salmon and yellow leaves. I know what I have to do.

This necklace is comprised of a triplet of red bronze leaves complemented by the old and the new: vintage 1973 handmade ceramic beads and new beads made with those very same hands nearly 40 years later. Coral and copper lend their bright voices to the composition. An unending 30" or so circle to slip around your neck when you need to escape a miserable day.

So then what? I've been wanting to open a store called "A Field of Beads" somewhere: on the web, in the world, on Etsy. Etsy was the path of least resistance, so I opened a store for only my handcrafted jewelry. You can see other shots of this piece plus another story with another necklace on afieldofbeads.etsy.com.

Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who may be reading this.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How time flies!

Starting this blog was such an exciting project for me; yet here it is, what, maybe two years later, and I haven't posted anything! What's been happening since I last posted?

The most exciting and interesting event happened to me nearly two years ago when my friend Susan Sherman asked me to become her partner at the Gahanna Bead Studio (http://www.gahannabeadshop.com) in Gahanna, Ohio. What a time it's been since! The shop takes virtually all of my time now, but I couldn't be happier - or more challenged. Day to day management of a bead shop is proving to be harder than any job I've ever had. I imagine it must be like being the CEO of a company, though on a much smaller scale and with far fewer resources. Time is spent not beading but managing staff and resources, paying bills, scheduling classes, and tracking down teachers for samples. I can't even remember the last time I got to play in the basement, rolling out clay and immersing myself in my craft for hours at a time.

Flash forward another year: I wrote the two paragraphs above a year ago and am now just getting back to blogging. When I say "time flies", I mean it does so at supersonic speed! What a whirlwind two years it's been.

I am happy to say that the shop is humming along quite smoothly (with lots of hard work) and that business is going quite well. I hope the signs we see at the studio are indicators that our economy as a whole is improving as well. Only time - advancing at the speed of light - will tell.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Redemption of the Klutz

If there's one thing I really love about being in business for myself, it's interacting with customers. I love the chitchat, the assistance, the stories they tell, and sometimes even the selling. But our relationship with the customer doesn't end with the sale. Sometimes it carries on after-the-fact, as I outlined in my post below. Even goofing up as I did by breaking her pendant, I know that most people are positive, forgiving, generous, and accommodating.

So I suppose it should have come as no surprise to me that my customer, soon-to-be beneficiary of one free slightly-chipped corset pendant, was all of the above - and more! She understood that "these things happen" when I explained that I had accidentally broken her purchase. In fact, we are taking this opportunity for her to custom-design a pendant to her exact specifications. Rather than a silver bail, she'll have three holes in the top. And rather than holes in the bottom, as in the original piece, she'll have stringing holes in each of the sides, where the armholes would have been if I had turned the corset into a woman's trunk. She's picking colors and textures to suit her own style, and by having a truly unique piece to reflect her own personality, her jewelry will have a jump-start in echoing her personal voice.

It's terrific when we can turn "lemons into lemonade", but I couldn't have done it without the sugar that is my customer! Thanks, Barbara; you've been a real sweetheart.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Confessions of a Klutz

It happens to all of us at one time or another. We make something we are inspired to make, someone is inspired to buy it, and then BAM! We drop said item on the tile floor and it breaks.

That's what happened to me this morning. I sold one of my corset pendants with an attached sterling silver bail - NOT one of my cheaper items - to a customer on Etsy. I printed out the packing slip, gathered all the packing materials, weighed everything and printed out the postage, after which the program sent her a confirmation email. Then while giving the pendant its final once-over before putting it to bed in its little red box, kissing it goodbye as it were, it slipped out of my fingers and onto the floor. Only a tiny piece broke off of the collar. But ceramics is not an immediate-gratification art; there's no way to repair it quickly, and in good conscience I couldn't send someone a repaired piece anyway. So I'm looking at completely remaking the item, which is a three-day task at best.

So what's the first thing I did after I dropped the pendant, besides crying? Well, I headed down to the refrigerator, of course; what else?! Then I stared out at the wildflower field for a while, trying to pick out the different species that are now flowering; the rain yesterday sure helped it along. Creative procrastination is definitely my forte', but the refrigerator move has me concerned. I now know that stress prompts me to eat, so there may actually be a silver lining here. I turned on the TV to a movie on HBO, more for background distraction than anything and decided to blog about this little tragedy that has so ruined an otherwise lovely day.

I've already left my customer glowing feedback, and she deserved it. She paid immediately, as most Etsy customers do, but now I'm afraid I'll get neutral or - heaven forbid! - negative feedback. It's bound to happen sooner or later; I was just hoping it would be later. I've always said that "a mistake is a chance to make a lifelong customer", and I make it a point to bend over backwards for my customers. I'm definitely going to be doing backbends here!

So I'm off to email her, to confess to my klutziness, to beg her forgiveness, and to give her options. Keep your fingers crossed!

Ack! I've been Tagged!

Oh, yes; I've barely gotten my feet wet, and here I am learning all about meme tags. Heaven forbid that it be I who breaks the chain, so here, forthwith, are my honest and true answers to *melanie*earthenwood , who tagged me.

  • What were you doing 10 years ago? Ten years ago I was living in North Carolina and had returned to college 25 years after high school graduation. I was totally at home studying natural resources at the College of Forestry, NCSU

  • What were you doing 1 year ago? Exactly one year ago I was deciding whether to have surgery on my neck to replace two compressed disks. I was doing PT for that and a torn rotator disk and was ordered not to do any gardening. In July a year ago I had it done and never looked back; best decision I ever made.

  • Five snacks you enjoy: stovetop popcorn made with corn oil, no butter, lots of salt; chocolate; strawberries in season with brown sugar and sour cream; red grapefruit; GORP

  • Five songs to which you know all the lyrics: Okay, I'll admit it: "Stairway to Heaven", "Desperado", anything by Michael Franks (just about), ummmm, "The Star Spangled Banner", ummmm, ummmmm, hmmmm.... lots of REM songs; am I showing my age yet?

  • Five things you would do if you were a millionaire: Fund my grandson's college education; fund our retirement so my husband could retire right now; buy a little house in Johnstown and set up a bead shop/artist studio co-op; give some to my kids; and finally, give some to my favorite charities.

  • Five bad habits: Not exercising or taking care of myself; eating for the wrong reasons; obsessing over unreachable goals; procrastinating; leaving my clothes on the floor.

  • Five things you like doing: playing with clay; spending time with my husband; walking around the pond with Ethan, my grandson; visiting Raleigh, NC and catching up with my kids and friends; walking in the woods at any time of year; gardening; sewing. Oh, that's more than five, but who's counting?

  • Five things you would never wear again: a bikini; a business suit; hot pants; hair dye; a wedding dress.

  • Five favorite toys: Legos; crayons; Play-doh; the blocks my husband made for Ethan; a rubber ball.

    1. Tag; you're it! Here's the next round of bloggers who have to figure this out. I did it; now you can, too! Just cut and paste the questions above into a post of your own, edit out my answers, and insert your own. Tag five more bloggers and let them know they've been tagged.

      Shaterra Clay Studio
      Kim Gepper's Blog
      Ginny Moore
      Becca's Beauties Blog
      My last one was to have been Gaea Beads, but she was tagged by *melanie*. So I'm on the prowl to find some other lucky winner!

      Tuesday, June 19, 2007

      The Embroidered Soul Story

      The question I get most frequently from customers is, "Why Embroidered Soul?" Still others say, "I get it!" or "With a name like that, I have to see what you sell."

      Why, indeed, Embroidered Soul? The name bears no reflection whatsoever on what we carry, but it does reflect my personal state of mind when we first opened the site. I needed to establish a new career path, a way to spend my time productively after some events in my life changed the path I was on. I wanted to call upon my past experiences, loves, and inspirations to create a "job" for myself in new surroundings. With the help of my husband, we established our website to provide an outlet for connecting with customers. Calling upon past experiences and knowledge to carve out a niche for myself, I came to feel that not only my life, but "every life is an embroidered soul", and that became our initial USP.

      During this same period, I began dyeing, painting, marbling and embellishing fabrics for fiber artists and quilters, and I was also sewing my own clothes with some of the silks and rayons I dyed. I constructed my logo from snippets of hand-dyed raw silk and nicknamed it "the soulburst". The website began as a way to connect with customers who might be interested in my work.

      Coincidentally, we wanted to launch a line of Greek ceramic beads and pendants we discovered while on a trip in Europe in 1999. Somewhere along the way, fabric dyeing fell by the wayside. Meanwhile, I had picked up the exclusive distributorship in the US of Irene's fabulous ceramic beads, and we were quickly becoming long-distance friends. In 2006, Irene visited the US for the first time, accompanying me on my first big show at To Bead True Blue in Tucson.

      While we first focused only on the Greek line, we expanded bit by bit, adding beads that we liked and that we thought would complement Irene's beads. Eventually we started adding natural beads from the Philippines, thinking that by purchasing them we were helping an essentially poor nation gather some economic benefit from its natural resources.

      Soon the name, buoyed by print advertising, became so (relatively) recognizable that we decided to keep it, thinking that even though it doesn't immediately identify our products, it does reflect our mindset, our interest in the human experience, and our love for art and everything that influences what causes people to make art.

      Before long, we had artists contacting us about their own work. As money permitted, we started investing in art ceramic beads and now carry the work of American artist Sharleen Newland and Bulgarian artists Vladislav and Kremina Ivanov. I took up ceramic pendant-making a year or so ago and now offer my own work as well. Our new USP came to be "Uncommon beads for the uncommon soul", and we continue to focus our energies on acquiring the hard-to-find and unsual for our customers.

      Little by little, mass-produced beads are falling by the wayside as we attempt to focus on beads that come from artists, all of whom we consider to be "Embroidered Souls."

      Sunday, June 17, 2007

      The value of a question mark!

      Who'd have thought? Thanks to a generous person in the help group for suggesting I add a question mark to the end of my blog address so I could view the updated version. Worked like a charm! Now that I've got the dang thing started, it's time to get to the bells and whistles. Stay tuned.