Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fire Starter Project - This is a Green, Eco-Friendly Project

I stumbled upon this great idea on the Internet:  making homemade fire-starters out of old candle wax.  They're awesome because they work great and because it's a way to recycle.  I make them for my walk-in store.  Clients have been bringing me bags of old candle wax and needless to say, there comes a point when you just don't need more wax.

 Before you begin, please be advised of the following: **Never heat wax directly in a pot.  Wax is like grease and it's very flammable.  Please use a double boiler. 

Prepare before beginning your project - cover your work space with plenty of newspaper to protect from dripping wax.  Also, if you have an old apron, I suggest you wear it... just in case.  Prepare an old muffin pan (one you'll not be using for those Sunday morning brunches).

-Old wax candles (different colors and different scents)
-1.5" recycled candle wick (12)- these you'll scoop from the bottom of the pot from the melted candles.
-Wood chips, cardboard or my favorite, old pot-pourri (enough to fill 12 muffin tins)
-Old Muffin Pan  (not used for food)
-Long, wood or metal spoon
-Newspaper, drop cloth
-Paper towels or an old rag to wipe your hands

Step 1.
Prepare your double boiler, add different wax candles until you feel you have enough to fill the 12 muffin tins and heat til the candles are completely melted and liquid.

Step 2.
While you're waiting for your wax to melt, fill each little muffin tin with either pieces of ripped paper, cardboard, wood chips or pot-pourri, whatever will burn and isn't toxic.  I usually fill them about 3/4 of the way so that I have room for the wax to flow.

Step 3.
Once the wax is completely liquid, I scoop up the old candle wicks that are sitting in the bottom of the pot with a long spoon, I set them aside on the newspaper until they dry and cut them into approximately 1.5" lengths.  I usually have a small container where I store the unused wick pieces for my next project.

Step 4.
Prepare to pour the liquid wax into each muffin tin *(if you had an old gravy boat, a measuring cup or something of the sort, it would be preferable to transfer the wax into one of these before pouring).  It isn't necessary, but it'll make things a whole lot easier and less messy.

Step 5.
When you notice the wax changing color, this means your wax is hardening and you'll need to work quickly. Add one piece of wick for each muffin tin.

Step 6.
Let them completely harden (speed up the process by sticking them in the freezer). 

Step 7.
Pop them out as you would ice cubs and store them in a container or wrap them up in cellophane and display them in a basket beside the fireplace.

**Make sure people don't mistake them for candles - they really create quite the flame.

Use them to start your fires in the fireplace, wood stove, campfires (they eliminate the need for paper).  You'll become a fire making pro with these little fire-starters.

Success with Etsy

I'm a newbie with the whole Etsy store, and I must say that it can be overwhelming to see how fierce the competition is on Etsy.  I really thought I had no chance at all.  I've decided to give it a year.  I would do everything I could, find the tricks of the trade and put them into practice. 

As any type of business, I realize success does not come overnight and does not happen by accident.  It takes time and lots of hard work and I'm ready to do these.

First of all, after registering my etsy store, I immediately intergrated google analytics into my backstore - this enabled me to monitor what's really going on with my store; who was visiting, where are they visiting from, how long are they staying and so forth.  This little tool is a MUST if you're want to have any kind of success with Etsy or any other website for that matter.

After monitoring my website for a while, I had to do something about my bounce rate.  What is a bounce rate?  Bouncing is when a person goes into your store and bounces right back out unto someone elses website.  My bouce rate was high.  I mean really high.  I was in the mid 80's to high 70's.  I needed to do something to keep these potential clients in my store longer.  So, what did I do?  I googled, of course.  And I found tips and tricks to lower your bounce rate.  I applied them and I'm now down to low 60's, which is considered good.  How did I do it?  This is so easy and it's quite ingenious as well, I placed internal links into my descriptions.  Each description has a link to another item in my store.  It's easy and it works.  The goal is to keep your visitors interested.  This method has worked for me and I know it will work for you.

Another thing that I'm doing is working harder on my pictures.  It's difficult to get an interesting picture that'll entice people to click.  So, before I begin clicking away with my camera, I look around the house, even my closet, for interesting textures and neutral backgrounds.  The combination colors and background of your photograph are very important because people choose treasury items based on these photographs and if your photos are blah, chances are you might loose out on being featured in a treasury, thus losing potential sales. 

So, these are the things I've been working on and so far, I've been seeing some success.  I will be adding more details on what I do to succeed with Etsy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Working on New Project

What a beautiful morning!  The sky reflected soft hues of pinks and reds as the sun slowly came up over the horizon.  I'm feeling a better today.  All is good and it's a perfect day to get some work done. 

A client wants me to make a pair of earrings just like she saw in a magazine.  The technique involves silver metalwork and I can't wait to finish them.  It'll be something really different from what I ever made.  I'll be posting pictures of my progress. 

I'm always learning new jewelry making techniques and this project is the perfect introduction to silver metalwork.  I've been doing some soldering, but needed to upgrade my tools.  I did order a better system, but I'm waiting to setup a shop outside my house with a good ventilation system because soldering sterling silver is very toxic and can be hazardous to your health if it's not done properly.

I'm still offering a great SALE in my Etsy store.  Everything is reduced, plus FREE Shipping on most of my items, plus you get a coupon with every purchase.  This sale ends today at midnight (Atlantic Time).

Well, I have lots of work to do.  I'll be back with updates of my work. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Great Mystery of Pearls

Before I begin, I just want to make it clear that I'm not a professional in the area of pearls.  My passion my business is what motivated me to learn about this mysterious little gem.  I thought it would be a good idea to be informed before selling my pearl jewelry.  So, what did I learn? 

First of all we need to talk about pearl farming.  It’s kind of funny to actually say those words together: “pearl farming.”  When I think of a farm, I see a big red barn with chickens running around the yard, spotted, black and white cows scattered out in the field and the sweet smell of hay mixed with manure lingering in the air. Quite a different picture with pearl farming indeed!  First of all, a pearl farm needs water.  I guess that means a waterfront farm…  I really like that!

Although both types of farming are very different in structure and content, they are both very similar in that they’re a very risky and unpredictable business. Many factors such as bad weather, water pollution, excessive heat or cold and disease are only some of the problems pearl farmers are challenged with.

At this point it is important to establish the difference between the expressions: “Freshwater Pearls” and “Saltwater Pearls”.  Although both are cultured, meaning that they both are grown under human influence and intervention, they demand different farming techniques.  I will try to explain each one beginning with the Freshwater Pearls. 

Freshwater Pearls are formed in freshwater mollusks.  A technician will carefully remove a piece of mantle (the membrane between the two shells of a mussel), cut it into small pieces and surgically graft it to another mussels mantle.  One mollusk can accept approximately between 24-36 grafts per cycle. It’s in fact a very delicate procedure.  The mollusk will then react to the irritants and begin covering them with nacre.  Nacre is a combination of crystalline and organic substances.  Day after day for many years (2-6 years), this mollusk, like a faithful little factory worker, will keep producing nacre and cover the multiple irritants until the many layers miraculously form pearls.  Talk about multi-tasking!

In their natural state, freshwater pearls vary in an array of soothing colors such as pink to mauve to gray to rich cream to peach.  You probably think I forgot to add “white”.  Actually I didn’t.  Mollusks never produce white pearls.  White pearls are actually the result of cream-colored pearls that have been bleached.  Are you shocked?  I was when I first learned about it.  The thing is, I never much liked the white pearls; I always preferred the cream-colored pearls and now I know why. 

Because a freshwater pearl is the product of a small piece of membrane, it’s very difficult to achieve a perfectly round pearl, thus freshwater pearls are rarely round.  The interesting thing, though, is that the technician does have a certain amount of control over the shape of the pearl.

It’s a miracle indeed, that such a seemingly insignificant creature could produce such a beautiful gem as a pearl!

You really need to see and hold them for yourself to appreciate the cool, silky feel of pearls.

The pictures below are from my gallery.  This handmade necklace is made with natural freshwater pearls in ivory color and the main part of the necklace is made of a beautiful Mabe Pearl (which is a whole other story).  The handmade pendant below is also made with a beautiful Mabe Pearl.  The luster is amazingly beautiful!

I'm now on Etsy

I finally did it! I'm now on Etsy.com It took some time to decide exactly what I wanted to do, but now I know. I think this was a very good decision because checkout is integrated right into your etsy store and it makes things so much easier for the customer.

It's really easy to shop in my new etsy store. All you need to do is register. Click here for easy registration . The best thing is you can shop securely and with peace of mind; you don't even need a Paypal account if you don't have one. All you need to do is follow the easy instructions when you checkout. If you would like a Paypal account click here for easy registration .

The great thing about having an etsy store is that I'll be offering promotions and sales on a regular basis. As of right now, I'm offering a great FREE International Shipping promo on many of my jewelry pieces and other smaller items in my store. Plus I'm offering a Sale on my entire store and plus you get a coupon off your next purchase. Want to see my store now? Click here .

We didn't forget about the chocolate lovers out there. We opened a store where we sell our special, gourmet, homemade treats. Be advised that we just launched a new line - homemade taffy- Click here to see our new ChocoTreats store.

I'm really trying hard to add more men's jewelry and I started off with cufflinks. Of course, you know me, I'm trying different things with our "Go Green" Collection (recycled wine bottle glass) and I've come up with the idea of integrating the recycled, fused glass cabs in my creations. See recycled wine bottle cufflinks here.

In case you're not familiar with our "Go Green" collection, see example here.

This glass work is very tedious and took quite a bit of practice before I got it right. Working with commercial glass is one thing, but working with recycled glass has its difficulties, believe me.