Sunday, November 30, 2008

Okay, one more post because I need to vent.

Some days, I just look around at me and think, "What the hell have I gotten myself into here?!" Today is one of those days. After I wrote that first post this morning about the new painted pendants that I am totally loving, I realized that I have a whole bunch of stuff to do. And of course, I have to keep Colden entertained at the same time, or I won't get ANYTHING done!

What has been driving me nuts is the lack of workspace for me lately. I can't work in the basement like I did when I was pregnant for a few reasons. First, there is waaaaaaay too much stuff down there that Colden gets into when I am down there to print something out or look for a particular bead or whatever. Plus, now he can climb stairs, and I am terrified that he will start climbing up the stairs, slip and fall, and put his tooth through his lip or bash his head against the concrete cinderblock wall. Second, it costs way too much to heat that part of the basement every single day. Third, I really don't like it down there because the light isn't great and it always feels like I'm working in a dungeon. Really.

So this is where I HAVE been working lately. (And please don't tell my husband you saw these pictures of our totally messed up house online because he'll kill me and make me take 'em down.)

This is where I have been stashing some of the beads I'm using on current projects. The big, blue suitcase is what I've been using to haul projects and inventory around to shows this fall.

My current "desk", a.k.a. our dining room table. (And no, that's not a bottle of wine. It's balsamic vinegar. Really.)

My other "office" in the living room. Think I've got enough clutter there? That's all gonna have to go somewhere before we put the Christmas tree up this year!!!

So, yeah, this is how I've been working lately. You don't even want to see what the glass workshop looks like. But we'll get to that later.

Anyway, now that I've posted my rant for today, I think I'm going to tackle some unfinished projects that I've been sitting on for a month now and see about getting some lunch for me and the kid!

New Handpainted Pendants Available on my Etsy Shop!

For the last few months, I've been tossing this idea around in my head about taking a bunch of fused glass pendants and painting them with lovely little nature scenes. (My first problem was that I can't paint, but I'm reasonably happy with the results!)

I got these wonderful acrylic enamel paints way back when I first sprung for all my glass fusing supplies, and they basically sat there, untouched, until last fall when I finally started feeling up to working with the glass again. I tried a few cuff bracelets with them, and they worked out pretty well, and then I decided to try my hand at painting a few pretty little scenes.

The photo on this one isn't very good, but you get the idea.

For this piece, I fused some white frit into the background to make it look like snow!

This is a much better photo of a painted pendant with a lone pine tree on a snowy landscape.

And then, just in case you were getting bored with the snow, I painted a few summery scenes. I love the way I can get texture from the paints by adding water or using them "dry", and because I am painting the top clear layer of glass, there are shadows underneath that give an unexpected depth to the whole piece.

I'll have more of these for sale as I finish them. The process to make them takes several steps in the kiln. First, I have to cut the pendant shapes from the glass and then full fuse them at 1550 dehrees Fahrenheit with a layer of clear on top for depth. After the pendants have cooled, I grind down any uneven edges and then firepolish them in the kiln again. Once the basic shape is perfect, I paint them with the enamels and allow the enamels to dry. Then it's once more back in the kiln, this time to a temperature of about 1350 degrees Fahrenheit to allow the enamels to cure and melt. Because the enamels are melted into the glass, the design is permanent and will not chip, fade or wear off. Once I'm happy with how everything looks, I will add the pendant finding, a length of satin cord or a fiber necklace, and put the little beauties out for sale!

As I'm gearing up for my last big show of the holiday season this coming weekend, I'll be working with some fusible paper in my designs this week. Once I get those done, I'll of course post some photos and some techniques here on the blog.

I've also been tossing around the idea of starting a jewelry makers guild up here in the Adirondacks, or at least revisiting the idea of starting up a bead society once again. (Tried that when I had the brick and mortar store, but I wasn't terribly motivated then, and I really am now!)

This weekend, I'll be at the Christmas in the Village celebration in Essex, N.Y. on Lake Champlain! I'll have lots of new work for sale at the Adirondack Art Association Gallery on Main Street in Essex on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 5, 6 and 7 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Let's hope the weather cooperates!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Monday...

And another bad day at a craft show. I just can't believe that it's all the economy. I think I had two sales the entire day, and I made just enough to pay for my table fee for the show at the Golden Arrow hotel in Lake Placid this weekend. I didn't even make my booth fee back! What was up with THAT?!

I have to admit, I think part of the problem was that I had a teeny, tiny little space. I should have sprung the extra $15 and gotten a larger space, something that I will do next year. I also want to have backdrops made for next year, which may help things look more professional. The space was just way too tiny, and I could only fit two tables in there instead of my usual three, and everything just looked crowded and cramped. Argh. I realized, also, when I got there that I had forgotten to bring an entire bag of earrings!!! Didn't matter, since I don't want to sell them anymore, anyway, and that way I didn't have to worry about squeezing them into my microscope slide-sized space.

I've made some changes to the blog in hopes that I can start to use this more as a promotional tool for my Etsy shop! (Someone may have noticed my Etsy minis all over the place! Buy something!) I think that from now on, Mondays will be my days to update my blog, post a few articles on my techniques and show what's new, and maybe post a schedule of shows or two.

Speaking of shows, I've finished a preliminary craft show calendar for 2009, and I hope it's going to be a good one. I'm looking to add a few high-end shows and some larger festivals, like maybe the Nyack Street Fair in May, and maybe see if I can get myself juried into one of the big shows down in Albany at the Empire State Plaza. (My old stomping grounds from when I worked in community development and it was aaaaaaaaaaaall politics!)

For this weekend, you can catch me at the Golden Arrow Best Western hotel in Lake Placid on Saturday, November 29 from 10 am until 4 pm. (Or until people stop buying stuff, whichever comes later!) Then after that, my last show of the season will be Christmas in the Village on Main Street in Essex at the Adirondack Art Association Gallery. I will be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 5-7 from 10 am until 4 pm. (Or, again, if we're busy, possibly later!) For more information, you can contact the Village of Essex.

As my tiny brain rests tonight, I am going to start thinking up articles to write about my work so I can write maybe one more short article about a new piece this week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Complete Disgrace

Several weeks ago, I participated for the first time as a vendor at the annual Fall Arts and Crafts Show at Plattsburgh State University. I was incredibly disappointed, outraged and saddened, all at the same time.

It seemed as though the show managers were concerned only with collecting as many booth fees and entry fees as possible. 60% of the vendors at this "craft" show were selling items that were NOT handmade. 30% of the vendors were selling jewelry, and of those vendors, there were only 4 of us that were selling jewelry that we made ourselves and did not import or purchase for resale.

I counted one ceramic artist, one artist doing bags and hats, one photographer, one paper artist, and two wood artists. There were no functional glass artists (i.e., vases, plates, bowls, goblets and drinking glasses) and no one selling fiber or fiber art.

I was so outraged by this that I started a letter-writing campaign to everyone at the university that I could think of, as well as letters to the editors of our two local newspapers. So far, the only response I have received was from the editor of the Press Republican who told me that it wasn't that there is some debate over when an item becomes "handmade" and that I would have to scale my two-page manifesto back to 300 words or less if I wanted it published. The response from the editor, Bob Grady, reads as follows:

I'm including an article we carried last May on the problem to which you allude. The college apparently is aware of the complaint.
If you'd like to write a Letter to the Editor on the subject (or any other, for that matter), we'd be glad to publish it. Our limit is 300 words per letter. Yours is substantially longer, so if you had intended it for publication in our paper, you'll need to shorten it.
We've heard from a number of people on this, over the years. Apparently, one of the sticky points is at what point a purchased item becomes a craft. If a person paints it, or decorates it, or ties a ribbon in it, does it become a handmade craft? And should the host of the show be responsible for policing it and making a determination on that point, ousting violators?
I'd be glad to have a Letter to the Editor offering your views, but you should know that there doesn't appear to be unanimity on the question.

Bob Grady

Since I could not respond as I would have liked to his letter and have it published, I am going to write my response here.

First of all, the managers of this "craft" show should look for some guidance from such respected organizations such as The American Craft Council. (Their website can be found at The American Craft Council is an arts organization that promotes handmade craft in the United States. They have a wonderful mission statement that can be found on their website, and numerous links and resources to help shape the notion that craft is, for all intents and purposes, art.

The show managers should also look at some of the websites popping up such as Etsy that showcase items made by real people. They could look at,,, the Northern Adirondack Trading Cooperative, or Interweave Press. These are all places that are promoting the work of independant artists who make their living working with their hands.

There are so many reasons why handmade is important. (Tainted milk, toxic baby toys and poisoned pet food ring any bells?) In the economy here in the Adirondack North Country, Handmade artists such as myself work hard to create beautiful pieces of art to support our families. It is just not right to promote a show as an "Arts and Crafts Show" and then allow vendors to set up who are simply there to sell cheap, imported crap. When I set up in a venue where I am competing with other Handmade artists and vendors, my sales are very strong. When I set up in a venue where I am competing with imported, mass-produced items, my sales are nonexistant.

Over the summer, I was a regular vendor at farmers' markets in Keene, N.Y. and in Elizabethtown, N.Y. Using only volunteer employees, the good people who run the Adirondack Farmers' Market Cooperative allowed only vendors who sell handmade work at these venues. There was one vendor at the Plattsburgh State show who I know for a fact had been kicked out of the Elizabethtown farmers' market because the items they were selling were in fact imported from Hong Kong. But Plattsburgh State let them in to what was supposed to be an "Art and Craft" show. Huh? The managers of the Plattsburgh State Show get PAID to do their jobs. They have the resources of the world-class art department of the university. And they still allowed someone selling Italian charm bracelets to set up her table one booth down from mine.

Why can the Farmers' Market Cooperative do what Plattsburgh State cannot, or is unwilling, to do? Is it just that they don't want to be bothered? Is it that they just don't know what they want the show to look like? Are they confused by the difference between a flea market and an Art and Craft Show? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then they shouldn't be running an "Art and Craft" Show. They should call it a bazaar or a flea market and be done with it. Especially if they are unwilling to take the time to make any changes to the show, even after, as Bob Grady informed me, they were aware of the problem.

So, it is with this in mind that I am gearing up for my last two or three shows of the year. I will have my tables set up at the North Country Community College Holiday Craft Show this Sunday in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and then I will be set up for three days in Essex, N.Y. at the Adirondack Art Association Gallery on Main Street during their "Christmas in the Village" celebration.

And, of course, I will be promoting Handmade.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's not just a hobby anymore...

Well, this summer just flew by. I can't believe it's almost Thanksgiving!

I feel like I learned a lot this summer. I decided to try my hand at the Farmers' Market and craft show venues in the area, and have to say, it was quite an education.

The first thing I learned: using a leftover bug tent from a bachelor party does not work when doing an outdoor farmers' market at a windy field. I spent most of my first day there in the blinding heat and the whipping wind holding on to the tent so that we did not end up in the middle of Kansas. We went out and bought a real tent, and the difference was amazing. It worked great. It is now, thankfully, in storage for the winter, because you can only put that damn thing up every weekend for so long without getting really sick of it.

The second thing I learned: there are lots and lots of wonderful craft show venues within a 45-minute drive of my town. There are even a few that are literally right down the road from me, but unfortunately, they all conflicted with other shows this year, so I did not have the opportunity to roll out of bed and roll down the road to a show. Maybe next summer.

I also learned that there IS a local market for my work. Granted, many of my customers were tourists from out of state or even from out of the country, but wow, it was great to meet so many people who loved my work! I sold pieces to people from Belgium, England, Australia, South Africa, Germany, France and Portugal, just to name a few. I was thrilled when a family from Belgium came to my booth and bought jewelry sets to take home with them as souvenirs from their trip to the Adirondacks.

So, now I am gearing up for my last two holiday shows of the season, and I had an experience two weeks ago that I am going to blog about in a separate post because it is going to be long and it is going to be one of those soap-box posts that I need time to prepare. I hope it makes you think.

I am also working to update my Etsy website and shop in hopes that I can continue to generate income from my work. It was a great feeling to be able to do that over the summer!

I am also working with the wonderful and talented people over at the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Adirondack Trading Cooperative, and Stellar Marketing Solutions to give my business a complete makeover! It's a very exciting/terrifying/gratifying experience, and I think that this will be just what I need to be able to make this venture something sustainable over the long-term for me and my family.

So, now that I'm done with the boring stuff, on to the good stuff - the photos of my recent work!

I have started using a few new techniques with my fused glass. The first, and the one that I think I love the most, is using enamels to paint designs and scenes onto fused glass pendants. The design pictured here is white enamel fused to a red glass pendant, and is a traditional henna design. I found that henna designs translate very well to glass jewelry, and I am hoping to have a complete line of these designs available next year, including earrings and bracelets.

The other technique that I am using is including pieces of cut paper to make little scenes, like this underwater "fish tank". (I have always loved fish, and we always had a tank of them when I was a kid!) This involves cutting each little piece out of a piece of special, fusible paper that won't burn away when the glass is fused at 1550 degrees Fahrenheit. The pieces must be layered in between clear glass to prevent discoloration and to allow gasses to escape, so the piece is quite substantial. I think I have figured out a way to make them lighter and use less glass.

I've also been doing some beadweaving, and I'll have pictures of that work later on, too, but for now, I've got to go make some lunch for Colden and me!