Friday, December 31, 2010

Using what you have

While I was talking to one of my customers about the new Greek Key Clasp that is arriving the beginning of January, she asked me if I had considered doing earrings in the same style. It took me about 5 seconds to realize that they would be really great and would offer an ensemble to those that like having them. Or the earrings would be really great on their own.

I have over 300 designs in my inventory. This conversation started me looking to see where I you or I could modify the use of some of these designs to use them in multiple ways. I know that sometimes I am driven to create something new, or buy something new instead of looking to see what I already have and using it in a new way.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday weekend ! Be safe.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Preparing for the New Year - One pile at a time

My shop has exploded into the livingroom - I unloaded the Yukon and my show suitcases into the house and storage room. All my show gear, tools and inventory are in flux. Needless to say I step carefully around the house right now.

I think a part of being an artist is evolving the process that organizes me. Making lists and remaking them so that I show up at shows with my inventory, what I need to display it and sell it. Having backup so that if my credit card machine is dead I can still process sales, if the inventory is all sold in a certain item I have a way get it, if my booth has severe shortage of stuff I am there with duct tape, extension cords, extra light bulbs, table cloths, display items. Somewhere in there I need to have airplane tickets, show fees, remember to pay for tables, electricity, hotels, maybe a rental car.

Knowing my customers, what they need and want is probably the most important thing. Communicating via telephone, email, facebook or face to face is what it is all about.

When I have some kind of a handle on all of this I can sit down and design something that comes out of my or your imagination. It is dessert for me.

Vineyard Rose Clasp on Necklace made by Jill Wiseman

I am sure that many of us are in this mode, whether it is putting away Christmas, cleaning for the end of the year, or like me, getting ready for the next year and what we see coming. I look forward to seeing many of you in Tucson. 

If you are planning to go check out - it has one of the most complete lists of shows, vendors and specific products and where to get them. To pre-register for the AGTA show - which is needed prior to December 31st - go to  AGTA

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scissors and other things

With metal prices rising I started looking seriously at the scrap in my bench drawer and at pieces I had cast as long as 5 years ago. Was their money in them there piles. Yup! Did I have some trepidation regarding getting rid of some of these treasures - sure.

I started gathering together old components that were so heavy that no one would pay the price for them (gone were the days of $8 an ounce silver).  Pieces that weren't up to my standards - some were really cool experiments in their day. I took my scissors to old pieces and separated out the silver.

I knew that there were jewelry stores and others that would give me money for the silver. The further I got from the refinery that melts the metal down the more people would be making money at my loss so I started looking at refineries.

I picked one out after asking my casting company and the guy who cuts my waxes who they would recommend.  I called them to find out exactly how they paid out and asked them for an idea of their fees.

I sent the metal in - it worked out to close to 100 ounces - a lot of stuff in a little box. I now have my check and some bills have been paid.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Buy Local - Buy Small Business - Buy American

I know that Friday after Thanksgiving is a big time for shopping. We all have choices to make when we buy gifts for our family and friends. I request that you consider buying from local stores - not big box stores. Buy from small businesses whether they are local or on the internet and buy products that give employment to your fellow Americans.

I have one of those small businesses that have chosen not to take my manufacturing off shore. I think that the quality that I offer my customers and the fact that my work gives employment to American workers is important. I want to know my sources and controlling them is a part of what I do for my customers.

I know we all need to be careful with our money at this time. A part of that is supporting the American economy. Please consider it before you buy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

3:00 AM Idea - new style of clasp

I don't know about you, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with what seems to be a great idea. I fumble around for a piece of paper and a pen so that I can scribble something down that I hope I understand when I wake up in the morning.

Some of these ideas remain in my files - what was I thinking? Some see the light of day. Using this blog to test run these ideas is a less expensive idea than taking the time to create the piece on my computer, sending it off to have the wax cut and then waiting anywhere from several weeks to over a month to find out if it was a good idea. Some of those ideas are still in my inventory - some have gone on to be owned by designers all over the world.

Here is a new idea. This is a 3 part clasp. There are two circles with a loop connecting them. It is a slot and is suitable for a bracelet or a necklace. Because of the links I think it will fit into the design of a piece and not necessarily shout loud - this is a clasp. It is also an easy to use clasp - all you have to do is slip the loop through the slot on one of the circles. I am thinking of creating it in different shapes and textures or patterns on the loops. Please let me know what you think. Virtual is much less expensive than reality.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Getting ready for the big rodeo - TUCSON

The beginning of February for over two weeks the biggest collection of shows associated with jewelry, gemstones, beads, and all things associated with them starts in Tucson. People come from all over the world to participate in the shows. Vacations are planned around the dates of the show. Some of the most glorious gemstones and jewelry design can be seen and some of the cheapest stuff you would never buy.

The unprepared can drop all the money they brought at the first booth that catches their eye. My job through the coming months is to get those of you that are thinking of coming to Tucson ready.

The first thing is to figure out how you will get to Tucson. If you live in the surrounding states, driving is a good option as an auto is a really great thing to have when going between shows. There are shuttles - but it is hard sometimes getting from point A to point B. Flying is another option. If you can fly Southwest Airlines - they allow 2 checked bags for no charge. You can fly to Tucson or to Phoenix which is 2 hours away. Get your hotel/motel reservation now. If you have a vehicle it doesn't really matter where you are in the Tucson area. Traffic isn't that bad and shows are spread all over town.

Do not think you can fly in on Friday and leave Sunday night. You will barely scratch the surface in that time. Try to give yourself 4-5 full days in Tucson.

So you have the approximate dates, the location, question of how to get there, need to make hotel reservations, and the fact that you need some time. I know that there are many unanswered questions, put them into comments and I will be glad to answer them if I can.

Here is a link to The Jewelry Showguide which will give you the dates, times and locations of the shows going on in Tucson at this time. It will also let you know that I am showing at two locations - one in partnership with Lisa Kan. The first person to email me the show names and dates of my two shows gets $10 off their next order.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Designing for Others

One of the things I get to do is create designs for other designers and individuals. I really love to do this. It allows me to create someone's dream.

When I create a custom piece for an individual it is usually for a special occasion or because they have inherited a piece of jewelry they want to personalize.

Most designers are referred to me by my casting company and in some cases I have met designers while I have been at shows. I use CAD (computer aided design) to create designs. One of the wonderful things about CAD is that I can create renderings as we go along. These drawings can be very technical including measurements or very artistic.

One of the things that happens is that renderings are usually bigger than the piece that will be created and so the impact of the real piece can be different than the rendering. For this reason I will create a rendering and then scale it down to approximate the real size in a word document.
The large size makes it easy for my mature eyes to see details that I might miss in real life. When you are dealing with the reality of making a design into jewelry the experience of the designer and jeweler is important. The weight of metal, thickness and the ability to create and reproduce the piece is important. This is where I can help dreams come true.

The two rings above are two options I created for a customer. She had purchased a  spectacular sunstone and wanted a ring to show it off - If you look at the photo below you can see which design the customer chose. CAD renderings can be quite realistic. The customer in this case felt she had seen the ring before it was created.

After a relationship between myself the the designer or individual has been tempered through creation, the process can become quite remarkable. One designer that I have created over 30 pieces with is very close to me, the fact is we have met face to face only once has nothing to do with it. We have gone the fire of creation together.

I hope to be able to continue the relationships that I have with my customers for many years. I am very proud of the designs that I have created collaboratively. My name is not on any of them and that is okay, I support my customer's happiness and success.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Greek Key Clasp

Many of my clasps are highly textural and organic. This time I wanted to create a clean geometric clasp that brings back a traditional design element in a new way. It is a curved and scaled piece in one of my favorite styles. It is a hook. Hooks are easy to open and close and hold one to many strands easily without overpowering. My deco bloom, the gingko, the scallop and others are some of my most popular clasps.

When I get an idea sometimes I will start something and get stopped and I will have to put it away until the issue that stopped me gets resolved. At times I have looked at old files or sketches and realized it has take a year or years. This time the clasp got designed and completed in less than an hour. I wonder if it is that good if it takes so little time. You, my customers will let me know.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Glendale Bead Museum Trunk Show

Friday and Saturday this weekend I am in the lobby of the Bead Museum in Glendale, Arizona. It is an opportunity to contribute to the Museum - part of the sales are donated to the museum and a great opportunity to see the history of beads.

The museum has amber beads the size of coffee cups and beads as old as 15,000 years. Beads have been used as money, symbols, religious objects and decorative objects for thousands of years. They are very portable, beautiful, desirable and that is why I have a room full at home.

If you come to Arizona, visit the Bead Museum. Admission is $5, donations are accepted and it is inspiring to see that we are continuing something humans have done for thousands of years, using beautiful things to create beautiful things.

Bead Museum
5754 W Glenn Drive
Glendale, AZ

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sometimes it doesn't work

A couple of weeks ago I got all excited when I saw a ring I wanted to create in my mind. I spent many hours working on my computer with my CAD (computer aided design) software creating and modifying the ring. I wanted it to be a ring that a man or a woman could wear. Perhaps it could be used as a wedding or promise ring. I used one of my favorite patterns - the Chartres Labyrinth - which I had used before.

I sent it to the man who cuts the waxes from the instructions I create in my CAD software and he and I looked at it and saw problems so I spent more hours modifying the design. I sent it to him again and he set it up to be built on his wax machine. It blew up on the machine. In the process of creating the ring I broke too many rules and the mathematics of the machine and the tolerance of the materials wouldn't allow the ring to be created and even if created it wouldn't be reproduceable.

At this point my creative process is stymied - I need to put it away and know that sometime in the future - probably at 3 in the morning - the answer will come and a version of the ring that was seen in my blog a few weeks ago will appear. Meanwhile I am creating more things for myself and the other designers I work with - the fountain of creativity hasn't been stopped - just diverted.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Texas BeadFest Show

This is the morning of the third day of the Texas BeadFest Show in Arlington at the convention center. This is the first time this show has been held and hopefully not the last. I have met up with customers I met previously. All have been very positive about the vendors, location and the classes offered.

The vendors expected the traffic to be less than other shows because it was the first time it was held. The bead societies have been very supportive of the show. Come on out and see us!!!  We are open from 11 to 5 today. .

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More views for your views

Here are two closer views of the ring with more detail on the texture and shape. Enjoy

Sometimes it just comes to you

Chartres Square Ring

I love making rings. When I make a really nice one I enjoy it when people give it to themselves or someone they love for a special event. Some of my rings have been given for marriages, tokens of friendship and love and for many special events.

That said. I have created many really ugly rings, luckily most all of them are in my notebooks or on my computer.

Creating one that is comfortable, unique (not wierd), affordable and in some cases suitable for both men and women is a difficult assignment. I don't know about you, but in my opinion most men's jewelry is boring. I get really excited when a man finds something in my line that they like. With this ring I think that both men and women will like it.

One of my commitments when I decided to become a jewelry designer was to make jewelry that men would wear. This ring may have only taken a couple of hours to create on my CAD computer system, but it has been months in the making. I have started and thrown away many of the preliminary designs.

It hasn't come easily. I won't know if it is a success until I hold it in my hand and show it to some of you and see what you have to say - for now this is the one I am taking from virtual to reality.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Creative Marketing

My show season ends the first weekend of December when I participate in the Tempe Festival of the Arts. It is a lot of fun and has been very successful in the past. From that weekend until Tucson, which is the first week of February there is very little organized marketing going for me. I will get orders from designers who need last minute things for their clients and that is about it.

In the past I have used this time to clean up my studio, organize, see friends and plan for the upcoming year. I wish I could say that I have put away enough funds so that I feel very comfortable with the two months of relatively quiet time. It usually isn't so, I still have show fees for the next year, etc that show up.

I know that there are other ways to market, Etsy is one, home shows or bazaars are another. What have you tried, what has failed and what has succeeded in bringing in customers during the quiet times of the year? Or do I need to get better at packing away funds and stocking the larder for the quiet time of the year?

Friday, September 17, 2010

What to Create Next?

Currently in the works are the Starfish Earrings and the new cones which have been named Trumpet Flowers.

Recent additions to the HandFast line are the Coin Clasps which are going gangbusters. Bead & Button as well as other magazines have chosen them for promotion in their magazines. I have had fun adding them to decorative chain, kumihimo and lampwork beads. I think they would be wonderful with chain mail, bead crochet and wirewrapping. One of my customers bought the coins to use in earrings. I am sure that their are more uses for the hooks and coins than I ever thought of when I created them. Their are new Celtic designs recently added for those of you who love Celtic themes in your work.

I am wondering what area more designs are needed. Is it clasps, rings, pendants, earrings? Are more items needed in Pink Silver (shibuichi)? My best ideas come from you - my customers. Let me know.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Most of my creating is done alone. It works best when I can somehow control inbound and outbound telephones calls, emails, texts, facebooking, etc. I know artists that work collaboratively with other artists and sometimes I am lucky enough to do that, but for the most part creativity comes when it can.

Other things can get in the way, the need to go to the grocery store, clean the house, do laundry, work in the yard, and participate with family and friends. It is amazing with all we do that any of us have the time to create.

I have found  some of my best ideas in driving school (they thought I was taking notes), in a bar on a napkin and in a conversation with a customer. It comes when it does and when it doesn't it is best to walk away from what ever tools you use. When I haven't done that - some of the ugliest jewelry in the world has been made. Thank God for scissors!

I am blessed to have many artists as friends. We share the coming and going of the muse. Some have more challenges than others in finding the time, space, money and other resources to create their vision. The important thing is to find the way to do it. - then do it. It feeds the soul.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Surprise in Tucson

The fall Tucson show has turned out well. I did not expect much and have been pleasantly surprised with the show. I have met designers that are coming to the fall show because it is less hectic than spring.

I have been rethinking shows to participate in and have been eliminating those that cost much and deliver little even though they might be in some place I would like to visit.

How have you been choosing where to market your work? I find myself doing more trunk shows and fewer prestigious shows that don't always live up to their name. Who has had success with etsy or other sites?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trunk Show with East Valley Beaders this evening

I love doing trunk shows. It allows me to meet people that are passionate about the beautiful things that they create. I get to see their creations and they get to see mine in a less hectic environment than the many larger shows I attend.

East Valley Beaders of Mesa Arizona are having me join them at their monthly meeting this evening.

I am driving down from Mayer to the Phoenix Area for the meeting tonight. I have wonderful friends who take care of my dog Pooh Bear and they will watch him during the meeting and then this weekend as I continue on to Tucson where I will be at the Best Bead Show at the Kino Center Friday through Sunday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Products

One of the reasons I want to have a blog is so that I can ask opinions about new and possible products. You as designers know what you are looking for in products - what is missing. Each of you has areas of expertise, whether is is techniques such as wire wrapping, your customer's requests, education and just life. I have over 300 designs I have created over the years. Some are not being sold right now because I needed to learn more - they weren't good enough. Some are too heavy for today's market with metal at high prices. This forum will helpfully keep me from making as many errors and help me satisfy your needs.

I think we can help each other with sources for materials, expertise and techniques. Here is a pair of earrings that will be coming to the lineup this fall. The starfish is based on one of my most popular clasps, the Starfish Magnetic clasp. I think the earrings can stand on their own. The loop at the bottom is for attaching whatever gorgeous things you want to dangle and swing. The earrings are about 1/2 inch accross and are quite light.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Thank you for visiting my new blog. I intend that this blog be an open communication between HandFast and the designers that use our products. Ideas will be exchanged and discussed. All of us like to create beautiful things to share.