Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The entrepreneur's Christmas Break

December 31st is the end of the year for HandFast Design

Housecleaning is in order. Things that were lost are found and sometimes things I have forgotten about or didn't even know I have show up. This is called inventory. Inventory rates up there with cleaning the oven on my list of things to do. I am leaving home to go to California on Saturday so I have promised myself to get it done before I leave.

Sales tax is another area that needs to be done. I have sales tax licenses in 10 states and making sure I follow the diverse set of rules for each of them is a pain. But I want to go back and I want to not pay penalties so I do it.

Placing the order for Tucson is another calculated risk. I do not know what my customers will want this spring. Every piece I count in inventory has a sales history and then there is my gut instinct - the combination is fallible but gradually better. Metal prices are a wild card in the mix. Two years ago I sold silver at $28 per ounce costs at the show and by the time some orders were delivered silver had risen to $45 - it wasn't my best year.

Advertising needs to be designed and ordered. My budget has grown smaller over the years for traditional print advertising. Using Facebook, email newsletters, email and word of mouth seems to be getting bigger in my life. Banners for indoor and outdoor shows are designed and business cards are coordinated.

Filling out applications for next years shows - choosing which ones to do and which ones to eliminate. Checking airfares, frequent flier miles, hotel rates on websites so that I travel affordably and sleep comfortably.

Buying Christmas presents - mostly on line allows me to take a break and processing orders gets me out of the house to the post office.

Making sure the new products that I have created are perfect before I send them off to be created takes some time.

Calling customers when they need help and have questions is very important. I try to schedule a nap and occasional movie or tv program in there some times. And Pooh reminds me it is time to play by standing in front of me with his ball. While I am doing this I cook, clean, dust, paint, weed and keep myself from being bored.

This is my winter break -

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How I turned being bad into good

This is a wax that came from my effort to stay
awake during driving school.

A number of years ago I was caught speeding. You know one of those days when I was in a hurry and wasn't paying attention until a flash went off in my face and I hoped that mud was covering my license plate. Sure enough a letter arrived letting me know that I was going to be supporting the small town I had passed through too quickly. Either I could pay the money and get points or pay the money and go to driving school. I picked number two.
The way I used to stay awake in school was to scribble and sketch. I had innumerable sketches of my right hand in all kinds of positions, when I was younger I drew a lot of horses and so forth. Well here I was decades later and as soon as he opened his mouth my pen came out and I  doodled away.
 I found out many years after I left school that doodling and sketching allowed my mind to slow down so I could hear what was said while my mind screamed "boring". The sketches that day turned into the centerpiece above and an associated clasp - both called Deco Bloom.
I try to keep a pen/pencil and paper around most all of the time. Sometimes I create doodles that don't make sense and sometimes I create a poem or something pretty.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tales from the Road - Shows I have known

Those of us who sell our art have favorite shows and ones we will never visit or sell at again. We talk among ourselves and compare experiences at various shows. Some of us go to juried art shows, others sell wholesale to the trade.

Once upon a time artists set up a table somewhere people congregated, maybe added a tent, then artists got together and had small shows and the rest is history.

What most artists want is a fair break. We can't account for bad weather or other acts of nature.

  • Venues whether they are outside or inside need to have easy access to setup.
  • With the advent of Zapplication and online entry - honesty is the best policy in defining the customers and their purchase power to the artists.
  • Charging large amounts for show fees may make the provider feel that they are making more money - they are promoting turnover in the artists they bring.
  • If it is an art show - $5 bracelets and tie dye teeshirts should not be included.
  • If it is a show where wholesale and retail customers mix - make the policies clear. (Wholesale to the public need not apply)
  • Advertise wisely - where are your customers coming from
  • Make advertising available to the vendors
Shows I will never visit again are those that:
  • Overcharge vendors for space and amenities
  • Are difficult to setup
  • Lie about the possibilities of earnings
  • Limit access to my customers by either charging large entry fees or stringent admission requirements.
  • Mostly are in it to make money for themselves and show it by putting their products at the forefront or limit promotion as an unecessary expense.
  • Have large volumes of inexpensive products for sale at the show which I and other artists need to compete.
I have done high end shows in the big cities and low end shows on the beaches of California where my tent tried to fly away. The thing that keeps me coming back is the respect the show promoter shows their vendors, the honesty they speak and the possibility that the next show may be my best.

  • .

Monday, August 27, 2012

What inspires me - my grandmother's ring

When I was young I had a fascination with my Grandmother Esther's jewelry. She was a fashion plate in her day and her jewelry was different than anything else I had seen.

She had a poison ring. It was a ring whose main decoration hid a small box where poison was supposed to be held - at least that is what she told me.

The ring was old and beaten up from many years of wear but I coveted it and she gave it to me. By the time I got it the hinge for the box was broken and the ring was way too big for me. When I could afford it I took it to a silver smith and he modified it for me.

The other day I was looking in my jewelry box and rediscovered it. It is probably 80 years old by now. I still love it and didn't realize how much that ring had inspired me when it came time to design my own jewelry.

The following pictures illustrate the unintended inpiration the ring gave to my creations many years later. I used a similar style in the ring band and created my own version of the three graces many years later.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adjustable Rings in two styles and three metals for Metal Clay Designers - Coming Soon!!!

I was lucky to be next to Tonya Davidson at the Bead & Button show this year. She gave me an incredible idea. It is amazing when someone else looks at my work - they come up with amazing ideas.

The adjustable ring that I have been using for my coin rings with a simple modification can become a really awesome ring that artists who work with silver, bronze or copper metal clay can use as a base. The adjustability and durability of the ring makes is perfect for teachers and their classes, artists who sell to the public or individuals who want to make something special for themselves,

Two options are coming - a round that has a 20mm diameter and an oval that is 24 by 18 mm. Special tabs will grab and hold the clay when it is fired.

I have three photos below. One of the original ring and two of the new ring frames.

The rings will be added to the HandFast  inventory in August. Retail pricing is $36 for bronze, $60 for shibuichi (80% copper - 20%) and fine silver $100. Wholesale is available to the trade.

Email phxfox48@msn.com if you want to be contacted when they are available.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Virtual design to reality

My designs start out as virtual pieces existing as a set of instructions on a computer as I design using CAD - Computer Aided Design. I can look at them and cannot touch them. Using the display tools on the computer I can have them look look plastic, metal, or most any virtual material.
I can spin them and look at them in most any angle and under different kinds of virtual light.

When the waxes that are created from my computer instructions reach the casting house they are cast into bronze. I am then sent pictures of my "babies."
They try to show me the different sides of the pieces and discuss any changes that might need to be made to make the pieces work in jewelry.

But nothing matches the day that FEDEX delivers my new babies to me and I get to see and touch and photograph the real things. Sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don't. These did!
For more information

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Items for the Designer Toolbox from HandFast Design by Kim Fox

The new clasps and bails I have created I think offer anyone who uses them a lot of flexibility. With one clasp and multiple loops you can have strands moved from piece to piece and from bracelet to necklace. Another clasp I have created can be used to connect segments or used by itself.

The Single Hook Celtic Clasp KF287 holds three strands of freshwater pearls using three figure 8 loops. ML167. One comes with the clasp and the loops can be purchased in pairs. Another option to this necklace would have been to use a cone to gather the three strands at the loop end.

This three strand necklace of multiple shapes of onyx and bicone swarovski crystal is collected to a single strand by a pair of Single Hook Celtic Clasps KF287. The strand in the back is terminated by ML167 figure 8 loops. The three strand necklace and the single strand can be used separately.

The two Celtic Single Loop Clasps KF287 are connected with a single ML167 figure 8 loop to make a shorter necklace.

The single strand with the two ML167 loops is connected to the Double Celtic Hook KF286 to make a bracelet. The Double Celtic Hook can easily be moved from strand to strand and can easily connect multiple strands in a piece.

Here you can see the Double Celtic Hook KF286 moved to a pearl strand.

Another issue I have had is a collection of beautiful flat back beads and cabachons that have been sitting in my stash. I wanted to create something that would allow them to be used and moved from piece to piece. After creating the Gingko and Leaf Clips I thought that it would be great to create a similar clip that would allow me to move a favorite pendant from piece to piece easily and allow me to enhance a favorite necklace multiple ways.

The Oval Bail Clip KF290 is connected to a large teardrop shaped cabachon. In this case E6000 was used to connect the bail to the stone.

The Rectangle Bail Clip KF289 was used to connect to this ceramic bead. The bead was slightly curved so using pliers the bail was curved to match.

A beaded kumihimo strand is enhanced by the ceramic pendant that is connected using the Rectangular Bail Clip KF289

The V KF91  or Winged KF113 connectors can be used to connect pendants to necklaces easily. Why leave your favorite beads or pendants in a drawer when you can move them from piece to piece?

The Chartres Spiral KF205 can be easily connected to any pendant using either the Oval KF290 or Rectangle KF289 bail clip

For more information visit www.handfast.biz

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Innovation or Replication

When I started my studio after I graduated from GIA and Revere in 2006 I knew that there were a couple of things I needed to think about.

I could see what was being offered by the large distributorships of jewelry findings, places such as Stuller, Rio Grande, Fire Mountain regularly offered clasps, findings and components made of base and precious metal. Components that my mother and grandmother had seen with some modification. The easy way would have had me take some of the models I saw there and throw a little spin of my own on them to make them mine. It would have been easy. A toggle with a wiggle where they had a waggle, a box clasp with some sexy stone or unusual thing decorating it, a magnetic that had an interesting pattern, hooks and eyes, etc.

I decided to see if there was something new out there. I had seen some German, Swiss and Italian manufacturers that had some interesting pieces. I didn't want to make what they did, I wanted to make what I saw in my head.

It has been quite a voyage. When I acquired HandFast in 2008 I acquired the genius of Maude Lorah and her work. Her work was phenomenal and made of many years of fine silversmithing. I am honored that her husband selected me to continue and add to her line with my work. Over the years I have created over 300 models. Now in the HandFast line you will see her work blended with my own. The part numbers that start with C are hers and the ones that start with K are mine.

I made the decision to make my line a line of innovation. I am self funded so development funds come from my sales. I do not have a large marketing and advertisement department - I have me. I am also glad to have my customers. They have given me ideas on product to create and given me new uses I had never thought of regarding my existing products.

Through the creation of innovation in closures, findings and connectors I have had great unexpected successes and somethings that will remain in the files - under the topic "What was I thinking" I don't think I am creating that will rock this world - but in my own little way - I wanted to innovate and create something new.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Patina and Polish

HandFast makes components in four solid metals. They are tarnish resistant sterling silver, pink silver (shibuichi), silicon bronze and white bronze. We may add more as time goes on. Since they are solid metal. Designers can alter them. I have seen CS203 modified by a designer to a satin finish and CS143 with no patina and buffed to a high polish. That is why we make them of solid metal, so you can control what the final product looks like.

Each of these metals or alloys have specific qualities. The first is Silver.

CS143 polish with patina
CS203 high polish no patina 

Tarnish resistant sterling silver is the most precious. It is 92.5 silver combined with germanium and copper. Prices have made silver beyond the pocket book of some of us. Silver can be the whitest of metals, but with the addition of patina, silver can show texture and depth. 

Silicon Bronze or Jeweler's Bronze is a very durable metal. It has the golden color associated with gold when it is in a high polish, but it has a richer more rosy color when it has patina.

KF171B high polish no patina
KF1B polish and patina   


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lizzie and leaves

This spring has brought changes to my life. For many years I traveled the roads with my Airstream and Yukon. I saw much of the western United States that way and felt wonderful carrying my home with me. The Yukon grew older and I stopped using my Airstream travel trailer as much. Part of me wanted to hand onto them just in case. The other part wanted to release them.

Last year I sold the Airstream to a great guy who took it to Taos NM and Texas. In December I let the Yukon go to a man in Phoenix. He spent a lot of time and money bringing it up to its full power and beauty. One week after it was ready, the Yukon saved his daughter's life when she was T boned at a busy intersection in Phoenix.

My little Toyota was put into service as the all purpose vehicle. The last show I went to the trunk of the Toyota was bungeed shut.When I went to Tucson the vehicle was filled to the top and my little dog Pooh sat on my lap for the ride to Phoenix. There was no more room.

In February I went looking for a new vehicle, and I found her. She came home with me last week. I used AAA. They have a free service for their members which will assist in the selection and purchase of the appropriate vehicle. The buyer looked through the dealers for my car. He shopped my trade in. When we picked everything he asked me if I had financing, I did and he took the terms and found me better financing. The last part was when he had the new vehicle trucked up to Prescott for me and I traded in my Toyota.

I love my new car - she is a beautiful deep violet blue. She is named Lizzy after Elizabeth Taylor's violet eyes.

As for the leaves, well I made some new clips to add to the Gingko Clip that a lot of people have purchased. When I was a girl we had clips to put on our shoes, belts and hats to dress them up. I know that I have necklaces that have beautiful beads on them and sometimes I want to change them up. The clips I have created are of leaves mostly and one flower. As time goes on I will create more. Some of them are different sizes of pieces that I have already created so they can be integrated into a theme. I put them up on www.handfast.biz yesterday. I have photos of all the metals they come in. I hope you like them.

Flower Clip in Silver

Oak Leaf in Pink Silver

Maple Leaf in Bronze

Sunday, January 1, 2012


As I mentioned- I killed my computer New Year's Eve with a glass of water. When something like that happens I realize how dependant all of us are on our tools, whether they are torches, kilns, computers, pliers or telephones.

I try to create redundancy so that if one piece breaks or goes lost I have some way of continuing the important parts of my work. I have a cell and a land line. I have a full sized computer and a netbook. I have more than adequate amounts of beads, pliers, torches, hammers, and multiples of show gear so that I can be quite flexible. You should see my show light collection and collection of shelves.

The next part is remembering to have or bring all associated parts together. A computer without a power plug is useful as a door stop. A selection of jewelry without heads, arms, hands, etc to put them on look like a colorful pile. Planning a trip to a show is a multilevel event. I need inventory, displays, transportation, a place to stay, clothes, etc., etc. One year I had everything ready for Bead and Button and discovered I had forgotten to make airline reservations. I live alone so I have no one to blame but myself.

When I got into this artistic life and left the rather stodgy, organized, somewhate boring life of designing and implementing computer networks I thought I would be free as a bird to express myself. I find myself with more lists than I had before. The gift is that I chose this life and I get to create what I sell and chose where I sell it.