Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Product Review- Bead Buddy 1 Step Ear Wire Maker

I went to the local crafty store the other day and saw an ear wire maker on clearance. I figured $13 wasn't too much to spend for something that could make my life a wee bit easier. I'm here to tell you what I think!

In general, I like it- the directions are simple and it's easy to use. It says it can be used for 20, 22 and 24 gauge wire and works well with the 20 gauge sterling silver wire I use. Since I paid just a pittance for it, I'm happy. This makes simple, basic wires, which I do use for a lot of my earrings. Here's a youtube video showing how to use this tool. And now for my list of the good and bad.

  • Easy to follow directions. 
  • Works for the 20 gauge sterling wire I use.
  • Tends to pop out of the contraption. Hold in  gently at the tail end.
  • Loop for bead is not round, it is more teardrop shaped. The picture on the package shows a nice round loop, but I have not been able to achieve that. 
  • To make loop rounder (instead of teardrop shaped), wire should not be pushed all the way to the end of the tool.
  • Wire can be cut to the suggested 2 inch size, or use a long piece of wire and cut to length after it is shaped. If wire is cut to 2 inches, the 'tail' at the back end is rather longer than I like. If cut afterwards, there is little wire waste.
  • Wire is a little hard to remove- placing a fingernail under it as shown in their instructions is pretty well essential.
  •  There are a lot of moving parts- we'll see how long it lasts!
Be sure and file both ends of your wire- the loop end just to remove burrs, but the end that goes through the ears needs to be finished very smoothly.

Here's how the look compares to a commercial ear wire- I like the fact that these wires are longer in the back to help counterweight the heavier glass beads and make it stay in the ear better.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Making Felted Woolen Purses on the Inside

Wet felted handmade felted purse with flower flap from Isinglass DesignWell, for the fiber fans in the crowd, I wanted to pop in and talk just a little bit about making felted fiber purses. A purse was among the first things I was inspired to make with felt. After a quick lesson in making batts, I came home and thought- well, that looks like it would make a nice purse~ so I did!

One part of the instructions I modified right away to make the whole thing around a resist and then cut the resist out. I made a resist only for the 'business half' of the purse and made the flap sticking up from that on its own.  Once it was pre-felted, the top of the front opening was folded under a little so that it would not stick to the back half of the purse. It is probably not quite as even as a cut would be, but I enjoy the organic look and find the felt edge can usually be pulled into shape while wet so it is fairly even.
Orange wet felted purse
After the purse was finished, I painstakingly lined it by hand as I have no sewing machine. That was WAY too much work, in my opinion. In the next phase, I simply felted things down a bit more and made sure the purses were sturdy enough not to need a lining at all. But then I thought wee fibers might get into things. I admit that I don't wear lipstick, but I imagine it is not where one would like their fiber to end up.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an inspiration - why not nuno the inside with some fabric I had lying about? Then there'd be a mostly fabric inside without all the trouble of hand lining it~ to my shock, this actually worked! At first, I made the fabric into nuno pre-felt, let it dry and cut it to shape, leaving some room along the seams so the fibers could felt together nice and strongly. After doing it this way a couple of times, I tried it without making the nuno pre-felt~ just adding a cut piece of fabric to the inside~ which also worked, but the fabric did want to slide around a bit.

To make the nuno prefelt, simply take a piece of loosely woven fabric, add a thin layer of fiber, get it a little wet and soapy and roll about 300 times, just until it's all stuck together and the fibers are poking through the fabric a little. Let it dry flat and cut it to the size and shape needed. The fabric part should go to the inside of the purse, with the fiber side up so that when new fibers are added they will all mesh together well.

That's it for now!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

How to Get Clean, Clear Holes in your Lampwork Beads

Isinglass Desgin handmade glass fish bead
Here it is, the post you've all been waiting for, where I reveal how to get really clean bead holes! Woohoo!

Once a lampwork bead is finished and taken off the steel mandrel, the sludge inside has to be removed. Folks use a reamer of some type to do this- sometimes by hand, sometimes with a dremel tool. But no matter how it's cleaned, the inside of the bead hole can look pretty gritty and almost chalky at the end of the process.
Fish hole before sanding
In a small holed bead with a solid core, this might not be a really big deal- who can see down in there anyway? But if your bead is clear or the hole is large enough that someone might be looking at it closely, it can be an issue.
Fish hole after sanding

So, what can you do about it??? One solution is to sand the inside of the beads. Here's how.

First ream the bead well and make sure all of the sludge is removed. This can be done by using diamond reamers by hand or with a dremel tool.

Reamer with sandpaper
Take a tiny rectangular piece of 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper, place the long reamer (or mandrel) in the center lengthwise and fold tightly around it. Get the bead and sandpaper/reamer wet and rub back and forth lengthwise all around the hole for a minute or so. It could take a little longer if the bead is really messy inside.
Next do the same with a piece of 600 grit sandpaper. That should do it for the inside of the bead.

End reamers with sandpaper

If you want to sand the opening of the hole, take a small square of 400 grit sandpaper and place it at the tip of a small conical reamer. Rotate until smooth, then do the same with 600 grit.

At the end of this process, your bead will have a lovely smooth satin finish.

Black bead before sandpaper
Black bead after sandpaper
Clear bead before sandpaper
Clear bead after sandpaper

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Treatise on Artisan Pricing for Your Handmade Work

lampwork glass beads fro Isinglass DesignThis is not to be a blog on how to price your work. If you're looking for that, check out Laura Bracken's jewelry and craft pricing calculator.

What I wanted to talk about here is a bit about the vagaries of pricing artisan handmade work. Yes, you need to take your supply cost and time into account. Also all the training you've done to get to where you are today. But there are other elements that can come into play. I think of it as the 'because I say so' factor. I have jokingly said this to customers from time to time (if I think
they will understand that it IS a joke), but there is a big element of truth involved in that statement. Only I understand exactly how a particular bead was made and what it took to do it. There are pieces I love because I am so happy with the success of the technique involved. But the customer has no clue about that. If you meet me in person at a market or show, I am likely to try and encapsulate the technique used that I am so delighted with. But as a customer, you'd probably have no clue what I was talking about. Most folks smile and nod~ their take away is probably something like 'well the artisan is pretty excited about that piece, so there must be something special about it.' ( I hope they're not thinking- 'well SHE'S certainly proud of herself!).
Colorful handmade wet felted bowls from Isinglass Design
Does size matter? Well, in perceived value, it probably does, but in reality, size is not the main determining factor in my own price structure. If you look at my etsy shop you will see that most pieces of the same type are pretty close to each other in price. Even though there are some pieces that I am really happy with and some that I feel are more average, I determine a basic price for the type of item and then stay within that range. The base price is pretty much a result of the time I normally spend making a piece of that type. Some pieces take a little less time, some considerably more, but time is not the only thing that makes a piece more or less valuable to me. And since I'm the one making the decisions around here, the prices I determine on are the ones I'll use. Why not charge more for the pieces I like better? Well, as my mom used to say 'it all comes out in the wash.' It is true that, just because I like something, that doesn't mean it will be a customer favorite. And just because I am not impressed with something else doesn't mean it is inferior. Again, perceived value comes into play. What the customer likes will seem more valuable to them than the pieces that didn't catch their eye, regardless of what I tell them. I would never say- 'oh I hate that piece, you should get this one instead, it's nicer!'- regardless of what I might be thinking!

Isinglass Design earrings on handmade glass headpins
Prices for each type of item will rise over the years as I feel that the pieces in general are nicer, larger or more complicated and therefore worth a bit more. One other thing that I am aware of is what I perceive as the value of the item. If I were out shopping, how much would I be willing to pay for something like I make? What would I think of as a reasonable price? I want my work to be affordable. Maybe something you wouldn't buy every day, but something you're not kicking yourself about buying later because of the price. In the spirit of keeping the joy of owning a wee bit of an artisan's work alive, I'd like customers to remain happy with their purchase on all levels. It is also a reason that I am not a 'hard seller'. If you like something, can afford it and want to take it home with you, then I am on board and happy to help you out! If you want to just stop and chat and look, that's good too. I have gotten so many ideas and suggestions from window shoppers and customers alike~ I consider getting out of my box a bonus to setting up for in person shows.

I am a 'bail as you go' bead seller. When I am at my table, I have a few pieces bailed and ready to roll and a lot that can be fixed up on demand. It is true that folks tend to buy the bailed pieces first (so I probably should have more of them ready to roll). I can sit at my table and do a few more throughout the day, which often brings folks by to see what I'm up to. I've also had folks who want to watch the bailing process- a mini class if you will. I'm just fine with giving out some pointers. If they're serious about it, they may learn a little something.

Here's a little pricing trick I use at my table when selling in person. I use signs that show a range of prices rather than pricing each item individually. After years of hearing folks say 'oh it figures I would choose the most expensive one' I have made my price signs so the highest possible price is a little more than the most expensive piece on the table. Silly? Yes, but I'm much happier not having to hear folks say that so often.