Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bead Jewelry Making Class Schedule

Jewelry Making Class Schedule

It's that time again. What will I teach for the next few months, do I have a sample for students to look at, do I have instructions written or ones I can easily adapt and when will I teach the classes. I doubt my potential students even give it a thought that there is much that goes into setting up a teaching schedule. And really why should they? This happens three times a year in my life for the bead store I teach for and once a year for the Bead and Button Show.

I teach at a bead store in St. Louis, Lady Bug Beads, and at the Bead and Button Show, every June in Milwaukee, and they set a deadline when they want all of my information, photos of samples to put on their web site, and the samples for jurying or in the store for display. I'm so glad to have a deadline. I do work on all of this in advance, but that deadline does give me the necessary push to actually get the samples made and figure out the schedule. I normally have classes scheduled to teach in my home as well. Right now I am in the middle of rearranging my studio and office arrangement, so that I have a little more room for my studio, better natural light for the studio and more efficient work space, so I am not going to schedule any classes in my home studio until March.

Each time I go through figuring out the schedule, I drag out my file with the lists from previous class posts over the past few years. I look through the file, thinking things like; is there a class I can resurrect, what has been popular, do I have anything new in the works? I make a big effort to add new classes each time. This keeps things fresh, while challenging me to figure out new work that my students will be interested in. In the end I come up with a list of seven or eight classes that I can rotate through the next four months or that I think the editors at Bead and Button think will sell for their amazing show each June.

Now the calendar gets pulled out. What holidays do I need to avoid? For example it doesn't work to schedule a class on Mother's Day. When do I have shows scheduled? Do I have meetings or family or friend events schedule? Does the bead store have any events on their schedule that I should avoid those days? A big red "X" goes through all of the days to avoid. With what is left over I start setting the schedule. For some reason, I really struggle with this. I wish I could figure out an efficient way to do this. I've got my calendar, I've tried spreadsheets, and it all still gives me a headache. Oh well, there is only about a day of angst.

All the while I am making the sample for each class or finding the sample I've used before. I need a great product shot of that sample, for the bead store, my web site, and Bead and Buttons catalog. And I need to write a compelling description to sell the class and a supply list for the students to go by before coming to class. That supply list can, quit often, be a bit of a challenge. Over the years I have accumulated a vast bead supply. When I make a design that entire world of beads will come into play. To make the supply list I need to name what each bead is, how many are needed and what tools will be necessary to preform the skills involved.

Finally, it does all come together. The whole process consumes me for about three or four days and that isn't making the samples. Depending on how many new classes I am planning, making samples will be going on for weeks. I'm always excited to deliver my new samples to the bead store or deliver my box of samples to the UPS Store for shipping to Bead and Button in Milwaukee. It is also a big sigh of relief when I type the last class description into my web site. I don't think about the whole process for a week or two, but then I'll have an idea for a new class and the process has started all over again.

It's all well worth it. Between Thanksgiving and through the middle of January I don't schedule any classes. No one signs up for classes, because they are so busy with family and friends. That first class I teach in January, I always find myself getting really excited. It's good to be back teaching how to make jewelry. I've always said there is a drug in beads and the zen of working with metal can't be described, so there are always students interested in the many techniques involved in the process of creating human adornment. For this I am grateful.

My schedule is now posted on my web site, 1 Bead Weaver. Lady Bug Beads is now in finalizing their list of classes that go through May. Lady Bug has six permanent teaches and various visiting instructors, either local or from out of town. Sign up for classes at the Bead and Button Show started on January 11 and my classes are already half full. I'm lovn' that. So see you in class!!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Small Rant About Color

I know this is really no big deal, but it intrudes into my creative world, time and time again. Do you identify red and green as exclusively Christmas colors? And what about black and orange, are they delegated to Halloween? You are not unusual if you said yes to both of those questions.

The other day I sorted out a few of my jewelry pieces to take apart or remake into something other than it's existing form. Hey, I'll never say that everything that I make is a stellar success. When a piece has hung around for a while I either take it apart for it's parts or remake it into what I hope will be a treasure for some fine lady. In my sorting, there was one piece that I really liked when I made it and still know it's quite nice, but for it's colors. It is a pale translucent green and true red. Ladies have tried it on, many have been drawn to it, but it just hasn't sold. There are those that have come right out and said, "Oh, Christmas." At a point it's not too hard to figure out what people are thinking. To me it isn't Christmas at all, but a great summer necklace.

I've had to acknowledge that the great marketeers that have gone with red and green for our traditional Christmas colors have won. Actually, there is a long history about why red and green have become the colors of Christmas and if you are interested, here is one link. That combination, no matter the shade variation that you try, is just going to mean Christmas to a majority of the Christian population. Orange and black for Halloween falls in this marketing victory as well as a combination of pastels that brings out the comparison to Easter. This all comes down to my not liking to live within limitations when it comes to color usage. It's not a big problem, just a small aggravation that won't go away in my life time. Color rocks!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Creating a Jewelry Bead Kit

When you purchase that neat package with a beautiful photo of the beading project of your desire, did you ever think how that all came together? All of the beads are lined up in marked packets ready for you to play with. The instructions are numbered and sequenced for you to follow to completion and, ultimately, you putting on a piece of jewelry to show off to your world. It is quite an adventure to bring that self-contained entity, the Jewelry Bead Kit, together and I am going to share with you how I go about the process.

How does it start?
It all, of course, starts with the actual jewelry piece. In my life, there is jewelry being made all of the time. In fact, there are several projects going on at once. I make all of my jewelry with the best beads and findings to produce a quality piece for sale at a show or in a boutique or gallery. I don't make any of this jewelry for the singular purpose of being a jewelry bead kit. There are always other inspirations at work when the original piece is made. Then once I've finished a piece, I wear it out for a test drive, and either a comment is made or when I look at this particular piece in the mirror it will strike me that it will be a great beading project.

Asking the hard questions.
At this point I really look at the necklace or bracelet with a critical eye and ask myself a few questions. Will the techniques in this piece be doable by the average beader? Are these colors too bright or should I calm them down? Are there too many techniques? Is this piece of jewelry truly unique? Are these beads or components readily available? Are these beads or components in a price range that will make the kit affordable? Thinking in this way, the necklace or bracelet will be re-made using more affordable or more readily available beads, possibly a simpler technique, and a slightly different color pallet.

Finding the best beads at the best price.
While I am re-making the piece, I'm already shopping for beads. I always look to find the best price available so the end kit will be the best price for you. I go to large bead shows and try to keep up with what is available. Over time I've gotten to know a few bead vendors that I trust and can depend on. I will go online and I dig deep, past the first few pages of a Goggle search and look and look to find the best prices. I may end up opening a new account for that good price. I'll make a small order and if that experience is good I'll know I can depend on this vendor.

Writing, rewriting, editing, and testing.
In reality, writing the instructions is the most time-consuming task in making a kit. Most of the kits I have produced are fairly complex with lots of steps. As I am writing, I'm thinking about whether an illustration or a photo will communicate the concept or steps the best. I will be working on the verbiage and the illustrations at the same time; to me they go hand in hand. I teach at a bead store here in St. Louis, so I am fortunate to be able to test my instructions on my students. Believe me when I say, they will let me know if it isn't working. I really listen to my students and am grateful for their input. This work on the instructions may take six months. Yes, that long. I always test my instructions in the real world and it's not like that will happen on a speedy time frame. It's all good. I think this makes it a better product and when it does get out in the world, the bugs are worked out for the most part.

"The" photograph.
By this time I may have made the sample piece four times and it's time to take the beauty shot. I set the jewelry up in an environment, flat on a table or possibly hanging. These photos will be used in many places and in different ways, so I try to anticipate all of that and take tons of pictures. They will be in the instructions, online in my website and on, maybe in a blog or as part of an article, as well, so the piece is turned about every direction to be able to give the information needed.

Now it is the moment of truth, you are at a show and you are debuting this awesome kit. The people start stopping and looking at your kits. They touch, they feel, they make comments and ask questions. And, yeah, they buy one. After all of the effort it is so rewarding the someone really will hand you their credit card and make that purchase. They no doubt are clueless what has gone on before their being able to walk away with that kit in the cute little shopping bag, and you know what? That's O.K. So you see, it is quite an adventure creating a Jewelry Bead Kit and getting it to market, but always fun in the process.

The kit in the photos is my most recent addition to my line of Jewelry Beading Kits. You can find it online at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Path to Being Published in a National Beading Magazine

My original reason for trying to get published.
Since I have a web site, I wanted to entice folks to stop by, look around and, more importantly, shop. I felt getting some of my jewelry designs published in a national bead magazine would be a excellent way to interest readers and get them to make that leap and check out my web site. I have a background in graphic design and with any two dimensional art form, and to a degree, three dimensional, you need to have a portfolio to sell yourself. Of course, all of that is digital these days. In 2006 when I was on my way to the Tucson Gem Show that happens every February, I decided I would put together a small photo album with shots of my jewelry designs. I had never been to the Tucson show so I had no idea what to expect, but I was going to be ready when or if the opportunity should arise to talk to one of the national bead magazine editors. Well, that little album turned out to be an excellent tool.

Off to the Tucson Gem Show.
Not only had I not been to this event before, I had a booth at one of the many shows that make up the greater event that is the Tucson Gem Show. Overwhelmed does not describe what I was experiencing. There was: getting all of the product there, setting up the booth, manning the booth, barely eating, talking non-stop, crawling off to sleep a while and doing it all over again the next day for six days. Of course, you always survive these marathon events, even though you go home exhausted. The crazy thing is we do this sort of thing again and again. As the days passed at the show, I discovered that a buzz would travel through the building that would let you know that magazine editors had arrived. Well, everyone there wanted to talk to editors to interest them in their product; who knows, it might get featured on the "something new" page in their magazine. The editors are at the show looking for anything that is new an different that can be featured in their magazine so it does work out. I wasn't going to trip anyone on their way by my booth, but they were going to see my friendly face and I was going to be ready to sell myself. Don't be shy. Shy doesn't get you anywhere.

The chain of events.

The first editor came by my booth the second day of the show. They were polite, yet reserved. Sort of looked at my album and even bought some of my etched charms and pendants. I gave them my business card and thought I'd send a follow up e-mail when I got home to refresh their memory about my awesome jewelry designs. Then a second editors came by as a group. They were very friendly and interested and I thought, "oh this is looking better, a good vibe". I would definitely be sending them a little reminder of my designs after the show. I was feeling encouraged by then. There would just be a little leg work after the show and I would get an article. In the mean time I was just trying to survive the rigors of the show, and the next morning as I'm riding the elevator up to my room after breakfast to brush my teeth and get on my way, this gal starts asking me about the jewelry I had on. She missed her floor, got off on mine to go back down, and talked a minute. She was a magazine editor. Oh, my goodness, the magazine article Gods were smiling down on me. We had actually made a verbal agreement and I knew I was on my way. About noon that same day another magazine editor came by my booth and we hit it off. We talked for an hour. Using my little photo album, she said we will use this design for the spring issue, this one for the summer issue and so on and I had agreed to four articles by the time she left my booth. Well, needless to say, I was floating by the time I got home from that trip.

The Little Black Book

Let's talk a little about the actual album/portfolio. This part is a lot about my opinion and you don't have to agree with me. I believe that the editors are looking for good work and don't care about gimmicks. An understated album in a neutral color that makes not statements is in my opinion the best choice. I chose a black 8" X 6" album with black interior pages. I positioned one photo on the right of each page so the viewer will see one jewelry design at a time. I did take my own photos, but really took my time with the shots, and selected twenty of what I thought were my best designs at the time. I felt that number would tell the full distance of my work. I included only jewelry design and nothing about my personal life; pets, kids, or my last birthday party. Yes, they are human and might be a little interested, but I wanted the focus on jewelry.

This is just one way to be published.

In August I will have my twelfth article published in a national magazine. Go to my "About" page in my web site to see what the project was and when, 1beadweaver. It is a considerable amount of work to get an article put together. You must start by making the piece, and then write about it, take photos of the process of making the piece so the reader can see the steps (I also illustrate parts of it that I think might be clearer in a drawing), and mark all of the parts to ship off to the publisher. All of the national magazines have a submission process in place on their web sites. I recommend you read through all of that. You may not be able to go to any of the big bead shows so my in your face method of getting published may not work for you I'm sure the submission processes work, but I would make sure you have stellar work and photos, follow the process described to a "T" and really sell yourself. I would definitely go through that process if need be had things not gone the way they have. I have gone at getting published by forming a business relationship with the person that will make the decision about what is published and I've been ready to show what I do both physically by wearing my designs and with great photos.

  • Make a photo album of your designs.
  • Wear your jewelry. (This is important all of the time anyway!)
  • Have business cards ready to hand out.
  • Be ready to sell yourself. (no being shy)

The Little Black Book goes everywhere.

Good luck getting published. The editors at the magazines are always looking for new and different work. Why can't this be your work? Having my work published has driven traffic to my web site and I've gotten paid for the articles. With each article the magazines include all of your contact information so the readers will write you an e-mail if they wish and as I've experienced more traffic to my site when an article comes out. Just got an e-mail off my site today from someone reading and getting ready to make one of my designs that was published a year ago. So the traffic isn't just immediate, but it keeps on coming. Oh and that album of my work, it goes with me everywhere. I've sold to boutiques and galleries with it and it's great to have laying around your booth at an art fair. People love looking at pictures.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why build your own web site?

Why oh why?
Some times I question myself; why am I spending so much time and effort on a web site? I hope people enjoy what I put up, but who knows really. I get a good amount of traffic considering I don't spend any $$ to drive people in. The traffic I have brought in has been a lot more subtle. Signing up show-visitors for my newsletter, I tweet, Facebook and now blog to interest people in visiting the site. Answering the question "why?" is tough.It started long ago.
Let's go to the beginning. My first real job, believe it or not, was in the computer department at the Great Western Sugar Company in the late 60s. The computer took up a room of about 30' x 40' and that room was temperature controlled. I moved on to see the world, but embraced the computer from the beginning of the personal computer--buying one early and making it do as much as it was capable of doing. Now my laptop lives on my lap and I love all that one can do on a computer and especially on the Internet.
Where do you start?I'm a graphic artist so it is natural, I guess, to become involved in the building of web sites. I'm not sure that has been my reason. I have simply just been interested! I took an "html" class (one of the languages that runs a site) about fifteen years ago because I wanted to know how a site worked. I managed to get a site up and working, but from that class, decided I needed to find an easier way for me. All of that code was just too intense for me, but now I understood how things worked. Dreamweaver, a software produce by Macromedia, was my solution when I started working on the site that was going to show the world my handmade jewelry.
Thoughts on building your own site.
Before I started building my site, or for that matter even bought the software, I did a lot of research about getting a site built. I also knew a couple of guys that were building sites, asked questions, and listened to them talk about their clients. I knew I had limited site dollars and in the larger scheme of things had a feeling I would not be afforded a lot of time from a service that would be catering to the client that had the larger budget. So I bought my Dreamweaver software and spent the next three months absorbed in learning it. The result was a much less sophisticated version of my current site not quite five years ago. I've continued to learn the Dreamweaver software and am aware I don't know it completely yet.No Fear.
Now there is a fabulous array of hosting services that provide an easy route to getting a site up with limited knowledge and very little financial outlay. I'm not aware of any of this existing even four years ago. In fact, Blog Spot is one of them. It's free and there is an amazing amount of functionality with their system and with others. All I have learned while building my own site helps be me be able to alter Blog Spot, Facebook, Twitter and otheres with out fear. I have used all of these various venues to increase my branding. I continue a common look from one to the next. I have no fear of going into the html pages and changing the thing that will get the look I am after. You may not touch the code that makes your blog or site work, but you are now able to do so much with an ever-expanding group of possibilities.Am I glad?
You bet I'm glad. I have complete control over what goes on with my web site. There is no waiting around for someone else to make changes or add product. Of course, I get to enjoy all of the problems. It is an incredibly complex collection of parts that must function and cooperate in an exact way. I recently went through what I am calling "Paypal Purgatory." I still don't know what really happened that caused my Paypal connection to stop working properly. Now I know how to keep it working and hopefully I won't be having these particular problems again. I made a lot of cosmetic changes and enhancements to the site starting in November of 2009 and somewhere along the way caused the functions of the site to get whacked out. It took two weeks, off and on, to get it all figured out and working again. Now 1 Bead Weaver is pretty and works!
You must want to do it.
I don't think building your own site is for the faint of heart. You must be pretty dedicated to following through to get a site up and then maintain it. There is no doubt that I am a full-fledged geek. Actually, I'm proud of that. It is really time-consuming, so you need to feel what you are doing. I enjoy the challenges. Who knows--if there were all of the web-hosting services available when I was starting out a few years ago, I would have blindly gone with one of them and never known all I know about how a site works. I will never know everything. I absolutely don't even know a fraction of what there is to know about the Internet, but I know enough to make work.
Are you up to building your own?
Should you build your own site? That will really come down to how much time you have, how intense you are with details, and to a great extent, how patient you are. If computers on a regular basis make you crazy, don't build your own web site. You will save money by doing your own, you will have complete control over content, look, feel, etc. and things will get done more to your time frame. It's all about personal preference and temperament. I say, go for it!