Monday, March 30, 2009

Work in Progress
Scarlet Sails, Day 5

The wire work on my commissioned wall piece is almost done. I need to decide whether to have the sun behind the ship or not. I had it on my sketch, but then my customer said that it may interfere with the ship, which is the most important element of the composition. He left the final decision up to me.

Right now I stopped at the moment when everything is done, except the sun. I formed the wire pieces for it and took a picture with them in place, but they are not attached. I can still remove the sun without any trace.

Note to Alan: Alan, I still cannot contact you by e-mail, but I've got your message. No sun.

faux cloisonne
faux cloisonne

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Work in Progress
Scarlet Sails, Day 4

Work in Progress
Scarlet Sails, Day 3

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Work in Progress
Scarlet Sails, Day 2

Here is my progress so far. I am happy with how my Assol turned out, and so the most difficult part of this project is over.

When working on a multi-object composition, like this one, I prefer to start with one of the main figures. The biggest challenge in this technique is to accurately transfer the drawing into the wire lines. For simple designs, such as abstract swirls, it is quite easy, but human faces are among the most difficult transfers to do, because the slightest shift of line may sometimes significantly change the face expression...

faux cloisonne scarlet sails
faux cloisonne scarlet sails

Monday, March 23, 2009

Work In Progress
Scarlet Sails

I am starting to work on a commissioned piece based on an old Russian movie, Scarlet Sails.

I am very excited about this project. The movie is an adaptation of a very romantic and beautiful story by Alexander Grin. It is about a poor peasant girl Assol (pronounced ah-SO-lee), who was told by a traveling storyteller that one day a prince on a ship under scarlet sails would come for her. She kept dreaming about this beautiful ship despite being constantly laughed at and teased by everybody in her village. One day Captain Grey saw her sleeping by the sea shore and learned about her story. Taken by the girl's beauty and her kind and romantic character, he ordered to make sails for his ship out of the brightest red silk he could find, and then he came for her, just as it was predicted.

This is going to be a framed wall piece, about 5” by 7”, in my faux cloisonne technique. The person, who asked me to make this piece, saw my Scarlet Sails necklace made about two years ago. The necklace was inspired by the book, so my Assol looked different. This time I am trying to actually portray the actress who played Assol in the movie, and I am using the ship and scenery from the movie as well.

Below is the sketch I prepared already, and I will post pictures of my work in progress from time to time. I think it is interesting to see how such an elaborate piece is developing.

Wish me luck and lots of patience.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Giveaway Results

Thank you, everybody who participated in my GIVEAWAY.

And the winner of a $25 gift certificate is... Mona! Congratulations!

I am planning to run giveaways regularly, and the next one will start in about two weeks. Come and check my blog for the exact dates or subscribe to my newsletter (see the form on the right?) to be notified about the next giveaway, my new tutorials, and other developments.

Thanks again!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Custom Order

These are hand-sculpted leaves and orchids for a bridal version of my lariat necklace.

The original version was made in silver/gray/black tones and named "Les Fleurs des Fer", which means "Iron Flowers" in French. The veins on leaves and petals were applied by hand and then highlighted with silver acrylic paint, heat-sealed for durability. This particular necklace won the third place in polymer clay category in the 2008 designer contest sponsored by Fire Mountain Gems, and can be seen on FMG web site.

Shannon, the person, who ordered the white orchids, found a picture of my necklace on FMG web site, and from there she found my contact information. Oh, the power of the modern technology!

The orchids in this new version are completely white, and covered with mica powders for a gentle shimmering effect. The mica powders on the leaves make them look either white or very light green, depending on the angle of the light. The flowers and leaves are protected with the heat-sealed glaze.

The original necklace is available in my Etsy shop, and I am willing to make a custom variation of this design in any color.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Etsy Treasury

My polymer clay Steampunk butterfly necklace, "Dwellers of the Mechanical Garden, Red"was featured in a treasury!

Thank you, amandamonkey!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Student's Work

This amazing faux cloisonne interpretation of one of Mucha's Art Nouveau pieces was done by Andy Pan, who learned this technique from my tutorial. The finished piece is 6” by 8” and the wire work alone took at least 10 or 12 hours. I am extremely proud and amazed by Andy's patience and precision. Just beautiful!

Click on the picture to see its biger version.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adventures of an On-Line Seller
Continued: Selling Through On-Line Malls, Personal Experience

To find my previous posts in this series, please use a search box on the right side of this blog. Your keyword is "Adventures".
Adventure is by definition an undertaking of a questionable nature, and finding the right on-line venue for your product is definitely a questionable thing, with no guaranteed success. There is no recipe that would fit every seller and his product either. Some people manage to maintain accounts at all kinds of possible sites, others stick with one favorite place.

I guess, my approach is somewhere in the middle. I am a quick learner, but it takes time for me to find out all the bells and whistles of the on-line mall and figure out the best strategy to make it work for me. I am not even talking about figuring out what buttons to push (although this may be tricky at times as well); I am talking about a general strategy that would allow my jewelry and tutorials to be at least found on the particular site. I know, I can promote my shop, give out business cards, and in many other ways let people know the address of my shop in the on-line mall. This, however, is not the point of joining such malls. I can promote my own web site in the same way, and probably get even better results, because people who visit it would not be distracted by the other (competing!) sellers. The only reason to join an on-line mall, I think, is to take advantage of the existing traffic to that particular mall. And then comes the next question: how can I make my shop visible to the presumably numerous visitors of the site.

I already mentioned eBay and in my previous posts. Enough said about eBay elsewhere, so I will not waste time repeating it here. JustBeads was a lovely site, with reasonable prices, good traffic, but with a small enough community of sellers that allowed everybody to be found relatively easy. I would love to see this site re-launch in the nearest future and hope they will regain their strength once the site is up an running again.

My other endeavor (and rather unsuccessful one) was This is the place where I totally failed the task of being found within the site, I think. They have a good traffic, and I know a number of happy RubyLane sellers, but it did not work out for me. It is quite sad to admit, especially because I was cautious about joining this site to begin with due to their fees. I did manage to sell enough to just about cover my fees, however the time spent setting the shop there and taking it down a few month later is lost.

My current shop is set up with I am quite happy with it, although I know for a fact that it does not work for everybody. I registered my shop there in 2006, but did not give it enough attention until more than a year later. Since then, I am working on my shop there almost every day, and still learn a lot. There is a number of ways to get noticed within this site, but my advice to any new sellers would be to visit Etsy forum and look for threads about marketing. They offer a lot of information, and everybody can pick and choose the ideas that may work better for them. Again – different things work for different people.

Right now I am trying out two sites, and Being new, both of these sites lack in traffic (and the second one is not even officially launched yet), but they allow listing your products for free, which is very appealing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Work in a Book

I've just got the most exciting news this morning: pictures of my work had been published in the new book by Shirley Rufener by Krause Publications Polymer Clay Mixed Media Jewelry.

Shirley says that unfortunately quite a few contributers were cut by the editor, but I am lucky, and my work was included. I understand that the editor has his own reasons, but it is just too bad that the author does not have the final word and after all her hard work now has to delivery the bad news to those who were cut... On a positive note, as I told Shirley, she can now use the left-over pictures as the foundation for her new book.

Any way, I am extremely excited. Although my work had been published in different magazines before, this is my first publication in a book.

Thank you, Shirley! I cannot wait to actually the book!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Etsy Treasury

My Amber Orchid polymer clay sculpted pendant was featured in Etsy treasury!

Friday, March 06, 2009


You can win a $25 gift certificate to use in my Etsy shop!

There are many nice items in my shop, and I will be adding some new ones every day.

Rules: The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries. You may have up to four entries per person:

- For the first entry, all you need to do is visit my Etsy shop and choose your favorite item, then come back to this blog, post a comment, and leave a link to the item you've chosen;

- For the second entry, subscribe to my mailing list and then leave a comment in this blog to let me know that you did it for your second entry (if you already a subscriber to my mailing list, you can still participate - just leave a comment in my blog about it);

- To qualify for the third entry, mention my blog, web site, or my shop in your own blog (please leave a comment with a link to your post);

- For the fourth entry, buy anything from my Etsy shop, then come back to this blog and leave me a comment.

Deadline: The winner will be announced here in two weeks, on March 21, 2009.

Small Print: You do not need to have a blog or even a Google account to participate, but you do need to have an E-mail address. Please specify your E-mail address in every comment to this post (and please use the same E-mail address for multiple comments!). Your E-mail address will not be published and will not be shared with any third party, I promise.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Adventures of an On-Line Seller
Continued: On-Line Shopping Malls

Find my previous posts in this series here, here, here, here, and here.

There are two ways of approaching the task of selling your art and craft on-line. Most crafters are dealing with both of them.

The first one is when you already have a group of royal customers – people who bought from you in person, usually at craft shows. These people already know your product. All you need to do is to let them know where they can find it in between your shows. Almost any on-line selling space (whether it is your own web site or a place at some on-line shop) would work for this group, as long as this place has a convenient check-out process and you provide a good customer service. This one is easy to master – just make sure to pass on your business card with your web site address at every opportunity and remind your customers about yourself every so often.

The second way is a so-called “cold turkey approach”. This is when you are using your on-line selling place to find new customers. This one is much more difficult. This is when you need to think about such things as SEO (search engine optimization), advertising, key words, transfer ratio (number of visitors to number of actual sales), traffic sources, bounce rate (how soon a visitor leaves your shop), and many other highly-educational topics, each of which brings you pages of information when searched for in Google.

It is the task of finding the new customers that makes me looking for better on-line selling spaces. I do have my own web site, and I spend lots of time and effort refining it both for SEO purposes and for my visitor's viewing pleasure, but it is not enough. Trying to bring new people to your own web site is like mailing your advertising postcard to everybody in your town. Most people are simply not interested.

When you join some on-line mall with an established traffic, the task becomes a bit easier. You are now working with a better-targeted group (provided, you joined the right mall, and people who came there to buy something are in fact may be interested in your particular product).

Here are a few things to think about when considering an on-line place to sell other than your own web site (not necessarily in this order):

- Does it target the right group of potential customers?
- Does this site have enough traffic?
- Is it user-friendly (both for your customers and you)?
- How much time will your new shop require (learning the rules, shop set-up, approval (if any), and time for every listing)?
- How much is it going to cost you (look for shop-opening fees, listing fees, and fees per sale)?
- How visible will your product be within this site?
- How good is the technical support at this site?

And before this post gets too long, here is a list of possible on-line selling places for hand-made goods. I've tried and left some of them, I have shops in various stages of maturity at others, and some I have not even visited yet. I think I will share my personal experience with these sites next Thursday.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our Bunny Is Back!

My husband calls our house “Snow White's Cottage”. All kinds of animals visit our backyard – squirrels, deer, chipmunks, wild ducks, not to mention hummingbirds and various other birds.

Last spring and summer a bunny lived under our gazebo. It moved in some time at the end of March, when we were in France for a couple of weeks. By the time we came back, he was quite comfortable in his new house. Our neighbor said there were a few bunnies in her yard, but her dog killed all of them. Ours was the only one that survived. We watched him grow over a few months. At first he (or she?) was really tiny and scared of every little noise. He would disappear under the gazebo in a blink of an eye. In a few weeks he was bullying even doves and blue jays that were picking some seeds spilled from the bird feeder too close to his under-gazebo entrance. After a while he's learned not to be afraid of us either, and I was able to work in the garden with a bunny sun-bathing just a couple feet away from me.

We watched him wandering further and further away from the safety of his gazebo home, until at some point in September or October we realized that we have not seen our bunny for a few weeks. I reassured the kids that the bunny would be back, but with a healthy population of turkey vultures in the nearby woods I was not sure myself...

This morning I woke up to an excited chatter of my kids in the kitchen. “The bunny is back!” - was my good morning greeting. We cannot decide whether it is our little bunny from the last year, his wiser mama-rabbit moving her nest to a safer location, or a completely un-related and new one, who just stumbled upon our vacant spacious rabbit burrow. In ether case, I think our lawn will be feeding an entire family of bunnies this year.

Here is the footage I shot this morning.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Chocolate Cake, Anybody?

We've celebrated my daughter's 11-th birthday this weekend.

This year she asked me to bake a plain cake – not a castle, a princess, a pirate's chest, not even a cat or a hedgehog – just a plain round chocolate cake. I take this as yet another sign of her growing (sigh...)

The cake, however, was wonderful. Being a humble person, I cannot guarantee you that this would be the best cake you ever tasted, but I think it could come pretty close. Here is the recipe:

Triple-Chocolate Torte

For the Cake:
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate morsels,
2/3 cups butter,
1 ¼ cups water,
1 tsp vanilla extract,
1 tsp salt,
3 eggs,
1 cup sugar,
¼ tsp baking powder,
1 tsp baking soda,
2 cups of all-purpose flour

Place chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler and bring water to boil. Stir chocolate and butter until everything melts. Transfer the mixture into a mixing boil and let it cool. Add all remaining ingredients in the order they are listed, beating the batter for about 2 minutes after each addition.

Pour the batter into 4 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers on wire racks completely.

For the Frosting:
24 ounces of cream cheese (3 packs, 8 oz. each),
1 container of Nutella (hazelnut and chocolate spread; look for it in most grocery stores next to peanut butter),
1 Tbsp orange concentrate

Mix well all three ingredients.

For the Glaze:
½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate morsels,
5 Tbsp butter,
¾ cups of powdered sugar,
2 Tbsp water,
1 egg,
1 egg yolk

Place chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler and bring water to boil. Stir chocolate and butter until they melt. Add all other ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Cook for about two minutes after adding the eggs. Remove the glaze from heat and let cool.

Spread each layer of the cake with frosting and arrange the cake. Spread the top layer and sides of the cake with the chocolate glaze. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Bonn appetite!

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