Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Fairs are Here!

This weekend begins the whirlwind of Christmas shows for the season. I've been busy this fall with new designs for the holidays & now it's time for me to rest and gestate (baby #4 is a-coming in the next couple of months--I tend to go early so all bets are off :-) Here are some samples:

Stamped Teal/Gold Celtic Cross Large Mah Jong Pendant (my new favorite!!)

Square Stamped Bananagram Game Piece Rings

Stamped Snowflake Othello Game Piece Pendant


Monday, September 13, 2010

Little Critters Scrabble Pendants

Little Critters: Mouse, Puppy, Two Chicks, Turtle, Kitty & Bunny

Had to share these new "Little Critter" pendants I made using the cutest stamps! They are stamped directly onto the Scrabble (or Sudoku) tile in black. Then, I hand-colored them using chalk inks (so I can customize the colors to match someone's pet if they want). The sky & grass are pearlescent colors, which make them reflect light very prettily. I'm confident kids will like these because mine kept trying to take them (even my boys)!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Pendant Designs

New Pendant Themes: Vintage Dogs, Horses & Cats, Irish Fun, Pregnancy, Funky Trees, Madonna & Child, Matryoshka & Yoga

I apologize for being so remiss on my blog postings; it's been a long summer! In early 2011, I shall be changing my profile to read "SAHM of 4!" (& hence the belly love pendants ;-) ) Anyway, I tend to get pretty sick when I'm pregnant so I haven't had much energy to do anything but gestate, lol. Also, the resin I use for my jewelry is toxic before it cures, meaning I have to wear a ventilator to avoid the fumes. It's pretty hard to breathe easily in the mask & when you feel like throwing up anyway, well, it's easy to see how this is the first batch of pendants I've made since May.

I picked out these new themes some months ago but wasn't able to motivate myself to do the final resin & glue steps until this past week. I've had lots of requests for dogs and yoga and am happy to finally have some in my inventory! I also thought the Madonna & Child images would be perfect for the upcoming Christmas season; I used a fun new gold shimmer paint spray on them to add to the icon look.

In general I've got some fun new toys (shimmer paints & accent inks) & stamps I'm excited to start using, so stay tuned :-) This fall I'm slated to do a couple of holiday craft fairs, Chicks Picks by Hillary boutique shows & am taking reservations for home jewelry parties.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Card Suit Necklaces

I've had these card suit "stones" for awhile now--found them at a thrift store. They have a hole through the middle already so I all I had to do was put an eye pin through them and add a dangle bead & bail to complete the necklace. I used my usual alcohol ink & embossed image to decorate them & sealed with a waterproof epoxy resin. Here are my "Queen of Spades, Clubs & Hearts" necklaces:


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Glitter Glue/Alcohol Ink Storage

Just thought I'd share this cool & inexpensive storage solution I found through a stamping forum. I already had the acrylic frames (can be found at an office supply store). You want the kind that stands straight up. Then, buy a roll of sticky back velcro. I bought a 1" wide roll and just cut it in half (cheaper). You can see through the back how I just laid a strip of one side of the velcro across the frame in four rows. Then cut little strips of the other side of the velcro and attach to the backs of your bottles. They say Glitter Glue should be stored upside down. I have a second frame filled with my Alcohol Inks (NOT upside down!) You can use up both sides of the frame too.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Day Shimmery Rose Cards

I wanted to make some Mother's Day cards to sell along with my jewelry at Celebrate Mama this past weekend, plus I needed a new technique for our last technique club of the year so I borrowed this technique from who also used the rose from Fifth Avenue Floral in her samples. It's kind of like watercoloring on steriods--I love it! I don't know the name of it so I'll dub it "Juiced Watercoloring" hee.

First, stamp the rose in white craft ink on shimmer white cardstock. Sprinkle on clear embossing powder and heat emboss. Mist the flower with water until it puddles. Then take a drop of re-inker (I kept them handy in a little palette tray) with your aquapainter and drop in the puddles. The color won't stick to the embossed part so the flower outline still shows. I used Razzleberry, Pink Pirouette & Bashful Blue (without rhyme or reason). Trim the flower & use as a pretty focal point.

Btw--the four cards I made all sold in the first hour!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Busy, busy, busy! & Gala Table Signs

Busy is good. I've been so busy with various family, volunteer & jewelry business, I haven't had time to post for awhile. But that's good too! I've got quite a few shows coming up in the next month. Next weekend I have two at the same time!

A friend of mine told me about Chick's Picks by Hillary and thought I should check it out because my jewelry would fit in. So I emailed her (she features local artists in frequent boutique shows in her own home), showed her my stuff & she wants me in her next show! It's the same weekend I'll be at Celebrate Mama in downtown Bethesda but luckily all I have do is drop my stuff off and she sells it for me. So I've been dividing up my inventory--man, I've got a lot of stuff.

Then, on May 7, I'm doing a Japanese Culture Festival Craft Fair at Fox Mill Elementary in Herndon. On May 15, it's the Virginia Wine and Craft Festival in Front Royal, VA.

On top of that, I'm organizing the auction display (bid sheets, checkout) for our church/school's annual gala this weekend--131 items & most of them are in my living room. You try keeping a 3 year old out of huge baskets filled with games, toys & candy. Oy. The fun thing for me has been getting to use my stamps & paper again to help make table signs and decorate posters, etc. Our theme is "Night on the Orient Express" so I found a retired travel set & went to town with embossing. The table names are stops on the route. I think they're a cross between a ticket & a passport page with stamps (at least that's what I was going for!)


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Resin Discussion

A reader sent me some good questions about Magic Glos vs. Colores Doming Resin and doming effects so I thought I’d address resin a little more.

To answer her question on whether I tried it on paper as opposed to just over Diamond Glaze--I did try just the magic glos on a paper item about 5/8" in diameter. I had to do several layers to get the thickness and "dome" effect I wanted. I don't remember bubbles being a problem with that but I still felt like I had to babysit it--maybe I'm just paranoid.  However, it eventually cracked! I've never had Colores crack on me.

There should be time to catch initial bubbles if you first work in the shadows before moving into the sun--but once in the sun, magic glos does cure fairly quickly.  John Golden has a good video up on youtube using magic glos & he had bubble issues--it's interesting to watch his system--he also has a video on using Easy Cast Resin.

She wanted to know if I had to do several layers with Colores to get the doming effect.  I only do one layer, one last check for bubbles (blowing lightly through a straw will take care of most of the bubbles), cover with a box to keep out stray particles & leave overnight to cure. I usually mix 15 or 30mm worth of resin (1/2 or almost 1 medicine cup respectively) & do a bunch of jewelry pieces at once to save on the cups, sticks & gloves. You can definitely make more pieces for your money with Colores than with the magic glos.  Of course, if you only plan to make a few items for gifts, personal use (not necessarily to sell), then it might be more of an investment since Colores only has a shelf life of six months.

But back to the doming--I personally think the doming works better on flat surfaces. Everyone always asks me how I keep it from running over. The short answer is: surface tension. As long as you add a little at a time (and you’ve mixed it well and with two equal parts), you can bring it to the edge and it won’t go over. If you use a bezel cup you have to keep adding more to get the dome-- to the point where you think you're about to spill over--but you really won't because of surface tension if you're careful. That said, don’t be surprised if your “cup runneth over” a few times before you get the hang of it!

If you really love the big bubble look, I’d recommend finding bubble glass (can be found on etsy) to put on top  because you really won’t get THAT much height with a doming resin.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Easter Bunny Scrabble Tile Pendant

In honor of Easter (& because someone requested a "bunny or egg or something"), I made a special Easter Bunny Scrabble Tile Pendant. Isn't he cute??

Since I discovered I could color my wood Scrabble tiles (my last post), it made it a lot easier to be able to create this right on the tile as opposed to on a piece of cardstock, punch it out, seal it & fit it securely on the tile. First I colored the whole tile in a white chalk ink (drying with a heat gun between about three layers of ink). Then I stamped the bunny in black Staz-On. To get the blue sky and little bit of green grass, I just used a Fantastix dipped in chalk ink. Then I added the little Swarovski crystal and my Colores resin on top. I couldn't seal it with Mod Podge like I would with paper because it smudges the chalk ink I've found. But the resin doesn't seem to affect chalk ink like it does alcohol inks.

By the way, if too much ink gets on the side of your pendant, rubbing alcohol should remove it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Game Piece Charm Bracelets

I made a great discovery a few weeks ago--You can color wood with alcohol inks! I can't believe it took me this long to try it. The results aren't as bright as paper or plastic, but I liked them enough that it gave me the idea of using scrabble tiles colored that way as a bracelet focal point. I simply glued earring bails onto both sides to connect the bracelet chain. Regular bails would work too. I also made some using small dominoes.

And one last pic--my favorite mini domino ring to match the blue wave bracelet--all to be posted in my shop soon:


Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Like Big Rings & I Cannot Lie

Inspiration can find me in the strangest places--the latest one came in the ER when I took my youngest in over a weekend for an ear infection. The nurse had a big mama-jama ring on her finger & it looked so cool & funky, it made me want to make a bigger ring. I've been keeping it rather conservative with 5/8" round rings.

So, I came up with making rings with my mini-dominos! I hope they fill a need for people who like big rings :-) They're 1/2" x 1"-- so not ginormous, but still a little more funky.

A few samples now in my store:





Thursday, February 25, 2010

Versafine vs. Staz On vs. Chalk Ink

Recently, I ran into a problem getting a good image and sealing a jewelry project that mixed types of inks. I have all kinds of different ink pads, as you can imagine, & I've been using black Staz On for most of my jewelry projects but I ran into some problems using it with some keychains lately. 

I was trying to stamp a larger stamp image in Staz On over some Chalk Ink but when I pressed hard to make sure the whole image came through, I found it "dug into" the chalk ink, sort of removing some of the chalk ink. Plus the image wasn't as clean as I like it. Then, when I covered it in resin, it also ran a little. Normally, I don't have that problem, but I'm guessing it was because the chalk ink wasn't completely dry & the image is larger than I usually work with. You can see below how the top line is a little smudged & I had to color in the "eis" with a sharpie because the Staz On didn't give me the best image (I didn't want to press too hard & mess up the chalk ink as I'd been doing in numerous other tries).

I've also found that Staz On runs when you try to use a spray sealer instead of resin. I tried sealing with Mod Podge first but that also removes the chalk ink. Mod Podge will work fine with Staz On by itself or with alcohol inks & then you can spray or use resin with no ink running. So, I set about finding either a sealant that worked with both Staz On and chalk ink or finding a replacement for the Staz On.

What I found was Versafine, a pigment ink, by Tsukineko. I read somewhere it was good for detailed images so I decided to check it out. First off, I was very happy to see that it gave me a complete image on the very first try and didn't take off any of the chalk ink at all! Then, I made a VERY cool discovery--when stamped onto Staz On ink, you can wipe it off taking the Staz On ink with it and get a resist embossed effect without even embossing. It doesn't dry on non-porous surfaces so it can wipe off or you can emboss with it. The first pic shows the crisp image it made over chalk ink. The second pic shows the resist embossing on Staz On.



So, yeah, I'm a huge fan of the Versafine!! I'll still need Staz On for stamping on Staz On (I did try clear embossing the Versafine on Staz On but it muted the black color). But for Chalk ink, the resist emboss effect, & regular embossing, Versafine is the way to go.

By the way, these keychains are on the back of crayola dominos I found in a thrift store.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

American Girl Doll Matching Pendants

For my daughter's 6th birthday last week, we got her her very first American Girl doll, not an investment to be taken lightly, I might add. We ended up getting her Lanie, the doll for 2010 because well, she's so pret-ty! Plus, our Maddie is an outdoor kind of girl and so is the Lanie character.

Anyway, I came up with this idea of making matching pendants for Maddie & her doll. I'd gotten a shipment of mini-dominos in that weren't like my usual ones--I was able to break them in half! I can't use them for mini domino pendants of course but serendipitously, the half-domino is the perfect size to be a mini "Scrabble" pendant. Very cool. For the bail, I found these cute flower charms to glue on. Since the chains had to be a smaller size, I chose ball chains that can be easily cut to any length you want and used simple connectors for the clasp. (The doll's chain is 9" and the girl's chain is 14"). I was even able to use the same color rhinestone in large & mini sizes. I've officially added them to my webstore now :)

Maddie chose her background paper, I stamped the monograms in black and here you go:


Maddie & her doll:


She happened to have a similar dress as Lanie already--kismet!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Looking for Celtic Stamps??

So we've been snowed in for let's see...6 days now.  Today I was out shoveling the driveway so my husband could make it into the garage okay & it literally felt like I was in the Arctic--howling wind blowing snow in my face. I live in Virginia..riiiiight.

Anyway, so I've had lots of time to putz around--today I completely re-arranged my craft area work space to be more geared towards jewelry-making instead of scrapbooking (which I hope to get back to someday). Then, I've been shopping online for fun. I'll be vendoring at my daughter's Irish Dancing School's Feis (dance competition) in a few weeks so yesterday I called Highlander Celtic Stamps to place an order for more, what else, celtic stamps, because I was having internet issues and it was so nice to reach a human being.

I'm usually not very chatty with strangers, despite being from the tourist mecca of Williamsburg, VA, where we all grew up doing service industry jobs, but I couldn't resist telling the woman on the phone that I make jewelry with their stamps. Well, it turns out I was talking with the designer of the stamps herself and it's a family-owned business. Her husband is an award-winning children's author who writes Scottish stories (I *heart* Scotland--studied there for a spell). She actually visited my website while we talked & it was cool to be able to share what I do with her work--I hope it gives her the kind of satisfaction I get when I see someone wearing something I made. Here's a scrabble tile pendant I made with her Irish Dancer stamp:

Can't wait to get my new stamps!! 'Course, I'd be happy just to get the mail & newspaper too in this snow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adventures in Starting a Small Business Pt. 3

Time to wrap up my "Adventures"-- in summary, I came to the conclusion over the course of a year to become "legit" and then started a website. The other things that needed to come together were letting the government and people know I was "legit" :-) This part is where I had to do research because as I've mentioned before--I've never taken a business class (hence the "adventures" part)! Because of that fact, I was intimidated but once I started reading (first stop--the Virginia State Government's website), it really wasn't too bad. There are books out there to help you with all this, of course. I even bought one specifically on starting your own jewelry business and using etsy, but it turned out I was already doing most of the things it said to do (yay me) so it just served to reassure me that nothing was falling through the cracks.

Different states may have different guidelines so go first to your state's website. You'll also need to find out if your county/town has any permits or licenses you need to have. I was lucky in that I called the VA tax department and a nice lady clarified what was really necessary for me to do. It made my day that I actually got things done on the phone with the government! How 'bout that?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to be a sole proprietorship or if you want to incorporate.  I'm not going to have any other employees so I'm a sole proprietorship doing business with my SS# as my tax ID. In my state and county (Fairfax), I needed to go to the County Courthouse and register a DBA ("Doing Business As") name (which is "Stamp 4 Life"). A DBA name allows me to open a business checking account under that name and thus, accept checks written out to "Stamp 4 Life." My bank only needed my DBA certificate--the manager said many people don't realize that. By the way, registering the DBA took 10 minutes and $10--not a big deal at all--I even had my 3 year old with me and it was like a field trip for him!

The other money-related thing I decided to do (kind of a no-brainer) was to accept credit cards. Just like with website hosting, there are lots of credit card merchants out there. I ended up choosing Propay because they're known, not too expensive and I can use my phone to accept credit cards (necessary when you're doing craft fairs!) I also bought a "knuckle-buster" manual credit card imprinter & forms off ebay. It's important for me & customers to have a cc receipt in case they contest the charge when their statement comes. I could rig my website to accept credit cards directly through ProPay but I decided to just stick with PayPal & Google Checkout.

When you register with your state as a sole proprietorship or whatever, then you'll be responsible for paying sales tax (depending on your state I guess).  Now I collect sales tax online only for Virginia (because that's where my business physically resides) and I incorporated it into my prices for in-person sales such as home parties or fairs in Virginia (didn't want to deal with the change!) Since I'm new, I have to file & pay monthly (which I can do online). After a while, they'll let me do it quarterly. Now that I have a "Sales & Use Tax" certificate, I'm able to buy from wholesalers too--pretty cool.

Finally, of course, I need to keep track of all income and expenses for my annual tax return. I've done that since I became an SU! demo so that's not any different--I still use my basic Quicken to record everything. The only other thing I have to watch is my income--if it looks like I'll make certain amount in a year, I'll need to register for an actual business permit in my county. 

Hope this encourages someone else that they can start & own a small business too!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures in Starting a Small Business Pt. 2: The Website

In early December, I started researching how to start a website. At my craft fairs people would ask if I had one & I'd have to explain yes, I have an etsy store but not much is posted on there etc. I knew I needed a place for people to find me again if they liked what they bought from me so it was time for a stand-alone website.

The first thing I did was buy my domain there are TONS of places where you can buy a domain name from & then you can usually pay extra for them to host a site for you. There were lots of different packages depending on what kind of site you want. I just found the cheapest legit place & bought my domain name there without anything extra.

I was trying to figure out a way to have a free website but also be able to use my domain name plus have a shopping cart. Mal's E-commerce is a free shopping cart service so I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into a free site. I looked into (free flash websites) but I'm just not tech savvy enough to integrate the cart into a site on my own. Then, I found their interface/templates rather confusing too. I'd have to pay to use my own domain name & have an e-commerce site with them. So, I moved on to which is a marketplace kind of like etsy, but not all handmade. I learned I could "mask" my url so that people going to my domain name would be directed to my ecrater store instead. Apparently though, that can cause problems with search engines finding you? Anyway, after trying to get a store started there I quickly realized it doesn't give you much flexibility in terms of organizing your store, having descriptions as long as you want or giving discounts. Sigh. So, I realized I needed to just suck it up & actually PAY for something! lol.

I'd been ordering handmade bags from Mom of Two Boys for a few year now & since it was a "mom-epreneur" site too, I looked into her hosting site Merchant Moms. I decided to cancel my Stampin' Up! website and use the money to do my own site with Merchant Moms instead for about the same about of money. Merchant Moms allows me the flexibility to organize my store the way I want, add pages, and have discounts & online parties. They don't have tons or fancy templates but I wanted to keep it simple anyway. So, I just picked a template, uploaded my logo & after a learning curve, started filling in all the content. If you're completely new to websites or html, it can be daunting but I know enough to know I DON'T know enough, if that makes sense. So, I knew which code I shouldn't mess with & when I needed to ask for technical support. Merchant Moms templates already have the Mal's E-commerce shopping cart integrated so figuring out the cart is another learning curve. THEN, you have to integrate the cart with the methods of payment you accept--(for me: Google Checkout & Paypal). THEN, you also learn that you have to let Google know about your site & products if you want to turn up in search results. Some sites, like ecrater "submit" your info for you so you never have to worry about it (well, except to make sure the language you use is "acceptable" to Google--but there are whole Forums of people discussing that so I'll just move along) but with Merchant Moms, I have to upload/submit my products periodically to Google--I probably spend a whole day figuring that one out!

Finally, I spent maybe an hour of sheer panic ("What have I gotten myself into???) and then a good week just wrapping my head around all of it before I could start to stock the store. Now that I've been working with it for over a month, I'm pretty comfortable with it. Just to give you an idea of the process....if I want to add something new to my site, I log into Merchant Moms, then I just click on "Products" then "Add" & fill in the blanks, upload a pic, assign a category & hit Save. If someone buys something from my site, it's Google Checkout or Paypal that lets me know. This has been a very hands-on learning experience for me & I wasn't sure if I'd like it (boring data entry & all that)...but, when it's your OWN site, it's a whole different story & now I'm glad I jumped right in :-)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adventures in Starting a Small Business Pt. 1

I thought I might start recording my journey on the road to having my own jewelry business by starting with how I came to the conclusion I should become a "legit" business with my own domain name, pay sales tax & all that good stuff. So, I've been a Stampin' Up! demonstrator for a little more than 3 years now & I've enjoyed it immensely. I started doing it to earn enough to pay for all the supplies I wanted because I was pretty much a beginner stamper & wanted the good stuff from the start. I've had a small core group of loyal customers and did the occasional class or workshop. I also started doing craft fairs almost immediately. That said, this area of Northern Virginia is pretty saturated with demonstrators so I was realistic to know I'd never be a big business demo.

About a year ago, I came across Scrabble Tile pendants on & thought to myself--"I could do that." If you look back at my postings then, I tried my own versions for the first time. It just kind of grew from there as I found more game pieces to use, then tried stamping on them, then discovered using waterproof resin instead of Diamond Glaze. I'd thought I'd make them for my Christmas fairs but then people started buying them right away! Then I just couldn't turn my mind off & I added rings, bracelets, earrings, etc. & by the fall I had a full line of jewelry. This kind of craft is a great fit for me because I get to use ALL my supplies and browse thrift stores, which I love :-)

During this past Fall/Christmas craft fair season, I made an interesting observation; all the paper items I'd made in the past didn't sell as well as in previous years while my jewelry was very popular! By the end of the season, I'd made more than twice I had the year before, so I had to ask myself--what am I doing when I was able to get these results in even this economy? I could actually make some extra money doing this (besides just paying for my supplies) & the feedback I was getting was that besides the Scrabble Tiles, people hadn't seen stuff like mine. That & seeing people wearing your creations is VERY cool. Besides, not everyone lives to stamp like me, but pretty much everyone wears or knows someone who wears jewelry!

I've never had a business class in my life (hello, English major), but I've learned the cliche where there's a will, there's a way & decided to investigate next steps. Luckily, I already had some basic items in place--like business cards, this blog, facebook group, a newsletter list, etc., so I could build on my own brand as a demonstrator (because we're "Independent" from SU!, we choose our own "business" names when we sign up). I'd tried etsy but decided I wanted my own site where people can not only find me again, but aren't easily tempted to go browsing around other stores. I also wanted a lot of flexibility to make the store my own (more on finding the right venue later).

Next, I'll go into the decisions that needed to be made (website, credit card) & the documentation hoops to jump through....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It's a New Year! Big Changes Afoot!

Maybe this is a little premature, but I'm so excited, I have to announce that my new website & store, Stamp 4 Life, is on its way!! I still have a few more items to add but I'm ready for orders!

This whole experience of starting my own business (well, branching out from being a Stampin' Up! demonstrator anyway) has been very interesting & I plan to write more about it--it may interest anyone else with similar aspirations.

But first, let me get back to stocking my store, & then I shall return :-)