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!