Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Featured Artists: Fire Divas

This week's featured "artist" is actually a collection of lampwork artists who have come together with a common purpose: to advance their love of handmade glass beads.

Originally formed as a street team on etsy, the members had known each other through the popular lampwork forum, lampworketc.com. As time passed, the core group of members wanted to remain connected yet move beyond just one venue. The name of the group was changed, members re-committed to the group's goals, and Fire Divas was born.

Every member of Fire Divas is committed to offering only the best handmade lampwork beads and sculpture, while supporting each other's artistic endeavors. The group may boast some well-known lampworkers, but no one person is valued above any other. Each and every artist contributes to the success of Fire Divas as a whole.

Fans of handmade lampwork beads should know that members of Fire Divas have shops on both etsy and ArtFire; search "Fire Divas" on these sites to find the beatiful offerings the Divas have for you!

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Monday, March 30, 2009

TGIM: When "Handmade" doesn't mean Handmade

In one of my posts last week, I briefly touched on the idea that just because something is made by human hands, it isn't necessarily "handmade." When most of us are looking for something that is handmade, they are looking for something crafted by an artisan; a piece that is made with inspiration behind it. However, some pieces that are made created by artisans are made using components that totally go against the spirit of "handmade."

I will probably ruffle a few feathers with this post. And I have heard the argument that if I buy sterling toggles from a store to use in my jewelry, I am no better than other people who buy cheap items in bulk from overseas. I have been told, that since the glass I use to make my lampwork beads is from a factory in Italy, I have no right to talk about the components other people use.

Of course, I do not have the right to judge. But I do have the right to educate. And consumers have the right to be educated on just how much of their handmade item has the true spirit of a handmade artisan good.

Being a bead & jewelry artist, I will use this example: if you want to use lampwork beads in your work, you can use those made by independent artisans, or you can use the mass produced beads from China or India. Yes, there are some very pretty beads that come out of factories, I will be the first to admit. However, just because you string a handful of imported, factory-made beads, and add a toggle, that is, to me, a very weak example of a handmade item. If you make your toggle or clasp yourself, then the handmade stock goes up...maybe create some wire designs for the beads, and the homemade stock goes up even more. Then, use lampwork made by a local artist, and you truly have a piece that is handmade, body & soul.

This isn't to say that strung pieces cannot be beautiful and done exceptionally well by talented artisans. However, those artists often choose the best quality stones or beads that they can find, and let the beauty of the components do the talking. They do not simply buy cheap components, put them together, and then talk about handmade.

I hope I am communicating the difference here between those who exhibit the spirit of handmade, and those that have more of a "production" mentality. What I do know, is that this issue permeates more than just the bead & jewelry fields. With so many items made overseas, many artists in different arenas now have a choice between traditional materials and those made more cheaply. You can buy "handmade" paper in any craft store now, but is it really the same as using paper made and designed by an artisan? You can buy and number of wools or fibers with which to knit, but what about the joy that comes from using wools that an independent artist has prepared and dyed themselves? The more "handmade" an item is, the more value it has, at least to me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fun Finds 3.27.09

One of my the things I am most excited to do with this blog is to feature cool handmade items by other artists. I love to choose a theme and then search some of the online venues to see what cooolness reveals itself!

This weeks theme is "dragonflies". Why? Simply because I love them!

First is this incredibly cool, yet functional, dragonfly metal earring holder by Moxie Metal. You can find this gem in their 1000 Markets shop.

Next, this original handpainted "Luck Dragonfly" silk scarf from Meyer Lemon Designs is a gorgeous addition to your wardrobe. More beautiful silk scarves such as this are featured in their 1000 Markets shop, too.

Fans of steampunk will love this incredibly clever interpretation of a dragonfly using a vintage watch face, called "Moment in Time". Designed by Vintage Filigree, you can find this piece of art in their etsy shop.

And finally, I beautiful item in which to keep your treasures! This Barn Wood Keepsake box features a woodburned and hand-painted dragonfly design, and is made from reclaimed pine boards. Created by Paradise Hill Designs, you can find this and other upcycled wood items in their etsy shop as well.

Want to suggest a theme for a future Friday Fun Finds? Email me at handmadechicblog@gmail.com !

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pricing Your Art = Pricing Your Time

Pricing your art. Ugh. It's enough to make most independent artisans start to sweat and second guess themselves...how to I price my creation so that it will be bought by my customers, but still help put food on my table? And how do I price my work objectively, especially since a little piece of me has gone into making it?

I think the major issue I see with pricing is that a lot of artisans undervalue their work completely. It is easy to take the cost of materials, and know that you have to cover that, but far too many only take those hard costs into consideration when pricing their items. As a result, you begin to see a lot of nice items that are priced far lower than they should be.

What artisans need to also figure into their pricing structure is their precious time...and not always just the time of physically making the item. I may make a necklace in an hour, but it may have taken two to three hours of planning and experimenting before actually being able to make the finished product. In a business reality, I need to realise that necklace takes me three hours to complete, and I need to pay myself for those three hours somehow.

I feel that this is what separates a lot of successful artisans (i.e., they can make a good living at their craft) from the rest of people who find themselves thinking, well at least I can make back my cost of materials, but will never be able to be a self-supporting artisan. I myself have struggled with pricing my time for years. I personally now use a pricing calculator I purchased from Eni Oken, a well-respected jewelry artist. I realized that to support myself, I need to make about $20 hour before everything is taken out; taxes and social security need to come out of this amount, just as if I were at a salaried job. Once I accepted this fact, I also realized I needed to build the cost of non-materials such as Internet cost, computer costs, printer ink, etc. The only real variable in my pricing structure is now the cost of materials...if I want to make a piece that is more economical, I use less expensive materials, I don't cheat myself of income.

I'll admit that I had sticker shock the first time the calculator told me what I should be charging. It was hard to admit to myself that I was worth that much as an artist. But if I don't believe that I am worth the price, how will my customers ever believe that? I want them to know that I believe enough in my work that I am not willing to undercut myself or my art.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Online Venues; Which Do You Prefer?

There are so many online venues for independent artisans to sell their creations today. Each venue has their positives and negatives, but all of them have allowed us to reach customers we never would have met otherwise!

In upcoming posts, I will be discussing the major online venues, looking at how they help, and sometimes hurt, the independent artist. For now, I want to know which of the online venues you currently use to sell your goods. The poll will be up for a week, so you can always come back later if you don't have time right now!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Featured Artist? No It's Just Me!

For the first "Featured Artist" entry, I decided just to introduce myself as the person behind the Handmade Chic blog.

I began making jewelry about six years ago when I was sick of never being able to find exactly what I had in mind when I went shopping. This led to an interest in lampwork glass beads, which I would buy to use in my creations. Then, just like with jewelry, I began to have a picture in my mind of the beads I wanted to find. When I couldn't always do so, I decided I would try to make glass beads myself and took a class. Thank goodness my mother trusted me enough not to burn down the house with my torch, and I have been melting glass ever since. Below, you can see my lovely little fuglies that emerged from the flame when I first started lampworking!

I first sold my beads on eBay. Once I felt that the market there was getting saturated and over-run with mass-produced beads, I moved on to etsy. I still have a shop there, and have also recently opened an Artfire shop, and a shop on 1000 Markets. While it's a lot to keep some many shops going at once, I utilize each in a different way, for different goods, and so far, it works for me!

My day job is as a high school special education teacher. My job can be very stressful, and being creative is a much-needed therapy. Without creative outlets, I feel myself slowly wither inside.

I hope that I can help pass the word on why it is good to buy handmade items, not only for the aesthetic sense, but also for the benefit of local economies. My goal is to have the Handmade Chic blog evolve into a place that can serve as a resource for both artisans and those wanting to buy handmade goods.

Monday, March 23, 2009

TGIM: Why Buy Handmade?

I have a friend, who told me that she only bought a major brand of jewelry when it was on super sale, not to save money, but because she knew it was going to break eventually anyway. Not because she was rough on her jewelry, but because she knew the craftsmanship wasn't there...after all it was produced in a factory overseas, by workers who were focusing on quantity, not quality.

Why do I bring this up? Because it presents one of the first reasons for buying handmade goods. Let me clarify that just because something is made by human hands, it is not necessarily "handmade" in spirit. When an independent artisan creates a piece, whether is be jewelry, a book, clothing, furniture, and whatever falls between, there is a relationship between artist and creation. Where you have this relationship and the love and care that goes in to a handmade good, you are also getting the pride of quality that goes with it. There are many items that are still created by hand--but in factory settings where that relationship is not allowed to flourish, and where quality suffers/

Buying handmade has become something of a trend lately. People are finally proud to state that they buy handmade goods. But the reasons to buy handmade go far beyond the trends. Most mass-produced goods are made overseas, and their sale largely benefits other countries. By purchasing handmade goods, especially by area artisans, you can easily help benefit your neighbors and local economy. If I have a good show, I will take that money and be able to spend it at the local markets and stores, hopefully helping other local merchants.

I've had people, friends even, tell me that buying handmade is too expensive. However, when you begin to realize that items become disposable because you can not count on mass-produced items to have a decent life, the amount of money wasted quickly adds up. It is almost always better financially to invest in a few quality items than to repeatedly purchase replacements. And while it is true that a local artist is going to demand more per hour than an overseas factory worker, we are now seeing the true cost of the "cheap global production" mentality as job loss and economic depression are now constant companions in the U.S.

However, my favorite reason to buy handmade is simple. I love to buy goods that were created from inspiration, by another person who felt the passion to create. I have never been someone to want what everyone has, and am always on the lookout for the unusual and unique. You will only truly find the unique when you look at small-scale production that only an independent artist or small collective can provide. Unique and mass-produced are oxymorons at heart.

What are your reasons for buying handmade? I would love to hear from you as to why you make the decision to buy the unique and beautiful. Send me your reasons at handmadechicblog@gmail.com and let's share our passion for the love of handmade.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Welcome to Handmade Chic!

My goal in starting this venture is simple; I want to help connect the people who see value in buying handmade with those artisans that create beautiful items by hand.

I came to appreciate the value of handmade goods after I began lampworking. I had grown to love using glass beads in my jewelry making. I bought a lot of mass-produced glass beads, and thought that breakage and having a few wonky beads in the bunch were both part of the deal. One day, I decided to buy a small set from a lampwork artist and was amazed at the difference. I quickly began to see how artisan-made lampwork beads were worth the extra money, and soon took my first lampworking class. The rest, as they say, is history.

Starting next week, articles will be posted Monday-Friday according to the following topics:

Monday: TGIM-"Thank God it's Monday" musings and fun to get the week started.
Tuesday: Featured Artists
Wednesday: Spotlight on Techniques
Thursday: Business Sense
Friday: Fun Finds

I am always looking for ideas for the techniques and business sense articles. If you already have a write up you would like to share, I would love to see it. I can't pay in cash, but I am open to working out a trade of some sort! Please contact me at handmadechicblog@gmail.com