Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Sign of our Times

Colorado’s oldest newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, will publish it’s last edition tomorrow. It’s a sad passage that is being mirrored in cities all over the country as people increasingly turn to TV, the Web or their mobile phone for news. I must admit, I don’t read newspapers.rocky

Who has time to read through a whole newspaper? And they leave your hands so dirty. And then you have to dispose of them, either by filling the landfills or letting them pile up for recycling. So why do I care? Because the Rocky has been around since 1859 and I hate to see it go. And because I was a print Journalism major in college and I worked as a daily newspaper reporter as my first “real” job. It turns out it wasn’t for me, but I have the highest regard for the Press. Our free press provides the checks and balances that our society sadly needs. Newspapers have the time to devote to digging out a story that a short news broadcast just can’t match. In a ideal world, every city would still have competing newspapers with different points of view, but that hasn’t been the case for a decade or more now.

I hope that the displaced staff will find new jobs that use their valuable talents and skills, even though it won’t be the same. Newspaper reporters certainly don’t go into it for the money and it will be a sad day in the newsroom tomorrow. And it will be a sad day for all of those used to reading the Rocky with their morning coffee when it’s no longer there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

St. Patrick’s Day is coming!

green bracelet




Multiple shapes and styles of green glass beads, including shamrock-stamped ovals, make up this eye-catching bracelet. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day! Available now in my etsy store for just $12.00.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I’m in a Treasury!

treasury west

Check out this great Treasury of NATURAL items on Etsy by theBeadAerie. I’m happy to have my Agate Trio Necklace included (third row center)!

I haven’t been included in many treasuries so this gives me those good warm fuzzies! It’s funny, the piece just above mine looks very similar to the necklace I featured in yesterday’s post. I certainly do favor natural materials and colors over the “bling” of crystals. Earthtones are so gorgeous, and I don’t mean just brown. I mean red, yellow, orange and all shades of green. The agate nuggets in my featured necklace are complimented by wooden beads for a really natural look. It would look great over any “earthtone” t-shirt. That said, my FAVORITE item in this Treasury is the serving bowl by elmstudios in the bottom left corner - GORGEOUS!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jasper Pendant Just Listed

Jasper Donut


The newest item in my etsy store is this wire-wrapped Paintbrush Jasper donut on a brown suede cord. The flat donut is 50mm across (about two inches).

This necklace is 23 inches long. Click on the photo to see more, and thanks for looking!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I got a package today!

Display 002

I love coming home and seeing a package waiting for me! Today it was a box from Fire Mountain Gems and inside was my new jewelry display bust! She’s 19” high and has a pierced ear so people can finally see how my earrings will look on an (almost) actual ear. She’s so sculptural and elegant I won’t mind leaving her out 24/7. I should probably give her a name so let me know if you have any suggestions!

Now the big question, do I RETAKE all the photos in my etsy store using the new bust? I can tell you the answer is “No” for now. Think 90 items times an average of four photos each… I don’t have the time or energy! I do hope to give my store a more consistent look over the next year as I combine this display with just one or two backgrounds. If I decide to retake photos at some point, I’ll hold an “Inventory Reduction Sale” first or have a Trunk Sale for my coworkers.

Now what to name her? Maybe something French…

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Dear Job" Letter

Dear Day Job,
We’ve been together for a few years now and I have to tell you, I’m not sure where this is going. In the beginning, everything was exciting and new. I would even dream about you when we weren’t together. I fantasized about where the relationship might be going and how soon we could take it to the next level. I enjoyed proving my worth and my loyalty to you in all the small ways that count. But at some point things just became… comfortable. The challenge was gone. The excitement was gone. And the rewards? They never came. Oh sure, we tried out a few different positions (remember that business trip to Orlando?), but it wasn’t enough to keep the fun alive. Some days I feel like I’m just “showing up” and my heart isn’t in it anymore. I don’t know how long I can go on feeling like I’m taken for granted. So I wanted to let you know in writing that things have changed. The truth is, Day Job, I’m just not that into you.

Desk Dreamer

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Editing Photos for Etsy

Here’s part two of my photography workflow – post processing. As I said in my last post, you must edit every single image you plan to use online. I use Adobe Photoshop but there are tons of less advanced programs out there that make adjustments pretty simple.

Almost every photo needs a few basic tweeks. Of course, the better image you capture, the less work you’ll need to do in the computer.

First, most photos will need to be cropped. Remember that Etsy crops your main photo to a square for the previews. Either crop your original photo to a square, or make sure the focal point of your image will still be visible in square format (see below).

Earrings 1Of course sometimes the Etsy crop actually creates a more artistic look by only showing part ofNecklace the image. Just make sure you’re aware of it! This rule only applies to the first image in your set. I usually choose a close-up for my first image because the search thumbnail is so small. Make them want to see more!

After cropping I adjust the levels (brightness/contrast) and resize and sharpen the image for web display. I may also use the clone stamp to get rid of tiny spots or cat hair showing up. These basic tools should get you started.

Resizing Notes: I start with large images (raw format) so resizing is always my last step. My Image Size box has two fields that I change. The first is pixels per inch (Resolution). The standard screen resolution used to be 72 ppi, but Windows now uses 96 ppi so I’d go ahead and use 96. Anything higher than 96 is overkill for images on the web.

The second field is width (let the height take care of itself). Etsy recommends 1000 pixels wide, but they will display only 430 pixels wide in your listing. If someone clicks on your image, the larger version will pop up. I never save my images at 1000 wide. I generally go for 600-800 pixels wide because I want my images to load faster. Just keep it above the 430 pixel minimum. Again, Height will take care of itself. After resizing I sharpen the image using unsharp mask.

If I have to reduce an image by more than 50% I will do it in two stages. I’ll reduce it by half, sharpen it, then reduce to my final size and sharpen it again. That’s what works for me, anyway, to maintain quality.

Finally, I save my image as a JPEG (.jpg). I’ll choose the highest quality setting that will produce a small enough file size for the web (under 100K). My SAVE dialog box shows me the file size as I move the quality slider. This is why I don’t use 1000 pixel wide images. I prefer quality over size! Do not keep resaving a jpg image over and over. It’s a compressed format and you’ll lose quality.

Filenames: I suggest you “Save As” another filename so your original remains intact. I use a simple naming format that starts with a letter (B for bracelet, N for necklace) followed by a number and then a letter. For example, if I use three photos for my first necklace the files are N001a.jpg, N001b.jpg and N001c.jpg.

That’s all for today! I hope this has been helpful to some of you and I thank the rest of you for reading through it! Leave me a comment if you have a question on something and I’ll comment back.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Tabletop Photography Set-Up

Today I’m giving you a peek behind the scenes of my Etsy store to show you how I photograph my items. One of the most asked questions on Etsy is “How can I take better photos of my items?” First, you need to have a decent understanding of photography and know how to use your camera. I’ll leave that up to you for now. Second, you need to control your light to achieve consistent color balance and exposure. That’s where an inexpensive tabletop studio can help. I only spent about $70 on mine, including the CFL light bulbs.

Light Tent

My equipment consists of:
36” light tent : The purpose of the tent is to diffuse the light. They come in all sizes and mine is fairly large. I purchased the tent alone, not as part of a kit, because I wanted to use my own lights. I got mine on Ebay.
Lights: I use two clamp lights with 100 watt daylight balanced CFL bulbs. Do not use regular fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. Supplemental light comes from the chandelier above the table and the window behind my set-up. I just clamp the lights on the backs of my dining room chairs and move them as needed.
Backdrops: The tent came with various colored backdrops and I always keep the white one attacNecklace Sethed. But I often place my own backdrop behind the subject to achieve a more appealing image. Try to find a backdrop that will give your shop a consistent look and won’t compete with the piece you’re photographing. Try cloth, scrapbook paper or stone tile. Add simple props for a professional look.
Digital Camera: Mine is a DSLR (Canon 50D) paired with a 100mm macro lens. Buy the best quality camera you can afford but don’t worry if it’s a point and shoot. You should always have your camera on a tripod and use macro mode (flower symbol) for small objects. If you can manually focus and set a custom white balance, that’s even better. Use the highest quality setting available in your camera and do not use flash. I can’t give a photography lesson here, but read your manual and get to know all the settings on your camera. Click here for an excellent website with digital photography tips and articles for beginners.
Tripod: Necessary for the sharpest image possible.

That’s my whole equipment list! With this set-up I can photograph many items in a short period of time. Then it’s on to… POST PROCESSING! Yes, you must do some photo editing on every single photo you plan to use. Tomorrow I’ll post some tips on how process and size your photos for use in your Etsy store.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Life Lesson

My mind was expanded last night through the miracle that is cable television. TLC was airing a series of shocking medical stories and I got hooked right away. The first one literally made me gasp. It featured a 55 year old Filipino man who has lived his whole life with a parasitic twin growing out of his abdomen. I will spare you the photo, but the twin consisted mainly of arms and legs and a small patch of hair.

From this man I learned that none of the excuses we use to push away happiness are valid. Are you not dating because you think you’re not attractive? This man has a wife and daughter who love him. Do you think you have no special talents to offer the world? This man once gained fame and fortune working in a circus, which is how he met his wife.

Do you live in fear of what the future will bring? This man now lives in poverty and his heart is failing due to the demands of his twin. Doctors recently offered him a free operation to remove the twin with a high probability of success. He turned it down. His reason? God had given it to him. He was born with it and he would die with it.

I can’t say that I would have made the same choice, but I’ve never been asked to give up a part of myself that I’ve lived with for 55 years. He was able to embrace and love that part of himself that others found repulsive. So many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves, thinking, “I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. I’m too short. I’m too bald. I’m too damaged.” The truth is, we are all perfect creatures that deserve love. Windswept_tree_-_Ushuaia

By perfect I don’t mean without flaw.” I mean that our imperfections only serve to make us more unique and beautiful. A tree that has been bent by decades of struggling against the wind is still a perfect and beautiful sight. A Sperm Whale that has been scarred by propeller blades is still a perfect and beautiful ocean creature. And a woman who has lost her hair due to chemotherapy is still inherently perfect and beautiful.

Somehow we have to learn to love ourselves unconditionally in a society full of rules for what perfection is. Once we truly love ourselves, we become free and anything is possible. That’s a message I need to hear and believe, so I’ll say it again.

None of the excuses we use to push away happiness
are valid. Once we truly love ourselves,
anything becomes possible.

Click here for more info on Rudy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Wine

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snow! Winter Kitty video

Here I am patiently waiting for Spring to come and instead we are getting snow!  It is nice wet snow, which smacks of Spring, right?   I decided to try taking a video and posting it to my blog (my first!).  My big orange tabby, Theodore, decided to try and sneak into the shot, so you’ll see him at the end (and hear him if the volume is up). This is looking out over my back deck, and it is actually snowing although it’s hard to tell in the image.

Theodore in the snow

You know, I have to admit the snow is very pretty.  And it doesn’t seem like we’ve had that much this year. Oh no, I just realized I’ve resorted to talking about the weather.  A thousand apologies!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Sale (and all week)!

Stone pendant

This Sunday I’m offering this pendant necklace to my Blog readers for only $10.00 (normally $12.00). Just write “BLOG” in the “Note to Seller” at checkout and I’ll send you a revised invoice. Click HERE to go straight to the listing.

I’ll keep this offer open for one week (through next Sunday). Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Store Feature: Original Kim Creations

I realized I haven’t featured any stores on my blog yet and it’s time to change that.  Today I am featuring Original Kim Creations. Kim taught me how to bead and got me started in all this!  She has more beads and finished pieces than some bead shops, I’m sure.     Rhyolite Rainforest Jasper Bracelet

This bracelet is right up my alley.  It’s made of Rhyolite Rainforest Jasper and white Magnesite.  I love how Kim mixes well-known gemstones with lesser known stones.

Calsilica Turquoise Earrings


Continuing my love for patterned stones, I also think these earrings are pretty fab for only $7.50.  The top and bottom stones are genuine Turquoise and the middle ones are Rainbow Calsilica. Now I admit that’s a stone I never heard of, but I’m going to have to check it out!

Fire Agate Pendant


The last item I’ll show you is this simple Fire Agate pendant accented with Swarovski crystals and gold-plated round beads. This adjustable necklace is only $8 in Kim’s store.

Kim also introduced me to Etsy, although she never quite made the move after being established on eBay for so long.  I hope you’ll stop by her shop and take a look around.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's Here! It's Here!

My new version of Adobe Photoshop has arrived! Yes, I know that Photoshop CS4 is out now and this is only CS3, but at half the price or less it will do the trick for me.

Ok, here's the story. In December I bought myself a Christmas present - a brand new Canon 50D camera body to replace my 20D. Oh, happy me! I quickly shot a few test images and raced to my computer to see how they looked. The anticipation turned to dismay when I realized that CS2 does not recognize the new RAW format! To make matters worse, my computer failed to install the Canon software that would provide a workaround. I certainly hadn't planned on spending hundreds of dollars more on a new version of Photoshop, so CS3 is my compromise. It still wasn't cheap, but I'm told it will read my 50D images with the correct download. I have to wait until Saturday to install it and my biggest fear is that something will go wrong. After all, the Canon software wouldn't install, so maybe it's a problem with my machine. I'll just cross my fingers and keep you posted!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


The photography is mine, the sculpture isn't!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Backyard Friends

deer I’m lucky enough to live in an area where visits from deer, fox and other wildlife are daily occurrences. For the last few weeks I’ve been seeing the same group of six deer almost every day.  My neighborhood is their neighborhood. Sometimes I wish I could approach them and make friends with them, but of course they need to stay as wild as possible.  These Mule Deer, with their big soft ears and gentle eyes, could melt just about any heart!