Wednesday, April 14, 2010

At Long Last!

Success, at last!  I have been trying to get a video series done about my ceramics, and met with one frustration after another.

First it was not having any blank tapes, and lacking any spare cash to buy some, then, it was finding time to create the video and get it edited.

From there, enter one maddening frustration after another with You Tube.  I finally gave up on them, and went to Vimeo.com, and here is the result:  (click here).

It uploaded smoothly, and was a frustration-free process.  I recommend their service!  (Oooops..was that a plug?!) 

You can select for the video to open in a new window by right-clicking the link.  If it you cannot for some reason, simply click the 'back' button on your browser to return here when you've finished watching.

I hope you enjoy the video.  Thanks for visiting.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Getting a Treasury

Greetings!

   Well, I finally managed to snag a treasury!  you can check it out HERE .  Landing one of these coveted spots is tricky, and time-consuming.  Unless you have absolutely nothing to do but sit in front of your computer waiting on the last hour or so of the countdown to the next opening, you're pretty much out of luck.

   You have to have all your ducks in a row, and be spot-on with the timing.  You cannot answer the phone, run for a potty break, go get a snack or anything else.  If you take your eyes very far from the computer screen, you will miss the opening!  Guaranteed!

  Advice on how-to?  Calculations?  Nope, not from me.  There are entire forum threads and Storque articles devoted to the matter.  the best resource I have found, at least the one most helpful for me, is the Treasury countdown clock on Craftopolis .  All the other assorted directions are about counting pages, adding or subtracting mintues, trying to allow for folks ending their treasury early... blah, blah, blah.  Phooey!  Too much calculating and math for my brain!  I let the Craftopolis clock do that for me.  And it worked!

 Have your items picked out a day or so in advance, and waiting in Poster Sketch (there are how-to's within Etsy), and I even went so far as to pre-compose my title in a Word document, and had it copied to my clipboard, so when the slot opened up, all I had to do was paste it in, and not worry about trying to type in a big rush and making a mistake, and ending up loosing out.

That's it for today--short and sweet.  And now it's time for my show...

Cheers!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Curses, Foiled Again!

Humpf!  Not only did I not get to the dojo with my video camera, it turns out my timing was way off. Seems it is "spring break" week for a lot of the schools  (2 weeks for some schools!), and the dojo is having "spring break karate camp" running.  So, the place is going to be full of kids making all kinds of racket, and not conducive in the least to capturing quality video with clear audio to record the forms.

The good news, however, is this:  I have learned that I am within pretty easy reach of my next belt level.  All I have to do is solidify my most recently learned 'pinan,' learn 3 more combinations, and I will be ready to test!  Woo-Hoo!  Gotta get that video done as soon as spring break is over!

Meanwhile, I do believe I will practice on the cats.  LOL  They always make interestisng subjects.  Although, being cats, they may not be in the mood to cooperate.  Just when I want to tape them playing, they will most likely decide it is nap time. 

When I say "practice," I don't mean how to make a video--I already have lots of experience with that.  What I need to learn and practice is the "today" method of burning one's finished movie to a DVD, or uploading it to You Tube.  I have a You Tube account activated and waiting, but at this point, it is sans content.

That's it for today, folks....I have to work today to make up for the fact that I'm playing hooky on Monday.  ;-)


Monday, March 15, 2010

A New Thing to Try...

Today is the day I dust off the video camera, install a new tape and freshly charged battery (ok, maybe not--mayble I'll just run it off the AC adapter)...and take some video.

My first project will be to take the camera to the dojo and capture all the forms with which my brain is struggling.  At my age, I'm finding that learning a new form is hard, because there are so many different moves in certain sequences, that practicing is next to impossible.  Why?  Because when I'm just learning a new one, it is like information overload, and I tend to forget most of it by the time I get home.  Serious bummer!  How can I practice what I do not remember!  UGH!  Getting old sucks!

So, I'm going to capture all the forms on tape, upload them to the computer, burn them to a DVD that I can play on the TV, and have something to practice with!  So there, brain!

My next project will most likely be to tape the cats' antics, and learn how to upload a video to You Tube. 

And what does any of this have to do with my crafts:  Just this:  once I've mastered that, you can probably look forward to seeing the occasional video here in my crafts blog.  Something to look at, as well as read! 

I'm off and running!  Catch you all on the flip side!

Cheers!

P.S.  ummm...welll..... time got away from me, daughter stopped by, had to go grocery shopping, so I suppose this 'adventure' is put off until... ummm...tomorrow??  That's karate class day, anyway..don't want to get in the way of class...Wed??  hmm.... appointments...Thurs....visiting other daughter, & will miss karate class...Fri.. no transportaion!  RATS!!!  Hate to wait a whole week! 


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Today, not crafty--just helping out a friend.

Hello!

  Thanks for stopping by.  Today, rather than write about crafts, I am trying to help out one of my Etsy buddies.  Her daughter is facing very serious surgery, and I'm sending you to her blog, ( click HERE ) for the full details.

  In a nutshell, she'd like to arrange for her daughter to receive a flood of postcards from all over the world while she is in the hospital following the surgery.

   She is not asking for any money or anything else..just the postcards. 
  
   I normally do not get involved in passing around 'sad stories' that I get via e-mail or see posted on FaceBook or anywhere, as 99% of the time, they are scams.  This time, however, the individual is known to me, the facts can be verified, and I am comfortable in assisting her with this request.

  Feel free to re-post this, and please, reference your original source, so it does not get tossed aside and discounted as 'another one of these fake sick kid stories.'  Thank you!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Work to do today...

Ah, work...LOL

I have several photos that need to be re-done, because they were taken with my old camera, and the resolution was not as good as it should be.
As someone who writes blog articles on how to take better photos, I'm sure it would behoove me to make sure mine are 'up to snuff.'  ;-)  Some need new backgrounds, and some need a better presentation, as  many of them were taken in a hurry, just to get the listing up and running.

That said, let me digress for a moment to state that I feel 'artful presentation' can be a double-edged sword.  It is not always desireable to have an 'artsy' set with other items in the photo.  It can create a good deal of confusion in a potential buyer's mind as to what is actually being sold.

It is one thing to show items on a pile of small rocks, or with a plant, or on a model.  It is quite another to picutre shoes, for example, along with a necklace or other jewelry or apparel.  It muddies the product.  What are you selling?  Shoes?  Jewelry? Scarves?  Keep it clear and simple.

It also pays to be creative.  I have lost count of how many pairs of earrings I've seen photographed hanging from the side of a coffee mug.  While there is probably not much 'product confusion' here, as it is usually a fairly tight shot on the earrings, it is still obviously a mug.  It's an over-used and trite device.  Likewise hung from a glass.  This is usually a very poor technique, especially if a clear glass, or even one with a delicate pattern.  The background shows through, and the product is not clearly visible.  That is to say, it does not "pop."

There are many other poses earrings can take:  laid flat on the backdrop is one, but also a very common theme.  Try hanging from a piece of driftwood, or artificial foliage, but keep the scale in proportion. Hang them from the edge of a small jewelry box; show them held in the palm of a hand...yours, or a model's or a jeweler's form hand.  Be creative! 

I know re-doing photos can be a real pain-in-the-drain.  Especially for products such as mine, which are fragile, and must be stored with at least minimal protective wrapping.   It makes for a very time-consuming project... which I why I have not gotten around to it yet.  But, I promised myself I would work on it today, so off I go.

Cheers!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Almost the Same Name... Still Awesome!

Here is yet another fantastic Etsy shop, this one belonging to a dear friend of mine.   Please visit the shop,
 octobermoondesign and check out her positively gorgeous Celtic-inspired work.

She has a beautiful assortment of jewelry, pocket mirrors and assorted artwork.  Her art pieces are fanciful and modern, very colorful.  No matter what your color scheme, there will be a match in here somewhere to pick up that perfect accent color and tie it all together. 

 I think this one is particularly nice, very feminine and evocative of nature.  Indeed, that's her title:  "Soul of Nature."  These are all original artworks, and created with mixed media, including  such varied things as colored pencils and photoshop.



                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Here is one of her jewelry items:


This is a hand-done small artwork framed into a darling casual necklace.  I rate it as a 'must-have' for any animal or bird lover.  The little owl has such personality!









Below is one of her Celtic inspired items---


Isn't this a lovey mirror?  Just imagine how special you will feel checking your makeup in a "Dancing Goddess" mirror! 

This is another artist/crafter with an extremely reasonable price point for her works.  They are original, beautiful, unique, and yet still very affordable.  If you're looking for that perfect, yet different gift, look no further!

I, personally, have a large problem with the viewpoint that says, "If it is inexpensive, it must be of poor quality."  That, I feel, is only true of the mass-market import wares found at large chains such as Wal-Mart or Target.  When it comes to original artwork, who among us, in today's economy, would not appreciate the chance to own or give a beautiful, hand-crafted and unique piece at an affordable price?  I know I would! 

I realize there are two posts today, featuring crafters with very similar shop names.  It can get confusing, as there are innumerable variations possible, some a subtle as the insertion or omission of a single space or other character, making it "unique" in the eyes of a computer program...not so much to us poor humans. 


Now--time to go shopping!  :-)


Note:
All of the images used in this post are with the crafter's permission, and are copyrighted by her.  Please do not copy or use them in any way.  Feel free, however, to post links to this blog.

Awesome Artist!

Folks, you simply must visit this Etsy shop:  OctoberMoon.  She is a fabulous artist, and does beautiful ACEO artwork.  Her price points are extremely reasonable for this calilber of artistry--you can easily afford more than one!


Even though Christmas is now well past, you can still view some of her custom artwork glass ornaments.  They are absolutely stunning!  She will custom-paint an ornament with a portrait of your special animal friend. 

Since this kind of custom work takes a fair amount of time, I'd say it is not too early to plan ahead for this coming December, and order your special animal friend ornament now! 

They would make excellent and much appreciated gifts for friends or family you know who are really 'into' their pets--and no law says they must be Christmas gifts--birthdays or 'just because' occasions would be just as appropriate.

I love her work.  The portraits are at once realistic and true to life, while still having a bit of a whimsical quality about them.  These would also make wonderful memorials to animal buddies no longer with us.

In addition to her ornaments, she also offers fanciful beasts of clay, original art cards (that's the "ACEO" part), and a few vintage items of a fanciful nature. 

Simply click on her name in the first sentence to visit her shop--you'll be glad you did.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Cheers, Lizzy

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blogging, Anyone??

Good evening.

   At least it is evening here.  It usually is when I'm writing, posting or creating; I'm a bona-fide night owl.   Nothing of much importance gets done before noon.   ;-)


I was recently asked to host a presentation on how to create a blog presence. Since this was originally done within a private chat, the information was not widely available, so I thought I'd put it up in my crafts blog for others to see.  Here is the original transcript of that chat: 


Many people think blogging is difficult, or that it takes a very long time. Neither is necessarily true. For me, personally, it is somewhat time consuming, but that is only because I do so much of it:  writing 4 different blogs, and because I have a bit of a problem with brevity. I tend to over-explain.  :-(


 Hence, for me, Twitter is difficult. I only get 140 characters??? OMG!!! ;-)  (I'm not used 2 having 2 make stuff so short & use cryptic abbrvs.; it cramps my style.  --  ok, that "sentence" is only 55 characters..that would work.  But, for me, it took a lot more time and thought than just writing normally.  LOL) 



When you open up a blog, the very first thing to remember is this: it is YOUR blog! Do with it what you will, and make it your own. There is no need to copy anyone else’s style or subject matter. Think of it as a conversation with your readers. A one-sided conversation, to some extent, yes;  much like a telephone chat with bad reception on your end. You can talk, and be heard, but somehow, the other party’s replies aren’t clear. LOL  That's what the 'comments' box is for...and you don't have to put up with being interrupted while you are making your points, as often happens in person.


There are many sites on which to get started, but for my money, (figurative money, that is, because it is free), the easiest on which to begin is Google’s Blogger a.k.a. Blogspot.com. (exactly where you are reading this very post.) 


The actual opening of an account is easy, and in fact, if you already have Google e-mail, all you have to do is log in and select to start a blog. But, you do not have to have Google mail...signing up for a Google account is free, and easy... and you can then use it for all sorts of different Google applications.


In fact, any of you currently using Google Analytics for your Etsy (or other) shops, already have a Google account, and when you go to http://www.blogspot.com/ , you will be given the option to sign in using your existing Google account.  Keeps things simple--less to remember!



Once you are at the blogging main menu, you’ll be presented with several design templates from which to choose. Select the one that fits your personality, or even your mood. Select the layout that fits best with your plans. Do you plan to me more photo-oriented, or more text-oriented? A mix of both? There are templates to fit any of those options. With that done, you’re all set.. Ready, set, BLOG!



In the world of mules, there are no rules.. Oh, no, wait…that’s Ogden Nash in Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals.” I mean, in the world of blogs, there are no rules.
;-)

Every Blogger has her own style. Some are like lectures, some are funny, and some are preachy. Some are long, some are just a paragraph or two. Some write daily, some weekly, some monthly. It is entirely up to what fits with your style, and your schedule.  The way to avoid frustration with your readers, (and with yourself!) however, is to make no promises or statements regarding the frequency with which you will write.  Just do it when the mood takes you.



The important thing is to simply decide on something, and try to be consistent. I say ‘try,’ because we all know how life has a habit of getting in the way of the best intentions. Start small. Don’t set impossible goals of being the most prolific Blogger on the Internet. I certainly did not begin my first blog with the intention of ending up writing 4 of them! ;-) But here I am…it snuck up on me.


But then again, I am a writer, and I love writing. It is what I do best: painfully shy as a child, I learned to express myself on paper. If writing does not come as easily to you, don’t sweat it. There is no requirement for a set number of words. A blog is not a school essay assignment or book report. Make it what you will.


If you have trouble with spelling or grammar, write your post first in a word processor program, and take advantage of the spell-check and grammar-check utilities usually included. (Be warned—those are not foolproof—they will not catch context errors in the presence of a correct spelling, and they also occasionally want to INCORRECTLY “correct” grammar.)   You can then copy/paste your masterpiece right into blogger.


Begin it as an experiment. Post jokes, or silly trivia. As you learn to do that, your own writing style will develop. Don’t even promote and advertise it to start with. Get comfortable with the concept first. The time for ‘getting serious’ will come along. You’ll know when that is, and I cannot tell you, as it will be different for each of you.



When that time arrives, you always have the option to completely delete any and all earlier posts, if for some reason you feel you’d not be comfortable having your trial run on display. ;-) As you become more comfortable with developing your own style of writing, I’ll bet you discover a ‘secret.’ It is this: your writing style will very likely take on the tone of you, speaking, in a casual conversation.



And that’s all a blog is—YOU, speaking to your readers through a new medium. In fact, if you have a small tape recorder or digital recorder, you can even SPEAK your blog posts, as the ideas come to you, and write them down later. Then, you will automatically gain that conversational tone you want to have. Write ‘pretend’ blogs in your word processor, if you don’t want anyone to read your first efforts.  Keeping a journal is a good way to begin this process.


And now, some of the questions I was asked are as follows:

Q.  Will having a blog help my Etsy sales?
A.  Maybe.  Possibly.  But, in my opinion, that should not be the be-all and end-all goal of a blog.  Promoting your blog and shop; cross-promoting both, will certainly help your online visibility and presence, but beyond that, there are no guarantees.  There is a saying, "The only guarantees are death and taxes."  ;-) 


Q.  What do I write about?
A.   Write about whatever fires you. Your crafts and their process; your other hobbies; fantasy; jokes; the sky is the limit.


Q.  What if writing is hard for me, or I don't like to write?
A.   No matter.  You can make a photo blog, using simple, brief captions.  OR select a random photo, and use it as a basis for a flight of fancy:  invent a story or scenario around the picture.  I.e., what just happend, or is about to?


Now, get going, and have fun! THAT is your assignment! Have fun and play with it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Introduction to Woodworking

WOODWORKING FOR BEGINNERS




So, you want to learn to craft things from wood, do you? Wonderful! Woods are among the most basic and rewarding media with which to work. It is malleable, and many types have a delightful fragrance, and it is available in virtually any size and shape.

Let me begin with an introduction to types of wood. At the most basic level, there are hardwoods and softwoods. Within each grade, there are variations and degrees of hardness and softness as well. For example, oak is considered a hard wood, but there is a wood called ‘blood wood’ that is many times harder. Oak is relatively easy on your equipment, while blood wood will very quickly dull your woodworking tools! Hardwoods in general, though will dull your tools faster than soft woods.

Pine is a soft wood; balsa wood is even softer—yet, surprisingly, balsa is actually classified as one of the hardwood group!

Pine can be dented with a fingernail, while the balsa can almost be carved without tools: you can dent balsa with a knuckle-strike! (Yes, it is still wood, and doing that would probably hurt some, but not as much as smacking a hunk of oak, which would not dent, and probably bloody your knuckle in the bargain!) The classification is determined by the type of tree, botanically speaking. If you care to pursue this puzzlement further, see these articles for more in-depth information on the differences and variations:


Now, on to the actual working with the wood. First and foremost are your tools. Treat them well, and they will serve you well for many, many years. I have some antique planes and chisels that belonged to my grandfather in the late 1800’s: they are still as sharp as ever, and can still be used. Keeping your tools sharp is the most important safety tip I can offer, besides the obvious one of using safety glasses (and hearing protection when using power tools).

A lot of people hear that piece of advice, and say, “Huh?” They think that a sharper tool will be more likely to cut them. Well, used incorrectly, yes, you can cut yourself. Handled carelessly when getting the tool out or putting it away can result in injuries as well. However, the real danger from a dull tool comes from the fact that it will not cut as cleanly through the wood; it is more likely to catch on the grain, bind, and slip…and that "Ooopss--it slipped.." is what sets you up for getting hurt. So, keep your tools sharp, and know how to use them to stay safe.

One of the most obvious safety rules is also one of the most ignored, whether in the work shop or in the kitchen: don’t cut toward yourself!! This may seem like elementary advice, but trust me, it is the single most violated rule, and the one most responsible for injuries outside of just plain stupidity, like the fellow I saw reaching across a running table saw to turn it off!! (Hello, dummy!!  You got a death-wish, there??)

Okay, with the basic types of wood, and the safety lecture out of the way, let’s move on to some of the tools you’ll need for basic woodworking. If you have never worked with wood at all before, go to your local lumber outlet, and ask if they have a scraps/sample bin. You can usually purchase an assortment of small pieces of various types of wood for minimal cost. Have them tell you what each kind is, and write it on the wood with a pen. Just use these as study or reference pieces. Learn what they look like; study the grain; get familiar with their scents.

Your first tool: sandpaper. It comes in umpteen grades and types. For woodworking purposes, the coarsest you would need is usually about an 80 grit. This will remove a lot of material in short order, if it is shaping you are trying to do. It will also leave visible scratches in the wood. As you progress with your item toward a finished product, it must be re-sanded several times with ever-decreasing coarseness of paper. Usually, a 180 grit, and sometimes 200 will be used for the finishing touch. If you have stained a piece, and find that after it dried, there is a slight roughness that was not there before, that means the grain was raised some by the application of the liquid stain. In this case, you will want a light touch with about a 320 grit to just knock down the grain without leaving marks or removing any color. After this, your finish sealer coat can be applied. For the full skinny on sandpaper, (possibly more than you want to know!) ;-) check out: http://www.sizes.com/tools/sandpaper.htm


Your next tools are: saws of a few types; hammer; chisels, a square, glue, clamps, and lots of sharp pencils.

For small work, a basic coping saw is handy, as it will cut through most woods, and will turn tight corners when doing a pattern. It is the hand-tool equivalent of a jigsaw (sometimes called a saber saw), or scroll saw. It is best to learn with hand tools before trying to master power tools. It forces you to go slowly, and learn what the wood is telling you.

A crosscut saw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crosscut ) is the old fashioned-looking saw many of us think of, with a blade length of up to about 2 feet, and a teeth-to-top height of about 8 inches. These saws are tapered, being ‘shorter’ at the front and ‘taller’ at the rear where the handle attaches. Crosscut saws are for larger work, and come in a variety of tooth styles. The differences are in pitch (angle of the teeth) and in fineness (how many teeth per inch of blade). Each type has its own purpose.  For smaller hand-crafted items, the crosscut saw would be your first-use saw, to simply cut the proper size piece from a larger board.

Hammers come in many types, but the most common is the claw hammer, and is what most folks see in their mind’s eye when the word ‘hammer’ is spoken. This is fine for most woodworking, but for small work you may want a much smaller hammer, such as a tack hammer, for use with very small nails. Especially in soft woods, a big hammer is heavy, and difficult to control, and can leave ugly dents and gouges in your item when (yes, 'when,' not 'if') you miss the nail head (and yes, it even happens to the pros!)

Chisels come in a wide variety of widths and shapes. There are flat blade chisels for making square-edged cuts, and there are gouges, which are u-shaped and v-shaped for making either decorative lines and carvings, or useful channels for sliding parts or hidden seams. Yes, of course, there are power tool equivalents, such as dado head cutters and routers to do these tasks…but again…learn first with hand tools! It will make you a better crafter in the long run.

A square is very important in making sure you have all your corners lined up and your 90-degree surfaces exactly at right angles to one another. Use a good combination square, which incorporates a steel ruler, a sliding component used to line up various dimensions of work, and a small built-in level.

Your choice of glueis very important. Be sure and use glue specifically made for wood. It dries clear, but nonetheless, it is very, very important to clean up any that seeps out of any seam while it is still wet. Once it has dried, it is much harder to remove, and any residue left will make a spot that is sealed, and your stains will not ‘take.’ Hint: apply stain (and let dry) before assembly, just in case you don’t get all the glue wiped back.

Clamps: When gluing, you must square up your work, and clamp it tightly until the glue sets. Nails notwithstanding, they do not ‘suck’ the wood together as tightly as a clamping device, and are really only supplemental ‘clamps.’ It is really the glue that actually holds everything together, so be generous…which is why you will have seepage that needs to be wiped off !

Carpenter’s pencils are typically flat, so they don’t roll off the work surface, and are normally sharpened with a pocketknife or utility knife.

There you go! Your elementary introduction to woodworking! Go exploring, have fun, and take a field trip to the hardware store, and explore the lumberyard, deeply inhaling the marvelous fragrance of fresh-cut wood!

My Friend, Christine B.

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Hey--if you know me; you know you've found the right "Liz."  If you haven't figured it out by now, you probably don't know me.  ;-)