Sneakin’ a peek

When I wrote about my kiln firing last week, someone asked if I had my own studio.

Nope. I work at the Philadelphia Clay Studio! We’ve probably about 80 associate and resident artists, a big gallery and a school for ceramics, all in a old four-story brick building.

We have two huge gas-fueled kilns (which I prefer to electric). The smaller one can hold about 200 pieces, and the big one is several times that! So I usually cooperate with someone else and fire infrequently, when I have enough work saved up!

The downside is that sometimes things don’t go as planned. Like this last firing, which I expected to be finished by last Wednesday. But nope! It got delayed, and won’t be unloaded until later today. So I’m just waiting, patiently.

Ha! As if! I’m not waiting patiently AT ALL! In fact, I cracked that baby open yesterday, and stole two test plates out of it!

I was testing two different black glazes against my amber, and I really like how they turned out! (Sorry the pic isn’t great). Please give me your opinion – the one on the left is matte black, and a glossy black is on the right!

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Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 10:47 am  Comments (7)  

A fish by any other name…

(Don’t ask me about the title of this post. It just popped into my head.)

I love this etching of Koi, those beautiful huge Japanese fish. William Holt captures them so naturally, you feel like you could be standing by a relaxing pond, with huge lily pads and the sound of wood chimes in the distance. That’s my fantasy, anyways.

I also wanted to draw attention to William because he does an awesome job with his technical explanation, something we were discussing in the last week’s Saturday Writing Critique. I like how William  talks about the Koi up front, and leaves his techniques for the end. He breaks them down into etching and aquatints (something I’ve never heard of) and explains both clearly and intelligently. Instead of feeling mystified OR overwhelmed, William left me feeling better educated and impressed by the amount of time and technical mastery his process obviously requires.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Saturday Writing Critique #9

Dangling participles? Purple prose? Never fear, the Saturday Writing Critique is here!

(Ahem. Yes, I know my intros are getting steadily sillier. Forgive me – I spent most the day driving through three states!)

But it is indeed that time of week again, and tonight our volunteer is Jane, of Ergane. Jane is the creator of some unusual and enchanting collage-style jewelry, as well as the author of some of the most eccentric and personality-packed descriptions I have seen on Etsy.

In fact, I had quite a debate with myself over whether to pick Jane for tonight. I have a number of suggestions I might make to her about her writing (and she did, after all, volunteer). But I think I run the risk of “over-correcting.” After all, the descriptions are one of the few places in an online marketplace where buyers can really get a “feel” for the artist behind the product, and that’s a valuable thing. So please, as always, take my suggestions with a grain of salt. I’ll try as best I can to leave Jane’s personal voice intact!

And boy, is it a chatty voice! Check out her description for a pair of cute orange stamp earrings:

~~~

and for orange power baby-yeah! A new version of my stamp earrings, sans dangle, but cool and elegant on long copper kidney wires. German stamp, Austrian crystal, great combination!

These earrings are around 2″ or more long, and are made with
hand canceled stamps-you’ll never see anyone on the streets with a pair like yours, as they all come from the attention-deficit
mind of me. Just making two that match is all that I can accomplish, and SO,
you are guaranteed a one of a kind pair! They don’t even match each other, sometimes! (what with the postmarks and all) Most are covered on the back
with vintage dictionary pages-a by-product of my cannister making-I try very
hard to use all the paper left-overs!

I SHIP INTERNATIONALLY!

If these items don’t quite suite yer fancy, try http://www.fearlessfreak.etsy.com

Kinetic Watch Earrings are made by hand, by me.

I begin with a variety of vintage watch crystals and a pile of lovely postage stamps. First I stick the stamps (or other interesting, papery things) to the backs of the watch crystals, and next I cement on a brass paillette. Then I cover the whole thing with vintage dictionary pages and images. Each square or circle is handled at least seven times in the process-I want them to be as close to my idea of perfect as they can be!
Each pair of stamps is then made into a unique pair of earrings-I have a large bead collection and I chose something different for each pair. Yours may include semiprecious stones, pearls, Czech glass, vintage Czech glass, vintage Lucite, brass charms/findings, watch innards and enameled metal flowers.
All ear wires and dangles are made from gold-plated brass earring hoops, and any slight discoloring of the stamps is due to either age and/or the reaction of the ink to the adhesives I use, and should not be considered imperfections, but rather, human made. While they are water-resistant they shouldn’t be submerged or showered in. They are made of glass so they can be broken-especially if you happen to be an enthusiastic telephone-answerer like me!

~~~

Now, this is one of Jane’s shorter descriptions, which is why I choose to tackle it. She’s got a lot of fun and clever things to say throughout the description, but in my opinion we don’t really need the stream-of-conscious kitchen sink. Let’s pick one or two things that capture her personality, and go for brevity in the other parts.

Visually, I’m going to try to add some space between paragraphs and clean up her unusually placed line-breaks. Hopefully that will make it easier for readers to browse.

I’m going to omit the bit about using paper left-over from the canisters (Jane makes necklaces from small canisters decorated in dictionary paper). If I was visiting the earrings without seeing the rest of Jane’s shop, the reference would throw me for a loop. Also, I wouldn’t say that “most” of the earrings have dictionary paper on the back. As a buyer, I’d like to know what’s on this particular set.

Finally, I’m going to try to shorten the description of her process. I think it could be clearer and more concise (oh, and I didn’t know what a “paillette” was, so I’m going to add a word about that!).

Whew! Okay, here goes:

~~~

And for orange power, baby – yeah!

Cool and elegant stamp earrings on long copper kidney wires. German stamp, Austrian crystal – great combination!

Around 2″ long, they are made with hand-canceled stamps. You’ll never see anyone on the streets with a pair like yours, as they all come from straight from my own attention-deficit mind! It’s covered on the back
with recycled vintage dictionary pages!

I SHIP INTERNATIONALLY!

If these items don’t quite suit yer fancy, try http://www.fearlessfreak.etsy.com

How I make my Kinetic Watch Earrings:

I begin with a variety of vintage watch crystals and a pile of lovely postage stamps. I stick the stamps to the backs of the watch crystals, and next I cement on a piece of brass backing, called a paillette. I then cover the whole thing with vintage dictionary pages and images.

Each pair of stamps is attached to a gold-plated brass earring hook and adorned with a unique bead from my collection. Yours may include semiprecious stones, pearls, Czech glass, vintage Czech glass, vintage Lucite, brass charms/findings, watch innards or enameled metal flowers.

Any slight discoloring of the stamps is due to age or a reaction between the ink and adhesives – a sign of the human touch! Parts are glass, so be careful if you are an over-enthusiastic telephone-answerer, like me!

~~~

Notice that in the interest of brevity I took out the part about not submerging the earrings. I think that’s pretty common-sense, but if Jane is worried about it, maybe it could be in the email that gets sent to buyers after a purchase?

Thanks Jane, I hope this helps! Many happy sales to you!

~~~

Interested in a critique focusing on language and writing? You’ve come to the right place! You must leave a comment on THIS blog post to be considered for next week! (Even if you have volunteered on a previous week!)

Also check out the Writing Critique archives!

~~~

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 10:22 pm  Comments (15)  

The Spy

“This necklace will help you sniff out the clues.”

For those who read my Saturday Writing Critiques, here is a perfect example of a photo that caught my eye, and a “lede” that totally made me want to go out and buy the necklace.

Kelly, at Tresijas, has totally got my number. What reporter could resist jewelry that helps them find clues?

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 12:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Secrets…

Irene, of BlueCitrusArt, does certainly have some warm, sweet photos. But it’s her dark, suggestive ones that immediately caught MY eye.  I especially love her  “intimacy of the hotels” series.

Looking at them, I feel like there is some mysterious, sad story hiding around the edges of the film. They beg for an old beat-up typewriter, a bottle of hard liquor and a burnt cigarette.  Maybe she’ll start writing short stories some day and let us all in on the secrets…

Published in: on June 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Smooth move…

I love the sanded, silky look of these curved copper earrings from GemsByEm! They remind me of sandy beaches, sunsets and Arizona deserts…

Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 9:58 pm  Comments (5)  

Oh boy oh boy

Guess what? I’ve got work cooling in a kiln *right now*! And I’m going to see it tomorrow!

And even better? I’m going to get to see the results of some glaze testing I’m doing! The picture (above) is some of the testing glaze mixed up and in liquid form. I mix up tiny batches for the tests, then select the ones I like, alter them if needed, and, hopefully, use them to expand my palette!

If you’re not familiar with pottery, here’s the scoop:  Most pottery gets twice-fired in a kiln. The first time, called bisque, puts the clay through a chemical transformation that leaves it brittle and very porous. Those pieces are dipped in glaze and re-fired, often to a much higher temperature.

But here’s the interesting thing: Glazes are very different from paints, because they are colored by metals, not pigments. The color happens when those metals hit a melting point and interact with the atmosphere and materials around them. So you can’t just mix blue and red and get purple. That might be mixing cobalt and copper, and who knows? You could get some funky yellow/green, or just a catastrophe. Plus we have to consider whether we want shiny or matte, runny or stable, and a host of other variables. So potters are constantly swapping recipes that work, testing and re-testing. (If you ever requested a shiny red pot from a potter who always makes matte light blue work, this is why they got peeved!)

Anyways, I’m very excited to be trying some new recipes! I’m going to look forward to asking your opinions on the results!

Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 7:14 pm  Comments (2)  

I Brake for Bangles

Luscious pictures of hammered metal could keep my mouth watering all day!

Luckily that’s all you get at Luster’s shop, where I discovered pages of gorgeous silver and copper creations, including this set of bangles. I noticed that some of her work is going for entirely too-reasonable rates. I say get it while you can!

Published in: on June 23, 2008 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

To clarify…

A note about Swarovski crystals: I took some flak today, especially on the Etsy forums, for calling Swarovski crystals a “technical term.”

What materials you use, and your creation process, is a GREAT thing to include in your description, and I definitely wouldn’t remove it. I am only suggesting that, for people who may be totally unfamiliar with your craft, you put in one or two words of clarification.

So I am suggesting that you might help some buyers by saying something like “This necklace is made with Swarovski crystals, a superior lead crystal.”  It doesn’t take much, but this lets me, as a potential buyer with no previous experience in jewelry, know why your piece is more desirable than another.

Some people I spoke to seemed to expect that if a buyer doesn’t understand a term, they should be responsible for hunting out the information online. Well, okay, that’s a possibility. But why make a buyer navigate away from your page (where you are hoping, I presume, that they will stay and spend money) when just a couple well-placed words on your part will answer their questions?

I am also suggesting that the nitty-gritty of crafting go towards the end of the paragraph or description. You can appeal to everyone by putting the most attractive stuff out front, and then save the details for the more interested, discerning buyers. There’s no need to condescend or over-simplify.

By the way, these are not my ideas. This is a matter of practice in journalism, where it’s a necessity to communicate very complex concepts to a broad audience in as tight a space as possible. 

How much information we give about our materials and process is something we all must decide as individuals. But with a little clever wording, I think it’s possible to appeal to buyers “in the know,” while also demystifying terms for new visitors!

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm  Comments (4)  

Saturday Writing Critique #8

Quick, hide the split infinitives! There’s a Writing Critique on the loose!

Yes, it’s that time again, and today Abigail, of Piedras del Cardenal, is in our sights. She’s another fabulous jewelry maker with plenty of hip chainmaille pieces to browse.

But Abigail’s descriptions give me the perfect opportunity to discuss something that plagues Etsy writing: Technical terms.

Here’s the very first sentence of Abigail’s description for a pair of eye-grabbing loop earrings – please raise your hand if you see a word you don’t know:

~~~

Four blue anodized aluminum circles are linked with the smallest possible doubled links of golden yellow aluminum, and hung on hypoallergenic anodized niobium hooks.

~~~

Uh, are your hands raised? Mine are. Let’s look at the whole thing:

~~~

Four blue anodized aluminum circles are linked with the smallest possible doubled links of golden yellow aluminum, and hung on hypoallergenic anodized niobium hooks. These have a retro feel to them; though the color is all wrong, they remind me of the famous Nelson Marshmallow Sofa of the fifties.

The niobium wires are safe for virtually everyone, sensitive skin or not, and the earrings weigh practically nothing. They are good for wearing for long days, or for a young girl who wants something dangly and stylish. The total length is 2-1/8 inches (55 mm).

The niobium wire color is not as different from the aluminum as it appears in some of the images, though the anodizing on the two metals is different. The aluminum is royal blue with a bit of a peacock-blue tint, and the niobium is steel blue, not violet as in some shots. (That pink workbox top was reflecting upward and affecting the shades, I think.)

~~~

Whew! I understand that Abigail is trying to give the educated buyer vital info. But it’s leaving the rest of us out in the dark.

Don’t get me wrong, technical terms are fine in descriptions. But they require at least one or two well-chosen words of introduction. (Oh, and jewelers? This includes “swarovski crystals”! It took weeks of hanging around the Etsy forums before I had a clue what those are!).

Now, there’s plenty of info in Abigail’s description that would make an attractive “lede.” Let’s get that stuff out front. In the newspaper biz, we always put the most interesting and important information at the beginning of the story, and pack the end with details that only the most intrepid readers want to know. For Abigail, technical terms should go after the first sentence (with brief definitions, please!) for more discerning buyers.

Here’s my rewrite (with some help from Wikipedia):

~~~

These feather-light blue earrings have a hot retro feel! The interlocking hoops remind me of the famous 1950’s Nelson Marshmallow Sofa.

These are perfect for super-sensitive ears because the hoops are made from a non-irritating, hypoallergenic metal called niobium.

Dangling at just over 2 inches (55 mm), each earring is comprised of linked peacock-blue and gold aluminum hoops.

Perfect for that long day at the office!

~~~

You may notice that I left out a LOT, including nearly the entire last paragraph. Personally, I think if a buyer is really concerned about anodizing, they’ll ask directly. Also, we don’t need the explanation of the different colors against different backgrounds – I think the pictures are clear.

Please do think about buyers who may know absolutely nada about your craft. A well-placed word of explanation can invite, teach and excite!

I hope this helps, Abigail! Happy sales!

~~~

Interested in a critique focusing on language and writing? You’ve come to the right place! You must leave a comment on THIS blog post to be considered for next week! (Even if you have volunteered on a previous week!)

~~~

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 12:45 am  Comments (20)