Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Foliage -- Autumn is upon us

This time of year is usually wonderful for me (forgetting the start of cold and flu season that is).  I love the changes in weather -- starting to bake again en masse, really everything that goes with this season.

But mostly, it's the colors. 

I went to high school (for the longest period -- I actually went to 4 high schools, graduating from Arizona.  But I went to one in NY, one in California, and one in Vermont also) in Vermont and fell in love with the autumn changes in color.  NY was great -- but there is something magical about Autumn in Vermont.

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, the autumn rains are upon us -- I suppose nature is getting even with us for the hot, sunny summer because the rains hit this week with a vengeance.  Yesterday, my mother was driving home from work and said to me (yes she always uses a bluetooth):  "The rain-drops must be one inch in diameter."  Probably an exaggeration -- but the rain is heavy and chilling to the bone here when they set in.

And some years -- we have a little fall foliage (especially north or nearer the mountains), but not often.

When I came in from checking on my garden (yes still growing even this late in the season) during one of the 'breaks' in the downpours -- I found this treasury on my etsy shop notifications.  OoooohEmmmmGeee, it looks like Autumn in Vermont.

october rust by michaela         

I really love the variety of colors there -- so lovely. It's why I made these Autumn Leaves in Vermont earrings out of fabulous tunduru sapphire.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Views on Customer Service

I had a meeting up in Seattle recently -- it was one of those meetings you really don't know what is going on until you get there.  About the hardest part of the meeting was being so darn close to Fusion Beads and not being able to stop by because the traffic was about to get horrendous on a Friday afternoon.  Sigh.

But the discussion I had with the two people who asked me to come up was fun, engaging and quite interesting.  They were trying to get to the heart of what worked on e-commerce for small business owners.  I did not try to be "smart" but rather answered honestly about myriad of topics.

They asked how I got started -- which personally, I love that story.  It's the story of being sick and staying with my mother who lives near Shipwreck Beads and spending a small fortune to get her "something to keep the kids occupied" while I recovered.  Then there's the selling to a kiosk on the military installation nearby -- and doing commission work for the owner while I was in college after 6 years in the Army.

That discussion always morphs into my best friend from high school telling me to give Etsy a try -- which I did, half-heartedly, while stationed in Fort Hood with my hubby and unemployed for most of that jaunt.   Then the move up here to Seattle -- and losing that job after the budget battle of 2011.  I got a sale about a year into unemployment (while in surgery) and another sale shortly after -- which sort of started me on this road to "prove to myself" that I could do this.

We discussed everything -- my views on how to be noticed on Etsy, the changes that happen every year just as christmas season is starting (now seriously, I do not have a problem with changes -- but why institute something EVERY single year just as Christmas shopping is about to pick up?  What is wrong with like March instead?).

In the end -- they asked me about customer service, and where I came up with my policies.

"I honestly got my ideas on customer service, returns, and shipping from you.  I ordered a Kindle one year for myself for Mother's Day while my husband was deployed.  My son promptly broke it and I called customer support.  Their answer:  We are sending you a new one, just send us the old one back in the box you get."

And that --that moment -- is where I started forming my customer service policies, from that experience with Amazon.  Sure, I have to pay for Prime so that I get free shipping -- but that's where my free domestic First Class USPS shipping policy comes from.  My return policy too -- I have lived in Amazon country for the better part of my adult life and just love the return policy, and love the satisfaction policy.  So I molded my shop around how I personally, as a shopper, loved being treated the way I always was at Amazon.  I wish I had the staff to have my customers able to call me like I can call Amazon (you know click a button and they call you within 3 minutes or something?).

But, until that day, all I can be is available if there is a problem -- or if there isn't.  Or if someone wants something tailored a little -- or a lot.

I try to be available right away -- but sometimes, it's just not feasible because I am just one person. With three kids.  And a husband.  And a house that never seems to get vacuumed enough. And, where is my cleaning fairy?  Is she on strike again?  So unfair.

Amethyst Teardrops in 14k Gold Filled


Monday, September 8, 2014

Rose Gold -- Popularity and Care

I mentioned a while back that Rose Gold -- Gold with copper added to it to make it 'pink' -- is becoming very popular.  Indeed, I saw on some jewelry trends for the autumn that Rose Gold is one of the top 5 or so "to have" in your jewelry wardrobe.

Being someone who can neither wear gold, nor copper, I am only slightly jealous of you folks that can do both. I personally like the pink in the gold -- but always feel the need to give a very lengthy "how to care for rose gold" in the card I write each of my customers.

It's tough -- 14k gold filled in and of itself is a unique (ish) product -- having the top 40 or so percent of the actual piece being 14k gold bonded to usually sterling silver or a base metal.  That keeps the cost down -- without the threat of chipping like Vermeil.  Don't get me wrong -- Vermiel is nice, but it just doesn't look as rich to me as 14k gold filled does.

Plus -- with my sensitive skin -- I have to be very cautious about what I am making items with -- I am so very allergic to most metals (especially base metals) that there is not very much in the way of other metals in my shop. 

Really it's personal to me -- I don't stock it, if I can't really work with it.

Enter the new addition (a couple of years ago at least) of 14k Rose Gold Filled -- so now we can keep the cost down -- but still have to worry about the care.  Because of the copper -- 14k Rose Gold filled will tarnish with age -- becoming a darker pink generally.  I haven't seen it darken beyond that, though I imagine some other funky colors could happen -- I mean think of a penny or anything copper -- weather does weird stuff to it.

So the care of it -- right?  You have to polish it with a cloth.  I would generally say use a spray cleaner -- since it's so darn easy -- but since I have had some issues with copper and spray cleaners, I would steer clear.  But I usually use a very simple jewelry polishing cloth -- and I store everything in plastic baggies completely dry.  That keeps the tarnish from not happening -- since it's mostly weather (and Pacific Northwest weather to boot) that causes the "rose" part of the gold to tarnish.

Ethiopian Welo Opal in 14k Rose Gold Filled

Mookaite Jasper Necklace in 14k Rose Gold Filled

Emerald Green Onyx in 14k Rose Gold Filled

Heart Post Earrings (Shown in 14k Rose Gold Filled)

So -- just doing a cursory search in my shop for "rose gold" -- there is quite a bit of variety (and will be more in the coming weeks since I have to make an order soon). 

So -- if you can wear gold and copper -- enjoy the Rose Gold of the season, which is likely to be popular (if history shows us what lasts) for the next several years.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blame it all on an obsession with "Outlander"

Well, I haven't really been slacking.  I have had a million and one things to do.  Honestly.  It's like I will never catch up with the summer out here. It's been painfully hot -- especially for me, I have that whole one degree of temperature variation where I feel comfortable.

It's 71 degrees in case you're wondering.  At 70, I am 72 I am overheated. My mother always laughs at it -- because she is lucky enough to have a very wide range -- if lower than most people -- around 55 to 73 degrees and she is fine.  But once the weather tops 72 degrees, I am literally overcome by the heat and hiding from the sun.  (Red-hair, can only be outside about 5 minutes before I actually start burning to a crisp -- sunscreen or not).

So that leaves very little of the day that I am "okay" to be doing work.  Add to that that my office is facing the south -- and sheesh, it's pretty hot here in the studio by about noon.  Even today, I was taking photos on my windowsill about an hour ago -- so bright I about went blind shooting though the lens.  Meh, well it's alright.

I have been making a few items of late -- but I discovered that I am just plain bad at taking photos as I go and rather end up with about ten items to do a photo shoot of.  I feel kind of badly about that -- because I should be better -- it's like I just put of the photography and editing until I absolutely must list the item -- then pack it away for when it sells.

I recently started watching the "Outlander" series on Starz.  Can anyone say hooked?  I started reading the book -- and then eventually I did the whole whispernet synch on Amazon so that I could listen through my kindle or phone while I was in the office -- working.  Or in the car.  Or in the kitchen, doing dishes.  Or lounging in a hot bath.  Or...well you get the point.  

There is this wonderful description in the book of the pearls Jamie gives Claire in the book -- the baroque white pearls from the fresh waters in Scotland -- that tipped me to try and make a set like that for my mother.  But finding filigree that could work for between the pearls has been hard.  I was thinking of just using stardust beads instead and making the piece "inspired by" instead. 

By the way -- these are stardust beads:

Rose Gold Stardust Post Earrings
It could work -- but boy if I don't have to have a little down time after finally getting those kids back in school for the year.

Here's a few of the newer items I've finally shot and edited for the shop:

Light Amethyst Baroque Crystal Earrings

Hemlock Green Opal Stud Earrings in 14k Gold Filled

Emerald Green Crystal Stud Earrings