Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 A Year in Review for Sj Designs

Another year has just sped by for me, my family, and my business...  I honestly don't know where it went!  (I feel like I must apologize to my Mama for the millionth time for doubting her wisdom about time going faster and faster the older you get!) 

As I sit down to write this post, I realize that I never got around to setting concrete goals for myself for 2015.  Oops!  I guess I was just so busy doing things that the planning part got a little lost in the shuffle.  Really, a lot of my 2014 goals just rolled over for the new year with the added idea of growing my business beyond Unearthed Arts.  So... here's a little recap.  I hope you enjoy strolling down memory lane with me a bit before we christen the shiny new year!

Learning (and Using!) New Techniques
  • This was my second year going on the Bead Cruise with my good friend Kathleen.  While I haven't done too well with using the techniques I learned on this year's cruise, I did make a bunch of the macrame style bracelets that Erin Siegel taught us last year!  Apparently I have an incubation period.
    One of my favorite pictures from the cruise:  Me, Kathleen, Erin, and Diana.  Such great memories!

    Here's that batch of bracelets... I should get out the macrame board and make some more!

  • When I discovered I would be able to go to Heather Powers' fall retreat, I got the wild hair to go take classes and shop at BeadFest Philadelphia instead!  Kathleen was once again my partner in crime and we got to reunite with several Bead Cruise friends as well as meet new friends.  I'm so excited about some of the techniques I learned there and look forward to putting some of them into practice in the new year.  (I'm still amassing some of the new tools and safety equipment that I need before getting too serious with my new torch!)
    I can't wait until I have all the tools to try making more of these bracelets!
 Getting Published
  • I've continued trying to get my jewelry designs out there to the wider world by way of magazine publication.  I had a bracelet published in the gallery section of Stringing Magazine but even more exciting was having a necklace featured in Create Jewelry (a special issue from the publishers of Stringing).  I really can't explain how thrilling it was to open that magazine to a full page picture of one of my creations!  

  • Over in the blogosphere, I was super honored to be asked to do a guest post for one of my favorite blogs, Earrings Everyday.  You can see my post HERE if you missed it!
 Getting Organized
  • Ugh.  Studio organization remains the bane of my existence!  My bead and supply hoard is like the fabled Hydra... I cut off one head (i.e. get a few things put neatly away) and three more heads (piles) spring up to take its place.  My sweet friend Marcia has tried to help me with my mess and introduced me to some great new-to-me organizer trays, but I've got a looong way to go.  I keep placing orders because I need that one thing and then never get around to putting the rest of it in its proper place.  Making messes jewelry is just way more fun than cleaning up! 
  • I can at least claim that my art beads are in pretty good shape as far as organization goes.  There are a few outliers that haven't gotten priced and stored including the new pretties my husband got me for Christmas, but I need to make spots for them to go (by making more jewelry) before I can put them properly away.  Luckily, I've been much better at using my art beads this year, instead of just hoarding them, and intend to keep going with this trend!
Growing My Business
  • 2015 has been my first full year as a resident artist at Unearthed Arts in Waconia, Minnesota.  The gallery continues to be a great outlet for my jewelry as well as source of creative energy for me.  In addition to selling my creations there and working in the gallery, I've also taken over more of a role in the gallery's online presence and do most of the Facebook posts, email newsletters, and class management. 
  • I had a brief stint selling some of my jewelry at a store in the Minneapolis airport.  While I had hoped for a longer term relationship there, the experience has opened me up to looking for other opportunities. 
  • As of November, I do have my jewelry for sale in a second location again.  Thanks to a friend of ours, I now have a small display at the West Side Perk coffeehouse in Bloomington, Mn!

  •  I had three jewelry shows this year... and all were super successful for me!  I participated for the third year in the Art Wander studio tour (my second year as a studio location).  I also took part in the fall festival that my husband's clinic puts on each year (with some of the proceeds going to support the local food shelves) and brought back my Holiday Open House after taking 2014 off. 
  • Teaching has also been an important part of growing my business.  I had the pleasure of mixing jewelry and libraries (I will always be a librarian even if I'm not working in one regularly!) by doing a series of classes for tweens at three different branches of the Washington County Library System.  At Unearthed Arts I've done done several jewelry classes for adults including one private event. 
  • I've been trying to be more proactive and organized with my social media presence, but I still have a LOT to learn!  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest... it's enough to make your head swim.  I may not be anything close to perfect, but at least I'm putting myself out there!  
  • My Etsy shop still needs way more love and attention (oh, and maybe listings!) but I did get my banner revamped and my shop reopened.  Baby steps?  I've been busy enough with my local shops and just dealing with life in general that my online store has taken much more of a backseat.  Since reopening, I did sell one of my most expensive pieces (one that I was actually a little sad to see go) and a set of my acorn jewelry to a customer in Finland!       

Of course my 2015 wasn't all about jewelry and beads... mostly but not all!  ;)   Travel, friends, theater, good food, great beer...  2015 was a pretty good year overall.  No, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows... but I choose to focus on the positive. 

In addition to my beady travels, Eric and I had a couple of great trips.  We drove down to Asheville, NC just for fun (with a side trip to Huntsville to see my family) and took in all the craft beer sights that we could.  We spent a day at Biltmore and also had the chance to connect with several friends.  On the Huntsville leg of the trip, we got to spend time with my mom as well as my big sister and niece Anna.  A friend also hooked us up with free tickets to a beer festival that was happening while we were in time... talk about great timing!

Eric and I on the rooftops of Biltmore!
Anna, Doty, me, and my sweet Mama.
Our other big trip was to San Diego for the National Homebrewers Conference.  We were there in part to help promote a new brewing business venture that Eric is a part of, Beer Dust.  It's always fun checking out the breweries in a different part of the country (or world, for that matter!) and hanging out with fellow craft beer lovers.  This trip was a little different in some ways since we were there in part as vendors, but still a ton of fun.  We even got to chat beer and games with Wil Wheaton!

Smaller side trips included going to Duluth for the All Pints North beer festival and an awesome road trip to Fargo, North Dakota with friends Ty and Annette.  I also traveled solo to San Fransisco to hang out with my library friends at the American Library Association annual conference.

Ty, Annette, myself, and Eric in Fargo.
We geeked out at both MiniCon and CONvergence this year (both are SciFi/Fantasy conventions here in the Twin Cities), got our theater on during both Fringe Festival and the Twin Cities Horror Festival, and had too many fun times with friends to even count.  Here's to the year that was 2015 and to the New Year headed our way!  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Art Bead Scene: December 2015

The inspiration for this month's Art Bead Scene Challenge is Paris by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.  You can read more about the artist and her artwork HERE.  With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I almost let this month's challenge go... in truth, the artwork really didn't speak to me.  I'd love to hear how this month's inspiration hits you.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, 1951
I know that the ABS editors choose the year's artwork fairly far in advance, but I think it's pretty amazing how well December's choice fits into the recently announced Pantone Color of the Year!  Are the editors psychic?  or is one of them a spy within the hallowed halls of Pantone? 

While going through my art beads (trying to get some new ones put away and also thinking about upcoming projects) I noticed a pendant from Marsha Neal that has been hiding in my stash for quite some time that I thought might work.  At the very last minute I decided to try and whip up a necklace design.  So, without further ado (since I already missed one of the ABS deadlines) is what I came up with!  Sorry for the picture quality... I had to snap this picture at night indoors. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Earring Monday: Weeks 51 and 52

Well, it looks like it's the end of another year of New Earring Mondays for me!  Time just keeps flying on by!  With the holidays and trying to get out a last batch of special orders, I haven't had a ton of extra time or energy for creating, but I did manage to eek out a couple of last pairs of earrings for the year. 

Actually, this first pair of earrings was one of those special orders!  One of our neighbor girls had been asking me if had any hot pink earrings back at my Holiday Open House.  Sadly, I did not, but I did show her a set of beads from Heather Powers of Humblebeads and they were just the ticket!  Her ears are newly pierced, so the lightweight polymer clay paired with sterling silver was a perfect choice!  They ended up being a Christmas present... I hope she loved them!

Next up is a pair of earrings that I made to go with one of my new snowflake necklaces.  I love the crackle effect of the matte crystal quartz... perfect for a Winter Wonderland look!  

Since this is my last New Earring Monday of the year, I'm throwing in a bonus pair!  This last pair was another special order for someone at Unearthed Arts.  A gentleman wanted a pair of earrings to go with one of my necklaces that he was buying so I made two different pairs to give him options.  The ones he chose were a version of a pair that I've already shared here, so I'm sharing the pair that he passed over.  I love fluorite so it's tempting to keep these babies for myself!

I just want to say a special thank you to everyone who has played along with me this year in my little earring challenge.  It's been so much fun seeing what each of you has created and also to see you grow and try new things!  (Don't forget to put your links in the comments below.)  I also want to thank my readers who have followed me through all my crazy earring adventures!      

I think I'm going to take some time off from New Earring Monday for a while (I've been doing it for over 2 years now!) to make room for some other challenges and projects.  Do not fear, I LOVE earrings and will keep on making tons of them... I hope you'll keep creating too! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Earring Monday: Weeks 49 and 50

Sorry it's been a little quiet here on my blog the last week.  I tend to go into a little bit of hibernation after a show plus we had family in town giving us a nice break from our usual routines!

This week I'm sharing a couple of special order earrings that I created before my Holiday Open House.  (Thanks again to everyone who came out!!  It was a super fun day for me!)

So, first up I have a little pair that I whipped up when my friend wanted something for a teenager who loves The Hunger Games books and movies.  I didn't have anything that specifically fit the bill but I had just gotten some new brass bird charms from Vintaj, so I whipped a little something up.  They aren't actually mockingjays, but I thought that they still had feel that worked.

My other two pairs were made as possible gifts for someone else on that same friend's Christmas list who loves all things butterfly.  Unsure of what necklace length to choose, she decided that earrings would be a better fit.  I got some color preferences from her and started to play.  

Now it's your turn!  Please add your links to your own earring creation in the comments.  I love seeing what everyone else is making too!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Snowflakes: Or My Love/Hate Relationship with Seasonal Jewelry

Every year I have really good intentions of working and designing ahead of the seasons so that I am fully prepared and stocked when each new season arrives.  Have I ever actually accomplished that feat?  or anything even remotely close to it?  Nope.  Not once.

Seriously, I buy things early (sometimes even on sale at the end of that particular season in hopes of being ahead of the game next year).  For instance, I stocked up on a ton of great art beads in yummy autumn colors at Beadfest Philadelphia this summer.  Those gorgeous beads are languishing in my bead box waiting for next year at this point.  Then there was the time I bought a bunch of great ceramic snowflake pendants on sale from Tracee Dock at The Classic Bead in early spring.  Did I use them the next year?  Nope.  The year after?  Maybe one.  Winters have come and gone, and those sweet little snowflakes have just kept sitting.

I honestly don't know what my damage is with seasonal items.  It's like my brain just throws up a road block to creativity saying "I'm not ready for the next season... live in the now!"  I just want to make whatever I want to make all year round!

With my Holiday Open House coming up this weekend, I'm finally setting some of my snowflake collection free!  While I'm still not managing to create ahead of the season, I am at least making some winter-inspired jewelry.  And since winter is just getting started here in Minnesota (and will keep us firmly in its icy grip until the end of March at least) I'm feeling like this is pretty good for me.  Here are all the snowflake designs I've managed to make in the last few days.  All but one of the focals are from The Classic Bead.

Am I the only one with this seasonal design disorder?  I'd love to hear from you... do you successfully design ahead of the new season?  Or are you always playing make up like me?  Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Inspired by Reading: Serena

We have two book club reveals this month.  You can find my post for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children HERE.

The November selection for the Inspired by Reading Book Club was Serena by Ron Rash.  Set in 1930s North Carolina, the novel tells the story of newlywed couple Serena and George Pemberton and their timber business.

I went into this book with no knowledge of it whatsoever.  I'd never heard of the book despite the fact that it's also been made into a movie with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.  I think I was expecting some sort of sweeping historical romance set in the Appalachian mountains.  Boy was I wrong!  This book, like the titular character, was twisty and dark.  I was really not expecting such a high body count!

Serena is not like any woman that anyone in the book had ever met.  She's got a single mindedness about making the most profit from their logging business regardless of the consequences for others or the land.  She shows herself to be beyond ruthless, eliminating anyone who gets in the way of her plans.  Many of the characters in the book bend to Serena's will and either willingly do her bidding or at least try to stay safely out of her way.  Really the only likable characters in the whole book are Rachel and the few characters who try to help her.  Rachel is the young girl who mothers Pemberton's illegitimate son and is left to raise him on her own after Pemberton kills her father at the beginning of the story. 

Since the logging industry and its devastating effect on the land is a central part of the book, I chose a pendant from Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio that's in a pattern called "lumber leaf."  I used a variety of Czech glass rondelles in shades of green and brown as well as a few little leaf beads.  It was a no brainer to make use of some of my wood beads too.  It's a little hard to see but the clasp is a twig toggle set, continuing the woodland theme.   

 Pop on over to Andrew Thornton's blog HERE to see what everyone else made!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Inspired by Reading: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

We have two book club reveals this month.  You can find my post for Serena HERE

I've been super excited waiting for this October's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection since Andrew Thornton set the new line up.  For October we read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  I first got wind of this unique book when I was working as the youth materials selector for my library system.  It had some major buzz going so I put a request on it as soon as I had it ordered.  Some books are all hype and leave me feeling let down... not so with this title!

Full disclosure:  I didn't actually re-read the book this month.  I did check it out for Eric to read, but since I've read it twice before, I didn't revisit it.  I did however read the third installment of the series, The Library of Souls.  (Book two is Hollow City, if you're interested.)  Since I'm not in the library game anymore, I didn't even know there was a book three until it was almost out.  I'm just happy that I was able to put in a request and get it in advance of this challenge!

I struggle with how to best describe Miss Peregrine's without giving too much away.  (There's nothing I hate more than spoilers so I'll just tread carefully and encourage you all to read this one!)  What I can say is that Riggs approached this novel in an interesting way.  He is a collector of strange old photographs and included photos from his personal collection as well as some from fellow collectors throughout the book.  I feel pretty certain that he crafted certain details in his story to match up with his photos.  The addition of the photos really adds something to the reading experience and many of them are seriously creepy! 

I ended up choosing a porcelain pendant from our very own Andrew Thornton that I picked up from Allegory Gallery during our visit last year.  The bird (is it a raven?  a crow?) represents all the ymbrynes and the key in its beak (as well as the key toggle clasp) represents the mysteries that Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children protect... the mysteries that Jacob struggles to understand.  

Because of the matte finish of the pendant, I mostly used recycled glass and some Czech glass in a frosted finish... I didn't want things to get too shiny.  I also sneaked some plated hematite in there (I'm wishing I had grabbed a second strand of this particular type).  As a nod to the time loops, I used some sari silk at the back of the necklace.  I'm hoping the silk adds not only some softness but also a sort of timeless feeling. 

Stop by Andrew Thornton's blog tomorrow to see what everyone else was inspired to make HERE.