Let There Be Pearls

Posted by Rebecca Stone on March 2, 2011
Mar 022011

Spring is getting closer. I can smell the blossom scent in the wind — unless, of course it’s a Santa Ana wind that visits from time to time around here and can nearly rip the hair out of your head. But I digress.

pearl and crystal necklace
Cream and rose freshwater pearl combine with fuschia Swarovski crystals and a smattering of sterling silver in this Springy necklace. A wild rose cloisonne bead sits at its heart.
(Want it? Click it.)

For some reason, I recently felt like doing something with pearls — freshwater pearls to be exact. They’re just so darn creamy and, well, Springy-looking. They called to me, saying, “Put us together with some sparkly Swarovski crystals!” (As if Swarovski crystals could ever be anything but sparkly. But these are pearls talking…) Anyway, it sounded like a good idea. So I did.


Pearl, Swarovski, black onyx and sterling silver necklace
This time, I paired the same pearls with black onyx, black Swarovski crystals and sterling silver for a high-contrast look. After all, Spring is full of contrasts! A black cloisonne bead with a mallow type of flower resides dead center.
(Want it? Click it.)

I threw in a touch of sterling silver here, and a touch of gold-fill there. And I had perfect little cloissone beads, that added just the right touch dead center. Each necklace reminds me of a little whisper, a gentle touch, a delicate bouquet from the Spring that will soon arrive (even for those of you in the Midwest, East Coast, and — right now — Pacific Northwest). Take heart! Take a necklace! Be happy! And be sparkly!

Pearls with Swarovski and red
Finally, I had to try the deep red (Siam) Swarovski side-by-side with the delicate pearl shades. Punched up with gold-filled beads and the central cloisonne pink and red “hibiscus,” I think the piece has a kind of noirish playfulness — if that’s possible.
(Sold)

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my idea of a tent usually involved a couple of chairs and a blanket. It was rudimentary but quite cozy, and I would often hole up inside with my favorite stuffed animals while waiting for wayward bunnies or similar furry creatures to stop by, lured by treats I would place outside my lair. I guess my plan was to invite them in for tea or something. Later in my childhood, tents became more elaborate affairs, sometimes even requiring tree-climbing skills. They became known more as forts to be defended (usually against marauding neighborhood boys led by my best friend’s annoying little brother). There were also the tents we would sometimes use when my dad would take us camping. These were usually olive-drab, army surplus jobs. Great for sleeping in and keeping mosquitoes at bay, though not particularly attractive.

Camping tents today are brightly colored technical whiz-bangs compared to those of my childhood. But lately, I’ve been involved with another kind of tent. Actually they’re called “canopies.” These are the peaked shelters that dot the landscape of festivals, fairs, farmers markets and flea markets. Commonly white, and, en masse, resembling clouds of whipped cream, canopies are a boon to jewelry designers. They provide shade for the vendor, the jewelry and the customers.

When I decided to try selling some of my work at shows this summer, my boyfriend, Oz, and I spent countless hours looking for and researching the various canopies on the market. We first bought a well-used Quik Shade, which we set up in front of the house for a trial run. As we live on narrowly terraced land, this was no easy feat, and we had to MacGyver our way to even footing. But when we learned about two Caravan canopies available for $50 each at a moving sale, we couldn’t resist. Caravans seem to be among the premier canopies used by artists, and these were barely used, pristine white with side curtains, sandbag holders and stakes, and bags with rollers included in the price.

Like many (so many) of my jewelry-making learning experiences, my journey down the road of canopy wisdom has been full of surprises. On this journey, I see people like Rena Klingenberg as my guides. An old hand at the jewelry design biz, she’s kind of like AAA for the jewelry crowd, always ready and willing to lend a helping hand on the road to jewelry-designer nirvana.

Among my recent revelations via publications such as Klingenberg’s Ultimate Guide to Your Profitable Jewelry Booth, as well as just scouting around at various events: Canopies should be white so the color of the jewelry can be shown to the best advantage without tinting via colored fabric. They must be easy to put up and take down, especially when single-handing. They should have straight legs so they fit in a 10×10 space. Weights of at least 40 pounds must be attached to each corner of a canopy in a way that will keep the thing from flying off in the event of a big gust of wind. Weights we’ve seen run the gamut: bags of sand (you can buy bags made for this by many of the canopy manufacturers, but these can be pricey. We saw some at Walmart the other day for about 10 bucks for four); pvc pipes filled with cement and hanging from chains or ropes; cement blocks; and plastic jugs of water. Side curtains are a good option to have as they help enclose the space and help shield against sun and harsh weather, although some kind of mesh or shadecloth might be preferable on hot days. Vents on top of a tent can help with air circulation inside, while also helping to keep the structure from lofting in a wind. A roller bag to transport your canopy is a big plus.

Anyway, who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.

But now that I have the canopy thing down, I just need to put one up at a show and lure in some customers. And somehow I know it will take more than putting a few carrots and a pile of cabbage outside the entrance to my tent — er — canopy.

Check out some of my latest treats (soon to be posted on my Etsy site (RebeccaStoneDesigns.Etsy.com):

It's hard to believe this is a natural stone, but it is. The incredible hue of apatite is striking when paired with fuschia Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

It's hard to believe this is a natural stone, but it is. The incredible hue of apatite is striking when paired with fuschia Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

I love banded the banded amethyst in this three-strand necklace and the way the green Swarovski crystals play off the purple and silver.

I love banded the banded amethyst in this three-strand necklace and the way the green Swarovski crystals play off the purple and silver.

The combination of deep-red garnet, sky-blue sodalite, translucent moonstone, pale rose muscovite and sterling silver produced a rich array of textures and colors in this piece.

The combination of deep-red garnet, sky-blue sodalite, translucent moonstone, pale rose muscovite and sterling silver produced a rich array of textures and colors in this piece.

Mar 222010

Spring: The time for flowers (among my favorite subjects for handpainted earthenware jewelry) and fairs. It seems arts and crafts selling venues proliferate in the spring like wildflowers in a burn area after a rain.

Bush Mallow is an early harbinger of Spring. It's a source of inspiration for some of my handpainted pendants (pictures coming soon!).

Bush Mallow is an early harbinger of Spring. It's a source of inspiration for some of my handpainted pendants (pictures coming soon!).

While wildflowers are abundant this year, I’ve heard that there may be fewer shows than usual, due to the poor economy. Nonetheless, in my quest to learn more about the marketing end of the jewelry-making biz, I scanned festival listings for nearby events featuring jewelry designers. I’m curious to see, of course, their creations, but also how they go about displaying them. It’s also a great way of meeting and networking with other artists. Recently, I drove out to Arcadia, CA to attend the Pink Parlour Festival. The annual event, which “completely caters to women of all ages,” offered handcrafted wares of all kinds. Of course, I was there for the jewelry, but that didn’t stop me from a few diversions here and there.

The festival was held  at the Santa Anita Race Track, at one end of the massive pavilion where bets are placed and drinks are served. When I arrived, a race was about to begin, so, as a former horse trainer, I naturally had to stop by the paddock to check out the thoroughbred lineup. I then followed them to the track to watch the race. I’m pleased to say that I still have an eye, and I picked the winner at first glance. It was exhilarating, but I was really there for jewelry, so off I went to the festival.

Another sign of Spring is the appearance of Nightshade.

Another sign of Spring is the appearance of Nightshade.

Have to say, it was a bit of a bummer to get hit with a $12 entry fee after paying $4 for parking and $5 to get through the track gates, but, hey, it was all in the name of research, so I coughed it up. Had to wonder if it might have been a deterrent for some potential customers, though. Cheaper just to grab a beer and watch the races. Also, the show seemed sort of geared toward a younger clientele, especially those with goth tastes. Nothing wrong with that, but  I wondered how that affected sales for the designers who didn’t feature spiders and skulls in their pieces.

I made the rounds and saw some wonderful designs and presentations from designers such as Regina Kalas (RKDesigns.com), whose deliciously delicate pieces were the first thing visitors saw on admittance. Kalas has been designing jewelry since, like, age 7, so the high level of quality seen in her pieces is no surprise. Other wonderful participants at the festival included Megan Goldkamp, Romi B Designs, Miss Ivy, Love Jane Jewelry, Jewels by JaNiNe, Ileana’s Designs, Made by Malcakes, Ilaments Jewelry and Opal Moon Designs. Designer Shannon McMullen, who was minding another artist’s booth, wasn’t actually showing any of her things, but we got to talking about networking and her efforts at organizing bead swaps. I checked out her Etsy site (creatrix.etsy.com) and found that she has some really lovely pieces. Go there.

This type of Phacelia, commonly known as Wild Canterbury Bells, is a favorite among wildflower hunters.

This type of Phacelia, commonly known as Wild Canterbury Bells, is a favorite among wildflower hunters.

As I wandered the show from necklace to bracelet I couldn’t help but notice the fragrance of orange and lavender wafting from the booth of Marin Natural Beauty (http://www.MarinNaturalBeauty.Etsy.com). Kimi Marin’s natural, vegan creams and bath bombs were enticing. But, alas, I had shot my wad of available cash gaining admittance, so I had to wait and place my order for one of her creams from home.

Aside from burning up the miles traveling to events, I struck gold with another tactic for improving my marketing knowhow: I just downloaded Rena Klingenberg’s  Ultimate Guide to Your Profitable Jewelry Booth onto my laptop. Klingenberg (http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com) always seems ready and willing to help other designers with truckloads of advice and tips, and this publication is no exception. I’m only a quarter of the way through it and already feel that I’ve learned much. If you’re trying to get started like I am, I highly recommend this book, her newsletter and frequent visits to her site. Oh, and don’t forget to stop beading for a moment now and then to step outside and smell the wildflowers.

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