Thursday, July 31, 2008

Of Fawns and Glass ....

And, of course, 130+ pound Great Danes who think they are teeny tiny itty bitty dogs. You can see more pictures of the Dane and the fawn at my sister's Fawn Folio (see left navbar). Jet, the fawn, is absolutely darling--and a real pig when it comes to carrots and lettuce and grass. It took him a while to learn to trust me. I was actually of two minds, because frankly the fewer humans he trusts the better, if he's going to live wild. But he;s such a loving little critter, and comes over and gives tiny sloppy fawn kisses when I'm not looking. I
know that a lot of that is pure looking for food--after all, I have given him his bottle and his carrots, and his lettuce, and the treats--raisins and nuts and other dried things.
He'll come up to me now when we are outside--the other day he was racing around with Draco, who is so huge I keep him in sight when he's loose on the property lest he inadvertently scare one of the neighbors. He does not like the neighbor who holds the property next to the tract my brother-in-law holds out near Karnes City, so even though he's an utterly gentle lummox I watch him when we're on the home place, too--just in case. Anyway, he and Jet had raced around like mad things,
and Drake was utterly blown. Jet was just getting started--yet he came right up to me (food? food?) and then wandered off. While most of the time Jet comes in--and, believe it or not, is starting to behousebroken!--sometimes he stays out all night.

While my sister is at work I have gotten to play in her studio, trying out presses, glasses, and frits that I don't have myself. As a result, I've done mostly frit beads--one does not want to use up other people's stock of fine silver foil (at $15.00 a pack), mesh (at $7.00 a square) or rare glasses. I have blown some shards for her, and want to do a few more -- she has a wider blow tube than I do, and it makes blowing the shards easier. I need to get one that diameter! I had thought it would make blowing the shards harder, but it was easier. Anyway, I've had fun with Bullseye glass, seeing what colours I want to order. I like the earth tones, and the blues. Vetrofond seashell swirl and raku frit remain a favorite, of course,
but some of the BE reds, pinks, and blues are lovely. I made some this morning that are peach-coloured before the kiln; we'll see what happens when I pull them out of it this evening.

There's another Vetrofond oddlot named "Moon Rock" that also does beautifully with raku, and it matches the tonality of seashell swirl. I made a large tab of that, with some SIS to finish it off. Anyway, though the pictures are a little dark--I haven't figured out the white balance with a background like this--here's the eye candy I promised--at least the first installment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why do Artist-Made Lampwork Beads Cost More?

There are a lot of people selling "artist-made" lampwork beads out there, and the sheer variety can be extremely confusing for the consumer. In particular, the range of prices can generate consumer questions. Why can one seller list twelve handmade beads for $4.50 ... total ... whereas other sellers list five small beads for $25? Both say the beads are handmade ... and neither are lying. So why is there such a cost differential?

Infernoglassbeads has wonderful, clear post on the topic. So if these are questions that you have asked, or if you want to know about the start-up costs of a lampworking studio, or the cost of glass, or why "handmade" doesn't always equate to "artist" or "artisan" made ... take a look at this excellent post.

As far as the cost of materials and tools goes, here are some links so that you can see for yourself what lampworkers' materials and tools cost.

Presses: One good place for presses is Zoozii's. You can also google other excellent press manufacturers such as Cattwalk or Mike's Brass for Glass, or look at the entry for presses in The Glass Haven's Knowledge Base. Check out the press prices. I personally have eleven presses ... and I know lampworkers with many more. At $50-$70 a pop, that's a hefty investment.

Glass: Look at the variation of price per pound depending on what the glass does. All of these manufacturers are competitive in their pricing ... but each type of glass has its own qualities, and generally cannot be substituted easily.
Trautman Art Glass, Flame Tree Glass, FlameDame Glass

Kilns: Chek out these costs--Jen Ken Kilns, Chili Pepper.

Tools: Just poke around Arrow Springs' Catalog for a good idea of cost. Want a shopping list for outfitting a studio? You'll want about 50 mandrels, some bead release, tweezers, a couple of marvers -- minimum. And that's on a Hot HEad torch. Want to upgrade? Check out the torch costs- and remember to get hoses, fuel, a regulator, connectors, and an oxygen source. You can use a $200 tank (before you fill it with oxygen), or you can buy an oxygen concentrator. I have two of these.

Eye protection: You can't work without eye protection, and you'd better have decent ventilation, too.

Then there's practice time. I made beads for four months before I began to sell them .... and they were just tiny ones. There's always beads that go wrong that one can't sell. So factor in all that expense, and at least three months to a year before you can even begin to sell beads.

Can one cut corners? Yes--there's a lot of found tools, and I know lampworkers who practiced using bottle glass first. But all the same, this is an expensive craft!

I hope that helps further explain the cost of artisanal beads :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Looking for Lawn Care?

I'd like to introduce any local readers to a wonderful lawn service, run by Barry McKenney. Barry's service is not only an excellent start-up in and of itself, but it is an example of how a good neighborhood can function.

When I was looking for a house, my ensemble conductor recommended his neighborhood. It's a working class neighborhood filled with 1960s saltbox ranches, but its remained stable since it was built. He lives in the original farmhouse on the property (and does without air conditioning in the Georgia heat, for which I salute him!). He mentioned that there were two houses on his street for sale.

I looked, and looked again, and finally bought. In my old neighborhood, it took four years to know just a few of my neighbors. Here I know everyone three houses down. We all watch out for each other. The Vietnamese landlord who owns his own house and the rental next door comes to help if I need home repair, and I bake treats for him, his wife, and children. The kids wave excitedly when I go by, and I wave back. He gets good, stable, quiet tenants, whose kids do odd jobs in the area. The bartender across the street notices everyone, and has been known to check up on people if their patterns change or he sees something wrong. The only exception has been the rental on the other side of me; its owner does no repair unless we neighbors force him to using county laws -- but we band together, which is how I met my neighbors is HIS direction.

It's a good place to live! So when my ensemble conductor was having someone work on his yard, it turned out to be Barry, a long-time friend of J's who has just begun a start-up business. J, who needs to sell his house so he can go to graduate school to get his doctorate, decided that it would be good to put his money where his friend is, and has hired B to keep up his huge yard. I visit J often, as I usually care for his two dogs when he is out of town, and he checks on my cats when I am gone. I was over getting blueberries and returning J's wandering puppy. My back yard was a jungle, because my mower had died before I could get the yard finished. (And I mean DIED. Kaput. No more mower.) I was tired, and hot, and so I asked Barry how much he would charge to do my backyard. He worked me in, and lo, it was BEAUTIFUL!! Which is saying something, 'cos it's still mostly weeds :) And his price was more than reasonable--plus he checked to see if I was happy with the job.

So there you have it--a working neighborhood, full of Hispanics and blacks and Vietnamese and Russians and Eritreans and Somalians and academic white chicks and everyone else under the sun, all being neighborly. And the neighborhood connections produced a tie to a great start-up, which I herewith recommend.

Community Lawn Care
Barry McKenney

Serving Metro Atlanta, GA

Monday, July 28, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: CharmingRose

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's another fantastic team member, CharmingRose.

CharmingRose sells .... beads! But her beads are different from anyone else's in the team so far. Like others, she has a very logical layout in her sections to help buyers navigate her shop. However, she has some very unique beads. There's a whole section of glass just from India, for example. She also has some beautiful shell beads, and an excellent section of charms and filigrees. Ribbon and other embellishments are next ... and boy, are they beautiful.

CharmingRose has over 200 sales, to some very happy people. Come join the crowd!

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: ButtonHole

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing The Button Hole.

ButtonHole's banner is so cute and well-done I had to reproduce it here! Like many supply sellers, ButtonHole carries both her eponymous product and practical small items made using that product. Most obviously, she has buttons -- lots of them! You can search by vintage grab-bag style, or by color / type. However, if you like buttons, and are up t your ears crafting your own stuff, you can pick up button-adorned items for yourself or your friends right here.

There's button magnets, and brooches, and cards / tags, all made with buttons! Perhaps the most clever items are her button bouquets. Real flowers are, of course, lovely--but for the crafter in your life, or the person allergic to plants, here's a bouquet sure to please.

ButtonHole has 227 sales so far, and everyone seems 100% happy -- shop with confidence!

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: CarDon Creative Design

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing one of our illustrious and hardowrking team leaders, CarDon Creative Designs..

CarDon Creative designs sells beads. Oh, woe, you say, I am so tired of bead shops! Well, first of all, this is a lampworking blog--you come here, you deal with it :) :) :) Seriously, even those jaded with numerous beads should take a look at CarDon's shop. Copper and vermeil beads are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and CarDon has got them! Her beads are placed in sections by type, and she's got a wide variety. In addition to the copper beads, she has wooden beads, gemstones, corals, and mother-of-pearls. On top of all that, she's got findings, cord, chain, and ever. This shop is your one stop shopping for finding manufactured beads and the findings to put them together into something amazingly creative.

If you're fresh out of ideas, never fear -- she also has lovely jewelry, including hand-twisted elements. She's got over 1000 sales, too, so she's definitely doing something right.

And on top of all THAT, right now she's having a SUPER SALE, with 66 items on sale. LEt your fingers do the RUNNING to CarDon's shop.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Off on vacation!

Twice a year I make a pilgrimage to San Antonio to visit my sister, and I am headed off today. I've got a friend staying at the house, and will be checking in periodically with eye candy pictures from playing in my sister's studio. I have to blow her some shards, too ... Meanwhile, enjoy the members of my street team! And, since it has been a while since I made an eye candy post, here are some recent ETSY listings.

Merbau: (SOLD! Thank you!)

Purple Rose:

Caramel Delight:

Golden Pecan: (SOLD!! THANK YOU!)

Pine River:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Black Star Beads

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing Black Star Beads.

With 1323 sales as of the time I am writing (there's likely more by now) with 100% positive, BlackStar is a power seller for sure! You can see why when you visit her shop. She's got sensible categories that encompass both bead type (such as vintage metal, vintage glass, etc.) and shapes (Flowers and leaves). Plus, she has a superb feature for the person who only needs one or two beads, for example, to make earrings. Black Star sells pairs of certain beads; you can find all her pairs in a single section. My favorites are the brilliant Japanese beads here--the cobalt and the shaping are lovely! (As a lampworker, I have to point out the bead poop in there, too, which is one hallmark of mass-produced glasswork.)

There are beads of all sorts -- aluminum, plastic, Lucite, metal, glass -- and a broad color range. With the choices Black Star gives you you are sure to find something in this wonderful shop.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Belle Armoire Jewelry Article: Response II

As I noted in my last blog, this week in some parts of the lampworking community there was a heated argument sparked by a recent interview with Carter Seibels in the summer 2008 issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry. The argument revolved around two statements in the article, one about presses and one about creativity and age. Yesterday I responded to the issue concerning presses. (I should add a clarification--NO beadmaker makes beads by hand; the temperature of the glass precludes that! We all use tools. Some use more minimal tools than others.) Today, however, I'd like to discuss Ms. Seibels' suggestion that older beadmakers are less creative.

Before I start, I will acknowledge that Ms. Seibels has made an apology in her blog and on Lampwork, Etc (the thread there has been removed) for her statements about age. I am neither trying to flog Ms. Seibels or the proverbial defunct equine. Nor am I decrying Ms. Seibels' lampworking skill, which is quite good. I do, however, wish to state a rebuttal and to propose some alternative theories that might create her observed results.

"She says she stays on top of trends in lampwork beads by tracking the listings on Ebay ... from the traditional colors and shapes of beads created by the typical middle-aged bead artist to the more experimental pieces being created by younger artists just starting out" (22).

People who commented on this statement at LE in general did so in a polite yet firm way, though there were some who insisted on confusing the personal with the content. In her commentary on Ms. Seibels' apology, "Margot" wrote, "Those people are angry about a host of things that have little to nothing to do with you. They’re just looking for an outlet to vent their misplaced anger. They are the sorts of people who see the glass as having a huge hole in it and who feel that everyone else is stealing their piece of the pie." I argue that the comments by and large did not come out of a sense of misplaced anger or a fear of young, dynamic, up-and-coming artists. Instead, I propose that there are two issues at work in this statement to which we all were responding: ageism and methodology. Basically, Ms. Seibels is ascribing "traditional" designs to middle-aged beadmakers (how does she know?) and innovation to younger ones, on the basis of Ebay listings.However, she is ignoring other factors: demand for product, skill level, marketing, and the like.

First of all, creativity and innovation are by no means linked to youth, whereas traditionalism is hardly the province of the old. Some of the most innovative bead-makers I know are middle-aged and better. Barb Svetlick, Lydia Muell, Angelina Beadalina, Lisa St. Martin, Andrea Guarino-Slemmons, and Lance and Maureen McRorie all come to mind instantly. Browse through the annual Bead Review or 1000 Glass Beads, and you will see that innovation and creativity have nothing to do with age.

That refutation brings me to my second point, that of methodology. There are at least two assumptions lurking underneath the author's paraphrase of Ms. Seibels' statement (a close paraphrase, as Ms. Seibels proved on the unfortunately now-vanished LE thread). One is that Ebay is the primary venue for bead sales, and the second is that people put their best and most unique work out on Ebay rather than at other venues. I argue that both of these premises are problematic, for related reasons. There are multiple venues for bead sellers, both online (such as Etsy, the Annealer, gallery pages, and individual web sites, etc.,) and real-world (Bead and Button, Down the Street Bead show, The Gathering, et al). Ebay is only one of these, and one moreover that has proven increasingly uncomfortable for crafters. It would stand to reason, then, that many people would not be making the bulk of their sales on EBAY--or even appearing there at all.

Those who do likely have product targeted to a specific audience. Frankly, simpler, more "basic" lampwork beads, with precise (i.e. pressed) measurements or simple rounds, are often what designers and buyers want. Many designers like simple beads for filler or background--less expensive, less eye-catching -- one can have only so many focals on a necklace, after all. Recently I listed an elegant organic set with strong colors on Etsy, but it hasn't attracted much attention. By contrast, a simple frit set (white beads rolled once in frit, melted, and c'est tout) gathered at least three hearts. Other frit sets of mine have done similarly well, one with (currently) ten hearts! None are innovative, but all are nicely balanced. Lisi does very well with "simple" styles and beads. Don't let the "simple" confuse you--she has amazing skills -- and one of them is knowing what sells. Obviously, I am using a single experience to form a generalization, which is *also* problematic. But I would submit that Ebay functions as a marketplace, with all the attendant laws of supply and demand. If frit beads, traditional colors, and traditional designs are prevalent there, it might not be because that's all the beadmakers want to sell. Instead, it might be because those are the beads the market demands. What would you rather have, a single $80 bead, worth every penny, that takes weeks or months to sell, or 4-5 sales per week of a simple $20 strand of beads? If you're living on your lampwork income,or using it to save up for something, I bet I know the answer. That doesn't mean that the frit beads are the sum total of your skills. It just means you've found a niche and are filling it.

Some people, therefore, may be using Ebay and (to a lesser extent) Etsy for their bread-and-butter beads, and selling others at different venues. I know at least three people who first sell their beads on their websites, and then take what doesn't sell there and at three shows to Etsy or to Ebay. Other people, like Jo Hoffacker, reserve their new stuff for galleries or for the Gathering. In other words, they know what sells where, and that determines some of what they make, and where they sell it -- not their ages or their amount of creativity. For the same reason, doing a search of Ebay to determine trends and general bead artistry will only show you what the larger mass audience wants to purchase, not the directions that bead artists are going for high-end or innovative work. It would be like going to Michael's Craft Store to figure out what new work the designers are planning to bring out. If I gauged my work by Michael's, I should be at the top of the bead world! However, since I gauge my work by the truly innovative out there, I rank mine at the beginning journeywoman stage. I am a competent and occasionally inspired bead crafter who has a very lot to learn still in terms of technique and design.

Publicity and a name can also affect both where you sell and how well you do. I have seen beadmakers with stunningly ordinary beads get $150 a bracelet just on sheer marketing knowledge and chutzpah. Do I begrudge them that success? No; what they lack in innovation they make up in sheer hard work, technical competency, and marketing skills (purchased or learned). Either way, it's earned. Ms. Seibels has the self-confidence and the marketing team down pat, and good for her.

All the same ... I'd like to close with a link and a quotation, directed both to Ms. Seibels and to myself. The link is to Gwacie's blog, in which she quotes some fantastic text by Angelina Beadalina. These words were aimed at those who copy, but I think they hold true for creativity, as well. The quotation comes from a text attributed variously to Miller H. Caldwell, Dale Evans, and to a seventeenth-century nun's text. (The historian in me strongly doubts the latter, simply because of word usage, but I digress.) "Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion ... release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs....with my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends in the end."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Belle Armoire Jewelry Article -- Response I

This week in some parts of the lampworking community there was a heated argument sparked by a recent interview with Carter Seibels in the summer 2008 issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry. The argument revolved around two statements in the article, one about presses and one about creativity and age. I'm going to respond to the "simpler" issue, presses, first; tomorrow I'll talk about my response to the negative link made in the article between increasing age and creativity.

In the article, "Carter Seibels," author Rice Freeman-Zachery wrote, "Many beadmakers have turned to press molds, where the beads are formed by pressing molten glass into a mold, rather than by forming unique beads one at a time, by hand, as Carter does" (22).

This statement is simply inaccurate. The author must have misunderstood Carter's words, for two reasons. One, the items in question are called presses, not molds, and the glass is not completely molten when it enters the press--in fact, it has "set up" a little and is rather firm. Using molten glass in the press will produce a badly-shaped, ugly bead with sharp edges. The more important inaccuracy is that presses are not mass production items. Beads made using presses are still made one at a time, by hand, as you can see in the first picture, which is a slim straight-sided lentil. As you can see, there is only one cavity in the press. It would be impossible to use this press for mass production. It was unfortunate that such inaccuracies were allowed to be printed in a major magazine article.

Some presses are simply nothing more than tools to aid the beadmaker in the making of repetitive shapes, with precise measurements; many jewelry designers want precise shapes and sizes, and the use of a press allows the beadmaker to achieve that goal. Lentil, nugget, heart, tab, oval, and other similar presses fit this category. They do not, however, necessarily save the beadmaker time. Some presses can be used more quickly than hand-shaping--after the beadmaker learns how, by trial and error--but others take more time no matter how practiced the lampworker.

Other presses allow the beadmaker to create shapes that could not be created easily--or at all--by hand. An example of the latter is the doughnut press or the faceted gem press. As made by Zoozii's, the press makes a bead that has eighteen facets--nearly impossible to craft by hand. No matter which category it is in, however, no press can simply be used to "stamp out" beads. Even the simplest press may require multiple pressings to get the shape perfect. I am a reasonably adept press user, and it never takes me fewer than three pressings to get the bead to my standards--and often it takes many more.

Perhaps most importantly, the press is usually not the final step in making a good, well-designed bead, or an innovative one. The basic bead shape, whether achieved by hand or a press, is no more than a canvas for the artist's eye and creativity. A beadmaker can keep the fundamental pressed shape, but range from the unique to the ordinary in terms of design and color choices. Or, as I did with this Taxco set, the press only provides the starting point for the finished bead. Some beadmakers add to the basic shape or distort the pressed bead, as I did with these tabs, which I raked to form rice-grain style pearlescent beads. Many of the amazing beads I have seen in terms of shape and design began as pressed beads.

Equally problematic, in my perspective, was another statement regarding press usage. " ... the difference between a molded [sic] bead and a hand-formed bead is the difference between an off-the-rack dress and couture. You can still wear it, and it will look nice; but the workmanship and artistry just aren't the same" (22).

Here we have moved into the realm of opinion -- whether a pressed bead holds the same workmanship and artistry as a completely hand-formed bead. And here opinion is divided. There are a number of lampworkers who would agree with the author's paraphrase of Ms. Seibel's opinion. To these artists, presses are a shortcut at best, and at worst a substitute for learning how to form the shapes without the press. From that perspective, pressed beads indeed lack artistry. And there definitely is something about the small size variations of hand-formed beads that give such beads a particular charm. Many lampworkers are so skilled that those size variations are almost imperceptible.

I will agree insofar that press usage should not ever be a substitute for craftspersonship, or for (where appropriate) knowing how to form a bead on one's own. I have seen any number of pressed beads with heavily ridged ends (caused by pressing the glass when it is too hot), poorly executed corners (too cool / not enough presses), and sharp ends (too hot / too large a footprint on the mandrel). Mine wind up in my wonky jar, and I either sell them to be broken up for mosaic pieces or put them in the wonky jar for people to use in hempen jewelry (where the ends matter less) or for kids to choose ... at $1 a bead, all proceeds going to the animal charity of mine and my business partner's choice.

However, I would disagree with the idea that presses somehow make a bead less artistic. Presses are tools, just as the marver on which one shapes a square bead is a tool. I can make a lentil with a marver, with the round ice tongs that used to be sold at Target, or with a lentil press. If I want to spend $40-65 on a press to make precise lentils, I am merely making a tool choice, just as the people who purchase Jim Moore's $200 precision bead press (for coring beads with sterling silver) rather than making do with a set of flaring tools, tube cutters, and chasing hammers from Harbor Freight are doing. I don't hear anyone saying that using Jim Moore's bead press makes the resulting sterling-lined beads "less artistic" than the method of doing it by hand, with all the attendant imperfections and individual quirks that result.

Furthermore, while presses help the beadmaker create beads that are precise in shape and size, they do not create uniform beads in decoration. Take a look at the following sets of mine -- all made with a nugget press, but save for the size, no bead in the sets is exactly alike any other bead in the set.

Are either the most creative bead out there? No, they aren't. But that is neither the fault of the press, nor my age (more tomorrow). It's what I chose to make at the time, in part because of what materials I had, what I thought might sell, what I had been asked to make, what my mood was, what my current skill level is ... not because they are pressed beads.

I'll continue this response to the Belle Armoire Jewelry article tomorrow, when I talk about creativity, age, and expression.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Copying Issue ... Again

Is it ever okay to use another lampworker's design, when it is not a standard technique?

*It is NOT okay if you take credit for it and sell or otherwise represent the resulting beads as your own.

*It is NOT okay, even if you give credit, if you do not have specific permission from the original creator.

What if you have permission from the original designer, and/or the technique isn't completely unique to that person? I think that's a grey area that each lampworker has to negotiate on his or her own. On the one hand, it is still NOT using an original design. On the other, sometimes a design works well for a very precise purpose.

Let me give you a personal example. Recently one of my cats, Mincot, disappeared for nearly five days. I was going spare, let me tell you, because while I had *thought* she was hiding under the bed while I hosted my neighbor's dogs, it turned out that she had gone walkabout --- and I had no clear idea exactly when she had disappeared. I visited the county pound and checked with all the local animal shelters, to no avail. The High-Church Whiskeypalian in me was lighting candles for her safe return and was invoking St. Anthony and St. Francis. More practically, I walked the neighborhood, putting fliers on every single mailbox. My friend Bill says that that while I was walking she might have seen me and found her bearings enough to get home, because she was sitting on the bed calmly and contemplatively washing her toes not forty minutes after I got home, sweaty and worried.

So what does that have to do with lampwork and the ongoing copying issue? A lot, actually. I'm planning to make some cat-themed jewelry for the two nearby no-kill shelters who were so helpful with resources and time, letting me in to check the cats even though they weren't officially open. I will donate the jewelry, they can sell it, and use the resulting profit for the shelter. However, my own cat design is looooong tube cats. Those aren't practical for shorter earrings. And I really find the shape of Teri Persing's Fat Cats to be extremely satisfying! So, on impulse, I tried a couple, in my own organic style. Mostly I wanted to see if I could do them (yes, as you can see in the picture, but definitely not as well as Teri!). They are good enough for the shelter ... but ethically I can't use them. They are recognizeably and clearly Teri's design, even though the people at the shelter will never know and probably wouldn't care if they did.

So I decided to ask Teri if I could make some Fat-Cat style beads for the shelter donation, and for the shelter donation only--NO sales, anywhere, any time. Along with each set would come text crediting Teri with the original design, saying that I was using it with her gracious permission and that any flaws in the execution are mine and mine alone, and pointing purchasers to Teri's ETSY site (see link above) for Authentic Teri Persing Fat Cats (as an example, here's one of her new listings, a silvered frit Fat Cat). That way people could make an informed decision. I told Teri that I was completely happy with an answer of "No, thank you," and in that case would consign the two Fat Cats I had made to the yogurt container of broken and wonky beads that I use as a conservation measure to displace water in my toilet tank (cheaper than a low-flow toilet, for sure).

Teri very graciously said that I could indeed use her design, with appropriate credit, as a shelter donation. She thanked me for being thoughtful, and I replied that I thought it was less thoughtfulness than an issue of basic honesty.
Copying is theft, after all -- you're stealing an idea, the time the originator put in perfecting it, and possibly stealing revenue that would have come to the originator of the idea. On the other hand, I am an academic, and we build on others' ideas all the time --- with permission and appropriate credit. Furthermore, while Teri has branded hers as FatCats, others use very similar designs, as you can see in this last picture, a set of cats by lampworker Diane Kovach.

So there's my personal copying line: specific clear permission, proper academic attribution, a link to the original to let any customer know where to get the originals by the original designer, for a specific, limited, and precise purpose only, giving Teri exposure to people who might otherwise not see her work, and in company with my own cat designs. As time goes by I am sure that I will develop my own smaller cat designs and stop using Teri's. But there's definitely room for disagreement there, and I still waffle my own self, unsure whether this is still Going Too Far and ANY copying is a failure of imagination or Just Plain Wrong, or if this is just beginning to put my take on a fairly standard design and being honest about my inspiration and starting point.

What are your reactions?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Beads4You

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing Beads4You.

Beads4You has got some lovely beads, ranging from wooden beads to tribal-inspired beads. She's also got vintage -- and, just to help, the beading supplies that you're most likely to need! She has cell phone lanyards, and generously shares her knowledge with tutorials. Perhaps her most unusual item in the tool category is her collection of matchbook labels for collage, altered art, scrapbooking, buttons, and the like. There are pearls, glass beads, pendants --- you name it! This is a store you could easily get lost in. And apparently over 1800 (yes, you read that right!) people feel the same way --- all happily.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Bee Square Fabrics

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing BeeSquareFabrics.

Dropping into Bee's shop is like dropping into a patch of sunshine. She carries name brand prints, including Alexander Henry, Amy Butler, Michael Miller, and My Folklore. But that's not all--if you're looking for Japanese fabrics or kawaii prints, this is the shop for you!

All of the fabrics are clearly labeled with fiber content, maker, cut, and length. Many prints are sold individually, but Bee also has Fat Quarter Collections that give purchasers a set of coordinating fabrics.

Bee has an amazing record, with over 1400 positive feedbacks. Come take a look at this wonderful team member's shop --and there's 25+ items currently ON SALE, too!!!

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tornado Beads Redux and Musings on Cleaning Beads.

"All beads are thoroughly cleaned." You see variants of that language on almost every lampwork bead sale and auction site. What does that mean? The beads sure look clean in the photos, right?

Handmade lampwork beads are made on a stainless steel rod, or mandrel. The problem is that molten glass fuses very well to stainless steel, and the only way to remove it is to break it off, piece by piece (or to give up and retire the mandrel). Just ask any lampworker about his collection of beaded houseplant stakes (the bottom mandrel in the picture) or her collection of jaggedly broken beads (the top mandrel in the picture). The solution is to use bead release, a thin sludge made of kaolin, aluminum hydrate, and other substances such as graphite or fireclay. Coating one end or the middle of the mandrel with bead release means that the lampworker can build a bead on the bead-release, and when cool break it free of the mandrel without chipping or breaking the bead (the middle mandrel in the picture).

The problem, of course, is that while the bead release breaks free of the mandrel (in theory; ask any lampworker about his or her collection of mandrels with fused glass....), it sticks to the inside hole of the bead and has to be cleaned out. Thoroughly. This is nasty stuff, after all. One mark of a good lampworker, therefore, is his or her clean bead holes. For comparison, check some of the mass-produced lampwork that you can find at generic art and craft stores. Often you will see a thin line of white inside the bead, a sure mark that it has not been cleaned.

The second picture is a new tornado bead that I just made, before I cleaned it. As far as my work with this technique goes, I am pleased with my improving skills. The bead's ridges are well-defined and even, and most importantly, it didn't crack along the center hole. It is still not perfect; the back side drooped a little, and I'd like to improve further the ridges' precision. But it is a saleable bead.

As far as cleanliness, the bead looks okay .... until you look closely. The hole is very visible in some spots and almost invisible in others, and is very cloudy. "But it looks fine," you say. "In fact, the hole is much more visible in the second picture, where the bead is clean!" And it is. But if you notice, the hole is "more visible" because it is clean. In the first picture, the hole disappears behind the design elements because of the opaque bead release. In the second picture, you can see all the design as well as the clear hole. Plus, there is no bead release to flake off as a thread, metal string, or other stringing material rubs against the bead hole. Just imagine how attractive a bead with "dandruff" is on a black turtleneck ...not to mention the dangers of actually breathing in this stuff.

How do you clean beads? There's many different methods. Beadmakers often swear by their rotary tools and accessories such as the BeadReamer or wire brushes. I use rod saws split in half for 3/32 and larger holes. Other people use pipe cleanersand a multitude of other items. Whatever works well for you is the best technique :) For clear beads, I like to use Jenny G's Spiffy Bead Cleaner, sold by The Venerable Bead, which keeps bead holes sparkling clean without the number of scratches a BeadReamer or a rod saw can create; I used it for my newest tornado bead.

Whether you're a lampworker or a lampwork purchaser, insist on clean bead holes!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Beck and Call Girl ... et al.

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing a triple extravaganza -- three shops all run by an Esst member with a very good eye for vintage, beads, and scrapbooking deals.

In Bead Blanket Bingo you'll find beads, of course -- but also buttons. There are the usual shapes, but she's also got critters, flowers and leaves, and hearts, cubes, stars -- you name it. She helpfully provides vintage findings, as well. I think my favorite is this Czech glass bead with Chinese characters--I haven't seen that ANYWHERE else.

As Beckandcallgirl her focus shifts to scrapbooking supplies, including fibers, embellishments, and more. The Lipstick Specialty Fibers really blew me away--I love the watermelon colours! But there's so much more. If you're searching for high quality unusual digital images to use in collages or as page elements, look no further -- she's got them. Fabric samplers, specialty papers, and charms round out this fascinating shop.

Finally, as Vintage Call Girl," she sells vintage plastic, metal, and Lucite beads. The shop is spare and elegant, and well worth a look! Beck and Call Girl has over 300 combined feedback, 100% positive -- making her a good source AND a great teammate.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.
I would like to add a resounding THANK YOU to The Tiny Fig(great name!) for featuring my items on her blog, Sweet Figments.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Barking Dogs ...

Two stores this time--Barking Dogs Basement and Barking Dogs Boutique!

Both are shops by a wonderful ESST member. Barking Dogs, in her Basement incarnation, sells excellent destash. Scrapbook stuff, altered art, knitting ... she's got it. Or she had it; she's been sold out! Let's hope she has a new destash impulse sometime soon.

Of course, the less she destashes, the more there is in her Boutique incarnation. Right now she has everything that could make a scrapbooker, card maker, or homemade journal maker's heart sing. AND, she's having a sale on card kits! If you're looking for crackle paint, or scrap paper, or funky shapes to add to your book or journal, look no further. And at 100% positive on over 800 sales, you can buy with confidence. .. not that merely being a member in good standing of Team ESST isn't enough on its own.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taxco Glass

Oh, my, I am in LOVE!

Generally, I stay away from the expensive (i.e. $80-$100 / lb) silver-colored glass. That's primarily for two reasons. One, it's expensive! Not only is it expensive, but it has not up until now been reliable. Just think about Terra--that miracle glass that was so prized, struck easily, and was beautiful. The next batch was awful and did nothing. A second reason is that if I want my glass pieces to look like boro, I'll either make faux-boro or I will ... work with boro. Boro colors are expensive, but nothing compared to the 104COE silver glasses.

But sometimes you want to combine the boro look or a metallic look with tried-and-true Effetre colors. That's when the silver glasses come in--expensive Bullseye lustre glasses, R4 or Double Helix glasses, or Trautman colors. And of those, my favorite so far is Trautman'sTaxco glass.

Taxco is pronounced "Tasshko," for the town in Mexico most closely associated with silver and turquoise. This glass reduces to a brilliant silvergreenblue metallic shimmer, as you can see in the zebra-striped bead I made here with Moretti ivory and Taxco. Some silver glasses are fussy. The moon has to be in the right place, you have to have your tongue in your cheek at just the right angle, and you have to have precise flame chemistry that will vary depending on humidity and your astrological sign. Taxco plays nice. Take all the oxygen out, and it turns a lustrous iridescent colour. Leave some in, and you get shimmery blues and pinks.

I think I am going to be playing with this glass a LOT. As I said, I am in love!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Glass Haven Knowledge Base

One of my good friends and the owner of my online home, The Glass Haven, has created a new wiki, the Knowledge Base. She's hoping to turn it into a one-stop resource for lampworkers and glassophiles. Currently there's not much in it, but we hope more people will add to it!

Adding to the wiki is simple, but there are some things to keep in mind.

1. You must be BOTH a Glass Haven member and a Knowledge Base member. You must have at least 25 posts on the forum in permanent areas (not in, say, the Padded Cell, which is scrubbed out weekly.) Exceptions can be made to the 25-post rule for members of established businesses, or well-known lampworkers who wish to publish tutorials.

2. Anyone who meets the above criteria can post. You may edit your own text, but you cannot edit other people's. You may, however, add your own information, dissenting opinions, added material, and the like.

3. There are some serious feuds in the lampworking community. Anyone seeking to alter a political enemy's post maliciously will find him or herself banned before Robin can finish saying "Holy editing pen, Batman!"

4. You will get to link to your shop or website--hey, free advertising!

We hope that eventually the Knowledge Base will be a good resource for the community, and could help avoid the issue of copying. Let's say Generous Q. Lampworker publishes a tutorial out of the goodness of her heart. It is popular, but a year later she sees Wannabee Butnotte Creative has posted her tutorial on her, Wannabee's, site --and has claimed ownership. As we monitor who uploads what when, the Knowledge Base could provide evidence of authorship, publication date, and definitive textual version.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Auntsuesoldnewlovely

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing Aunt Sue's Old, New, and Lovely.

Wow, what a mouthful! But it's worth it when you see her shop. She sells vintage -- purses, shoes, dresses, all beautifully chosen and maintained. She has a good selection of Depression glass, which is very much in demand, as well as vintage linens and even hardware! Check out her vintage swing-arm curtain rods. I had a 1939 house when I lived in Washington State, and I wish I had had these rods for the kitchen curtains!!

Why is she a supply seller? She also has vintage supplies and a large selection of vintage downloads available. All are over 100 years old, so copyright is not an issue. If you are looking for a special graphic or vintage image, Aunt Sue is the woman to visit! She's also got vintage buttons, lace, and fabric, if you're trying to recreate the look of the early twentieth century with authentic materials. On top of that, she has amazing hand-made cards!

Currently, she's running a Christmas in July special, with all kinds of lovely items on sale. Check out her shop -- there's something for everyone.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Copying: The Fallout Continues

In an earlier post, I referred to Ulljasbeads, who has been proven to have purchased beads on EBAY and resold them on ETSY as her own creations. There's more blog commentary about this incident, below.

Su Beeds
Designs By Kurato
Copyright Laws

Her DaWanda Shop has been closed, as well as her ETSY shop, and her blog entries have been removed.

The issue of copying is always a hot one in any creative community, but particularly so since the Internet has made it easier to see other people's work and to repost it as one's own. Where would you draw the line? For example, there are only so many styles of floral bead, and so many solid colors, and inevitably there will be lots of people doing three, four, and five petal raised flowers. I have a set on ETSY that is remarkably similar to one by Gwacie. Now, I do do some Gwacie-style beads, with her full knowledge and permission, but when I saw these side by side in a treasury, I contacted her and asked if I should pull mine because of the unintentional similarity. Her answer was no--they are a basic design, in primary summer colors, and you see variants of them all over the Web. (I say that hers, by the way, are better. She says mine are underpriced.) Unintentionally duplicating a basic bead now and then just happens, I think.

However, copying directly also happens, and that isn't excusable. Recently another lampworker noticed that her tutorial had appeared on several other sites, and had been attributed to other beadmakers. That is plagiarism, pure and simple, and is wrong whether you do it on the Web or in the classroom. Sometimes we all copy beads to try out a technique, or because we're learning a style in a class. That's fine--it's like doing five finger exercises on the piano. But to publish or to sell those beads as your own? No. Period. I might show them on the Web, as I did my tornado bead in an earlier post, with a clear note that this was my first bead made without deviation from the tutorial of beadmaker X. Then the beads go into my "gift" stash, with a note reminding me to point out that they are copies of Beadmaker X's work. Or they go into my Sekrit Private Stash that I don't share with anyone. Passing them off as YOUR design, or -- worse -- presenting a bead that you've made in a class, to someone else's specs, with someone else's copious help ... is as much plagiarism as stealing someone else's generous tutorial. When you take a class, unless you've been taught something generic, wait until you've put your own stamp on that technique to sell the results.

Are people just that lazy or afraid that they can only try what they have been shown, and no more? I remember one customer who was afraid to start beading because she had to "get it right," and was afraid to experiment, and be wrong, and start over. Do people truly care more for the presumed fame of having a tutorial in their name, or do they not care about the reputation they will get for copying and being a technique or tutorial thief? Do they really think that if it is on the Internet and they don't pay to see it that they can copy at will? Are they just that lacking in imagination, or do they truly not understand that what they are doing os theft--of words, of ideas, of time. If it hasn't got a price tag on it, do these people think it is free?

Whatever their beliefs, there will be an effect on the community-minded, generous souls who post tutorials and from whom I have learned so much. They may stop sharing their knowledge and skills freely. I hope not ....

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Atomic Veggie

This is the next in my series about the wonderful peeps of Team ESST! Here's introducing Atomic Veggie.

What a wonderful name!! It's perfectly suited for this retro, vintage store that sells jewelry findings and pieces from the 1950's and 1960's. With 14,285 sales as of this post, Atomic Veggie has clearly got her finger on the pulse of what Etsians are looking for! Check out her lucite beads, and her metal findings and charms ... it'll make you remember the world of your childhood.

If you'd like to find older posts in this series, search for the tag ESST members.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Technique: Tornado Beads

Over the weekend I tried a new technique--the tornado bead. There's an excellent tutorial on them by Margaret Zinser, and I have wanted to try them! A fellow team member, Elysium Beads, has a beautiful tornado bead example on ETSY, reproduced here as the first picture, and her bead gave me the necessary boost.

Meanwhile, as I wrote earlier, I was frit-testing one of my sister's unique frit blends. So I decided to use it as the base of my first tornado bead. It turned out very well indeed --- except that I was so caught up in the process of making the bead and keeping the base cool that I forgot the cardinal rule of lampworking larger pieces: insurance heat. Yep, the bead cracked right along the mandrel line. In the picture you see I've glued it.

But I really like that frit! I don't know if it has a problem with encasing, because the two beads I have made with it and encased have both cracked. Every other tornado bead I made in that session cracked, though, so I don't think there's enough evidence that the frit is at fault. I made a tornado bead yesterday that I heated more thoroughly, and that was fine. So I will try again, making some round encased beads and a new tornado bead; if THOSE crack, then it's the frit, alas. Encasing brings out such lovely colors in it, though.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Is Etsy Worth It?

My friend, business partner, and Glass Haven owner Julia Benson-Slaughter asked this question at her blog, Art of the Firebird. It's a valid question. For a site as large and as old as Etsy is, it has some troubling aspects. These fall into several areas: a certain lack of respect for sellers and buyers, an ongoing lack of business tools for sellers, and a complete inability to manage its image. Of course, all of these are related to a certain degree, and they all add up to a lack of professionalism.

The lack of respect is for me the most problematic part of the Etsy experience. Sellers' concerns are generally ignored; instead of fixing long-standing issues, the site spends time on how-to articles of dubious quality. (The idea of a hammock and doing "Urban intervention" is great, but for the love of Mike, please show people how to make a hammock correctly, using appropriate materials. Your grandmother's sewing machine (WHAT an ageist comment, by the way!) is not sturdy enough to sew the fabric you will need to make a lasting hammock, nor is clothesline a remotely possible option for the supports.)

The worst, though, is its cavalier disregard for dishonesty. As the site relies on the community for policing, numerous blatant resellers and copyright violators flourish on Etsy. The issue that brought the whole mess to my attention was the case of Ulljasbeads, who was blatantly purchasing other lampworkers' beads on EBAY and then selling them as her own creations on ETSY. I know personally several of the lampworkers involved in this issue, and they are not usually ones to cry fraud or to be habitually unpleasant --- these are good, honest, pleasant people. Etsy, however, when faced with unequivocal proof of Ullja's behavior, including screenshots of the EBAY auctions and the Etsy listings, did not close her shop or pull her listings--instead, they edited her posts to remove the word "handmade," (compare to the screenshot in the previous link), violating their own policies about resellers and being knowing parties to fraud. Although they have now closed her shop, it took widespread news and complaints for them to do it. Right there they lost my respect, as they showed that they are more willing to gain listing fees and FV fees rather than stand by their rules or protect other sellers, buyers, or the image of Etsy. They have lost others' too ... witness Loco's Etsy Admin Alien Bead.

A lack of respect for sellers and buyers also informs Etsy's lack of business tools for sellers. Site stats, the ability to pre-schedule listings, the unwillingness to talk about the harder side of business on the fora, and most of all the reliance on sellers' time to market their shops --- all show a lack of respect for the sellers AND the buyers, as well as being a pain for the general business person. I would like to be able to budget my time better--to spend my workweek on, well, WORK, rather than breaking concentration or spending time to list every day. While doing listings in a lump, saving their urls, and only finishing them on the day that I list them is a useful workaround, we should not have to do that. Site stats would be useful, and having constant views (now fixed, but after how many months of complaints?). Etsy's willingness to allow NPBs to leave negative feedback for sellers is a problem, and the persistent issue of non-payment is also troubling. Why can't Etsy have a dedicated integrated shopping cart? It is not that difficult. Why doesn't ETSY at least publish a timeline for specific site improvements (aka basic tools) and then stick to it as best programming snafus will allow? And for the listing fees we pay, I expect better marketing.

Marketing brings up the issue of Etsy's image. Etsy began as a venue for the small crafter, but it has grown like Topsy. Despite this, Etsy's administration has not kept pace. Etsy's trade show booths scream a lack of professionalism. Etsy has a name for being a flea market, a garage sale, rather than a serious crafting venue. If that's what ETSY wants ... fine; it's Rob and Maria's site, after all. But that image undermines its pledge of the "handmade life." While I have defended Etsy's choice to market itself that way, I do feel the pain of those who want or need a higher-end image, and increasingly I find myself joining their position. Etsy doesn't have to kick out the rainbows-and-kittens crowd, but it needs to promote its higher end and fine art shops as well as its cute kitchen crafts ... and booths like those linked to above do NOT help.

So: I find myself wondering--is ETSY worth it? Despite its problems, it has built up a helpful community. WE answer questions, police the site, help newcomers, and continue to remain, paying our fees while we do quite a lot of the work. Yet the community alone cannot compensate for ETSY's other problems. For me to get to the point of being fed up with a site is rare. I would make a very bad Etsy Bitch, because I tend to view things pretty charitably and not complain overly much. But although they began roughly, and several on the fora cross over the line between genuine complaint and mockery, the Bitches make some very fair and valid points. Maybe it's time to find other venues and see whether there is anything better --- or if they are all roughly the same. If so, perhaps it's time to spend money on my own website and do my own marketing. It can't take any more time than I am spending now.

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Artsyhandpaints

This is the third in my series about my fabulous Etsy Supply Street Team members. Today I'd like to introduce Artsy Hand Paints. The word that first comes to mind about Artsy's shop is ... FUN!! Artsy's shop has got whimsical, colorful, bright hand-painted ceramic items. For mosaic artists, she has mosaic tiles and embellishments, all hand painted and all unique. For everyone she has serving ware -- platters, pitchers, and the like -- and magnets that will brighten up any kitchen. Functional AND unique -- how can you go wrong with that, especially in today's economy? I'm all in favor of artisan hand-made items that are USEFUL as well as being beautiful!

Her shop needs some love, peeps ... she has great feedback, and, as always with any ESST team member, you can buy with confidence.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!!

Whatever your plans are for today -- just taking the day off and watching fireworks on the tube, going out to your neighborhood picnic, spending time with family and friends -- I hope you have a wonderful day with it! I am going to my friend Esther's house for our annual pool party. Swimming, mmmm!! Esther is in her eighties and still folk dancing, gardening, swimming, and just being an all-around wonderful person. After that, I am going to hit the Decatur fireworks festival, as usual.

For your daily dose of fantastic eye-candy, check out this treasury of LEST members' red, white, and blue items!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Introducing the ESST Street Team: Artistic Jewels

This is the second post in my series that features my wonderful Etsy Supply Street Team members, in alphabetical order. Today I'd like you to meet Artistic Jewels and Beads. If you're looking for high-quality semi-precious gemstones, Artistic Jewels is the place to find them! Her store categorizes stones by type--citrine, quartz, amethyst, emerald, kyanite--and has a lovely finished jewelry section and a fantastic sale area. I spent way too much time poking around her shop this morning!

Every bead Artistic Jewels sells is hand-picked. You might -- might -- pay less per bead if you purchased them in a large strand, but there are several problems with that approach. If you only need a few beads of each type, then you are stuck paying $$ for a long strand, and you are either pushed into making a lot of similar items or seeing your cost per item rise. When you only need a couple of gemstones for unique pieces, buying smaller sets is definitely the economical way to go! Plus, large strands mean that some of the gemstones in the strand will be scratched or chipped. Every bead you get from Artistic Jewels is hand picked -- you can use all of your purchase with confidence.

So go on over and take a look!!!

Meanwhile, Kandice Seeber has another wonderful post over on Coloraddiction. If you've been looking for a comparison of COE104 pinks, here is the definitive post!

And check out these treasuries -- by my friend Diane,, and by me! Both have items by other members of ESST, TGH, LEST, and CGGE.