Monday, December 30, 2013

Identifying Stones Is Not Easy - Part One

My grandparents were avid rock hounds, collectors, and cutters. I've shared their work here before and most of the cut and polished stones have been identified. The rough stone, uncut and unpolished, is a little harder.

If grandma wrote on it, it obviously is easier... though I could not read her writing on this stone. I did finally figure out that it is Mariposite. I'd never heard of this before but it's awfully pretty. Now I need to decide whether I want to have some pendant focal beads made from it or sell the whole slab. I think they have some more of it in their stock. If I remember correctly there's a huge chunk that isn't cut in slab form yet.

This stone looks like a Jasper but I was not entirely sure which kind. There are seemingly hundreds. This one didn't take more than 10 minutes or so to find online. It appears to be Blue Mountain Picture Jasper.
Blue Mountain Picture Jasper

This one I actually knew and they have several. This is lovely Chrysocolla and I think it has Malachite and Azurite together.

This one I found by accident while looking for another one. This is Imperial Jasper and I've found about six small slabs like these. They're so beautiful in person - like God painted with green and white paint, swirling and feathering it together.

What's even more fun is that Marshal was helping me with identification using the pictures we were finding online. Maybe I can pass on my grandparent's legacy to him too.

I have a LOT of work to do to identify all their stones. Here are a few more I'll be working on soon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I Get Jealous a Lot and I'm Working On It

My competitive nature can sometimes get the best of me. It's not that I can't lose gracefully. It's more that I want to do better than other people. And when I don't my green Envy monster comes out.

That sounds horrible doesn't it? I'll try to explain.

I tend to not care that other people make more money or have bigger houses. I try my best to be content with what I have and where I am in life. Nowhere is this harder for me than in my jewelry business.

I browse Etsy once in awhile, looking at other Jewelry Artisans to see what they're up to. A couple are people I've met (in person or online) and known for several years. It has taken me many years to be happy for their success.

Comparing myself to them is unhealthy and counter productive but I'm constantly fighting the thoughts...Why am I not as successful? Are my designs not as good? How do they get their photos so great? I wish I could do that.

And none of those thoughts are healthy or helpful. Seriously! When I create something that I find outstanding and beautiful it does not make my work better than theirs, nor does their beauty somehow make mine less so.

One of my particularly successful friends makes similar jewelry to mine and her photos are phenomenal (super important for online selling). And she has an outstanding number of sales. Oh and she somehow manages it all with three kids.

*insert grouchy face here*

I envy her work. I do. I admit it. Her work is lovely. I wish I knew how she took such great pictures too. And I know she's worked very hard at it all. Instead of frustrated that my work hasn't sold as well I need to be happy for her (and I really am).

This envy is something I will continue to battle and sometimes I meet it head on by purposely promoting other jewelry designers...kind of a vaccine against envy by taking a live virus. hahahaha Great visual right?

The reality is that I cannot make all the different types of jewelry that can be made in the world. I have my style and I need to focus on that. Focus on what I can do, not what others do. And I think that's an important philosophy for life in general. Don't worry about others - their wealth or their job or their talents - focus on what YOU can do and be.

Friends who make jewelry...

Dana James
Jennifer Casady
Sylvia Swasey

And here's my shop - Casto Creations Jewelry -  in case you want to compare...just don't tell me if you like theirs better, okay? =)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Two Boys, A Dog, and a Tree

As a follow up to my post about taking pictures of little kids and babies I thought I'd share my latest photography experience.

When Marshal was a baby we had "professional" photos taken at Target. I found a baby Santa outfit so of course he had to have it, and I saved it for Dillon.

Marshal in all his cuteness - less than 3 months old. Somehow the clothes look like they fit even though it's a 12 month outfit.

As is the case with most second children, we aren't going to Target to get pictures taken. We were going to meet with my friend who takes amazing photographs but both boys were sick so we had to cancel.

So I thought I'd try it on my myself...with no assistance other than Marshal.

I started out using my regular camera before trying to use my iPhone. For some reason I have a very hard time getting shots that aren't blurry.

Smell my feet!

Hey look, the dog!

Catch me! I'm falling!!!

Why won't blogger let my photos be the right way? I fixed it in the photo editor! 

Other than being a bit blurry, and it looking like there's spit up on his lips, this one is great. It's not spit up. It's drool and reflection.
Here let me help mommy, says Marshal.

We did have a bit of fun trying to get a good picture. I think these are the keepers.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My House Is Shrinking

At least that is what it feels like. I swear we accumulate twice as much stuff as we get rid of. I'm fairly (and genetically) prone to hoarding but at this point I'm starting to feel claustrophobic. And I'm not quite sure how to handle it.

You can't see our kitchen table - it's covered in laundry (clean and mostly folded), jewelry supplies, and shipping materials. Yup...half the table is where I pack and ship my jewelry and jewelry supply orders.

The counters in the kitchen are can barely see them. Which is sad because they're made of gorgeous granite.

My jewelry work space (also in the kitchen) is packed and I create my jewelry in about an 8 inch square space. Which can be kind of hazardous when working with the torch.

Then we brought in the Christmas decorations - and we have a lot ... boxes and boxes were taken out of the attic.

Once we get the tree set up and decorations put up (for all of three weeks) then at least some stuff will go back in the garage (which I can't even walk through).

I'm pretty sure my house was more put together when I was working full time out of the house. How is that possible??? Yes we're home more to mess things up more but we still had laundry. The only thing I feel like I've been able to keep up on is the dishes.

Hubby has vacation the last two weeks of the year and I'm hoping we will be able to do a massive "stuff" dump. Just go through everything and take trips to Goodwill. Usually I will take the time to organize things for a garage sale or sell on Craigs List. But my sanity is worth more than the few dollars we would get by taking the time to sell things.

I think I'll ask Santa for a clean house for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winco Now Promoting Ibotta

Shopping Monday at Winco and found it interesting to see them promoting Ibotta.

At the entrance there's a little stand that typically has some coupons. I grabbed one and noticed they were for some Kraft cheese items. Which was perfect because I knew these items were also on Ibotta.

As I looked closer, down in the corner of the page was the Ibotta logo and a note about getting the ap and saving even more.

How cool is that?!? This store is encouraging us to double dip.

I got four things of Kraft cheese (it is my favorite and I realize it can be more expensive than generic...but I can tell the difference) and earned $3.25 from Ibotta and got $2 taken off in coupons from Winco.

Have you tried Ibotta? * It's totally legit and an easy way to get rebates on items you buy every day. To date, I've earned $129.25 in cash back. It goes to my paypal account when I cash it out, or they now offer gift cards! Great gift cards like Starbucks, Regal Cinemas, and iTunes.

* This is my referral link...I think I get a dollar if you sign up. :) But I'd recommend it even if I got nothing.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Love Matt Walsh

Okay, not really. I love his writing. I was introduced to his blog by a friend on Facebook and I've been hooked ever since. He's logical. He's down to earth. He's passionate.

And his latest post about kids not making you happy is brilliant.

I am not my kids. I am not "just" a mom. Being a mom is super important and right now the focus of most of my time. But it isn't all I am, all the time.

It's a fine line, I think, between being selfish (the "me, me, me" generation) and being an individual apart from being a parent. Our society says that it should be all about "me" and what makes "me" happy - instant gratification, follow my heart, and all that crap.

I know that the selfish side of me wants to sleep all night, have an uninterrupted day to do whatever I want, and take a shower on a daily basis. But those desires aren't always fact lately they haven't been met on a consistent basis. Especially now that I have two little monsters. And in reality those things are secondary to raising healthy kids. I can sleep when they move out.

Marshal and I at the Zoo.

I'm a mom, yes. I'm also a wife. A jewelry designer. An Aflac agent (technically...though not actively). A friend. I love Excel and consider myself a geek. Or a nerd. Depending on the day. I'm slowly learning how to cook food that actually tastes good and doesn't come out of a box. I love going to movies. I'm addicted to food - especially ice cream and oreo cookies. I'm a daughter and a sister.

I'm also a Christian...though that's a complicated one that could be a blog post (or several) all by itself.

My happiness is not the job of my boys...or of my husband. Too many people marry to "be happy" and that is equally as wrong as having kids to make you happy. It's my job to find happiness in the life I have. To be content with what we have and where we are. That can be very tough...some days it seems impossible.

But it's a work in progress and I do not want to burden my sons or husband with that responsibility.
" ... I have learned to be content in any circumstance. 12 I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing." Philippians 4:11-12

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Cyber Monday - How to Buy Handmade

Are you shopping this Cyber Monday? I'm not but only because I've got pretty much every gift I need for gifts this year. And I'll be making a few, of course.

If you are still looking for a special gift, please consider buying handmade. Etsy was created specifically as a shopping venue for handmade and vintage items. There are amazingly talented artists who create their items from start to finish.

Etsy isn't perfect though. Too many non handmade vendors have sneaked in and watered down the market...with mass produced, cheap, Walmart style jewelry. I'm not knocking Walmart...I like Walmart personally. But there is a market for Walmart and a market for handmade...and the two are not the same.

How to tell something might not be truly handmade by an artisan:

  1. The shop has no information in their about page or profile.
    This is a big one for me - if you haven't taken the time to fill out the section to tell me about who you are as an artist and a person I am less likely to trust you as a seller.
  2. Location.
    There are absolutely handmade artisans in China...but if the shop is from China and everything in the shop looks the same with just variations in colors...and it looks like something you'd find at Walmart...chances are it's not an actual artist. I'm not against people buying things made in China, and I do it myself, but Etsy is not for those manufacturers or resellers of cheap jewelry. Also, if someone doesn't list where they are from that is a warning sign to me.
  3. Price.
    If it's too good to be know the rest. As an artist I work very hard to price my jewelry appropriately. But sterling silver and fine silver is expensive. And high quality. If someone is selling a necklace for $2.99 chances are it is NOT handmade. Even the cheapest materials will cost more than that, plus the time to create, than $2.99. And if you are an artist pricing your work at this rate...stop it! Just stop it. It makes you look bad and your work cheap.
  4. Originality.
    This one can be a little tough, however if you do a search for an item like "bubble necklace" you will see hundreds of results for items that all look seriously nearly identical. It's pathetic. I'm not saying there can't be hundreds of people making simple pearl earrings, but if even the photos look identical, then the items are likely not handmade.

If all these things combined - no information, location, price, and originality are all together please don't support that shop. It undermines the whole point of Etsy. I report those shops that look like manufactured or reseller shops. Nothing seems to ever happen to them and sadly some of them have thousands upon thousands of sales. But I will continue to report them and hope that Etsy will eventually crack down and get back to the roots of Handmade!

Enjoy 10% off your order in my shop through Friday 12/6 - use code CYBERMONDAY at checkout.