Happy Holidays from Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations! In honor of this season, here are some red, green, silver, gold and blue handmade wire wrapped and enamel pieces. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and a Wonderful New Year!
Friday, December 20, 2013
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Business has been booming for Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations this holiday season! Obviously, I'm very, very thankful for this and am so happy that people like my work. But there's an added bonus to selling all of this jewelry: I'm getting into shape!
No, I'm not getting a workout from making the jewelry -- though let me tell you, you can work up quite a sweat when you're trying to bend a particularly tough piece of wire. But I am using my jewelry deliveries as an excuse to get out and walk.
I began to track my walks back in September and have been adding more miles as time has gone on. Meanwhile, I usually make at least two trips to the post office each week so I can ship my orders. Rather than simply walking to the post office, which is about a half mile away, I've been taking long, winding routes to get there. Today I completed a four mile walk before I actually made it to the post office!
I'm not yet ready to run any marathons, but all of this walking is beginning to pay off: since September, I've walked over 100 miles; even better, my weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar are all lower. Woo hoo! And this improvement in my health is at least partially connected to my jewelry business.
Realistically, the business boom is going to soon come to an end. The holidays are almost here and I anticipate a lull in the next few weeks. Still, I'm going to continue to make new jewelry -- and to continue with these walks -- even if I don't have a date with the post office.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Believe it or not, we don't often have a white Christmas in New York City. December is usually pretty cold, but it tends to be a drier month. The big snows typically fall from January-March. We're having a very snowy season, though, and the weather keeps getting in the way of my enameling class. I skipped class last week because of the snow and it looks as if we're having another storm tomorrow, which means I'll probably miss it again.
A few inches of snow isn't that big of a deal for us, but I still don't enjoy traveling in it. The streets can get icy and there are often train delays. I'm fortunate in that I work from home so I don't *have* to travel if there's bad weather. When I'm nice and cozy in my warm apartment with my cat by my side, it's much easier to just stay put!
I'm disappointed because tomorrow is our last class of the semester and we won't be meeting again until the end of January. Still, I'm pleased with my progress. I made several interesting pieces this fall and learned a new skill: champleve. I also sold many of my enameled jewelry, so the class isn't just fun for me: it's profitable.
Next semester I'd like to try some new skills. My teacher has suggested that I experiment with sifting techniques; I'd also like to enamel objects that aren't flat, such as a curved piece of jewelry or even a bowl. As long as I continue to learn and have fun, I'll stick with this class. Just hopefully the snow won't keep me away all winter!
Thursday, December 12, 2013
A few months ago, I made an enamel and cloisonne pendant for my mom's birthday. She likes blues, so I created an abstract design that incorporated different shades of blue: aqua, turquoise and nitric blue, which is a deeper version of the hue.
I really liked how this necklace turned out and planned to make another ... and finally designed another version of it. This one doesn't look exactly the same, plus the blues are a little different (I used water blue, aqua and sky blue), but the basic idea is the same:
What's interesting about this newer piece is that I used a bit of silver foil in the design; it's beneath the darker blues. If you look closely, you can see that the color shimmers a bit more than in the other areas.
I also didn't actually use cloisonne wire for this pendant because it's the end of the semester and I ran out. Instead, I improvised and used fine silver bezel wire, which is meant for wrapping cabochons and gems. Bezel wire is a bit thicker than cloisonne wire, so I had to slice it down the center to make it a more suitable length. But fine silver is fine silver and it worked! You just can't use sterling silver when making an enamel piece because it won't heat correctly. As with the other necklace, I made the chain from silver plated wire and added blue crystals.
My plan (among many others) is to do a little series that features these geometric pendants. I have one class left before our winter break. I think I might make another version of this using enamels in purple, yellow and raspberry -- a big change from these cool blues. What do you think?
Most of the people who purchase my jewelry pieces live in different states or even another country. Because of that, I don't often get to actually see anyone wearing my jewelry -- other the friends to whom I've given pieces as gifts. But my friend Isabel has shared this selfie where she's wearing my silver wire wrapped lava stone necklace with Swarovski crystal hearts:
Here's a close-up of the necklace:
One of the advantages of being my friend (or disadvantage in some cases, I suppose) is that you'll eventually be given some of my handmade jewelry. I've made a bunch of pieces for my mom and designed a keychain for my dad. All of my female friends have been given various necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc. I NEVER pressure my friends to purchase my work, but I have had a couple of friends buy from me. Still, I enjoy giving my work away to my loved ones. What better way to show that you care than to give a gift that was made with that person in mind?
I knew that Isabel would appreciate this necklace because she's an artist herself. She sings, plays several instruments, including piano, guitar and flute, paints and writes poetry. A few years ago, I played flute on her CD Isabel And The Whispers and she played guitar on my CD Flute Path. I don't think she's ever made jewelry, but she still understands the work that went into making this pendant.
Anyway, she makes a great model, don't you think? Seeing her with my piece has made me realize that I need to have more friends model my jewelry for me. This way, everyone can see how my pieces look "in motion" and on an actual person. I have plenty of jewelry projects in store for the new year, but I'll add this to my list!
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
For most of this semester I've been making champleve pieces in my enameling class. However, a few weeks ago, I went back to designing a simple enamel and cloisonne pendant. I hadn't made one in a long time and I wanted to make sure that I didn't forget how to do that particular technique.
I arranged the cloisonne into a classic flower design. It may look pretty simple, but setting the flower petals turned out to be trickier than I imagined because cloisonne wire sometimes moves a bit when the piece is fired in the kiln. With abstract pieces this isn't that big of a deal, but it can be a pain when you need the cloisonne to be in an exact position -- like with a flower. I solved the problem, though, by firing a bit of the cloisonne at a time. This way, the remaining pieces of wire could lean against the already-fired cloisonne and would stay in place.
To get this particular shade of blue, I did some color combining and mixed water blue enamel with nitric blue. Just to be clear, you can't really mix enamels when the glass is in the dry powder stage -- but you can layer colors to get some shading. So I fired the water blue first and then layered the nitric blue on top of it to get this rich hue.
The flower's color is called raspberry. I love it because it's such a deep shade of pink and it really stands out against the blue. In its powdered form, it doesn't look like the raspberry will be very bright -- in fact, it's kind of pale -- but it looks a lot different once its fired and glossy. This is the case with a lot of enamels, actually; they look different once fired and cooled, which is why it's important to make a test strip of colors.
My finish for the necklace is pretty simple: I made a silver wire wrapped chain and added a few blue crystals... but I think the end result makes a nice showpiece. This is the kind of necklace that you wear for special occasions because it's so eye-catching, though it works with casual outfits, too. And flowers will always be fashionable in some way; they're a very classic design.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Most of the customers whom I've dealt with on Etsy have been really nice. The people who shop on Etsy truly appreciate the fact that my items are handmade and recognize the work that goes into them. I think it's a great site and love that artists have a place to sell their goods online.
Now that the holiday season is upon us, things have gotten pretty busy at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations. I'm not complaining!!!!! I'm honored that people plan to give my jewelry as gifts to their girlfriends, daughters, friends, etc. And I think it's cool that customers who live as far as Australia are ordering from me.
Still, this time a year can be a blessing and a curse. I think that most shop owners (on Etsy and otherwise) see a bump in sales. However, I feel somewhat like Santa in that I HAVE to get the gifts to everyone on time -- and that adds a whole lot of pressure.
I pride myself on shipping items quickly. On my site, my policies state that customers can expect items to be shipped within 3-5 business days, though I usually mail them out before then. When it comes to the holidays, though, I often get requests for rush orders so people can have their gifts in time for whatever celebration is on the horizon. I do my best to get them out by the requested date, but unfortunately, I also have to depend on USPS ... and the holidays can sometimes slow them down. Hence the stress.
I could send my packages via FedEx or UPS, but that costs a lot more money, especially if I overnight the parcels. I'm already shipping for free at the moment, so I'm losing a little money, anyway. It's worth it to me to add in that touch of great service; I like to give "extras," such as holiday specials. I just hate feeling like I'm out of control. I've been constantly checking the USPS site to make sure that my orders are en route... and it's frustrating when not much information is given about packages on the way to Australia, for example. Tracking in the US is a lot easier to do, obviously, but there still have been some delays.
I don't mind the hard work and I appreciate the holiday sales ... but I'll be relieved when I can relax and not have to keep such a tight eye on USPS.
Friday, December 6, 2013
This semester of enameling is almost over, but it's been a good one! I've gotten better at making champleve pieces and am much more comfortable when it comes to improvising enameling techniques. For instance, I'm currently working on a cloisonne pendant and had run out of cloisonne wire; I ended up using silver bezel wire instead. The wire was twice as thick and I had to cut it down the middle to thin it out, but it worked!
Last Tuesday, the Y held a jewelry fair where members of the various jewelry classes could sell their work. I considered signing up, but decided not to because vendors had to submit an entrance fee AND give back half of their profits to the Y. Still, I purchased an etched metal bracelet from a friend and enjoyed seeing what others had to sell. It was nice to be able to just leisurely wander around a craft fair, for once.
We have some really talented artists at the Y. Most of the pieces being sold were amazing -- and kind of put me to shame. I think that I'm a decent jewelry designer, but most of these people are incredible. I only hope to be that good one day. That said, many of the pieces were extremely expensive. I think that everyone raised their prices so they could actually make a profit, but I thought that many of the pieces were priced too high for what they were. Little beaded bracelets should not be $70. Just sayin'. But the money did go to a good cause as the Y offers many wonderful classes, in jewelry, music and other fields.
Though I'm feeling a little inferior compared to some of these artists, I'm still wondering if I should set up a booth at the next fair. The friend from whom I purchased the bracelet only had about a dozen items on his table... and he managed to sell out. I could bring in only about 10-15 of my high-end pieces and then charge higher prices like everyone else was doing. It seemed like this fair was a success and I didn't see any other wire artists.
Speaking of my enameling class, I'm happy to report that I recently sold two of the items I made at the Y: my enamel cat and my enamel hamsa pendant:
I spent weeks on each piece and am thrilled that they were finally purchased! I hope that the wearers enjoy them. Though the class is fun, I put a lot of work into each item and am glad that it's literally paying off. It's cool to know that there are people out there who are wearing my one-of-a-kind necklaces.
With this session winding down, I'm just working on a couple of simple pieces, but I have some wild ideas for next semester. I'm already eager to get to work! To purchase my jewellery, head to Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Last year's holiday season was all about my wire wrapped infinity rings. So far, this year seems to be all about my silver wire wrapped name bracelets:
I've gotten many orders for these over the past few weeks, mostly from people who intend to give them as holiday or Christmas gifts. I guess people like to give personalized presents -- and if they can't make them themselves, they have someone else design something that's special. I love giving friends my jewelry and enjoy it when people give me personalized gifts, as well. I always appreciate when thought was put into a present and hope that the recipients of these bracelets enjoy wearing them.
By far the most interesting request I got was from a woman whom I'm assuming works at or owns a stable. She asked that I make several bracelets that featured the names of her clients' horses. This is such a cute idea! My husband joked that I should make bracelets FOR the horses, but I think this is a great way for the riders to honor their beloved animals.
I'm not sure why name bracelets are popular this year -- but if people like my work and want to wear my pieces, I'm just going to keep making what they want!
Though many of my designs are pretty complicated, I sometimes like to make simpler pieces. These can be just as pretty and eye-catching, especially when I use a nice, bright color. In my last enameling class, I made this pair of blue and white "clouds in sky" pendants:
For both, I simply used Aqua and Foundation White enamels, but I first put down a layer of silver foil on the heart. This is why the blue is a bit richer and has a sparkly finish. To be honest, I'm not sure I like the shiny background; it reminds me a bit of when I used to get shiny, sparkly heart stickers as a kid (hey, this was the '80s!). I like the square piece, though, which looks a lot more realistic. When I look at this one, I can actually imagine that I'm staring into a blue sky filled with soft, floating clouds.
In keeping with the simplicity theme, I finished off these necklaces by attaching them to black silk cords. I didn't want to add beads or crystals, or even a chain -- I just wanted the "sky" to stand out. It's been freezing cold in my area, but these pendants make me think about -- and long for! -- Spring.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays. While I used to love dressing up and collecting candy as a child, I'm no longer into that. We don't get many trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood so my husband and I usually stay indoors and hide out from the older kids who wander the streets spraying people with shaving cream.
This year, however, we actually got to celebrate. Our friend Christopher, who has an October birthday, LOVES Halloween -- especially the dressing-up part -- and hosted a costume party. As I said, I hadn't dressed up for years, but Jon and I wore the formal outfits that were made for us when we attended our friend's wedding in Nigeria last year. I had to admit; I enjoyed dressing up (even if my outfit technically wasn't a costume and it was fun to see what kinds of get-ups the other guests wore. No one was sprayed with shaving cream and everyone seemed to have a really great time.
This party wasn't just for Halloween, though; Christopher held it so that he could raise money for the school where he works, which is for children with cerebral palsy. He's very passionate about his job and wants to see his students have as many opportunities in life, as possible. By having this Halloween party, he managed to combine two of his loves in one event. Happily, he raised over $700 for the school, the money which will be used for computers, sports and arts equipment, etc. Woo hoo!
Christopher asked if I could donate a few of my jewelry pieces for the raffle and, of course, I agreed. I chose several of my wire wrapped pendants because these necklaces fit almost everyone and they're pretty popular among my customers. I was very pleased to see that they got many bids throughout the night! A few people complimented me on my work, which was nice, but more importantly, they helped raise money for this important cause. I didn't make a dime, but know what? Making these "sales" gave me even more satisfaction than usual. I'm glad that I was able to help out in some way, even if it was just from making a small contribution.
I'm so proud of Christopher for pulling off such a fun and spectacular party, and for managing to raise so much money. I'm sure that his students will appreciate his work. So thank you, Christopher, for including me in your event -- and for reminding me why Halloween can be such an enjoyable holiday.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I just got a new shipment of 14 gauge gold wire -- which meant it was time to make some more abstract wire wrapped pendants!
These are always fun to make and I always try to come up with new shapes. It's hard because there are only so many ways to bend the wire, but I'm always up for a challenge. Out of these, my favorite is the bottom one, the spiral with the zig-zag top. I just really like how the spiral turned out, especially since it's difficult to curl the wire compared to thinner gauges.
The interesting thing about these wire wrapped necklaces is that I don't get many views on them. If you go to my Etsy page, you'll see that I typically have fewer than 40 views for each of these pieces, whereas my infinity ring has two-thousand something. However, almost all of these abstract pendants have sold. I guess the people who bother to click on them know exactly what they want? Last night, I actually made my quickest sale every, which was very cool. I listed that top pendant -- the "S"-shaped one -- then went to refresh the page and it was gone. I was wondering what happened to my listing ... and then saw that in the minute I'd posted it, I'd made a sale! Woo hoo! I wish that all of my sales went so quickly and smoothly, but this was a nice surprise.
Now that I think about it, the very first piece I sold in Etsy was one of these gold pendants. I think people like them because they're so simple and classic. That's why I like to make them. Sure, I'm learning different techniques like champleve enameling, but these pendants will stay in style forever.
Monday, October 21, 2013
I really like making champleve pieces and as time goes on, I'm getting better at this technique. My most recent creation is this pair of earrings, which are copper, wire wrapped with silver and Swarovski crystals:
The beauty of champleve is that you create an inlaid design that shows off the metal against the enamel. My teacher remarked that these earrings really show a lot of metal, but I like that there's a such a wide "frame" around the enamel portions.
For the enamel, I applied stripes of purple and blue glass. One of my classmates said that it looks as if the copper has been inlaid with opals. That wasn't what I was going for -- I was just experimenting with colors -- but hey, I'm glad that they're pretty!
My one disappointment with these is that I wish they were a little more lightweight. I used 16 gauge copper so they're a bit bulky for my ears, but I know plenty of women who like sturdy statement earrings. And these definitely make a strong statement!
Yesterday, I sold my jewelry at the craft fair held at Temple Beth-El in Patchogue, NY. Well, "sold" is an understatement because I didn't do so well at this venue, which was a bummer.
I participated in this fair last year and did very well. They had a great crowd and I sold many pieces. I also ran into an old college friend. I got to see that friend again, which was nice, but the crowd was unfortunately lacking ... and the sales just didn't happen. I'm not sure why so few people showed up this time because it was held on the same weekend and the weather was beautiful; as always, these things are kind of a crap shoot.
One thing that I did notice is that people seemed to be intimidated by my higher-end pieces. When I did the art fair a few weeks ago, I made sure that my most complex pieces were prominently displayed. The strategy worked because I got a lot of attention and even managed to sell some of my most expensive items.
I did the same thing here, making sure that my stand-out jewelry was right in view of people when they entered the synagogue. I also made sure to include my enamel and wire wrapped hamsa pendant in that group -- after all, it is a Judaic necklace:
People did come by to see those pieces and many did admire the hamsa pendant, but they kind of flinched at my prices -- which honestly, aren't THAT high. I charge $40 for the hamsa, which is almost completely handmade. I explained that I cut out the shape myself from copper sheet metal and covered it with layers of enamel and silver foil... but many people just didn't seem to understand the labor involved. Others did understand and sort of nervously asked me how many hours I spent on a particular necklace. Then they'd be like, "Wow, that's a lot of work!" and not even ask for a price. I guess they figured that with that amount of labor, it would be too high for them? I don't know. If anything, I think I undercharge, but I want my pieces to be affordable. At these fairs, I generally have a range of items priced from $10-$50 or $60 and I give discounts when multiple items are purchased. I don't want to rip off people, but I don't want to rip off myself, either.
Anyway, though my sales didn't go as well as I'd hoped, I did meet a lot of interesting folks. One lady, decked out in orange Halloween gear, came by looking specifically for orange jewelry. I happened to have some orange earrings, but she wanted an orange necklace. Another lady chatted with me for a few minutes and told me about her friend who got ill from working with metal. Okay, then! And one man told me how he once made an enamel pendant during a high school field trip. The kids had a choice of activities in which they could participate and he chose jewelry making because he knew he'd be the only boy. HA! Several of the other jewelry vendors came over to say hello and a couple wanted to try their hands at wire work. One, who makes beautiful glass jewelry, wants me to give her private lessons in making wire pieces. Another asked if I'd sell her my wire earring frames wholesale so that she could attach her own beads to them. It was definitely flattering! I just wish that more people had actually bought stuff.
I'm not sure if I'll do this fair next year. It's a long commute for me and it's not worth it to spend the money on transportation if I don't make it back. I think I need to find more fairs in the city area. Meantime, I'm trying not to be too down. This has been a pretty good year for my jewelry businesses and I really love what I'm doing. Making jewelry makes ME happy and ultimately, that's what matters.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
With practice, I'm getting better at making champleve enameled pieces. When I add the enamel to the grooves, it no longer overflows and the colors have become a lot less wonky. I now know that I need to add a base color (usually white or clear glass) in order for the top layers to come out right -- but I'm also getting the feel for how many coats to add so that the glass surface remains flush with the metal frame.
My latest creation, this copper and enamel rainbow pendant, was actually made as a test strip. When making enamel jewelry, you can never be 100 percent sure how a color will turn out after being fired in the kiln (you are depending on chemical reactions, after all), so we make test strips to get a feel for how colors will look. In this case, I laid out a layer of silver foil beneath the colored glass and wanted to see how the colors looked against the silver. Good thing I did the test because the pink turned yellow and the yellow turned orange! As my teacher pointed out, "cool colors" like purple and blue look great with silver beneath, but for "warm colors," like reds and yellows and pinks, you need gold foil.
Anyway, I liked the rainbow stripe design, especially with the shimmery silver beneath, so I decided to turn this test strip into a necklace. It's simple, but very colorful and I think that the silver undertone adds a complexity to the different hues. I especially like how it looks in the sun when you can see the sparkle in the foil.
I'm always experimenting with projects and have many that don't turn out well -- but sometimes I end up with a happy accident!
I've gotten several requests for ankle bracelets at craft fairs, but I'd yet to make them. I've never actually owned or even worn an anklet and wasn't sure how long they should be, what styles work best for that type of jewelry, etc.
However, I recently received a very specific custom order for an ankle bracelet where the customer asked me to turn two of my wire wrapped designs into anklets. She gave me her measurements ... and voila! I made two wire wrapped ankle bracelets (and yes, that's my ugly foot in the pictures):
I've never thought that ankle bracelets would be comfortable, but they really didn't feel uncomfortable when I tried them on. They didn't rub against my leg or feel too tight against my ankle. I guess they're a lot like wearing bracelets ... only they're not quite as visible. I don't know about you, but I usually don't look at people's feet unless they're wearing an eye-catching pair of shoes. I guess anklets are meant to be more intimate? My friend Lani adores them and hardly ever takes hers off; I'm sure she has more ideas about this thought.
I have a craft fair coming up this weekend and think I might make a couple more pairs of anklets. It can't hurt to have some more since they seem to be so popular. Maybe I'll get into wearing them, too...