Friday, May 19, 2017

A Visit To Portugal and Switzerland: Getting jewelry making inspiration

Wow! April and early May were quite busy for me -- though in the best possible way. After participating in the Reader's Studio convention, I had a few days off before Jon and I took our trip to Europe. Now that I'm back, I'm happy to have some time to do what I enjoy most: making jewelry.

But first, a little about Portugal and Switzerland: both countries are absolutely gorgeous and I encourage you to visit at some point in your lives. I hadn't been to either one and loved both. Zurich is a very comfortable city and we spent a lot of time in the old section. I especially liked seeing the Medieval buildings and colorful shutters. The city looked as if it were out of a fairy tale, even in the rain.

Lisbon was brighter and more energetic, almost to the point of being chaotic. It's one of the hilliest places I've visited, even topping San Francisco. Though you can take a cab, trolley or tuk-tuk to get to the various sights -- all of which are on top of mountains -- we walked everywhere. The streets in the old city are winding, narrow and paved with busted and broken cobblestones. They're barely a person-width, but somehow cars manage to fit through. So you're climbing steep hills while trying not to break an ankle... and dodging cars. It was insane! Still, I had a great time exploring and was blown away by the city views and glimpses of the tiled buildings. The tiles -- called "Azulejos" -- are unlike anything I've ever seen in my various travels.

However, Jon and I agree that our favorite place was Sintra, which is a small town about an hour out of Lisbon. It's filled with castles and palaces, all painted in crazy colors. At times, it felt as if we were in a dream or on another planet. There, we hiked a 1378-foot mountain to a castle... where we climbed another 202 steps to reach the top of the highest turret. I wanted this trip to kick my ass in terms of fitness because I really need to lose some of the weight I've gained back over the last few months. It did the job! I haven't climbed and walked so much in a long time and while it was challenging, I'm glad I pushed myself. Plus, I got to see all of this!

Sintra's palaces were, of course, a prime spot to see the tiles. I was so inspired by the beauty of the azulejos that I've decided to somehow incorporate the idea of them into my jewelry. I purchased an azulejo-style bracelet, which contains a print-out of a tile design under glass. I'd like to make my own version of this type of bracelet, working it into a wire wrapped design. I'd also like to create some fused glass azulejo art. We stopped at the National Tile Museum, which gave me some thoughts on how I can etch a geometric tile design.

Our final stop was in Geneva, Switzerland. We only spent a day here, but we still managed to find plenty to do. We wandered around the lake, visited the botanical garden and took a trolley up to the top of Mont Saleve. The mountain is actually just over the French border, so we got in a third country on this trip. What's interesting is that we simply walked into France without having to get our passports checked. It was as simple as walking from NY to NJ. I spent a month in France in 1983, but the only other time Jon has been to this country was in 2002 when we took a day trip to Paris from London. So we really need to actually visit France on its own so that Jon can log more than a mere 15 hours there.

Though I'm an avid traveler, this is the first time in a few years that I went overseas. With everything going on in the world and in the USA in particular, I've been nervous about leaving the country. Happily, all went well and we had a safe and fun trip.

Taking this trip reminded me how much travel inspires me, both in my personal life and as an artist. Now that my travel bug has returned, I hope to see many more beautiful places.

Check out my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tales from the craft fair: Readers Studio tarot convention experience -- and some BIG news!

I'll share the details of my time at the Readers Studio in a moment, but first some exciting news! My glass tarot and mythical pendants are going to be available at three stores: Chakra Shop & Tarot I and II (in Texas and Pennsylvania, respectively), and Sparkledragon's Magical Emporium (in Pittsburgh, PA). I put my items in the mail this afternoon and really hope my stuff sells well! Meantime, I'm negotiating with some other stores and am thrilled to finally be getting my work out there. I'll keep you posted as things come up.

And now, let's discuss RS17! The event was different from anything I've attended and was mainly a positive experience. I didn't sell as many pieces as I'd hoped, but I did make a profit -- and I picked up some valuable tidbits about selling to an audience that's into metaphysical items. Overall, I had a fun weekend and met some lovely people.

The convention was held at the LaGuardia Marriott, which is right by LGA airport. I'm local so it was a short trip for me, but attendees flew in from China, India, Australia and the UK. There were also people from Canada and every area of the USA. Altogether, there were about 200 attendees, but the world was well represented.

Most of the lectures were held in the ballroom, while the vendors' tables were placed around the border of the room. I had a half table, which was three feet of space. It was smaller than the table space I usually get, but I managed to fit everything. The good thing about jewelry is it's pretty compact.

Thursday's sales didn't get off to a great start. My table partner hadn't yet arrived, nor had the man who had the next table over. So my stuff was crammed into a small space, while I was sitting next to a large bank of empty tables. The area looked lonely and not too many people stopped by my booth. Meanwhile, a tarot celebrity was sitting to my left and was selling dozens of his absolutely gorgeous hand-illustrated decks and books. Attendees were asking him to pose for photos and a crowd of people surrounded his booth. His work is amazing and he was really nice, but I was admittedly envious as I sat at my quiet table.

Fortunately, things picked up when the lectures began and I could soak up the atmosphere. I'm not going to go into too much detail on the workshops because I'm still a tarot newbie and wouldn't do the lectures justice with my simplistic descriptions. I will say that I have a new appreciation for the artistry and history surrounding the cards -- who knew that so many different types of decks exist?! -- and have a better understanding of how the cards can play into psychology. Participating in the lectures, even from the sidelines as a vendor, gave me the chance to meet people and get a better sense of the tarot culture. In some ways, it reminded me of my years at Soap Opera Digest. Covering soaps was about so much more than simply documenting the storylines. There was a whole history and culture associated with the shows and the fans. Being in this crowd gave me a similar feeling.

At most craft fairs, vendors sell for a steady block of time. At the convention, people shopped between lectures. Fortunately, sales picked up for me in the afternoon and people purchased several of my tarot-related items. I was particularly pleased when Judith's friend, Janet, (who's now my friend, too) bought one of my fancy tarot necklaces. I'd joked about not putting a Death pendant on a fancy chain, but Janet had me swap out the image for the Death card. She had me hold the piece for her and came back to pay for it, so I told her, "Don't worry, Death is waiting for you." Here she is, modeling my Death Necklace:

The next day perked up a lot. My table partner finally arrived and we hit it off. Judith also decorated my table with colorful, flashing lights and sparkly scarves. I brought a faux candle and a pair of maneki nekos (Japanese cat statues meant to bring luck to merchants). Judith also set up a dish full of candy on my table. So my booth was now covered with lights, sparkles, toys and "bribery chocolates."

The decorations seemed to work and many more people approached my table. I sold some more big-ticket items and got to know my fellow conference-goers. Not all purchased my jewelry, but most struck up a conversation. One lady wore a "Kitchen Witch" shirt and explained that she was a Wiccan/former line cook. I noted that I'm also a "Kitchen Witch" since I perform alchemy with my glass in my microwave.

Another woman, who hailed from New Mexico, wore chili pepper earrings and we had a discussion about my trip to her state. And a third lady and I joked about her name being the same as a pop star's wife. Really, everyone who stopped by was friendly. Also, no one gave me a hard time about being new to tarot -- and no one pressured me to join in anything. I was afraid I wouldn't fit in, but the environment was very warm and accepting.

The banquet was held on Saturday night. I wore a semi-casual dress, but several attendees donned tarot costumes. Jon joined me that evening and had his introduction to the tarot world. He knows even less about the practice than I do, but enjoyed meeting my new friends.

Judith and I were invited to perform in the banquet talent show. We played "Fool On The Hill" and "Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic," in honor of The Fool and The Magician, which are the first two cards in the Major Arcana. Judith and I have played together many times, but it's always been for seniors. It was great entertaining a more "mainstream" audience. Judith pulled out some rock star moves with her guitar and the attendees were all on their feet as they danced and sang along. I became emotional because I wasn't expecting such a lively reception.

The last day was pretty quiet and by the time I got home, I was exhausted. Like I said, I wish I'd sold more, but I came away with great ideas for the future. One attendee suggested I make pieces with runes (ancient letters) etched into them. My table partner advised me to make wire wrapped crystal pendulums. Judith thinks I should design etched pieces with simple Zodiac symbols.

My biggest take-away from this event is that when people attend a specialized conference, they want specialized items. Though the attendees admired my regular glass pieces, most purchased tarot and spiritual-themed stuff from me. If I do another metaphysical-type event, I'll fill my table with items that relate to the theme. In this case, I had a few tarot and Zodiac pendants that were mixed in with a bunch of other pieces. Next time, I'll put the mystical jewelry front and center and have only a few "regular" things.

I'm really happy I participated in this conference, mainly because I met so many wonderful folks. Hosts Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone did a fantastic job organizing this event and made sure the newcomers felt like family. Also, preparing for RS17 is what led to me making metaphysical jewelry ... which in turn, led to me getting my work into stores. So I owe Judith a huge thank you for setting me on this path! I don't think I'll become a professional tarot reader, but I do appreciate the beauty and passion behind the craft. I enjoy learning about new things and like to stay open-minded. RS17 helped me see the world in new ways.

Stay tuned for more news on my jewelry -- and check out my pieces at Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.