Sunday, August 27, 2017

Selling handmade jewelry: Tales from the Long Island Vegan Fest

I don't know if the eclipse had any influence, but this was a really good jewelry week for me! It began on a low note with jury duty (Yuck), but then quickly picked up and just kept going. I've once again been accepted to the local art fair, I have a couple more people interested in me teaching classes at their venues, and I sold a piece to a new (for my business) country: Finland. The week was then capped off with my friend Christopher's amazing Vegan Fest.

When Christopher and his husband, Scott, proposed I sell my jewelry at the event, I was skeptical. I wasn't sure that jewelry fit in with holistic doctors, nutritionists and vegan caterers. However, Scott reasoned that they wanted to include a shopping experience at the fair and that my pieces would appeal to an "earthy" vegan crowd. I agreed because I'd planned to attend, anyway, and figured I could make some animal pendants for charity. Chris decided that money would go toward Broome Animal Sanctuary, up in Middleburgh, NY. I designed 18 of these pendants and at least felt that I had a purpose for being there.

Turns out that the guys' instincts were spot-on. I raised $300 for the sanctuary -- and completely trounced my previous sales record from an event. "Earthy" vegans really did like my work!

I usually have a little down-time at fairs, where I can walk around, eat and do some shopping, but at this fair, I barely had time to use the ladies' room. It was great, though. I met some interesting, kind people and enjoyed introducing them to fused glass, as well as the sanctuary. Since this was mainly a Long Island crowd, not too many of the attendees had heard of BAS, which is in central NY, but I explained what the farm is like and how passionate Christopher feels toward this place. Some had visited local sanctuaries, but were now eager to see this one. There was even a case where one of Scott's co-workers did not purchase an animal pendant, but insisted on giving me a generous donation for the sanctuary. I offered to give her a bonus piece of jewelry, but she refused. THAT's what most of the attendees were like: open, warm and giving.

I'd expected my animal pendants to be the main draw and surprisingly, they weren't. People liked them and purchased several, but also bought my regular work. As I'd expected, I got many questions about the materials I use and how I actually create the pieces. Several were intrigued to hear about my microwave kiln. Perhaps we'll hear about some more glass artists in the near future!

I did get to take a very brief lunch break and picked up a combo plate from the vendor across the way. They served homemade black bean burgers with spicy barbecue sauce, potato salad made with cashews, mustard and vinegar -- and the most chewy and delicious brownies I've ever eaten. I never did ask what was in them, but they were rich and fudgy. I'm still dreaming about them.

One company called Pride Enjoy sold vegan rainbow cookies. Rainbow cookies!!! Those are my favorites, but I refrained from buying any because I didn't want to go overboard in sampling treats. The guys bought two containers, so maybe they'll save me one ... if they don't eat them all first.

Jon came for about an hour, but I was so busy working, I didn't even get to talk to him. He had a jack fruit and pineapple curry and was still raving about it hours later. He even said that if all vegan food is like that, he could deal with being vegetarian.

There weren't just food vendors, though. Several organizations gave out literature containing information on veganism and vegan foods; one booth had vegan cookbooks; a couple of tables represented local sanctuaries and farms; a mother and daughter team sold cruelty-free makeup and one company sold hydroponic garden supplies. There were also eight lectures, a masseuse on hand and outdoor yoga classes.

I can't begin to express how proud I am of Christopher. He's a great guy and a close friend, so I'm biased, but he really did a fantastic job in putting this event together. He sought out quality vendors. He promoted the fair like crazy on social media so he'd get ample traffic. And he put together a fair that encompassed an entire vegan experience for attendees, incorporating food, fun and wellness. I've been to dozens of events at this point, and this was one of the most well thought-out and organized. He managed to get over 600 attendees! Just look at the happy crowd. There I am (to the right in blue), selling my heart out:

I'm trying to figure out what I did *right* at this event, so I can do it again at the next fair. I think that some of the reasons I did well here were because A) I had a table right by the entrance, so people saw me as soon as they came in. B) I didn't have much competition since my booth was different than anything else there. C) I've gotten better at schmoozing and selling. That last one is important because it's a skill I'm still working on. I did channel my friend Lani a few times during the fair and managed to close the sale. She'd be proud.

The festival was so successful that Christopher has decided to turn this into a bi-annual affair. I'll definitely be back for the next one. After all, I still need to taste those rainbow cookies!

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Handmade fused dichroic glass farm animal pendants for Vegan Fest!

It's less than a week until the Long Island Vegan Fest -- and I'm getting excited! I'm so proud of the work my friend Christopher Jaie has done putting this event together. He's going to have nationally-known speakers, nutritionists, vegan cooks and holistic doctors on hand. He has about 30 booths ready to go at this point and has organized a quality festival for vegans and those interested in learning about veganism.

As for me, I'm mainly selling there due to nepotism, LOL. It helps to be close friends with the organizer, even though I haven't really made an impact in the vegan world. Still, I'm determined to use my jewelry for good, especially when it comes to this event. In addition to planning this fair, Christopher is raising money for the Broome Animal Sanctuary in Middleburgh, NY. He's visited the sanctuary several times and knows the owners Greg and Tony well, and also volunteers with several farms and animal shelters on Long Island. Rescuing and caring for animals is Christopher's passion, so his being vegan isn't just about him eating -- or not eating -- particular foods. He really walks the walk.

I've created a line of fused dichroic glass animal pendants, for which all of the proceeds will benefit Broome Animal Sanctuary. I'd made a series of African and wild animal pieces, but Chris, as well as Rhea from Woodstock Reveries, had both suggested that I do something with farm animals. So I found these adorable decals featuring pigs, cows, ducks, horses, etc. and turned them into these pendants:

So far, that psychedelic pig is the favorite! I love the pig, but I also really like the colorful chickens. I didn't decorate all of the pieces with crystals, but tried to adorn the pendants to fit each animal's personality. The pig already had so much color with that tie-dyed background that it didn't need a wire wrap, but chickens and roosters are "frilly" with their combs and feathers; that's why I added the wire wrap to their piece.

Christopher has described this fair as being a labor of love and it's the same for me with these pendants. It's taken a lot of work to make so many in time for this event, but I hope they do well in the auction -- and raise a lot of money for the farm. I'd love to visit there one day and actually meet the animals. Chris has promised to take me.

Meantime, I'm looking forward to learning more about veganism at this festival and to making some new friends. As I've said before, my jewelry is taking me on some interesting paths!

Check it out at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Selling handmade jewelry: Naomi's Designs is now at Woodstock Reveries!

As you may have guessed from this post's title, I have some exciting news! Naomi's Designs is now being sold at Woodstock Reveries in Woodstock, NY.

I was approached by the store in February, but we finally sealed the deal last week. They're now selling several of my fused glass necklaces and a pair of dichroic earrings.

Though I haven't yet visited the store in person, I really like and respect the owner, Rhea. She's a vegan and animal activist, and donates a portion of her proceeds to various animal shelters. Aside from making sure that the shop's items are beautiful, she also curates items that don't use animal products. That said, she especially liked my animal pendants, including that tie dyed elephant piece. I'm pleased about this because I designed that in honor of my soon-to-be-10-year-old niece, who's crazy about elephants.

My New Year's resolution for 2017 was to get my work into at least two stores and I'm up to three (four, if you count the fact that Chakra Shop has two locations). I remember how discouraged I felt when I checked into the boutiques near me and no one expressed any interest. So I went smaller and more specialized, and have found some success. I really don't think I'm the best jewelry designer out there -- I've seen some incredible work at fairs and online -- but I am persistent. So if you're looking to sell to a store or any other type of venue, that's my best advice. Keep at it, both in terms of improving your product and gathering a list of contact.

I'm proud to be a part of such a great store, but my work isn't done. I'm never finished! I plan to continue and see where else I can sell my jewelry, and what I can do to make my product even better. So far, I love what I'm doing and have met some wonderful people along the way. I'm not looking for fame, but if I can stay on this path, I'll be very happy.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Silver wire wrapped jewelry set with fused dichroic glass necklace, earrings and bracelet

This weekend, Jon and I visited family in Brattleboro, Vermont. It's a small, artsy town filled with galleries and funky shops. We happened to be there for the monthly "First Friday" celebration, so we took in a ukulele flash mob (so much fun!), a chamber music concert, and then went on the gallery walk.

While on the walk, we stopped by an artisan gallery that's filled with handmade crafts made by local -- and out-of-town -- artists. Most of the work is stunning; there are clay vases, blown glass sculptures, paintings ... and jewelry. I was surprised to see how reasonably priced the jewelry was and ended up purchasing a pair of earrings. Jon then said to me, "You know, you should see if you can get your stuff into this store."

At first, I said, "No" because I was dressed very casually in shorts and a T-shirt, and figured that they only accept Vermont-based artists. But then I was like, "What the hell? I'm IN the gallery and the worst that can happen is I'm told, 'No, thanks.' It won't kill me to ask."

So I did and got an enthusiastic response from the clerk. She was impressed with my glass pieces and handed me an application, explaining that their submissions are juried. I'm fine with that. I just want the opportunity to try.

One of the pieces I plan to submit via photo is this abstract glass jewelry set. I actually made this to include in my application for the upcoming local art festival, but now it will serve a second purpose. Hopefully, it will yield positive results for both the store and fair:

I've made several other jewelry sets, but this one is more complex. This is seven layers of fused dichroic glass, both etched and clear. I carefully planned out how to place each layer, so I could get that particular abstract design.

The earrings and bracelet were harder to design than the pendant because they're smaller. I had to alter the pattern a bit so I could fit the layers into a tinier space. I also used fewer layers -- five for each instead of seven -- because I didn't want the earrings to be too heavy. Still, the designs work as one whole concept, even if the individual pieces aren't completely matchy-matchy.

Since so much is going on in the design, I went with a simple silver wire wrapped chain and band. I added in a couple of spirals to complement the pattern, but didn't want to go overboard with the crystals or geometric shapes.

A lot of people call my glass pendants "stones," which is incorrect. I have to explain that they're not actually stones, but glass cabochons, which I cut, shaped and fused. However, I really do think this pendant resembles a stone -- perhaps an opal?

This year has been all about stretching myself as an artist and businesswoman. My efforts have been paying off, but I still have a lot of work to do. It would be wonderful if I could get my jewelry into this gallery. I'd be in great company.

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Making animal-themed dichroic glass jewelry for Vegan Fest!

Bushwick Vendors Market may have not gone as well as I'd hoped, but we're on to a new month -- and my friend Christopher has given me a unique opportunity to sell my jewelry.

On August 26, he's hosting the Long Island Vegan Food and Information Extravaganza. So far, he's lined up an incredible lineup of speakers and vendors, including doctors, nutritionists and self-made businesspeople... and he's asked me to have a booth at his event.

I wondered why he'd want a jewelry vendor at a vegan fest, but he explained that he wants his attendees to have a full experience, where they can get information, try new foods ... and shop. I was planning to go just to support him, so I was definitely on board.

Still, I don't just want to show up with my jewelry; I want to have a purpose for being there. So I'm making a line of animal-inspired glass pieces. All of the proceeds will benefit an as-yet-to-be-named charity of Christopher's choice:

I'm also making a point to learn EXACTLY what goes into every bit of my jewelry making and how I can make my pieces as eco-friendly as possible. I realized I didn't really know how the glass decals are made and did some research. The high quality ones are made of crushed glass, or enamel. They're "silk screened" onto the transfer material, though these days, the screen is almost always made of a polyester blend instead of actual silk.

I want to know as much as possible so I can answer any questions my customers might have. As Christopher told me, "Vegans tend to be a very inquisitive bunch." I do work small scale by keeping my studio in my apartment and by mostly using my hands instead of machines to do the work. I do use a microwave and will be honest about that. Ultimately, jewelry is a luxury and not a necessity. so one can debate whether we really need it. But I hope my work can raise some money for whatever organization Christopher chooses.

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