Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Studio Insight - Making Cutout Flower Pendants...

Do you ever wonder what it takes to make something handmade?
What about making a porcelain pendant?
There are a lot of steps involved even before what I'm going to share with you below.
I would like to give you an insight into my process so you can understand that these are all unique handmade creations
(and copyrighted texture plates) and are all little treasures...
Marsha Neal Studio Hibiscus Cutout Flower In Stormy Night Sky Glaze
Marsha Neal Studio's Clay Studio setup for glazing pieces.
All I need is a little space to work. 
Slabs that were rolled out previously - ready to use.
Drywall working surface, tools, clay slab, flower texture plates at the ready.
Cutting clay slab down to reduce excess clay scraps.
Rolling out one pendant onto my texture plate.
Many pieces rolled out. Pony rollers need to be dry or clay will stick to them.
Top = good print. Bottom = oops, missed a bit (scrap now).
Cutting out the pendant by hand. Molds would make this like "work" for me.
I actually find the process of making each piece like this very relaxing. 
The cutting begins. Work in batches so they don't dry out too fast.
Kitty litter buckets are great for holding scrap clay that is waiting to be recycled.
The next time I mix this clay will be this clay's third time being processed into wet clay.
Putting the hole into the pendant.
The holes will be drilled out again for a consistent size.
The middle layer with the blackline is the layer where the pendants are.
Small scrap pieces of drywall are used to extract the water from the clay,
while allowing the pieces to dry flat.
When I go into the studio tomorrow,
I will sponge all the edges of each piece to make the pendant more refined. 
I will drill out the pendant hole. 
Then they will be bisque fired in my kiln.
After cooling, they will be glazed (another part I find relaxing!).
Holes will be cleaned, glaze touched up, 
then glaze fired on small hooks which are
suspended on bead rods so the entire piece is covered with glaze.
After the kiln cools, the pieces are unloaded & inspected for any defects.
Holes are cleaned once more to make sure there are no sharp edges.

Then the piece is ready for you…

The steps not mentioned here are all the things that come ahead 
of this "process" I've established for myself are important things like:
My education (MA in Ceramics).
Experience and level of knowledge and skill.
Understanding how this will be used in a finished product.
Design ideas. Carving out my texture plates. Testing out products & glazes.
Having a space to work - a studio. Having equipment and materials for that studio to function.

Being a person that makes things by hand is actual work.
It may be fun work - when you have time to get in the studio…
Creativity is not easy all the time. I actually enjoy the process as much as the creative part…

Hope you liked this insight.
Please be inspired by this. 
Be well informed by this. 
And let it lead you to find your own way to work with clay
or whatever material you choose to work with…

And Thank You for supporting Handmade!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Is Your Brain??? Cyber Crazy Yet?

I don't know about you, but I'm having a bit of a slow start to getting back into the swing of things…
So I'm extending my Cyber Monday Etsy shop sale through Tuesday night.
Use Coupon Code: BOCCYBER when checking out and you get 20% off your purchase.

And just as things happen to go - my Etsy shop has hit a milestone during this weekend's sale…
1500 sales!
Seriously - WOAH!

So of course - I want to give you guys stuff to celebrate!
If you use the BOCCYBER coupon code - you will get entered to take part in my giveaways.
I'm not exactly sure yet what I'm going to do - but it will be fun!

I listed some new Lentil Beads and some New Pendants in my shop for this Cyber Monday sale.
And if you've got some time and want to get a chance at winning one of the lentil beads in my shop - Go to my etsy shop, favorite an item then hop on over to my Marsha Neal Studio Facebook page & comment on my post for the 10am giveaway (starts with me saying: "my computer is giving me attitude")…

Have fun shopping and THANKS!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday Through Cyber Monday Sale & Thanksgiving Potatoes...

Want 20% off items from my MarshaNealStudio Etsy shop?
Wavy Grid Diamond Shaped Pendant
Use coupon code BOCCYBER from Friday 11/25/11 through Monday 11/28/11.
You can even get the above pendant set in any of these colors:
Not into such an angular piece? 
How about this one in any of the above colors?
Gnarly Spiral Porcelain Pendant
It's easy to do…
Jump over to my Etsy shop, pick your piece, use BOCCYBER in your shopping cart when checking out for the 20% off, then leave me a message in the message to seller for what color you would like this in…

And now for a little about my Thanksgiving potatoes:
60lbs of potatoes…
I bought 6 bags on sale one day and didn't realize that my Mother-In-Law had picked up just as many for me to use to make the family's portion for Thanksgiving dinner.
My food contribution to Thanksgiving dinner is mashed potatoes (I LOVE making them)...
I always used to love to peel the potatoes for my mom on Thanksgiving.
It was one of the little jobs she gave me to do.
I loved hanging out in the kitchen with her watching the Macy's parade...
After my mom passed, my sister and I started to make the mashed potatoes.
My sister suggested that I add salt, minced garlic, minced onion and chives to the water during boiling for added flavor - YUM!
My step-mom always made the most tasty mashed potatoes.
For a 5 lb bag, she uses a stick of butter, cream cheese with chives & evaporated milk - salt to taste.
Talk about light and whipped creamy mashed potatoes!
So with those 60lbs of potatoes I was happy to peel and cook three in three different batches so I could make mashed potatoes for my kids school's Thanksgiving lunch. 
Make enough for three dinners with lots of family (we only went to one dinner thank goodness), extras for my siblings so they could have some with their leftover turkey…
And I've got a few potatoes left in the bag that I'm going to cook up in a veggie soup.
Then there is the pumpkin pie (I doubled this recipe and added 1/2 tsp of nutmeg to the doubled batch).
My mom always made the best pumpkin muffins with cream cheese icing.
I'm not quite there yet, but soon I'm sure.
So for now - 6 pumpkin pies in the last couple of days...
I decided that since I had some left over pumpkin puree, that I would check out the website on the Libby's Can for some recipes, and came across this: Pumpkin pie covered with Yellow cake mix & pecans (aka: Libby's Easy Pumpkin Crumb Cake).
The recipe called for 1/2 c. pecans - but I went a bit overboard.
In my world - when there are pecans on a dessert - there are never really enough pecans…

I've got to admit that with all the stuff going on within my family and "health" issues and deaths (3 since August) cooking like this has become a bit of an escape for me.
I really think I need to get out of the kitchen and back into the studio for a bit.
It will help me not get back up that extra size I went down last year…
Which is scarily getting close. Ugh!

I enjoyed every bite as it went in though…

Thank you all so very much for all your continued support!
Hope you have time to spend with family and friends and realize what you are Thankful for in life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

DeStash Event Follow Up & What's Next...

Hard to believe it has been a week since the DeStash event…
Pendants for DeStash Sale.
All of the orders have been sent out, and I wanted to share my experience with you all of how I managed to pull this off in this last week.
Well - we'll see as I get notes from customers via Etsy convo about orders and how they arrived - or didn't as to how well I pulled it off...

My amazing customers make the sale a success way beyond what I could have ever expected…
I really thought that 150 pendants would last all weekend.
Never did I expect to have things take off and run like they did…
I know there are some of you that are curious about numbers - and when I log in over on Etsy - it says that I have to leave feedback for 658 items (these were also giveaway pieces btw & some non-destash listings, like silks). And I will be leaving feedback for all the items…

Which leads me to:
How the heck do you organize this and get all the pieces to the right people and not drive yourself totally crazy?
Answer: It's like a stew… 
You have the basics, then add as you go:
I needed: time set aside for only doing this, upbeat music, coffee…
Then familiarity with product, trays & bins for sorting, computer or printed orders, pen and paper for notes that go into bins, notebook for things you need to do, shipping labels, boxes & padded envelopes, bubble wrap, tissue paper, packaging tape, Scotch tape, business cards, bits of cardboard, plastic baggies for grouping items, USPS labels for international shipments & delivery confirmation, and something to carry it all in to get to the post office.
Pendants Sorted into trays according to shape & texture.
The sorting part I LOVED…
Really - It not only fed my OCD with having all the shapes and textures put together in the same bins…
But it also gave me time with all these pieces looking at them individually...
Remembering drawing out the texture plates, making the pieces, glazing the pieces…
And it was like being a personal shopper - pulling all these individual pieces for each order.
I miss this part of selling beads at bead shows...
Trays on left have pieces sorted into bins & smaller tray segments underneath.
Trays on right are extra pendants to be used as bonus giveaways: 1 free for every 10 purchased.
Packaging Area Basics.
Large orders packaged into baggies by shape.
Each was wrapped snug with unprinted newspaper then into box with lots of padding.
Individual pendants got tissue paper, then bubble wrapped together with business card.
Some were then wrapped with this thin cardboard for packaging support.
Yellow = Bubble Mailer. On top shows how I line the items up in the package.
Crumpled newsprint, beads in cardboard, crumpled newsprint.
I take the extra precaution of using packaging tape as a second envelope sealer.
I also like adding clear tape over the shipping label on the front.
Speaking of shipping labels… I like to hand write mine out.
I just like that extra personalization & connection.
It's like saying a little extra "Thank You" to that person in my mind.
First round ready to ship and go to the post office mid-week.
Second & final round went out Saturday morning.
And as the week of sorting, packing & shipping went on - so did regular life…
Our cat "Peeves" was more than happy to keep me company this entire time.
Chloe had fun going with me to ship orders at the Post Office.
She received some Stickers in my PO Box from a sticker exchange we did this fall.
Talk about an excited and happy girl! Time to start a sticker book for her...
Bonus Day With PopPop just hanging out!
My dad was up from FL for a few days so Chloe and I took the day off to run around and hang out with him. It's weird not having my dad's family live here in DE with us anymore.
They moved to FL back in the mid 90's. And even though it's great having a nice place to visit them, I'd still prefer they lived near us. There is a plethora of comments about us moving to FL. But really, I love all seasons we have here in DE and being close to most of the rest of the family. 
No to mention my garden and the flora & fauna from this area...
Chloe rolling out play dough beads...
And for the What's Next? part:
Well, I like seeing empty holes in storage shelving areas.
Empty Shelf Space where destash pendants used to be.
So much so that I think I'm going to be running some additional DeStash sales to help clear this space out a bit…
Porcelain Bisque Storage Shelves.
I would really love to have this studio space for setting up my potters wheel and get into making different kinds of clay & mixed media art. 
This area that is filled with shelves was designed for my kick wheel in the original studio layout.

I not only have these above shoe boxes filled with "general pendant stock", but a whole other area with baggies in bins of beads - multiples of the same textures and shape/size that were made when I was doing a lot of online wholesale business.
Lots of specific pieces all ready for glazing...
And with the state of the economy and how technology has changed the way we all shop and buy our supplies.
We go by lists now, right? Rarely by that emotional "I must have that" out of control impulsive buying (which I am fully guilty of having in overload). 
And we're always looking for a great deal - right?!
Groupon… Flock Shop… Deals, Deals, Deals… Coupons Galore!
Talk about overload - on many levels.

So what I'm planning & with Dave working the new website shopping cart,
I'm going to go through stock, see what pendant shapes/sizes I've got in limited multiples.
Those limited multiples will be loaded with a set qty into a special destash section of my website shopping cart for a few days - to be determined by this new cart setup & how fast we can implement some really cool options (like "rewards" programs for items you buy - really cool stuff!)
By "limited", I mean there are specific textures and shapes/sizes - not my entire catalog which is currently available on the website.

I will pick out a selective glaze palette for these destash pieces that these can be glazed in such as these colors and maybe a few more (will be looking at the spring 2012 Pantone color palette too). 
Marsha Neal Studio Fall Glaze Color Palette
So what do you all think?
And there are to be lessons to be learned by how I got myself into this situation with lots of stock that is just sitting. More on that to come in a later post though.

Thanks everyone for making this such a fun event!
If you missed out on some of the "fun" part - that would have been all the interaction during the sale that was going on - on the Marsha Neal Studio FaceBook page.
I had some random commenter giveaways for 50% off a clay item coupon codes, half-priced silk listings, free destash pieces, etc. 
All totally by the seat of my pants - and it was a blast!
(ok - that wasn't meant to sound like "that").

You guys are SO much fun!
Thanks again for hanging out with me and making it such a success…
I look forward to the next round and making you all specific pieces just for you…


Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Night DeStash Update & Bonuses...

Aren't these just lovely???
I think you need some for yourself or to give as gifts for this holiday season…
And for only $5 each (normally $15) why not?
And to think - every last one of them has been photographed in the last 24 hours and uploaded to my Etsy shop into the "Destash Items" section.
Madness I say - complete and utter madness!!!

These are porcelain pendant pieces that I make by hand in my studio and that have been doing the bead show circuit, trunk shows at bead shops, checked out by friends visiting my studio, and have been most recently kept in baggies up on my studio shelves.

There has been something within me that hasn't wanted to let them go.
There are some sad stories, some funny ones, some obsessive ones - all for another post.

Now is the time for me to say good bye to them all.
And for you to say Hi…
Even if it is just a passing onto another person for them to keep for a while…

So this morning I dropped the kids off to school,
Got a nice cup of coffee in hand and headed out to the FL room where I photograph my work.
I think I have photographing my work down to a science now.
And if I pay attention to little things like:
1. Centering item
2. Using a tripod
3. Keeping items straight in the image frame
4. Light compensation (I check each image as I take the pic to make sure the color is as true as possible)
I can put the images onto my computer, crop quick, export, then upload to Etsy.
It's science baby!!!
If you are on my FaceBook page - then you were witness to my mad uploads and annoying feed thread hogging posts (sorry about that - I promise this is NOT an all the time thing :)
Seriously - in my head I heard Chevy Chase's voice: "Look Kids, It's Big Ben" over and over (and over) as I was posting my stuff to Etsy & sharing with FB & Twitter.

Just think: 
Teachers gifts...
Gifts for good friends and family members that like unique necklaces…
Or to a beading friend that likes to use handmade pieces in their jewelry design…
I love that they are $5 right now, but are actually $15 normally - so you're giving something with real artist handmade value.
Makes me feel good that I can help you out like that.
And that your buying them helps me pay off my business debt (an ugly thing - let me tell you… Don't even get my husband started on it - because that's where it gets ugly…).

Maybe you've got some craft shows or home shows coming up that you need or want to have a few extra pieces for and this will give you a little extra $$ value back.

How do you make these pendants into a necklace ready for gift giving?
If you aren't into making jewelry yourself, I can help you out...
My style of necklace is simply add a wire wrapped bale to the pendant and string it on a silk ribbon.
You could also use a necklace you already have - leather, rubber, metal, etc.

If you pick out some pendants simply send me a convo through Etsy and let me know which one you want made into a necklace.
For each piece for an extra $5 you can pick out one of my Silky or Fairy Ribbons (or I can pick out a color that goes with your pendant for you) and ask me to wire wrap the piece for you. 
Ribbons cost $5 each individually…

If you just want the pendant wire wrapped, it's only $2 without the silk.
I make the loop a standard size that should slide over any standard small necklace end loop.

DeStash Sale Bonuses:
1. For every 10 item listings in my shop that you purchase (destash and regular priced items) I will pick out a pendant from my stash for you.
2. Every time you help me promote this sale through social media outlets, please leave a comment here on my blog posts for this sale and you get a chance at a $30 MNS gift certificate. Do this often - no limit on how many times you can enter…
3. Random DESTASH BONUS items will be thrown into my shop over the weekend.
These could be things like bundles of pieces, half priced silk bundles, etc.
4. All orders will be receiving a coupon code for their next clay item purchase in my shop.
5. If all (or nearly all) of my destash items sell by Sunday - I will do a big huge giveaway - something really crazy - like a couple of drawings for $50 or $100 gift certificates for everyone that bought items during this sale…

Have fun shopping and help me sell all of these pieces!
And don't forget - every 10 items gets a bonus item that I pick out for you :)
I'll be counting items & looking at what you picked out while I'm packing everything up this next week.
You never know what fun stuff I'll throw in for those awesome customers of mine…

Thank You All!!!