Monday, August 26, 2013

Trading Up

Not much to report around here.  We are gearing up for a long weekend in New Orleans for Labor Day.  James is off Monday and taking an extra vacation day for Tuesday.  We're leaving Friday after he gets home from work, and driving as far as Mobile, Alabama that first night.  We've got plenty planned for NOLA.  The last time we were there, it was for a football game and we only had one day to go sightseeing.  We're going to hit all the highlights this time- the aquarium, the zoo.  We've got a few other places on the list too, like Mardi Gras World where we can watch them actually building floats for the next parade.  Also the National WWII Museum.  Most of the places we're going have the penny machines, so they get first priority as far as our limited time.  If we can squeeze it in, we'll ride the trolley on St. Charles Avenue and perhaps take a steamboat up the Mississippi.  As for me, I'm most interested in food and art, and want plenty of time to stroll around the French Market.  And of course, I'm bringing an empty bag that I can load up with a few cans of Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee!   (Yes, I'm sorry, it's better than Community.)

Once we get back from our trip, I'll have one week to get my house in order, because my wrist surgery will be the following week.  I don't expect a painful recovery, it's a simple procedure, but I know I will have to wear my big awkward brace 24/7 for at least two weeks.  I imagine the first few days I may be a little sore, and James is always super protective of me.  He won't allow me to do anything around the house for awhile.  So before Tuesday 9/10, I'll be busy cleaning up the house, cooking up extra food for my hubby to have good dinners that week, and finishing up any of my pottery for Etsy.

I'm working on the last batch of beads that need to be glazed, and I hope to get them in the kiln this week.  I'll have all the next week to photograph them and get them listed.  I have a huge job ahead of me as far as cleaning up the studio, because when I'm glazing I just drag every jar of glaze out of the cabinets so that I can look at everything.  My work table is covered with jars, paintbrushes, wires, the boards I use for letting pieces dry.  When those beads are done, I don't think I'm going to make anymore for awhile, since they aren't selling.  I've got a few new ideas in my head I want to work on instead, as soon as I can.  The beads have been great for right now with my wrist issues, but I'm ready to move on to other things.  I've got a friend who requested two small dishes from me, so I have to get those done.  I also want to get more into upcycling, we go to so many auctions and flea markets and I see so many cool things but think to myself, wow what could I do with that??  Look on Etsy folks, you will see all sorts of very cool "new" items made from vintage things.

Michaels has awesome classes, and I've been wanting to take their jewelry and beading classes, but they are fairly pricey.  But once my wrist heals completely, I want to take a course.  I also plan to start making my tiles again.  Not just the ones where I use my rubber stamps, but also ones where I have relief images.  I've been collecting old wooden butter molds for about a year now, and they make spectacular designs in relief.  I've bought a few very cool ones lately- last week I got one with a cat on it, and this weekend at the auction I got a big one with a milkmaid and cow.  As soon as I can use my wrist to roll out the clay and pound the molds, I'll be working on these.  I am trying to convince James to learn how to make frames for my tiles, but then again, why can't I learn how to use the power tools and do it myself??  The sample below- NOT my tile- is the type of frame I'm looking to make.  It seems simple enough.  The tile itself is similar to what the relief tiles would look like made from the butter molds.  I've been buying a lot of other items that I can use, mostly old vintage kitchen molds (tin) and cookie cutters, and even some Wilton cake decorating tools.  I'm think about trying to create my own molds too- I recently took several Brighton hearts, smashed them into clay blocks, and after they came out of the kiln I now have molds I can use to make relief images for jewelry or tiles.

I want to have a better game plan for the next year, which is right around the corner.  Etsy is great, but I want to be able to make bigger items that I wouldn't necessarily want to ship. I've got some great ideas using repurposed old picture frames and some pottery letters from cookie cutters.  I would like to be able to set up at some of the local art festivals and street fairs.  The once a month Market Days here in Newnan is quite expensive to set up at, but if I get my act together- tables, tent, enough items to cover said tables- then I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do it.  We have plenty of Farmers Markets in the area as well.  And one nearby town just started a monthly street fair that is free to set up at, although last month was their first time doing it.  Some of the bigger annual festivals in the area- the Powers Ferry Festival, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, the Yellow Daisy Festival- these are only dreams at this point.  Not only are they terribly expensive to get a booth space, but because they are attended by thousands of people from all over the country, I would have to have a poopload of items to sell.  I am not at that point right now, but boy I sure would love to be!  So these last two months of "playing" on Etsy have been fun, but 2014 needs to have a good business plan in place.  I have a retirement fantasy of traveling around the South to craft fairs and beach art festivals, and selling pottery and paintings.  Hey, why not!

Yesterday we drove around to several Ford dealerships to look at new vehicles.  By the way, they were all closed on Sunday so if you are car shopping and don't want to be followed around by the pesky salesman, go on Sunday!  We were not the only ones out doing this.  James has been thinking about getting a new truck.  His 2010 F150 already has over 85,000 miles on it, because this is the vehicle we use for all our traveling.  Plus he puts 250 miles a week on it just driving back and forth to work.  The 2004 Mustang is still our "fun" car, but it has 104,000 miles on it.  And that leaves my Saturn Vue- the 2006 SUV only has about 84,000 miles on it and now that I'm not working, I don't do much driving except into town once or twice a week.  A full gas tank can last me 2 months these days.  But, even though it's a comfortable drive for me (it's a 4 cylinder and handles like a car), James does not like driving it at all.  He said it's very uncomfortable for him, plus he said he doesn't trust it to drive long distances.

So we always take the truck, which is SO big I have trouble driving it- the few times I've been behind its wheel.  While we were out yesterday, looking at 2013 F150's (couldn't find any 2014 so they may not be out yet), I told James wow these new 2014 Explorers are super cute and nice.  He said, well then instead of a new truck, let's get you a new SUV.  The Explorer is bigger than the Saturn (the Saturn is about the same size as the Escape, which is much smaller) so James said it would be more comfortable and roomy for him.  We looked at a few, and found a nice black one with no extras, and it would be cheaper than a new F150 and with better gas mileage, and it's a V6.  James said if we get this, then this would be our new traveling car.  Since I won't put many miles on it around town, it makes sense. I'm not sure we will get it, it cost about twice what my Saturn did back in 2005, but it cost a lot less than a new truck.  So we'll see, I'm not getting too excited about it, James said unless they can meet his "magic number" that he has in his head for the price, we won't do it.  He wants to pay it off in only one year.  I doubt I'll get a good trade-in amount for my Saturn, although we recently got it repainted.  I think it's hard to sell a car from a company that doesn't exist anymore.  I do see a lot of Saturns still on the road, and my car runs fine, there are no problems with it whatsoever. 

A new car would be cool, but since I don't hate my Saturn, if I don't get the Explorer it's not a big deal.  But it sure is cute!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bead Overflow

Well I didn't mean to let so much time pass between posts on here.  We had a wonderful vacation recently in Canada, and spent some time in Detroit as well (above, at the Henry Ford Museum).  We were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful weather- low 70's- in July.  Not something we are used to down here in the south, it will be many long weeks before we see our temps drop to that low.  And I am looking forward to it.  I always enjoy spring, when my flowers are blooming, but right now my flower bed is for the most part, winding down.  My spring bulbs are long past blooming, and I have a sea of waving green (but browning) fronds all over the garden.  My few summer flowers are wilting under the August heat.  I will be happy to see fall get here, and soon.

I've been staying busy at home with my pottery.  My wrist pain is still preventing me from making too much, as far as being able to work the clay.  I've been focusing on beads lately, because I can pinch off a tiny piece of clay and roll it around in the palm of my hand.  I do not need to bend my wrist at all, although when it comes time to glaze them, holding the paintbrush for too long has become an issue.  I've had one cortisone shot, I've had fluid drained from my wrist, and on Monday I go back for another cortisone shot.  I've been wearing my brace as often as possible, sometimes even sleeping in it.  I've gone through a ton of pain patches and Motrin with not much relief.  If the shot on Monday continues to leave me in pain, I will have to buck up and have the surgery.  I'm going to give the shot until the end of September, as the doctor said it can take a few weeks before the cortisone can do its work.  This DeQuervain syndrome has been hanging around since January of this year, and every time I go see my ortho, it's about $400 out of pocket for me.  At that rate, I should have had the surgery at the start!

Although I haven't sold any of my beads on Etsy, I continue to see other similar shops selling beads as fast as they can get them listed.  These are obviously established shops with committed followers, and I notice, a lot of custom orders.  I can pay to advertise on Etsy, instead of just hoping people stumble upon my shop.  I have made enough beads that are ready to glaze, to load up my kiln at least two more times.  After that, I'm taking a break from making beads, as I have plenty listed for sell.  I may consider advertising on Etsy, so that my beads show up prominently during searches.  My prices are fair, and I believe my quality equals much of what I am seeing in other shops.

James said, shouldn't you go back to making your tiles?  He is right, my tiles used to sell like crazy, back when I was on eBay and before I moved over to Etsy.  After I get my shot on Monday, I'm going to rest my hand as much as possible, to let the shot do its thing and let the inflammation heal.  I've been working on my beads every day, so I'm going to take next week off from pottery.  It's been a lot of fun though, and I love the glazing process the best.  What a glaze looks like out of the jar, sometimes has no correlation to what color it will be once it's fired, and opening up my kiln to see how everything came out, has been the most fun part of making them.  (See below photos, glaze before and after it's fired.)

Also on the books is the arrival of our new bedroom furniture in a few days.  And most importantly a new mattress.  Finally.  Our current one is sadly ready for the trash dump.  It's saggy and lumpy and worn down.  I (we) picked out bedroom furniture to match the living room set we got not too long ago.  I love it.  It was pricey, but it's time for us to have some grown up furniture instead of using the bedroom set I had before we were married.  This will be the set we keep for a lifetime.  And I'm hoping that in the mornings when I get out of bed, I will not be stooped over like a 90-year-old anymore.  Of course, now I am making James' head spin by saying we need all new linens and a comforter....  :)  Still shopping around on that one to find exactly what I want.