Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back From The Chilly South

We just got back from a nice visit to Florida, to take in a few sight-seeing spots and spend time with my family back in my hometown.  James and I headed on down the road as soon as he got home from work on that Friday.  We wanted to get up early enough on Saturday, and be able to get to the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, with time enough to see it all.  We were there two hours and frankly, we could have stayed another two just to read all the info and see every little thing.  The man collects!  He was actually there at the museum when we arrived, but we didn't realize it.  When an attendee told us, James ran out to find "Big Daddy" but he was already gone.  Bummer.

We made it to Tampa Saturday night, just in time for a nice hard rain shower.  Nonetheless we hugged the buildings along the sidewalks and traipsed over to have dinner at The Taco Bus.  Worth it!  Sunday afternoon we went to the Tampa Bay-Atlanta football game.  I love going to Raymond James Stadium.  They actually built the new stadium after I had moved away, so all my memories of going to Bucs games were of the old stadium.  I've only been to the new one maybe 2-3 times now, but it's super cool with the pirate ship at one end.  It was military appreciation day, so they had a lot of very nice presentations and introductions all throughout the day.  My Bucs tried, but they just couldn't beat James' Falcons.  After the game, we made our way down to Bradenton, where we stopped in for a late outdoor burger at the Shake Pit, one of those great spots that has been in my hometown since before I was born!

It was chilly for the Gulf Coast, in the 60's and some 70's.  Locals were bundled up in jeans and jackets, but I guess my blood has thickened in the 19 years that I've been gone.  I was still wearing crop pants and T-shirts!  James and I walked the beach a few mornings, although that last morning it was cold and damp and blustery.  We spent one day on a long drive over to Lake Okeechobee, where my parents go fishing.  For my dad, it's a once a month trip over there to hang with his buddies and fish.  It was a beautiful day there, sunny but cool, and the water was as blue as any lake I've ever been to.

As we always do when we go see my family, we spent an afternoon on their boat, fishing and zipping around the Manatee River and Tampa Bay.  This trip I asked my dad to take us over to Egmont Key, a small island that has a wonderful lighthouse, so I could get close-up photos of it.  We caught a total of 40 fish of all varieties, but everyone made it safely back into the ocean.  We only fish for fun when we go down there, although my dad said a lot of the grouper and bass we caught were good "eating" size!  James and I snuck in one day of antiquing over in Arcadia- we were there for a few hours and didn't even make a dent in all the little shops on their main street.  We'll have to go back again next time to check out the rest of the stores.  It was a nice little find.

Of course no trip to the beach in Florida is complete without fresh seafood!  And we had plenty of it.  We had a lot of great meals- particularly the dinner at Star Fish while we sat on the dock and watched the birds- and I know James really always loves eating the bounty from the Gulf.  I love seafood too, but nothing anywhere else can compare to eating fried fish that just came out of the water that day!  It still tastes like the ocean.  We came back home to below freezing temps, but no matter, I was happy to be home to the cats.  I always miss them when we travel, even if we are having fun and enjoying ourselves- my kitties are never far from my thoughts.  I'm always relieved to get back to them!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Upcycling Pendants

 Discovering our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore has ended up being the find of the century for me.  Not only have I picked up small goodies for our vintage shop, great books for a dollar, and old hardware for projects- I've also stumbled onto a wonderful cache of recycled tiles.  I started off with the normal square floor tiles, which I'll post about later.  Then I found these sheets of small mosaic tiles made for back splashes.  I bought the first ones there at the ReStore, just so I could recycle.  But I went through those so quickly I had to go to Lowe's to buy more of them, where they are sold by the sheet or the case.

One of the reasons I always wanted my own kiln, was so I could experiment.  I would never put something in a kiln belonging to someone else, if I couldn't be positive it wasn't going to explode!  Or at the very least, ruin the kiln.  I am willing to take that chance with my own, although I would be quite devastated if I broke my kiln!  Not cheap to replace!!  But I thought, well these are technically glazed ceramic tiles, so that means they went through the firing process at least twice already.  They should be safe to run through a kiln again, even a small one like my little Exit Strategy (my nickname for her).


 After removing the tiles from the mesh backing, and cleaning off the glue holding the tiles to the mesh, I was able to take my glazes and design away.  I like the long rectangular tiles the best, but I think the small hexagonal ones are a nice size as well.  The cleaning process is time consuming because the glue is strong, made to withstand commercial applications of the tiles.  I confess I've sliced open my fingers a time or two while scrubbing them down.


 Once the tiles were glazed, I added silver bails to the backs of them.  I've listed several in my Etsy shop, just as pendants.  I think the smaller ones would look best on a silver chain, and the larger ones definitely need something sturdier like a leather cord.  So far I haven't seen anyone else on Etsy doing anything like this.  I see a lot of people take these same tiles and put pictures on them, with resin.  But I haven't seen anyone glazing them.  I'm going to continue to play with other colors, especially my glazes that have crystals in them- I love opening the kiln and seeing how the crystals dispersed the color.  It's always a fun surprise, and one of my favorite moments.  Sometimes the color combinations I chose just don't work out, but most of the time, I like the results.


 The backs of course still look like the original tile, which I like, because it's a reminder that this is a recycled item.  The long tiles even have "Mexico" stamped in the clay.  I sanded them down as best as I could, and they are fairly smooth.  I haven't had any issues whatsoever with the one I kept for myself and wear almost every day.  It doesn't scratch my skin, or my clothes, and I barely notice it at all- just like wearing any other piece of jewelry.  I signed and dated the backs, as I do with all my jewelry pieces.


 Although in my Etsy shop, I've only listed the pendants by themselves, I did make one necklace for myself (the top one below).  It gets noticed and I've gotten a great deal of compliments on it everywhere I go.  I'm going to start taking the pendants and making more necklaces, to set aside as inventory so I can start doing local craft shows, street fairs, and art festivals in 2015.  I think it's something easy to make but still cool and handmade, and everyone loves "recycled" art.  I will keep the prices down on them, I'm thinking in the $5.00-$7.00 range, depending on the size of the tile.  I also think the smaller tiles, especially the little round ones, will make fantastic magnets and I've got plans to make up a few batches of those as well.


 You can check out more of the pendants at my Etsy shop at Black Hairy Spider Arts.  And once I know for sure the dates of the 2015 shows, I'll be posting those here as well.  I believe the first one is in April, and I'm aiming for that as a starter, because it's a small show here in downtown Newnan.  I plan to make plenty of other items as well, but I really want to make a lot of these tile pendants.  I hope that people will appreciate these, not only because I feel it's a bit of an original idea, but also because it's upcycling and helping out a local community charity.  I also strongly encourage you to find your own local ReStore, especially if you do crafts, because there are treasures on every shelf!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Profitable Adventures

Last weekend James and I hit up several estate sales in the area.  We really haven't done a lot of estate sales over the years, we have always been more into auctions, but sometimes our favorite auction houses only hold sales every other month- the waiting in between makes us itch! This seems to be a busy time of year for great estate sales, and the lovely bright cool weather doesn't hurt one bit.  We went to four sales and walked away with nice purchases from three of them.  The fourth sale, well let's just say the folks had "retail" prices on everything- nice items, but for anyone buying to resell, they were way too high.  We are not experts by any stretch of the imagination- we buy what we are attracted to ourselves.  There are things that I see that may be worth money, but if I look at it and turn up my nose, I keep walking.  In the back of my mind, I know that if I don't ever sell an item, eventually it's going to be "mine"!

James and I use a website- to find sale locations and times.  I'm sure there are other websites, but a friend showed us this particular one so it's what we use.  (We have another website just for auctions.)  And when we go to sales that we like, we make sure to sign up for that company's emails so we always get advance notice and photos of upcoming sales.  This last Saturday, we left the house early in the morning and got back late in the afternoon.  I told him, it's fun to be able to stay around town and enjoy a day out.  We go to areas of the county where we normally don't go, and find new roads, new sites. We never ask "why" they are having an estate sale, but many times when you walk in, you know right away that the homeowner was elderly and is no longer living in the house.  And in many cases, the home is for sale as well.

The first estate sale was a big country house set way off the road, in a nice clearing with a small pond.  Really pretty, the type of house with the huge rocking chair porch that takes up the entire front of the home.  It was in Sharpsburg, which sort of runs into Newnan- hard to say where one town ends and the other begins.  I'm not sure Sharpsburg is an actual town, so much as it is just an area of the county.  Most estate sales are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  We always go on Saturdays.  Yes, most of the items have been picked through, but also most of the sales on the last day have slashed prices.  I think all the sales we went to, were all 25-50% off everything.  The Sharpsburg sale had mostly small items left, but that's what I'm looking for.  I picked up three little plates, one of which was a Bing & Grondahl Christmas plate.  I was pleasantly surprised at the deal that I got.  The other small plate with the scene of a street market, I was able to identify as one of a set of four porcelain plates made in France.  The third piece, a hand-blown glass bowl signed by the artist, I was not able to find anything online about it.  And it's very possible that it wasn't a commercial piece but something one of a kind made by an artisan.  I plan to list each piece in the shop for $10.

The second estate sale was right up the road, but it turned out to be more of a yard sale, and they were priced way way too high, even though they were 50% off as well.  Still too high.  We looked around briefly, but headed over to the next county.

The next estate sale was over in Peachtree City, at a half-million dollar home in a golf and lake community.  They were priced a bit high as well, but as expected they had super nice quality items and collectibles.  Again, I try to look for small things that I can ship easily and keep the costs down for a potential customer.  If I had a real brick store, or a booth at a market, I would shop the estate sales in a completely different manner.  But right now, since we are just on Etsy, I've got to keep shipping costs in my mind at all times.  Still, at this sale I was able to find a few small goodies.  Nicer items, but because I paid more for them, I won't make as much money when I sell them.  The Currier & Ives miniature plates of the four seasons are beautiful, but I found several sets listed (and not selling) on eBay- so I'm not sure how I will price those as they were the most expensive item I bought that entire day.  The small Thomas Beauchamp plate, and the hand-painted blue paisley ashtray set, both had markings on the backsides so I could trace the companies and countries they each came from.  The porcelain foxhound figurine has "Japan" stamped on the bottom, but nothing else, so I haven't been able to find out anything on this piece.  I believe he had a sticker on him at one time, because I had to clean residue off.  He was so cute though, I couldn't pass him up.  I'm going to keep looking online to see if I can find out more about him.

The last estate sale had us going all the way over to yet another county.  A little far to drive, but it gave us a chance to eat at one of our favorite restaurants out that way- the quirky but always delicious (and super busy!!) Broadway Diner.  And as a fun surprise, we found that the downtown was holding a fall festival so we stopped there as well.  There were a lot of small glass items at this last sale, but also a lot of items with chips or cracks.  I always carry a magnifying glass with me so I can check items over thoroughly as I am not interested in selling damaged items in my shop.  If something is cracked, no matter how much I like it, I pass.  James was able to find some goodies for himself at this sale- a large box filled with golf stuff.  This sale was also 50% off, and they still had plenty of items left to pick over.  I came away with two pretty green glass Tiara cups with the daisy pattern, and just in time for the holidays a nice set of Christmas tree-shaped aluminum molds.  I am always looking for vintage kitchenware as it's quite popular and selling well online.  Plus I love molds because I can always use them for my own crafts if I "get stuck" with them.


I try not to look at the individual items as much as the entire day's purchase, when I think about the money part of it. On the items I paid a little more for, I won't be able to ask that much, but on some of the items where I got a fantastic deal, I know I'll be able to make a good profit.  My total purchase price on this last Saturday, for all 9 items, added up to only $35.  So I try to look at the "total" money invested, not just item by item.  I've got plenty to list right now, so I'll be busy for awhile with the vintage shop.  I'm not sure we'll go to any sales this coming weekend, as we start packing for our next vacation the following week.  And when we get to my parents' house, we'll be spending a few days there digging through their attic and closets so I'm sure we'll come home with even more great stuff to list.  Lucky we have a basement where we can keep all these things!!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Etsy Update

I posted last year about my Etsy shop, so it's a good time to give updates while I get the blog back into real time.

As of right now, I've made about 200 sales, which I'm happy with.  I'm concentrating still on making beads and other small jewelry pieces, like pendants. The biggest problem with Etsy is there is SO much great competition on there.  But, it is the place where everyone tends to go to find handmade, artisan items.  I noticed in my post last year, I was struggling because no one had purchased any of my beads.  I'm very pleased to say they've been selling nicely, and I now even have regular customers who purchase every month.

There are amazing artists out there making incredible beads, and I can only drool over them because I am not that talented.  And I don't steal anyone's ideas, as tempting as that sounds.  I desperately try to avoid the "oh I can do that" mimicry.  I'm still just rolling round beads, stamping a few, and glazing them with whatever color combinations I think will look nice.  I have a number of bead sets that, despite being listed for a long time, haven't sold so I've been confiscating those and now I'm making a few pieces of jewelry for myself.  I've also been using recycled materials as well, and I'll write about that in a future post because I'm excited about it.

And of course, I also opened up a second shop earlier this year, specializing in vintage finds.  James and I continue to go to auctions and estate sales and flea markets in the Atlanta area, and if I can find a nice small item (that's easily shippable) and I can get it at a great price- I'm in!  I'm very picky, I buy only what I like, and only what I feel is good quality.  I'm not interested in "yard sale" junk- I've already got plenty of that in my basement that is waiting for the next trip to Goodwill.  I've made 35 sales so far, and I am not unhappy about that.  I try to price my items fairly.  I don't want to give them away or lose money on them, but I also don't want people to get sticker shock when they look at them.  I prefer small things so I can keep the shipping cost low.  There's nothing worse than finding a great item you love at a great price, then have the shipping cost make you say NO WAY!

It takes a long time to list the vintage pieces, because I try to research each piece as best as I can.  Perhaps no one out there is taking the time to read my long-winded listing descriptions, but I feel as though it's important to convey as much detail about an item as I can.  The item above is just a simple miniature plate I picked up at a thrift store, but I was able to go online and find the history of the company that made it, the year, the country, etc.  I try to buy items with identifiable characteristics and markings, so I can easily trace it online.  It's been a lot of fun so far.  Of course, most of the items I buy at auctions are for ME, but whenever I see a nice little piece, I have to consider it for the online shop.

Etsy has been great, but I am ready to branch out for 2015 and do some local shows.  I will post more about that in the future.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Getting Back In Touch

So I did promise to get back on the blog regularly again.  I admit, once again, the ease of posting on Facebook or Instagram has sort of kept me off Blogger for a long time now.  But, I think blogging is healthy, I used to really seriously enjoy it, so I am ready to get back to it again!

Although we've had many fantastic travels since my last post in 2013, the most recent one was last month.  We finally decided to chuck our annual cruise to the islands in favor of something different.  We took a New England and Canada cruise out of New York City.  First, I will say that's my first trip to NYC.  I saw very little of it- from the airport to the cruise terminal- while on a bus.  We had planned to visit the USS Intrepid, which is docked right at the cruise port, but time didn't allow for it.  We arrived in NYC with only a few hours to spare.  If we take this cruise again, and I'm sure we will, we'll go up a day or two early to take in some of the NYC landmarks.  James wants to go up to the top of the Empire State Building.  I told him I'll wait down at the Starbucks in the lobby, my vertigo would make me vomit before we ever got off the elevator!

We had one of the cabins on the very back of the ship, so leaving the port that first night we got an absolutely amazing view of Manhattan.  We cruised right by the Statue of Liberty- and let me say they always make Lady Liberty look so huge in the movies but I thought she was actually a little on the small size in real life.  The ship went under the gorgeous Verrazano bridge, which reminded me of all the trips out of Tampa and going under the Skyway.  We were able to get great photos from our aft balcony.  I've been to a lot of big cities, but nothing prepared me for the overwhelming size of New York City.

 Our first stop was in Boston, where James and I spent the day walking around the city.  No, we didn't do the Freedom Trail as absolutely everyone suggested.  We were, as always when we are traveling, hunting our smashed pennies.  Boston is full of machines.  Some we had to bypass for the next visit- like the ones at museums- but we managed to hit up six machines for a total of 44 pennies.  Of course we took in plenty of historical sites and city sights, including a trolley ride and for James, a tour of Fenway Park.  Beautiful city, stunning old churches, I could definitely spend more time there.  The cool weather and sunny day played a big part in how great the day was.  We were able to go up in the Prudential Center to get fantastic photos of the entire city- an easy 50 floors up compared to the gut-churning 102 floors of the Empire State Building.  For lunch we dined outside at the charming Parish Cafe, near the public gardens.  Boston is an incredibly easy city to walk around.

 The next stop was Portland in Maine.  James and I had reserved a rental car at the airport, and a quick taxi ride from the port got us to Hertz and then on our way.  Again we were on the penny hunt, and drove about 60 miles down the coast, stopping here and there.  Maine was gorgeous, I don't think I've ever seen a prettier state.  We stopped at the lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, at an old pier at the beach, the quaint Kennebunkport area, and had lunch at a popular family spot, The Maine Diner, where I indulged in their delicious (and very buttery) lobster pie.  Yes, it was as decadent as it sounds, and I ate every crumb.  We got back to Portland with plenty of time to spare and walked around the shops for a bit.  They were having a street festival as well, with local crafts, but that might be a weekly thing with all the ships coming in.  Portland had a very nice downtown, cobblestone streets, lots of shopping.  We had the perfect day there, and back on the ship we sat on the balcony watching the harbor seals playing in the water.

Our last two stops were in Canada.  First was Saint John in New Brunswick.  This was a short day off the ship for us.  No pennies, and the town was rather small.  We decided not to sign up for any excursions.  The much-touted Reversing Rapids on the Bay of Fundy, well, I watched a video of it online and wasn't impressed enough to want to pay to see it in real life.  We did go to the New Brunswick Museum and the City Market (quite impressive).  James was searching for old license plates to add to his collection, so we hit up a few antique stores until we finally found a batch.  We stopped at a nice used bookstore where I stocked up on paperbacks for $1 each, and of course we went to a couple of shops so I could see what their local artists are creating.  Nothing inspires me to come home and work on my own projects, as much as seeing the wonderful things other artists are making (and more importantly, selling).

Halifax was our other Canadian stop, and this was the only city where we signed up for an excursion.  Mainly because of Peggy's Cove.  Not only is there a great lighthouse in this small fishing village, but the gift shop has a penny machine.  We signed up for a tour that would take up the entire day there.  We were in port for 7 1/2 hours, and our tour was 7 hours long.  It was worth it, our tour guide Bill was awesome to the nth power.  Not only did this handsome silver fox wear a kilt, but he knew the history of Halifax and the surrounding areas in ways that only a native could.  He told plenty of tales from when he was a school boy there.  As we drove through the countryside, he would even point out houses and tell us about the person living there.  No one famous, just local citizens with a story.

Downtown Halifax was beautiful, old, historical, although we only saw glimpses of it through the bus window.  I would have to say, if we go again, I would want to spend that day walking around the old city.  However, on our tour we were able to take in quite a number of stops including the Citadel, the Public Gardens, shopping downtown, Peggy's Cove, Acadian Maple Products, and last but by no means least- the Titanic Graveyard (Fairview Cemetery).  It was a gloomy day, I don't think we ever saw the sun, but the cool weather was so nice I can't complain.  It made for gray pictures of the lighthouse and surrounding rocks, where we perched for a long time, hoping to see whales.

This was our 9th cruise, and the previous 8 were all Caribbean cruises.  I think James would agree with me when I say, this New England cruise is probably at the top of our list now.  Although we've already booked our 2015 cruise (Hawaii), I would love to take this same New England/Canada cruise again soon.  And I recommend it highly for someone who isn't used to cruising and wants to "try" one out.  Because we had very few miles to travel, the ship cruised along very very slowly.  No rocking.  We didn't even have to get our "sea legs" for this trip, we barely felt the ship moving.

Pulling back into New York on the last morning, we were already talking about all the plans for "the next time" we take this cruise!  I have no doubt that we will do just that.


Thursday, September 18, 2014


Is anyone still out there?  Yes I'm still alive and well, just lazy.  I promise that starting next week, I'll be back on both of my blogs on a permanent basis!  Love to you all!