Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Karen Snyder and I've been a crafter for about as long as I can remember. I am a stay-at-home-Mama of two beautiful children with a husband who makes my dreams possible.

This blog is about all sorts of crafting. I am a paper-crafter from early days, a jewelry-maker with an unending obsession for chain maille. I make chain maille purses, many of which will be chronicled in this blog as their future owners await their completion. I love metalsmithing. I am an indifferent beader and don't get me anywhere near seed beads... they scatter, screaming to get away from me. I love to try new things, have a short attention span so if its a long-term project... I'm probably not doing it LOL.

If you have questions, ask. If you have tips, share. Same with suggestions - share! I want this to be a great forum for people to brainstorm and problem-solve with a good attitude. Crabby Apples need not respond, this is a feel-good kind of blog :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

And the Christmas Winner Is....

Ready to hear who won the 1400 Fans Give-Away?  LOL -- of course you are!  I'm so pleased to announce that the winner is Kat from Kat's Kustom Kreations!  Kat, expect a message from me with details on how to claim your prizes!

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone for commenting and sharing their favorite Christmas memories.  We're already well on our way to the next milestone and, of course, there will be another give-away when we get there.

I'm wishing you all a wonderful, safe Holiday Season! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Christmas Gift? 1400 Facebook Fans!

I received a wonderful Christmas present this year - 1400 Facebook Fans!  I am so thankful for each and every fan!  This has been such an amazing year for me and my little jewelry business!  Thank you, all of you, for being a part of this journey with me and making it such a joy.

So, I bet you are wondering what the give-away entails, right?  The picture you see is of a brand new item of mine, not even available in my shops yet.  I've made a couple as Christmas gifts and have gotten such a great response that I thought this would make the perfect give-away item.  This is my new Romanov micro maille ring, made in sterling silver with a single Swarovski crystal.  The winner will get to choose the size they need as well as the color of crystal they would like.  Since it's the Holiday Season, I am also including a $10 gift credit for Auntie Goat's Favorite Soap's shop.  For those of you who don't know, this soap is one of my most favorite things (I'm having an Oprah moment, aren't I?) and I even include samples of it in my shipped packages.  

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post with your name and email address and tell me:  What was your favorite Christmas present ever?  My favorite Christmas present ever was the first unicorn I received from my parents when I was about 8 years old.  I still have it packed away with the rest of my unicorn collection, waiting for the day my kids are old enough to look and not touch.  To me, it was my parents recognizing how whimsical and fanciful I am and encouraging those things :)

The entries will stay open until Friday evening at 8 pm (US, CST), at which time I will draw a winner.  Thank you everyone for participating and helping to make my Christmas one of the merriest I've ever had!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

...And They Lived Happily Ever After!

You want to know how the fairy tale ends, don't you?  LOL!  Let's get right to it then.  The winner of the 1300 Facebook Fans earrings is comment #27 (excluding my comments) so our winner is Miss Kimm!  I have sent you an email from KSnyder169@aol.com with instructions on how to claim your prize.  Congratulations Miss Kimm and thank you for participating :)

Now for a name!  I'd like to thank every one of you who submitted a name for these earrings!  They were all wonderful!  (I'm going to ask you all for help naming pieces more often too!)  I had to choose just one though and after a lot of thought, I've decided to name these earrings "EnWraptured Maille"!  Kristen Natale will receive a pair of these earrings for the winning name submission.  Congratulations Kristen!

Thank you all so much for helping to make my business such a success and for sharing me with your friends!  May all of you receive blessings and joy this Holiday Season!

Friday, November 26, 2010

A 1300 Facebook Fans Fairytale

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a young man named Chain Maille.  He was handsome, rugged and strong.  As he strolled along one day, he spotted a beautiful young woman.  Chain Maille was anything but shy, so he sat down beside her and struck up a conversation.  Chain Maille learned that the young woman's name was Wire Wrapping and he fell immediately in love with her strength and beauty.  Chain Maille courted Wire Wrapping, taking her to places like the museum and the theatre, and they were soon engaged.  Chain Maille wanted to do something special to show his love for Wire Wrapping and asked the Royal Jeweler (hey, it's my Fairy Tale... I can be a Royal Jeweler if I want!!!) to make a pair of earrings to show Wire Wrapping how he felt about her.  These are those earrings :)

The Royal Jeweler constructed these from pure sterling silver.  She chose to wire-wrap lovely components with 26 gauge wire and a few amethyst Swarovski crystals, then suspend them from sections of Byzantine.  The Royal Jeweler is very proud of them!

If you would like to own these Fairy Tale Earrings, simply leave a comment on this post with your name and email address.  While you are here commenting, perhaps you'd like to help the Royal Jeweler name this earring design?  If the name you think up is chosen, you will win a pair of earrings too!  This drawing will be open until Sunday evening, November 28 at 8 pm, at which time a winner will be chosen.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And the 1200 Fans Prize Winner Is....

Drumroll please......  Tracey Nabis Knaus, come on down!  You are the winner of the 1200 Facebook Fans bracelet!  Please check your messages for one from me with the details on how to claim your prize.  Congratulations Tracey and thank you so much for being so supportive of my work!

To everyone else... well, you KNOW there'll be another give-away pretty soon.  I want to thank each of you for supporting and encouraging my work.  You all make every day I work on jewelry an inspired joy.  Thank you!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1200 Facebook Fans Celebration

Yes!  It's true!  1200 Facebook Fans!  I am completely blown away and humbled.  This, of course, calls for a celebration and a give-away.  Forgive the quality of this picture - yet again my limited photography skills have reared their ugly head!  I promise to take a better one soon and post it!

This bracelet is made with 18 gauge sterling silver rings in small sections of Byzantine weave, interspersed with gorgeous blue and white lampwork beads.  It's currently 8 1/2" in length, which I will customize for the lucky winner, and fastens with a sterling lobster clasp.  To enter to win, please leave a comment under this post with your name and email address.  The drawing will close Saturday, October 30th at 8pm with the winner drawn immediately after.  Good luck everyone!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to every single fan.  Your support and encouragement means so much to me!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the 1100 Fans Winner Is...

Please join me in congratulating Anita from New Zealand!  Anita, please check your email for a message from KSnyder169@aol.com for instructions on how to claim your prize.  Congratulations and thank you so much for being a part of this wonderful celebration. 

To everyone else, please keep participating!  It won't be long before we're back here to celebrate 1200 Fans and I owe every celebration to all of you.  My thanks to you all :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

1100 Facebook Fans Celebration

1100 Facebook Fans!  Wahooooooooo!  I'm so honored and thrilled to be able to write this blog entry and to say "thank you" to everyone who has helped make this possible.  You know me, I've got something fabulous to give away! 

I don't have a name for these earrings yet (and any suggestions would be welcome!) but they are the latest of my chain maille designs.  I finally found a way to combine fidget jewelry and chain maille!  The outer circle is made from 16 gauge sterling silver and rotates freely around a section of gold-filled byzantine weave.  The drops shown are sapphire Swarovski crystals and the winner can choose another color if they would like.

That's not all folks!  I'm so proud to say that this time, the winner will receive two pairs of earrings.  The second set, made from clear and red crystals, were designed by my four-year-old son Sebastian! 

As always, to enter you must leave a comment on this post with your name and email address.  The drawing will be open until Saturday evening (October 16, 2010) and I will announce the winner then. 

Thank you seems like such a small thing to say at a time like this.  I am grateful to each and every one of you for supporting and encouraging what I do!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And the 1000 Fans Winner Is...

Let me start by thanking everyone for their participation and making this give-away so much fun.  All of you make it a joy to do this!  But I know you are all wondering who won, right?

Drumroll please!  The winner of the 1000 Facebook Fans bracelet is..... Junie Milam!  Junie please check your messages for one from me telling you how to claim your prize.  Congratulations Junie! 

For everyone else, thank you again for your kindness and encouragement!  It won't be long before we're back here again for the next give-away! 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

1000 Facebook Fans? YES!

Yet again, I find myself flabbergasted and grateful.  All of you have made it possible for me to reach the incredible milestone of 1000 Fans on Facebook!  I could say "thank you" for days and it just wouldn't convey how appreciative I am to be so blessed.  I get to make pretty things for a living, watch my children grow up, take the time to revel in my husband when he's home, and enjoy people like yourselves in the course of selling my creations.  Life is indeed sweet!

So what's a grateful girl to do when something like this happens?  Why, she weaves up something pretty to give away!  1000 Fans is HUGE!  It has to be special.  So....  how about a full troy ounce of 18 gauge sterling silver, woven into delicious Byzantine chain maille?  Byzantine will always be one of my favorite weaves but it wanted a bit more drama this time.  So I added some larger 16 gauge sterling rings to break the pattern up a bit and really draw the eye.  This is a new design for my line and whoever wins this one will own the very first.  The clasp is a simple toggle that I made myself.  I hope you all like it as much as I do!  The bracelet is currently 8 1/2" in length and I will customize the fit for the lucky winner.

All you need to do is leave a comment below with your name and email address to enter to win this glorious bracelet.  Thank you, all of you, for being a part of this wonderful event!  The winner will be chosen by random drawing on Tuesday evening at 9:00 pm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

And the 900 Fans Winner is....

Another milestone passed and celebrated!  I'm so happy to announce that the winner of the 900 Facebook Fans Give-Away is Amanda from Flowerskissing!  Amanda, watch your messages for one from me telling you how to claim your prize - and congratulations!

To everyone else who helped me reach this milestone, thank you so much for all of your support!  As of the writing of this blog entry, I'm at 939 fans.... so it won't be long before we're back here to give something away for reaching 1000 fans! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

900 Facebook Fans!

900 Fans!  Who would have ever thought that I'd be back here so quickly to announce the drawing for 900 Fans?  I am so proud and thrilled to be giving away another prize - two in one week! 

This prize is a pendant and a new skill that I've been working on diligently - wire coiling and wrapping.  This free form chunk of green aventurine has been in my bead stash for a very long time.  After seeing a tutorial from my friend Amanda at Pallina Designs, I decided to give the technique a shot.  I used bright copper wire in 3 different gauges to wrap the pendant, then used more to wrap nine, 4mm tourmaline beads onto the piece to commemorate the achievment of 900 fans.  The piece includes a copper chain and pendant bracket.  All of the copper has been sealed with Renaissance wax to keep it bright and shiny!

To win, simply leave a comment with this post and include your name and email address.  Winner will be announced Sunday night, September 19 at 8 PM CST.  Thank you to everyone who has participated, shared my page and invited their friends to my page.  It is all of you who make it possible for me to do what I love :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

And the 800 Fans Winner Is....

I'm so sorry I'm late getting this posted.  The hubby is playing softball tonight and the kids have decided to wage Sibling Warfare this evening.  However, one is now down for the night and the other is pink milked and jammied up!  So without further ado...

Tonight's winner of the 800 Likes Earrings is..... Jan DeClue!  Jan I will send you a message with the details of how to claim your prize and thank you for being a part of helping me reach 800 fans.

As of the writing of this blog entry, I'm at 832 fans... so we're steadily working our way up to 900 when you know there will be another give-away.  Thank you, each and every one of you, for participating, suggesting to your friends, and being so supportive and encouraging of my work.  Hopefully we'll be back here soon to celebrate 900!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Celebrating 800 Fans on Facebook!

It seems like it was only a few days ago that I was celebrating achieving 700 fans and now I'm at 800!  Yahooo!  I can't tell you all how proud, excited and just plain honored I am to be able to type that number.  You know I'm one to celebrate with a give-away and this time is no different.  I have had this design available in my shop for a while with garnets but I've always thought I needed to re-work it with something a bit more elegant.  I was up late a few days before I actually hit 800 fans when I realized that what this earring needed was some Swarovski sparkle!  (Yes, that surprises you all I know... because it's just so rare for me to add sparkle right?  LOL!) 

This chain maille weave is called Full Persian 6-in-1, which means that each link connects to six others.  It is a dense weave and not all that flexible, so I decided to suspend the earring from a post finding with a single ring so that it would swing and dance on your ears.  Not to mention, the construction allows the faceted Swarovski drop to catch as much light as possible.  These are currently made with Jet drops, but the winner will get to choose another color (in stock) if they want.  I think the black makes these work with any outfit and wouldn't these be elegant on your ears for all the holiday parties coming up?  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your email address to be entered sometime between now (Friday evening, US time) and Monday evening at 7 PM CST.  I'll be announcing the winner at 8 PM Monday evening.  Good luck everyone and thank you for being a part of helping me reach so many wonderful fans!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Photograph

If you follow my Facebook page, then you've read me lament my lack of skill as a photographer.  I'm a hit and miss kind of gal when it comes to photographing my work and it makes me crazy.  That might be why I'm so appreciative of great photography.  One night about a month ago, I was browsing around a few new Facebook pages and came across something that literally brought me to tears.  It was this picture:

JAM Photography's image of a Mother and Child

This picture was, and still is, so powerful to me.  You see, I had a c-section with both of my babies and my memory is very fuzzy and disjointed for about the first 24 hours following each of their births.  As I looked at this image, I so wished that I'd had someone take pictures of that precious time for me.  The brilliant young woman who took this picture is Ashlie from JAM Photography.

Ashlie's gift unfolded before me as I clicked through the photographs on her page.  She has an eye for contrast that floors me.

The ring on the babies toe so perfectly illustrates how tiny and fragile are new babies.

She also has that special understanding of sexy and how to photograph a woman's sexiness without stepping over the line into crass or tawdry.

To me, this is sexy and glorious - the kind of photograph I'd want of myself to share with my husband.

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of Ashlie's work.  You can find her Facebook page here, complete with a Payvement store where you can buy her still life work as cards, prints, even dry-erase boards!  Please take a moment to stop by her page and see her beautiful work - I promise, you won't be sorry you did.  She already knows I'm a fan!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

And The Winners Are.....

Wow!  I can hardly believe that a month has passed so quickly!  I started this with 160 fans and as of the writing of this post, I am up to 737!  What an amazing birthday celebration it has been for me and I have all of you to thank.  You've made turning 41 such a joy!

So if you read the full details on my Facebook Discussion tab, you know that I have more than a few things to give away this evening.  So here are the winners.....

There was a tie for the most referrals - how cool is that?  Teshia Wilkinson and Bette Luksha-Gammell each win a pair of sterling silver Romanov earrings with their choice of crystal color!  Congratulations ladies and thank you, thank you, thank you for referring so many new fans my way :)

I said I would choose one fan who was around before the Birthday Bash began and one fan who came in the flurry of new fans.  The "before" fan winner is Carla Krantz and the new fan winner is Jennifer Burke Vogel!  They each also have won a pair of sterling Romanov earrings with their choice of crystal color.  Congratulations to you two and thank you for all of the encouraging comments you leave on my page.

If you've been keeping track, then you also know that there is a pair of amethyst fidget earrings up for winning for reaching 700 fans.  The 700 Fans winner is Cyndi Taylor Cox!  Congrats Cyndi - I hope you enjoy wearing them as much as I enjoyed finally figuring out what to do with those gorgeous amethyst beads!

Earring Entry 8/28/10

Well here it is, the last daily earring entry!  I'm having such a wonderful birthday already and I want to take a minute to thank all of you for being a part of this great event.  You've made my birthday last all month long and it has been non-stop fun for me :)  So today, I want you to leave a comment and tell me about your best birthday ever. 

My best birthday was my 35th birthday, though I honestly didn't know it until about 6 weeks later.  As it turns out, I got pregnant with my first child, our son, on my 35th birthday :)  Best birthday gift I ever received and my husband takes all the credit LOL!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Earring Entry 8/27/10

Yes, it is time for the daily earring entry again.  Just one more after this, then its back to once a month again.  I am going to miss this!  Yesterday we talked about our pet peeves, so today let's talk about things that make us smile instead of frown.  Leave a comment on this post to be entered and tell me, what traits do you look for in a friend?  I think this has changed over the years for me, and now at almost-41 what I appreciate most in a friend is honesty and a forthright attitude.  I don't want someone to tell me what I want to hear, nor do I want them to sugar-coat the truth.  I also want my friends to be able to agree to disagree.  I've learned that there will never be anyone with whom I will agree on everything, and I can accept that -- but the other person has to be able to accept that as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

700 Fans Give-Away - Let's Celebrate Some More!

I know you have been wondering what the give-away will be for reaching 700 fans, right?  Well here it is!  These earrings are a brand-new O. Sebastian design and I'm in love with them.  I've been on a "fidget" kick lately -- meaning that I've been fascinated with making jewelry with elements that spin, twirl, or otherwise give you something to fidget with while you are sitting still.  Did I mention I don't sit still very well?  I bet that doesn't surprise any of you one bit :)  These earrings are made with sterling wire, beads and findings and those focal beads at the bottom?  Those are 15mm gorgeous, dark purple amethyst drum beads that have been in my bead box for a long while, just waiting for me to do something wonderful with them.  (The beads approve of this design, by the way.)  The best part is that the drum beads spin like little wheels, so you can sit and fidget with them as you wear them.  There are also a couple of crystal AB 6mm Swarovski crystals thrown in... you know I can't resist adding a touch of sparkle.  Hope you love them too!

Wait?  What's that?  OH!  You want to know how to win them!  That's easy -- just leave a comment on this post over sometime between now (which is about 8 pm on Thursday, August 26th) and 8 pm (central standard time) on Saturday, August 28th.  That happens to be my birthday -- see how clever I am with all this celebrating?  When you post, tell me what you think of the earrings and leave me your email address so that I can contact the winner after I draw a name on Saturday.

Thank you all for being a part of helping me reach 700 fans -- I could never have done this without you :)

Earring 8/26/10

Here is your chance to enter for the day!  Just leave a comment on this post and tell me:  What is your pet peeve?  You know, that thing that annoys the heck out of you no matter who is doing it and why?  My major pet peeve is bad manners!  Please, thank-you, you're welcome... these are all such easy things to say and mean, yet everywhere I turn, people forget them.  (I would like to say, however, that my fans amaze me daily with their excellent manners!)  I am doubly-frustrated by children who lack manners altogether and often find that their parents will say, "Oh, I don't think that's important - they're kids!"  I often receive compliments on my childrens' manners and that makes me proud!  They may be 2 and 4, but they are growing up knowing that manners ARE important.  Okay, I'll get down off my soapbox now LOL.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Earring Entry 8/25/10

Here is your entry opportunity for today!  We've talked about our first crushes before, but surely our tastes have changed as we've grown older, right?  So tell me, who's your favorite celeb hottie now?  For me, it is Sam Elliott.  Let me take a moment here to fan myself!  I first saw Sam in a TV series called "The Yellow Rose," and he has only gotten better with time.  His voice, his smile, those eyes.... whew!  Everytime I hear the "Beef, it's what's for dinner" commercials with his voice, I can't help but think, "Oh that sounds good!"  LOL!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh Pretty!

Do you ever happen across something that makes your eyes widen and your creativity go through the roof?  Happens to me all the time!  There is an artist, however, who is always making things that inspire me.  I'm talking about Heather over at Blissful Garden Beads.  To be perfectly honest, I'd never really found much to like about lampwork beads.  They just didn't appeal to my creativity.  That was BEFORE I saw these:

Blissful Garden's Tulip Beads in Pink
You see, my favorite flowers are tulips and I'd certainly never seen tulip beads!  What I would find is that Heather is inspired by flowers and nature, meaning that she also makes beads like these:
Flowers from Blissful Garden in Blues

Blissful Garden Flowers and Polka Dots, Oh my!!

Needless to say, I've developed an extreme fascination for lampwork beads, all thanks to Heather.  If you've never visited her Facebook page, you can find it here.  You can find her beads for sale at her ArtFire studio here.  When you stop by, tell her that I sent you over to admire her garden.  She'll be surprised - she doesn't even know I'm writing this feature about her work :)

Earring Entry 8/24/10

Just four more days of entries left -- I think I'm going to be a little let-down when I go back to just one drawing a month after this!  As always, leave a comment on this post answering this question:  What do you like to do on a rainy day?  It's actually rainy here in Dallas today (gosh do we need it!) and the kids and I are going to go splash and play.  That is definitely my favorite thing to do on a rainy day :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Make Simple Jewelry Cards

I just put together a tutorial for making these simple jewelry cards.  They could also be used for hair clips and probably a multitude of other things that I've never thought of.  Would you like to try out the tutorial and give me an opinion?  This is the first tutorial I've written in a very long time, so I'm sure it needs some tweeking.  I have it all ready to go in a PDF file, so if you'd like a copy, please leave me an email address in comments below and I'll send it over.  I look forward to your feedback and thanks everyone :)

Earring Entry 8/23/10

Today's chance to enter is here!  Leave a comment on this post answering the following:  Let's assume you've won the lottery!  After you've done all of the responsible things like pay bills, take care of everyone's future, etc., what is the one self-indulgent thing you would do just for yourself?  I would go to every single artist whose work I love and commission a piece from them.  I can't think of anything that would be more self-indulgent than that :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

And Tonight's Winner Is....

So I reached into the fishbowl of entries and what name did I pull?  Jennifer Micallef Allen!  Jennifer has won a pair of sterling Romanov earrings -- I'll be notifying her right away to let her know how to claim her prize.  For everyone else, there will be at least one more drawing before my birthday on the 28th, so keep looking for the daily entry questions!  Thank you everyone for participating :)

Earring Entry 8/22/10

Yes, here is today's chance to enter to win a pair of Romanov earrings.  Guess what?  I'll be doing a drawing tonight!  Yay!  Today, I want you to leave a comment and tell me your beauty secret!  What do you do to keep yourself looking and feeling beautiful? 

My secret comes complete with a recipe - aren't you excited?  Jewelry making (and house work and being a Mommy....) is hard on the skin, especially my hands.  I'm always fighting rough, dry skin on my hands, elbows and feet.  This recipe is something I've made for years for myself and is something you can do in your kitchen with just a few supplies.  I use this salve for everything -- it was the diaper ointment I used on my kids and daily applications while I was pregnant kept me from getting even a single stretch mark!

Super Salve  (makes approximately 4 ounces of salve)
1 teaspoon anhydrous lanolin (my local CVS carries this, if you have trouble finding it, there are plenty of sources for it online)
1/2 ounce sweet almond oil
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1/4 ounce beeswax (I find it at Michael's and Hobby Lobby in the soap making aisle)
6 drops of your favorite soap-safe aroma oil if you would like (can be omitted)

Combine everything but the aroma oil in a pyrex measuring cup with a pour spout.  Place the pyrex cup in a pan of water on the stove over low heat until the wax is nearly melted.  At that point, remove the cup from the water bath and stir it with a clean utensil (popsicle stick or a spoon) until thoroughly mixed.  Add your aroma oil (if you are going to) and stir again.  Pour into a clean jar (I use some I found at WalMart in the aisle with all the travel-size toiletries), scraping the sides of the pyrex cup to make sure you get it all into your jar.  Allow it to cool completely before capping and store it at room temperature.  Make sure you only dip clean fingers into it when using to prolong the shelf-life.

After a shower, I apply this liberally to my dry hands, elbows and feet.  I then put a pair of clean socks on and sleep in them and wake up to nice soft feet!  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Earring Entry 8/21/10

Sterling Romanov earrings with Light Colorado Topaz crystals
Here's your chance to enter for today!  Just comment on this post and answer this question:  Who is your personal hero?  Mine is my Mama.  She is a polio survivor confined to a wheelchair, but she doesn't see that as any kind of a handicap.  She is a 911 dispatcher, wife for nearly 50 years, mother of 4, grandmother of 6, a hugely talented artist who paints and draws and someone who never focuses on the negatives in life.  When I grow up, I want to be my Mama :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Kindness of (Facebook) Strangers

Bette's amazing wire work framing a heron cameo
Tonight, I'd like to introduce you to Bette from GemsCrystalsAndWire.  This post is going to come as a surprise to Bette -- I didn't tell her I was going to do it.  She'd have said thank you and then probably would have suggested someone else who would be a "better" candidate.  Ergo, I didn't ask

Bette creates the kind of jewelry that screams "Artist" so loud it echoes.  She's not had the easiest life, but that's not my story to tell.  My story is about a lady who reached out to a Facebook newbie, namely me, and helped me learn my way around.  She's been an unfaltering source of information, hints, tips and encouragement.  She has shared my work with so many others and brought fans to my page by the droves.  You'll see almost daily shout-outs from Bette about other artists who need more fans and whose work deserves more attention than it is getting.  I appreciate Bette on so many levels, but first and foremost, I appreciate her kindness and decency to me, a total Facebook stranger.  If you aren't already a fan, go check out her Facebook fan page here and you can see her beautiful work on ArtFire here.  Tell her Karen sent you over with a great big basket full of love and admiration :)

Earring Entry 8/20/10

Romanov Earrings in sterling silver with blue crystals.
Good morning and Happy Friday everyone!  Yes here's your daily question and chance to enter.  Just leave a comment on this post and answer this question:  When you were a kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say?  From the time I was about 6, my answer was, "A Marine Biologist."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Enter to Win a Pair of Romanov Earrings

Okay Facebook, I'm following your rules! LOL! From now on, the entries for my contests will be posted here on my blog. As always, all you have to do is leave a comment to be entered to win. Today's Question is: What is your least favorite article of clothing? I DETEST bras! I never leave the house without one because... well, because my Mama made sure she drilled that one into me, never mind that it would be a huge act of indecency for me to walk about with the girls untamed. But the minute I'm in the house, off it comes!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How I Got My Awe Inspired

It all started by accident. I saw a post on another Facebook page about a contest run by Passion for Beads. I thought, "Well why not go check it out and enter something in the contest?" I did, and thus began the tale of How I Got My Awe Inspired. Bead weaving. Plainly put, I can't do it. Oh I've tried. I've sat down with all the materials, a good set of instructions and my best intentions and what did I get? Knots. And frustration. I can weave chain maille but I cannot weave beads. Sally, or Ms. Passion as I fondly call her, CAN weave beads and she does things with Swarovski crystals and pearls that simply astound me. If you have never seen her work, you can find her on Facebook here and on ArtFire here. Tell her that Karen sent you over and for heaven's sake, enter one of your items in her contest! She does a wonderful job of promoting it and the winner's prize is a week's advertising on her blog. The best thing to know about Ms. Passion is that she is a wonderfully nice lady who does much to support the Handmade Community. You'll love her :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Good-Natured Rant About Handmade

I grew up in a family of crafty people. One grandmother could take thread and make lace so pretty that it made your heart squeeze. The other grandmother wrote beautiful poems and hand-wrote them down into books that people lined up to receive. My grandfather could take wood and a few tools and turn them into absolutely anything. Daddy is a craftsman on so many levels that I don't even know where to start -- wood, gun-smithing, hand-tying flies for fishing, the list goes on and on. Mama can draw, paint, sew, write and when it comes to wrapping gifts... well, let's just say that you would be astounded at what can be done with wrapping paper and ribbon. As a kid, it rarely occurred to me to "just go buy" something -- I was much more inclined to reason out how to make whatever it was that I wanted.
I have a huge appreciation for hand-made items and it is the foundation of my business. I stay home to care for our two children and I stay up late making jewelry and paper crafts to sell. Over the last year I have noticed that the price of my materials has gone up dramatically, while the prices that the market will bear for me to charge for the finished items has dwindled. I am blessed with a wonderful clientele who purchase from me regularly and are willing to pay what my time and materials are worth. What troubles me is how difficult it has become to attract new clients. There are plenty of people out there who appreciate hand-made items, but simply don't have the budget for extra purchases. I know that the state of our economy has much to do with it, but there are other factors too.
The biggest issue I have lately is the cost of raw materials. We all know that the prices for silver and gold have sky-rocketed, which has pushed me to work with copper lately. That's not a bad thing since I find that I enjoy copper's properties and I am pleased with what I have been able to create. There are so many talented lamp work bead artists out there whose work inspires me on every level. A prime example is Blissful Garden Beads, which you can find at http://www.artfire.com/users/blissfulgardenbeads. (If you've never seen her work, then definitely give it a look. I warn you though -- you'll be seized by the overwhelming urge to buy 'em all!) I wish that my business budget could afford to purchase her lovely work, but its just not feasible. Her costs for raw materials have gone up, just like everyone else, and her prices are very fair and reasonable for the finished product, but still out of my budget. I hear the same thing from just about every artisan I know and we all look forward to the day when we can afford to create based on inspiration rather than what our budget will allow.
My point to this post is simply this: support your local artisans! We are all putting love and good energy into our work and turning out things that you will never find in a store. Remember that we are as affected by the economy as everyone else, but we continue to create what we can within our own budgets. While the chain stores and manufacturers are raising their prices, most artisans are lowering theirs to try to keep their business alive in hopes that it can thrive again one day. Most importantly, if you see something that intrigues you but perhaps you'd like a different color -- tell the artisan! Most of us are willing to work with clients, both new and established, to create exactly what they are looking to purchase. Please help us keep the world of handmade alive!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How It All Began. Purses, that is...

It all began with a client named Robin. She found my jewelry early on through my website and purchased a few things from me. Due to health and pregnancy issues, I spent a long time not working very hard on my online business. When I was ready to come back at it full-steam again, I emailed Robin and was thrilled to find that she remembered my jewelry. Then she reminded me of something I'd started working on years earlier -- a request of Robin's for a chain maille purse.
An evening bag really, nothing huge. Unlike the jewelry I created, which is mostly sterling silver, this purse was made of bright aluminum rings. Woven of European 4-in-1, in 18 gauge rings that are my Size 3's. Frankly, it is about as tight a weave as you can go with Euro 4-in-1. I pulled that old project out and looked at it. In the box was about 3" of the body of the purse already woven, as well as several pictures I'd drawn (badly) of the basic idea. I was instantly inspired to pick it up and work on it, so I did.
Robin and I email often back and forth -- she's a great lady with a fabulous personality. I often laugh while reading her emails. We emailed back and forth diligently as I hunted down the rest of the wire I would need, coiled and cut it, then began weaving again. In the next two weeks, I would learn to make brackets out of brass wire to hang the sheet from my lamp. I would learn to spend an entire night coiling, then cutting rings rather than doing it in small batches. I would learn to sit for two hours straight, doing nothing but opening rings. I would learn that a chain maille purse, even one woven in aluminum rings, is HEAVY! I blew through two belts on my tumbler before realizing I needed a larger capacity model.
The more I wove, the happier I became. The purse was just beautiful. Once I'd finished the main body of the purse, the sheet went into the tumbler. I hunted down more wire, coiled and cut it into rings for the strap, which is 38" of double rope in my size 9 rings. Once that was finished, the strap had to tumble for a day or two before I put the whole thing together. Figuring out how to join the sides and strap together was a learning experience, to say the least.
Then it was done and I could lay it on the table and look at it. No, I'd definitely never seen anything like it before. I was so proud that I'd made it with my own two hands out of nothing but bright aluminum wire.
The funny thing is that during the process, I posted progress pictures of the purse online on my Facebook page. Almost immediately, I was getting emails and messages asking how to get "one of those purses." It had never even occurred to me that I would make more than one purse, but the orders started to happen and I wasn't even finished with the first! Chain maille purses, who knew?
Robin loves her purse. My husband says that if she ever gets in trouble while wearing the purse, she will only need to swing it by the strap to knock someone out cold. (Did I mention it's heavy?) Nothing makes me happier than knowing that Robin will forever be the owner of Maille Bag #001. Her one little request has changed my business, in a wonderful way, forever. Thank you Robin, for everything!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Japanese 12-in-2 purse continues...

This purse is turning into something even more amazing than I had imagined. The more I do, the more excited I become to see the finished item. I've added some of the crystals to the bag, which don't show up all that great in the picture but it gives you an idea of how they will look.

Attaching the crystals was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated! My first thought was to put them on a link and weave them in... the pattern is too tight to allow for that. My next thought was to remove one of the larger links and replace it with a smaller-diameter wire link in the same size -- thinking that would accomodate the crystals. Didn't work. My third thought, the one that finally worked, was wiring the crystals onto the links they inhabit! I am very pleased with how that works and when I get the body of the purse finished, I plan to do some close-ups of how that wiring-on process actually works in case someone else out there ever wants to try it. I think the look is well worth the effort.

At this point in the game, the body of the purse is 8" wide and about 6" long. I have about another 4 inches to weave before I begin the flap closure of the purse. Then I'll have to weave the circular end caps for the bag, attach them and put the whole thing into the tumbler for days while I'm making the lining.

Hope everyone had a great Monday and that your week is full of blessings!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Japanese 12-in-2 Purse, A Beginning

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hello everyone, welcome to Blog Day #1! I find myself in the midst of another chain maille purse at the moment and I'm so thrilled with how it is coming out! I've added some pictures here of the beginning. The pattern is Japanese 12-in-2. (I started out doing Japanese 12-in-1, but the weave needed further stabilization so 12-in-2 it became!) That's the nature of chain maille though -- you often start out with one thing in mind and find that you need to make an adaptation of some sort. Chain maille is very flexible that way and that's likely one of the reasons I've fallen in love with the art form.
The purse will eventually be 8" wide and since it is a cylindrical shape, will be somewhere around 5 - 6" deep. This one doesn't have a strap and the front flap will be edged in the Stepping Stones pattern. I will add pictures of that once I get there. There will also be Swarovski crystals (4mm faceted rounds) sprinkled throughout the bag. I am really excited to show off how that looks, but I've got to get more of the purse woven first. This bag will also be fully lined, and I'll show some of those techniques on this blog when I get to that point.

When all is said and done, this purse will be somewhere around 8,000 rings of work (I hand coil and cut every ring I use). Not the most rings I've done in a purse, but plenty! I get such pleasure from making these bags, which is somewhat surprising considering that I don't usually like a long project. The purses usually take between 35 - 40 hours to complete, and that IS a long-term project in my book... but it doesn't feel like it when I'm weaving one up. I guess that means I found one of the things, aside from my children, that's worth my patience :)