Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Tutorial on How to Make a Quick and Cheap Cardboard Lightbox for Macro Photography

Let me start by saying I am not a photography expert and I didn’t invent cardboard lightboxes. I had started to take photos of my jewelry and was frustrated by the quality. A dear crafty friend told me I needed to make a lightbox.

I did a Google search for PVC lightbox and decided I didn’t want to put that much work into it. Clicking around while looking at various DIY lightboxes, I found this blog post:

I recommend reading the post because it has a lot of great information about light sources but to me it was more than I wanted to get into, as you’ll see below.

One thing that the Strobist’s blog didn’t give me was enough step-by-step photographic detail on how to cut my box etc. That I did by a bit of trial and error as well as carefully studying their final shot.

Click here to continue to tutorial (PDF)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Take me everywhere!

I'm not exactly sure where I got this idea but I know the idea of a promotional keychain isn't anything new. However, I just received all these lovely Moo mini cards and the thought of making them into keychains with one of the beads that I use for the grapes earrings seemed rather inspired.

I'm going to send them out (or give them to folks who I see often) in May after Mother's Day with a discount that they can use on any purchase during that month. Will keep you updated on how it goes and any feedback I get on these keychains.

Random experiment in juicy colors.

I found some great dyed shell beads in a variety of colors and shapes and immediately thought "juicy" when I saw the orange variety. I've never been a fan of orange (despite my love of it's juice and candy slices) but the green "leaf" shapes caught my eye too and decided to dance together.

They even kept wiggling when I tried to take photos!

I also found some great petite teardrop shaped freshwater pearls but I'm waiting on some finer gauge headpins before I start on that project. Won't be long though and then will have some new grapes variations that will be 100% handmade and with sterling silver!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

3 Simple Customer Service Rules

Over the past decade in roles from retail to consulting in industries as varied as baking to web design, I’ve experienced a range of customer service. I’ve heard a lot about it too but mostly from executive types who loved charts and graphs. I’m sure there were nuggets of wisdom in their countless slides but the folks who deal with people every day will tell you they have a few simple rules to keep their customers happy.

  1. Keep your customers informed. Whether this is an e-mail letting them know you’ve received their order or a verbal acknowledgment to someone in your shop, “I’ll be with you right away,” you can stave off so many difficult situations if you just keep the lines of communication open.

    Why wait until something is a problem when you can get your customers involved early and work out a solution quickly? For example, I recently ordered a custom item from an online retailer. We e-mailed back and forth over all the details and I was assured it would be shipping out the next couple of days but after that initial flurry of information, nothing. I sent them a message to find out what had happened and got a quick, “sorry for the delay, I had some difficulties getting everything together.”

    How simple it would have been to send that message two weeks ago instead of inspiring me to write an article about good customer service. Even at the beginning of the relationship with your customer, make sure you have enough information about your products or services that they can get the basics before coming to you for help. How you frame that information i.e. marketing and promotions is part of it...

  2. Be consistent with your message. This includes your branding, your packaging, your pricing across shops – anything that is your product identity needs to face the same way. The next time you are at a cold beverage display, pay attention and if some of the bottles are facing with the label off-center; see if it makes you skip that bottle or give the impression the store is messy. It’s subtle but important.

    When I first created the look for Seedlings: Jewelry Because, I had so many people ask me if it was a brand I was reselling because everything was so coordinated. Everything from the little cards to hold earrings to the colors of the links on my blog were in essence facing forward in the display.

    In the latest A List Apart, Stephen Anderson has a great article about the importance of aesthetics in design, how it conveys confidence in your product. I feel this carries over into everything that is part of the message I’m trying to convey with my jewelry and they are easy things to do. Even if you aren’t a pro with graphics or printed materials, make some friends who are and do a trade!

    Beyond creating an experience for your customers, being consistent solves potential problems with your shipping policies or pricing between online shops. If you do market differently depending on the shop, see rule number one and state up front why there is a difference (i.e. these are my fashion earrings versus the ones made entirely from rubies and butterfly kisses.)

    As you reach out to your customers in various ways with consistency they will look forward to your updates, to your new creations, to weekly blog posts, to tutorials and contests. They will be ready to reach for a second bottle from your forward facing display and share it with others...

  3. Follow-up or “make new friends but keep the old.” If you are keeping everyone informed and being consistent with your message, you will have repeat customers. These folks appreciate you and your product and are now fans. How fantastic do you feel when someone remembers your name or sends you a note thanking you, puts a little something extra in your package or even just a coupon for a friend?

    From a communication view, a quick e-mail a month after a sale asking if they are still happy can be an opportunity to turn them into a permanent fan with recruits. One popular feature for my recent customers has been to get Spotted in their Seedlings. I ask people to take photos with their new jewelry so I can feature them on my website and Facebook fan page. Another easy follow-up would be to give your previous customers a special discount on new items.

Customer service can mean many things to many people. To me, it’s about consistent communication on all levels of your relationship with your customers. With handmade items, you really are putting yourself into everything you do – why not make the entire experience a true representation of the best of yourself?

I challenge you all to examine one aspect of your current customer service and find an area where you want to make some changes. Use the upcoming month to create a plan to move the business side of your creations forward. I’d love to hear about your ideas and if you feel the same way (or not) about customer service!

What's new?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rejuvenating weekend.

I was fairly focused on only accomplishing a few things this weekend but everything I was able to do I feel good about. It was a nice change of pace from either feeling very manic or just plain down. I spent a few hours on a copper wire project on Saturday night that I didn't finish but am not giving up on, it just involved a lot of bending and hammering so my wrists and hands needed a break today. I want it to be 100% handmade so I did all the jump rings etc. so it's taking a bit. Right now it's a mess...from that mess will come order! Well, enough to enjoy it.

I also joined the Etsy North Georgia Street Team and I'm excited about being more involved with crafty folks in my area.

As far as successful weekend projects go, I whipped up three pairs of earrings that turned out so well I put them up on my shop. I also made myself a pair of the Water Gears ones with smooth washers and a non-matte glass bead.

All earrings in the shop are buy two pairs, get one free!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Law of equivalent exchange.

So I'm no alchemist but as I upgrade my wire and take the plunge into making my own findings (I love that I'm starting to make pieces where I can say I made everything) I find that I have more questions sometimes than I can find answers for. At every step along the way I have found people willing to share their knowledge and not only does that make me happy it makes me want to do the same in return except I know I'm not there yet.

An extraordinarily wonderful co-worker gifted me this week through a little deceit. She had overheard me talking with my main cohort in craftiness, Katey, about the latest catalog from Fire Mountain Gems. So co-worker "J" sends me an e-mail telling me she has a cousin who is starting to get into jewelry and what online shops would I recommend. Me, getting all chatty, goes on for like 3 e-mails about my favorite places, etc. so later that day I get an e-mail letting me know despite her best efforts, those particular shops don't make gift certificates easy but here's a gift to your PayPal account!

I did a happy dance! The story about the cousin was a complete fabrication but what a nifty way to say thank you. I immediately wanted to make her something very unique but I have noticed she is nary a jewelry wearing person so I offered to make something for her mother knowing that her mom is recovering from surgery and Mother's Day is coming up. Again, co-worker "J" demured but I had something up my sleeve...peonies.

My grandmother on my father's side died last year of a sudden heart attack. She was always an inspiration to me in all things botanical. I always loved going to gardens with her because she knew all the plants, knew what made them special, what would make them grow. She was also a beekeeper at times and had a shock of white hair she always kept tucked behind her ears. Some of my favorite memories of visiting her farm (in Missouri) are of the peonies she always had.

I love those flowers, especially the double peonies. Such big flowers and bright colors and there would usually be a big black ant crawling around enjoying them just as much as I did.

So when my mom called me and asked me if I wanted some peonies of course I said yes. I had heard they were a bit difficult to get them to thrive in the south (north of Atlanta) but it was possible. Co-worker "J" is very into gardening and I knew this so I knew giving her one of the peonies would be perfect and hooray, she couldn't resist!

The other thing I did was do my research on metals and decided I wanted argentium wire. I used her gift to buy some from after looking around at several places on pricing. Thank you to all the crafty folks out there who have posted their knowledge online about various wires and what has worked best for them.

The flower in the photo is not a peony but is a photo I took on a recent hike through Cloudland Canyon State Park in northern Georgia. I saw so many tiny flowers and knew my grandma was there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stitchy McStitchelton.

So my knitting peeps who do the super tiny knitting (socks amaze me) have put the word in my ear to do some stitch markers. I did knitting way back in the day (think 4-H in high school but still, I think I had something go to the MO state fair!) and more recently crochet but I never follow patterns and just sort of do what feels/looks right so this whole counting stitches thing is akin to flip-flips to my genteel feet...just never happened.

I did some of that there webbernet research, saw about a billionty different ways to make them, got some inspiration and then spent a couple hours jamming various bits of wire into various bits of beads. In the end, I learned a few things:

  1. Stitch markers are fun to make! They remind me of tiny graphics on websites that really pull you in.
  2. I need some size-mo-trons as I was just guessing really. The very tiny ones have a 6mm jump ring but the wire ones I just cut even lengths to work with and sized them on a smooth pencil.

I'm going to take the two sets I made into work on Friday to distribute for testing. I believe these stitch markers to be snag free! We'll see eh...

Big photos on Flickr!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

And I'm not even a water person!

Ever since the Paradiso family started our annual trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, I've realized that some part of me loves a certain kind of beach. I'm not a fan of the heat-baked white sands of say Florida, but the moody tides of the Eastern coasts (and mind you, I go once a year so allow me my romanticism) are wonderful.

So I've been hoarding bits of shells for awhile now (some cowrie shells since 1995 I brought back from Ghana) not really sure what to do with them. I think with shells too it's hard to do something neat and tidy, sort of against their nature at least how they ended up. I started making the wrapped loop charms last night and came up with a first version of the hemp part but didn't care for that so took it all part tonight (not the charms, ye gads, that took me long enough).

The idea to wrap the hemp in wire was a whim (I wanted something to contain the strands mostly) but once it stretched out I realized it looked and acted like the edge of a spiral-bound notebook and that appealed to me immediately. Mind you, this thing is nice and long, just shy of 30 inches so all those shells are front and center. It could definitely be shortened though and would make a very neat choker I think as well.

So I posted photos on flickr and have posted this necklace in the Etsy shop too. Now it's time to do all the things I promised myself I would do instead of what washed up in my head...

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Grapes in green and dark blue are featured in an Etsy treasury!

This is the second pair of the Grapes earrings to be featured in an Etsy treasury in about a week. The last one featured the amber color ones, this one features the green/dark blue ones. Such a lovely treasury too, please check it out while it's up (through April 23)!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday for me.

I go through varying phases of ups and downs, high energy and sluggishness, and sometimes mania and depression. I've learned to cope with all the phases mostly but definitely enjoy the times of high energy as opposed to days like today when I just feel like a lump.

I decided to make myself a pair of earrings in a style I'd done last weekend but much smaller since I'm not a huge hoop person. The green beads at the bottom are aventurine. I really like the subtle variations in the stone. I think they turned out rather nicely and Susan (my mother-in-law) asked for a pair so I'll enjoy making those as well. I want to try a super small pair later this week I think with some bright yellow round shell beads I found.

Going to start on a necklace project but I'm not sure how far I'll get tonight. My energy level is definitely low.

Exposure blitz!

So I'm working on getting the Seedlings name out there in a number of different ways including posting new photos on Flickr and giving Twitter a go.

If you'd like to keep up with our Twitter feed it is at and the Flickr photostream is at

I do post quite a few photos on Facebook too, to the fan page which all are welcome to join, but I know Facebook doesn't appeal to everyone.

I have been slow to adopt to some of these sites, Twitter especially, but Facebook has been great for being able to stay in touch with people so we'll see with these other tools.

The next couple of weeks I'm going to concentrate on a mixture of getting all my existing pieces updated with the new Moo cards ( mini cards are so neat) and working on some new pieces that have been rumbling around in my head.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tonight's project: crochet and pearls!

In the latest Bead Style magazine there is a how-to on making a simple necklace with wrapped-loop pearls and lucite flowers but I'm not a huge fan of lucite preferring to stick with natural materials when possible. For some reason my mind jumped to yarn and I asked my friend Katey if she had any yellow yarn I could work with.

She returned a bountiful bag full of wonderful bits I'm going to have much fun with, I can tell already. I decided to work with one of the purplely hued ones partially for the color and somewhat for the texture. It felt like it had a bit of wool in it and Katey confirmed that earlier in the evening.

The fringe is really what sets this necklace apart I think. I've found with a lot of my ideas, the execution is simple but what really draws me in and makes me spend upwards to an hour pulling each tiny skein apart is that simple plus simple multiplied by simple sometimes makes fantastic.

I think that's why I like repeating patterns so much. They aren't usually very complex but when you start layering them you see larger patterns emerge within the structure and you are never quite sure if you are going to see a glimpse into the inner workings of the universe.

The other thing that really appeals to me about this necklace is that it really reminds me of all the cosmos we had in our garden growing up. When I had my first house, I even went out of my way to plant a big row of cosmos against the side of the house one year. It is a simple flower but because it overwhelms with the sheer number that spring up, it becomes fantastic in the simplicity.

This necklace was fairly labor intensive but I love the result. I'm going to experiment with other yarns and textures but meanwhile this one is now on sale in the Etsy shop.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Little sleep but having fun!

So this last week I finished up the last batch of wire swirls for the grand vision of Swirlmaille and I have to say I'm very happy with the result. I do consider this version 1.0 though and have several ideas for improvement in the next round. I am itching to work with actual sterling silver and fine silver among other things and plan on getting that going very shortly.

I'm waiting for a few new supplies to come in from folks I found on Etsy including a chainmaille kit for hubby!

I started a flickr account to help keep my photos organized and to get them out into the world a bit more, and I also post these photos to the Facebook page but apparently not everybody is on Facebook (haha)!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mother's Day Gift Sets now available

Please visit our Etsy shop for more details about this incredible offer but here's the rundown:
- available in four styles (The Grapes, Crazy Moon, The Leaves, and Spring Blossom)
- gift set includes earrings and a coordinating pendant with 17-inch silverplated snake chain
- a pair of The Grapes earrings for you!
- FREE shipping in the U.S.
- FREE ribboned gift box

All for US$30...and it's handmade and your mom will love you!

Click here to visit the Etsy shop for more details.

Also, the first monthly e-mail newsletter went out tonight so send us e-mail at if you'd like to be added to the list.

Friday, April 3, 2009

We've got our own Team Heifer!

Heifer International has started a very cool project where teams or individuals can have their own page called Team Heifer. I will be using this to make the donations for when we hit goals through proceeds from the jewelry and accessories that you buy.

With that, I'm super excited to announce that we were able to donate another $60 to Heifer. That makes a total of $120 to date. I'd like to go for the whole cow, so to speak, and also literally for this next goal. That means $500 total but the way things have been going, that's completely doable by the end of the year, if not sooner.

Click here to visit the Seedlings: Jewelry Because Team Heifer page!

Seedlings now on!

If you've never been to Etsy, go now. Stop reading and gooooo. It will lure you in with handmade jollies dancing across the screen.

So of course we had to add Seedlings to this - click here to view Seedlings: Jewelry Because shop on Etsy.

As always, items are available from but Etsy gives us a window into the rest of the world and a place to post unique items.