Artistic Block – Annette Piper

17 02 2009

Artistic block – have you ever had it? That awful feeling when you look at your bench or at your drawing board or at a blank canvas or at your sewing basket and go completely and utterly blank? When, if you force yourself, it just turns out wrong?

I was starting to get like that at the end of last year – I was tired out from shows almost every week, from filling orders, from creating when the well was almost dry. Sitting at my bench had become a habit, but one I really wasn’t enjoying. I knew I needed a break.

I have younger children and Christmas is a family time, as well as our summer holidays. So I just stopped. I switched off and tried not to think about work – tried not to think of shows I should/ could do, what I may need in stock, what supplies I had stockpiled, what new supplies I may need… Of course I didn’t always succeed, but by the middle of January (about a month into my ‘holiday’) I was a bit shocked when clients started popping in to look at jewellery or to get something made!

I thought about getting back to work when the children returned to school from their summer vacation at the end of January. After all, I had to prepare the winter collection. But it was so hot, I was still so tired and although I sat at my bench and moved some stones around – well, it just didn’t happen. I got up and left it.

I admit I became somewhat discouraged and the thought that ‘maybe I’ve lost my creativity’ did fleetingly go through my mind. But I decided to put that negative thought away and let it happen when I was ready.

Sure enough a creative burst was just around the corner … well a couple of weeks away, but not long in the course of a year!

I sat down and made a bracelet. Yes, I liked that. But nothing more came for a few days. This was obviously just a creative ‘warm up’.

Next, I did a necklace – it was rather challenging and took me a whole day to get just ‘right’. Then I finished off a necklace that had been sitting there for months – just needing an extra pair of hands to help me finish it off.

A week passed, then I decided to start pulling apart all those pieces that for some reason I had set aside – they either weren’t right or I had grown bored with them before I’d even finished with them. There were quite a lot from the last few years. (Yes, I also procrastinate!)

I deconstructed the first piece, I added some extra bits, I took others away, I fiddled and fussed and before I knew it, I was deeply engrossed in CREATING.

Yay, it’s back! I’m now in full creative mode and loving my work again!

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

A bright creation in lime, black and silver

To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at


Business 101 – Annette Piper

20 12 2008

I am lucky to be in a situation where I sell my creations – this validates my reason for making substantial amounts of jewellery and enables me to continue to purchase vast quantities of gemstones!  


But a lot of people don’t sell what they make – sometimes this is because they choose not to, sometimes it is because they don’t know how.


Here are some of my pointers to selling your wares should you want to sell but not know where to start.


* Ensure you practice until your wares are as good as they can possibly be. Don’t even attempt to sell goods of questionable quality and workmanship as this may harm your reputation down the track.


* Create a ‘look’ that fits your style.   This look will be utilized in such things as business cards, packaging and advertising.   Think about your target market and what they react favourably to in advertising.   Research first to avoid costly mistakes – you don’t want to pay for business cards and then change your mind a month down the track and find they no longer suit you! 


* Price your items fairly. A good guide is to charge what YOU would be prepared to pay as a member of the general public.   Once again, do your research – you don’t want to be either too high or too low compared to your competitors in the marketplace.  Make sure you add all your costs together when pricing an item –  don’t guess in the early stages.  You will often be surprised how quickly small amounts add up.


* Seek out local shows and events in your area and see which attracts your target market.  Attend these shows as a visitor first if you can to gauge the clientele and the other booths/stalls.   If you think it is a good fit, then start to apply for them (some shows have extensive waiting lists).   A lot of quality shows will be juried, so be prepared with examples of your work.


* When you make it to a show, think about your set up.  Do a trial run at home of your display to make sure it works and looks attractive.  You may not have time to tweak your display at a show!    Make a list of things you will need and tick these off when packing.   Make sure you turn up to the show in good time to set up before the doors open.   Greet everyone with a smile.   Don’t pack up until the doors have shut or the last customer has departed – open booths will benefit from last minute sales.  Sit down a couple of days after the show and think about what went well and what could have been done better and make notes to refer to next time.


* Think about alternate ways of selling your wares – eg. home shows, trunk shows in local businesses, through art and craft outlets, on consignment, online through sites such as etsy or your own website.


* Network with other business owners, artisans and artists.


* Enjoy what you are doing!   If you lose your passion it may be time for a rethink.


Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper

Amethyst and sterling silver ring by Annette Piper



To read more from Annette, visit her blog at and view her jewellery at

Art or Craft? – Annette Piper

19 10 2008

It’s a frequently asked question … “Is what I do art or is craft?”      


While what I do is attractive and takes skill and a lot of it is one of a kind, it isn’t rocket science either and given passion and practice someone else could probably do similar work.  


Therefore I am more likely to refer to myself as a designer and sometimes an artisan, rather than an artist.


I DO have some pieces in an art gallery and when I queried the appropriateness of my pieces in a gallery (yes, I know, keep quiet Annette!) the owner of the gallery told me that he could see my art in the way I put things together and even in my colour combinations.


On the other hand, I don’t believe my work is craft either – although I wouldn’t be upset to be referred to as a craftsman (woman!) as, to me,  that denotes a dedication to your ‘craft’ and a refinement of techniques.  


The perception of craft by the wider population tends to be someone who dabbles in making something that is not that difficult, although I am sure some ‘crafts’ are far, far harder than we imagine!


What IS important is that we follow our passions and that need to create – whether we call it art … or craft.


Amethyst and silver cocktail ring

Amethyst and silver cocktail ring


To read more about my creations and get to know me better, pop into my blog at  and see my jewellery at


Thats a Weird Place to Start the Journey – Deanna Chase

24 07 2008

Confession time: I am a bead maker who doesn’t really care all that much about beads or jewelry. Have I shocked you? I know, it’s a horrible thing to say. Did she just say she doesn’t care about beads? Yes, I said it and worse, I wrote it down. Let me first clarify, I have a great respect and admiration for all the wonderful bead and jewelry artists out there. I am constantly amazed at what each of them continues to create and send out into the world, making people smile and giving us such gorgeous eye candy.

The thing is, I just have never had much of an eye for fashion. I am simple in that regard. Dressing up for me these days means clean jeans and a black t-shirt. Seriously. Okay, I have a few skirts, that might count, but I still wear t-shirts with them, though I do refrain from wearing my tevas with the skirts. I just can’t go that far. I almost always forget to put my jewelry on when I leave the house. Just because I said I don’t care all that much about it, doesn’t mean I don’t have some. The stuff I have is treasured as well, but not because I have a great love of jewelry. It is because it was either made by or included beads made by some of my very favorite people. It makes me feel happy to wear it. I also have a few pieces of my own work, made into simple necklaces. The very few I have are special pieces I made and have loved so much, I didn’t want to give them up.

So you might be wondering how it is a person who just isn’t all that into beads, ended up making them for a living. Most women I know who are bead makers came at this craft from the jewelry end of the journey. I have heard over and over again from people who say they just loved beads and making jewelry. Then they found glass lampwork beads and were hooked. The journey for them started there. Certainly that isn’t true for everyone, but it is a common story.

My journey actually starts with my husband. He saw a lampworker selling her wears at a local art show back in early 2000. Two days later he ordered a torch and a starter supply pack and was up and running within a few weeks. He really wanted to learn to make contemporary marbles, but found starting with beads was easier. Even at that point, I still wasn’t all that into beads. Greg was making sculptural stuff and little mini figurines, all fun stuff, but not anything I ever thought I could do or even wanted to do. A few years later when we started meeting up with other bead makers, I got to see in person some of those gorgeous little works of art, full of dichroic glass and flowers. Finally I was interested. How do they do that? I asked myself that question more than once.

Then I had a few lessons, first from Greg, then Anne Scherm Baldwin, then Kaye Husko. I was fascinated with the process of making beads. I still am. There is something wonderful about sitting down at the torch and blocking out the rest of the world and just creating something, anything. It is all that much better if it comes out pretty and even greater when someone actually wants to buy it! How wonderful.

So, it’s true I don’t care about beads in a “I want to surround myself with them and make a bunch of jewelry” kind of way. But I do care about the wonderful little works of art out there and the artists behind them.

Balancing Career With Life Laura McCullough-DeLorme

7 07 2008

It’s no surprise this topic is posted about often…it’s a struggle for many of us.

I’m selfish when it comes to time I want to spend working.  In fact, I’m fairly selfish about my time in general, but I do recognize I need more in my life than just work and that it’s good for me to make room for other things. It’s funny how I see so many women’s magazines encouraging women to start saying no to invitations and to cut back, whereas, I have to make an effort to say yes to social engagements or else risk being a hermit.

In the past I loved to work all night when inspiration hit…or go for three day jags in the studio and tell my husband he was on his own for a week because I “had a lot to get done”.  I scoffed at the whole idea of making a work schedule.  It seemed boring and I feared it would stifle my creativity. I even referred to myself as having a “manic” style of creating and was proud of my all-nighters and subsequent need for four days off because I was tired and burned out.

The thing is, while my husband is extremely supportive, the bloom was starting to go off my rose as he grew tired of coming home after work to find me either holed up in the studio and resentful of his interruption or taking a break and resentful that I was expected to want to eat dinner with him or go to a movie.  I even tested friendships by canceling the same chai dates two or three times in a row because I was feeling “inspired”.

It isn’t as if I didn’t care about my husband and friends, but I felt I was being true to my inner artist/writer clock and that “they” needed to understand.

This all came to a head last year when I was preparing for my first art show.  I excitedly announced to a friend that I was going to have to work twenty-four hours a day for the “next two months” and she didn’t respond with much enthusiasm.  I commented to my husband about her lack of excitement and at the same time realized that actually, he didn’t seem too excited either.

I had one of those big moments where I realized everything had to change, but I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t like it and in fact, the only thing that motivated me was that I figured I could get more done if I set regular hours and went into disciplined mass “production”.

I made a detailed schedule that included time for life as well as time for work.  I was pretty impressed with myself and couldn’t wait until “Monday” to start my new routine.

I bombed out.  I couldn’t do it.

I did schedule time and sometimes I even managed to stick to my schedule, but I didn’t feel happy or particularly inspired to create.  My eight hours of work time would pass and I’d get a few pieces made (in-between checking my Yahoo horoscope, reading blogs, seeing “what’s doing” on Etsy and making some urgent phone calls to let friends know that a new bakery opened).  Then, I’d close up the studio for the day, head downstairs to have dinner and watch a movie with my husband…resentful and worried the whole time about how I didn’t get any work done earlier.

A girlfriend of mine gently asked if I could use some help with my schedule (this was after a teary call because I realized that I wasn’t going to have as many pieces as I needed for the show and because I still wasn’t pleasing my friends or myself either). I said yes…and this in itself was huge, I’m not wasn’t big on accepting help.

She knows me well and figured that my schedule was too rigid for a “beginner”.  She suggested that instead of blocking off time for various things, that I needed to look at what I wanted to accomplish on any given day.

Instead of blocking off eight hours as “Work”, we wrote “Twelve Wallets” or “Twenty Cardholders”.

I can’t tell you the difference this made. I’d get up in the morning and know that I had a real goal to work towards that day. Plus, she also realized I needed scheduled creativity time…so I scheduled a day to work on the new designs or play with the paper and see what new ideas were born.

I found it easy to pull myself away from the desk after completing my assigned number of pieces and in fact, this helped me to better price my work because I was able to better track how much time each wallet took to make.  It didn’t take long to realize I’d underpriced my work and could have been arrested for breaking minimum wage laws when it came to paying my one and only employee! 🙂

This has worked well for me, but I have to be honest…old habits die hard and it will probably continue to be a struggle. Especially at times when I feel as if I have to get more done in a day than is possible.  However, I’m learning that saying yes to invitations for midnight walks after the rain with a girlfriend or kicking back with my husband and having chips and dip while watching Tommy Boy (Who would ever imagine?) can be a lot of fun.

The passport holder pictured above is an example of an item that came out of the studio on one of my scheduled “free-days”.  As always, for more of what’s happening in the studio, I can always be found here:

Little Orange Kitchen Studio

My Studio is…. Suzanne Tate

25 01 2008

My Studio is……a cupboard. Yep, basically a cupboard. A very large cupboard, but definitely a storage area. It is a cute little room, snuggled up under the eaves on the second story of my house. When my friend’s young children first saw the matching rooms (before one became my studio), either side of the ‘parents retreat’, they declared them Harry Potter bedrooms, and claimed one each.I used to torch outside in my husband’s cedar workshop. I had to pack everything up after every torch session. Yes, I did say everything. In winter it was freezing, and as it was right up the back of our garden, even getting up the enthusiasm to trudge up there in cold weather, or worse, late at night (it’s spooky out there!) was an effort. It was pretty spacious, so when it was my turn to use it, I could even have several torches set up at a bead meet, but if that arrangement had continued, I never would have been able to grow in my glass work as I have done.

We decided to move me into the house. Jason built me a wonderful custom made work bench, and another for my kiln and I moved in. Ventilation was problematic for awhile. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s a cupboard, so with no external windows, and only the open door behind me for ventilation, the use of enamels, metals, even reichenbach frit was outlawed. 


The fledgling studio – before the days of ventilation and a ‘big girl torch’.

Fortunately (you have to look on the bright side of these things) the ensuite ceiling was leaking and we had to make some major repairs. So, while all the tradie’s were there, we got them to install a rangehood and a whirly gig on the roof, and install power (no more extension cords). Double Helix glass, here I come (pity that the ability to make silver glasses ‘do their thing’ did not arrive with the ventilation).Since then I have upgraded from a HH to a Piranha, and finally started garaging my beads instead of batch annealing (yep, it took me over 4 years to overcome my fear of sticking my arm in a hot kiln. Go figure.) Just one more thing I learnt in the US (I was thrown in the deep end at the Anastasia class 🙂 . I have a new, somewhat precarious shelving arrangement for my presses (OK, so its a metal planter stand with cardboard on the shelves) and a creative glass storage system (cardboard tubes glued together and painted white). Are you getting the impression I’m good at scrounging and appropriating things? (You ain’t seen nothing till you have seen my husband build the Taj Mahal of chicken coops with recycled shipping palettes, recycled corrugated iron from our roof, left over insulation and 8 foot wire fences, without spending a penny on anything other than the screws and nails!)

So, now I can torch for as little as an hour or as long as I like, without worrying about sharing the space, the ambient temperature (heck, if its really hot I just turn the aircon on in the bedroom behind me) or the time of day. In fact, part of the initial impetus for the move was the plan to put my insomniac tendencies to use by torching in the wee small hours when I can’t sleep. So, even though Jason jokes he banished me to a cupboard, it’s a very nice cupboard and I am quite happy here!



Style – Susan Sheehan

13 12 2007

What is your style?  I remember wondering what my artistic style was.  How would I know when I had one and what would it be?  When I was working on my Photography I spend a period of time pondering my style.  I eventually decided I was drawn to a serene dreamy look and it must be my style.  What I didn’t realize was my style was present all along.  I only needed to gain enough skills to let it show.


As I look back I know style isn’t something one strives for.  Style becomes you.  It defines what you love, what you want to portray and what your skills let you share.  The answer is right in front of us, yet we don’t always see.

Think back to all your artistic endeavors.  Yes, we all do seem to have a background in more than one medium.  What is the underlying theme in each one?  What materials colors,  and textures drew you in?  What did people say about your work?  What do people feel when viewing your work?  What do you say looking back?

This is easy for me.  My earliest memory of my style goes back to coloring in kindergarden.  My teacher told my parents I had trouble staying within the lines.  It’s true.  I like to redifine the lines and keep it flowing instead of contained.  When I was making knit hats I designed the patterns along the way.  My jewelry was often created as I made it.  In Photography, I created scenes that were soft and dreamy, often not in sharp focus.  With glass too, I like a softer look that isn’t crisp and defined.

I think the reason many have a hard time defining style is the lack of skills in the given medium.  Until one can create without too much concentration on getting the technique right, it is difficult for style to show.  No need to work on one’s style, it will find you.  You only need to let it be.