Monday, December 27, 2010

The Year-End Wrap Up

It's that time -- the year-end wrap of An Artist's Year Off.  Time to see what goals I accomplished, what went by the wayside, and what unexpected things happened.

(This will be a long post, so grab a drink and a snack and away we'll go!)

(If you've just stumbled upon this blog, I began with this post.  If you want to read in order, go to the right side bar and click the months and work backwards.  I wish there was a way to take this blog the other way around, but alas.)

Here's what I said in my first post:

Starting January 1st, 2010, I begin a new adventure.

After five years of 15-20 craft shows a year, I am tired. 
I've cut back my showings drastically, and have decided that this is my year to explore.

My year to hone my skills.

My year to learn new things.

I'm nervous, and apprehensive, and more than a little scared.

But it's now or never!

Reading that, it seems to me I was absolutely desperate for a change.  The "now or never" part just smacks of "get me out of this rut!".  I felt like all I did was make the same thing, the same style, over and over and over again, and I felt stagnant.  I wanted to expand without losing my customers, and I wanted to learn new skills that would enable me to become more memorable.

typical "me" style

I also wanted to stretch my wings and learn new skills, including something I'd never tried before -- mixed media art.  Well, I did learn new skills, which I'll touch on later, but I totally failed when it came to learning mixed media and journaling.  I'd signed up for Art and Soul in Hampton, VA, but had to cancel at the last minute due to migraines.  Migraines were a common overture throughout this year, getting in the way of a lot of creative endeavors, but I learned to work around them and to just let some things go.

mixed media art by Kerry Bogert that I own

I did find organizing my day to be helpful, but this was a hit-or-miss project.  I started the year with the best of intentions, but in a couple of months, the day planner got buried under piles of paperwork and I forgot about it.  Around September, when life started getting hectic again, I chucked the old day planner and bought a perpetual calender at Paper Source.  This way, I'm not stressed by missing weeks or even months of time, but fill in each page with the dates and go on from there.

I did take some classes.  I learned how to torch-enamel beads with Barbara Lewis...

and I learned how to rivet, dap, and texture metal with Tracy Stanley.

I practiced in my lampwork studio, but didn't get past making frit beads because our house contractors took over my studio to hook up their generators, and then my lampwork class at BeadFest got canceled at the last minute, and by then, it was crunch time for making jewelry for fall shows.  But I was happy with my progression, even managing to sell some spacer sets.

spacers I made with CiM glass
bracelet I made with my beads

There were, of course, some stumbles.   I picked up books along the way, planning on trying new skills, like polymer clay and metalsmithing,  and never got around to it.  I signed up for Stephanie Lee's "Homesteader's Metalsmithing" eCourse but due to a FAR more intensive selling season than I expected, only made it to one class.  I never got around to trying more intricate wire work or the tutorials I purchased.  I DID try Zentangles -- once.  The kit sits on my desk, unopened since that one attempt.

I wrote a free eCourse on my personal thoughts about blogging.  I made the decision to put my son into private school, which due to the expense, caused me to totally re-evaluate how I run my business, from cash flow to marketing.  Taking a look at my business plan actually wasn't a bad idea, as I hadn't visited it in a while.

photo by Cindy Wimmer, at one of my shows

In the Huge News department, I launched a brand new web site, which totally rebranded me from eye-burning stripes to whimsical Chinese lanterns.  New fonts, new layout, new style.  

Along with the new web site came the need to learn a new style of photography.  I packed up my light tent and moved to taking natural light pictures and went from using (for the most part) stark white backgrounds to using photo props.  This takes a lot longer because I have a limited amount of time when the sun cooperates with me, not to mention I don't always know what I'm doing with the camera, but when the photos work out, they work out.

So far, my customers have liked the new site and I've gotten minor glitches fixed pretty quickly.  Money well spent.

Also in the Huge News department was the creation of my personal baby, the Bead Soup Blog Party.  Held three times this year, it's a blog hop designed to help jewelry designers work outside their normal comfort zones, introduce each other to new blogs, and create a sense of camaraderie.  I was overwhelmed with the response, and the first party was such a success the BSBP has become a standing hop.  The next one has sign-ups in January -- I hope you'll join!  The information can be found by clicking here.

To help me continue to work outside the box, I started the Cup of Bead Soup.  That's a monthly series that features one bead artist who sends me beads, sight unseen, and I spend the month designing with them.  Through this, I not only get to push myself, but promote an awesome bead maker.  I've really grown through the Cup of Bead Soup, and I'm looking forward to next year's editions.

polymer clay beads by Floridity, lampwork by me, copper clasp by me

ceramic pendant by Spirited Earth

And the Ultimate Big News -- I'm writing a beading book.  I'm telling you, it still hasn't sunk in.  The book is due out around October 2012, which seems like forever, but the publishing world just works that way.  Trust me, it'll be worth the wait!

the beading book section of Barnes and Noble

All in all, it's been a good year.  No, I didn't accomplish all I set out to do -- but I'm incredibly happy with what I DID accomplish.  Sometimes the best plan is to have no plan ... or at least, be willing to bend to the whims of chance and change.  I worked around a lot of physical pain, a lot of worry about my own self-worth in the beading community, and came out feeling stronger.  I've made the most amazing blog friends along the way, built my customer base, and strengthened my family.  

Trees near our house.
Reach up, you never know how high you'll go.

Yes, this year off from all the stresses of craft show after craft show after craft show helped me grow, often in ways I hadn't planned or didn't expect.  I'm looking forward to 2011, and I hope you'll join me at my main blog, Pretty Things, to join me in my coming adventures.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some things I've learned....

♥ It's ok to be behind in an online class.

Stephanie Lee, Homesteader's Metalsmithing

♥ It's wonderful to embrace a new art form -- but realize I have to wait until after the Christmas rush of shows and internet loading and year-end tax preparation to fully explore it.

Enamel beads I made in Barbara Lewis' class

Glass waiting to be made into beads in my lampwork studio

♥ It's ok to curl up in bed with a good book and then take a long nap.

check out the books I've read at

♥  It's an incredible, freeing feeling to find inner peace.

A wonderful quotation in front of a paperweight I made.
Thank you for being here.

Thank you for reading.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Enameling Beads with Barbara Lewis

This weekend I took another Painting With Fire class with Barbara Lewis.  I'd taken the class previously, but as with most classes, I usually  have to take it twice to really GET it and let it sink in.  

One of the things I love about taking classes is getting to meet fellow jewelry makers and bloggers.  It's so much fun to put a face to the words, you know?  Sometimes my world is so small over here on the Eastern Shore, sitting at my work bench and computer, so it's wonderful to get out.

Anyway -- this time, I really feel like I GOT it.  I hit the bead in the right part of the flame, covered it well in enamel, and actually ended up with usable beads at the end of the day.

I'm pretty darned pleased with these!  They aren't perfect, but they'll absolutely serve my purpose of making a necklace for myself.  I was also sufficiently inspired enough to buy a bunch of enamels and start dreaming up some ideas.

I also learned some new techniques in this class, such as making tricolor beads....

And how to make bi-color beads.

Hard to tell the colors on the bi-color beads, because believe it or not, those were harder for me than the tricolor, but you get the idea.

And then I went to town on covering regular color with transparent colors to get some really pretty vintage-esque colors.

All in all, a very productive class, and a day well spent!

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two More Classes for the Year

I have two more classes scheduled for the year!

The first one is a re-take of Barbara Lewis' Painting With Fire torch enameling class.  I've taken this class before, but true to form, I rushed a bit too much, trying to make ALL the beads she offered (and boy does she give us a LOT of beads to play with!).  This time, I plan to take my time and really pay attention to how the torch works with the enamel, and focus on getting good coats of enamel on each bead.

The class is this Saturday (yay!) in Annapolis, MD, and I'll get to meet some bloggers I've "met" online.  Doesn't get much better than that.

Beads by Barbara Lewis, available at her Etsy shop

My next class will be my first online course, this one with Stephanie Lee of "Semiprecious Salvage" fame.  My friend Cindy Wimmer took the last Homesteader's Metalsmithing course and thought I might like it, so I signed up for the second round.  It's an entirely new style of metalsmithing than I've taken previously, so I'm eager to see how I'll use what I learn.

And that will about do it for my learning for the year.  I'll be doing a nice long wrap-up of the year at the end of December to see how I've fared -- did I actually accomplish what I set out to do?  Did I learn anything new?  Did I learn something I didn't expect to learn?

Stay tuned for class photos!

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting Branded and Saving the Earth

Since I launched the new web site with the new logo, I've been busy getting new branding materials together -- stickers, signage, postcards, that sort of thing.  I've even had t-shirts done!  I always like to wear my t-shirt when I'm setting up my booth for a craft show.

But what I'm really grooving on are the tote bags for groceries, which I've mentioned before ....

I'm going to be using both of these as promotional items throughout the year, and I like that they promote recycling.  At shows, I'm noticing a lot of people bringing in their own shopping bags, so I've not had to hand out as much plastic.  And having a nice water bottle is such a good idea!

I created these items at Cafe Press (my shop is here), and if you're in business, you can create your own marketing materials there as well!  It's one more step to setting yourself apart from the rest.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm writing a book!

I just got the final word a few days ago and it's not quite sunk in yet -- but I'm writing a beading book!  This is a HUGE accomplishment to check off my list of things I've always wanted to do in my jewelry career!

Read more about it by clicking here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another mile stone -- the new web site!

Another mile stone for this year has been accomplished at long last -- my new web site,

The launch was largely successful, with only a few glitches found afterward that couldn't have been found until after going live, and they're being worked on.  I also have to purchase another package to flesh out the check-out, giving customers the space to write in comments, tell me where they found me, and the like.

Overall, I'm really, really please, although I was apprehensive at first.  I contracted Quirky Bird to not only build the web site, but to give me a new logo for a total rebranding.  I felt I was at the point in my career, six years later, where I needed to get serious and "become". 

When I first saw the proposed web site, I was afraid it looked too cartoonish, so I asked my best buddy Cindy Wimmer what her opinion was, without telling her what *I* thought.  She loved it.  I was worried that the look wouldn't be cohesive, but it's grown on me, and now I like it.  I like the slide show (which I can change) and the blocks at the bottom with seasonal jewelry (which I can also change, and already have).

The company also gave me a crash course in SEO and how to write decent ad copy, and got me hooked up with a professional credit card processor for the site.  In all, I had about five people working on the site since January.  The web site would have been launched in the summer if it weren't for my migraines getting in the way -- I had a huge hand in doing a lot of the back end so I would be very familiar with how to change things down the road and not be beholden to paying an hourly rate to the developers.

The company also created all my print media, including this postcard.  Again, they gave me the PSD file so I can make complete changes to it.  I love this, because many companies give you a finished file that CANNOT be tampered with.

All in all, I'm quite pleased.  Yes, it was very expensive, but it was worth it.  It's been a long time coming.  I'm waiting now for my booth sign, and am looking for small Chinese lanterns for my booth (I already have large ones but haven't quite figured out how to use them).  I've also printed up t-shirts as well as tote bags for customers that have bought a gazillion things from me and brought in a lot of customers, but they can also be purchased here.

So one of the items on my Artist's Year Off list can be absolutely checked off!
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Private School -- The Story Continues

First, I want to thank all of you SO. VERY. MUCH. for all your stories and suggestions and advice.  I've taken them all to heart and have talked to my husband about them and thought long and hard about things.

Earlier in the week, Rick and I had our school visit and interview, and we were enchanted by the school.  We got to see the classroom Zack would be in, and a girl that Zack went to preschool with would be in the same class.  They were good friends so that's such a great bonus.  We also got his class schedule, and it's got so much more emphasis on art and music and computer skills than he's getting now, plus ample time for recess to blow the cobwebs out.

Yesterday was Zack's assessment tests and tour, and when I picked him up, I asked him what HIS thoughts were.  He loved it and was ready to go.

Today we got the call -- he's in.

So, Tuesday he starts.  I feel like I'm in a whirlwind!

Time will tell if this is truly the right decision, but my gut tells me it is. The class size is small, the headmaster is visible and hands-on, and the opportunities and teaching methods are up Zack's alley. 

All anyone wants for the children is the best they can give them -- of themselves, and of the world.  I know I'm already giving Zack the best of me.  Now I hope I'm giving him the best schooling opportunity.  Who knows where this will take him?

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Clarification

I wanted to make a clarification to this post.

When I said my time would be crunched -- I didn't mean my time with Zack.  Right now, I don't make any jewelry when he's home, unless it's jewelry we make together (and he does have an eye for color!).  My first job is being a mom.

What I meant was my time to make jewelry while my son was at school would be crunched.  And my point to that was making jewelry was what would make the money to pay for his schooling, and it was a Catch-22.  I didn't mean I was upset that MY time alone or my time for working was shortened.  Not at all.

I mean, look at this face.  Who wouldn't want to play endless games of UNO with him instead of making jewelry?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A New Focus -- Jewelry, Education, and Finding a Balance

(This is long, so grab a coffee -- I'd love and appreciate your feedback at the end.)

Recent events in our lives here at home have made me take a good long look at my job as a jewelry designer.  How I operate my business, what hours I keep, even how I market my jewelry has all now come under scrutiny.

Being a jewelry designer is my full-time job.  Until now, though, the money that I've made has either been put back into the business or used to finance the extras in our household, like remodeling jobs and new appliances.  It's paid for my lampwork studio, workshops, and bead buying trips.  In other words, I haven't had too much stress over my bottom line.

my booth at an outdoor show
Now, however, things have changed.

My son, Zachary, is seven and just entered 2nd grade at our public school.  He's so smart -- and that's not just a proud mama talking.  Last year he was blessed with an amazing teacher who had a wonderful way of teaching, and the children learned about science and math using hands-on methods, and their reading levels were pushed to where Zack left 1st grade reading at an end-of-2nd-grade/beginning-of-3rd-grade level. 

Over the summer, his reading really sky-rocketed and we kept a summer reading list.  The kidlet read 21 chapter books (some were pretty big hardbacks, and many he read twice so he actually read more) and we worked on worksheets from a Summer Bridge Program I bought.  We've had him in museums since he was two, so he's naturally curious (his own word to describe himself) and he's just a sponge, ready to learn.

Zack, on the left, at Eco Camp
Now that he's entered 2nd grade, though, I've realized that what I saw in 1st grade was the drastic jump from the fun-and-play days of Kindergarten to the settle-down-to-business of 1st grade.  I also realized that teachers are only allowed to do what they're allowed to do.

Zack's 2nd grade teacher is a sweet, caring woman who has been nothing but kind.  Her communication with me has been exemplary.  I have no problems there whatsoever.  My problem is with the public school's education. 

To say that Zack is bored would be an understatement.  Part of Zack's "homework" (I put that in quotes because, well, if you saw the homework.....) is to read a book of his choice for 15 minutes each day.  I have to MAKE Zack turn out his bedroom light after he's been reading for two hours.

Zack at two and a half
Since Zack was in preschool, Rick and I have tossed around the idea of putting Zack in private school.  We were really, really torn.  We didn't have the first clue what to do.  We had friends who had children in all three schools -- the public school, the private but affordable Catholic school, and the expensive private school.  We finally decided to put him in public school because we figured Kindergarten was Kindergarten pretty much wherever you went.

But now, after loooong conversations and agonies between the choices (I even considered home schooling, something I *never* thought I'd be able to do), I made a phone call to the expensive private school.  My thought was to apply for 3rd grade.

Oh wait, the admissions office said.  We have one slot left for this year's 2nd grade.

And I took that as a sign.

So here we are, waiting for our first interview on Tuesday, with a child who is over the moon about the prospect of changing schools.  And herein lies the reason for the title, "A New Focus".

I will be the one paying the tuition.

At first blush, this is totally doable.  The timing is great, because I have four large craft shows coming up, and along with holiday web site sales, they will more than cover the cost.  But then the tuition bill comes around again in the spring, and there is only one show on the books for the spring, and that will in NO way cover the cost.

So for the past few nights, I've lain in bed rethinking how to run my business.  How to manage cash flow.  Where my customers are currently coming from, and where to gain new customers.  How many classes I can afford to take.  How many beads I can afford to buy.

Fortunately, I contracted with a web development company to make me a new web site (which I'm told will launch next week after we test the credit card processing unit), and this includes a new logo, so I'm primed for rebranding.  Included in the package was a ton of different sized logos, letterhead, postcards, and internet ads, along with a healthy course on SEO.  

I've also been pushing myself creatively with my Cup of Bead Soup project, and I've decided that while I'm not ditching my tried-and-true style, slowly adding in my new style might garner new customers.  Actually, this is already happening, as six pieces have already sold when I've posted them on Pretty Things and on Facebook.  I don't think my new designs are that off-base from what I normally make, so I'm hoping they'll blend nicely.

necklace I made with ceramic by Spirited Earth
I may also have to apply to more craft shows.  This year was my "Artist's Year Off" because I drastically reduced the number of shows I participated in.  I don't know if I have that luxury anymore.  On the other hand, I don't know if my health issues will allow me to take on more shows, particularly if they're outdoors.  So I'm researching galleries, online venues, and wholesale opportunities.

The other thing that will change will be the crunch on my time.  The new school expects a certain amount of volunteer time, attendance of functions, serving on committees -- much more than what I'm used to.  I volunteered at the public school and I also volunteer at the humane society, but this is an entirely new level and type of volunteering.

This means I'll have less time at the torch, less time to make jewelry, less time to upload jewelry to my web site, and less time to do paperwork.  It's a Catch-22 -- a vicious circle because in order to pay for the school, I have to make the jewelry.

bracelet in my normal style made with my own lampwork beads
Ultimately, though, it's about my son.  I entered this business when my son was nearly a year old, getting hooked on beading when I was still pregnant with him.  I knew that this business would be what would eventually pay for his college, so I guess I'm just starting early.

I have a business plan, but it's going to have to change.  My advertising plan, for instance, will TOTALLY change.  My budget will also change.  But my main goals will stay the same -- make pretty things that last while being a hands on mom.

Zack at six months.  Photo by Jen Fariello

If you've lasted this long, I'd love to know if you've faced this sort of dilemma, and how you've made changes in your life to accommodate your craft.  How did you handle the added hours, or the change to your schedule?  Did it change how you looked at what you do?

Thanks, treasured readers, for listening.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Spy With My Bead-y Eye

I have a new post up on Art Bead Scene about finding inspiration in patterns around us.

Click here to read it!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wire Work is Hard Work

Something I've discovered about the wire work that I've admired -- man is it ever hard work.

Not only that, but it takes a ton of time. Which brings me to the question of how much do I pay myself and how much do I charge for my jewelry?

Wire work seems to look the best after it's been put in liver of sulfur to turn it black, then buffed so it shows depth.  I've discovered a sincere hatred for steel wool, as it shreds and sticks in the wire and makes a hella mess.  Thankfully, I've discovered a substitute.  When I took a class with Tracy Stanley at BeadFest, she introduced me to Pro Polishing Pads and I've never looked back.  That's saved me some time, but it still takes extra effort that my stringing doesn't require.

Over the summer I've been experimenting a little bit -- and I say a little bit because as I said, this stuff takes time and will end up costing more than my normal work.  The challenge for me will be educating my customers as to why.  Hopefully, they'll be able to just look at it and see -- hold the piece and fall in love.  I haven't strayed from my love of lampwork, so the jewelry isn't too far off track, and I think that's key to adding in new work.

I'm not sure why I'm worried, because I also make chain maille jewelry, and it's priced a bit more than my lampwork jewelry, and yet it sells.  I suppose I should remember that there is indeed a person out there for each piece of jewelry.

Will I keep making wire jewelry?  Yes.  But I'll pace myself.  I haven't had a show since March, and my new web site hasn't launched yet, so I don't know how these pieces will be received.  I know *I* like them -- but will they?  And if they like them, will they want to pay a little more for them?

Either way, I've tried something new, and that's all that matters in the grand scheme of things.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for Lori Anderson Designs and also writes the blog Pretty Things.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.