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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I've got a bunch of Vintaj eye candy for you tonight. I had hoped for more, but I think I'm done now for the night. These will be posted as proper inspirations shortly. In the meantime - enjoy!

Stay tuned!

Today's blog post will be late today. I've got some stuff cooking for you - but it won't be ready until tonight.

In the meantime - here's a little diversion for hump day...

I can haz cheezburger is always worth repeating! Thanks Dwyn :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Michael David Sturlin is coming this month!

We are very excited that Michael David Sturlin will be joining us this month. Michael is a well known, award winning instructor and artisan who teaches all over the United States and is finally making his way up to Canada! Michael will be here teaching two classes, October 22nd to 25th.

Michael will be teaching his signature Hand Crochet Chain October 22nd and 23rd from 10 to 6pm each day. This class is suitable for all levels and the finished product is incredibly supple and absolutely gorgeous. There are only 2 spaces left in this class.

October 24th and 25th Michael is doing something a bit different--Quick Clasps and Findings. This is different from our Metal Smithing 101 class. It will done in our classroom. A familiarity with basic tools is helpful but NOT essential. Students will be shown the proper techniques for forging, bending, forming and shaping wire to make the clasps and components. The majority of tools and processes will be covered so for those who have not used the tools extensively this will be a good introduction. The primary focus of the workshop is skill development. This class will be suitable for students of all levels.

We have more exciting classes coming up this month. Thursday October 1st is week 4 of Cindy Vroom's Basic Bead Stitching 101 Continued-- St Petersberg Chain. For those who were registered in the week 2 class, which was cancelled, it has been rescheduled for Wednesday October 7th at 6:30.

Heather Bell-Denison has an Art Clay Level One Certification Course coming up October 2nd to 5th.

Amy Waldman-Smith has a 2 day Learn to Make Glass Beads Weekend on October 3rd and 4th.

Heather Bell-Denison has a great Metal Clay Ring class on Thursday October 8th from 6 to 9pm.

Marilyn Gardiner has two classes here on Saturday October 10th, Basic Bead Stringing from 10 to 12:30pm

And Celtic Visions Bracelet from 1:30 to 4:30pm.

Next Tuesday October 13th is a Metal Clay Day from 11 to 6pm. Please note that there has been slight change to the Metal Clay Play Days, there is now a $10 fee. Everything else remains the same, Jennifer will still be here all day and she will still fire your pieces.

Stephanie Dixon's offering her Wire Bead Crochet Basics from 6:30 to 9:30pm on Wednesday October 14th.

Unfortunately, Brent Graber will not be coming to BeadFX in November due a family health matter. We hope that he will be able to make it here in the new year, we will keep you posted.

BeadFX will be at the Grand River Bead Society Show this weekend from 10am to 5pm in Guelph. Located at the Hampton Inn & Suites 725 Imperial Rd North Guelph. Admission is $2.00.

Happy Torching is on again this Thursday from 5 to 9pm. Buy one hour get one free!

Happy Beading

Monday, September 28, 2009

Taking Great Photos. Part 5: The Macro Setting

Macro - Wasn't that the really abusive tennis player that turned the tennis world on it's ear?


Ok - the "Macro" setting on your camera is the setting that allows you to get in and focus up close.

It may be a setting on your camera that you have to manually turn on, or it may be a built-in function. Usually - if you have to turn it on - the icon that indicates "macro function" is a stylized flower - indicative of those close-up flower photos - you know - the ones with the stamens and pistils all hanging out for anyone to see. And possibly a bee looking the size of a truck, loaded with pollen.

For my particular camera, the manual says that

the camera will focus automatically on objects from 8 - 24 inches when set to the wide-angle setting

While that may seem counter-intuitive - ok, it DOES seem counter-intuitive - zooming in makes everything look closer and zooming out to wide-angle makes everything seem further away - that's the way it works. I zoom out, and I can physically move in for a closer, in-focus shot. At that point - I'm not using the zoom to "frame" the photo - I'm moving me (and consequently the camera) back and forth. This is why I don't use a tripod - I spend too much time moving the camera to even consider a tripod. If I must hold the camera steady and unmoving - I use a brick and an elastic band.

The auto-focusing mechanism is a great thing - even a biggish LCD screen on a camera will not show you enough detail to indicate whether you truly have it in focus - so unless you have some compelling reason to focus manually - I suggest you let the camera do that for you. When you depress the shutter button a little - it starts the process of trying to focus.

There is generally some sort of indicator that displays a box on the monitor (or view finder) to show you where it is trying to get the information to focus with. Mostly - cameras look for contrast and try to focus there - some of the newer ones try to guess what you are actually looking at or taking a picture of, and may pick some area that is not actually of interest to you - try moving the camera a little - but if it is stubborn - well - that might be one of your reasons to go for the manual focus. If the camera is trying to focus - swinging in and out and not stopping - it is "hunting" - and having trouble focusing. Find an edge of something and aim for that.

Generally - it will indicate that it has the focus (in it's humble opinion) all sorted out by turning the box green or flashing a light or something. You can now depress (squeeze, not stab, poke or snap) the button the rest of the way and take the picture. And then take a couple more. Because it's really annoying when you go to review the pictures on your computer screen and find out that the focus was a little bit off. Or focused on the wrong part of your jewelry.

When you go to look at the finished pictures on screen - which you should do as soon as you can - preferably before you put that one-of-a-kind piece in the mail - take a look and see where the sharpest focus is. You'll get used to your own camera and what it likes to do. Remember, you don't have to learn how all cameras work - just your own!

Let's look at some examples.

Here's a nice one - the big, black bead, front and centre, and the beads around it, are nicely focused, nice and sharp. Feel free to click on the image to see the full size version - to better see the point I'm making.

This isn't bad either (ignoring the weird colour cast) - the sharpest focus is on the dragon's eye - eyes a generally a good spot. Notice, even the crystal directly above is a soft focus.

By contrast - nothing is really in focus in this one. And I happen to think that sharp, crisp focus really makes the picture.

And here's another cr4ppy picture. Again - no part of the picture is in sharp focus. Composition is good, framing and layout is nice - but no focus and the colours are wrong.

Check your camera for white balance and make sure you set it for the current lighting conditions. Emphasis on current. My bad.

And - as this piece is no longer in my possession - see also the comment about reviewing the pictures as soon as possible.

:-P I err - so that you don't have to.

So, now that you know how to get your camera to focus up close - you need to get in there and shoot up close. Fill up the picture. None of this little bitty bracelet floating in a sea of nothingness. Get in there and shoot it up tight. Which means that your workmanship needs to be top notch. No jumprings left partially open, no marks on the wire, etc. Because you will be taking photos to reveal all!

The rest of the "cropping" - cutting away the stuff you don't want - can happen after you take the picture. More on that later. Don't worry about the composition right now - right now, you want to take crisp, sharp, focused photos that show the item with lots of detail and the correct colour.

More next week - when we'll tackle setting up the lighting and your "stage."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

When Crafting goes Bad

Just because you can - doesn't mean you should - and no where is that little truth more horribly apparent than at Craftastrophe - the blog of Bad Crafts, Crafters who've crossed to the Dark Side, and projects that should never have been. If your psyche isn't permanently scarred by the spectre of the Octopus Chandelier - I'm sure something else there will scar it forever. Bwwa-ha-ha ha!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sneak Peek at Next Week

27800399-35s8 Glass Peacock Beads - 20 x 14 mm Puff Oval - Matte Turquoise Opal Vitreal Dots (1)Polka-dot Peacock beads - er - should that be Pea-dots, or Po... no - let's not go there. Definitely not.

s21669 Metal Cap/Cone -  Open Filigree Cup - Bright Sterling (1)MOoooving right along - a bunch of metal stuff, caps and cones, in sterling, brass and copper.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Linky Love Friday

I've assembled some fabulous eye candy for you today. Enjoy :-)

Robin Atkins

Art Bead Circle - An insight into the world of beading in Japan

One of our customers! Joella

And the last one for today - Yes, Shrinky Dinks can be REALLY cool! - Andrew Thornton (of Greengirl Studios)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Hour is ON tonight

Reno's done - gas is back on - Happy Hour Torching is on as usual tonight! See ya there!

Etsy and Paypal - and their associated fees! - Etsy Part 2

Fees, fees, fees - These are unavoidable of course. Knowing all of the associated costs ahead of time however will insure that when you do sell something, you are in fact making a profit.

Etsy has two fees, one is a listing fee - which buys you a listing for one item for 4 months. Every time you relist your item, you are charged again.

The listing fee is currently .20 cents US. for every item you list. If you list an item, and set the quantity on hand to 5, you will be charged $1.00 US.

This is the only fee Etsy charges you unless your item sells. In which case, you will also be charged a sales fee. The sales fee is currently 3.5% of the total sales price, not including your shipping charges.

Unfortunately, the fee's don't end there. If you use paypal to accept your payments - Paypal will also take it's cut. You'll pay paypal 2.9% on the total value (including shipping), plus .30 cents.

As you can see these fee's can really add up. You need to make sure you're charging enough for your product to take into account all of these fees.

A really handy tool is the Etsy Fee Calculator writen by an etsy user. It helps you figure out what your total profit is, and how much you need to sell an item for to actually get what you want from it.

For example: Just say you list a bracelet for $45.00 US, and you charge $5.00 US shipping. You've valued your materials cost at $10.00 CDN, plus a half hour of your time @ $20.00 per hour = $10.00

Your costs are now $20.00 CDN, plus the fee calculator shows associated fees of :

You'll see I've included your time in the materials cost. It is a cost, and you need to insure that you're paying yourself for your time.

Next week, we'll talk about how to make your etsy shop look nice, and be sure to go back and look at Dwyn's photography tutorials. Excellent photo's are EVERYTHING on etsy. No one is going to buy something with a lousy photo!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Copper Clay Update

It's about time for a little update on my copper and bronze experiments. I've been focusing primarily on copper, as I much prefer the colour. I'm sure most of you know by now my love for all things copper ;-)

Turns out the problems we were having with firing were primarily due to the kiln. I'm now firing with a Paragon Firefly, and a Paragon SC2 - both are dream kilns! I've had no problems at all using either kiln.

The ash in the kiln is still an issue - see pics below. That said, it really isn't all that hard to clean, but beadmakers - make sure it's cleaned thoroughly before sticking your beads in there.

You'll notice that the lid of the firing chamber is warped, which is most likely why the charcoal is flying out. However, the heat from the kiln will cause the stainless container to warp. I doubt there is anything at all you can do about that.

Also, I just found out that charcoal is only good for about 12 firings, after which you'll need to replace it. Of course, those of you who read directions unlike myself, probably know this already :-)

I thought I'd show you a picture of the shrinkage - which is really quite substantial!

The bigger piece has not yet been fired, and the smaller one has been fired, and gently tumbled (only about 20 minutes before I decided to take the pics). Also, the fired heart has a second smaller heart fused on top - ignore that. It's the base heart we want to compare.

I've mainly been focusing on making components out of the copper (simple components that will be assembled into more complex pieces). The raised hearts, along with dog tags, and other shapes are going to be used as a base for collage and resin. You can buy premade pieces like this, but they all seemed a little boring - and having something completely handmade is a lot more fun!

I've also been playing with making little beads, and weights for chains and necklaces. More worry beads, and the like:

I'll be sure to post more once I start on some more complex pieces. Next up, I'm going to experiment with making nice big, chunky, copper chain.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September is Almost Over...Can You Believe It?

I can hardly believe that it is almost October!

Even though the month is almost over we have a lot going on. This Thursday is week 3 of Cindy Vroom's class, Basic Bead Stitching 101 Continued. The focus for this week is Dutch Spiral. A note to students from the week 2 class (which was cancelled because Cindy was sick)we will be re-scheduling that this week and I will put it up on the site and of course contact those students. Cindy apologizes for the inconvenience.

We have a really full day of classes this coming Saturday September 26th. Robert Burton's Wire Wrapped Beaded Bracelet and Earrings Class runs from 10-1pm.

Robert is also offering his Simple Wire Wrapping Techniques from 2-5pm.

Stephanie Dixon also has two classes on Saturday. The Wire Bead Crochet Multistrand Necklace from 10:30-1:30

And her fabulous Wire Bead Crochet Cuff Bracelet from 2:30-5:30pm.

Sunday September 27th is Charmed I'm Sure with Heather Bell-Denison from 10-5pm.

Tuesday September 29th Dwyn Tomlinson's 4 week Lampworking 101 Part 1 begins. This class will run on Tuesday's from 7-9:30. There are only 2 spaces left in the class and students wishing to receive the discount for taking both Part 1 and 2 must register before Tuesday's class begins.

Our studio is currently being renovated. We hope to have it up and running for Happy Hour Torching on Thursday but cannot guarantee that. Please check with us before coming in, just to be sure.

Happy Beading.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Taking Great Photos. Part 4: Shutter Speed and Why You Care

Some of you, in rooting around in your camera's manual - may have discovered that you can also change your "shutter speed."

Most camera's are digital these days - but a lot of the terms we use are holdovers from the still fairly recent days of mechanical cameras - so while they don't really function the same way - as the underlying mechanism isn't quite the same - we still talk about "shutter speed," "f-stop," "aperture," and, most bizarrely, "film speed." As some point, some young camera designer with have a "what the heck moment" and come up with some new ideas and terms that utilize the strengths of the digital medium instead of seeking to replicate an old one, but, until then, we have a "legacy language" to use.

So, in the olden days, the shutter was a "curtain" behind the lens that stopped light from getting to the film, and you could control how long it stayed open, and thereby control how much light fell on the film, and consequently, how light or dark the resulting picture was.

In the process of doing this, folks discovered that not just the brightness and darkness of the picture changed, but some other characteristics too. Such as the "depth of field" - which is to say - the amount of the picture that was in focus.

Think for a moment about a picket fence - imagine standing at the very end of a looong picket fence, and then think about looking down it, one picket, two, ten, 30, - and the entire length of it. If you take a picture of it - how much of it will be in sharp focus? Maybe the first 10 feet? Maybe all of it? Maybe you'd like to make a picture that emphasizes how long the fence is, and so if the first 10 feet are sharply focused, and then the rest gets soft and blurry - so the end of the fence is just a white blur - then the picture will make you think of distance and depth - and be more interesting than if the whole thing is sharply focused. And that, of course, is more artistic than we are trying to do here. However, we can still take that understanding of that technique, and use it for our own purposes.

The photo above is actually two separate photos, one overlaid on top of the other. The ruler to the left and behind was shot with the shutter speed manually set to 1/60 - which is short for 1/60th of a second. The ruler on the right and on top was photo'd at 1/250 - 1/250th of a second - which is a much "faster" shutter speed - a shorter length of time. Once upon a time - this literally would be the length of time that the "shutter" would be open, exposing the film to light. Nowadays - it's a digital simulation. But even so, you can see that there has been something rather interesting happen.

Not only is the picture on the left brighter, doh, more light, but more of it is in focus (remember - depth of field?) and look at the distortion that has happened on the image on the right! The camera was in the exact same position for both pictures. (Strapped down to a brick, as a matter of fact.)

So - you can see that if you are photographing a necklace, and you want it to be representative of what you actually have - the slower shutter speed will give you a more accurate, less distorted picture, with more of your object in focus. Try this with your own camera - see what sort of results you get!

Oh, btw - it is generally accepted by photo-wonks that anyone can hold a camera steady long enough to take a picture at 1/60 without the camera moving while the shutter is open and blurring the picture. 1/30 is a little trickier, but can be learned - longer requires a tripod. That's why photo buffs are so keen on tripods. They like slower shutter speeds, and now you see why.

To hold the camera steady - tuck your elbows into your body and hold the camera firmly. Steadying it on something is good too. Take a breath, hold it, and squeeze the shutter button - so you have your hand wrapped around the camera and you are pushing the button, but pushing against something solid, i.e. the other side of your hand. Don't poke, push or, gawd forbid "snap" - the shutter. A nice gentle squeeze - so that your act of taking the picture doesn't cause the camera to move. If the camera moves while the picture is being taken, the entire picture is blurred. If only part of the picture is blurred, then the object moved (i.e. kids, cats, dogs). Of course - it is possible to do both - resulting in one of those pictures you delete.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Changes - Swarovki Bicones - 5301 become 5328

Swarovski has announced changes to it's Crystallized by Swarovski bicones. This classic faceted bicone is a staple of jewelry making and beading, as it is a both beautiful, highly versatile, and relatively inexpensive - as compared to other crystal beads.

The old style - also often referred to as "5301" - which is it's product number, is a faceted bicone with equal-sized and spaced facets.

Swarovski is replacing them with the new Xilion cut 5328s - a bicone of the same size, but with alternating wide and narrow facets.

Whether these will ultimately prove to be sparklier or not, it's tough to say at this point. I shot these 6 mm bicones to show you the real world difference, and I have to say - it's tough to spot the difference. Possibly in strands or large grouping, we might see a bit more sizzle.

Swarovski itself has this to say:

Its superior levels of reflection, refraction and scintillation have been scientifically confirmed through analysis carried out in Swarovski’s light laboratories. Yet even to the naked eye, the increased number of facets produces a bead of glittering brilliance and irresistible charm.

We thought they were pretty darn good to begin with. ;-)

We will not be re-photographing our entire inventory of Swarovski bicones. :-P

As we run out of old stock and restock with the new cut, we will be updating the product description. So far as we know, the new cut does not represent any particular change in pricing, one way or the other.

Fluctuations in the value of the Canadian and U.S. dollar against the Euro continue to have the biggest impact on pricing with regards to the Swarovski Crystallized Elements.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Arrr, matey. Today is international "Talk Like a Pirate Day." So avast there, and set your course for New tools - we've got 'em both for wet-behind-the-ears landlubbers and old salty dawgs. And for those of you with a love of the old gold treasure look - and what pirate doesn't love treasure? - Vintaj is back! And now with matching wire and chain too, arrrr!

s21578 Tools -  Plier and Tool Set - Beaders Kit (1)s21567 Vintaj -  Busy Bee Charm - Natural Brass (1)s14856 Vintaj -  Diamond Swirl Filigree/Wrap - Natural Brass (1)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Time to work on your holiday creations!

Yes, it's that time again - already. get a head start on your holiday jewelry lines and gifts. Here is a selection of our previous projects to get your started. Watch out in the coming weeks for new holiday ideas.