My Etsy shop has been in “vacation” mode as I heal from a head injury that started pretty simply. I smacked the back of my head, hard, on the underside of a truck, and saw black. I didn’t pass out, and definitely wasn’t hurt enough to prevent me from cursing until I caused myself to blush. The goose-egg grew, and the pain from the hit didn’t subside. The intensity eventually dulled a bit, but that throbbing with intermittent stabbing sharp pain continued. I finally saw my doctor two days later because Things Were Not Right. He did a quick follow-my-finger, look-over-here, squeeze-my-hands. I bombed those tests, and the next few ones too. I don’t remember much about that week, but I do remember my doc’s diagnosis: Concussion. I’d thought that concussion was a serious injury caused by sports injuries. Could a whack on the back of my head really be that bad? I was right that it was a serious injury, but wrong that it is only caused by larger scale accidents. A week after diagnosis, while getting up from a CT head scan, the world started falling and swirling in every direction. When the world stopped moving, I went back home, and I slept. Contrary to most old wives’ tales, concussion patients need sleep so that the brain can heal, and the accompanying exhaustion was something that I’d never known before. I would sleep for 14 hours, get up for breakfast, then go back down for a 3 hour nap. One morning, as I turned to get out of bed, the world shifted violently, spinning horizontally and vertically at the same time. My husband took me to urgent care and the doc diagnosed me with Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV). Calcium deposits in my inner ear had been knocked loose by the head impact, and the deposits had become free floating debris in my inner ear, confusing my brain by sending contradictory messages: while my body joints and eyes claim that I’m laying down, my inner ear is reporting that I’m spinning as the little bits of sand spiral about, so my brain ensured that I experience both. It’s a terrifying experience, yet very treatable with the Epley maneuver. So that’s what I’ve been doing since April 2014. I was accepted into the brain injury program, and I’ve been working with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, recreation therapists, productivity specialists, and a psychologist to help me process and heal. The BPPV is gone. I’m “on track”. There is no magic pill or magic exercise, but I’m working my way back to normal. It’s taking so much longer than I expected, longer than I thought, longer than I want. The worst part about concussion has been the absolutely denial that I’ve experienced. “I’m fine! I just need to sleep more for a few days!” I told everyone, and then “I’d better find something useful to do since I can’t read, write, knit, be on the computer, or do really anything that I normally do!”, without actually acknowledging the restrictions, the limitations that were overwhelming my life. I’m now through the denial and into the serious planning and pacing to get back to my normal. I’m starting the work needed to re-open my Etsy shop in the spring as I slowly create inventory, and hoping to be ready to take custom orders as well however I need to take it slow to start. I’ve started back to my day job, which I greatly missed, for a few hours every other day. My goal setting is becoming more reasonable although still a tad optimistic. So that, in a nutshell, is my latest (and current) adventure. Thanks for your patience if you’re a family member, friend, or customer, and I’ll be posting photos as I work on getting the studio back on track. -C
After a week away in the sun, I’m back home and photographing the latest kiln-load of treasures to restock the shop. I have stories to tell and photos to show you from Cuba, including the work of the talented Varadero potters but first I must attend to my sand fly bites, sunburn, and a sad realization that the snow that continues to fall outside is my reality now. Until I retrieve my photographs, here’s a bright orange diz that just went up in the shop today:
I mentioned my introduction to diz earlier. They’re one of the most freeing pieces that I make because they have only a two requirements: smooooooth must have at least one hole I use diz to create tiny collages of stamps and textures that have found their way to my bench. They don’t require much for fancy equipment in their creation, unlike my wheel thrown pieces. They don’t have to match any others, unlike my buttons sets. They don’t have to be a certain size, a certain convex/concave setting, or even any specific number of holes. They are the item that allows for the largest expression of creativity in a small package. Although they aren’t demanding in equipment or design, they do make up for that by requiring several stages of smoothing and sanding to ensure that no bit of fibre will ever be caught on a rough edge. So we have an agreement: I make them look like whatever moves me today, and they just want to be smooth. I’ve tried to make them alike, I really have. One of my goals for 2014 was to create a concise product line for 50% of my items, leaving 50% for seasonal sets, creative ideas, custom orders, other types of items. In the photo to the left, you can see in the top right that I tried to use the same tulip stamp and then owls but… that was boring fast so the other end of each is completely different. Really, why buy handmade if it’s all going to look exactly the same?!? My new goal for product lines has become less exact. I now aim to carry “rectangular diz” and that should make everyone happy. Each one will be different to keep me joyous while creating, and diz-lovers can know that there will be rectangular dizzes in the shop for those that prefer that soft curve to the round convex or concave. For those of you, like myself at one time, that have no idea what the heck a diz is or why you’d ever want one, I have found a video! This video by WoolWench shows a diz being used with a hackle to blend colours to spin into yarn. The diz is used at the 1:36 mark. For people that haven’t even seen how yarn is made, this shows some great details in a quickie 3 min video. Making your own roving with a hackle and diz, by WoolWench I hope you enjoyed the video. If you’re interested in more details about diz, drop me a line. If you’re interested in more details about using a diz to prep roving, or questions about spinning, Ravelry.com has a wonderful community of fibre artists that are far more educated on the subject than I am.
I’m lucky to receive custom requests rather regularly. It’s a creative kick for me to read the request and think “CAN I? Do I WANT to?”. Some I can’t because of equipment limitations, time limitations, glaze limitations however others are straight up fun challenges. “Do you make 1:4 scale dishes for miniatures?” Don’t I wish I had that skill! This is now on my To-Learn list however, I couldn’t satisfy the request. The smaller, or larger, that a ceramic item is, the higher the skill required to create it on a pottery wheel. I can throw the heck out of mugs, cereal bowls, even a salad bowl, but an inch tall mug? Wow. THAT’S a skill that I don’t yet have. “Can you make 25 of these $3 buttons and I’ll pay you $25?” My materials and labour costs are the same whether you ask for 10 or 25. The continued conversation on this request was pretty insulting and I ended the convo by suggesting that they may be more interested in purchasing from someone else. Like, Walmart. “Can you make mugs with a horse theme”. Yes, yes, yes! “Can you make tiny 10mm buttons that look like pebbles?” I answered honestly with “I don’t know, but I’ll try”. And I did try. I used all the types of clay I had, mixed them up or used them pure, some I added stain to, and then I used a variety of glazes. The results were incredible, and part of the reason I’m so addicted to working in clay and ceramics. Chemistry + Magic + Art. This request to make pebbles led to these being added to my regular product line, and have been my top sold button since I figured out the alchemy to create them. They’re adorable, fun to make, and the process is magic: they start out BROWN. Brown. It’s the happiest experimental button accident that I’ve ever been part of. “Can you make a diz?” My first response was “what the heck is a diz?!?”, so I responded with that, almost word for word. (hey, if you’re going to ask me about my diz, I’m going to ask for details) She was wonderfully patient and described that it was a tool used to prepare roving. Roving is used in spinning, which creates yarn. This wonderful woman had been using one of my buttons as her diz, and was kind enough to get my imagination going. I’m a knitter and crocheter, and so many of the people in my knitting/crochet group also spin using wheels and/or spindles. I googled and found out that most diz that are on the market are sturdy, useful, attractive, however not many of them brought the word “beautiful” to mind. I’m a strong believer that if you’re going to do something, be it drink tea or spin yarn or do up the buttons on your child’s sweater, it should be beautiful. I interrogated a local spinner, read through spinner forums, and finally figured that I could make several types of ergonomic diz that would be smooth, feel good in the hand, and above all, be beautiful. These are new to the studio as of summer 2013, and continue to be one of my favourite items to make, and it all started with a single request. I still open request messages with excitement and a bit of fear: Will this be a tiring request to “make it exactly like X. But different.” Will it be a request that opens my mind to “What If? Why Not?” round of creative thinking? I’ll keep hoping for the second type of request. I can’t wait to see what future requests hold.
Spring cleaning started early on this website, and welcome to the new site design! I’m working out some interesting bugs (where did those photos from 2011 disappear to??) however I’m happy to have a responsive, stable website with usability across platforms. The biggest bonus for me is the additional new ease to post photos and ideas. Bye bye, grey unresponsive site. You were lovely but if users can’t navigate from mobile devices, you’re outta here. Helloooo purple!
The vast majority of items that I create are sold online, and for that to be a successful venture, my photos have to be eye catching, colour-true, and show every angle for the remote customer. It is incredibly challenging to attempt to capture every angle in 5 photos to give that potential customer enough information so that they’ll be compelled to press the “Add to Cart” button. Each listing has a description however, the photos that display in searches are what will bring a person into the listing, into my shop, and into my “Sold” listing. I started taking product photos (the fancy term for “pictures of my buttons”) while crouching in the garden. When winter hit, and this is Alberta Canada where -20C (-4 F) is the standard, garden photos were difficult because my hands kept freezing. I started procrastinating about photographing my items, my shop started to empty because I wasn’t adding new items and… it was time to research another photography solution. My home is surprisingly lacking in natural light, something I’d never noticed until I had my camera out in an attempt to take these photos inside. As I balanced myself on the only window sill that had the right light, buttons falling everywhere as the precarious setup I was attempting fell over, I decided there had to be another solution. To be honest, I swore quite a bit while crawling about searching for the strewn buttons that had fallen off the box that had been balanced on the back of my couch. THEN I sat back and knew I had to find another way. There was: a light box. These boxes reflect light within, reduce glare, and make for a repeatable set of conditions for taking photos of smaller items. Since researching light boxes, or light tents, I’ve learned about light temperatures, background staging, reflection, and consistency. If someone shows up in the Etsy shop and all of my photos appear slightly different, I’d imagine confidence drops that the photos aren’t really an accurate reflection of the item up for sale. With that in mind, my goal was to 1) make every photo consistent, 2) make every photo true to the item, 3) reduce or eliminate the time I am spending in Photoshop to modify the photos so that they fit goals #1 & #2. With a very limited knowledge of my manual settings on my camera, I set out to learn about using a light box, and how to use my camera to get the best results. My lightbox isn’t anything stellar or spectacular. I used these instructions to build my own DIY lightbox, which recommend a cardboard box, a couple of meters of white cloth, an exacto knife, tape, glue stick, and a large sheet of white bristle board. I’m crafty (I make tiny buttons out of clay!) and it was an easy and inexpensive build. I then added three inexpensive floodlights with 6500K bulbs. The entire setup was so easy to create that I kick myself for not doing it sooner. I set the box up, lights on, used the white bristol board to set the white balance on my camera, and VOILA! Beautiful, true photos of my tiny little buttons that require NO EDITING. No editing means I take photos and upload them without having to spend extra time (aka labour) to edit each photo for colour/brightness. With this, my profit margin moves up a smidge and I don’t have to increase prices. Ode to my lightbox, a saving grace for me.