Tangles, Twists and Treasures

Romantic Jewelry and Fine Things

Who Am I, and Why Do I Blog?

TestAs a person, asking me why I blog is sort of like asking me why I have skin. Blogging is a huge part of me because journaling is such a huge part of me because writing is such a tremendous part of me. Do we see a pattern here? I both do and do not keep a personal blog. When I write about personal feelings and bad days and upcoming events, and I record historical happenings, I tend to do all that in a hardbound journal where I can doodle, and while away the hours without paying much attention. When I blog, it’s usually with a purpose, so even my personal blog – which is all about living with Fibromyalgia – has a purpose.

If you’re asking me why I’m *here* – why *this* blog – why *now*? I’m not sure I have an answer to that yet. This is a business blog.  I started my business accidentally. It evolved out of all different kinds of things that I’ve explored, which have taken root in my heart. I know that I need a blog, but as a jeweler and artist, I’m not really sure what to *do* with it. Right now, it has no focus.

If I were a materials supplier, my blog could be full of featured products and tutorials, but as an artist, I don’t necessarily want to focus in that direction.  I’d really like to use this blog to distinguish my company and products.  I’m just not entirely sure how to do that.

Blogging 101 & Writing 101

TestSo I probably failed to mention – considering how busy I’ve become in the last month – that I’m working on improving the look and performance of my blog, and I’ve begun an online class through Blogging University to brush up on my writing basics (Writing 101) as well as improve my blogging skills (Blogging 101).  I may find that I don’t strictly *need* these classes, but I’d rather review the information and be sure, than think I’ve got it covered, and fail miserably.

Of course, I’m about 10 days behind the syllabus at the moment, because of having two events back-to-back in the first two weeks of the class, so expect multiple blog posts to power through the material.

Fall Goddess Necklace Featured in B’Sue Boutiques Newsletter

B’Sue Boutique’s newsletter came out today, and guess what?  The Tangles, Twists and Treasures Fall Goddess necklace was featured!  I even got a personal shout-out and I was SO proud!  What a terrific experience!

The Colors of Fall Jewelry Challenge, B’Sue Boutiques Creative Group

Fall Goddess Necklace

A Tangles, Twists and Treasures exclusive signature piece. Crocheted wire and bead necklace with a hand-cast/hand-painted resin cameo focal.  Materials: Wood, glass, brass, resin, alcohol ink, acrylic paint, glaze and non-toxic glue.  $175.
!PicMonkey Collage_Final

Why Community Involvement is Good for Business

IMG_4827I recommend that no matter how busy you are, you make time to get involved in your local community. Most people consider big charities as a worthy recipient for their time and money, but community involvement is equally important. This is where *you* live, after all. Helping to make it a safer, more beautiful, brighter and caring place benefits you directly.

Did you realize, however, that being involved in your local community can also be an invaluable source of networking and free marketing for your business? When I began volunteering at the Garden Club at Palm Coast, I did not. As an individual, the opportunity to volunteer fills an empty spot inside of you. Knowing that you are doing something to benefit where you live, or a specific cause, can be a great source of pride. I firmly believe that no matter how bad off we think we are, we always have something to give, and that giving it benefits ourselves as well as others.

Which Charity Should You Pick?

The charity you select can be anything. You might sponsor the Boy Scouts so that their after-school programs are funded and young men continue to have a place to go. Or you might volunteer at an animal shelter, helping after-hours to find homes for many of the animals held there. Libraries are always looking for volunteers, and are involved heavily with other community groups.  If you enjoy books, the library might be a good beginning.  You could patrol streets and pick up trash on weekends, help clean up the beaches in your area, or volunteer at a newspaper covering community news. You might even decide to join a group that isn’t a charity – like a local social club.  All of these things help to enrich your life, and the lives of so many others.

Why Get Involved?

As a business, volunteering can be priceless. The opportunities for networking are extensive. When you volunteer, people get to know you. They see how hard you work, they see the passion inside of you, and they appreciate what you can give – whatever it is. Over time, they become familiar with you as a person, and as a business. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and when another volunteer needs help with something, they’re more likely to think of someone they know through the community. Further, when your group has fund-raising events and needs vendors, or other types of paid support, who do you think they will go to?

Shortly after becoming a member of the Garden Club at Palm Coast, I was offered the opportunity to vend at their Spring Expo. I was thrilled at the opportunity, and was told that they were looking to make a permanent list of reliable vendors. Not only would they do the Spring Expo, but also smaller events. Since then, I’ve sold my pieces at a monthly meeting, participated in the District VI meeting as a vendor, and I have a third event lined up for a sister club in February. That’s four sales opportunities from one club. Through my involvement with a social club – Palm Coast Game Night – I’ve also shown my work at parties hosted by individual members. I can credit most of my sales to these two clubs. If a member didn’t buy a piece, they were directly responsible for putting me in a position where someone else would see me, and either purchase a piece or ask me to work another event.

There are also secondary benefits to volunteering which should never be overlooked. Since becoming a member I’ve met hairdressers, printers, lawyers, mathematicians, engineers – you name it. If I have a legal question, I’m far more likely to go to the lawyer in our group, than a stranger I don’t know. If I need a haircut, or I’m looking to branch into hair accessories, I’ll go to the hairdresser who’s a member of our group. In this way, it’s a benefit for everyone. I get services from people I trust, and they get business as well.

All of this proves that community involvement should be an important part of your strategy for living. The spiritual benefits are innumerable, and should never be ignored. Trust me: I’m not discounting the pride or happiness you’ll get from helping out. I feel it! However, most people overlook the business benefits of community involvement.  Now, you’re armed with all the knowledge you need to make a wise decision.


The Garden Club at Palm Coast handles memorials and plantings around Palm Coast, FL, teaches community members about native plantings and ecology in the area, and sponsors a scholarship fund to help the local area high school. Once a year, they have a Spring Expo, which features sales of many garden-related items, booths from outside vendors and food, as well as recognizing a young artist for the year through their poster contest. The second Monday of each month, they host a general meeting and luncheon at the Extension Office in Bunnell. These meetings cover a range of topics such as low-maintenance plants, herb gardening, environmental concerns such as water conservation, or purely aesthetic topics such as flower arranging. They are entirely funded through member contributions, donations and time.

Palm Coast Game Night is a social group based out of Palm Coast, FL.  Individuals host a variety of game-related events at member houses or various public locations around town. Sometimes events are themed to a particular holiday, but all revolve around food, fellowship and fun.  Games of all kinds abound.

My Experience with the Prince of Peace 34th Annual Craft Fair

TestI was really excited when I head about the Prince of Peace Craft Fair in Ormond Beach.  It has a long  history of success – this will be its 34th year! – and is fairly large, with over 50 vendors.  I felt that it would be a good fit for my growing business, and I had reason to believe I would do well there.  Unfortunately, from start-to-finish, this event was a complete fiasco.  It was poorly advertised, difficult to book and completely mismanaged.

It began in September.  A friend found the advertisement in the Penny Saver, and brought it to my attention.  I immediately emailed the included contact, trying to book a table.  After a week of waiting for an email response, I emailed again.  Another week passed.  This time, my only response was a few words, “Having trouble with email.  Call me.”  No number.  I was lucky I keep everything and still had the ad clipping.

I called the next day, and was informed that the event was booked, but that there was a waiting list.  There had been a cancellation, and the person ahead of me had already been given a table, so the organizer felt confident that I would be able to get a table.  She was also going to talk to them about adding more tables, so the chances would be better than 75%.  She would call me if something opened up.

I tentatively began to prepare for the event by laying in extra supplies, and creating more products.  I had another event the same week – The District VI Meeting for the Garden Club at Palm Coast.  (Review to follow.)  I knew it would be tight planning two events close together, but the Garden Club event was small and intimate – very different from the big event at Prince of Peace – so I felt fairly confident I could make pieces which overlapped both events, and I wouldn’t be too tired to manage them both.

I received the phone call the second week of October.  I was in!  I mailed in my check with just a week to go before the event, and started doubling up products, in preparation for what would be the biggest event I’d done.  I pulled many sleepless nights last week, and went to the Garden Club event on 2.5 hours of sleep, in order to have enough products for both.

Yesterday, I was informed – in a rather unprofessional manner – that the organizer had “overbooked the event” and didn’t “have a table for” me.  I invested so much time and money into products that I was flabbergasted.  Could she do this to me?  Keep me dangling on the hook and then cancel me last minute?  Whether it’s legal, or possible, she did.  I’m now waiting for my booth check to be returned, and I’m hoping I’ll receive it in a timely fashion – but considering the slipshod manner in which this event was handled, I’m really worried.

Now, I’m very torn.  I really thought this event, because of its size and longevity would be a winner.  Should I attempt to get into this event again next year, hoping that if I try early enough I can manage a table?  Or should I snub this event because of how I was treated?  I’m extremely disappointed in the organizer of this event, and the event in general, so I’m not sure what to do.

Things I’ve Learned About Drying Rose Petals

IMG_4781

Over 600 fresh rose petals!

  1. It takes a lot of standing. I don’t like having to stand that long.
  2. It’s quick – for small amounts of petals. Each group takes between 2 and 3 minutes to dry.
  3. It’s not so great for large amounts of petals. Say, over 600, like what I had from the florist’s shop. See #1.
  4. There’s a point between the first minute of microwaving and the second minute of microwaving, where the petals aren’t quite dry, and they become soft, like rubber. This is the perfect time to stretch them a bit so that they lay flat.
  5. Microwaving large numbers of petals makes for a very hot plate. Is it possible to stress fracture ceramics by heating and cooling them repeatedly in succession? I don’t know. Also, I have no idea if it’s possible to burn out your microwave by repeatedly using it for hours. Finally – can you irradiate yourself doing this? These are all questions I have.
  6. They shrink. A LOT. Think “Shrinky-Dink” a lot. They pretty-much halve their original size.
  7. Drying rose petals this way cooks them – which has two effects. First, it darkens them. Red rose petals become burgundy, coral-colored rose petals turn red. Darker pinks darken, lighter pinks miraculously stay the same, as do yellows. Multicolored “blush” roses (yellow with hints of green and red), become yellow with hints of green and burgundy. It’s odd that dark colors darken, but lighter colors seem to stay the same. Second – when you cook anything, it smells. Cooked rose petals have a cloyingly sweet smell to them. After two days of cooking petals for several hours each day, I was thoroughly sick of the smell.

Accidental Good Fortune

Back-side of a rose petal glass paperweight.

I’ve been using dried rose petals in my jewelry lately. The first few were accidental. I found several that I’d saved from a dried up bouquet hidden in an old medicine bottle for safe-keeping. They were brown, but not brittle. I discovered that when I put them under glass, the glue did wonderful things to them. The browned petals looked like leather.

Dyed rose petal pendant.

I accidentally spilled a little alcohol ink on one of the browned petals. The ink was absorbed immediately, but the colors became dark and vibrant. I put those under glass, as well. I learned that colored rose petals, at least the dry ones, look like butterfly wings. It was magical.

I decided to call a neighborhood florist, and see if I could get any discarded plant or floral material. I wanted to experiment. I got very lucky. They do weddings and other events on the weekend, and always have an abundance of rose petals that are thrown away on Monday or Tuesday. By the time I went in, they had a days’ worth of floral material, and a shopping bag FULL of rose petals.

 

Selecting the Process

Being part of the Resin Art Fun Open Forum on Facebook, I’ve encountered several people who like to put flowers into resin, or fill bulbs with resin and drop flowers and other dried material into them. I’ve heard a number of things about how to go about drying flowers. Some people use the oven, others the microwave. Dehydrators are popular, but in my opinion don’t offer enough control over the process. They’re good for bulk drying, of whole flowers, though. Dump them in the trays, set the thing to dry, and walk away. It’s tempting because you don’t have to babysit it. See #1.

Some people swear by kitty litter, and others use silica. I wanted to stay away from the latter because of its toxicity, and the former due to space considerations. In my tiny studio, there’s not much space for large bins full of kitty litter or silica, with flowers embedded in them.

Because of finances and space, the microwave would’ve been selected at this point, regardless. But essentially, it was time constraints which forced the issue. I expected to procure a few petals. 600 petals took up two plastic bins, and they weren’t going to last much more than a day before becoming unusable! The microwave was what I had on-hand. The microwave was what I used.

The Drying Process

It’s a tedious process, and turns out to be rather time consuming if you’re drying a large quantity of petals, as I was, but it gives you greater control over how the petals come out, and it doesn’t require any funny chemicals.

Originally, I only did 15 at a time (See #3). I soon found that for the first heating, I could fill the dish. Although they would sometimes wrinkle, the shrinkage was so great that they soon ceased to touch. 20 seemed to be the magic number for a standard dinner plate. In my opinion, this is still a small amount. 636 petals divided by 20 became 32 batches of petals. While each batch only takes 2 – 3 minutes to cook, there’s time spent sorting petals, laying them on the plate, letting the utensils cool, checking them for “doneness” and putting them away. (You’re on your feet the whole time.) I found that most batches took me closer to 15 minutes. That’s the equivalent of roughly 477 minutes for drying rose petals – almost 8 hours – which is exactly what I spent – four hours the first day, and four hours the second day.

Rubbery multi-colored petals after 1 minute of heating.

Numbers aside, the process is simple. Put a paper towel on a dish, lay the petals, cover with another paper towel and microwave for one minute. Turn the petals, smoothing them flat – they’re a bit stretchy at this point – sort of like rubber (See #4). Re-cover. Microwave another minute. When you remove the petals, they should be dry and stiff. Handle them gently. They *will* crumble.

636 dried rose petals only fills half a bin!

Typically, 2 minutes was all I needed. It was easy to tell when the petals weren’t done – areas would still feel soft or rubbery. When the whole petal doesn’t feel that way, it’s dry. Sometimes another 30 seconds to one minute was needed to get problem areas.  After I was done, I put them in one of the plastic bins. They don’t look like much, do they?

 

Welcome!

Opening a business has been a scary prospect for me.  Fibromyalgia took my life years ago, right when I was finishing a degree in accounting.  Within two years, I couldn’t retain a job, no matter how hard I tried.  My illness made me too unreliable.  I lost all faith in myself, and it took me years to pick myself up and realize that there could still be something out there for me – I just had to work *with* my illness and not against it.  I started a blog at Netjera.com so I could share my journey with others.  I started a Facebook page for Netjera, for the same reason.  I was searching, I knew others had to be as well.  When I was diagnosed, there were no resources and even less understanding.  I wanted people to understand, and I wanted to keep moving forward.  It took me more years of searching to find something I loved, that fit my needs.

Even so, it took me years longer to feel comfortable enough to take the first step – an Etsy store last November – only to have it taken away from me.  (I’ll be posting about some of the things you should know about Etsy later.  I learned the hard way, and would hate for you to learn that way, as well.)  Losing the store almost crushed me, but I defiantly moved the store to Aftcra.com and then watched, demoralized, as the store sat for six months without a single sale.

What encouraged me to keep going was love.  I LOVE what I’m doing.  For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’m truly “home”.  I also have faith.  Faith in my product, faith in myself, faith in the goodness of mankind, and faith in a higher power.  That faith enabled me to see opportunities where others may not.  It also placed people in my path whose hearts were filled with kindness – like the lady who paid my Garden Club membership, feeling that it would be critical to my networking.  It was.  I booked two events because of the garden club, and when people think of pendants, they think of me and contact me about them.  There are many people who have taught me, who have reached out to me and helped me up when I’ve fallen, whose faith in me was unshakable, even when my own was not.  I keep going as much to repay them, as for myself.  The hope they provided could not be repaid by giving up.

A couple of months ago, my ISP informed me that Netjera.com was destroyed when they tried to move it to a new server.  Nothing is recoverable.  I still have the Netjera Facebook page, but the loss of the website was like a physical blow.  I put my heart and soul into that blog for several years, hoping to ease the way for others.  The entire database was destroyed.  Every post is gone.  I will never recover from it.

The last year has been full of things – including broken relationships, forced moves and deaths in the family – which have hit me in the soul.  Oddly enough, though, I’m in really good spirits.  I feel as if I’m on the right track.  I’m making beautiful pendants and earrings that people seem to love.  I’m learning new skills and experimenting with incorporating old ones into my jewelry making.  I have no right, based on past history, to feel so optimistic; but for some reason I do.  I feel that the future is incredibly bright.

I am finally ready to put my fear aside.  I’ve jumped into this start-up with both feet.  Business plan, grant applications, crowd funding, doing odd jobs to buy materials, joining trade groups, business cards, packaging, and finally a website.  Scary stuff, but I’ve never come this far before and I know I’m on to something.

“Tangles, Twists and Treasures” – most people say “I love your name!”, which is flattering.  I love it, too.  I picked it because it picked me.  It’s what I do – I make tangled drawings, crocheted fiber creations and all sorts of treasures.  It reflects my life, and all the things in it – as well as all the things I hope to put out into the world.  It’s been quite a journey.  It promises to continue to be better and better.  I hope you’ll join me for it.

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