Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If a Price is Too Good To True...

If a Price is Too Good To True...

Have you ever heard the phrase "If a price is too good to be true, it probably is"?  Well, let's just say, I got a recent dose of reality over the past 24 hours.  Indeed, this has been a nightmare in every sense of the online way it can possibly be. 

I bought some pearls you see and I was SO very excited to get them.  Unfortunately, the nacre was a total mess and the colour completely off from what I had expected.  Now I know from my own attempts at photographing my work that colour is a tricky thing!  That's why I end up posting sooo many pictures of my work on facebook and etsy.  I want my clients to know what they are getting.  I bend over backwards because jewelry is my pleasure, my hobby that turned into a hobby business and it is what I do when I need to relax or escape from all of lifes little annoyances.  My jewelry is about being positive.  It's about making ME happy and the pleasure I get when I know that the person buying or wearing my work feels good. 

I hunt for the best quality supplies to work with and when a shop is good to me I will praise them to the world and keep coming back.  Even if the product is not great I will at least respect, appreciate and praise good customer service.

That's what happens when you grow up in a family business dead center of a village where - if you lose one client - you risk losing everything.  Even when a client drives you crazy or is being unreasonable.... you apologize, you offer to fix the problem and you be nice to them.  Because that's your job.  If you have to do any customer service, it's your job to make those customers happy.  You don't rate your buyers.  A good buyer is one who pays you.  End of story. 

But somehow, in the online Etsy world, reality has gone askew!  Since when do you 'rate' buyers?  And since when does a seller suddenly gain the ability to blackmail a buyer???  If I post 'neutral' then the seller can come along and post all sorts of nasty comments and add a negative to my buyer feedback.  And the result is... people who come to my shop who won't know the whole story or just how crazy this pearl seller is!  So what to do when in an online world your entire presence is based on positive reviews?  What do you do when you have worked so hard to find quality supplies, to build a facebook page, a blog, learn all these new skills, try like the dickens to take nice accurate pictures, create an Etsy account and join a million circles, forums to network and create positive connections.  Making treasuries, sharing the love, letting people know when they have created something you think is just awesome because heck - isn't that always nice to hear when it's the truth? 

What's the point when a seller can come along and destroy your online presence with the simple click of a button.  It's online bullying - plain and simple.  If I don't change my review to positive - then this pearl seller will blast me and my shop (even though she's never bought from me before!)  Well, I could cave but I won't.  Nope.  I'm not going to do it. 

This seller is blackmailing me and that's not right.  Hopefully, my clients will see that one black spot and know that it's in the buyer section - NOT the seller section of Etsy.  I also hope that they listen to my clients rather than this pearl seller. 

Some of you might think I'm biting my nose off to spite my face.  That I should just suck it up, apologize to this nasty pearl seller, lie and say the pearls were great.  But at the end of the day, there is only one person in this world that anyone needs to live with.  That person is yourself.  And if you can't honour yourself - then what's the point of anything at all? 

So screw it.  I'll open a new buyer account so that these kind of vindictive people can not touch my shop anymore and I'll hope that people focus on my clients and on my work.  I will also try to remember why I started making jewellery and selling it in the first place!  That reason was happiness, beauty and the joy of creating something beautiful. 

I'm gonna keep doing my thing.  I'm not going to change who I am or what I believe.  I care about my customers, I care about my work and I do my very best... always.   That's enough for me. 

As for the vindictive nasty pearl seller - well she can shove it up her you-know-what.

- Tara, Treasure Trunk Designs

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fossil Coral - the beauty of nature...

Fossil Coral - the beauty of nature...

Fossil coral is a natural stone formed when ancient coral is gradually replaced with agate. The proper name for fossil coral is 'agatized coral' or 'agatized fossil coral'.

Fossilized coral usually appears as small flower-like patterns in the stone. It can display a wide range of natural colors from white and pink to brown, gray, black, yellow and red.

Learn more about TTD, the ocean and the inspiration behind my designs:

  • Treasure Trunk Designs - Where it all started!

  • Ocean Bliss... Jack, dah beach is mine!

  • Barbados' Sea Glass Rings!

  • On Being Broke & Why I love Sea Glass...

  • The ocean as inspiration...

  • - Tara, Treasure Trunk Designs

    Here are some examples from my fossil coral collection:

    The ocean as inspiration...

    The ocean as inspiration...

    My journey in jewellery design began with the ocean.  Breathing new life into tiny treasure found along the shores of Barbados I created earrings, pendants and even picture frames out of sea glass, bits of shell, coral and pebbles. 

    See more of TTD's Genuine Barbados' SeaGlass Jewellery

    Upon returning to Canada and having access to tools and supplies such as fine silver, sterling and gold, gemstones and a variety of beading supplies, designing and creating jewellery soon became my passion.  While my friends were out at the pub after work, I would be sitting in my cottage surrounded by a mess of stones, glass and wire creating my latest masterpiece.  While my friends were shopping at Holt Renfrew (which I could never afford!), I would be hording over trays of briolettes or gazing at walls of glittering gemstones that were as tempting as candy is to a child!

    But the ocean - with all of it's charm, power and mystery - was never far from my thoughts.  Perhaps this is why I have recently developed somewhat of a fetish for fossil coral!

    The ocean was where I found tranquility, harmony and peace.  By creating jewellery from the sea glass and shells that I found along the shores or discovering a beautiful piece of fossilized coral or shell, I am brought back to the ocean and the joy that I found there.

    See more blog posts on sea glass, Barbados and the inspiration behind TTD:

    - Tara, Treasure Trunk Designs


    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Sneak Peak!

    * Sneak Peak! *
    (Advance look at new TTD cabs!)

    Okay, I can't resist showing you a sneak peak at my new cabochons!  I search wide and far to find interesting, unique and beautiful cabs to work with.  It has been interesting learning about the different stones and gems - where they come from, their characteristics, the lapidary artists who cut and shape them. One day I would love to learn how to unearth and cut my own cabochons but... one step-at-a-time!

    Watch out for upcoming posts featuring lapidary artists, reviews & more!
    Bishop Ranch Plume Agate Cabochon from Texas

    This is some very old material from the Bishop Ranch in Texas. Closed to collecting in the 60's, Geoff from Geoffrey's Cabochons found a stash of this fine plume agate.  Wonderful translucence and amazing plumes.  This rock was collected more than 50 years ago. It has a nice mix of white fortification agate and black plumes.

    Size: 12x23x5mm

    Galah Porcelain Agate cabochon from Australia

    This is very special agate from Agate creek in North Queensland Australia. Also known as porcelain agate, the pink color combined with the banded patterns are just beautiful. A sub variety of Queensland agate, the pink and white is known as Galah Porcelain agate. Collected 15 years ago by a well known opal and agate seller from Queensland Australia.  This cab was purchased from Geoff of Geoffrey's Cabochons.

    Size: 9x21x5mm

    Agatized Coral

    This lovely oval fossil coral has an excellent pattern and cut.  I adore the sea, corals and fossils.  The patterns suck me right in!

    Size: 34 x 23 x 4 mm

    Agatized Coral Cabochon

     I adore the sea, corals and fossils.  The patterns suck me right in to this salmon coloured dreamy cab!  
    Size: 39 x 30 x 8 mm
    Drusy Cabochon Pair

    This sparking matched pair of white drusy ovals has an opalescent pearl-like coating. I can't decide whether or not to use this pair for earrings or maybe as the focal piece of two rings.  What do you think?

    Size: 18 x 14 x 6 mm

    Natural Drusy Pair

    More drusies!!!  This pair of sparkly white natural drusy round are polished on both the sides and the back.  I definitely want to make rings out of these! 
    Size: 20 x 4 mm

    Pastel Agate Cabochon

    Bulls'eye! This pretty little pastel cab has gray and green bands on a creamy white background. Soft, sweet and unique.  So pretty!

    27 x 20 x 8 mm
    Ruby In Zoisite Cabochon

    Look at the ruby heart in the middle!  Isn't it fab? 
    A striking high dome cut stone with very nice red ruby in a green and black zoisite matrix.

    Size: 42 x 34 x 10 mm


    Sardonyx Agate Pair

    Zoom, zoom! This pair of sardonyx stones screams "GO!"  They are so fun and striking. 
    Size: 25 x 18 mm


    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Photographing Jewellery

    * Photographing Jewellery *

    Photographing jewelry is NOT easy.  It's tiny, sparkly, reflects everything and a little shake of the hand makes your pictures fuzzy as all heck.  My first jewellery photos were a nightmare.  Hours of painstaking effort for blurry pictures with terrible colour that made my best work look like crap.

    I took my jewellery outside, on the deck, on the outdoor table, inside, on the desk, on the floor even!  I changed the settings, I used a flash, I took off the flash, I changed the ISO, manual, automatic, shutter speed, you name it!  I even got out my extended snap button so I wouldn't shake the camera when I clicked the pic.  Nothing worked! 

    Here are some of my original jewellery pics....

    These were some of the "better" pictures from my first attempts.  As you can see, they still suck! 

    So, after much cussing I decided that something needed to be done!  No one would ever look twice at my jewellery with pictures like this! 

    Having gone back to university for my Master's degree, money was tight.  However, after digging through my change box and hunting around in all of my winter coat pockets (does anybody else do that?) and scrounging around for change that fell into the sofa cushions I managed to put together enough money to buy a light box.  It's not the best-of-the-best by any means.  However, as a start-up business, it was enough to meet my needs by combining efficiency, a decent price and a nice small pack-up size since I work from home and don't have a full studio to store all of my equipment yet!

    I chose the Optex Portable Photo Studio & Lighting Kit (OSLKIT) which was selling for about $120 although I recommend you do some shopping around as the price can range by around $30!

    This kit is very handy.  It is super easy to use and folds up to a nice convient size.  While the light bulbs are not quite bright enough and you may still need to fiddle around a bit, the Optex kit is invaluable to jewelry artists on a budget.  Combine it with a few simple props, a decent camera and a tripod and you're laughin'.

    Here are some of the photos taken post OSLKIT:

    Can you see the difference?  I sure can.  It is SO much easier to photograph silver, gold and gemstones now that I have the Optex light box.  I still get frustrated from time-to-time but the improvement to my jewellery pictures is undeniable.

    Here are a few other tips to get you started:

    - Forget photographing on a black background.  It just doesn't work.  Stick to white, grey or a some solid colour that does not detract from your pieces. 
    - Keep it simple.  The focus is your jewelry so try not to clutter the pictures you take with too many decorative items. 
    - Try to take detailed pictures of your work so that you can display each piece from different angles.  This way, the client knows exactly what they are getting.
    - If you are able to post more than one picture of the piece, it's nice to let your clients know the size of the item. To indicate size, place a coin or a ruler beside your work.  If it's a ring, take a picture of the ring on your hand.  Just hold your hand in the light box and try not to shake! 
    - Use a photo editor.  Your digital pics might still need a bit of fiddling with and a photo editor will do the trick and allow you to add a logo.  I don't have a photo editor right now as my computer died and everything needs replacing and updating but it's definitely on my list!

    Still feeling the budget pinch?  You can start by making your very own light box.  Check this video out by A & R Pythons - he photographs snakes!  Yes SNAKES!  Yikes!  Anyway, the concept is the same and the snake videos - while they freak me out - are kinda fun!

    Have fun!

    - Tara, Treasure Trunk Designs

    Optex Portable Photo Studio & Lighting Kit – OSLKIT


    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    The commodification of culture and the renewed pleasure of bartering...

    The commodification of culture and the renewed pleasure of bartering...

    Someone asked me the other day why I received so much pleasure from my recent "trades".  They insisted that I wasn't saving any money - that I still had to spend money on supplies and that I was investing my time, my effort and a lot of hard work!  If I can sell the jewelry - then why trade?  I'm losing money on jewelry that I could have sold, they said. 

    These were valid points and insight that was not entirely lost on me, even with all of the excitement of my beautiful scarves and pillow cases!  lol...

    Nevertheless, I think there is something to be said about trading.  I'm still paying taxes on all of the supplies and on shipping and the rest.  But by doing this there is an added connection that is lost when buying from large department stores or random retail shopping.  It is the personal element that is enhanced by knowing the product is handmade.  I get to interact with the person who created these items.  I learn about their product, the work that is involved, the inspiration behind the pieces and knowing that they - like me - put so much of themselves into what they created. 

    I find it immensely gratifying that someone would consider my work worthy of a trade for something that they put so much of their heart and soul into. 

    Bartering, trading, swapping - call it what you may - has brought me more than just "things".  It's has introduced me to people I would never have other wise met.  It has brought the gratification of knowing that what I've produced is valuable to others (and not just in the financial sense of the word).  Bartering has brought new relationships, new experiences, new skills and the ability to see value in what might have otherwise been considered valueless. 

    I have traded my time, my language skills and my customer service background for scuba diving lessons and 'free' scuba diving in Barbados.  I got to meet wonderful people and explore the ocean in a most amazing way.  I taught English in Korea in exchange for cooking lessons which was loads of fun and now I can share the pleasures of Korean food with my friends and family here in Canada. 

    Bartering is about more than just a simple 'transaction'; it's about building relationships and connecting what you do or what you make with the people around you. 

    I've learned new skills, met wonderful people and have been able to view the world in a completely different light. 

    Anyway, enough rambling on for one night!  Back to my work!

    Have a wonderful night!

    - Tara, Treasure Trunk Designs