Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Tuesday I received an email from someone I didn't know who had seen my jewelry in my online shop on Etsy. She wrote that she found my work inspiring and that she wished she lived closer to me so that she could learn from me.

That was really amazing to receive. And it was very humbling. (I mean, did she really write the email to the right person???)

You see, I've only been making jewelry for a short while, and only in the past year I've been able to devote significant time into it.

Most of my techniques been self-learned and, therefore, as you can imagine, a lot of trial and error has gone into my designs. But, then again, it's amazing how many designs just seem to create themselves. It's almost like I'm just the medium for them to come through.

I opened my Etsy shop about a year ago. My husband was concerned that my hobby was getting out of hand and that I was spending too much money on it. So I thought that if I could sell a few things, I could use the money toward my hobby. I already knew about Etsy, a website that only sells handmade items and supplies, and thought I should give it a try.

I opened my shop and soon my jewelry started to sell. In fact, sales were better than I ever expected and I've used a lot of the profits to buy tools and materials that I would otherwise never have afforded. With these tools, I had the opportunity to learned new techniques. When it comes down to it, Etsy has had a direct positive impact on my craft and also on my life.

The kindly e-mail I received made me reflect on where I had been a year ago. There's been so many new things I've learned ! I decided to make a list and share it with you. (With most of the items on this list, I've tried to hotlink a related article for you to read about further if you're interested.)

So let me begin. In no particular order, a year ago I didn't know how to:

  • Blog. I didn't have a blog and didn't know how to set one up. I didn't even know about or other blogging sites. Since then I've learned enough to be confident to share tips and hints. Hey, and I can even use html. (OK. Maybe just a little.)

  • Use the macro setting on my camera. Yes, I really only recently discovered it and it has made all the difference in my jewelry photograpy ! I've even written tutorials about it on this blog.

  • Make a light box and use it effectively. (Or even know exactly what a lightbox is.)

  • Edit photos with a photo-editing program. This includes learning about cropping, using the proper light balance and exposure, etc.

  • Make my own headpins and jump rings. I hate to admit it, but I didn't even feel comfortable closing a jump ring properly. But I learned how they can be used to make simple chains ! And then I learned to make fancy links for more elaborate chains.

  • Make my own earwires instead of buying them, so that they would be a part of the integral design of a pair of earrings. (I think this adds a special touch and give earrings a custom look.)

  • Wire-wrap briolettes -and even create a tutorial on how to do it! (This has been one of my most popular posts.)

  • Market myself and my jewelry through the internet. Before this, I never had an account on Flickr or even looked at a classified listing on Craigslist, let alone post on it. (If you're interested, I wrote about my experiences promoting on etsy and also promoting outside of it. )
  • Make post earrings or hoops with posts.

  • Develop skill at handforging silver, a fancy name for hammering metals. (Which, by the way, is very satisfying after a long day at work or after dealing with two teenagers.)

  • Except for simple loops, know how to do wirework, for example,
    herringbone wraps

  • Oxidize silver and polish it to create an antiqued look. (And here's a link on how to do it using eggs.)

  • Solder (a HUGE accomplishement for me) and be able to Bezel-set stones to make pendants or rings

  • Polish metals using sandpaper, a rock tumbler, or a polishing wheel. (The rock tumbling story is one of my favorites. It definitely falls in the TRIAL and ERROR category.)

        Use a gas grill to make jewelry. (This story is almost as good as the one about the rock tumbler.)

      • make clasps for necklaces or bracelets

      • Use a ring mandrel and make a wire wrapped ring

    • Use a disc cutter to cut circles of metal and Use a dapping block to shape the discs and use them in jewelry

    • Now that I've had an opportunity to look back on what I've learned in the past year, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I also look forward to what the next year will bring and feel excited that I might learn even more.

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      1. swisssidejewelleryetc said...
        Hi Contrariwise,
        Another inspirational post and a great summary of things learned. I missed you over the Summer - your blog is a delight and your jewellery is fabulous.
        Ravenswick said...
        Congrats on your anniversary! You certainly have come SO far in just one year it is amazing. Your jewelry is so pretty, I can't believe you have not been doing it much longer.
        Contrariwise said...
        Thank you so much. I'm glad to be back blogging too!
        High Desert Diva said...
        That's a heck of a lot in one year!
        Earmark Social said...
        i have no idea how i have not seen your shop before, but wowwie, how beautiful! I love it all, i just hearted many new items! WOOHOO!
        The Stewart Stuff said...
        Thank you so much for your advice and tips! What a wonderful store you have. It's no wonder you have had such success!
        Contrariwise said...

        Well I'm so glad you found me! Come back and visit my blog. I love having new readers and subscribers.
        CheLLe said...
        I really enjoyed reading this today. I am new to etsy and thinking about opening my own shop here. I was just wanting to talk to someone who has already been there done that. I couldnt find your email address anywhere to send you an email. I am much like you were a year ago. Not to saavy with all this just yet. Is there any way you can please email me at, so I could ask u a few ?'s
        CarolynArtist said...
        Well done, great helpful tips! Only a year? I would have thought many many more! (you must be an artist to the bone!)
        UniqueNurseGranny said...
        Your accomplishment are mind blowing.Congratulations.
        Contrariwise said...

        That's very kind of you to say so, but I don't really think it's been such a huge accomplishment.

        I've had fun learning and trying out new techniques. And, more importantly, I've been given the opportunity and have had the support of my family.

        My husband thinks it's great. And, as you might have seen in some of my postings, my daughter Emma has been having a blast helping me.

        I'm also at a point where my kids are old enough that I can have some "me" time.
        Mimi's Crafts said...
        Your jewelry is lovely and I enjoyed reading your blog.
        jodie said...
        Great post!
        I've been selling online for two years and am amazed at all I've managed to learn in that time.

        And yes, emails from people who admire your work are fantastic...a real boost!
        Diary of a Madd Weekly Painter said...
        Well Contrariwise, I hope your husband can see all your accomplishments. You made a hobby pay for it self!!!! AND what a blogger! I just recently discovered you in the forums at Etsy. Right after I subscribed to your blog emails and then I found out about being a follower (also info. from you) I wish I had your abilitys for blogging. I really feel it is as much a gift as jewlery making or painting. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt to put the follower thingy on my blog with your instructions. Thanks so very much for all your help. I know that sounds strange coming from someone you've never met, but posting so much info for total strangers to better themselves with deserves a great BIG THANK YOU. Sincerely, Sue Furrow
        (so prob. most people with any comp. knowledge would put a link here-but I can't) I'm on etsy at
        Amithigirl said...
        Congratulations on your anniversary. What wonderful achievement:):)
        Anonymous said...
        Congrats on your anniversary and thanks for all the tips.

        I had never read your rock tumbler adventures before. Forget I know nothing about tumblers, but that story made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. Thanks for sharing
        metaldreamer said...
        Congratulations and wow, you blog is great. Keep the heat on and make more great pieces. When you have time come visit at
        JMW Jewelry said...
        I looked back at some of the links from this post - you have some great tips! Thanks!!
        Anonymous said...
        I love reading about how you learned how to make jewelry and I congratulate you. YOu will be my role model. Seriously!!!


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