Saturday, February 28, 2015

No harm, no foul

"And the darkness falls, and the rain comes down in the midst of spring, there's a sadness in the heart of things."

I'm so over winter.

Which is funny because I live in Texas.

It's just that the one upside to enduring five months of brutal heat between May and October is that we (usually) have relatively mild weather the other seven months.

I can't remember ever having so many gray gloomy days and such a long spell of cold ones.

Still, it is odd to think that in just one week we will be springing forward into Daylight-Saving Time. That used to mean summer to me. We still have three weeks of official winter left before we get to official spring.

It's been an odd year so far. I honestly thought that by not taking any classes, resigning from my position as contributing editor of a glass quarterly, and taking a long break from my animal services volunteerism, that I'd have more time to do the things that are important to me.

But somehow the things that are left have expanded to fill all available time and I still don't have enough hours to do all the important things.

I am very happy that I did see both of my daughters this month. Three days in Keller, three days in Austin, that time was well spent. I'm especially happy that each of my girls took a vacation day just to spend time with me, and that time was quality time. No underlying tension, no arguments, no judgments. We just had fun.

And of course, it was a short month. I spent all the rest of February in much the same way. I indulged in melting glass almost every morning and walked three miles on the treadmill almost every afternoon.

I spent the balance of my days doing all the things it takes to sell my beads. I spend time with Neil in the evenings. He is reading Lord of the Rings to me and we are almost halfway through the trilogy. We're still watching a lot of British drama and mystery on TV and on DVD, with a little Nature and Nova thrown in.

I've had a good run of feeling good about the beads I'm making, with a few days here and there where it just wasn't happening. I've had more ups and downs in bead sales than usual. I've had days without a single sale followed by a flurry of buy-it-nows.

I've been buying fewer beads on impulse and being more thoughtful about what I buy.

One of the things that I thought I wanted to do but haven't done is make any jewelry. I have a lot of ideas floating in my head, and I've had a necklace partly laid out for a couple of weeks but somehow I just never feel like picking up the beading wire and doing the job.

Maybe if I can just get going, get one piece done, I can maintain some momentum. I'm only thinking about making pieces for myself right now, not to sell, although it would be OK to have some inventory in case I want to try selling some jewelry again.

One cool thing I did this month, really just for fun, was to start my own Facebook group. It's called Elizabeth Beads and I have more than 30 members without doing anything to try to grow it. My business page, also Elizabeth Beads. It's not an auction group, like the Facebook groups where I sell my beads, it's just a page where I list my beads for sale at a set price, with no deadlines to worry about, nor hand slaps for forgetting deadlines to worry about.

I noticed that for whatever mysterious reason, my business page was gaining likes on a daily basis (555 likes as I type this). But it's clear that just because one likes a page, there are no guarantees that page updates will appear in one's news feed.

My group is an open group. You can see it and participate in it without joining it, although if you want to see notifications when I list new beads, then by all means join it. I've set it up so that any member can approve new members. I'm a trusting soul. About some things anyway.

One of the nice things about my group is that if one of my listings in the Facebook auction groups expires without a bid, I can move the listing to my own group. And should I decide to give it a larger audience at a later date, I can move it back. It's not uncommon for a bead to cycle a few times without ginning up much interest, only to sell as soon as I list it at another time.

So far I've had a handful of sales from my page, some nice comments and a whole lot of likes. There doesn't seem to be much downside. I could be more disciplined about listing on it daily and promoting it on my business page, but on the whole, I think I'm going to sit back and let it grow organically. If it does it does, and if it doesn't no harm, no foul.

I have enough validation issues to wring my figurative hands over, I don't need any more.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Some new beads.

And my fantasy salmon, swimming their way to Alaska. Two beads will go to a musher to carry on the trail, along with 10 pewter husky beads. The musher will keep one of the beads as a gift. The one that comes back will go into a display at the Children's Hospital in Anchorage and will eventually be auctioned for Beads of Courage. The pewter husky beads go to kids in the Beads of Courage program right away, along with a note of encouragement from the musher. The other 10 beads will be sold "Buy One Give One" -- the buyer keeps one and one goes to a child in the program. All funds raised by the sales also go to Beads of Courage.

"Shadows falling in the noonday sun
Blue feeling to the maximum
Look what happens when you love someone
And they don't love you

The heartache
The risk you run
The chance you take
When you love someone
And the sorrow
For the lonely one
When the heartache comes

Never thought I'd be alone like this
Guess I should have been a realist
That's the trouble with relationships
They end too soon

And the heartache
The risk you run
The chance you take
When you love someone
And the sorrow
For the lonely one
When the heartache comes

And the darkness falls
And the rain comes down in the midst of spring
There's a sadness in the heart of things

And the heartache
The risk you run
The chance you take
When you love someone
And the sorrow
For the lonely one
When the heartache comes

Shadows falling in the noonday sun
Blue feeling to the maximum."

(Warren Zevon)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Inside the Enigma

"Look in the mirror, look in the mirror, what does it show?
I hear you counting, I know you're adding, adding up the score."

"A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Winston Churchill used this phrase to describe Russia during a radio broadcast in October 1939.

I use it today to describe the vagaries of taste in lampwork beads.

Beauty really must be in the eye of the beholder, when beads that I would describe as the road gravel of artisan glass are bid up to surreal prices.

As an artist, I'd be embarrassed to accept someone's hard-earned $75 for seven very pedestrian abstract nugget beads.

At the same time, and for perhaps the first time, I had the urge to send a message to a beadmaker who had listed 77 spacers for a start bid of $6 and a buy-it-now option of $10.

I've always sat on the other side of that fence, maintaining that pricing is a personal decision. I've said that no one owes anything to the lampwork community as a whole in terms of pricing their beads in line with anyone else's beads. I've had no patience with the argument that artists who need to earn a living shouldn't be undermined by hobbyists who don't need to make money and are just selling for fun.

I'd like to say my impulse to message this artist was solely out of concern that she was selling herself short. To some degree, it was. But I won't deny that I was a little pissed because I was offering 20 similar beads for $20 and already thought that was a steal of a deal.

I didn't send her a message. I know how I'd react if anyone sent me a message about my pricing. I might not say it, but I'd think it. Piss off.

Besides, I'd bet good money that not everyone has my self restraint and that someone else would probably read her the riot act and save me the bother.

I did a trunk show this week. It ran from Sunday night to Tuesday night. One of my buyers and I started chatting on the last night and she asked me if I'd had a good show.

Monday had been slow. Tuesday was a little better. I sold a fair number of beads, mostly for the opening bid prices. A fair number of my listings had no bids.

I said, it's hard to answer that. I struggle with it. I compare myself to others. I know that isn't good.

She said, I collect from many different artists ... you are one of my favorites ... I've read that sales are slow these days all around ... I guess it goes in cycles.

I said, you are sweet. I do have a lot of faithful regular customers and I had some new ones in this show.

She said, see? Then it was a successful show because you got some new fans! Good for you!

That's when I whipped out the line about the riddle-mystery-enigma. What sells, what doesn't sell.

Will I ever learn to stop worrying that particular bone? I don't think there is any answer really.

My real frustration comes in, I think, because I want to be a better bead maker than I am. I want to be the bead maker who sells every damn bead she lists in her trunk show, the one who has bidding wars on her beads.

Then again, I don't want my beads bid up to prices above what I perceive to be their value.

It's hard to really dissect what it is that I want. Bead sales validate whatever that is, but it isn't the sales per se that I want. I want to create beauty. I want to achieve a level of artistry that goes beyond competence. It's intangible, I suppose. There are no concrete measurements, no metrics other than bead sales, and bead sales are not an authentic metric. As witnessed by the rubbish beads that command unfathomable prices.

There is only one thing to do, that I can think of, and that is to just keep making beads. I'll either get there or I won't.

Sometimes all it takes to make me happy is to open the kiln and have one bead out of 30 that I feel really good about.

Here are two recent ones. My heart did a little flip when I saw how they turned out.

These are not for sale yet. I'm that much in love with them.

That could be a problem, if I ever get to where I want to be.

I'll deal.

Look in the mirror, look in the mirror, what does it show?
I hear you counting, I know you're adding, adding up the score
I know, oh yes I know
What you tell yourself, tell yourself
I know what you tell yourself, you tell yourself

Ever since Eden, we're built for pleasing, everyone knows
Ever since Adam cracked his ribs and let us go
I know, oh yes I know
What you tell yourself, you tell yourself
I know what you tell yourself, you tell yourself

Who taught you how to lie so well
And to believe in each and every word you say?
Who told you that nothing about you is all right
It's just no use, it's just no good, you'll never be OK?

Well I know, I know that wrong's been done to you
It's such a tough world, that's what you say
And I know, I know it's easier said than done
But that's enough girl, give it away
Give it, give it all away

Tell yourself that you're not pretty
Look at you, you're beautiful
Tell yourself that no one sees
Plain Jane, invisible me, just tell yourself
Tell yourself

Tell yourself you'll never be
Like the anorexic beauties in the magazines
Like a bargain basement Barbie doll
No belle du jour, no femme fatale
Just tell yourself
Tell yourself

Tell yourself there's nothing worse
Than the pain inside and the way it hurts
But tell yourself it's nothing new
Cause everybody feels it too
They feel it too

And there's just no getting 'round
The fact that you're thirteen right now."

(Natalie Merchant)