Monday, February 6, 2023

Obsession Update

     It's been 3 weeks, maybe 4, since I started wrapping stones. I am really pleased with how far I have come in a short time. This rainbow fluorite was wrapped on January 23rd. The first one, which was done on my second day of wrapping, was just January 15th. Considering how odd the shape of this stone is, I am incredibly pleased with how it came out. 
     This lapis lazuli is another sort of odd shaped stone. While it is naturally mostly triangular shaped, is done with a copper wrap like the naturally square sodalite from my last post. I like this color of wire with this shade of blue. And I really like this wrap style. It's actually incredibly versatile.  
      I have a ton of gemstones already, and I have been purchasing individual stones and lots (did you know that people sell lots of stones on Mercari? I learned that recently), plus I went to a specialty stone shop and did a small almost bulk buy of hand picked pieces. I like stones that naturally are mostly oval, square, or triangular. I also like stones that are almost perfectly egg shaped, even though they are tricky to wrap. It amuses me to try. Apparently I like a challenge. This piece of carnelian came out well, but after I took photos of it, I lost it. I have absolutely no idea where it ended up. I don't even know if I will ever find it. 
     I also took an odd shaped stone, that I wrapped more simply, and turned it into a custom necklace. The bail on the stone is large enough that you can remove the stone from the custom chain to put it on a simple, plain chain, or a cord. I like options and I figure other people probably do as well. This piece was the first to get to my website www.blessed-by-fire-designs.com. More will be added soon. 
     When I picked out this stone, with a variety of others, it was from the specialty shop. Thistle Glass Crafts has a much larger variety of stones than any other place I have been. I was picking stones that I liked, without always paying attention to what they were. So when it was time to pay I had already forgotten this stone. Mary was also stumped for a bit, which almost never happens. She is incredibly good at identifying hundreds of stones by sight. This is one of the newer varieties she has and we worked out that it is ruby in quartz. I think it looks great wrapped in copper. It's funny how many things I have decided to wrap in copper, it's not usually a color I would gravitate towards. 
    This is a piece of tree agate, and it was very hard to get a good photo of. I should just bring it outside to the picnic table. Sometimes it's sunny. Not often, but sometimes. Brass (gold color) is also not something I would usually gravitate towards. But some stones just look best with it. 
     This stone was another that I forgot, almost right away. It MIGHT be rainbow moonstone, but it may also be Merlinite. What I should do is bring everything back to Mary, ask her, take notes, and pay more attention to what I am buying in the future. I know a lot of stones by sight, but there are so many less typical stones that I bought from Mary and I should have taken notes. 
     This was another different type of wrap that I really wanted to try. Sort of a floating stone thing. The demo was with a cabochon, just like most of the tutorials I have watched. and I had to adjust the design a bit to actually make it work for this stone (which may be sunstone, or hematoid quartz... or something entirely different). I like this, but it is not as solidly secure as I like. I have a couple of stones that I purchased that someone else wrapped, and they are secure, but can be wiggled a bit. I don't like my stones to have any wiggle, for safety. This stone might get rewrapped. I have ideas. 
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      I realize that not everyone likes really embellished pieces, so I tried something that was much simpler. This is another wrap that was meant for a cabochon, but I had a stone that was naturally fairly oval, and I tried it out. It's fun and different and I like it. I also know that this is definitely a rainbow moonstone. 
     Finally, with the idea that not everyone likes an elaborate wrap, I have been working a bit on some really basic wraps. The two stones on either side might have been super easy to wrap if I had the correct gauge of wire. The one of the left was too heavy and the one on the right was too light. They both worked out, but they are not as nice as I would like, though I think they could work if I get the gauge in the middle. They may also be a lot quicker than the fancier wrap, though they were not particularly quick because the gauge made everything harder. The stone in the middle I am actually pretty proud of because it was my concept and design. I took elements I had learned in tutorials and made up this wrap myself. The stone is not perfectly square in the front, it is sort of unevenly almost triangular on the sides, so it is a uniform and not uniform shape all at the same time. The overwrap on the top was to hide tool marks, which worked out fairly well, but might have been nicer with half round wire, instead of very thin round wire. I may redo this with different materials, but in the same style. I do like how it came out. 
     So after checked date stamps on photos and checked the calendar, I have been at stone wrapping for about 4 weeks. I have the fancy, swirly design down that I use a lot, and I am venturing into some other styles of wrapping as well. Not every wrap works well for every stone after all. Sometimes less is more, because of the shape or to showcase the stone itself. One thing is for sure, I am having a ton of fun with stone wrapping and am going to continue to learn new things about it. I have ideas for some more elaborate jewelry pieces that I hope to be able to work on soon. 
 

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Upper Level Dressage

     At my last live sale, on Black Friday last year, someone asked if I would have any dressage dolls. I hadn't had any then so I decided I needed to make one now. I actually really like dressage dolls, though I have never actually shown in upper level dressage at any shows myself. But they are very elegant and I like them. I also really like that I can give them helmets now. While I like making fancy hats for driving, I don't actually like making dressage top hats. 
     I also really like that I can use a variety of accent colors. This doll got a subtly patterned teal color. Her small tie tack jewel is also a teal color. I love how this doll came together.
     I really do love upper level dressage dolls. I should probably make them more often, but, like me, I don't think a lot of people show in upper level dressage at shows. Lower level is easier to outfit, and easier to set up. I don't do it because it's easier, but because it's what I know. The first time I showed in dressage I told my friend, Marisa, that I could never show in dressage. She proved me wrong immediately when she showed me how to set up an entry, with things I already had and with borrowed props and pattern, and I got first in the class. So lower level is what I know. I also don't own upper level tack. 
     This lady is available for sale, $230 plus shipping. Just like all the other dolls I have shared recently she can be purchased now, but I am not advertising her anywhere other than here. If she doesn't sell from the blog she will be in my live sale at the end of March. 

      I also want to share that I am strongly considering closing my order books for a while. It's not that I am overwhelmed with work, I am just so much slower with dolls these days, and I get stressed out if orders hang around for too long. I often just can't find time, or desire, to work on the dolls. Working on random dolls out of my head is a lot easier because they don't need to be finished at any particular time. And they don't need to look any particular way. This is an idea I have had on the table for a while. It may be coming soon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Customer Photos- Erica Blackburn- Almost Wordless Wednesday

     Happy Wednesday and Happy February everyone! This post has been waiting for me to become inspired but I guess that just won't happen. Here are some show photos from, From December, from Erica Blackburn. Enjoy!





 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

New Obsession

      Sometime last June I was looking for a particular design in some earrings and everything I found I didn't like. After searching for a while I remembered that I actually have the skills to make jewelry. You may wonder how I could forget something like that but I can sew and I often see things I want and it doesn't occur to me that I could make it myself. These things happen. To me. Anyway, as often happens when buying materials to make one thing you want, you have to buy more than you need. So I made the earrings I wanted, and then made more that were basically the same. After that my interest in making jewelry exploded and I made more, started doing different designs, bought more materials, and so on. I have been having a ton of fun with the jewelry. Maybe because it's a little bit different. I have been making dolls for such a long time that even the unusual dolls are still not all that different for me. But the jewelry is new and exciting. 
     So fast forward many months of jewelry making. I have my designs in 3 retail locations, started up a shop on Etsy, remembered I don't actually like Etsy, and built a website because it seemed like the next logical step. Then a week ago I became completely obsessed with the idea of needing to learn stone wrapping. Which is a bit funny for me because I have not always been a fan of wrapped stones. But a little voice in my head told me that I needed this skill. I need it to progress to the next stage in jewelry making. Eventually, I will have some completely unique, one of a kind pieces. But first, I have to learn this. So a week ago I got some materials together, asked Ethan for some of his favorite tutorials (he was doing some stone wrapping recently as well) and I got to learning. My first victim stone was this rainbow moonstone. I loved that it was almost perfectly oval, while still being a tumbled stone and not cut to shape. This first wrap was not nearly as easy as the video would suggest. It just goes to show that skills of this kind take time to produce something nice. 
     Somewhere in the learning process I reminded myself that I should document this journey. Because you should always be reminded of the garbage you made before you learned to make things that are beautiful. This moonstone got wrapped and rewrapped at least 5 or 6 times the first night. My fingers hurt a lot by the end of it. 
     This design has the potential to be amazing. But the end result of this attempt was definitely not amazing. I am going to try this wrap again at some point. 
     Here was another design that looked amazing, and easy, in the tutorial, but the results were less than ideal. Part of that could be because she was wrapping cabochons and I am wrapping tumbled stones. Even if this was a similar shape, it's not the same as a cut stone. 
     This was how I ended day 1. I didn't hate the wrap and I really needed to stop for the day. My fingers were incredibly sore and I needed a break. This wasn't a particularly encouraging place to stop, but it needed to happen. 
     So the next day was Saturday. Ethan didn't have to work and he showed me one of his favorite stone wrapping techniques. I had actually just watched the same tutorial so had a decent idea of what to do. But it was really fun to hang out and have him show me how to do this. It was also the first time I used square wire and half round wire. What a game changer! I was really pleased with how this came out, even with all the flaws. I also am super excited about this stone. It's a rainbow fluorite, which is one of my favorite stones, and it fluoresces blue! I may never be in a place where that would happen, but I know the stone can do it, which makes me happy. 
     I liked this particular wrapping technique so much that I tried it again. This wrap was actually meant for the original rainbow moonstone, but once I got really into the design, the stone didn't fit anymore. So I grabbed a variety of stones I had (I mentioned I collect stones, right?) and found this aventurine that fit fairly well. It needed a few adjustments to be really into the setting, but I got it to work. I was, again, pretty pleased with the result, even with the flaws. 
     Then came the day I was going to wrap this green goldstone. I had a vision for it, since I figured this glittery green stone would look excellent with gold (yellow brass), which is another funny thing for me because I really am not a fan of yellow gold and much prefer white metals. But this stone was calling out for gold. I tried out a round wire wrap again, using another new-to-me technique, had to adjust a bunch of things (take off some wire weaving) mid-design, and this is the result. I also now am waiting on square and half round brass wire. Those shapes seem to give me the best results so far. Though I don't hate this design and I do like the wire weaving. It definitely needs more practice. 
      Let's revisit that poor rainbow moonstone from day one. I had wrapped and rewrapped the stone 5 or 6 times the first day, made a new wrap for it the second day that ended up not fitting, and finally was a bit more confident in the skills, had picked up a new trick that would help keep everything fitted properly while working, so now it was time to try it again. And I like it. This wrap is still not perfect and has a bunch of flaws. But I like it so much more than what I could do the first day. 
      It's not fair to just share the stuff that I like so let's visit with a wrap from day 6 that immediately got removed after I took this photo. I was learning a technique for a wire netting design, which I really like, and I think it will be excellent. But I am not there yet. I also still have not watched the end of the tutorial to see if the way she makes the bail is something I won't hate. I am really not into narrow wire for bails and would much rather use a larger wire for that. But I am still thinking about a way to incorporate that into the design and have it work. Anyway, I do want to use the wire netting technique, I am just not yet to a place where I am happy enough with it to actually leave it on a stone. 
     Now let's move onto this egg shaped angelite. I went back to the wrap design that Ethan taught me and I again managed a wrap that I like quite a bit. So far this wrap, with the square and half round wire, is my favorite, and the easiest for me to use to get a result that I like. There are still some flaws on this, but far fewer than a week ago. 
     Let's talk about this piece of sodalite. I did not need to buy another stone, I have plenty to work with, but I saw it and immediately knew that I needed to wrap it. It is a tumbled stone but again, is almost perfectly shaped, as if it were a cut stone. The orange color was also almost perfectly centered. So I bought yet another stone, brought it home, and got out some copper wire. It is still square and half round, the same technique I have used multiple times, and it is nearly flawless. There are a couple of parts where if you look really carefully, in mostly hidden spots, you can find things that are not awesome. But I am incredibly pleased with how this came out. Even the back of the wrap came out really nicely. This one is going to stay just the way it is. 
     So as of today, I have been working on stone wrapping for 10 days. We can call it 9 because I haven't wrapped anything yet today, but likely I will later. I have 6 finished pieces that I don't hate, and for now, I am going to keep all of these as they are. Eventually, I will likely rewrap everything other than the sodalite I wrapped on Friday. But right now I like being able to see where I started (for the most part) and how far I have come in a little over a week. Apparently when my brain told me I HAD to learn stone wrapping, it wasn't kidding! 
     At some point I will likely offer these for sale on my website, which is https://www.blessed-by-fire-designs.com/, but I am not to that point just yet. Eventually, I will also expand on the pendants and do some full custom pieces, but there is still a lot I need to learn to get to that place. But I am having a really good time with this so far. I am going to continue to (try to) wrap at least one stone every day, or learn a new technique, or something related to this new obsession. I will of course still be making dolls, I have another one that I finished last week that I need to get photos of. Dolls make me happy, jewelry makes me happy, gemstones and crystals make me happy, and 2023 is the year I am going to be totally unapologetically me. Which also makes me happy. I hope you enjoyed learning about my latest obsession. We'll get back to dolls soon, I promise. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Momentum

      I started doing a new thing a few days ago which has completely obsessed me. It has obsessed me so much that I have gathered lots of new supplies for it, watched lots of tutorials, and spent a bunch of time on it. 
     But that is not what we are going to talk about today (but we will soon). Today I am going to talk about momentum. And how this post would have been a lot different if I wrote it yesterday. So we started out 2023 and it has been going quite well for me. I have some very basic goals when it comes to dolls, I just want to try to get 2 a week done. That's not really too much to ask, is it? The short answer is no, that's not too much to ask. The honest answer is, well yes, sometimes that is too much to ask, and sometimes it's not a big deal, and sometimes you can go nuts and get 4 dolls finished in a week, and sometimes... so yeah, it's not a lot, but I have a lot of things going on and sometimes I just get tired and need to nap. And sometimes those naps are sneaky and vicious and don't let go when the timer goes off (because yes, I time my naps). If I had written this post yesterday we would have talked about how I was getting things done, finishing up things from the end of last week, photographing stuff I have been neglecting to photograph and how I was ready to keep the momentum rolling. Today though, we will talk about naps that don't want to quit, and scrolling. Not very interesting, but that is what my afternoon was. I decided to lay down for just 10 minutes, that would be enough to get me moving again. Nope, I was almost totally asleep in 10 minutes, as in, could not figure out what the alarm was for for a few seconds. I must have been much more tired than I thought. So I reset for another 10 minutes, and then another. And then I said to myself that I should stop napping and see about getting up and getting to work... in a few minutes. An hourish later I has scrolled all over Facebook and Instagram and gotten rid of so much "suggested" crap on Instagram and not even made a dent. I hate when my feed is ruined by suggestions I have no interest in. Anyway, I decided to get up and do things. I remembered again that I needed to ship a necklace that sold on etsy. So I started to search for it. Again. And I could not find it. Again. So I made a new one, which is not at all what I wanted to do this afternoon. But I don't like to tell people that I lost a thing that was listed, if I have the ability to remake it, I will. So that happened. And then there was more scrolling trying to find this one post about a certain song, and I didn't find it because all of a sudden all the posts were different crap, usually about bras and shapeware, neither of which I have ever shopped for on Instagram. I am having one of those days when I am apparently not going to get any work done. They happen. To me. 
     But yesterday I did things. I finally got some photos of dolls I finished last week and the week before. I had an order doll in there somewhere too, can't remember if I shared any photos or not, but I can check later (or totally forget) and I was almost done with another doll but not quite, so she didn't get to be in the photo shoot. But these dolls did. 
      The casual doll is done on the Lenna body from KC's Galloping Gals and her hat is removable, I just forgot to get any photos of her with her hat off. The western pleasure doll came to be because I was looking at a piece of fabric I got from my friend Maire and I wanted to take the designs out of it and use them on a western doll. So I did. And it took a long time but it was fun to do. 
     This casual doll is not fancy, but she's ready to do ranch stuff, hang out at the barn, ride, clean, or live in a 1:9 scale dollhouse. Or your studio. As I mentioned, her hat is removable. This lady is available for $220. I am not listing her anywhere else. If she sells, super. If not she will hang out here until my live sale which I am planning for the end of March. 

     This western doll was pretty awesome and I really did have an excellent time making her. She is also available, $240 and the same deal as the casual doll, she is not getting listed anywhere else. I still need to go through all of my stuff and see what I want to put in the sale. Because half the point is to sell things from my personal collection because I have too much stuff I am not using. And I am not a black hole collector. Sometimes I wish I was and then I realize I don't have space for that. 
     So yesterday I had all sorts of momentum and I got out a bunch of doll heads, both haired and not, and a pair of hands, and I did some painting. So now I have several faces done and I got some gloves finished and I felt like I was all set to keep on going today... and then I decided to take a nap for "just" 10 minutes. Sometimes things don't work out the way we plan. 
     Today was a really excellent day at school. Lots of smiles and energy, even though the kid told me they were tired when I asked. Things went smoothly and quickly, and I literally got paid to work out. A few times. Not only did I go and work with a kid in the fitness room (where I did all the things I asked them to do) but we then went to PE and did some more stuff, and there was dancing and so on. I love my job. Now if only the momentum of the awesome day had carried over to doll work. Oh well, maybe I will just go and read a book. 
 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The End and the Beginning

     Remember how way back, when I decided that I was no longer going to blog daily, I said I was afraid if I stopped that I would not blog at all? Yeah, I am a lot closer to that sort of thing for sure. I do like blogging, I like the small bits of interaction I get from the blogging, but it really is not my priority these days. It's not even close to the top of the list. As evidenced by the typical once a week posting that I have been doing. Not that once a week is as bad as I could be. But it's very different than daily. It also is a lot less stressful for me. It is very hard to think about what to talk about every single day. Even with ideas sometimes that doesn't help. Some ideas need research. And I still don't have the kind of time that research needs. 
    Anyway, The end. That is the first part of the subject of this blog. This is the doll I made at the end of 2022. This is the doll that I didn't manage to even photograph until the beginning of 2023. Not that there was a huge lag, it was only maybe a week she sat around waiting for photos. But it was certainly not an immediate thing. I got her finished and I was pleased with that. But I was not in a rush to take photos. And clearly, I was not in a rush to get her listed. This post is the only place she is getting listed at the moment. She is available, $240 plus shipping. If she doesn't sell now, that's OK. She can hang out until my live sale at the end of March. 
     Now I hear some people saying "wait a minute... western pleasure dolls are $230". They sure were. In 2022. My doll prices all went up by $10 for 2023. That is posted on my studio page on Facebook. As anyone knows who buys absolutely anything, costs of EVERYTHING have gone up astronomically in the past year. Which translates to I am paying a whole lot more for all of my supplies. The $10 my doll prices went up is not going to offset that all that much. But I don't want to get to the point where it is not worth my time to make dolls at all. Like the miniatures. I liked making the miniatures, and the sets, because sometimes people want to shop but buying a whole doll is too expensive. So I made the miniatures. But, as mentioned, most of those are way underpriced for the amount of time they take. Or the amount they cost. Like the cat sets especially. Several things in those sets are things I purchased from a lady that does 3D printing (and OKed me reselling her stuff in my sets). I am still considering making some pet beds just on their own, but likely not in sets. Or if I do the sets, the cat sets likely will be a bed and a few toys. The litter boxes and food dishes are 3D printed. The dog sets I could likely make more of, minus the food bowl and food, because I think I still have a bunch of the stuff to put in a bunch of toys. I don't know if there is interest in sets that don't have food. But while I do enjoy the miniatures, I have to think of things from a business standpoint, at least some of the time. So we'll see. 
     Anyway, doll prices went up by $10 per doll and my US shipping is still just $10 for priority shipping. My shipping has not gone up in many years. The USPS has raised shipping every few months I think. But yeah, the new price list is on my studio page on Facebook. My books are still open for custom orders, though I am somewhat slower than I used to be. Meaning, you are unlikely to ever order a doll and have it in hand within 72 hours (I have totally done that). You may get it that week, but it might also be the week after. Which I know is still way faster than a lot of artists. But slowish for me. 
     So that covers the doll from the end of last year and some of the new stuff from the beginning of the year. New prices, mostly. I also did actually start the jar that I talked about from the end of last year. I almost forgot to do it but then remembered and decided if I can at least come up with one thing a week, that would be good. And something cool did happen, so I put it in writing and put it in the jar. Next week I might have to think really deeply on good things, but there might also be weeks when I can add several cool things to the jar. I am really looking forward to how this turns out. 
     So blogging is still a bit of a struggle, but I am managing. Sometimes I have things to talk about, and sometimes I have things to talk about but it takes me a bit to get to it. I still have a post with some customer photos to share, I have actually made some dolls in 2023, and I can talk about them, and all of that will be coming soon. Soonish. 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Late Year End Wrap Up


       I'm late with this. Partly because I didn't think it was all that interesting to talk about, partially because I was doing other things and partially because it's winter and there are bound to be some things that don't happen because it's cold and dark. Except it's not cold. Not like it usually is. Which makes me want to do even less inside stuff because it's not so bad being outside. Not that I am running again yet or anything, which would be fantastic if I didn't keep coughing. But my cold is still hanging on just a bit, and it is making the idea of running something that will happen some other time. 

      Anyway, often when I do a year end wrap up I do the number of each type of dolls I have made in a year. I am not doing that this time. I have no idea and I don't want to go through and make the list to try to figure it out. I know that I have been a super slacker and have only updated my book maybe 3 times this year. Well, technically last year, since it's a new year. I even have a doll I finished almost a week ago that I have not yet managed to get photos of. So I have a 2022 doll that I haven't even shared yet. Good times.
     
     I know that I only made 67 dolls this year. I have made 1632 dolls total. Last year in my year end wrap up I reported making 110 dolls. So I have definitely been working at a much slower pace this year. But the end of 2021 I was only really just starting with teaching, which was incredibly rough. It wasn't until mid-June that I was finished, and I was tired. Exhausted really. And I am still tired. It looks like in January I finished 5 dolls. February was 6. March was 4, April was 6. May I finished just 2 dolls while in June I finished an impressive 8 dolls. July I finished 9 dolls, August brought 12 dolls (wow!), September was 3 dolls, October was also 3. November I made 4 dolls and December I made 5 dolls. I have definitely learned to be OK with working at a slower pace!

    So what did I learn about my doll work in 2022? I learned that I have made a lot of dolls in the past 16 years and I am tired. I still like to make dolls, but not all the time. Sometimes I prefer to make jewelry. Sometimes I prefer to read books. I also figured out that the world doesn't come crashing down if I work less. That has been pretty excellent. I probably should work a little bit more than I currently am, but I don't want to right now. Maybe next week. Or maybe the week after that. 
    
    Vacation went pretty well. I was fully prepared to not end up doing a whole bunch of stuff on my to-do list this week. But I did OK. I had a bunch of sorting projects I want to get to. Did them. I had some deep cleaning that I have been meaning to get to. Did almost all of it. I wanted to finish reading A Discovery of Witches. I did not meet that goal. That book is long and I just don't have enough time in the day. Even with staying up a bit later because I don't have to get up super early. So yeah, I didn't get everything done, but I actually got a lot more done than I expected. And I did some really important stuff too. Like spending multiple days hanging out with Ethan, because we don't often have that many days together because of our work schedules. Over vacation I actually did sort of a lot of vacationy stuff. Sort of. I didn't work all that much. I think I made one doll, or maybe two, I think I did finish another one this week. I made some jewelry, I visited with some friends, I did some of my cleaning and sorting projects. I sorted clothes to donate... and donated them the same day!!! Who does that? So yeah, the week has gone pretty well. I was vaguely nervous about having to take a half day tomorrow, since Sunshine Village is not open, but when I went to take the time the system told me that I was trying to take a day when the school was closed. Apparently I have been in error this whole time because I don't even have to go back to work until Tuesday. Problem is solved and now it feels like I get an extra day off! So tomorrow Travis and I will go get the laundry done earlier than usual, go to Joann's to see about getting some fabric I need for a doll I need to make, and then likely I might even find some time to start working on the doll. Or read, I might read. But you never know, I might do both. 

    2023 has started off really well. I wrote the date, correctly, on my first try. I am bound to screw that up soon, but it was nice to get it right at least once. I had a good morning with Ethan and Travis, though Elecktra was sick and couldn't come over, then Travis and I went to the indoor flea market, went to visit a friend, and had a generally good day. I am hoping for good things for tomorrow as well. Happy New Year!