Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Week: August 2nd, Boston Handmade Artisan Fair at Jamaica Plain First Thursdays

by Leah of cricicis design

This Thursday, August 2nd, Boston Handmade returns to Jamaica Plain First Thursdays. Come down to our Artisan Fair, located on the lawn of 633 Centre Street, from 6-8 p.m. We have five Boston Handmade members exhibiting, with an amazing array of handmade goods - - everything including jewelry, ceramics, photography, collage, illustration, and note cards.
jewelry by Cristina Hurley
ceramics by Karen Mahoney of City by the Sea Ceramics

watercolor illustration by Chie Yasuda of Seeds of Joie

and stationery by Leah Ammerman of cricicis design

Also, we are pleased to announce that Jessica Burko will be leading a craft project courtesy of etsy.com at the show. Come join us!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DIY How To: Making toys from everyday household objects

by Jessica Burko

You might not be surprised to learn that my house is full of art and music. In our family we have a very creative and active 3-year-old toddler and his easily entertained 8-month-old baby sister. Our toddler loves having "concerts" for us with drums, maracas, bells, and various other percussion instruments, and one of our favorite things to do is find music in the everyday like wind rustling trees, birds singing, wooden spoons banged on the sofa, and from instruments that we make ourselves. 
When our toddler was very little I made a few toys for him by myself but now that he requests "an art project" almost every day, we can make things together. We frequently talk about recycling and not wasting what we have, so I always jump at the chance to upcycle household items into something fun. I call these random creations: Garbage Toys. Our latest upcycled creation was from an oatmeal container that had an easily removable label revealing a beautiful white canvas. We used the empty container to make a bean-filled percussion instrument. It was easy, fun, and a great rainy day activity for kids of all ages.
• Any kind of empty cardboard container (We used an oatmeal container from our local Stop & Shop grocery store.)
• Your preferred art material like crayons, markers, paint, and/or stickers.
• A handful of dried beans (Any kind will do, we used kidney beans.)
• Strong glue

• Decorate the outside of your container any way that you like - the more colorful the better!
• Add beans.
• Glue the top on tight and let dry overnight (Or less time if you use quick-dry glue).
• Shake it baby shake it, and enjoy your own concert!

Friday, July 20, 2012

ArtBeat 2012 in Somerville

This Saturday, July 21st, you can find four Boston Handmade members along with many other craftspeople and artists at this year's ArtBeat in Somerville. Monkey Chow, An Li Liu, Cody's Creations, and City by the Sea Ceramics will be there from 11am-6pm selling their handmade creations. The day in Davis Square also includes music acts, activities, and food vendors. Some events begin tonight, but tomorrow is the big day! The weather looks beautiful, head out for a small adventure!

Print by Monkey Chow

Shirt by An Li Liu

Collar by Cody's Creations

Mug by City by the Sea Ceramics

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Improve your Etsy shop with Shoptimizer

by Jessica Burko

A few weeks ago I decided to revamp my Etsy shop. These days my creative time is focused on fine art so I made a few large changes: I removed all craft items from the shop, uploaded a new shop banner, and changed my shop name from Reclaimed To You to Jessica Burko. Shortly after I made these changes, Karen of City By The Sea Ceramics, and fellow member of BostonHandmade, told me about a free way to have Etsy shops evaluated: http://etsyshoptimizer.com. I ran to the URL as fast as my typing finger could take me and here’s what I found:

My report card was not stellar. The Shoptimizer recommended that I make changes to my Etsy shop to help my SEO. A moderate amount of changes to my product listings, and a few additions to my shop policies and the claim was that I'd see improvement in traffic and sales. I decided to try it out and you can too for your own Etsy shop by going to the Etsy Shoptimizer website: http://etsyshoptimizer.com. If you’re curious about what I did in my shop to make improvements, read on…
Boom, Boom. Encaustic collage by Jessica Burko
The grade I got on my Etsy shop announcement was a: C. Shoptimizer said, “When Google displays your shop announcement in a search result, they will only display a maximum of 160 characters. If your announcement is less than 160 characters, this means the full announcement will be shown in a Google search result. If it's longer than 160 characters, you should either shorten it OR make sure that the important, keyword rich information is found in the first 160 characters… Your shop announcement is currently 372 characters.” I took the advice and changed my announcement from:
“Artwork, wearables, & paper goods created by Jessica Burko, made with found, recycled, and reclaimed materials. Reclaimed To You treasures what other people may toss away and turns it into something new. Proud Member of Etsy Team Boston Handmade http://www.bostonhandmade.org For a list of upcoming live shows visit: http://www.jessicaburko.com/FANews.html
“Original, one-of-a-kind encaustic collage and mixed-media artwork created from found, recycled, and reclaimed materials along with original photographs.”

Encaustic collages by Jessica Burko
The next thing I learned from my shop evaluation was that my listings weren’t “fresh”. The Shoptimizer said, “Etsy's search results are based on relevance and freshness. The more you update your listings, the more likely they are to be shown higher in Etsy search results… It looks like more than 50% of your listings haven't been updated in over a month.” I took this advice and did things like changes item titles and the wording in item descriptions. This took some time because it turned out I needed to update most of my listings.

More difficult, was to add multiple images to my listings, another one of Shoptimizer’s big comments. I found this tricky because my items are 2D artwork - - how many different views can I have of them? After some contemplation I realized that I could add a few detail images to each listing and also show the pieces of art displayed at recent exhibitions. This also took a while because I had to look through all my photos from past exhibitions for certain works of art on display. The nice thing about doing this though was that I got to revisit past shows, and it wasn’t really that difficult because I photo-document all my exhibitions and keep them organized on my computer by show name and year (you should too).
Artwork by Jessica Burko on view
The next low grade I received was a C in Attributes. Explained as, “Each listing can have attributes like recipients, occasions, and styles associated with it. These are all optional fields you can add when creating a listing and although not currently used in Etsy search results, Etsy says they may be using these attributes soon to help buyers find your items… We recommend you start with the listings that don't have any attributes and update them first with relevant styles, recipients, occasions, etc.” Ok Shoptimizer, I was working with the program so far but, “Etsy says they may be using these attributes soon…” I decided to skip this one for the moment.

The final aspects of my Etsy shop that needed changing were my posted Refunds & Exchange Policy and the freshness of my Policy Page. “Changing” might not be a strong enough word; I actually didn’t have these elements in my shop at all. Oops. Since I never wrote these policies I looked at a few other Etsy shops to see what they had in place. After gathering some ideas, I wrote my own.  Poof! Shoptimizer took me from an F to an A! If only sophomore year biology was so easy. A nice feature of Shoptimizer is that you can refresh your grades as you work. It’s positive reinforcement that as you update, fix, add, and edit you can see your grades climb up and up. And yay! After some dedicated fix-it time my grades are now all As.
Has all this improvement actually shown positive results in my Etsy shop? It’s only been about a day since I made all the changes, but my stats for views and items favorited by other people have definitely gone up. I also plan to add some new work into my Etsy shop soon, so that should help move things along. 

Have you tried the Etsy Shoptimizer? How is YOUR Etsy shop doing?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Photo Pendant engraving Project, Part 3

Here is the last video in my 3 part series about engraving onto a pendant. It's all finished and ready to go!
When completed, I always get nervous and excited about revealing a finished piece, especially to the client.

In this case, the client was also the person portrayed in the drawing! So it was a little nerve wracking. However, that would never stop me from trying to make a great product, and he is very happy with the results!

He was actually so happy, I made it another one, this time with a color photograph.

It is similar but a little different, which is one of the best things about a handmade product... you can mix things up as much or as little as you want. He wanted engraving on the back of this one too.
So I did!

I'm thinking I'll be making more of these in the future... I can use ANY photo. It can even be emailed to me and that's it. So easy. And personal.
I really enjoyed doing this project.

Cristina's studio is located in Canton, MA and is open for visitors during business hours.
3 Rockland Street
Canton, MA 02021

Friday, July 13, 2012

My very own ceramic studio

by Karen Mahoney of City by the Sea Ceramics

This June I moved from Needham to North Grafton with my husband to better our lives in many ways. One of the biggest ways was that I got my own studio space to work in, meaning I was no longer a staff member at the studio I had been working at. I was finally on my own and beginning to build my own home studio. While the ultimate goal is to buy a home, have a large garage or barn for my studio, and set up various kilns on the property, this was the first step of making that progress.

I am working at home, but as a renter I can't fire kilns. But hurrah for me! In Worcester is a great studio I'm super excited to become a part of, The Fire Works. I will be transporting my work over there to fire, which isn't ideal but thankfully my work isn't terribly fragile in style. In addition to being able to continue my current style and temperature firings, I will be able to fire gas and soda kilns, two types of firing I really love and am super excited to get to dig in and try my hand at.

The home studio is very much a work in progress. Many things need to be bought, built, adjusted, and replaced, but it is functioning right now, allowing me to throw pots in my own space. Any frustrations or inconveniences will be worth it for me to finally have my own space, something I've always wanted since I first began working with clay.

Below is the studio home base, my wheel area. Another shelving unit will be on the right side of my wheel too, giving me lots of shelf space for pots in progress.

My table with buckets of glaze underneath and tools on top. The table needs a serious upgrade, but it's working for the moment.

While this looks like a pile of junk it is organized, it just needs to be put on shelves I haven't gotten yet. This corner is for finished work in boxes, items I need for my craft fairs (see the giant tent?), and some larger bins of tools.
Once I get things more organized and prettied up I'll share more pics. There's so much to do and still so many pots to make!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Makers in Business

by Liz Stewart of Lush Beads

My friend and fellow artist Liz Smith has started a new local cable access TV show called "Makers in Business". It discusses the intersection between commerce and creativity.

Liz Smith and I just after taping. June, 2012

Episode 3 features me! We filmed it in early June, and it aired for the first time on July 3rd on LTC.

This was my first time being filmed for TV, and it was a lot less nerve-wracking than I thought it would be.  The bright lights make you unable to see the camera folks, and it feels like it is just you and the host talking.  It turned out to be a great episode and I am pleased that Liz asked me to join her.  We discussed a wide variety of topics such as: how I got into beading, moving from my storefront in downtown Lowell to Western Avenue Studios, and having to work separate part-time jobs to keep my store going.

Episodes 1 and 2 of Makers in Business are also online. If you prefer, you can also listen to all three episodes in podcast format.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Photo Pendant Engraving Project, Part 2

Here is part 2 in my 3 part series for a project I recently did!
I demonstrate how I actually can "draw on metal with a simple tool... and engraver pen!
I made the piece black before engraving it and it really makes the engraving stand out.

The Chinese characters I am engraving stand for the work "kenpo", which is the type of karate or martial art I am studying.
I became inspired by the symbols used in the different types of martial arts, and made a nice combination of my 2 passions!
Here are some other examples of my kenpo inspired jewelry...
The one on the left is a dragon... the one on the right is the same characters I'm engraving, only on this it is an epoxy inlay. Nice!

Stay tuned for part 3!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Get your Plush On, Stuffed magazine is out!

by Anne-Claire Regan aka Hibou

The new issue of "Stuffed - The Crafting of Softies" magazine came out on July 1st online and in bookstores.

I just got my copy and what a great issue it is! As usual it is packed with many talented artists' plushies and dolls. I am not done reading it but I have just been enjoying browsing through it and I will admit I was very happy to see my own dolls featured across 5 pages this time around :)

I also greatly appreciated Amber Demien's "Editor's Letter". I always take pleasure in discovering what topic she chose to write on and this time I was hooked on the first sentence as I feel I can really relate to this issue. Here it is:
"Have any of you ever felt like there is a general misconception regarding the world of stuffed dolls?"

I found myself saying out loud: "Yep, spot on! I feel often misunderstood as a plush maker..." (Ok I may not have said it in such a politically correct way!).

But now (even if I know you will run to get your own copy soon ;) I feel compelled to give you the whole first two paragraphs so you can understand what I'm talking about.

"Have any of you ever felt like there is a general misconception regarding the world of stuffed dolls? It seems as though many people view plush art as mere toys; or, they admire and appreciate the dolls, but regard them as pure fun, no substance. What these people are missing is that, like all art, stuffed creations have meaning, oftentimes a message, and always a purpose.

First of all, there is nothing simple about a toy. Toys bring happiness to children, nurture their imaginations, and teach them the fundamental of life - not mere feats by any measure. For the stuffed creations not meant to be played with but instead displayed, they serve as a source of enjoyment, they provoke thought and inquiry, they inspire, they communicate and they can even unsettle, disturb, and frighten - all reactions that only a true piece of art can arouse. So, my hat's off to every artist whose work graces the pages of this magazine, and to all of you who bring fabric and stuffing to life - you keep me constantly amazed and impressed and inspired."[...]
- Amber Demien

As a plush artist I find it very nice to have this issue brought up to light as it is a sensitive one... No one likes to have its creations looked down upon and regarded as frivolous and useless when it was all created out of love and passion.

It's always nice to know that someone understands what we are doing as plush artists, and to be given such a great homage is truly heart warming so for that, Amber, I thank you!

.... Do you feel teary already? 
Ok then, enough with the grand sentiments and on to a few pictures!
The Amazing French Hercules

The Bearded Lady Madame Clofullia  - "La Goulue" the French Cancan dancer

Cristal Bazoom, The Vegas Showgirl

Find out more about these plush and many more by getting your copy of Stuffed (Summer 2012 Volume 5 Issue 2) either online on the Stampington website or in your local bookstore.
If you wish to see more detail pictures of these dolls, you can go to my flickr page and see my portfolio.

Thanks to all of you out there for supporting crafters/artists like me and for making the world a better place one handmade plush at a time :)

Anne-Claire aka Hibou

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Photo Pendant Engraving Project, Part 1

by Cristina Hurley of Cristina Hurley Jewelry

I have been doing a lot of custom projects for different people lately, and when I post photos, some people have expressed seeing me in action!

I thought about it, and figured I would give it a shot. Cameras make it so easy to make videos! all I needed was my little Canon Powershot and a tripod.

This project in particular was made for a well known martial artist named Larry Tatum. He asked me to try to engrave the Chinese characters for "kenpo" on the back.
This is part 1 of a short, 3 part series I produced.

Cristina Hurley Jewelry
3 rockland Street
Canton, MA 02021

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy July 4th

Red, white & blue hand-stitched beaded bracelet by Lush Beads
Have a happy handmade July 4th holiday from your friends at Boston Handmade.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Boston Handmade at Jamaica Plain First Thursday, July 5th

by Leah of cricicis design

This Thursday, July 5th, you can find four members of Boston Handmade at the Boston Handmade Artisan Fair for Jamaica Plain First Thursdays held by JP Centre/South Main Streets Organization. We will be out on the lawn again at 633 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, in front of the First Baptist Church.

Jamaica Plain First Thursday is an evening where local businesses open their doors and the neighborhood is encouraged to shop locally and support local merchants. Boston Handmade is very excited for Jamaica Plain in the summer- it'll be a really great evening.

Our members will be selling handmade items varying from prints, ceramics, note cards, fine art, and more. Exhibiting artists are:
Karen of City by the Sea Ceramics
Aaron of Monkey Chow
Leah of cricicis design
Jessica of Jessica Burko/Reclaimed to You

Print by Monkey Chow

 Note Card by cricicis design

 Encaustic collage by Jessica Burko

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Birthstone: The Ruby

By Allison of Fraske Designs

July’s birthstone is the Ruby. Ruby is a variety of the gems species corundum. It is harder than any natural gemstone except diamond, which means a ruby is durable enough for everyday wear. Rubies arouse the senses, stir the imagination, and are said to guarantee health, wisdom, wealth and success in love.

Here are some of our favorite Ruby jewelry pieces from Etsy:

Angel Wing Heart Necklace with Ruby Red Glass Jewel

Bridesmaid Earrings - Gold Lotus Swirl with Ruby Red Earrings - Czech Glass - Gift - Bohemian - Boho

14kt Yellow Gold and Genuine Madagascar Ruby Ring - 2,2.5,3,4mm Stones

There are so many wonderful Ruby jewelry pieces on Etsy, we wish we could collect them all. What's your favorite piece?
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