Saturday, April 26, 2014

At Which Length Would You Wear This?

Water-inspired elemental necklace by BokBok Jewelry
The water-inspired pendant for my elemental line is done - finally! (By the way, "Modern LARP Jewelry" wasn't getting anywhere, so I changed the name of that particular line of jewelry to "Elemental Collection". Just so y'all know. :)) The stone is hand-painted (though not by me) and is one of a kind; I did all the wire-wrapping by hand, including the bottom of the pendant - that's not a decorative headpin! I did that! (Sorry, I'm just really, really excited about the way this turned out. I've done some wire-wrapping work before, but nothing like this.)

Anyway, I was originally going to string this with some blue glass pearls and some other blue beads, but as it happens, they're all the wrong color of blue for this pendant, so I'm going to keep it simple on some bright silver steel chain. I just have to decide on the length. I already asked on Facebook and Google+, but I'll ask here, too - how would you wear this pendant? Short? Medium? Long? Let me know! :)

By the by, I have one more solid design for the Elemental line, inspired by one of my favorite forces of nature: lightning. I'm still looking around for the right focal for that design, but I'll keep y'all posted.

Friday, April 25, 2014

You Learn Something New Every Day

Before spreadsheet.

After spreadsheet.
I learned something today: no matter how great your tools are, they're worthless unless you actually use them.

Let me give you some background. When I first started on this jewelry endeavor back in 2012 (when I decided to start selling pieces online), I wanted to be serious about it. My idea of being serious was to have an actual inventory list. Lots of times, I'd forget about beads that I had, or think that I was out of findings when I really wasn't. I figured that a spreadsheet would help me sort through my actual inventory of components and help me keep track of what I do and do not have. My husband, luckily, does this sort of thing for a living, so he helped me set up a really fantastic spreadsheet where I can list out my components - their descriptions, amounts, and prices (as a whole and individually). There's another sheet for my finished inventory, then a few more for record-keeping and such. While I was filling it out, I found that it did really help me get organized.

Fast forward to this week. I sat down and designed a necklace the other day, and decided to make it. I started pulling out the parts that I'd need, only to discover that I was out of antiqued copper chain (which was going to play a very big role in the piece). After a fruitless and very time-consuming search, I looked on the spreadsheet, and sure enough - I'm out of chain. D'oh! I'd have saved myself lots of time and hassle if only I had remembered that I had set up the spreadsheet specifically so that I wouldn't have to search through my inventory to see what I have. But Carly, I hear you asking, if you're so organized like you just said you were, why was it so difficult to search? I'll tell you why - because most of my beads are still in a large, green storage tub right now so the kiddo can't get into them. They're individually sorted, making it really easy to pull out what I need when I find it, but that's the thing: with all the little bead boxes stacked on top of one another ten deep inside the larger storage tub, it takes a while to check.

Learn from my fail, folks - if you're going to spend a lot of time and energy to set something up that'll save you even more time and energy later, remember to use the darn thing! :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Proud Mama Moments

The kiddo has made tons of progress this week on learning how to be a kid! With so many lightbulb moments, I just have to brag on her. :)

First proud-mama moment this week - my kiddo spelled her name for me as I was writing it. She just turned two, and she's spelling her name! I've known kindergarteners (5-6 years old) at my old job who couldn't do that. It blew my mind, but I am so proud of her.

Second proud-mama moment - yesterday, she figured out how to work a doorknob. Multiple nap attempts failed because I'd lay her down, then not a minute later she'd run out to the living room, very pleased with herself, to announce, "I did it!" because she had opened the door herself. It was hard to be upset with her in the face of her accomplishment, but man, yesterday was a really long day because of it. :) She wasn't going to go down for a nap unless she was exhausted, which meant lots of walks around the neighborhood - and I had broken my toe last week, so that kind of sucked.

Third proud-mama moment - I can see her actively working to increase her vocabulary. She knows the names of things and people that she sees often, but today she opened up the cupboard and started "asking" the names of my baking ingredients. She'd point to one, then look at me with her eyebrows quirked in a question. It was so cute (not that I'm biased). She's not just picking up information here and there - she's actively inquiring for more, and working hard to learn new things. I just hope that that curiosity never leaves her.

I hit a milestone in the last week, too - this toe is the first bone I've ever broken in my life. Some milestone, huh? :P As much as it may ache, I have to remind myself that I've actually gotten off pretty light: I didn't break something that really impedes my daily life (I just limp around a bit, is all), it is healing up pretty nicely, and hey - I went a solid 30 years without breaking anything! That's not too shabby.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Inspiration vs. "Inspiration"

Whenever someone pins one of my designs to a Pinterest board that they've titled, "To Make" or "DIY", I have to ask myself the following question:

Where does one draw the line between inspiration, imitation, and straight-up copy-catting someone else's design?


This bothers me perhaps more than it should. After all, I hoard tutorial pins, but rarely do I actually make something from a Pinterest tutorial; therefore, I reckon it's not likely that they'll actually go and copy my design. Re-pins onto "inspiration" boards, however, don't bother me, and I'm actually flattered by them. Why the difference? Because, to me, inspiration is when I look at a piece and think, "I like that technique/color/component/style, but I would make it like this instead of that", and the two pieces wind up looking nothing alike. "To Make" or "DIY" boards, on the other hand, are like walking up to me and saying, "What you make is so simple that anyone can easily do this. Your work is not special." It's a slap in the face, basically. Like I said, I may just be overly sensitive to this. I've tried looking at it in a complimentary fashion - "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - but nothing doing. At best, I'm trying to let go of the negativity, but I'm finding it difficult.

I got started on making jewelry because I saw a necklace I liked but couldn't afford; I could, however, afford a kit to make something similar. Is that any different than people hypothetically making knock-offs of my designs? I would argue that, yes, it is different, because I didn't reverse-engineer the original necklace design to make my own; I went out and paid for instructions and materials to make something in a similar style, but it was an entirely different necklace. This one reason why I've been seriously considering making tutorials for some of my more popular designs - people are going to make it (or imply that they'll make it) regardless of my feelings on the subject, so I might as well let go of my artistic ego and maybe make a buck off of a tutorial, or maybe a couple bucks off of a kit with instructions, or just offer the tutorial for free to get my name out there. I believe there is a phrase for my current thoughts on offering tutorials: paralysis by analysis.

While we're on the topic of imitation and "inspired by", I just want to briefly put my opinion out there on the subject of "Inspired by the Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Twilight movie(s)" or "Disney-inspired mouse logo that looks suspiciously/exactly like Mickey Mouse" or "J.Crew-inspired bubble necklaces". Many of those are not "inspired by"; they are blatant rip-offs and I wish people would stop making and/or buying them because they are diluting the meaning of "inspiration". Also, because they're blatant rip-offs. There, I said it.

To wrap this post up, I'm trying to keep in mind my own background experiences, as well as Lady Karma, when dealing with overzealous DIY pinners. Writing this post, at least, has helped me get some of these feelings off my chest, and that helps immensely. I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future, but there were some things in here that needed to be said, haha. :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Worst (and Best) Advice to Triumph over Creative Block

I've written snippets here and there about my struggles with beader's block and writer's block. I've been having a bit of both lately, which I'll just call "creative block". Part of it is that I've been hugely busy lately - keeping up with the yard, then catching back up on the housework I've skipped to focus on the yard. Plus, the kiddo just turned two years old, and her personal schedule is changing again, meaning that her nap-times are unpredictable and her awake-times are very demanding of my time and energy. I had another week of poor sleep, and have been catching up on that, too. To summarize, I don't juggle tasks very well, and I don't deal with transitional phases very well, either. I do best when I can pick one thing to do and can just sit down and do it; lately, that thing has not been writing or creating, and I've fallen out of "the zone".

When I'm ready to re-enter the zone, I'll sometimes look around for advice on how to pick it back up again. Without further ado, here is the worst advice I've heard or seen, followed by the best advice. (Disclaimer: Obviously, words like "best" and "worst" are subjective. Your mileage may vary, and something that I've labeled as bad advice for me may work like gangbusters for you.)

Bad Advice: Do Something Else for a While, Then Come Back

My problem with this is not the general idea, but that it simply doesn't work for me, specifically in creative areas. It's great for, say, a math test - if you're stuck, move on and come back to it! That works just fine for me. For creative endeavors, however, I often get stuck because I did something else for a while. Doing something else for a while, therefore, makes my rut grow larger, and it becomes harder to climb out of it.

Better Advice: Show Up and Do It

Want to make or write something? Schedule time to do so, even if you have no idea where to start. Once it's time, make like the Nike commercial and "Just Do It"! Start slapping words or beads or paints or what-have-you together until you have something, even if the end result is unappealing or just plain ugly. There will be something there that speaks to you, something that you can work with and that will inspire something that you like. Alternatively, grab a tutorial off of Pinterest (I'm not the only tutorial hoarder out there, I know it!), doesn't matter which one, and make it. It may feel like you're just going through the motions, or that you're putting head down like a bull and charging through that brick wall that is creative block and smashing that thing to bits. Whether you're demolishing the wall or merely dismantling it brick by brick, it'll get easier as you stick with it, and eventually, you'll be out of your creative rut.

Worst Advice: Just Avoid Creative Block in the First Place!

This goes along with other meaningless platitudes like "just be happy!" and "boredom's just a state of mind!" It's not that simple. Creative block has many different causes, and while you can take steps to avoid some of them, I'd be very surprised if there were a way to avoid all of them, all at once.

Best Advice: Find the Root of Your Block, and Pull it Out

Like I just said, creative block has many causes. For me, it's often an insecurity/fear of failure, or that I've fallen out of the habit of creating or writing, or that I have too many distractions. Figure out what's blocking you, then fix it. Too many distractions? Eliminate the distractions. Fallen out of the habit? Get back into it! (I've detailed this process in the "Show Up and Do It" section above.) Scared that what you'll make won't be good enough? Make it anyway; face that fear! Take a walk, remove yourself from your surroundings, and sometimes that's enough to just dissolve the block. Listen to music, do some dancing (even if it's just in your own living room), get outside and take nature photos. Pretend that R. Lee Ermey is your very own personal creative trainer, yelling encouragement at you in your head. Pull an Oblique Strategies card and think about it for a while. Just keep trying 'til you find something that dissolves whichever block you have at the time.

I hope you've found something of use in here. It sure helped me kick down another brick in my writer's block wall! :) If you have another strategy that works for you (even if it only worked once), please share it in the comments!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My 3 Favorite Color Inspiration Sites

As you may have guessed, color is a big part of what I do as a jewelry designer. Finding the perfect color for whatever I'm working on has always been a priority - even back in grade school, I remember spending way too much time mixing basic-colored Tempura paints (we had the primary and secondary colors, plus brown, black, and white) to get just the right hue of magenta for jungle flowers I was painting as a collaborative mural with my class. One time, I came up with this awesome hot-pink color in high school with similar paints - I think it was with orange and red in just the right proportions. It made for a wicked-cool sunset painting in art class.

Anyway, occasionally my own personal color "well" will run dry, and I have to look outside of my own imagination for color inspiration. Here are my top three sites for inspiring me to look at colors outside of my usual palette:

1. Design Seeds
"chi tones" by Design Seeds

This site, founded by designer Jessica Colaluca, features color palettes assembled by her, inspired by different photos. It's great for finding color combos that I may not have otherwise considered.

2. Colors on the Web

Color wheel by Colors on the Web
I use this site's color wheel when I'm feeling more adventurous, or if I want to see what the creative universe has to offer me. It generates three random colors out of 16 million or so, according to the description, and it's funny how often the combo works. You can also "hold" or keep a color that you like, and rando-generate the rest. Colors on the Web has other tools, plus some informative pages on color theory and lots of other great stuff that I honestly haven't had time to check out because I get distracted by the color wheel. :)

3. Colorspire
Color scheme designer by Colorspire

This site has a random color generator, too, but it has tools for you to create a swatch of your own. With the color wheel, you can easily pick out analogous colors, complementary colors, tertiary colors, and so on. Then, you compile them into your swatch.