Feb 24, 2010

Posting on the run

I've just downloaded the app that let's me blog

post from my iPhone. I like the idea of random posts while I'm around town, so keep a lookout for my 'posts on the run'.

This photo is actually my sad little cubicle where I make my mad money.

- Posted from my iPhone

Feb 17, 2010

What happens to clay during firing

The metamorphosis of clay from raw material to finished art is both wonderful and mysterious.
I'm not a huge fan of the chemistry that clay and glazes, but it's important to know the
 basic process thatclay goes through as it's fired.

This article by Beth Peterson on About.com, does a good job of explaining in layman's terms, the stages of kiln firing, and exactly what is happening in the clay at each stage.

Feb 12, 2010

Etsy Front Page; my thoughts and tips

My yellow SWEET heart  was in a front page treasury on Feb 11. Thank you, FiberFancy!
I'm always honored to be someone's pick for a treasury, and it's
awesome to have that item make it to the front page of Etsy.
I work very hard to get my pictures up to snuff and make them worthy of being in a front page treasury.
Having my work recognized makes me want to work that much harder.

I've been on the front page 33 times. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?
Until you realize how much promoting, photo tweaking, and networking I do to get there. Not to mention, my work ,being somewhat unusual, is also a factor in getting chosen for a treasury. My theory is, having something unusual and different gets me a lot of views and recognition. Anyway, whether someone thinks I have reason to comment on subject or not, I thought I'd offer a few things I've learned about getting into treasuries.
What I did, and what I would do if I wanted more peer recognition at Etsy:
First, I would take an honest, hard look at my product.  Ask yourself these questions; Is it high quality? Would I pay/wear this? Does my product have something unique about it or is it something that can be bought elsewhere? Is there any market for my item, or, are there enough people who would buy this?

Then on to photos. It's often pooh-poohed when sellers try to tell others that photos are the key to getting into treasuries and onto the front page. I absolutely believe that is tue. Your odds of getting in treasuries are increased dramatically with a good photo. I suggest looking at past front pages and see what is a 'front page worthy' photo. Look at the angle, the cropping, the backgrounds. You will see lots of variety, but you notice in every picture, photos are well-lit and the item is in focus.
The current trend in product photography, not just Etsy, is to use the journalistic style. You see items in the environment you'll use them, for instance - or a bit of background. In this photo that was in a treasury, I used a book and side lighting from a window to add some nice shadowing:

I used to take photos with a white background, but abandoned this style because those kind of photos rarely make a good treasury photo. Sometimes you need to adjust to what is popular. I know this rubs some people the wrong way, but if you want to play, those are the rules of the game.

Here's another photo which was in a couple of treasuries recently. Notice the side lighting that makes the mood. I just set it on a table next to the window.

I did crop in tightly and lightened the shadows a little using the Lighten Shadows slider in Photoshop Elements. My thoughts when making this the first photo;  I want to capture the mood, not so much worry about a catalogue product shot. That is for the extra 4 photos.

Not all photos have to be journalistic. Look at this front page treasury that has lots of items on a plain background. The subtle shadows of the white backgrounds keep the photos from looking sterile and  keeps the focus on the item.
You should also notice this was an admin front page with the category of Miniatures as the subject. It's so important to tag correctly and not forget to list items in categories that might be a good fit for your item. My bird in the lower left corner, could have gone in the Ceramics and Pottery category, Art, Sculpture, or Miniatures. I chose miniatures because I wanted some visibility in that category. I've noticed I have more attention when I spread my items over more categories than just pottery.

If I get an email from a treasury curator that I'm in their treasury, I always make sure I answer the convo and thank them for choosing me. Then I visit the treasury and make sure to comment there. You also can click on the other items and visit each one. This is a lot of fun and I've found lots of new favorites that way. Clicking on treasuries also adds to its popularity and most believe this helps in deciding which treasuries get picked for the Etsy front page.

Thanks for reading this very long post. I hope it helped in some way.

Feb 6, 2010

Etsy Mud Team Kiln God Swap- Mine is here!

I got my kiln goddess from Teri at Terraworks.  Her goddess is so cool! I love
the earthy feel and the way it's like an ancient artifact. 
This beauty is going on the shelf next to my kiln.

Here's what I'm swapping:

My daughter asked if it was a rat or a dog. I say, it's whatever you think it is.
If it's a bit mouse or rat-looking, well, that may be because I think
of kilns being out in a workshop, garage or basement - sort of the 
realm of the mouse, don't you think?

Feb 5, 2010

Hand Building Clay Tutorial - Make a Kawaii Mushroom with Bird

In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to build a simple sculpture of a kawaii (japanese for 'cute') mushroom out of ceramic clay. There are just a few tools needed, along with the moist clay. Here's what you'll end up with:

I use mid-range stoneware clay that fires between cone 5 and 6. You can use any ceramic clay you choose. This design would also be good to use with polymer clay. This tutorial assumes you know understand clay firing and usage of a ceramic kiln. I work on a table covered with canvas. It helps keep the clay from sticking.
First, assemble your tools. I used the following:
  • sharpened pencil
  • large plastic drinking straw
  • scratch tool (although a toothbrush or the end of the pencil could be used)
  • needle tool
  • wooden clay tool
  • clay slip (runny clay about the consistency of cream)
  • moist stoneware clay
  • my hands!

Referring to the photo, take a lump of clay and form it into a cylinder. This will be the mushroom top.
Flatten the underside by tapping it on the table and flip it over and round the other end with the palm of your hand.

Slowly work your finger into the flattened end of the cylinder, and gently roll the cylinder and your finger against the table. Try to maintain an even wall thickness throughout. A wall of about a 1/4 inch is fine. Make sure not to lose the form of the mushroom top.

Cupping your fingers around the end, slowly push the edges together. You may need to lengthen the cylinder to allow for the edge you are going to join. If the clay begins to get dry, moisten it with a slightly wet sponge. No need to get it too wet or sticky. 
Work to get the edges nearly touching.


 When the edges finally touch, take your fingertip and drag some clay across the top.
Turn the form and drag clay across the top. Do this for several turns. Use the pad of your fingertip to smooth out your drag marks. You can also use the wooden tool if you prefer. Tap it on the canvas table to smooth it.


You now have a closed form.
Roll the cylinder on the table to take out any bumps and irregularities. Roll the top of the form 
on the table to make it nicely rounded.


 This is what yours should look like.


Cut a blob of clay for the bottom of the mushroom. Check the size against the mushroom top.


Roll the base into a ball, then a fat cylinder, and finally, squash the top of 
it with something flat. I used a small dip bowl.


 To attach the base to the cap, score the clay on each piece using the 
scratch tool. If you don't have a scratch tool, use the point of the pencil or the 
needle tool. Then, paint on some runny slip on each part - not too much.
Press them together with gentle pressure and a slight twisting motion. You 
want to make sure they are connected.
Wipe away any excess slip that seeps out.


 Here you can see where I used the sharp edge of the wooden tool to
impress a series of lines that will make the gills of the mushroom.


IMPORTANT- You must make a hole for expanding air to escape. If you 
forget this step, your mushroom will explode in the kiln. That would be sad, so 
don't forget to do this! 
You must poke the needle all the way through the base into the hollow cavity of
the cap.

 Don't forget to sign your work.
The lead pencil glides through the clay much easier than a metal tool.


Poke two eyes with the pencil. 
Use the straw to make cheeks on your little mushroom dude.  
If you go in at this angle, you'll only make a half circle shape. Wiggle it while
it's in the clay so it makes a nice gap.
Squeeze the straw by the tip and make a mouth shape, too.


 For the bird, here is a ball of clay.


Pull into a bean shape. One end is a bit pointy.


 Pull the clay more into a bird shape and use your finger and thumb to flatten the tail.
Score and slip the bird to the top of the mushroom.


 Hooray! You're finished!


Feb 2, 2010

I Love Mugs!

I'm amazed at the wide variety of mugs I find online. So many talented people, who turn
a utilitarian item into something unique and special.
There are over 7000 mugs listed on Etsy, so there's something for everyone.