Artfire Collection “Victorian Romance”

A celebration of the stuff Victorian romance novels are made of: secret diaries, heart lockets, English gardens, and uncompromising literary heroines.

Handmade Jewelry
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Handmade Hanukkah

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on December 1st.  I have friends who celebrate this eight-day Jewish holiday so I’ve been trolling around on Artfire and Etsy looking for handmade hanukkah gifts.  There was a lot to choose from, but one of my favorites is the Blue and Silver Polymer Clay Hamsa with Doves Mobile Wall Decoration by Roly’z Creations on Artfire.

Although the hamsa symbol originated in the ancient cultures of the Mideast and Africa, it has been adopted by many traditions as a universal symbol which represents the protective hand of God.  Roly’z Creations makes several hamsa hands – all exquisitely crafted in brightly colored polymer clay.

The Hamsa with Doves Mobile Wall Decoration is part of a larger curated Artfire collection I put together called “Handmade Hanukkah.”

Unique Gifts
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Ft. Meade OWC Holiday Craft Fair on Nov 13 &14

Join me this weekend, Nov. 13-14, for the Fort Meade Officer’s Wives Club Holiday Craft Fair at the McGill Training Center (Forte Meade, Maryland).  There will be about 100 artisans and craft vendors from the Greater Baltimore Area, and it’s a wonderful shopping opportunity for handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts.  There will also be food, a silent auction, and activities for children.  Remember – you may have to show your driver’s license and vehicle registration to get in since it’s an army post.

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Autumn – A New Beginning


For me, Autumn has always been a time of new beginnings – far more than our traditional New Year’s, which is celebrated in the dead of winter.  It’s a time when we buy new notebooks for school and a time of harvest.  As summer ends, hot days turn cooler and the air is fresh with promise.  Even nature wipes its slate clean, eventually shedding its leaves in a burst of color and collecting its energy as it prepares for the cycle of new life in the Spring.

In Autumn we celebrate Halloween, which is derived from the Celtic “Samhain,” an ancient festival that was celebrated over several days from October 31 to November 1.  Samhain later influenced the development of the Christian festival of “All Saints’ Day” or “All Hallow’s Eve” – hence the name for the modern holiday of “Halloween.”  In Celtic culture Samhain was the beginning of the year and a new turning on the Wheel of Life.  It was considered a time of transition – a magical time when the dead walk among the living, and a time to reflect on our past and look ahead to our future.

We’ve carried the Celtic symbols of harvest with us in our traditions of carving pumpkins and bobbing for apples, as well as the symbols of “All Saints’ Day” with our images of skeletons and goblins.  But what appeals to me most about the old traditions is the practice of reflection and the sense of possibility.

With that in mind, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Celtic New Year, and invite you to take a moment to reflect.  What have you achieved this year, and what would you like to improve?  Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

Here’s my list – or at least the beginning of a list.  No rush – we have until October 31st to think about it.

1.       Keep learning. Sign up for a jewelry class or practice a new technique at home.  Seek out new authors.

2.       Be creative – everyday. Working a full time job, this is often a challenge to me, and sometimes I procrastinate too much.  But it’s easier to do one thing each day, than to try to tackle everything at once.

3.       Be thankful – all around us is abundance, we just have to look for it. For many of us these days, sales are slow and money is tight.  But there’s always something for which to be grateful.

4.       Get organized. Now, this is a hard one.  I’ve acquired quite a large stash of beads and supplies, and I’m an avid reader so I have a lot of books and magazines.  Keeping track of it all is a challenge.  As a result, I waste a lot of time looking for things that I know I have, but just can’t find.  Getting organized means having more time to do what I want to do.

5.       Eliminate clutter. I work better in a clutter free space, but I often hang on too long to old magazines or supplies that I bought a long time ago but can’t find a use for now.  It’s time to purge and de-stash, so I can be more productive.

I’d love to hear your resolutions for the Celtic New Year.  Maybe we can inspire each other.

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Would you wear meat around your neck?

Lady Gaga caused a huge stir when she wore a “meat dress,” topped by a little meat pill box style hat and matching meat boots, to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.  When talk show host, comedienne, and vegan Ellen DeGeneres asked her why she wore the outfit, Lady Gaga said it could be interpreted in a variety of ways. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat,” Lady Gaga told DeGeneres.

Now, Celebuzz reports that the L.A.-based jewelry company, Onch Movement, has taken Lady Gaga’s statement wardrobe one step further, with a “meat lace” necklace. Of course, it’s not real meat, but it looks pretty darn close. This cruelty-free “Meat-Lace” necklace hangs on a gold and black chain, and is on sale at Big Cartel.

What intrigues me most about this necklace design is the way that Onch Movement has identified and capitalized upon a trend to advance their business. Isn’t this something we all need to do as handmade artists? What’s more, this necklace gives consumers a fresh new way to express themselves. As I always say, jewelry is both art and self-expression disguised as a fashion accessory.

Tell me, would you wear a slab of beef around your neck to make a statement? I’d love to hear your comments on this.

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Artfire Collection: The Tiger

My new collection on Artfire pays homage to one of the most awe-inspiring animals in the world: the tiger. From delicate watercolors capturing the sleeping tiger to wire-wrapped tiger’s eye jewelry and a dramatic stained glass window, Artfire’s artists capture the tiger and its characteristic markings in a variety of mediums. There’s even a tiger print hoodie for dogs!

Jewelry Supplies
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Artfire Leaves the Beta Phase and Offers Members a Group Deal

I’ve often wondered what it was like for the first sellers that joined Etsy back in 2006, when it was a little known website for handmade and vintage goods, just poised to become an e-commerce phenomenon.  It probably felt a lot like it feels to be a member of Artfire now – full of possibility.   As Artfire leaves their beta testing phase behind this month and re-launches themselves with a new look and a sharp business plan, the future seems limitless.

From the perspective of a seller, Artfire is one of the best venues online for selling handmade and vintage goods, as well as fine art, media, and supplies.  Artfire already offers their sellers two kinds of memberships – they can join as Basic Members and sell for free, or they can join as Pro Members for a monthly fee and have access to one of the most user-friendly and versatile sets of website tools available in e-commerce today.   I’m a Pro Member, and I just love the ease of setting up sales or coupons in my shop, editing my listings globally, or changing the look of my virtual studio whenever I choose to.  I also like that I can offer buyers the option to easily make purchases with either Paypal or Amazon payments, and they don’t need to sign up and create a login/password.

But above all I love the sense of community on Artfire.  If you’ll excuse the broad comparison, Artfire is a little like my favorite diner:  it’s big and colorful and offers plenty of choices, but somehow you always bump into people you know, and the owners are never too busy to pop by and say hello.  Whether you’re participating in the forums or tweeting on Twitter, there is a palpable feeling of unity and support among Artfire members.  And it always amazes me that on the Artfire forums, the owners and administrators will often jump in to answer a question or make a suggestion.

Now Artfire has gotten even better by offering it’s Pro Members the opportunity to participate in a group deal for a low, fixed monthly rate of $5.95.  The only catch is that they need 20,000 members to activate this deal, which they’ve initiated in order to fund improvements to their website and increase marketing.  It’s a little like Kickstarter in which a pre-determined finanial goal has to be reached in order for them to raise their capital.  Whether you’re an existing member or just considering membership, you can find more details about the group deal here:  http://www.artfire.com/groupdeal

Basically, you have nothing to lose by joining since you can cancel at any time if they don’t reach their projected quota.  But you may gain more than you can anticipate now by being in at the start of an e-commerce phenomenon.

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Speranza Jewelry Featured on the Indie Junction Blog This Week!

We’re one of the featured artisans on the Indie Junction blog for the week of August 29th!  For those of you not familiar with Indie Junction, it’s a social network “designed to bring artisans across all genres together in the spirit of collaboration, support, growth, and creativity.”  As always, I’m humbled by the generosity of the handmade community.

Check out our feature, along with two other wonderful artisans, Tattoo Mike and Stitch *n* Tyme: http://indiejunction.wordpress.com/

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CERTIFIED HANDMADE SEAL ON ARTFIRE

Artfire certified handmade badge Today my online studio received the “Certified Handmade Artifact”  or seal from Artfire.  This Artfire artifact is awarded to artisans after they submit an application detailing their handmade process, with photos of their workspace and a recent work in progress.  Artfire staff  also perform a virtual assessment of each online studio and check every item listed by the applicants.  In some cases, they even contacted a few artisans for follow up questions.  As one Artfire seller, Marianne, from Calliope Creations put it, “This was no rubber stamp operation.”

When shoppers click on the artifact, the following message is displayed:

This Certified Handmade Artifact recognizes this artisan’s commitment to exclusively offering Handmade and Fine Art work in their studio.

This artisan has been through a careful review to ensure they are the producers of the fine work you now see. When you see the Certified Handmade Artifact, you can shop with the confidence knowing that you are indeed supporting a handmade artisan.

With the present popularity of handmade items, many online sellers are presenting mass-produced inventory as if it were handmade to an unsuspecting public.  Essentially, they are exploiting the buyers’ desire for a one-of-a-kind item handmade by an artisan.  Bravo Artfire for recognizing the problem and addressing it, thus preserving the integrity of its sellers and the rights of its buyers.

Of course, as some sellers have pointed out, there are some gray areas in the definition of handmade.  For example, what is the difference between “handmade” and “hand-altered”?  How much of a product needs to be crafted by hand in order to be defined as handmade?  Based on Artfire’s commitment to both their sellers and their buyers, I’m confident that they will work through these issues with sellers and come up with a fair solution for everyone.

In the meantime, after several years of learning and honing my craft, both with formal training at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and other venues, as well as hours of practice at home, I’m delighted to be “Certified Handmade” by Artfire.

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Etsy’s Help the Gulf Coast Shop

It’s Day 61 of the Gulf oil spill, and there is no end in sight.   As President Obama said, this spill is a wakeup call to our government and the American people to re-examine our “addiction to fossil fuel.”  As we see the images of empty beaches and oiled wildlife in print and on television, we feel grief-stricken and powerless, and many of us are looking for ways to help.

A woman named Kate Gabrielle who runs a shop called Flapperdoodle on Etsy has brought Etsy sellers together to raise money by selling their handmade goods through a shop called Help the Gulf Coast on Etsy.  Sellers are donating their items to the shop and all proceeds go to Oxfam America and The National Wildlife Federation.  I donated a Turquoise and Smokey Quartz necklace to the shop, and there are over 300 items for sale, including jewelry, soaps, housewares, paper goods, vintage items, and many more categories.

To shop in the Help the Gulf Coast shop, please click on the first Etsy mini on the sidebar to the right.  The shop has already raised $2000; let’s work together to raise much more money for Gulf relief.  Spread the word to your friends!

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