Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7 Leaf Cuff in Progress

The most popular item on my display during both wholesale shows earlier this year was the 7 Leaf Cuff shown below. I thought it might be interesting to show how this bracelet is made.

7 leaf cuff
Vickie Hallmark

The right and left curving leaf master models were made by hand in sterling silver metal clay, with my signature leaf vine texture. After firing in the kiln in two different stages as high as 1500ºF, the pieces are reduced to sterling silver. After polishing to provide the best surface, they are soldered to metal attachment rods called sprues and then molded with heat curing rubber. The rubber molds are cut open along the edges to remove the masters and then wax is injected into the molds repeatedly.

7 leaf cuff components
These wax copies are attached to a center wax sprue to form a tree of waxes, which is then molded itself in silica based investment (like hard plaster). After burning out the wax in a hot kiln,  Argentium silver is melted in a crucible at the center of a centrifugal casting machine, the mold is place at the end of a long arm, spring wound to spin freely. When the metal is melted, the crucible is pushed up against the opening to the mold and the spring is released to force the metal into the void in the mold. After cooling, removing the investment, cutting the pieces apart, and minor polishing, the pieces are ready to assemble, as shown above.

7 leaf cuff fused flat
Each leaf is dipped into flux, carefully positioned with its neighbors in a long line, and then each joint is  fused together without any solder. The bracelet is ready to form around a mandrel, followed by polishing and patina to bring out the texture.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Studio Organization - the Order Board

As I increase my production for galleries, I'm working on new systems in the studio to keep me organized. This is mostly a trial and error process. I tried compiling all the orders for a certain time period into a single list, at first handwritten and then input to a Word document with photos to make it visual. That at least gave me a total count when I was making a particular item. I tried printing it out and checking off items as I completed them. It was functional, but I decided that I craved some more tangible measure of progress.

order board first day

One of the home design blogs the I read, Young House Love, had a recent post on a magnetic dry erase board for organizing their home projects and blog posts. I realized that a version of their board might work nicely for my purposes. I decided to forgo their fancy customized board and just pick up something that would work. This combination of black magnetic/chalk board with white dry erase magnet strips is the result.

order board second day

My jewelry products names are written in permanent black marker, and then I use neon dry erase markers to indicate the number needed and stone color, if applicable (leaf studs in pink garnet or green peridot, for example). For now, I'm moving items from the right side of the board (in process or yet to be started) to the left side as I complete them. The change above is from one day to the next in my progress on shipments for delivery before Mother's Day. I don't move the tags until the piece is bagged and ready to ship, so one day's progress on the board may just mean that a bunch of multi-day projects completed at once. Even so, it sure feels good to walk over and move the tags. It's a bit like getting that gold star on a paper back in grade school. Now I'm thinking a few more boards for other projects might be in order. Shipments, purchases,...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gold and Blackened Silver Jewelry

As I play more and more with black oxidized silver, I've found myself craving gold. For years I've collected images of jewelry from artists that I admire which features the pop of bright gold with black. It's one of my favorite color combos.

So I finally dove in. I ordered a single ounce of fine gold casting grain to combine with some unused 14k gold rings from the jewelry box to combine for 22k casting. From this investment I have a collection of birds, flowers and leaves to try out in some new jewelry.

Goldfinch earrings
©2014 Vickie Hallmark
Argentium sterling silver, 22k gold

Here are the first few things I tried. First, a simple pair of earrings with birds in the treetops, obviously goldfinches. I've learned that I need to redo my models and molds, as these gold birds are much thicker (and more expensive) than they need to be.

Goldleaf earrings
©2014 Vickie Hallmark
22k and 18k gold

And I also made a pair of plain gold leaf studs, where I added 18k gold posts and nuts (my first time to solder gold, which went smoothly).

Friday, March 07, 2014

Vickie Hallmark Jewelry Online Shop - Test Run

I'm finally giving priority to getting the online shop up and running, rather than continuing to handle purchase inquiries one by one. The test shop is open, although not linked seamlessly yet, and not perfectly matched in appearance.

So far, only the affordable flock collection from my jewelry line appears there. I'll be adding more just as soon as I can. I have it set up so that clicking on any individual image takes you to the shop page for that item.

Please drop in to see the new shop and let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wholesale Show Experiences

Whew! What an exciting, exhilarating and exhausting few months! I finally find myself on the far side of my first two wholesale show, so I'm taking a few moments to sit back and analyze where I've been and where I want to go next.

Vickie Hallmark booth
ACC Baltimore 2014 wholesale only
In January, I attended the Buyers Market of American Craft (BMAC) in Philadelphia (now renamed American Made Show). Last week, I participated in the expanded wholesale section at the American Craft Council (ACC) show in Baltimore. I was so much more relaxed with the first show under my belt!

I shipped most of my booth directly from one show to the next, so I was able to complete my set up with the addition of two checked pieces of luggage (one of which weighed 90 pounds!). Although there was some overlap in the attendees at the two shows, overall I felt I reached a different audience with the second show. The show layout was confusing and obviously a last minute addition which didn't work as well as being down on the regular show floor would have, but even so I wrote a few orders and made some good contacts.

One of the best parts of doing such shows is meeting other artists. I am truly grateful for the camaraderie shared amongst vendors at these shows. Over the course of a few days, we become good friends and share tons of helpful information. I feel blessed to have such fun neighbors, who watched my booth for restroom runs, brought me drinks, offered chocolate, and kept me amused during slow spells.

wren earrings
from the flock collection
©2014 Vickie Hallmark
sterling silver & pearl
Now that I'm home, I'm compiling data on what sold and what didn't to use in refining my collections going forward. The bestsellers were from my flock collection, including the wren earrings shown above and a coordinating necklace. This collection is based on a series of my original drawings, converted into raised textures on sterling silver.

I have quite a collection of sketches, and the spring bird migrations are coming to inspire more, so I'm busily thinking of new designs to expand this collection.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My First Forays into Mass Marketing

Many readers have inquired about the results from my participation in the BMAC show last month. The answer is simple: it's too soon to tell.

I was warned repeatedly that breaking into the wholesale end of selling jewelry is a matter of persistence. Many repetitions of retailers seeing my work will be needed to generate a sense of familiarity and recognition that will lead to success. To increase my exposure, I have sent three separate rounds of postcards to an ever-expanding mailing list (generated laboriously by me, searching the internet for potential matches).

I have placed my very first print advertisement into the ACC Baltimore show preview edition of American Craft Magazine.

I have printed that same image on the ad onto a notecard that I used to send handwritten thank you notes to buyers that I visited with at BMAC. I'm debating more advertising and more direct contacts to galleries, along with my upcoming trip to the American Craft Council Show (wholesale only) in Baltimore in a few weeks. So far, this is all a very expensive proposition, in terms of both money and time. And only time will tell what works and what does not.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jewelry Trade Show Booth - from Design to Reality

Way back last year (a month ago!) I posted my design ideas for my booth at the Buyers Market of American Craft, and then I went silent as the number of details to take care of, coupled with the holidays, just overwhelmed any capacity to blog on my part. Today I thought I'd catch my breath after attending the BMAC last week and show you what I actually implemented. Most buyers probably have no idea what the exhibitor goes through to be ready for that opening event.

Vickie Hallmark BMAC 2014 Booth
Here's how it all begins. I shipped four packages to the advance warehouse, which were transported over to my booth on the first day of set up. This is an expensive proposition, as not only must I pay shipping (Fed Ex Ground going in), but drayage is assessed. Drayage is the most expensive form of shipping your work the shortest distance. For example, drayage to move the boxes a few miles from the warehouse to the convention center cost half as much as moving it all the way from Texas to Philadelphia.

Vickie Hallmark BMAC 2014 Booth
Walls, floor and stool in place
The booth rental itself includes a plot of floor, in my case 5'x10' in size on a corner, and the standard issue "pipe and drape." Flooring is required, at my expense, and any furniture must either be provided by me or rented at essentially purchase price. I decided that since I was doing more than one trade show, purchasing my own fixtures would be ultimately cost effective considering the rental rates. I chose to have large 4'x8' foam core sheets delivered from a nearby art store, which were hung from the pipe with zip ties and taped together to give this seamless wall look. For flooring, I had a choice of pricy and ugly rental carpet or something I shipped. I chose gray wood-look foam puzzle pieces, which are lightweight to ship, quick to lay, and comfortable for standing for four days. The IKEA stool was purchased and shipped for less than the price of renting a tall stool at the show.

Vickie Hallmark BMAC 2014 Booth
Abstracta tables assembled
I selected Abstracta tables because of their modular structure that allows me to adapt the furniture to various needs in the future. The tables are composed of a series of standard length 1/2" pipes and various connectors. With a tiny bit of familiarity, they take less than an hour to assemble and disassemble on site. All the pipes shipped in one long box, while the shelving for the top shipped in a separate box.

Vickie Hallmark BMAC 2014 Booth
Ready for jewelry
Finally, I cut the side panels from extra sheets of foam core and then attached plastic cut outs of my tree branding to the tables, which I think gives a beautiful customization. Many hours of work went into designing all of these aspects of the booth, and many dollars were required to purchase all the elements, including lights, signage and jewelry displays.

Vickie Hallmark BMAC 2014 Booth
The displays themselves are simple artist boards, primed and ready for painting. I personalized those with my robin's egg blue paint on the sides. A few extra touches - flowers and a bird dish for business cards - along with the jewelry itself, and the booth is ready for business.