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Acorns and Limes

October 14th, 2013 at 01:35 pm

Have you heard of Ojai, California? It's an enclave of fairly well off, ecologically bent art lovers. It supposedly is an escape for hollywood bigwigs, but truthfully the cross section of population has plenty of similarities to the average town (farm workers all the way up to millionaires). Larry Hagman used to marshall the July 4 parade, Beatrice Wood is the most famous past resident (pottery artist).

Anyway, there are several well established art fests in Ojai each year. It is an accomplishment to participate. I participated this past weekend as a guest of a resident artist.

It was an open studio tour; this is where dozens of artists throughout the area invite the public to their work areas. The locations are spread pretty far apart. I was out front of the studio of a very gracious lady with a couple tables in her tranquil yard.

See stop 30 on the map at http://www.ojaiartdetour.com.

I was under a couple BIG pine trees and a HUGE oak at least 75 feet tall. A nature lovers setting. Wonderful. The trees were full of jays, a woodpecker was next to me most of the days.

We had a small steady stream of visitors, more than I expected being pretty far off the main center of activities. Sales were enough in 2 days to make it worthwhile, but not enough to jump for joy. I'll use the fact I was invited and participated as a qualification for future art endeavors.

I brought mostly sea glass jewelry, jeweled eggs, and wire weave jewelry. The wire weaves attracted a LOT of compliments (wish they sold just a much!). Many people asked for my biz card.

But since I don't have much made, I hadn't put any wire weave work on my website. Folks will probably be checking out the website though, (I noticed a few clicks even before the show), so today marks the first day the wire weaves are for sale on my website. At my fantastic low prices.

Here's the first, inspired by autumn leaves...

Copper Apricot and Emerald Wire Weave Necklace

A flash of orange and green in swirling copper curves are just like outdoor fall leaves and breezes. Intricate detail, described as modern, feminine and mesmerizing. Supremely affordable for original design from The Frugal Artisan. See all the details at

And the acorns? There were hundreds and hundreds under that oak so I gathered a large bag for a birder friend who has great knowledge and feeds wild species in her yard.

Also free to me that weekend? Dozens of limes from my host's tree. And before I left, her neighbor brought over a jar full of seaglass for me to use in jewelry. People love to collect it, but without a way to use it have been giving it to me. OK with me!

Thinking of shopping for a ...

October 10th, 2013 at 03:14 pm

dehydrator. It would be the main gift to my husband for Christmas. Anyone have one? I think we would make good use of it and am comparing performance and price of basic ones vs. high output ones. Here's a brief summary:

Basic (new)
Cost ~ $50 plus minus $20
Capacity about 5 trays
Time operation from 6 - 12 hours
Some needs attention during drying (turn over food)
Less strongly built, life estimated 5 years

High Output (new)
Cost ~ $200 to $300
Capacity 10 or 12 trays
Time operation 4 hours
More durable, last 10 or more years

The variety of uses in our house are many. I am sure we would make dried backyard produce, eg tomatoes, apples, nectarines, onion, herbs, peppers and more. My husband would make backpack meals but only for a couple years (after which he will probably move on to some other recreation for awhile). And I make trail mix now using separate purchases of raisins, dry fruits and nut which my kids eat ALOT instead of junk food. It would be less expensive to dry my own fruits for the trail mix.

But I certainly balk at laying out $200 plus. Look at ebay, even used dehydrators are barely reduced in price. They are in demand?

Going to research some more.

Architectural Digest got nothing over me!

October 7th, 2013 at 01:15 pm

Some things are just too ... interesting to toss. At least for a limited time. We don't have a lot of storage space and I am a fanatically neat person, but I am betting on making an eyecatching display that won't cost me anything.

Last year our backyard grape vines finally seemed to thrive. The stalks were long, 6' and more. They were strong and flexible, nicely curved and had neat little curly feelers here and there.

When time came to prune the plant, I decided to keep some of the long vines. The 5 and 6 foot length was not easy to get from mother nature, and certainly not free in the craft stores for any sort of pole.

What I pictured was using them in a big floor vase and hanging a certain item I make - glass ornament bulbs that I suspend a pair of earrings (or bracelet) inside. Kind of like a ship in a bottle.

There they stayed, in the garage for a year. In a corner. Not forgotten! And now ready for the test. Instead of the big floor vase, I decided to go with one of the heavy table vases I already have. Here's the set up so far (yes that is my dog behind):

In the bottom of the vase will go some florist foam or perhaps something with less eco-impact.

Watch in coming weeks while I hang the ornaments.

Escape from the Treadmill

October 3rd, 2013 at 02:55 pm

On Furlough Day No. 1 I saw this as an opportunity to encourage my husband to 'take it a notch or two down', get off the treadmill (at least take a break), and otherwise stop chasing the dollar so hard.

He wasn't exactly in favor. He reminded me we have one in braces (paid in cash), one to get braces in a year or so, an upcoming college education in 2 years, and the second to follow two years after that. Nevermind auto issues, an old dog, and hope none of us gets sick in a big way.

Oh yea. Getting off the treadmill is a fantasy for now. But we had a short, honest talk about where we spend, where we should reduce.

Hm. Most of our expense comparison showed:
Utilities - no change, phone/internet/TV bundled
Computer - some past expenses, future projection low
Groceries - somewhat high
Clothing - quite low
Entertainment - zilch
Eating Out - moderate
Home Projects - past high, future zilch
Grown Up Toys - bike parts, camp gear, etc.

The idea? concentrate on reducing the grocery expenses. How? We already coupon (ALOT), shop the sale rack (ALOT) and cook from scratch (ALOT). I rarely throw out food, we grow much of our own as well. But I can make less expensive things. HELLO JELLO! Pass on the designer produce, specialty cheese, rely on our garden.

DH is the eater outer. It isn't a big enough percent of expenses to nag him about, but I'll try to think up someway to get a couple meals a week off the charge card. (CANDLELIGHT at home? with smooching?)

I still wholeheartedly look forward to simplifying after the kids fly the coop. LESS groceries, LESS cleaning supplies, LESS of everything - furniture, towels, computer necessities. Travel with a small carry on to HOSTELS. By TRAIN. (or bike).

Does this happen to everyone getting near retirement?

Furlough No. 2 Meets 'Going for the most unusual holiday gift'

October 2nd, 2013 at 09:24 am

So we are a furlough family. The effect to us basically will be the delay of paying our home loan off early. In a nutshell: we have been paying our loan off aggressively and have estimated it to be gone in about 3 years. This is designed to coincide with the start of the first child starting college. At that time we would be able to help pay for college with the money previously used for the house loan.

With the unknown of where he might go to college and the cost, we feel confident to be able to still manage. I presume he will have to go to a school that he/we are able to pay for depending on how much we have available.

Two years later the second child goes to school and we will be spreading out the available money.

The good news is I am increasing my work hours to make up a small percent of the immediate income loss.

And we have diversified our income nicely, DH teaches community college at night, we have a rental house, and I have my small (but every little bit helps) jewelry biz.

So furlough meet unusual holiday gift; unusual holiday gift meet furlough.

What you may ask is this?

Answer: a hygrograph
A vintage instrument that measures humidity.

Why would I know?
Last week when on a frugal bday date with my husband (beautiful dinner at home and then $15 improv comedy show), we walked past the thrift store whereupon he pointed to this THING in the corner of the window. "I'm watching that," he said, "it's marked down from $50 to $30, and when it hits $25 I'm buying it."

It was a nameless faceless metal box as far as I could see. WHA?

"It's a weather instrument," he said. How in the world he EVEN NOTICED is amazing to me. Ugh?!

So I made a mental note to secretly investigate. A mere $5 would not break me and giving him Christmas gifts is VERY difficult.

I found out it is a Hygrograph, Weather Measure Corporation Model H-324. Nothing NOTHING pops up like it on google. or Ebay. Leave it to my husband to stump even google.

I don't know if it works, I don't know the real value. It looks vintage, not antique. Anyway, I took it and am in the running for 'most unusual gift of 2013'.

Try to beat that!!

At the front of a trend?

September 16th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Is wire the new black? A colleague in the art associaton remarked to me she first noticed wire jewelry designs about 5 years ago. That's when I did as well, and fell in love with the beauty and fine detail. I made myself a little promise to learn and give it a try at some future time. I knew it would take a concentrated number of hours free time. So I left it on the back burner until this past summer.

Going away for vacation was the key. No housework distraction, no gardening and yard work. Not as much daily computer nor cell phone time sink. I packed my jewelry supplies, they didn't take more space than a make up bag! Wire, beads, tools and a few basic instructions. I crossed my fingers that the airport security wouldn't take away my wire cutters....

(they didn't and on the return flight I learned to even just put any sharp tools directly in the check in bin)

And so I blocked out a couple hours to learn. That was the start 3 months ago.

Fast forward 12 weeks, and here is the latest, seems like I've come along way already.

Copper Christmas Colors

I didn't start out to make red and green, but realized at the finish that holiday colors happened. Sparkling cut red crystal is worked into a 3 strand weave; a glossy unfaceted green serpentine stone drop is the perfect foil. Matching earrings not shown.

My wire work has been quicker to sell at the shops I'm in than past styles. Is it going to be a trend? So far it's been about two a month in the several shops, I don't have a lot of inventory yet so it's hard to stock up anywhere.

Twice when I have been volunteer cashier in the galleries and doing a design on the spot, I've made a sale.

Maybe it's my prices? The simpler necklaces are $25. The more complex are $45. I plan to hold this price point through the end of the year.

Hard to know if wire weave is getting hot. I want to stick with it just for the sheer satisfaction of the design process. And sales are definitely a good feeling.

Two Shopping Trips are Better Than One?!

September 5th, 2013 at 08:09 am

You are busy right? But you are smart and make a grocery list to keep you from impulse shopping at the store, right? You just get in the store, pick out the listed things and get out as efficiently as possible, right? Well don’t fill that whole list, ok? That seems counter intuitive but it will save money.

Here’s why: How many times have you come out of the drug store or grocery store with receipt coupons for something you just bought? These coupons are usually a pretty high savings (higher than the mass printed coupons in the newspaper for example) because they are targeted just to you. The store systems know what you buy and want you to repeat those purchases. Therefore you get a big incentive coupon to do so!

Yesterday I went to CVS for dental supplies and had mascara on the list in hopes of a good store sale. Alas, there was no BOGO and I just didn’t want to pay full price. I even scan my CVS card at the store coupon center and did not get a make up coupon. So the mascara didn’t get in the basket. And SURPRISE! I got a very good coupon on my cash register receipt ($5 off a $15 purchase). This will cover the price of nearly one whole mascara and I will get two.

So leave something off the list that can wait a couple days. See what coupon you get and use it to buy the item the next trip.

Here's a way to say Happy Birthday with a (wacky) smile ~

One of a Kind Collage Cards
Give a card like no other! My original cards are full of personality, appeal to the odd humor in your friends and family, and are guaranteed to make them smile.

Hot Dog Face Birthday

Great for kids or a guy, do you spy the egg?

Walking Backpack

In case you missed the important day, this card will surely elicit forgiveness.

Red Heel Head Chick

Cute? Weird? Different that's sure. I love it!

Thanks for all those FB likes (I notice).

September means... a sticky on your wallet

September 4th, 2013 at 11:29 am

I have such difficulty planning ahead until the new month is turned over on the calendar! (Why is that?!) Now that September is here, I can see clearly now what to do this month and in fact, what to do the rest of the year. (September is special like that in rushing us to the end of the year: only 112 days until Christmas!) On my calendar?

o Girl Scout Nut Sales Chair. My turn!

o Fall Gardening. Plant basil and garlic. Nurture small pumpkins already sprouted on the patio (experimenting with this location, never tried them there).

o Shift from outdoor to indoor fitness. Happy to realize I am able to be active most days a week at least a little, e.g. Mon/Tue/Thur/Fri = lunchtime or after work dog walking, Wed - zumba class, Sat/Sun major bike riding for running errands. The after work exercise will drop off after the clock changes, must compensate with at home Wii zumba for example.

Also on my calendar? This is the most important time of year for small businesses. Let me ask you to remember each time you are about to spend for a gift or to entertain guests from now to December 31: Who are you patronizing? What effects do your spending dollars have?

Put a sticky on your wallet near the dollars so you see it every time you shop ‘Is this money supporting a local or independent business?’

Here’s a peek at what http://www.prettycheapjewelry.com is planning for end of year business…

It was a Labor (of love) Day at Pretty Cheap Jewelry where a collection of distinct new jewelry designs were produced. I set a goal of crafting at least 6 wire weave necklaces and was successful. Some were made using a simpler weave that I knew would be faster and trouble-free to accomplish, but I wanted also to try some new weave ideas which would take longer and need reiterations. A few of the results?

Baroque Set

Silver colored wire formed into graceful curve holds a brilliant red crystal briolette. Matching earrings. This is a more difficult 3 strand weave.

Cool Blue

A central square shaped lapis stone is framed in a silver 2-strand wire weave. Sky blue crystal accent. On leather.

Rythmic Rose Pearl

Like the rythmic gymnastic event, two strands of silver colored wire flutter around a large rose glass pearl. Clear glass accents add sparkle.

Next time: get a laugh at the latest wacky collage cards also from Pretty Cheap Jewelry.

Got Ideas How to Wow and Attract a Crowd?

August 26th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Pretend you have a new small business downtown in a middle class town. It fills a niche, carrying only goods made locally. It's a tiny shop, tucked in a side street location. So far word of mouth is getting you decent foot traffic.

But you want to raise the store's profile and let the residents know about you. What can you think of to make a splash?

The answer must:
1. Be low cost
2. Tie into the local goods branding
3. Be DIFFERENT to set you apart from the usual retailer.

Any marketing wanna bes out there? I realize this is what advertising firms are paid to do, but I think the SA'ers have the low cost point of view that is important here.

Things that are too *been there, done that*
1. Give aways. Customers are soooooo used to getting something for free. Gettng as much as they can for free. Ugh. There is no way this small business is going to make an impression giving away stuff they have that represents them.

2. Food or Wine tasting. Not as common as #1 but still too typical. And a bit expensive to stage anyway.

3. Demos. Book signings. Boring. Unless you are demonstrating magic tricks or have the world's biggest dog or something.

4. Print Ads. Yes, this has been a necessary part of a traditional marketing plan, but truthfully the world is turning digital and you want to go where the people are (on their phones for example).

Something completely different
A couple ideas I had, how would you improve? How would you react, or what would you do different?

1. Hold a photo worthy event. I heard a news report recently that people have their cell phone near them 95% of the day now (and use them in EVERY situation like in the bedroom and the bathroom). What they are doing ALOT is taking pictures and putting on social media. I suggest having a local icon - celebrity? giant avocado? something catchy that represents their local theme - come to the shop and let people take a picture with it. This location has no celebrity readily available, hmph. What to do?

2. Give some sort of reward for FB likes or social media check in. The owner can easily track if the person has 'liked' the shop page or checked in on Twitter or Instagram or similar. What to give as a reward?

In fact, this is not a fictional situation! I am thrilled that my goods are sold through a small wonderful new shop http://www.very-ventura.com.

I would love to help them succeed and ask for your ideas!