Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Full Mother's Day Collection

Once I find an idea, I have to run with it, see where it takes me and how it leads.
Often, it takes me where it wants to go, and I'm really just along for the ride.
I felt this way with this collection.
It started with the stacking rings, and I'm enjoying wearing my own set that I created and have been so honored and humbled by the response I've gotten for them.

But this is the crown of the collection if you will.
This Birds on a Branch Pendant.
I created this pendant to represent, not the babies, but the mamas, at each point in their lives carrying their babies. Each bird, a different form, a different shape and at a different point along the branch.

This particular one was created for a Mama with four babies, but I've already had orders for fewer babies and am willing to customize your pendant the way you need it even down to one little birdie.

These feel extra special to me, I don't know why and I can't explain it, my sister and I have remarked how sometimes birthstones can clash when you bundle them together, but this gives each stone life to me. The birdies aren't meant to be the same, just like the babies aren't the same (that was indeed the reasoning behind my decision to offer a mix of faceted and smooth stones).
However, together like this, they just feel like they belong.

If you would like more information about these necklaces or the rings, please visit my website.
Also, please remember the deadline of April 15th! I don't want anyone to miss out, but this is a one-woman show here and I also can't stretch myself too thin!
I hope you have a wonderful Spring and are enjoying the (slightly) warmer air!
Thank you also to those of you who have commented on these pieces, the encouragement goes straight to my heart and is indeed a great push to become better.
Thank you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

For the Mothers

I had the opportunity this week to spend some time really touching and admiring super high end jewelry. I was in awe of the skill and craftsmanship, but driving home I looked at my freshly polished Mama bird stacker and new instantly that this was the kind of jewelry I want to make. The kind that is accessible to the average woman.
I want the Mamas who wear these rings to be reminded every time they look at them of that first glimpse they had of their little one, of the night feedings, and afternoons at the park, the baseball games and late night test crams. I want to make jewelry that touches the soul and today it's the Mama soul.
Each Mama bird is hand cut by me from sturdy sterling silver and each stone is set by hand. I form and fabricate every band and finish it off with a lightly hammered texture and dark patina.

The stones are shown in the final photo and when choosing stones for these sets of rings, my initial thought was to choose just the shiny faceted stones, but children aren't all the same, are they? So, the stones will reflect that, some faceted with a few extra cuts and some smooth with a softness of color to celebrate the differences that are these little ones we love so much.
These are in my shop now and are limited edition, I will only keep the listings open until April 15th and then they will be closed. They are in both my webstore and Etsy. Thank you to those who have already contacted me and I'm honored to be a part of the way you've chosen to honor the Mothers in your life. If you know you won't be able to make complete payment by then, please contact me, I would love to work with you!
I also created this double Feather Bearer ring with this amazing Spring Green Gaspeite and Plume Agate Doublet. This ring is hefty and gorgeous and I also think perfect for Mother's Day. If you missed my story of the feather bearer, please jump back a couple of posts. It has inspired this small series of rings.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Feather Bearer

"This is a thankless task," thought Galea. She straightened the basket slung on her hip and adjusted the wide leather strap on her shoulder. She was tired, and though her burden was not heavy, she was not accustomed to so much walking. She was also weary of the strange looks she was receiving from the townsfolk. They had looked at Andea like this, whispering that she was seeking favors of the Council, or even that she was crazy. It was different when Galea was merely her companion, but now that it was she with the basket, the stares and pointed fingers seemed more unbearable. She had walked over an hour to reach the Hall of Words and now arriving at the bottom of the steps, she hoped that they would at least offer her water for her troubles.

The gathering had taken longer this year than last. Andea had become ill two weeks ago, and this year Galea had spent two days gathering the feathers rather than just the one. The Wind Ravens had also been late, passing over the isle a full week later than their normal migration, but the harvest had been rich. Each feather plucked from the forest had been of the highest quality and Galea hoped they might show up late again next year, perhaps the warmer weather had affected their molting.  She may tire of the work, but she never tired of the feathers. Even now, she was running one through her fingers, the deep turquoise of the quill, and the barbs of the feather closest to it gave way eventually to a midnight blue, the deepest inkiest navy she had ever seen. She tucked it into the back of her braid, and began climbing the stairs to the top of the Hall.

She was surprised to see the heavy oak doors begin to swing open. When she reached the top of the stairs, a man was standing in the doorway. His ivory tunic marked him as a Wordkeeper. He bowed slightly to Galea.

"You are not she who brought the feathers last year," He did not seem upset, but curious.

"No. Andea has been ill and the gathering became my responsibility this year. She told me to simply knock and someone would take the feathers."

"My name is Ondil. You look weary, may I get you something?" He extended his hand to usher her in.

"Well, actually, I am very tired, and I wasn't exactly sure who I would meet when I arrived. The walk back is also very long. Yes. I would very much like a drink of water."

Ondil led her into a wide hall with ceilings that seemed to go on and on. The back of the hall was all windows giving so much light to the room. But what immediately caught her eye was the staircase. It was the most beautiful ivory stone she had ever seen and the banister, instead of being made of individual rails was one long sheet of stone that had been carved to resemble an unrolled manuscript. The roll started at the top of the stairs and descended all the way to the bottom with verse after verse of some kind of poem written in the Old Tongue traveling the length of the stairs. Galea realized someone was handing her a glass of water. She took it and murmured her thanks, unable to take her eye off the staircase.

"Galea," Ondil was reaching for her elbow, "do you know how important this work is to us?"

Galea was drawn back into the moment and her eyes met his, "how do you know my name?"

"Please come with me." Ondil took the glass from her hands and set it on a nearby table. She took his arm and they began to walk up the grand staircase. She couldn't help but run her hands along the stone banister as they walked. At the top of the stairs, Ondil let her toward another set of large oak doors. He put his finger to his lips directing her to be quiet and pushed on the door. It swung open slowly, but without making a sound. Inside were rows and rows of rich wooden desks and along the inner walls, shelves and shelves of books thick and thin. The outer wall that ran along the outside of the building was nothing but windows which lit the desks and made the tiny candleholders seem unnecessary. There were only three men working and as soon as they entered, the men put down their pens and left, exiting through the door at the opposite end of the room.

Galea couldn't help but catch a glance at the work stations as Ondil led her down the aisle of desks. At each station was an open and empty book, and there, sitting beside the inkpot, a worn and well used feather. The turquoise and navy had started to fade, but the markings of the Wind Raven were unmistakable and Galea's hands began to shake a bit as Ondil sat down at one of the desks.

"Do you know what we do here, Galea?"

She shook her head.

"Everyone knows of the Wordspeech, the Old Tongue, the words that give power to everything the Wordworkers do. It allows them to affect the weather, to heal, to calm the beasts, to control fire and even control the minds of men when used for ill. But, what most people don't know is that the written word has ten times the power of the spoken word. That is why a protection spell chiseled in stone and placed above the door has ten times the power of a Wordworker simply whispering the spell into the dark. The written word is permanent. It is given life when put to paper, and it is from this life that all the power of the Wordworker is drawn. We write the words, stories, and spells into being here, in this room and we found hundreds of years ago that when written with the quill from a Wind Raven, these words were given wings as well as life. That the power in them could travel long distances and the Wordworkers could call the wind to aid them in moving this power."

Ondil then picked up the quill and dipped it into the ink. "This is a spell for strength," he said, glancing at Galea's basket, "it is meant to help travelers who have a long journey ahead of them." He began to write in the Old Tongue, beautiful, curving letters that seemed to glow and dance as he wrote. Galea leaned in closer and squinted at the page. The letters were glowing! They were trembling ever so slightly like wind chimes in the breeze and they glowed a beautiful blue turquoise! When Ondil was finished he placed the feather on the desk, lifted the page and blew across it ever so slightly. The words stilled themselves and the blue faded to the black of the ink! Galea could not believe what she had just seen. She lifted the basket off her shoulder and handed it to Ondil.

"What you have seen today is the burden of the Feather Bearer. You are to share this knowledge with no one. Whether by want or necessity, Andea has passed this to you and it is yours by right from this day forth."

Ondil took her hand in both of his and bent down to press his forehead to the tops of her fingers. She held her breath. This was how the Council was greeted! It was a show of respect and admiration reserved only for those Wordworkers who held the highest power in the land.

Galea's hands really were trembling now and she felt Ondil press his hands around hers tightly to steady her nerves.

"This is a thankless task, Galea, and you alone will know how much thanks you are truly owed," Ondil said no more, but offered her his arm and led her once again down the grand staircase to the massive oak door. She had so many more questions, but Ondil opened the door and Galea walked out. She turned around to see Ondil bowing slightly as he shut the door.

Galea  began to descend the steps her hands still trembling with a feeling of awe in her heart. The long walk home that had seemed so daunting before no longer troubled her and neither did the stares of the passersby. She could feel the sun on her face and as she walked, a light breeze blew around her playing with the little tendrils of hair that had escaped her braid. She tucked the little hairs behind her ear, straightened the feather in her braid, and smiled.
The Feather Bearer Rings
For those who often feel burdened with the Thankless Tasks.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You've been served.

Today in my e-mail I received from Etsy my official notice that they had registered for an IPO with the SEC. I don't trust any of these people as far as I can throw them, and also I'm not a huge fan of this statement that was included in the letter:
"The SEC is the government agency that oversees IPOs. SEC rules require a "quiet period" around IPOs, meaning we are limited in what we can say on the topic, even to Etsy employees and the Etsy community. Most of the time, we'll have to say "no comment" to your questions, and I understand that may not be satisfying.
So I took it all as though I'd been handed divorce papers, and after the rocky relationship that Etsy's been having with the rest of the true makers, I say, it's high time this relationship ended.
As far as the statement above.....I know, I know, it's the government, yadda have to obey the law, yadda yadda...but it all feels wrong to me not to mention I don't think it's in the original spirit of Etsy, so...what did I do?
I decided that this time I was gonna put my money where my mouth is, and so I did. I've got my own website now! Yup! Here it is:
Crazy, right?! Original, I know. But there it is! I'm slowly working through some of the design kinks and I've already listed a bunch of Made to Order items, but so far I'm very pleased with how it's coming out!
I've heard the most horrible things about how Etsy's been handling the reaction to it going public, even so far as to delete entire forum conversations to keep up appearances. I'll be slowly phasing out of Etsy, even moving my digital downloads to my website as soon as I can work through the logistics of that. In the meantime, here is my newest little ring:
I'm calling it the Winged Things Ring. A tiny feather perched on your finger. 

Also in the shop are Made to Order Sterling bands so you can turn your Winged Things ring into a stacker.

Tiny Bird on a Wire Stackers.

And, some of my Tribal Sliders that have been popular.
These are also Made to Order.

Rise Above Bangles in the shop, and you can choose your size. (There's nothing worse than a bangle that doesn't fit.)
Oh, and also, anything that you see in copper can be made in silver!
All listed here:

I can't thank you guys enough for helping to make this possible. If you've purchased something from me (or even if you haven't), I would greatly appreciate you sharing my website with friends and family to help me get the word out.
Also, if you have Instagram, I post new work there constantly @labellajoya.
I did a giveaway on IG recently, and will probably work on doing one here very soon.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Etsy, who made like a million dollars off the woman who made like a million dollars on Etsy...

Let me first preface this by saying, I'm a free market kind of gal. I believe in true capitalism (not the crony crap that runs our current economy, mind you) mostly because in a free market, the people choose the winners and losers and if you create something that meets a need then you'll be rewarded justly. It's the only truly free choice for free individuals (off soap box).

So, when I read this recent article about the gal who makes bookoos of money selling on Etsy, I thought...good for her. She deserves to have a thriving business that provides for herself, her family, and the other people that she employs. I believe in small businesses as the engine that should run this country. They are far less likely to get involved in lobbying for govt. policies that favor some and hurt others, and they are far more likely to offer employees some level of autonomy which ultimately creates for a much happier employee. I think it's the American Dream to be your own boss (or at least be close enough to the man up top that you could sit down and drink coffee with him).

That said, I'm here to do the free market thing and tell you that I think that unfortunately, the real enemy of handmade on Etsy is....well, Etsy. I know, "don't bite the hand that feeds you". Unfortunately, a lot of people who used to be fed very well from Etsy are now scrounging around the table of investors and wholesalers and those with the capital to outsource production.

My husband cringed when he heard that Etsy was going public and because I don't understand the stock market very well, he gave me a brief StockMarket 101 entry level course that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Etsy is very different from most publicly traded businesses. Most businesses are in control of overhead/production/sales/advertising and they can balance these things to meet the demands of the market, and therefore their shareholders.

I find it interesting that Etsy (who has got some cajones I might add) chose to go public when they as a company don't DO anything by means of production. Sure, you could say they produce a website, a platform, yadda, yadda. But all of the money coming in and going out of Etsy depends on me and my hardworking artist buddies who trusted Etsy to give them a place where they would only be competing with each other. Artists have always had to compete with cheap international imports, Etsy was the place to go when you wanted to buy quality and connect with the maker and bravo on them for doing such an excellent job...until now.

I'm pretty sure it started with them allowing us to outsource production and I will admit that they tried their darndest to insure that it was done with ethical standards. If you haven't read the application it's here, but I'll just give you some of the highlights that really jumped out at me.

We’d like you to describe:
  • The step-by-step process of designing and creating an item with the help of a manufacturer
    • How you, the seller, developed the concept
    • Your material sourcing and selection
  • And any further role you have in the creation of the item
You should also include images demonstrating your design process. Photos of your original sketches, plans, patterns, prototypes, or any other steps in the development of your designs should be uploaded here. 
We’re particularly interested to see how you communicated your designs or ideas to your manufacturing partner. If you have images of your manufacturer’s facilities and/or the production process, you can share those too.

There's more, but let me wrap it up so you can understand: KNOW your manufacturer, KNOW what kind of labor is being used to create the pieces that you designed, BE TRANSPARENT when it comes to telling your customers about your pieces and where they were made. That one is pretty huge to me because while Etsy wants to know every single detail about your manufacturer, they let you off the hook and provide a "keep my manufacturer private" button that allows you to effectively hide all that info from your customers.

Back to the girl that makes loads of money for....ahem...from Etsy. I was shocked to read this in the article:
Not all the items are entirely handmade by Shaffer’s team—many, like the knitted legwarmers, socks, and gloves, are sourced wholesale from India. "We finish them here, adding lace trimmings and buttons," Shaffer says. The profit margin from such imported items is 65%.

Wha? 65%? Let's do the math....that means that the $28 pair of socks was purchased at a cost to her of roughly $10! Well, sew a button on me, I'm done!

I was also pretty surprised to read this in one of her listings:
This watch we have manufacturing assistance to produce this watch. We simply put the bands onto the watch once you have ordered. We do not make the actual watch face but put our two designed pieces together.

The watch is a costume watch. What does this mean? It means that it MAY not keep the most amazing time as the batteries do seem to die rather quickly. So please know that we will not be able to replace or offer any refunds if the watch is not keeping time. We love it pretty much just for the fashion aspect of it ;)

I'm pretty sure I can get one of those from Target, with MADE IN CHINA stamped on the back label.

Here's the deal: There is nothing inherently wrong with sourcing materials from overseas (unless of course the labor conditions are atrocious). I can rattle off a list of places that I myself shop at where my shirts, jeans, shoes, scarves, dishware and home goods are probably made overseas and then brought here.

But C'MON ETSY! These places were never meant to both exist in your buffet of listings! Money corrupts and I'm pretty sure that the little "cha-ching" that you hear on your Etsy app was the only sound running through the minds of Etsy's CEO's when they made their recent decisions. I know I'm not the only one who feels this and I'm certainly not the only one who's expressed their opinion about it. Will it change? Probably not.

BUT, like I said, I believe in the free market, and the power of the consumer to drive it. So, what can I do? I can choose to be VERY selective when I use Etsy. To make sure that if I can't tell clearly WHO made the product, HOW they made it, or WHERE it was made, I'm not buying. 
EXCEPTION (at least for me): If they outsource using someone located in the U.S. whose name is clearly labeled and listed and the relationship between the two is clearly defined. (Is it so wrong for me to ask that Etsy make sellers FOLLOW THEIR OWN RULES!?) 
Of course, if I do happen to find such a shop, on Etsy, I think my first order of business will be to find out if they have a Big Cartel or alternative site and spend my money there. 

Is Etsy going to see a mass exodus? No. Ya' know why? They've done a great job of advertising their site as a place to get good stuff. Am I going to leave? No. Ya' know why? It's currently the only place where my items could potentially be found, especially when I don't have enough time or $ to start my own website.

Last but not least, we can talk to each other. If you know of a great shop on Etsy that meets the above requirement, please tell someone you know, and if they ask you where you got your necklace/tie/purse/mug, make it a point to remember the name of the shop, not just "I got it on Etsy!"

It's sad that it's come to this point with Etsy. If they really had cajones, they'd go back to their roots and stand for the community of artists who gave them their success in the first place. The truth is that one day they'll overstep their bounds and someone else will open Alterna-Etsy, and they'll be obsolete because they refused to do what they promised to in the beginning.

Until then, it's up to us to be conscious and cautious consumers and unfortunately we have to do that now in the one marketplace that promised us we wouldn't.

As for the girl, making bookoos of money? I'm glad she's doing so well, and I hope that her dream of being a household name gets fulfilled. It'd be cool to see somebody who got their start on Etsy with a line of brick and mortars that's filled to the brim with cool stuff. But, if she's not producing each and every piece of what she's making, then she doesn't belong on Etsy. (Well, the old Etsy).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Armor, My Shield

"Write what you know."
This is the advice they gave me in high school when we started the creative writing portion of my high school English class.
I'm proud of these silver shields.
I feel like I know them.
They take me back to Sir Gawain, to Arthur and Lancelot. I feel like I'm watching Ladyhawk again or Joan of Arc. More recently, I'm reading Tolkien, or T.H.White, or George R. Martin.
I didn't live in medieval Europe, but that day that we walked through Westminster Abbey, I felt like I could have.
This ring was the first born of the collection. The sword represents justice, and also honor while the antlers represent strength.
The aventurine is rose cut, so as you're wielding that sword, you'll see a bit of flash as the stone catches the light.

The cut out sword is also on the inside of the band, a hidden detail that only you will see.
The Moon and the Stag came next, the moon representing serenity. I like the beautiful combination of strength and serenity represented by the two images together. I chose the dark lapis to float above the moon.
And included the moon on the band.


These are two smaller rings inspired by the heater shields and sporting small rose cut stones.
This ring has the sash or bend, to signify protection and the amethyst.

This one is a simple double heater shield with a smoky quartz.
Two shields to keep with you always.

All rings, currently in the shop.
And to those of you following this journey of mine who've left me a comment or a note of encouragement, whether here, or Facebook, or Instagram.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
I know I can't always respond, but I do read and it means so much.