Friday, October 17, 2014

And the Winner is...

Hi, all!  Thanks so much for all your responses and advice!  I have lots of new ideas, and I especially like the list suggestions and the reward system.  I do that for my books-- I'm a bookaholic, and when I put in a good days' work, I like to reward myself with a good book.  I'll let you all know how it goes, and I appreciate the time you all took to help me with my focusing problem!

This is my first ever blog giveaway and wow, was it fun!  Granted, there was a lot of tedious and bothersome trouble with posting replies on the blog, for which I apologize.  I dunno what happened, but I hope that my next giveaway will go smoother.  Here's hoping!

OK, as I'm writing this post, 9 pm is sneaking up, so I'm going to wait til it's officially 9 and then visit to generate my random number.  Based on my posted replies, I count...14 individual responses to this giveaway.

And the winner is... ~drumroll~ ... RENETHA!  She was lucky number 2, which was chosen by the random number generator.

Congratulations, Renetha!  Please be sure to contact me through blogger or through my facebook page, and give me your address info (please do so privately in PM or email) and I will ship your beads!

Fear not!  I promised a prize for all participants, so these ladies (listed below) will be able to choose one free pattern from my Etsy shop.  Once you choose your pattern, please don't buy it!  Send me a convo via Etsy's messaging system and tell me your choice, plus please tell me where to email the pattern.

If you don't have an Etsy account, view my ArtFire studio and choose from there.  Same thing applies- message me with your email and your pattern choice.  I have a checklist to make sure I get you all.

Many thanks to you all!

1.  NEDBeads
2.  Renetha
3.  Catherine King
4.  Niky Sayers
5.  Minxdkrolo
6.  Deb Calderon
7.  Dianne Blondeandblue
8.  Lois Buhalis
9.  Bonnie Smith-Nichols
10. Nan Smith
11. Alicia Hartley
12. Becky Clay
13. Peggy Kemp
14. Deborah Apodaca

Thank you all for participating!  Have a wonderful weekend!  ~Val

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Yummy Beads Giveaway!

Hi, all!  I have a very good friend who I chatter with almost daily, a former Bead Maven like myself, Twyla Harbick of Lady Abeada Designs .  Over the course of our friendship, we've discovered we are very much alike!  I swear we're separated at birth or something, hah!

In a talk the other day, we discovered that we both suffer from the same ailment from time to time:  Lack of Motivation.  Not lack of inspiration- we both have many designs floating around in our little heads!  We suffer the dreaded lack of get up and go.

Take me for instance:  I haven't worked my "day job" since June, yet I've published a scant few tutorials in this time frame.  I have several illustrated!!!  I just have to write the words!  It's kind of ridiculous, no?  There are times when I just feel like burying my head in a book instead of getting the work done.  We both sometimes find it hard to self-regulate since we both work from home.  Setting work hours and sticking to them are sooo hard!  I have so many unfinished beady projects, half started tutorials, sketched projects that just haven't been made yet, promised articles or blurbs, etc.  I have a basket full of already beaded goodies that just need to be written up!  I'm also really lacking in the "gaining blog followers" department.  You know where I'm not lacking?  Having great beady friends.

I'm taking the advice of my friend, Nancy Dale of NEDBeads and holding my first ever giveaway!  I'm lucky to have such nice friends who can share their advice with me.  This will cure two ailments:  I'll gain a few followers to my blog, and I'll hear some much needed advice on sticking to time frames, making good use of time, etc. Heck, if you want to share some marketing advice, I'm up for that, too!

So here's where my giveaway comes into play!  Bear with me; I have to show you something first.  I've had my eye on these wonderful, rustic, imperfect, slightly misshapen, large hole, nubbly, sand-cast, African trade, recycled glass beads for a while.  That's a lot of adjectives!  :)  I finally bought some this weekend at my local bead shop (Danish Princess Beads and Jewelry, LLC in Milton, FL).  She only has 3 strands left, ladies!  They came from a trunk show she hosted a while back.  Anywho, here they are:

Aren't they fab?!?  I'm a huge fan of the rustic look and imperfections don't bother me one bit!  So I had a thought:  Pair a precious few of these with other favorite rustic beads in my collection and host a giveaway!  How does this relieve our lack of motivation?  Well, here's how:

I'd like to hear how you deal with lack of motivation.  How do you create "office hours" when you work from home and how do you stick with them?  How do you motivate yourself to stay on task and to complete projects?  For this giveaway, I'd like for you to comment below and tell me your secrets.  Suggestions are welcomed!  I need to make better use of my precious time.  You may even help other readers!  So here's the deal (or rules):

1) I'd love it if you'd follow my blog.  I have an RSS feed link, or you can follow via email in the box to the upper right of the screen (I don't receive an email list- it's secure through a 3rd party).  You can also follow the old fashioned way- through Blogger's "follow" link up top that appears if you're logged into Blogger.  I post at least once per month when I can, and I sometimes have free tutorials to share.

2) Feel free to share this via social media like Facebook so your friends can enter.  It's not required, but it's appreciated if you do.

3) For everyone who comments on this blog post with your time management/motivation advice, I will enter your comment number (not including replies of course) into a random number generator.  That randomly generated number will win a small parcel of beads from me!  The comments should be here on my blog, not on facebook (though I'm happy to receive advice anywhere, they only count for this giveaway here on my blog.)

4) You have from now (9 pm, CST Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014) until 9 pm CST on Friday, October 17, 2014 to comment on this blog and have your number entered into the giveaway.  I will generate the random number (via after 9 pm CST on Friday the 17th and I will post the winner in a blog post here and in an announcement on my Facebook page, .

EDIT:  Some of my readers are having trouble replying to this post.  They've written long replies only to have them disappear.  I'm so sorry- it's got to be something with Blogger.  If this has happened to you, please post your reply on my facebook post announcing this giveaway (or on my page, either way) and I will insert a placeholder reply for you here.  I'm not sure what's going on, but this makes me sad.  Giveaways are supposed to be fun!  I want to be fair to everyone.

OK, now for the good stuff!  What will one lucky respondent win?

Ta~da!  Some of my zealously and jealously guarded hoard of beads.  You will receive everything in the above photo:  I'm including 6 each of the pale blue and darker blue African trade beads, 4 copper roundel beads (I use them as little buttons for clasps), 20 dark wooden roundel beads, various wooden beads (I love wooden beads), a few cabochons of unknown stones (I think one is serpentine and the other two are dyed), a really cool carved bead (I think Mookaite but I'm not sure), 2 beautiful, matched, black lip, oyster shell daggers, 1 gorgeous, stamped, handmade porcelain cabochon (the sandy looking one), 4 opal glass, picasso finished roundels, a small amount of genuine turquoise chips and a small amount of light green glass chips.

Be on the lookout for my winner announcement because I will need to contact the winner for postal information.

This is my first giveaway, so I hope I didn't leave out anything important in the rules.  If so, let me know and I'll correct things.

So, let the advice begin!  I appreciate your help!  ~Val

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Photo Evolution - My Style

Hi, all!  I'm in a great group of beady ladies and gentlemen on Facebook and one of the recent topics was the age-old favorite for jewelry makers:  How do you take photos?

The ways we take photos are as varied as the styles we create.  Many (most) are taken on white backgrounds because they produce a clean background for web pages and advertisements.  Selling sites love the "catalog" look of white, too.  For me, it just doesn't work, and I'll explain why in a few.  It's nothing to do with the look of white - I just can't pull it off without a lot of work.  :)

Still others use black backgrounds, and I have to say that they are dramatic and gorgeous, but I've never been able to achieve good results.  I'm jealous of the gorgeous black background photos I've seen.

My color of choice?  Slate grey.  It's an awesome neutral!  White seems to over-expose my pieces.  Black reflects the light back so much that any crystals glow too much.  Grey is just right for me.  Other good neutral suggestions would be wood, concrete, stone, brown paper bags (no kidding!) and neutral colored card stocks.

At some point in my career, I have tried all these things with varied results.  Before I show my setup, let me show you my initial photography fails.  Let's take an embarrassing trip down memory lane.  These photos are from years ago, evolving to more recent photos near the end of this post.

So yes... I thought dark fabric would be dramatic.  It was, alright!  This is what happens with black for me, too.  It overexposes the crystals and light objects.  Light bounces off the black or dark color and this is my result.  :blush:  Case in point:  below.

I think a lot of my problem was that I was trying so hard to do the light tent setups that you read about online.  Homemade or professionally made, light boxes rely on direct light.  I tried a homemade tent, so I can't speak for the real ones out there, but direct light has disastrous results for me.

Then I tried sunlight.  Go outdoors!  They tell me.  Use natural light!  They say.  Well, this is Florida, and our natural light is blinding.  :sigh:  It's never worked for me.  I lose all definition outdoors, even if I try a fabric screen to eliminate shadows.

So eventually, I try white crocks and doodads as props.  The problem?  White doesn't really translate as white with regular light bulbs.  I have a ton of old, yellowed pictures to attest to this.  Could I have negated this with white balance and exposures on my camera?  Sure, if I knew how!  I tried to learn how to manually set cameras and it just didn't work for me.

This one isn't so bad, right?   Wrong.  I totally washed it out by trying to eliminate the yellow and to brighten the photo.  Post editing was my nemesis for a long time until I found a system that worked for me.

Then came the epic trial of the backgrounds.  I must have tried everything under the sun.  Home Depot has free sample tiles and I loaded up on all sorts of colors and styles.  I stuck to stone looking ones and neutrals- by now I learned black wasn't my friend.  Still, my choices weren't great and just look how awful this photo is!  So washed out, again with direct light.

After a while, I tried natural river stones.  I liked this look.  I could live with this.  It's not so horrible, but still a bit overexposed due to semi direct light.  I'd learned to not focus my light right on a piece, but I still had a way to go.

Wood- not bad, I could live with wood, but this grain was distracting.  My style is getting better though.

Leather.  Well, leather bounces a lot of light if it's dark.  Same thing as with a black background for me.  This photo was tolerable but still overexposed.

Ah, slate.  I found my slate at last!  This one is still over-bright. I was getting there, though!  I had, at one time, a mix of slate and wood and white backgrounds in my shop.  Once I decided on a singular, cohesive background, slate won out.  Grey is my perfect neutral, and the texture is good without being distracting.  Of course, it's my own opinion.  Others make white look awesome!  I've seen black backgrounds that were dramatic and gorgeous!

At some point, I tried to go all fancy and reflective.  This is a piece of glass over my slate.  I liked it for some of my photos, particularly metal, but I had to create a solid roof over my booth because the glass reflects everything...

Reflections became a problem, so I ended up nixing the glass.

Back to the slate, but still brightness was an issue for me.  Things seem dull to me and over bright.

Somewhere down the line, I had an "ah-ha!" moment and turned my lamps completely away from my work.  I liked this!  It also brought out the texture of the slate.  Some of it is due to my camera angles.  I began to take my photos down low to my pieces.

It works with metal, both silver and copper.  If I want shadows, I use dark paper on the far side- I'll show you in a few.

Beads.  Personally, I think it's gorgeous on beads.  For crystals, I shine the light almost completely out of my booth altogether!  I have just a smidgen of light on the back wall.  I've now found my style, and I've used slate for a few years now.

It may not be perfect.  We all have to find our style, but for me, this is it.  I've bought "how to photograph" type videos and books.  I've tried their way.  I always come back to my own way.  For me, this is it!  My signature.  :)

How do I do it?  Here's a photo!

White foam core booth, $6 drop light from Walmart, $2 slate tile from Home Depot.  I use a small tripod, I get low to the piece, usually from the right side.  Shine the light off the back wall, use dark paper to throw more shade if needed, et voila!  The rest is creative cropping, a bit of post editing/color correcting (use a white eyedropper on a white area prior to cropping), toss on a watermark using Gimp, and I have my style.

Mannequin shots!  What about those?  Well, here is a photo of my entire booth.  I direct the light at the roof, still away from the manni.  If you don't direct away from the mannequin the jewelry leaves shadows on the "skin".

I hope you've enjoyed my embarrassing trip down memory lane, and I hope I've been able to help a little bit.  I'm not saying to go buy slate or use this setup.  I'm saying that we evolve our styles over time.  Don't be afraid to experiment!  Eventually you'll find what works for you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Teaching Policies - Opening Up!

Hi, all!  Just a quick post to say that I've been thinking of doing something for a while and I've finally done it:  I've now opened my teaching policies for more teachers and more shops.

I've been very picky and selective and reluctant to let people teach my designs -- I've had some unhappy experiences with a few bead store owners.

I'm asked quite often to allow teaching, and while I do have several hand - picked shops and teachers teaching my designs, I figured it's time to open up.

I do have lots of policies but they are simple ones- respect my copyright, don't share my tutorials, and we'll be OK!  I think this will be a good thing, or at least I hope so!

My website now has a Teaching Policies page for those who are interested in teaching my designs.  Click here to see!

That's all for now!  Have a good one!  ~Val

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adieu to August and hullo to September!

Hihi!  All is well at the Clifton house!  I've had a busy few weeks (heck, months!) with new ideas, new projects, new tutorials, new tools (squeeeeal!) and new duties.  I'm also running the roads taking the kids back and forth to school- my son to college and my daughter to highschool.  I have 4... 4! new tutorials in the works so hopefully I'll be releasing new stuff soon!  Life is so busy lately!

Oh, we got a new kitten!  His name is Virgil (to go with our other male, Dante).  He's a spunky one who never seems to sit still.  He thinks our dog is his momma.  :)  He also has a crush on Caprica, one of my females.  He's being neutered next week.

I've also got a few new designs in the works for other tutorials.  My "to write" list is long!  Inspiration comes to me in great, huge spurts and I can barely keep up with my ideas.  Sketch pads litter every surface it seems... if I don't sketch my ideas quickly I lose them forever.  They go into the ether, never to return.  My head is like Swiss cheese, hah!  :)

I've revamped and re-illustrated one of my favorite tutorials, Corona!  I've always loved that design and since I now use better software, I decided to remake it with prettier diagrams.  Eventually, I plan to redo all my embarrassing older designs with my fancy, schmancy illustration software.

In August, I also made my mom a pendant and I think she really likes it!  It's in her colors- cobalt and crystal.  I've also made it in another colorway.  I will be illustrating that tutorial very soon and I hope to get things moving- these I'm working on finished- so I can write more.

I've also made a cute little pair of wreath earrings using St. Petersburg stitch and Peyote stitch.  I may or may not write the pattern.  It's fairly simple but cute.

Hmm, what else?  Oh!!!  August was a great month for me tool-wise!  I've gotten a new bench vise, a new anvil (with horn and hardee hole), a new pair of Wubbers graduated cylinder pliers (I call them cone pliers) and the new Wubbers Artisan's Mark hammer set!   Oh, let me tell you:  When I got those hammers I felt just like a kid at Christmas!  They're so beautiful and so neat!  I plan to get in my studio soon to play with them and work on wire working tutorials!  That's right!  Soon I will have a few minor wire working tutorials, both in my shops and on the Wubbers University website.

The last few months I've done a lot of reading.  A. Lot.  :)  I mean, more so than usual, and I pretty much read anytime I can get free time.  Lately, I've been slacking on my duties and reading every single night.  I do this when I get overwhelmed so it's pretty normal for me to go months with books and maybe a few weeks without books- lather, rinse, repeat.  It's a sickness, I tell you!  :)

I've recently had a chance to beta read a book or two, and I do love it!  I'm considering signing up to review more books.  I'm reading them anyways so why not?  :)  Do you think it would be odd for me to start reviewing books?  I love to read, so I figured why not?  I don't know what kind of things to expect in the book reviewing world and I don't really have time for politics, snark and drama with other reviewers, but I wouldn't mind reading some books and giving an opinion on them.  Like I said, I mow through books anyways.  :)  I'm thinking on it and I'll get back with you.

That's all for now!  I'll have more projects to showcase in the September blog post- I'm working on a pretty neat birthday present for my friend and I can't wait to show you!  So, what are you up to?  Are you getting ready for the Holiday gift season?  Are you already frantically beading up a storm?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

And July is Gone!

Hi, all!  Woo!  Another month has come and gone!  Time flies so quickly lately that it's hard to keep up.  July is over and the harried month of August has come.

July in retrospect:  We got my son, Thomas, enrolled in his first term of full-time college, woo!  His classes begin in just a few weeks and we're all so excited.  I can't believe I have an adult son who is in college.  He will always be my baby boy.  He's majoring in business computer systems to start (AS).  Then he will go on to University for his BA in computer science with a minor in History, and then on to his Master's in Library Science.  He will one day have my dream job.

My lovely daughter is soon to follow!  This August she begins her 11th grade year!  She has 4 college courses (she dual enrolls) and some AP classes to boot, and she will be well on her way to a medical profession of her choosing.  She's dithering between immunology and pulmonology, both of which are important to her.  She has a while to narrow it down to something she really wants to do.

Let's see... besides mad dashes to get school squared away for both kids, I've designed quite a few new pieces, started a few tutorials (and finished none, isn't that just the way???), and outlined two books that I plan to self-publish with the help of a treasured and witty friend.  I've sketched ideas, including some metalsmithing ideas... I've bought a few new tools for my studio and rearranged furniture to prepare for the holiday gift making season.  I'm sketching ideas for a gift for my mom's birthday, which is this month, too, and I'm currently working on 3 tutorials simultaneously.  My mind is flying in a ton of different directions lately so I end up working a lot yet getting nothing done.  I'm riding the muse wave- you have to design while the iron is hot, and work out the kinks later, eh?  I have a ton of tutorials to write when my muse quiets down a bit.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying myself.  I'm proofreading a book or two for author friends, and rabidly reading anything I can get my hands on during any bit of spare time I get!  One can never have enough books!

Would you like to see what I made in July?

This is a collar, Ignus.  Tut is in the works!

I've also created a "V" neck version (not pictured).

This is the matching bracelet, and I've forgotten its name.  ><

I have a new ornament tut in the works, too!

This is for my St. Petersburg stitch tutorial.
Well, that's it in a nutshell!  I have all the illustrations done for 3 of these and just need to write the words.  I'll see you again in my August recap post at the end of the month!  Enjoy your August!  ~Val

Monday, June 2, 2014

CRAW Basics!

Hi, all!  I'm working with the wonderful Wubbers University this summer on a series of basic stitch tutorials and this is the first!

Cubic Right Angle Weave:  The nemesis of many a beader!  It's really not difficult at all, and hopefully I can help!  I know there are tons of tutorials out there, but I'm giving it a go anyways.  :)  This workshop will explain the mechanics of the CRAW stitch, illustrate how to create corners with CRAW and show how to join two ends of CRAW.

This is a wordy tutorial so you will want to download the file.  I assure you that the .pdf will have clean graphics, unlike these screenshots.  The downloadable/printable .pdf is available here!  Please respect my copyright and share links instead of documents.  :)  While you're at it, check out my newly revamped website and pick up any tutorials you've missed!  Enjoy!

So, now that I've gotten your attention, I'd like to wish my wonderful son, Thomas, congratulations!!!  He graduated High School this year and he will begin college in the Fall with a scholarship.  :)  We are so very proud of him!

Now:  I need stitch ideas!  Any requests?  Any stitch you've wanted to learn and have had trouble finding?  Let me know!   ~Val