Monday, November 15, 2010

Trying Something New

A few months ago I had a hankering to try my hand at making something out of clay.  It wasn't so much as I wanted to actually go into it -- more like see how it is and find out if I liked it. 

Yeah -- that's exactly what I said when I bought my first little bag of beads!

So as I usually do, I did my research since I didn't want to spend too much on something that I'd give up after a month.  The polymer clays available here were not quite what I had in mind budget wise -- we get them from the US and I wasn't too keen on buying a whole batch of them since I was just starting out.  I trolled the web and found an art supply shop that sold a lot of the materials I only read about (since the whole lot of them are imported from other countries) and decided to pay a visit to one of their branches.

Of course it took me weeks to FINALLY get to one of their shops and only because I stumbled upon it when I went on my usual bead-buying spree.  I had to laugh because it was just a block away from where I get my beads and gemstones! And there I was, all this time, trying to figure out a way to sneak a trip to it in my schedule.  Thank you Google maps for showing me the way. LOL.

The ladies at the shop were kind enough to steer me in the right direction.  I had asked for an air-drying clay that required no baking or kiln-firing, one that was suited to a beginner who just wanted to get her hands on some clay and squish something out of it. They suggested a terra cotta colored material akin to mud - they told me it hardened when exposed to air and I could paint it after if I liked.  I did like the price though --- less than a dollar for a kilo! And they even showed me some inexpensive beginner clay tools.

So here it is, my first little clay creation. 

It's a little cracked around the edges and you can see my fingerprints on it! LOL.  It's not quite dry yet but the color did change from a muddy brown to something close to grey.  I think it will lighten up some more when it's fully dry.  I don't even know how I'm going to paint this one. I guess I should've started with a simpler figure to mold.

Here's another look,  sitting amidst my pile of bead containers

I did have fun making this little one.  A great part of the enjoyment came from the fact that my youngest son joined me and made his own little clay creation -- a dinosaur who somehow resembled Snoopy the dog.  Good thing this stuff is inexpensive -- he wants me to get him his own batch!

What do you think? Should I keep practicing and eventually go for the more expensive clay?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Four Letter Words: FEAR

What are you afraid of?

Dark, murky water?

Erin Reynolds Photography
Creepy crawlers?

Over the Top
 Is it standing in front of people to speak?

Or getting off the fence and taking a stand?

Bonnie Bruno Photography

Maybe just saying NO

Or even saying YES to something that requires much effort but brings so much good

Letterary Press

I've heard it said that fear of imaginary obstacles is the hardest to overcome.  For how can one fight something that really isn't there?

Michelle V

Boo! Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

As If One Shop Isn't Enough ---

I decided to open another one on Artfire!

I had already signed up for a basic shop a few weeks before the Artfire $5.95 Deal was announced so I went ahead and opened. Initially, the shop was for my destash beads but then I got to thinking that it would be cool to offer supplies that are not easy to find.

So, I expanded the shop offerings and have included some craft materials and supplies that are made out of materials indigenous to the Philippines like abaca and sinamay and buri.  There are abaca mesh sheets to use for collages, mixed media work and even for wrapping up a gift --

Or pretty little sinamay flowers made by hand to add to your crafts stash --

I've also got some pretty gift boxes made out of mother of pearl--

    or gift bags made out of sinamay fiber

Think of all the decorating you can do with this roll of sinamay ribbon (in different colors!) --

And of course, being the bead and gem lover that I am, I could not resist including some freshwater pearls among the items for sale --

As well as a few pieces of select gemstones and crystals --

I'll be adding more new items regularly so if you want to take a peek and get a chance to purchase some unique craft and mixed media materials, do drop by The Bamboo Box on Artfire.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Four Letter Words: SOLO

I sit, alone.  The house is quiet and I am allowed to dream.
Of days long gone and people now passed.

By Surrender Dorothy

Of hours to come and wishes that will come true.

 By Resin 8
I sit, alone and marvel at how comforting it is to be silent and not need to speak or even move.  My eyes follow the path of dust motes reflected in the early morning sunlight, my ears pick up on the warbling notes of a birdsong. 

By Alisa Paints
I sit, alone and my heart beats out an even rhythm, an ebb and flow of life and dying, of having and losing.  A song I used to sing comes unbidden and I let it escape from my throat softly, softly, afraid the slightest sound will break the warm, golden spell I am in.

My shadow grows long and my coffee is cold.  Around me the house is starting to fill with the sounds of life returning – my son calling from the doorway announcing he is home from school, my daughter cooing to one of the little pups who have come to meet her at the door as she returns from work, another son playing peek-a-boo with my little niece.  

I breathe in and get up from my seat by the window, the spell of aloneness now broken.  The chair I sat in is pushed back to it’s corner, to wait for when I can once again sit alone.

By Sideways Shop

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Was Gone, Am Back

I apologize for disappearing again.  I wish I could say that it was simply a case of life getting in the way but it was not.

I fell ill a few days after I put up my last post and had to reserve my energy for getting myself to work so I could finish an important project.  And then, my brother gave us a scare via a medical emergency (won't go into details as some of you may be squeamish but let's just say it involved a lot of blood loss) so that set me back another week. I have neglected this space of mine in the world wide web and while I could say I'll make up for it, I'd rather not. Each time I decide to post regularly, something happens and I'm unable to. LOL.

Being away has made me want to tweak this blog a bit so you might see some changes in the next few days.  I'm planning on redoing the lay-out and design (the yellow background is starting to bore me) and will be trying my hand at something new I thought up regarding the pieces I sell on my Artfire shop.  Also, I will be opening the blog to feature more Artfire artisans as well as Filipino artisans so that all of you can get to know  them.
By the way, do drop by Artfire when you have the time.  There has been an influx of great new sellers on the site owing to the $5.95 Deal that went up this October so I am sure you will find some great new items to put on your Christmas shopping list.

Here's a little something before I go - it's one of my new pieces in my shop.

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making a Life -- Not Just a Living

Hello everyone! Finally, a blog post after so many days of inactivity.  I could list all the reasons for this but I’m sure you will distill them into one  - life gets in the way.   That is why I envy entrepreneurs who have established themselves and their business enough so as to actually be able to quit their day jobs and focus on doing what they enjoy and are passionate about.

That is why I think this blog post is apt to how I am feeling. 

Today, I am featuring husband-and-wife team Che and Dino Villaflores, the duo behind I-Ra Bamboo Crafts.  I-Ra Bamboo Crafts produces beautiful, handmade lamps, candle holders, room dividers, and other home accessories from a material that is indigenous and hugely abundant in the Philippines – bamboo. 

Che and Dino are both artists.  Che is into film and video production while Dino paints.  It was this common love for the arts and a desire to give back to their community that served as inspiration for them to put up their business.  As a newly married couple living in Angono, Rizal, one of the art centers of the Philippines, they would regularly visit Talim Island and there they would see local craftsmen creating furniture and home decor from stalks of bamboo, a material abundant in the island.  Saddened by how difficult it was for the local craftsmen to earn a decent living selling their pieces, Che and Dino thought of putting up a business that will not only provide a decent means of livelihood for the craftsmen of Talim Island but also allow them to live a life close to their passion which is the arts.    

With not much start-up capital to boast of, the couple nevertheless plunged headlong into the project and in July 2003, I-Ra Bamboo Crafts was born.   Che and Dino believe in the Filipino artisan and one of the main reasons for their having built this business was to be able to show the world what we can do.

A fusion of the old and contemporary, I-Ra Bamboo’s products make use of not just the bamboo stalk but even the little bamboo twigs (or “siit” in Filipino) that are usually thrown away when the larger stalks are cut down so nothing is wasted.   Che explained that their products personify the Filipino of today – forward looking but ever mindful and respectful of the traditions and values that have been passed on to us by our ancestors.   The bamboo itself symbolizes the Filipino spirit – strong and flexible,  able to bend when there is a storm only to rise up straighter and firmer than ever when the winds have passed.   Their products have a unique look and Che and Dino have made it a point to stamp their design style on each and every item that their company produces.  Che said: “We are simple people --- I-Ra is an extension of ourselves and our family.”   Their bamboo lamps for instance,  look like modernized versions of the Filipino “gasera” (gas lamp) that used to light Filipino huts in old days.   Even their bamboo candleholders, with their unique organic shapes, are reminiscent of the makeshift lanterns made out of coconut shell where a wick (often a discarded piece of cloth or rag) is soaked in coconut oil and left to burn. 

I-Ra Bamboo’s pieces were sold initially at a shop in Greenhills, Mandaluyong.  Che narrates that  at first, they were not ready for the “technical” things that came with running a business – the permits, accounting, the everyday little tasks that when ignored can add up to monumental problems.  After participating in various trade fairs and attending seminars to enhance their business skills, the couple went full speed and their modest workshop now provides employment and a steady income to several talented and skilled Talim Island residents.  Their pieces are being carried by two of the country’s well-known home decor and accessories stores, Regalong Pambahay (“Gift for the Home” in Filipino) and Kultura (“culture”).    Becoming suppliers for these two large stores was a totally different game, Che says.  There was the matter of advancing funds to produce the items ordered, delivery and then there’s the payment terms of 30 to 60 days.  She says that while having one’s products in these stores can really boost your sales, one should also be ready for the additional overhead costs like rent, utilities, materials cost and other expenses that come with big orders.  

Far from the din of the bustling city, on serene Talim Island, Che and Dino are making art.  It is a unique form though – one that is steeped in tradition, pride of culture and a deeply rooted desire to be instruments for social change.  I guess I would call it the art of living fully.

(To see more of I-Ra Bamboo Crafts, visit their page on Multiply or better yet, be a fan of their Facebook page!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Better

First came the Collections page, then an updated Gift page.

And now, comes a huge, huge promo - The Artfire Group Deal!

Sign up on the group deal page and be one of the lucky ones to get a studio on Artfire for only $5.95 a month -- FOR LIFE!

What? Say that again please.

Sign up on the group deal page and be one of the lucky ones to get a studio on Artfire for only $5.95 a month -- FOR LIFE!

You read it right. Artfire just refuses to stop giving its members the best deals.  If you already are on Artfire, with a Basic Studio, this is a great opportunity for you to upgrade to Pro - and pay even less than the Charter Member monthly fee of $7.00.  If you have a Pro shop, and are paying either the Charter Member fee of $7.00, the discounted quarterly fee of $36.00 or the $15.95 per month regular fee, this is a great chance for you to get that Pro Shop and pay waaaay less than what you are paying monthly.  

With a Pro shop, you get tons of great widgets and whatnots to customize your studio and the Artfire team are topknotch when it comes to being of assistance to their members and your studio will have the advantage of being seen by over 40 million online shoppers. Now, that is soooo much more than $5.95 don't you think?

And, if you are still not on Artfire, this is the best time to join us!  Sign up and be a member and get your own studio for the rate of $5.95 for life.  Unbelievable?  I thought so too when I first read it -- but Artfire has been known to give out the most awesome deals to its members.  So I believe it!

Hop on over to the Artfire Group Deal page and read all about it. It gets so much better!

Artfire burning bright! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bead Trip

I don't think I should be allowed to go to a bead shop by myself.  I need someone to whack me over the head every now and then and remind me that beads and gemstones are not in Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

But how can you resist these?

I swear I could stare at the pattern on this bead for hours

My daughter has told me time and again that she would like to go bead shopping with me.  While her company on such outings is always welcome, I hesitate to introduce her to Steve, one of my trusted gemstone suppliers, for fear that she will track him down and warn him to stop setting aside the best of his new stuff for me.  The faceted amethysts and jaspers are his fault. 

If you want me to agree to everything you ask, ask me while we are shopping for beads.  My son knows this trick already and has been pretty good at squeezing permission from me to go out -- he first hands me a lovely strand, waits for my eyes to glaze over then asks the question.  I think his name will be added to the list of people I should not bead shop with. 

Lost for hours in a wonderland that shines and glimmers -- that was how my Saturday went.  How was your week-end?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Learning Curve

In the five months or so that I have been selling online, these are some of the things that I have learned:

1.  Do not forget why you do what you do.

When I first ventured into making jewelry, all I wanted was to make my own set of Goddess prayer beads.  As I said in my Artfire Bio Page, that little, seemingly harmless "experiment" has turned into a passion for making beautiful things that other people can wear.  I make jewelry because I love jewelry -- and I love them because a favorite piece always brightens my day when I put it on no matter how gloomy it is outside (or inside me).  I realized that I found fullfilment in making something by hand that has the ability to make someone feel good about themselves, to add a bit to their confidence, uplift their mood or simply make them smile. I make jewelry because it is a way for me to reach out to people I will probably never cross paths with and let them know that they are special and that they are beautiful.  This is why I do what I do. To forget this would kill my passion for this creative endeavor and could, in effect, kill my muse.

2.    Do not undervalue yourself.

Agonizing, this one.  Pricing is such a delicate matter when one decides to sell what one makes.  For me, the agony has gone beyond hitting the right formula to get the perfect price -- it has been (and continues to be) an ongoing battle between my inner critic telling me my work is not worth that much and the higher me that insists I am deserving of more.  Happily for me, the one that says I am worth it wins most of the time.  But it is still a struggle.  Does this happen to you?

It is important that we don't undervalue our work as it is a reflection of ourselves.  This has nothing to do at all about humility -- but it has everything to do with pride in your work and loving yourself.

3.  Your competition isn't who you think it is.

Who do you compete with? Who are your major competitors?

With the variety of tastes and styles in the market and the number of talented artisans that cater to each one, competition in the form of other jewelry artisans should not be my problem.  My problem should be creating pieces that I love and getting them out to people who I know will love them as well.  There are plenty of jewelry artisans out there but I no longer see them as competition -- rather, I see them as partners who will help satisfy a market segment that I can't cater to simply because what they want is not what I make.  I will, however, compete against myself -- so that those who like my work will continue to get the best of what I can give them.

4.  There is no shame in saying your name.

Having been raised in a culture where tooting one's own horn is considered bad form, I had a hard time finding my voice and saying my name out loud.  I used to be very shy about promoting my work.  Heck, for some time only my close friends knew that I made jewelry and to this day, only a handful of them know that I paint and collage.  I have just started to unlearn this -- and I am unlearning it fast.  It is not bad form to show the world what you can do -- keeping it to yourself and not allowing anyone to share in it is.

What's your name? What do you do? Tell me so I can tell the next person so they can say your name too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Four Letter Words: DARE

Look around the corner and go see what's on the other side. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Smile at the person standing next to you in line. Don't worry about looking foolish.  Think about what could happen if they smile back.

Take a new route to work today.  Take a new route home.  Don't see it as a deviation but as an adventure.

Wear that outfit you've been keeping in your closet for so long - who cares what other people say.  You've been wanting to wear it because it is so YOU.

Tell someone how much they mean to you.  They've probably been waiting to hear it for a long time.

Just for today, look at that dream straight in the eye and take the first step to make it real.  Who knows, the rest of the steps you need to take, not apparent for now, might just appear.


Monday, August 9, 2010

August Sale and New Collections

Just as I was working on my August promo, a wonderful artisan over at Artfire, CCTexan3, suggested that we revive the Artfire Stimulus Sale this month.  Well, I love a sale and I especially love an activity that is fun so I jumped right in.

There are tons of great items on the AFSS pages -- from jewelry, to supplies, to vintage items, art work, beautiful photographs and prints, bath and body products -- the list just goes on and on.  Simply type in AFSS on "Search" and allow yourself to be surprised and delighted by the great discounts offered by so many artisans.  I have put up a few of my items on sale -- some discounted by up to $10.00 off their original price. 

Last week, Artfire also launched the Artfire Collections and members are now allowed to publish their own collections for everyone to see!  I've put up a few and in doing so, I've discovered just how talented the people on Artfire really are.  There are a lot of lovely things to choose from and as I made one collection, another idea for a new one popped right up.  Making the collections was a sure eye opener for me in terms of spotting talent on Artfire.  Here are a couple for you to check out:  Vintage Runway and It's About Time.

August looks like a super busy month for me.  I'll be putting up new items in my shop, visiting an interesting place in town that I will share with you and of course, I'll continue with posting the Four-Letter Words.  Hope the rains over here in Manila don't dampen my spirits!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pie Story

Some decades back, an American couple were on a teaching program at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna.  One of the members of their staff was a Filipina who worked as their secretary.

When it was almost time for their term at the university to end, the couple, thinking that their loyal and efficient secretary would need something to fall back on should she lose her post when they left, thought of paying for her to get classes in cooking and baking.

Well, a few months after she finished the course, the couple's teaching term did end and she lost her secretarial post at the university.  Putting her newfound baking skills to task, this creative woman took an ingredient that was easy to find in her town -- buko or very young coconut meat.  She came up with a recipe to turn the sweet, soft, white coconut meat into a pie.  Emboldened by encouragement she got from family and friends who tasted her sweet concoction, she decided to set up a small shop selling only buko pies.

What she did not realize when she first put those pies up for sale was that she would be spawning a whole industry that has put their little province of Los Banos, Laguna in the consciousness of every Filipino (and even a few foreign) gourmands.  She also did not expect that years after she first opened her little bakery, a hundred or so other bakeries selling buko pies would mushroom all over Los Banos and even invade some of the malls in the city.

As a child, we would take the hour and half drive to Pansol, Laguna to swim in the crystal clear hot springs and our mini-vacations would always be capped with a visit to the little bakery where this province-wide industry started.  It remains simple -- people say it is the same structure that was put up when the business was started many, many years ago.  Yet long lines of cars and people indicate just how popular this place is.  To this day, despite the hundreds of bakeries just like it selling buko pie, D'Original Buko Pie remains the Queen of All Buko Pies.  The original owner's children have managed to maintain the lightness and crispiness of its golden crust and the buko filling is still made out of the sweetest, most tender morsels of young coconut.  It is so good I could eat a whole pie all by myself.  My relatives in the United States always schedule a trip to Los Banos just to get another taste of these pies.

What makes this story remarkable for me are two things: first, the woman who created the recipe for the pie had no idea just how big it would be.  She simply needed to make some money for her family -- and she just put her new skills and creativity to task. To date, hundreds of households earn their income from selling buko pie and it is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge money-maker for the town.    Second, you never know what a random act of kindness and concern for someone in your circle can start.  The American couple's concern for their Filipina secretary was, in a manner of speaking, the flint that lighted that fire.  They just wanted to make sure she would be alright in case she lost her job when they left.  Well, to my estimate, she did more than be "alright".

How about you? How brave are you when it comes to putting your skills and creativity to task? Have you helped someone out just because you felt they needed it, without thinking too far ahead of how they would pay you back or if they would even make use of the help provided?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Harshest Critic

She turns up her nose when it's not pretty enough for her and stalks right out of the room shaking her head, uttering several loud NO NO NOs.  She picks up beads and stones and insists that I pair this with that -- if I don't she'll pick up my tools and try to do it herself.

Drape a necklace she likes around her and she grins from ear to ear and walks around the house like someone on America's Next Top Model.  I once said she looked pretty and she gave a me a disdainful look -- and pointed out with an emphatic shake of her head that she was NOT pretty, she's "Gohjus".

When I look at her I keep thinking - Be afraid. She'll be two soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Four Letter Words: SALE (Part 3)

It's still Christmas in July on Artfire, so let's go

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Nine vintage shops!

Artfire has great vintage shops and they are in  full swing participating in the Christmas in July sale.  Here's nine offerings from nine lovely shops:

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Ten sales for these shops

There's a fab guild on Artfire called Shops with Less than Ten Sales and they run a blog that features fantastic, undiscovered artisan shops.  They just don't write features on those shops mind you, but each week, blog readers get a chance to win a lovely item from any of the artisans who are members of that guild.  Check out the guild blog here -- who knows, you may be the lucky winner of this week's giveaway!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Eleven more days of Christmas

That's right.  It has been said that the Artfire Christmas in July sale ends on July 25.  But not for Spiral.  I'm extending the sale for another eleven days or until July 30, 2010.  Was thinking that maybe you had not gotten around to starting your shopping this year and giving you more time to do so will be my pleasure.  Check out some of the latest listed items:

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Twelve months of promos!

Who says Christmas should be celebrated only once a year? It's my favorite holiday and I thought I'd celebrate it year round with monthly promos and special offers for all those who drop by at my shop on Artfire, Spiral.  Promo announcements, games and giveaways will be announced here at my Artfire blog so be sure to visit often and see what's new! Christmas season starts in August!

Whew! That's twelve days -- and it doesn't stop there.  Artfire and its members are open year round and the sales and promos never stop.  Please don't forget to visit any of the shops featured here for the best deals and the finest handmade items around.

Merry Christmas - in July!
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