Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Shop! Woohoo!

I have a shop! Or at least, I have an online shop!

There is now a 'The Silver Hide' shop over on Etsy, which I suspect a lot of people have heard of - but for those who haven't: it's an online marketplace (a bit like Ebay) that focuses on stuff made by individuals.


Granted at the moment it doesn't look very pretty, is kinda under-stocked and doesn't have any of the leather work in there yet... but it's there! Big boost to confidence to have actually gone through the process of setting it up and getting it running. Further boost after mentioning it over on the facebook page, as I get shop stats and it's wonderful to be able to see that the shop has actually been looked at, and indeed individual listings have been clicked on, huzzah!

Admittedly I was a bit dubious about using something like Etsy, because my work (and it's prices) have to compete with a) a lot of other people's work which is readily viewable and b) a lot of hobbyist's prices - which tend to be lower as they aren't necessarily accounting for cost in terms of time.

However, at the end of the day, if someone really likes something you've made, then they'll buy it. This is quite an important thing to remember, although it's a lot easier to hold to once you start getting regular sales. I would cross my fingers and hope... but I'd be far better off uploading more of my small pile of current stock, and then going to the craft room and Making More Stuff.

Tara for now

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Dreaded Insurance

As yet I haven't been selling at craft fairs or similar events, although it is something I want to do. There are all sorts of benefits to a good craft fair. Aside from the obvious financial benefit if you get a good number of sales, they tend to be pretty good for networking when you're just starting out - other crafters are often happy to chat and tell you about other local fairs or events. Frankly it's often also nice just to be out the house and away from your work space. It's a chance to see how people respond to your work, potentially get a commission or two, or make some contacts among the other traders.

There is a rather important check box to tick before you pack up the car with stock and display kit and truck off to your first fair though. Admittedly not all fairs will check, but often enough when registering for an event you'll be asked if you have public & product liability insurance. This is basically cover for if, say, something heavy falls off your stall onto someones foot, or maybe they pick up a piece of your work and manage to hurt themselves with it (Earring to the eye? Who knows.) It's the kind of thing I can't really ever imagine needing to make a claim for... and yet not having it is surely just asking for trouble. Also some fairs really won't accept you if you don't have it.

Thus today I spent some time putting my details into a comparison site for small businesses looking for insurance. I started off thinking 'lets get a rough idea of how much this is gonna hurt...' so when it asked for a 'primary business/trade' I went through the drop down menu and found 'jewellers design', which I figured at least mostly covered half of what I do.

For the time being I ignored the 'secondary business/trade' option, and just trundled through the rest of the quoting process. I ended up with a fairly non-scary quote of £60 odd as an annual fee, so I decided to have a quick look through the policy summary and see if there were any surprises.

I got to the bit about 'misrepresentation' and thought 'ah, yes'. I had only put in 'jewellers design' - which technically doesn't mention the manufacturing side of things, and certainly doesn't cover the time I spend making bags and custom LARP kit out of leather. If I'm going to pay for cover, there's no point shooting myself in the foot by failing to at least try and properly describe what I do.

So, hit the 'change my answers' button, and go back to that early 'secondary business/trade' drop down menu. Check under the 'Entertainment, leisure and arts' category which is where the 'jewellers design' bit was, and see nothing about leather working, so back up and just select the 'all trades' list.

This list was fairly extensive looking and alphabetical, so scroll down to 'l' and look for 'leather worker' or something similar. Nope, not there. Ok... well fine, I'm feeling patient, I'll read through the list and see if I can find something that covers it. Maybe 'craftsperson' or 'artisan' or something.

Some entries I find amusing - 'bouncy castle hirer', for instance, makes me smile. Also a little amused to see 'calligraphist', thinking that must surely be quite a niche occupation. I also found:
Dog walker
Dry stone walling
Feng Shui Consultant
Fortune teller
Gymnasia (...I realise they must mean to be involved in the management of more than one gymnasium, but I was feeling mildly exasperated at this point and most entries read as an occupation, not a field within which you are occupied, if you see what I mean? Made me do a bit of a double take, anyway)
Shoe polisher
Wheelie bin cleaner

I can't help but feel a bit miffed. They have several things I would have thought of as being quite obscure or niche - like calligraphist and falconer for instance. Also things that I would probably classify as being quite old, in terms of jobs that have been around a long time - again, calligraphist surely? Not to mention shoe polisher. People who work with leather though? No, no, they don't exist. That doesn't happen. When I didn't find 'leather worker', I thought 'oh ok, I guess that would be too easy...maybe they have 'saddler' or something, because people still do that' - in fact I've met a lady who is a saddler, so it seemed sort of feasible, as well as being suitably not quite what I want, which always seems to be how these things work.

But no. I think 'taxidermist' was probably the closest thing. I suppose I could have selected 'fashion design'... but really, I don't see myself that way. I'm not trying to design a range of luxury handbags with which to conquer next season's fashion world. I'm pretty much focusing on the custom stuff for live action role players - odd bits of armour, scruffy looking bags, scrolls cases, that sort of thing.

Annoyingly, upon resorting to the 'other trades' option, and then being asked to provide a brief description of my trade, I ended up with no quotes at all. So if I'm vague and inaccurate about my work, fine. Try to be accurate...nope, no insurance for you today!

*sigh* I suppose I shall have to start trawling through individual insurance providers, or settle for emailing the comparison site guys and asking for advice. Maybe I shall write them an irritated email requesting that they add my profession to their list...harrumph!

At the end of the day, I'm in no desperate rush and have being making progress on another task which I will mention another day, so nevermind. Also I am glad I am not a 'wheelie bin cleaner', which must surely be a somewhat thankless and soul-draining job. Kinda wish I was a 'falconer' though.

Tara for now

(...I wrote a massive post again... -.- )

Monday, 7 October 2013

A little more detail - Leather

Left this a little longer than planned, sorry!

Last time I tried to give a bit more background regarding my skills and experience with jewellery work, so today I shall be talking about leather.

Working with leather is comparatively new to me, and unlike the jewellery work I am completely self taught. Although I say 'new', I've still been working at it or 4 years now? Can't actually recall exactly when I started, although I do remember that I started off with a piece of chamois leather from a D.I.Y store and some waxed linen thread and glover's needles from a haberdashery.

I made this:

I still kinda like it, and I still haven't gotten around to adding a strap or belt loops or anything else that might allow a person to use it in any capacity other than some sort of 'clutch' purse.

After that I ended up buying a bag of off-cuts on Ebay and then a few key hand-sewing tools from a leather stockist. I discovered that although I like the finish on hand sewn things, the sewing itself can take an alarmingly long time if you're working with fairly flexible leather and can't grow an extra pair of hands to help hold everything.

I now have a few books on the shelf which help with techniques and design ideas, and this year I have started working much more with 'veg-tanned' leather. I now feel I should explain 'veg-tanned' for those who don't have a clue what I'm on about, so here is the simplified version:

There are two major tanning processes - 'chrome' tanning using various chemicals and 'vegetable' tanning using more traditional natural tannins. If I buy chrome tanned leather, it is usually very flexible, already dyed through with a solid colour, and is the kind of leather suggested for clothing, fashion bags & accessories, upholstery etc.
If I buy veg-tanned leather, it is often thicker, much stiffer, and comes un-dyed. This leather can be stamped, carved and molded to shape - unlike the chrome tanned stuff.
If you want a longer (better) explanation, check out the article on good old wikipedia.

So having started off with simply sewing things together out of bits of chrome tanned leather, starting to work with veg-tanned leather has been a whole new learning experience. It's actually a bit like the switch between using silver plated wire and sterling silver wire - I have new surface decoration options, new molding techniques and new finishing techniques to learn and understand.

Unlike the wire work, however, I still work with both types of leather. I may not be able to stamp patterns into the chrome tanned leathers but some of them are thin enough for me to put through the sewing machine - which allows me to make some quite nice little bags and pouches without spending a ridiculous amount of time hand stitching each seam.

I think a summary may be in order here...
I've been learning to work with various types of leather for a few years now. Style-wise, I tend to go for simple designs with hand stitched or laced details, although I have been branching out into stamped designs when using veg-tanned leather more recently. I'm entirely self taught, which does nothing at all for my self confidence, however I'm starting to feel like I might actually know what I'm doing after all!

Tara for now,

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A little more detail - Jewellery

On Tuesday I tried to write a general summary of things - it ended up a little long winded and I think focused a little more on why I'm doing this and less on exactly what it is I'm doing. So today I want to put a little more detail into what The Silver Hide is and does.


Many years ago (quite possibly half my lifetime ago, which is a bit weird to think about o.0) I went on an evening course to learn how to make sterling silver jewellery, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It was actually quite a few years on before I really did much with that knowledge though, and initially I worked with the materials readily available in craft shops. Usually this meant silver plated or enameled copper wire and various beads, and often preformed components.This didn't really involve much of what I had learnt other than some basic things about working with wire, but it was cheaper and easier to start with.

After getting positive feedback from friends and family, and eventually selling things to Complete Strangers (not sure I'll ever stop feeling that sense of utter amazement whenever someone I've never before met in my life chooses to spend actual money on something I made), I eventually found the confidence to move back up to working with sterling silver.

Now, I don't want to be negative about plated jewellery, or costume jewellery, but I will always personally prefer sterling silver both as a medium for working with and in what I myself choose to wear. Partly this is because like many people my skin reacts to most costume jewellery, which tends to have a higher nickel content. This also becomes a problem with plated stuff in time, as the plating can wear thin and expose the copper or other metal core.

The other reason is that sterling silver is vastly more versatile to me; I can hammer it, file it, heat it - melt it even. I can't do that with plated wire, because the plating will flake off or otherwise be obviously damaged, ruining the look of the work.

So! I work with sterling silver wire. For the most part I'm still working using non-heat based methods, mostly due to workshop restrictions. Working from home + blowtorches and mild (really mild, but still) acid baths = high risk of interior decorating mishaps, if you ask me. I am saving up to get myself a proper workshop, but for now there is plenty that can be done without the risk of setting the furniture on fire.

Style wise, my work usually focuses on the shaping and textured finish of the wire, with one or two beads for accents. Oh yeah - I'm a bit of a bead snob. I stay away from plastic beads, am pretty picky about my glass beads, and thus end up mostly using semi precious stone beads.

I guess that'll probably do for the 'Jewellery' post. Looking at the length of the post, I shall leave leather to another day!

Tara for now!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

3, 2, 1... Go!

So I've decided to be self employed.

I have also decided that I want to keep a blog - aside from being a handy way to discuss future work-based stuff without cluttering up the website, I hope it will also be a useful sounding board when I inevitably drive myself loopy from time to time.

I'm going to try and keep this first post fairly short, just a summary of what I want to do and maybe a brief bit of the thinking behind the decision.

So... what am I doing?

I am designing, making & selling my own jewellery and leather goods - which sounds like an odd mix every time I say it.
I've been making jewellery on and off for a good dozen years or so, with a general leaning towards working with sterling silver wire as my main material.
Working with leather is more recent, although thinking about it I've been doing that for maybe 5 years now? I'm still building my confidence with the leather, as I'm completely self taught and prone to self-doubt -.-

Why am I doing this?

In short: because I want to.
Now, those that know me may be questioning if I really have the right mind set/attitude to do this - I know I question it (pretty much daily at the moment).
I'm really not great at self motivation. I suffer from an ongoing lack of self confidence, and even when I do manage to find some it is very easy for me to lose it again due to little things that really shouldn't have such a huge impact. I'm improving, certainly, but I still have a long way to go before I'll be shouting from the rooftops about how blindingly awesome I am (without then melting into a puddle of utter shame and embarrassment).

...Wait, why am I doing this again?

I Love Making Things (enough for it to deserve the capitalization), and I love seeing other people like the things I have made (who wouldn't?). I can't deny the appeal of being my own boss, and the freedom to wake up on a Monday and say 'you know what, I'm starting an hour later today'. Yes, I do need to maintain the discipline of then finishing an hour later, but the flexibility is a big thing for me.
Now, on a deeper level, I think I'm also fighting my own demons. I have a fear of failing and of 'letting people down', and I think this has stopped me from really committing to things - if you don't jump you can't fall right? However I am fed up with backing down and giving up. I want to do better. I want (need is probably a better word here) to take charge of myself and prove to myself, more than to anyone else that I can actually commit to something and stick with it.

So that's the plan. I do not expect this to be easy - hey, it's taken me months just to start the blog >.< - and I do not expect it to get any easier any time soon. I still need to try though, so that's what I'm gonna do.

...That ended up a little longer and a little more soul-baring than planned, but that may be a good thing.
Tara for now!