Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flat Out Brilliant!

With Christmas just around the corner you might be looking for something to ask Santa for this year, besides beads, and if you don't have this brilliant tool it might be just what you can ask for. What is it? BeadTool4.

I've been doing a lot of new flatwork designs this past week and someone asked what 'flatwork' was. Linda says she thinks I coined the term but I have no idea.  When I talk about flatwork I mean flat stitches that have a pattern in them...the type of thing you can design on graph paper. It could be, and often is, peyote stitch but it definitely isn't limited to it and I've done some in brick stitch and herringbone.

To help me create flatwork, I use BeadTool4, a software program that does all the hard work of pattern writing for you....and one of the fabulous things about it is you don't even need to be artistic to create amazing patterns. The program allows you to import photos right into your graphs and converts them into the closest shades of Delicas and then tells you exactly how many of each color you will need.

If you prefer to draw your designs that option is available and very user friendly. I like to base some of my designs on my polymer beads, this is the bead I based my Tornado cuff on. For this design I actually sat down with graph paper (free printable graph paper is available at the Fire Mountain Gems) and pencil to work out the design, then transferred it to BeadTool which then gave me a graph chart and a word chart to create the cuff.

I highly recommend this program and it's under $50 which definitely makes it accessible.  It gives everyone the ability to create their own unique patterns or take their favorite photo and turn it into wearable art.  They also let you play with it before you buy it...in case I haven't sold you on it :-)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ask The Mavens

This week a question was asked in the forums about how much time we spend on our businesses and what we do with that time.

If you have your own beading business and that's all your going to do to bring in income then the reality is you're going to be working a LOT. Expect to put more time in than your regular 40 hour a week job.....think two 40 hour a week jobs....but if it's something you love that won't be a problem.

Expect to have many irons in the fire because though what you love is playing with beads to make a living from it your going to have to do a lot of other things too.  If you just make beaded jewelry you will have to photograph it, write about it, price it correctly, find your market to sell it which could be opening and maintaining an online store or two or it could be presenting your work to a gallery or setting up shop/booth at arts fairs. 

If you do the solely online thing expect lots of competition and to stay visible you'll have to be active with Facebook or a blog or have some other kind of online presence.  Typically this isn't enough to bring in a decent income for the first few years....if you have had incredible success please tell us your secret :)

Now the other things you'll have to look at doing....and bear in mind all your work has to be your own original design:
  • Enter competitions to get your work and your name out there.
  • Submit patterns to beading magazines...it doesn't pay much and your work will be with the magazine for eons (which means you can't sell it) but it does get your name out there.
  • Publish and sell your own patterns (you'll need to be able to either illustrate or do stage by stage photography for a good tutorial).

  • Teach (you need a bunch of patience for this one so don't even think about it if you can't imagine repeating "chase your tail" at least a hundred times a class :), hate untying knots, and don't want to see your design butchered...it happens, you will smile and be encouraging!)
  • Kits...this takes financial investment which you might not be able to afford to do at the beginning. You also have to do the tutorial and be able to count/weigh all the beads into little baggies....sounds easy enough but it takes time.

If you do all these things you may be able to make a living, if you do them realy, really well it might be a comfortable living.  Personally I work at least ten hours a day, seven days a week...sometimes more.  I figure my time gets split four ways:
  • 25% spent designing...this may be drawing, working in BeadTool4, or with actual beads in hand. Plus color planning which means spending time looking for the right beads....either online or at stores and shows.
  • 25% spent writing patterns and tutorials, planning classes, packing kits, writing announcements and creating displays and teaching.
  • 25% marketing...which includes maintaining two online stores, my own blog (The Beaded Carpet), my two days of blogging for the Mavens, keeping up with the Mavens forum, having a prescence on Facebook, working with galleries and bead shows.
  • 25% actual beading....working up designs in different colorways for the kits and patterns, creating original work for competitions and making things for my stores and the galleries.
Somewhere in there you have to make time to keep your books, do inventory and all that annoying stuff.  So, as you can see, it's a lot of work, some of it you will love, some of it you may hate.  To do it all you have to be good at multi-tasking and be what they call a 'self-starter'...because when you're your own boss there's no one to tell you what to do.
I think any of the Mavens will tell you "It ain't easy!" and they'd all probably tell you "I can't see myself doing anything else". So..if you're sure it's what you love and what you want to do my advice is don't jump right into it, go into it gradually...make a plan, set some goals and do it. Life's too short to not be doing something you love.

And this is Mikki signing off at 3:45 am....because I haven't had time before this to blog. Ahh....the realities :)