Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brand-New Jewelry

I had a very busy and creative weekend. I made three new necklaces and one new bracelet and listed them all in my Etsy shop. Check 'em out:

China Blue Necklace

Royal Butterfly Necklace

Flowering Purple Necklace

Heart of Gold Necklace

Buddha in the Woods Necklace

Magic Dragonfly Bracelet

Friday, September 11, 2009

Family Ties

Just so you don't think that jewelry and beading is my only "obsession," I recently revived an old interest. Several years ago, I had worked on tracing my family tree, building on work that my father's cousin had done before she passed away. It was fairly easy to do on my father's side of the family; my great-grandfather had been the brewmaster of the Stroh brewery in Detroit. He was followed in the same position by his son (my Great-Uncle Herman) and grandson (my dad's cousin Herman). So the family was fairly well-known and well-documented in Detroit. I was able to trace it back to Germany on my father's father's side and a couple of generations on my father's mother's side. Interesting stuff. But I got away from it and hadn't done anything more until I was contacted by a previously unknown distant cousin on my father's mother's side who was looking for some information. We traded the info we had and were both pleased to "meet" a new "cousin." But the exchange got me thinking about the whole family tree thing again. I revived my subscription and got to work. I discovered that other people had done more work on my father's family, so I could build on what they did. But my mother's side? A very different story -- and the place where things got very interesting!

Someone had traced my mother's father's family back several generations to the 1690s in Germany (oh, yes, I'm completely German through three of my four grandparents). But my mother's mother? Well, a little on my grandmother's father's side, but absolutely nothing on her mother's side. I didn't even know her mother's maiden name. She was just listed as "Mattie May." Well, as happens sometimes, I became obsessed with finding out this woman's name! After much digging and some rather intricate internet searches, I found it. Her maiden name was Mattie May Estabrook. Success, right? Well, actually, that was just the beginning.

I added the name Mattie May Estabrook to my tree on -- and it went insane!! Leaves popping out. Branches extending. Names appearing. Links to other family trees jumping out at me. I began to think, "What the? Why on earth is there all this interest in what is [to me] a regular farm family from Illinois?" Well, after I'd gone back several generations, I started to get some idea. My grandmother had always said that her family was Scots-Irish and that they were descended from Highland Clans. Well, sure enough, going back down several of the branches, I came across good Highland Scots names like Finlay. Yep, a good Highland Clan, even if it was one of the smaller ones. But I kept going back, and other Highland names starting appearing -- Douglas and Stuart! Ummmmm, yeah. Those were the kings of Scotland!! But then, I came across something even more amazing.

Here, I have to backtrack a little. When I was in junior high or high school (back when dinosaurs walked the earth), I read a book that I just loved -- one that ignited my interest in British history. It was called "Katherine," and it was an historical novel about Katherine deRoet. She had been the long-time mistress of John Plantagent of Gaunt, a younger son of King Edward III. (Katherine was a very strong and independent woman, and she became kind of a personal heroine of mine.) They had four illegitimate children together. John of Gaunt recognized all of them and gave them the last name of Beaufort, after one of his many landholdings.

Well, as I was going back in the family tree (in about the 1300s), I came across the name Joan Beaufort who had married the head of the Douglas Clan. Beaufort? Beaufort? Nah, couldn't be! So I kept going. Joan's father was John Beaufort. And his parents? Yep, John of Gaunt and Katherine deRoet! Yep, I'm royalty! (There will be bowing, please.) Okay, illegitimate royalty, but royalty nonetheless. Technically, I'm in line for the British throne, but most of Europe and the U.S. would have to die first. But still, it's there. Heh.

Having found this, I had to keep going. Oh, yeah. I'm a direct descendant of people like William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, Edward the Confessor, James I of Scotland, and a whole host of other people. In tracing other branches, I found that I'm also related to Martin Luther (I'm a direct descendant of his brother). As a good Lutheran, I was thrilled. I think I have a straight path into heaven now! LOL.

Oh, yeah, I was proud. But, ummmm, in every family, there's another side. I'm also descended from King John of England. Ever see a Robin Hood movie? Remember evil Prince John? Yeah, that's the guy. My great-great-great-whatever grandfather. I'm also descended from people like Ethelred the Unready, Fulk the Rude, and (my personal favorite) Alfonso the Slobberer. Yep, that's a real guy with his own Wikipedia entry. Apparently, he would have fits of rage so severe that he would foam at the mouth. Lovely.

Ahhhhh, but then, the other night, I came across the "best" family member of all. I had pretty much covered my grandmother's mother's mother's side and decided to move over to her mother's father's side. (That's where I found Martin Luther and some guy who came over on the Mayflower -- and promptly died. Hey, we were Pilgrims -- just not very hardy Pilgrims. Didn't even make it to the first Thanksgiving.) As I was tracing back, I came across one family name in particular. I'm descended from several generations of this particular family in New England before and after the American Revolution and back into England. The family had lived in Massachusetts for some time; my branch split off and moved to Rhode Island (and later Vermont), but I noticed that another branch remained in Massachusetts. This family name and the Massachusetts connection really stuck in my head, and I became suspicious of a possible relationship with a pretty well-known person. So I went back to the Massachusetts branch right where we split off (in the early 1700s) and began to trace forward. After several generations, I found the end of that branch and was thrilled (?) to find that it ended at a famous distant cousin of mine.

Oh, the family? Yeah, it was the Bordens. And my distant cousin? Lizzie Borden!! Okay, I think Lizzie Borden trumps royalty in any family tree. I now have a picture of Lizzie up in my office (and on this blog -- see above). On the one in my office, I printed, "I'll go all Lizzie on your ass."

So the lesson is? Be prepared for anything if you look into your family history. For every William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, and Martin Luther, there's a Prince John, Alfonso the Slobberer, and Lizzie Borden!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Craft Corner Feature!

Hi all! Just wanted to share with you a bit of exciting personal promotional news. A few weeks ago, I joined a new online social networking site for crafters called My Craft Corner. It’s a delightful site with very nice people who love to share their crafting with like-minded folks. It’s new and growing and well worth a look.

So why am I babbling about this to you? Well, every Wednesday, the front page of the site shows a new “Featured Crafter of the Week.” And this week? It’s me! It has a photo of one of my necklaces (in fact, it's the one pictured above), links to my personal page on My Craft Corner, my Etsy store, and this blog. What a tremendous honor! I've never been on the front page of any website. (I'm still hoping for a front-page appearance on Etsy.) Check it out at And hey, sign up while you're there. You won't regret finding such a terrific group of online friends.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Special Weekend Sale on Jewelry!!

Weekend Sale! August 7 - August 9 only. 10% off everything plus free shipping!

I'll be offering 10% off everything in my shop this weekend! I'm also offering free shipping this weekend only. Customers should purchase through PayPal and write "Weekend Sale" in the Message to Seller box. I'll refund 10% of the purchase price plus the shipping cost. Don't miss out on these very special, limited-time deals!

Stop by and check out my handmade beaded jewelry.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Weekend Creativity

I just added three new necklaces to my Etsy shop -- and I'm very proud of all three! I found the most fabulous lampwork beads in an Etsy shop I located on Twitter and turned them into two very fun necklaces. The green and pink one I named "Wonderland" because it just seemed so Alice-at-the-tea-party-like to me. The black, pink, and green one just appealed to the flower lover in me.

The third necklace is my homage to the sea -- the nautical necklace I've wanted to create for awhile in tribute to Titanic. No, it doesn't sink; I'm just a Titanic freak! (Don't ask. It's a weird obsession.) Check out this and my other designs at

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Joys of Treasuries!

Okay, I admit it! I'm addicted! Oh, not to drugs or alcohol or gambling. (Yeah, we'll ignore my cigarette addiction for now.) No, I'm addicted to Treasuries on Etsy.

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Etsy has this delightful feature called "Treasuries." Etsy members create or "curate" them by gathering items which are listed for sale on Etsy and compiling lists by theme which then show up as photos of 12 related items. (Curators pick up to 16 items -- 12 for the Treasury that everyone can see and 4 alternates that only the curator and administrators see.) Visitors to Etsy can then view them and get a great look at what's available on the site.

Yes, I love to look at Treasuries that other people have curated -- there are some amazingly talented curators over there. But even more than that, I adore curating my own. Nothing makes me happier than coming up with a theme, finding items that match that theme (from among the thousands of items for sale on Etsy), and creating a Treasury. I will obsessively move the items around, making sure that the Treasury is as pretty as I can make it. And I love thinking up my themes. I prefer unusual themes -- I've done Treasuries on Titanic (my personal obsession), Michigan (my home state), a walk in the woods, diners and drive-ins, ice/snow, and several others.

You can only have one Treasury up at any time to give more curators a chance (and Treasuries remain up for between two and three days before they disappear). But there's also a "hidden" Treasury that's only available to those people who have the direct link. That's Treasury West, which was originally intended as a "test" site but which has become popular as the "other" Treasury. If you time it right, you can have both a Treasury and a Treasury West. And right now? I do! It's kind of hard to do that; you have to time it right. (Treasury opens up when the number of treasuries drops below 333, and Treasury West opens up when the number drops below 222. You then have just a few seconds to "snag" a spot.) As of today, I have a "Telephone Treasury" that I curated yesterday; the link is And I also have a "Tea and Violets" Treasury West that I created this afternoon; check it out at

One of the most enjoyable things about curating Treasuries is the friendly competition that exists among the curators. We all want to have the most "popular" Treasuries. That popularity is measured by how quickly and how far your Treasuries move up the "Hot" list. And that's determined by how many visitors view your Treasury, how many comment on it, and how many click on the individual items in the Treasury. After all, Treasuries are intended as a promotional item for the sellers on Etsy.

Sometimes, the "hottest" Treasuries are selected for display on Etsy's front page. That's the Holy Grail -- all curators dream of the day their work shows up on the FP. None of mine have made it yet. But someday . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ups and Downs of Jewelry Design

Ever feel like you were on a permanent roller coaster? I've been feeling a bit like that with regard to my jewelry lately. I've been selling my jewelry on Etsy ( for about two months now. At first, I intended it as a bit of a lark; I just wanted to see if I could do it. But the more I've gotten into it, the more I've gotten hooked. I've "met" some great people hanging around on the Etsy forums, I joined the MixxMade community (check it out if you haven't yet -- great site --, I've joined Twitter, and yes, I started this blog. In short, I've done all the things you're "supposed to do" to do the whole Indie-Artist-Selling-My-Stuff thing.

So why do I get depressed about it sometimes? I've only had four sales -- and two of them were to friends and/or family. Yes, it's only been a couple of months, but still, it gets discouraging. It does make you question yourself sometimes. Am I deluding myself? Is my stuff any good? Should I completely rethink my designs? What am I doing wrong? See what I mean -- depressing.

But fortunately, I'm a naturally happy and optimistic person. When I start feeling down, I begin counting my blessings. I have a wonderful job that I love (the managing editor of a gem/jewelry trade magazine), and I earn enough that, even though I'll never be rich, I'm no longer poor. (I was for a while; it sucks.) The handmade-personally-designed-jewelry world is not my main source of income. I see many people on Etsy that are making that their sole business/job -- some very successfully, but many less so. Plus, I think of my family in Michigan. One brother works for Chrysler, another brother for a company intimately tied to the auto industry, and a sister for GM. It all makes my life look much sunnier and reminds me that, even if I never sell another piece of jewelry, I'll be fine.

So I won't change my designs to make things that might appeal to more people; I'll continue to create things that I like and hope someone else might, too. I'll continue to blog and tweet, to stop by MixxMade, and to post on the Etsy forums. Even if I don't get any sales from those places, the connections I've made (and will continue to make) are great -- and I've made some wonderful online friends. And if people do happen to buy my jewelry, I'll happily celebrate -- probably by buying more beads and findings to make more! Hey, what can I say? Told you I'm an optimist.