The weather was sunny and sweltering, I had set a few days of down time, so I sat down, with my AC blowing in full, with my beads. It was heaven! This is my idea of a perfect vacation: far from sitting in a car for hours, waiting to move up an inch in an endless queue of cars, getting to some resort literally swarming with people. Yep — this is a notorious vacation season in Korea, when everybody rushes to places filling up the roads and vacation spots. After one day of vacation hell, I was ecstatic to be able to stay home with my stones. But I digress…

This time, I was in the mood for simpler, stream-lined compositions. There are a few gemstone solitaire type necklaces, pendant necklaces with Thai Hill Tribe silver charms, and wire-wrapped earrings. Some of them have been already listed in my Etsy store, some of them have already been sold, and the rest are yet to be listed. More photos below! ( continued… )

As some of you might have noticed, my Etsy shop was closed from late June — mid July, during which time I was on a tour of the US. Almost literally. Check out my itinerary:
  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. Columbus, OH
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Philadelphia, PA
  5. Princeton, NJ
  6. New York, NY
  7. Monterey, CA
  8. San Jose, CA
Let me just summarize by saying: many old friends were met, many new born babies were met for the first time, and some new girl/boy-friends and fiancees have been introduced. :-) And the photo is of Center City Philadelphia, which shows the city’s newest landmark Comcast building, looking totally like a USB thumb drive, next to the now ex-highest Liberty building.

Now that I’ve come back and gotten over the worst jetlag of my personal history, my Etsy shop is open again, although it is looking quite empty with only 8 items. I am producing some new designs, it’s just that the process of taking photos and putting them up on the web is such a painful work that I’m procrastinating getting into it. I do need to unload my old stock and plush my new stock out there. I will get to it soon, I promise!

I looked over my last post and realized: it’s been over 2 months since my last blog entry. Some of you might have noticed that updates have been sparse in my Etsy shop as well. So what’s been keeping Rae away from her fliers and wire spools, you ask?

Well, classes. I began to teach my first college classes in March. All two of them. And they have since completely taken over my life. I had this vague notion that someday I will teach all throughout my graduate school years (all 9 of them). Teaching, now I realize, is an entirely different beast than I had previously imagined. For a 3-hour class (as commonly offered in Korean universities), I have to make at least 30 slides, which take up to 15 hours to make. There is reading up, there is grading, there is… oh I don’t know, many other little duties to fill. And I get paid $120 a week for all these efforts and hours.

Not one of the greatest deals around, but I am not complaining. For the most part, I find teaching activities invigorating and rewarding. And my friends tell me that it gets easier as time passes (I hope they are right). In any case, teaching has finally done something that I did not think was possible: tearing my attention away from jewelry making. For my customers there’s always summer, when I will be class-free; I hope I will be re-acquainted with my fliers and flush cutters once I am done with giving out grades. That moment is eagerly awaited!

I regularly check up Kitco’s silver price page. Today, silver price was $19.78/oz. It very well could be that tomorrow it’ll go over the $20 mark. It’s… pure insanity. I started jewelry making back when the price was measly $4+/oz, and that was only 6 years ago.
At this price, $14/oz is suddenly looking OK. I do hope that the market calms down after a while. Luckily, I don’t have any urgent need for restocking silver at the moment, but I will be running out in a couple months for sure. The only regret I have is that I cannot take advantage of the ever growing silver scrap pile of mine — it’s at over 20 oz at this point — which surely will be lucrative to sell. If I were in the US, I’d be cashing this in with grim satisfaction. In Korea, cashing scrap silver is more complicated, as refineries will not accept bits of silver wire. Well, my parents’ stash of silver spoon and chopstick sets is looking awfully tempting now. :-) ( continued… )
Truth be told, I can’t keep my hands off labradorite. I buy too much labradorite. I spend too much time staring at and admiring my labradorite stones. I make too many labradorite pieces. As a result, I always have new labradorite pieces that are on a cue waiting to be photographed and listed, because I don’t want the front page of my shop plastered with the stone. Luckily they are single best selling stone of mine too (probably not unrelated to the sheer listing volume ^^), so the turn around time is shorter.

As much as I love the stone, it gives me tremendous headache, because it is notoriously hard to photograph due to its labradorescence, commonly referred to as “flashes” and “fire”. Moreover, the labradorescent quality is unique to individual stone pieces, which makes using stock photos for a design almost impossible. Nevertheless, all these qualities are what makes the stone particularly well suited and attractive in handmade jewelry. The love goes on.

Here I have a few new labradorite pieces that I will be listing in my Etsy shop shortly. Normally I would put up some nominal effort to sprinkle other stones in between labrado listings, but this time I might just let myself go. :-) Enjoy! ( continued… )

I’ve been tagged, again! Last time I was tagged, it was by McFarland Designs, and I totally did not grasp the rule of the game. But this time, I am determined to get it right. So here it goes. So Cindy of Starry Designs challenged me (here and here) to dish out 7 articles of dirt on myself. Let’s get to it!
  1. I am currently on my 5th Thinkpad: A gorgeous (to me anyway) T43. My first one was Thinkpad 560, bought in 1995; it still works.
  2. I like my cereal soggy. I even microwave my milk for 10 seconds to expedite the soggifying process.
  3. I listen to 70’s rock music, mostly British. Camel and Focus are my personal gods.
  4. I was an elementary school valedictorian. :-D
  5. The single place that I lived in the longest in my life was this apartment in Philadelphia where I stayed for 6 years.
  6. My parents once lived on a ranch and at one point had 18 dogs, including 2 batches of new-born puppies.
  7. Salt & Vinegar is my favorite potato chip flavor (which is not available in Korea… sniff).
Mesmerizing, no? :-D ( continued… )
I love my necklaces small and simple, so mini solitaire necklaces featuring a single drop of colorful gemstone are just my style. Plus, I enjoy making that little coiled bail top on briolettes — there is something extremely gratifying in topping little briolettes off this way. :-) There is no shortage of briolette stones in my possession for these projects, of course, and in time I will be rolling them out in a necklace form.

As a starter, I have a few mini solitaire necklaces ready to be listed in my Etsy store. Some are in 14k gold-filled and others are in the usual oxidized sterling silver. Enjoy! ( continued… )

My silver-loving customers, of which there are many, don’t need to worry about a thing: the rustic beauty of oxidized silver is not lost on me (NEVER!). :-) I have a few new silver pieces coming up in my Etsy store. Additionally, most gold designs of mine can be made in silver, although the other direction does not work too often. So if a customer of mine sees some design in gold and would rather like it in silver, she can always ask me. (Please do!)

There are many pieces featuring labradorite. My suppliers have been doing a superb job luring me with their exquisite labradorite acquisitions. It’s one stone that is super hard to purchase online, since the chatoyancy of the stone is difficult to accurately represent in photos. I am very lucky in that regard to have such wonderful brick-and-mortar stores right in the city.

Enough with words… here they are. Enjoy! ( continued… )

It’s the beginning of another year, looking sharp, whole and pristine. It’s tugging at me to make a fresh new set of resolutions. So here we go. I would like the year 2008 to be known as the year that I finally tamed my gemstone buying habits.

As much as I take jewelry making seriously, it is still a hobby to me. While my Etsy shop has been a huge blessing, the downside of having a successful selling outlet for me is that it becomes an enabler (”Oh it’s ok to pick up this exquisite and very expensive strand of gemstone because I will sell jewelry made with it and recoup the cost in no time!“). Well, 2007 saw more than enough enabling action, and my gemstone inventory is about to bring on a landslide. So this year, I will:

  • For whole 4 months from January till the end of April, I will not make any gemstone purchases. An exception is noted below.
  • Occasional gemstone purchases are allowed on a limited basis: they are to be budgeted within the $ amount made from DESTASHING my current gemstone stock in my DollarBeads store.
After April, I will re-assess my jewelry expenditure and set new goals for the coming months. Hopefully, my self-control will have proven strong enough to be entrusted with a larger and more flexible budget for gemstone purchases.

That was a short-term goal, but I also have a more permanent new policy to declare. I discovered that more than anything else I need to keep under control my urges to go out and “buy more”. This is how it goes usually. I make a new design and list it for sale on Etsy. Then I immediately run and order/buy more of the components used in the design. This I do even when I have plenty of spare components in stock! Well, yes, when I have just finished a new design, I am so in love with it that I am convinced it will fly off the shelf, exhausting remaining parts in no time. This is my brain talking while high on creative pleasure! From now on, I will WAIT until that design SELLS and brings some cash in my pocket before putting out an order for more components.

Those are my resolutions for the year 2008. I wish all my customers and jewelry-making colleagues a happy, beautiful and balanced year! And oh, if you are a jewelry maker, please look out for awesome gemstone destash sales in my DollarBeads store — chances are I will be desperate for those sales. :-)

I remember some years ago thinking to myself “What is she thinking???” when Dana Kellin went gold. And then, after all this time, it suddenly caught up on me: I am officially going through a gold phase. I have long been suspecting that silver isn’t the right match to transparent gems such as topaz, clear quartz and all other more expensive kinds of stones. Gold does a much better job.

There are, however, problems with gold: (1) 14k gold filled is virtually unknown in Korean jewelry market, which makes it harder for me to come by, (2) 14k gold-filled findings are pretty limited in terms of designs and variety in the first place, (3) I have come to dislike vermeil silver, which is not at all pretty when tarnished, and (4) I am not yet ready to go all the way to solid gold. And a rather tangential issue: pictures of my gold pieces always seemed to come out lacking somehow, which I think came mostly from my old photo setups flattering more to silver than to gold. (This is one of the reasons behind my recent photo overhaul — see previous post.)

After giving it some thought, I decided to adopt gold-plated sterling silver. As explained in this earlier post of mine, the Korean jewelry industry has embraced all sorts and manners of “x-plated sterling silver”, where “x” can be brass, gun-metal, gold, platinum, copper, etc. It took me a while to get used to the idea, but once I did, it opened up a whole new world of design possibilities. Unlike vermeil, gold-plated sterling silver is much more resistant to tarnishing, which makes it more safe to mix with 14k gold-filled components.

So here they are, my latest creations in glorious gold. If they are not in my Etsy store, they will be soon. Enjoy! ( continued… )

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