Random Bits

As some of you might know, I play a “computational linguist” during the day. And if you’ve noticed that I’ve been neglecting my shop lately, that’s because I have been working … ’tis the season for conference papers. (And there’s this threat of losing my job if I do not publish at least two papers this year. Just leave it up to us Koreans to institute this very no-nonsense approach to the “publish or perish” maxim. Ha ha.)

Anyhoo, my current work is about developing an automated proof-reading tool for non-native speakers. Specifically, my system targets errors in preposition usage. And I need your help in evaluating its performance! Basically, when my system makes this recommendation:

      “My friends are good [in] soccer, too.”
      ==> [in] should be changed to [at]

a human then needs to review it and judge whether or not the machine’s decision is correct. And that human could be you! What I will do is send you a text file containing 100 system output samples like above, which you can edit and send back to me. It shouldn’t take too long for native speakers of English. And in return, you get:

So, what do you say? You can help me by flexing your grammar muscles and get fabulous jewelry for yourself! I need 4-5 volunteers. If you’re interested, email me at email image or leave a comment here, and I will get back to you. The time frame for this is between now and 02/20. Thanks everyone!
So this morning, I stumbled across this nice tutorial on wire-wrapping briolette stones, done by a fellow Etsy seller. Wrapping briolettes is indeed one of the trickiest techniques that often frustrates the beginners and the skilled alike — god knows we need good tutorials on the subject! :-)

To my surprise, though, I spotted my own photo of my own creation used in the blog as an example, uncredited. It is of my labradorite briolette earrings, sold a while ago in my Etsy shop.

This is not the first time that my briolette wrapping techniques got attention from fellow etsians, but I can’t say I am too happy about this one. I would have thought it is common courtesy to ask in advance for permission to use, or in the least give proper credit for the photo and the work. I emailed the proprietor of the blog, contrariwise, nicely requesting for credit, so we’ll see how it turns out.

And also, I would like to point out that the description on the blog is wrong: There was no “wrapping back up the bead and wrapping tightly under the loop” on this labradorite briolette, although that is another technique that I do use frequently. The wire end was … (drum roll please) … tucked into a drill hole!

Times like this make me think that maybe I should publish my own briolette wrapping tutorials: I happen to love briolette wrapping (can you tell? ^^), and I do have an arsenal of techniques under my belt that I deploy on briolettes of every size and shape. Two things stop me: the desire to keep this hard-earned and self-discovered knowledge to myself, and the fear of the pain that is writing detailed and precise descriptions of the process. Who knows, maybe one day I will find myself in the mood for pain… lots of it. :-)

[update 09/29/2008] Woo hoo! A couple days ago, Anne of Contrariwise got back to me on Etsy via convo to let me know that she has updated her blog to give me proper credit. It took a while, but I am glad that the photo and the wrapping work finally bear my name. Thanks everyone who’s been supportive, and thanks to Anne for fixing it.

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… )
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… )
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’ve been tagged — by Tamara of McFarland Designs! In this blog post, she invited a few fellow jewelry designers to reveal their own jewelry wardrobe. I have to say I was confused at first as to what this “tagging” game was about. It took me a while, but I’ve finally figured it out: “tag, you’re it!”. :-) So, since I’ve been tagged and I’m a good player, here are a few of my favorite jewelry pieces.

Peruvian blue opal rondelles dangling from 10k earwires. If my house catches fire, these Peruvian opal beads are going to be among the first that I’d grab before I run for my life. (Yes, I’m feeling particularly silly and morbid today.) Seriously though, I know for sure that it’ll be hard to find something like these again. The color… translucency… they are dreamy! I am not sure if there are demands for solid gold pieces on Etsy, but I think I’ll come around to list these some day.
( continued… )

Look what I’ve found! Thai silver post earrings with a leaf motive and a flower shape. Such lovely and sweet pairs of earrings. I love the compact form factor of stud-style earrings, but they are hard to find among Thai silver products. My guess is that the style is not in the roaster of traditional Hill Tribe silver craft, so they are only produced per supplier’s request.

At any rate, I have bought up a few of these earrings. I am planning to offer them as a special gift to my customers when my new designs go on sale in my Etsy shop. Please subscribe to my mailing list for this offer!

One of my first photos (2003)

All better now
Tales of struggles with photography is a daily occurrence at Etsy Forums. It’s no wonder: product photography is a whole another art form. Photographing jewelry is especially challenging: jewelry is not only small objects but it is also (usually) shiny, which calls for particular attention to lighting conditions. This often leads to the curious phenomenon of artifacts whose sole function is inspiring beauty looking bland and unattractive in photos.

I am by no means a photography expert, but over the years I have diligently worked on developing my own style of photographing my work. Come to think of it, my jewelry photography may even be as important as my jewelry itself. For each jewelry piece of mine, at most a handful of people get to see the physical item in person, but hundreds more will know them as my photos only!

I put in great amounts of time and effort into photographing my pieces. I don’t always enjoy the process: successful photos can make or break an item (or rather, online representation of an item), so there’s a lot of uncertainty involved. This usually results in much procrastination on my part. :-) At any rate, I have a few routine procedures now, but back when I started I was very much clueless. The picture on the top testifies to this.   ( continued… )

After moving back to Korea, my biggest concern was: where do I get beads and findings now? I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered a decent-sized bead and gemstone market in Seoul. And where else would such a place be, other than the fabled 남대문 시장 (Namdaemun market)?

Mesa shopping mall in Namdaemun Market.
I was lucky enough to catch the last glimpse of the gemstone mall’s 우주상가 (Woojoo mall) era; all bead shops formerly hosted in Woojoo mall are now relocated to a more modern and sleeker fare of 메사 (Mesa mall). Mesa mall itself houses groups of fashion-related mini malls on each floor. It is located right behind 신세계 백화점 (Shinsegae department store).

( continued… )