Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Project for 2010

Not that I really have the time but, I have started "another" crafty persuit. My latest endeavor.....quilting.

I have really wanted to do this for a long time, I just never got around to it. Then after someone gave me 10 large boxes full of fabric, I knew I had no excuse.

My first 2 endeavors are going to be a memory quilt and wall hangings from my Great Grandmother Kirkpatrick's quilt blocks.

When I was a teenager, my maternal Grandmother gave me a shoebox full of quilt blocks, hand sewn by my Great Grandmother when she was a teenager. These quilt blocks are over 100 years old and made somewhere in the late, 1800's to 1900. See how vivid the colors still are?

They are in excellent shape and I want to preserve this bit of family history. Can you imagine, she sewed these by hand, probably by kerosene lamp light? It is kind of neat touching something my Great Grandmother touched. She died long before I was born so I never met her.

I have quite a few of these so I am planing on connecting them with sashing and making them into wall hangings behind protective, UV glass. Currently, I am contacting the Quilters Guild to find out the best way to proceed. I am even afraid to iron them right now because I don't want to damage them.

Quilting is a "whole" new world for me and it is taking me a bit to gather the supplies and information I need to begin. The memory quilt is a must finish over the next couple of months and I am having a hard time deciding whether I want to hand quilt or machine quilt (yes, I know, I need to get the top made first). However, I think it will be a good first project to tackle.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photographing Your Jewelry

One of the key ingredients to operating a successful on-line jewelry business is great pictures; and it’s one of the hardest things to achieve.

Jewelry can be one of the most difficult subjects to photograph. Not only do you have to contend with the highly reflective nature of the metals, many times, reflecting up to 99%, but there are the stones, which will inevitably, show the colors on that shiny piece of jewelry.

There are several elements for great photographs but I have personally found 4 key elements to photographing jewelry.

• Lighting—natural sunlight is the best, either outside or near a large window that gets direct sunlight. If that is not an option, then use a photo cube or light tent. You don’t need professional lights in fact, those large silver shop lights you get at Home Depot or Lowes will work (and they’re a lot cheaper). You can order a photo cube from  Harbor Freight for around $20. This cube is just the right size for jewelry and even has hook and loop fasteners to hang your jewelry from.

• Experience—this comes with practice. Be prepared to photograph and delete hundreds of pictures before you get the results you are looking for. Every day that I use my camera, I learn something new and gain more experience. I also have 3 books I highly recommend and depend on to help with the learning curve.

• Lens—if you have a DSLR camera, then you have a wide selection of lens to choose from. I suggest getting a set of filters to use with your close up lens. My set has 4 filters, all in varying sizes, including a macro. I use them with my wide angle lens so I can get the entire piece of jewelry in the picture. If you don’t have a DSLR, you do want to make sure you get a camera that has Macro capabilities built in.

• Cameras—an expensive camera is not necessary to take good photographs however, it does need to have a macro setting and the ability to turn the automatic flash off. I have a Sony DSLR A300 and really love it. It has manual capabilities so I can set the settings to my preference. It is pricey, around $600 but again, it is not necessary to spend that much. Before the Sony, I used a FinePix camera that I bought at Wal-Mart for $89. It had a macro setting and several manual settings I could use like, turning off the automatic flash. That little camera still takes great pictures. I just no longer use it to photograph jewelry.

While many people swear by taking pictures with their scanners, I have to disagree that you get a high quality, professional look. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some “great” pictures done with scanners and I have used a scanner for various items, I just don’t feel it delivers a professional quality picture for jewelry nor does it give you the creative freedom a camera does. I would come closer to using a scanner for stones before I would jewelry.

If you are serious about your jewelry business and want to promote it in the best way possible, I highly recommend investing in a good camera and a couple of filters and close up lens. But if you don’t want to spend the money for a DSLR, then at least buy a small digital camera with the options I mentioned above. Fuji FinePix has some great cameras for under $100.

Next thing to invest in are some good books. I have 3 favorites that I consider my photography bibles and use continuously as I try to learn how to use my camera to its full advantage.

Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles by Steve Meltzer.

This book is great. It’s not a very technical book but a “great” place for beginners to start. He talks about what kind of camera you need for many items including jewelry. Plus he gives you a test to perform in the store before you buy the camera, if you are going to use it for jewelry.

He also discusses lighting and lighting equipment, choosing the right backgrounds, how to compose a photograph, computer enhancement and much more. I think this book is great no matter what type of camera you have.

David Busch’s Sony DSLR-A350/A300/A200 Guide to Digital SLR Photography

Another great book that picks up a lot of the technical things that Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles leaves out. While this is specific to my camera, there are several different camera books by David as well as a lot of great books for various cameras and digital photography at Amazon. I mention this book because it will give you an idea of what type of book to look for.

Finally, my user’s manual. This third book works hand in hand with the other 2 books. The other 2 books may not explain exactly how to change your settings, the user’s manual will. Take for example Fstop. Both books talk about it and the importance of it, but neither one tells you exactly how to change the setting. All you have to do is look up Fstop in the index and your user’s manual will tell you how to do it.

By using the users manual in conjunction with other photography books, you not only get a good understanding of why it is important and what situations you need to use certain settings in but you learn exactly how to change those settings.

Another great learning resource for jewelry photography is MK Digital Direct. This website has a wealth of suggestions and tips for the jewelry photographer and the information contained there is very extensive.

One of the motivational things on my list this year is updating my blog more often so this completes 2010 installment #2. Of course, there are about 24 other things on my to do list which means I need to complete 2 things each month. I think the next thing I will do is post my “to do” list and give everyone progress reports.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting Motivated

Wow, have I neglected my writing. I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post. I would say that my New Year’s resolution is to be more dedicated to updating but honestly, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions all that much. If I need to change something, I am going to do it as I am motivated to do it otherwise, I will never stick to it.

My health and fitness lifestyle change is just one example of waking up one morning and saying to myself, "Something has to give; I am tired of feeling sick and tired all the time". Now, I can happily say, 4 months and 40 pounds lighter, I feel better than I have in a very long time; years to be exact. I still have a ways to go, but I know I will do it and I am happy doing it.

My doctor started me on the First Line Therapy program September 10, 2009. Since that time, I have lost weight, gained more muscle mass and lowered my blood pressure back to normal levels, all by changing what I eat.

The First Line Therapy program is doctor supervised and is based on the Mediterranean style diet. If you are familiar with the Sanoma Diet, it is a lot like it, basically the same principles. There is also a fantastic cookbook called The Sanoma Diet Cookbook by Connie Gutterson. I just love the recipes in this book. So if you are looking for healthy recipes, check it out.

This plan is not a get skinny quick scheme, but an actual life style “change”. To be successful, you really have to “want” to make that change. If the dedication is not there, then the plan will fail.

A short synopsis, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, only small amounts and very lean cuts of meat, nuts, beans and whole grains. No sugar, white flour, processed foods and only the good oils, like olive or coconut.

Now I would be fibbing if I said I stick to this eating style 100% of the time; I don’t, more like 95%. But I honestly don’t believe that is a bad thing. I don’t stray from the path often, just enough to satisfy the slight craving I might get for my favorite “bad” food; Chinese Cuisine or other things that really are destroying America’s health.

Once I get my fix for a hamburger, pizza, whatever, I am good to go for a long time before I get another craving. I honestly feel, being too rigid in anything is a recipe for failure. So having a Chinese dinner occasionally is not going to set me back but it actually helps to keep me on track. I also do it without guilt and the funny thing is, that comfort food just doesn’t taste as good as it use to and boy, do I get full fast. I will say though, that sugar is the only thing I have not had in the past 4 months and I don’t even miss it.

Next motivation is my jewelry. I have been is such a funk for so long when it comes to designing and actually making that I feel a little rusty. No more…I am determined to get back into the swing of things and devote more time to my jewelry. My first project is PMC. I have drawn up the design, have all the supplies I need except for one item, and I am anxious to go. I love experimenting and this is going to be a “huge” experiment for me. So, look for updates and pictures here soon.
Oh, and my other motivation....update my blog more often.

The Sonoma Diet Cookbook