Thursday, March 21, 2013

What About Craft Wire

I've seen lots of articles and tutorials calling for the use of "craft wire." If you are new to the wire world, you may ask yourself, "What is craft wire and what makes it different from other types of wire?" That's a good question...really!

When I first started working with wire, I was right there with you. I didn't know a craft wire, from a Parawire, from a pair of wires. I thought wire was wire, other than I knew there was Sterling, copper, and gold. Boy, did I ever need an education. To be honest, I am still getting one. Whenever I think I just about have all the wire knowledge I need, someone invents a new wire, or at least a new metal that wire is made out of.

First of, craft wire to many of us wire geeks, has many definitions, but here is one I found. Craft Wire: A permanently color-coated copper-based wire, which is soft and very malleable. It retains its shape moderately well, particularly in the larger gauges. I found this particular definition at Ross Metals website.

Most, but not all, craft wires have a copper metal core. Copper, by nature is a relatively soft metal that is easily maneuvered, bent, molded, or stretched. It is harder than zinc, but softer than iron. While copper may be the most widely used core for craft wires, that isn't always the case. There are less expensive metals that can be found at the core of craft wires, such as nickel. This raises some issues that need to be confronted if you are new to the use of wire.

There are several reasons to know what is at the core of your craft wire. Have you ever had anyone ask you if your wire items were made with nickel? I usually have at least one person at every exhibition ask me that very question. There are a lot of jewelry lovers out there that have allergies or sensitivities to certain metals. Nickel is one of the most common metals to cause people misery when it is put close to their skin. I can attest to that personally.

I got braces on my teeth in my forties. I didn't think to ask my dentist if the braces had any amount of nickel in them and I have metal allergies. Within minutes of them being placed on my teeth, the inside of my mouth began to itch, burn, and swell. Poor man, he had to immediately take them off and replace them with titanium. I was then fine, as titanium is a hypo-allergenic material. Ugh...but this could happen to your customers, as well. It pays to know what your craft wire is cored with. A simple email or call to the supplier or manufacturer is all it takes if that information isn't on the label. Most of them are happy to supply you with the necessary information.

Another reason to be informed is that you can offer up that information on your own to your customers. That lets your customers know you are informed about what you are using to make your product, and also tells them that you are willing to share that information with them. It is in your favor to be up front and honest. It helps to build the relationship. Trust me, if if they don't buy at that time, when they are ready, they will feel more apt to buy from you because you have already built a bridge of trust with them.

Back to the wire, itself. Most craft wire is color coated, either by enameling or color bonding of another sort. Some craft wires are then coated with a "clear coat" to help protect the finish from wearing off. Again, be informed. There are some very good craft wires on the market and there are those of lesser quality. Some do not use a clear coat and some do not care how quick the color comes off. Like everything else, you usually get what you pay for. The color, however, can wear off over time, leaving your wire's core exposed.

There are "permanently colored" craft wires. They do not, however, have color all the way through the wire. I really thought they did when I first started. Woohoo! I thought I had hit the mother load but I was dismayed the first time I seriously nicked the wire with my pliers. Just remember to do your research or do some testing on your own. Permanently colored craft wire still has a core that is most likely copper or another metal, and over time this core can or will be exposed.

Plated wire is different from colored wire. Silver craft wire is not the same thing as "silver-plated" craft wire. Silver-plated craft wire is supposed to have a very thin layer of actual silver ore bonded to the outside of the core wire. Like I said, it is thin, very thin. You should know that somewhere during the lifespan of an item made with silver-plated wire, it, too, will eventually wear down and expose the color to the core. Silver craft wire is silver-colored wire. The color can come from metals such as nickel or even tin, another very soft metal, or be enameled with a silver color.

You may say that you have a piece you've worn for years made out of silver craft wire and it still has its silver color! Great! But the color you might now be seeing may be tin or zinc. Sorry...Or it might be that you did a bang-up job of selecting a superior craft wire for the project. You decide.

Please understand, I am not slamming craft wire, at all. I have just noticed a lot of questions out there about the subject, so I wanted to help put some of the mystery of this wonderful, very usable product to rest. On the other side, craft wire comes in array of colors that can add depth and imagery to your jewelry and provide you with the uniqueness you may be seeking. All I ask is that you do just a wee bit of research so you know exactly what you are placing in your products and then have fun!

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. I would be happy to answer them all.

Till next time...Stay Wired Up!! Gail

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Business Cards, Part Deux

Okay, so it has taken me a while to get back with the program. Sorry about that. I am actually in my hotel at a show in the middle of Texas, so bear with me, or is that bare with me? I'm not really sure...

We left off with picking a font and deciding name placement on the business card. Let's work on the information to include and background imagery. Most of you already know this, but over time, even we old business pro's forget the basics of good design, cause we get so caught up doing what we do. But for the new business person or those that are considering jumping off the bridge, let's review.

Where should your business name go? Wellllll....that depends on the style of card you are choosing and what kind of business you have. Say you are setting up a more formal style of business like a computer software design business. You might want to use a vertical style card that is split in the middle by a simple line divider and a two-color background. Or you might like a traditional horizontal card style that features a small pic of your logo in the upper left hand corner on a white background. It's firm and precise.

For most art or craft type businesses,regardless of where you put your name, it needs to stand out.  I have found that most of us like it straight and center in the card. Start there and make sure it is centered. If it looks nice in the regular font, try bolding it and seeing how it looks. You can also try italics, but remember to make it easily readable. Once that little fit is done, you will feel like you've accomplished something. And so you will have.

Now, what else do we want on the card. Most everyone wants their address and phone number on their cards so customers have a way to reach them. Here is where it gets a little fuzzy for me. I wanted a mailing address, but I wasn't sure I wanted people driving by and wandering what lovely jewelry pieces might be lurking inside. Yes, Priscilla, there are dishonest folks out there, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Get a PO Box. Added expense, yes, but it can be used for "returns" (heaven forbid!) and still not give anyone an idea of how to bother you on off hours or when you are on vacation.

Same with a phone number. Get a MagicJack or another service like it. They work and are inexpensive. Oh, and like the PO Box, can be written off at the end of the expense!

We have our name, our address, and our phone. If you want a fax, there are some really cool and inexpensive online fax options, as well. You can send and receive faxes like the pro's. we add the fax number, too. Let's see. besides the name, we now have three additional lines of information.

Got a website? Are you on Etsy? How about Artfire, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Add your website or blog address for sure, but don't muck up the card with all the social media addresses. Put links to those on your website, Etsy, or Facebook page. We will talk about that more later. Personally, I only add my webpage, even though you can find me about seven other sites. I tell the peeps to check social media site for my bus. name, ggchambers. If they find me, I'm there!

You don't necessarily need your email address on your card either. Wait! There is method to my madness! I tell clients to email me through the website Contact page, or contact me through my Etsy site, etc. I do this because, God love 'em, sometimes the fans emails will have viruses you DON'T need or want, and driving them to one of your other locations gives them another chance to view your work and gives you more "hits" on your sites. If this is all Greek to you, you will just have to trust me...this is better for you!

Wow! You are just about there. Find a location for your business name, and locate the rest (hopefully no more than four more lines) below it in a smaller font. Not too small, like 5pt! No one can read that! Use a 7, 8, or 9 pt. depending on the font you have chosen. Make sure the normal human being can read it without squinting. Trust me, if they have to work hard to read it, it will end up in the trash, no matter how much they like your product. If your name is fancy, it's okay to use a plain readable font for the location info like Arial or Times New Roman font. Now...background....

For us craftier artsier types, we like color and pictures. We like the descriptives of what we do to be seen rather than read. Go for it! For those of you that like photography, take some pictures of your products and work up a collage of sorts. Or take your favorite product and do a pic of that. Just remember, we want our cards to be memorable, but not overwhelming, so you may have to run your pics through a program like Photoshop or have a computer savvy friend help you here. Fade it, crop it, do what you need to do, but don't overwhelm and distort the all important contact information.

If you are an artist of any sort, please don't use a white background...oh, and don't use hot pink just cause I said not to use white! Put some thought into it and make it your own. Make it talk about who you are and what you do. If you are a gardener, use plants and flowers. If you make jewelry, have your card reflect your style. If you build dog houses...use Fido's pic. You get the idea.

Now I'm babbling. I hope this helps a little. I know this is just a very teeny weenie part of starting a business or even maintaining one, but it's your business' and your first impression to the potential client. It reflects back to you. Just do your best and it will happen. Take! Print it!

Let me know if I should have proof read this more...I'm really tired!

Till next time...Stay Wired Up!!! Gail

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Got A Biz Name? Now Get Your Cards, Part 1

Does it seem like we are taking baby steps where starting a successful home-based art or craft business is concerned? We are. It's better to take it a little slow and make sure you have what you want, rather than having to change things a gazillion times later.

I've been a name and a design, only to find that it didn't fit my business a year or so down the road. If you started off with a great name that defines you and one that you can brand, changing the design around it is less critical to your overall branding success.

The business card is or can be part of your signature to your art. Most of us don't "mark" our handmade pieces, so what do collectors go for? Your business card. It's the way they feel they can connect to you when the show or sale is over. Have you ever noticed how someone taking your card looks at it? If you haven't paid attention up to now, make note of it the next time you give someone your card.

 Your card can define you as much as your business name. What is your product, your art, your talent? You want your business card to create an initial image of "you" in the potential customer's mind. Marketing 101...the first impression you give the prospective client is the most important one.

The first thing to select in your business card design is the font or letter style. Pick a font that is easy to read but reflects your personal style. There are plenty of Font sites on the web to provide you with just what you are looking for. Some of my favorite sites are:,, and Some fonts are free...yeah! and some are not. Just remember to keep your choice simple and readable...but reflective of who you are and what your business is. Just a thought...A beautiful fancy script font isn't always the best choice, because for some, they can be hard to focus on or read. You get the idea. Oh, and before downloading a font, make sure your have a really good anti-virus software program already installed on your computer!

Now for the background. You can have your background cover the entire business card, be just a picture in the corner, two corners, three, and so on. You don't have to complete this part of the card yourself, either. Most people use a service like Vistaprint or contact a graphic artist they know. Graphic art students are always a valuable resource, and some are willing to do the work just for their portfolio or the practice. If you know how to use Photoshop, Pagemaker, Corel, or any of the other graphic design software, good for you, but it isn't a necessity, so don't panic at this step.

Even though I did the initial design of my cards myself, a valuable resource for me is Plumrose Lane. Sharon designed my blog background, and kiddies, it was free. There was a small fee to add my name to the title, but it was truly minimal. My point being, do some research. If you aren't talented in this area, or you just don't want to take the time away from your work, find someone to help you. The card is yours and should look the way you want it to look.

For your homework:
1.  Pick a font
2.  Decide photo or background content
3.  Begin to think about the information to be included on the card. We will cover that next time.

Thanks so much for reading, and until next time...Stay Wired Up! (oh and yes, we will be talking about working with wire on this blog, too. :-) Gail

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just Me...

I am taking a hiatus from the Business Blogs just to chat. Today is one of those days. I'm sure you all have had them, especially if you are an artist of any sort. I have Creative Block...

My schedule is filling up, I'm trying to come up with new original designs, my hands and wrists are tormenting me, and my mind has gone a spring pool with no fish in it. What's an artist to do?

I took the curtains down to do the spring wash. I've made the bed and straightened out the workshop (well, as much as I could). I moved all my tools from the living room back into the workshop (I hate it when they all crawl out of their assigned spaces!), and I even put a little Bailey's in my coffee (I am on my third cup...not with Bailey's in it! I only had one!!!).

There are many items on my workbench that failed me and need to be taken apart, but I have a mini show in three days and a two-day show in just a little over a week! I've flipped through catalogs, looked over different websites for inspiration, walked around outside in the sunshine, and sat with my head in my hands.

I even said a little prayer. I think God is up there shaking his head at me and saying, "I've given you everything you NEED. What's the matter with you now?" Don't get me wrong, I truly believe He has a smile on His face, like a father does when encouraging a child to go play by themselves because that is what's best for them. My response? "Yeah, Dad. I know..."

And here I sit. I hope you don't mind me sharing my dismay at the lack of imagination that is currently creating havoc with my mind. I know it will pass. Perhaps writing it down as I have done will do the trick. We shall see.

I will go for now, and if inspiration bonks me on the head, I will share what came of it with all of you. You have been both patient and kind. I hear my wire calling me now...

Stay Wired Up! Gail

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moving On...A Name for Your Biz

I am going to assume you read the last two posts in this Series, written especially for those considering to set up a home-based business, or for those that just want to see what I have to say and already have a small business.

One of the first things you need to do in setting up this new business, and this can be tedious but well worth while, is choose a name that will reflect who you are and what you do. I know...some of you are wrinkling your face up or raising your eyebrows, asking yourself why is this so important. It is just a name.

Choosing a good name will set you up for successes in branding later on. How serious are you? Do you just want to make a few pieces for friends and family, or do you want people to recognize your name and your work as an "artist?" I ask this coming from a design background. I design jewelry. What do you design? Do you paint, do you knit, do you do graphic arts? No matter what you do and how in depth into the business world you want to go, you need a great (and catchy name).

I used to do this for other people setting up businesses when I was in marketing. I actually had people that were helping others set up a business call and ask me to help them with a name and a tag line. So, perhaps I can give you some helpful ideas on how to accomplish this. Bear (bare?) with me here.

1.  Define yourself. You have probably already done this if you read the last two posts. At this point, if you haven't already done it, do it now. Take a little time for yourself over a cup of tea or coffee. Who will you be as a business?

2.  Write down at least 10 catchy names. Have fun with it. You don't need to get an ulcer at this point in the game. Here are some examples of what I went through to come up with ggChambers designs. (Yes, I use a small "d" in "designs." I'm just quirky that way.) This is where you need to let your imagination go a little. Here are some names that I thought of for myself and why.

The Chambers Studio - I liked the word "studio" because it lent a sound of artistry to the name. It was voted down by my husband. It didn't say much about who I was or what I did and he thought that "studio" sounded like I was a painter.  :-(

Beads and Wire - I worked with both, so why not? Again, it doesn't brand me...and my husband hated it. He wanted to be included, so he could exhibit his paintings with me when he retires. Okey dokey, then.

Arts In Wire - Clever but no branding of who I was as an artist.

Chambers Design Studio - Again, the word "studio" that my husband didn't like. Not sure why, but he was my biggest supporter, so I nixed this one, as well.

Gail Chambers Jewelry - This one branded me and relayed what I did but if I started using the word "jewelry" in my business name, I was stuck on jewelry. Those of us that are artists...don't we drift a little into other realms? Jewelry is great, but we might want to make business card holders, or wind chimes, or whatever. And the word "jewelry" would be on my business cards, banners, websites, etc. Even though that is what I do, I didn't want others to associate my "home business" with jewelry. OK, I didn't want to give anyone the incentive to rob me because I might have something valuable in my home. There, I said it. Once that thought was brought to my attention, I understood and several other of my business name hopefuls went by the wayside: Gail's Jewelry House, Chambers Jewelry Studio, GGC's Jewelry, Jewelry by Gail, and so on. I did this for days...ugh.

With the help of my husband, Gary, I landed on ggChambers designs. It doesn't really tell you what I do, but it is catchy and it served both Gary and Gail, included our last name, and branded me as a designer. I used the lower case "d" in "designer," too. That was my little effort at being different.

Thinking about how I would brand myself in the future, I knew I could do it with ggChambers. It rolls off the tongue and was suitable for a logo, which I now use as "ggC." I can use this on business cards, my website, Facebook, etc.I am in the process of trademarking, which is food for another thought and time.

At any rate, this is something you need to do. Pick a name...even if it is simple like mine. It needs to be evolutionary and able to grow with you as your business grows. It should be something you won't want to change every month. It should be something you can put on a card and be proud of. It should be something that others can recognize as you as you grow your business and continue to develop a brand for yourself. It is like defining yourself as a person, like your personal name.

I realized that a lot of other artists used "designs" in their business name, as well, but to me it didn't matter because the beginning of the name was mine and all mine. No one else was using it.

All right. That is enough for today and should keep you busy in between loads of laundry or chasing the kids around the house. Which brings to mind another though. (Sorry, I am full of them!) Run your choices of names by your other family members, even the kids. Kids are brutally honest, and it may give you all the laugh for the day, watching their faces wrinkle up or light up.

Be serious but have fun. If you already have chosen a name but are unhappy with it, it is never too late to change it. More on that later, or send me a personal message and we'll talk.

Till next time...stay wired up!! Gail