Sunday, March 16, 2014

Confessions

I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate affair with jewelry. I don't wear jewelry, apart from a promise ring, and I truthfully wouldn't wear most of the jewelry I make because it would require me to dress better and I'm not willing to do that. I find I enjoy thinking about making jewelry more than I enjoy actually making it. In fact, I often find myself procrastinating about the making part. And--apparently this makes me weird--I like photographing my jewelry even more than I like thinking about making it.

I also like to make photo backgrounds (as well as think about making photo backgrounds), and I love to shop antique stores and junk shops for interesting photo props. Here are some of my recent acquisitions: an old tin box, an old metal cup, some cast iron spoons and a fork, an Army belt, and some old sheep shears. I got that Army belt from a junk store--unfortunately it was brand new when I bought it, so I hung it over the fence last fall and left it there for a few months and it looks better now. I might put it back out there again for a while.
I love the process of creating a mysterious vignette for a photo ("Oh look, there is a necklace draped artistically among an Army belt, an old book, and some crusty sheep shears. There's GOT to be a fascinating story there..." Oh yes, yes there is. One day a soldier, a sheep rancher, a librarian and a transvestite walked into a bar...)
Lately I have become enamored of old, tattered book covers. The more splotched and stained the better. I especially love ones that are embossed, but they're hard to find in a sufficiently abused condition. It's amazing how hard it is to fake decades of wear and tear. (I tried adding some extra splotches with bleach, but these old books are amazingly resistant to chemicals. I'm thinking that bottle of muriatic acid in the cupboard might have a use after all...)
I actually think that my fascination with making photo backgrounds is one of my procrastination techniques. When I find myself having creative urges, but feeling reluctant to actually make jewelry, I do a photo background instead. It's my way of "circling." For a while I was into stenciling, to try to create a kind of wallpaper effect but it didn't work out the way I wanted. That's a damask stencil there from Stencil Ease.
Some of the ideas I've been toying with lately are faking up old stuff using assorted materials, because sometimes legitimate old stuff is hard to come by. For example, the weave on a flour sack towel (generally available at the grocery store) is just loose enough to resemble an old cloth book, or an old rustic tablecloth (plus they're relatively cheap). I glue them to a square of MDF (medium density fiberboard--you can get giant sheets at Home Depot and have them cut into smaller pieces)--this way they're ready to go when I need them and they don't get all wrinkled in a drawer somewhere.
For the two squares below, I painted one, and tea-stained the other. I added a strip of ribbon to the painted one to suggest a book binding (or something) and tried some faked up stains. I used acrylic paints. On the other, I stained it with tea bags and threw some lace from the fabric store across it, which I had also tea-stained. The lace isn't stained enough so I might have to singe it with an iron (I have experience with that).
Maybe I'll add a giant crusty key and a mug when I use the second one in a picture--"Look, I took a picture of this necklace on the kitchen table in an old farmhouse in Provence while the French people were having breakfast. They didn't mind."
I like the blue one too. Close-up, it could be an old bellboy uniform that's seen better days, or maybe a vintage photo album, or perhaps even the moth-eaten canopy on an old Victorian pram. (See, people will think you have awesome historical artifacts in your house with fascinating stories behind them. "Yes, my great grandfather was a bellboy and one day he walked into a bar with a soldier, a sheep rancher, a librarian and a transvestite...")
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Here is a sedimentary rock or Mediterranean stucco experiment, depending. It ended up looking more like a frosted cake than Mediterranean stucco. I am thinking of putting sprinkles on it.
I also like using framed pictures as backgrounds. I've had these picture frames below forever, but I haven't gotten around to using them because I hate the colors and need to repaint them, but I can't make up my mind what colors to paint them. I'm putting old family photos in them. For now I've just printed the photos on my laser printer to give you an idea, but I will need to have them printed on photo paper. I've found that photos work better as backgrounds if they have more white space in them, so the two at the bottom might not work.
I like to use them like this:
Or with just a corner of a frame showing:
I got these really cool embossed papers from 32NorthSupplies. I thought I could glue them onto a piece of wood or MDF and then paint over them and make them look like faked up embossed book covers or faked up (are you sensing a theme here) architectural details from some posh but dilapidated pied-a-terre. Or something. Something mysterious. The cool thing about using stuff like this in jewelry photography, is that it's so close up, it's not necessary for the person looking at it to know what it is; it only needs to look vaguely interesting. It's all about suggestion. Maybe that's what I like about doing these backgrounds--they're not literal, identifiable things, they're just vague suggestions. I am a big fan of vague suggestions. (Like, "Maybe you would enjoy taking a long walk off a short pier?")
This actually ended up looking more like whitework embroidery to me. I'm going to go over it with more paint and maybe some gilder's paste to bring out the detail and give it a more worn and aged look. Or maybe I'll just hang it on the fence with the Army belt.
I also bought some cheap placemats a few years ago thinking they might make interesting photo backgrounds, but I didn't like the colors. I decided to paint them. I have no idea if these will look right with jewelry on them but they worked well as a jewelry-making avoidance technique. If they don't work, I'll hang them on the fence with the Army belt and see what happens.
Well, today is my birthday, and I am going to reward myself by doing whatever I want so I'm off to the grocery store to buy sprinkles for my Mediterranean stucco cake.

50 comments :

  1. "I find I enjoy thinking about making jewelry more than I enjoy actually making it. In fact, I often find myself procrastinating about the making part. And--apparently this makes me weird--I like photographing my jewelry even more than I like thinking about making it."

    Heh. I just told somebody these `same words´. That is so true also in my life. Exept I´m not an artisan at all. But perhaps my soul is. :D

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    1. We're "Idea Women!" We can say that we design "Mental Jewelry."

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  2. Happy birthday! I love your segment...column...article...not sure what it's called, but it has very good tips and you're very funny. I love the chain you used in the earrings and have been meaning to ask where you bought it when I first saw them in your Etsy shop (or on Pinterest).

    Hope you have a wonderful day!

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    1. Thanks Kym! Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any more of that chain anywhere. I thought I had gotten it at Chain Gallery but they don't have any so maybe I was wrong...I inquired at their Facebook page but never got a response.

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  3. ... I was also going to say you jewelry is adorable. :)

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  4. I love playing with photo backgrounds too but I must say you've taken it to a much higher level but now I want to take it to that level too. So much fun, you've got my wheels turning!! I must admit I just bought a couple of old books and spent way too much but I think they'll be amazing photo backgrounds. Thanks for the chuckle as always and good info on top of that!!

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    1. You'll get a lot of mileage out of those books! they're worth the money! I also find them handy for hanging earrings from--you know, prop them open and hang the earrings from the cover. very cool!

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  5. Great post beautiful photos and very entertaining as usual. Whether you know it or not you have great marketing skills. You know I already think highly of your jewelry making skills and your jewelry could still look stunning on a white background. But your props do add another layer that does cause one to linger a little longer.
    Customers at my bead shows are always asking questions about getting started on Etsy and great photos is alway on my list of suggestions. I usually discourage props because some folks go a little overboard and it becomes difficult to know what is actually for sale. You have changed my mind, I do think that jewelry makers can get away with props in a photo more than I can selling an individual bead, because a finished piece of jewelry speaks more to a lifestyle than the individual parts.
    I also notice that you have an uncluttered area where your jewelry is displayed and your props are on the edge of the photo leaving it up to the customer what the rest of that room would look like. So I will amend my advice to jewelry designers regarding photos, less is still more, but the right props can help market your jewelry.
    Happy Birthday!

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    1. Thank you so much Anne for your kind words! Yes, I have seen props used both well and poorly--actually I've been really inspired by Sparrow Salvage on Etsy, Lorelei Eurto's judicious use of found objects (feathers, flowers, stones), and Anvil Artifacts with the layered backgrounds. I also like what Erin Siegel does with a single flower. I never really added anything to my backgrounds before but when I saw pictures by these artists I loved what just a peek of something else could add to the feeling of a picture--something ethnic, something historical, something natural, something romantic. And I think sometimes something in a corner can help keep the eye moving without distracting. But it is as you say--less is still more! I do also like the white/light backgrounds--such as what Fanciful Devices does--but my little camera can't handle the contrast and my items always end up under-exposed so I prefer a darker background. Plus I just like the look of wood or stone--Cindy Pack does wonderful things with a stone or wood background, I love her photos.

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  6. "I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate affair with jewelry. I don't wear jewelry, apart from a promise ring, and I truthfully wouldn't wear most of the jewelry I make because it would require me to dress better and I'm not willing to do that. I find I enjoy thinking about making jewelry more than I enjoy actually making it. In fact, I often find myself procrastinating about the making part."

    I SO get this! I have made jewelry for years and now make lampwork beads and copper components and seem to enjoy that more! I also don't wear it much for the same reason although I love jewelry. Obviously. lol I sit around the house in my grungy clothes and 'study' components and jewelry design and put a few things together. You so hit the nail on the head with this post. I love it! You are a doll and your designs are awesome.....when you do get them put together. lol
    I agree with your birthday plans. One should always do whatever they want on their birthday and nothing more or less. I hope your cake turns out awesome!
    Patty

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    1. So glad to hear I'm not the only one! Sounds like I'm in good company! Yep, on the weekends I will sometimes wear the same clothes (i.e., pyjamas) for two days straight, either just experimenting, or making a bunch of metal components. I do find that after I have devised a new "experimental" component, I'm a little deflated by the idea of then having to use it in an actual piece of jewelry. But then I'm so pleased when a finished piece turns out the way I hoped! (I think it's like not enjoying the pregnancy and delivery, but being excited about the baby. "Can we just skip to the end?")

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  7. LOVED this post. The ideas are priceless. The photos are stunning, no wonder you enjoy your photography sessions!

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    1. My props are like that icebreaker game--"Write a skit based on the following objects: A toilet seat cover, a snowglobe, a tire iron, a pair of Speedos and a popsickle--OK now go." If it leaves somebody scratching their head, all the better!

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  8. Thanks for the Sunday chuckle. And, for your brilliant (and perfectly hilarious) excuse for what all that creative "stuff" is on my work tale. "Why, it's background material, of course".

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    1. Ha, exactly! "What's that shower cap for?" "It's for a vignette."

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  9. Oooh...Ahhhh, love this post soooo much! I too am one who doesnt wear a lot of jewelry, but I have to admit I do enjoy making the jewelry. It may take me some days to figure out what to make that is more exciting than the last piece I made, but usually its worth the wait. Your props are amazing and adds that extra interest and desire to just stare at your creations... Thanks sooo much for sharing, now I have this hunger for making props.

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    1. It is such a burden to always have to be exceeding our past triumphs, isn't it! Maybe that's why it's been taking me longer and longer to complete finished pieces--I am always trying to do something "new." I find it very fun and relaxing to create, or search for, photo backgrounds. I especially like to shop at flooring or home improvement stores for interesting stone and ceramic tiles. If you're only buying them singly they are usually quite inexpensive, just a few dollars usually. And driftwood and river rock is the best!

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    2. That is so true...I have done that...props are so much fun to hunt for! I wish I had a larger house just so I could have a special place for all the fun findings. I went out to the fabric store yesterday and they had their scrapbooking paper on sale...I snatched up as many as I could that had a little texture on them. Now for the fun part...to add all the grunge! Thanks again for the inspiration. Oh, and I took some pictures of a few pieces that I added a few more props..I have this beautiful flower candle holder a friend gave me some years ago and it was perfect to have peek out of the side of the photo. I need to think more outside of the jewelry box...LOL

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  10. I so admire the creativity and resourcefulness that goes into your photo props! My backgrounds are terribly boring… I guess all my creativity is expended making the beads themselves. Lovely work! - Julie

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    1. Thank you! I have been so inspired by other artists--I especially like seeing pictures that use old pieces of wood, or old tabletops, or surfaces that look like the lid of an old steamer trunk or a leather bound book. I don't have room in my house for the actual objects unless they're small, so I am always thinking of ways I can mimic those surfaces on just a 12"x12" square that I can easily store. If I had an attic, it would probably be full of the real things!

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  11. Quite a hilarious post! I laughed out loud while reading it. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. It's definitely got the wheels turning.

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    1. Happy to oblige! I'm hoping for a 50% success rate with these projects--I'll share in a subsequent post how they "worked" in action! Sometimes I have to just look at them as "exercises."

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  12. You made me laugh Kiersten! I like the idea of mental jewelry -- do you think we could sell it online? Could you do your next post on Pricing Mental Jewelry?

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    1. Haha! We could certainly try. "No, it's not a typo. I do make 'metal' jewelry, but it's MENTAL metal jewelry. Like, only I can see it." We could price it in Mental Dollars. Like, I'll think about the jewelry, and you think about sending me the money.

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  13. I loved this post, Kiersten! And I'm thinking about sending you money right now.... what are you thinking about making me??

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    1. Bwahaha--"Your Mental Jewelry just shipped!"

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  14. Enjoyed your post and totally get the procrastination part. Ideas flow so fast, I swear I am attention deficit. Ps I think I spotted that chain at Lima beads. Plated tho, boo. Happy birthday.

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    1. Oh, I'm totally ADD (the H is intermittent). It's like there's too much, so I get paralyzed. "If I can't do all of it, I'll do none of it." Yes, the chain is copper plated brass, but it is a nice heavy plating and stands up to de-lacquering, LOS'ing, buffing and tumbling! Have to look at Lima again, thanks!

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  15. First Ill tell you I only wear jeans but I always wear my jewelry. I never get an opportunity to dress nice. Second you crack me up!!!!! I love your backgrounds!

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  16. First Ill tell you I only wear jeans but I always wear my jewelry. I never get an opportunity to dress nice. Second you crack me up!!!!! I love your backgrounds!

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    1. Hear that! I even work at a law firm and still will not rise above Old Navy level. I can't even remember the last time I "dressed up." What I'm really dying to do is find an old barnwood honey hole. I see tumbledown barns on the roadside all the time and I want to come back in the dead of night with an empty trunk and start disassembling...

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  17. You always have superb photography and now we know why. I am on the impatient side when it comes to setting up props for my photography. My favorite part is jewelry design. If I could skip from that to it being in my shop I would love that. You are meticulous from start to finish and it shows in your work!

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    1. Aw, thank you Kristin! I love your jewelry! My two photo fallbacks are a giant piece of driftwood I darkened with shoe polish and a slab of wonderful variegated slate. They always seem to work when I don't have the patience for something fiddly. We need Star Trek jewelry replicators! "Necklace, pearl, fabulous."

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  18. Hi, Thank you so much for my giggle for the day, the add of a tranvestite, (lets face it every good story needs one) was just hilarious, I resonate with what you are saying alot, but in different ways, I don't wear jewellery, I have however just created 2 pieces for myself, I love them, I love creating just not big on the photography part, you have given me lots of good ideas on how to set my work for photographic display, thanks again, Joy

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    1. You're welcome Joy! I'm surprised how many other jewelry makers don't wear jewelry either, I don't feel like such an oddity anymore. I did keep one piece I made a couple years ago because I couldn't part with it, but I've never worn it! Wishing you fun with your new photo ideas!

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  19. Ahhh I love your photography! I love creating vignettes tho in my case I really like making them out of found objects in nature, at least, for beads. For pottery (before my studio got taken apart when I moved back to NY), I was making vignettes with old books and pairings, bits of this and that much like you talked about. I can also relate to the not wearing jewelry part - I rarely wear it and when I do it's usually earrings. Yet I am fascinated by designing beads for jewelry and imagining how they might be put into jewelry.

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    1. oops - paintings not pairings.

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    2. I love what you do with your pictures too Karen--you have also been one of my inspirations! Your beads lend themselves so well to natural elements, and it is a great feat to be able to include "props" in a bead picture and have them add and not detract. I love that your beads fill the whole frame, and your lighting is always superb. Makes me feel like I'm in a sun-dappled forest or at the beach on a cloudy day.

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  20. You have many talents, Keirsten! You could do magazine layouts or wonderful storefronts. :-) Taking the photos is not my favorite thing so I avoid by just using white backgrounds. I do have some old books though that I just collect because I love old books....

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    1. Thank you Janet! Ooh, it would be a blast doing a storefront! I also think set decoration would be super fun. And the shopping for the props would be even more fun! I think I missed my calling...

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  21. Your props are wonderful, ideal settings for your lovely jewellery. I like that idea of keeping the props near the edge, to give a suggestion of something... Procrastination can be a good thing :)

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    1. Ha, Lesley, that's what I keep telling myself! "I'll just do this one thing first, and maybe this other thing too, while the inspiration builds up..."

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  22. What a great post, I have always struggled with taking good shots of my jewellery, long necklaces are the most difficult I feel. My beads are not quite as bad as I have a great old garden table which has really helped. But your tips are priceless, its given me a new direction to work on with my photos and I am off to check out some of your shop photos too. Along with a few other commenters in this post too.

    So glad I popped in as I havent been here for quite some time!!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it! Have fun experimenting!

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  23. Hope you had a wonderful birthday! I love this post...and all your wonderful backgrounds. I am waiting to see the army belt featured prominently in one of your next jewelry photos!

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  24. A very interesting post indeed. But, seriously, the jewellery is awesome. If my jewellery was that good, I wouldn't hang around thinking about making it....

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  25. I just read this tutorial and I have found a kindred spirit. I don't like wearing jewelry either because I don't want to dress up but I wear it reluctantly when I go to shows. I also have your same dry sense of humour and need to be creative, Thanks for your tutorial, my photos will no longer be so boring.

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