ayalanya: (Default)
I'm currently visiting someone who, if all the stars aligned, was transferred to hospice about an hour ago. Fingers crossed. I'll be visiting him every morning this week, working some of the rest of the time, and alternating between socializing and recharging the rest of the time, so apologies for not being terribly personal with many people on this visit.

Anyway, also happening this week: the end of my Indiegogo campaign. I am nowhere near my goal, but I figured it was somewhat unrealistic anyway! In any case, if anyone wants to do a final promotion or donation or something, the appropriate link is here: http://www.indiegogo.com/belethil

THANK YOU to everyone who has donated or promoted. I've been having a blast making incentives, and I've gotten a ton of Etsy business since starting the campaign. It's been a good run, and I hope things continue at this pace!
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I'm about to spam everyone with this, so apologies in advance if this gets repeated so often you feel the urge to remove me from your reading lists. I will only be posting about it on DW/LJ twice - once at launch (now) and once when it's almost over - but will likely be posting to Facebook and Twitter once a week or so until the end.

I know this goal is a little ridiculous, but as a really wise friend mentioned, if I want to raise $5k, I should make sure I'm actually *getting* that much after the cost of incentives. So I doubled my "goal" because I'm hoping to get about half that after all is said and done. And I'm an ask-person; meaning that I believe you can't know if you can get what you want unless you ask for it.

So...okay! Here goes.

ayalanya: (Default)
It took me a while to decide this was necessary, but since my Livejournal/Dreamwidth handle is the same as my current official website and email address (both present on my business card), it seems like a potentially bad idea to publicly discuss some of the things that go through my mind. I'm torn, of course; I want to remain as transparent and public as possible. But I also need to be able to talk about the things that aren't entirely good in my life, and Facebook is not the right forum for such things. Hence: this journal is now (mostly) friends-only.
ayalanya: (Default)
Kind of an odd question, but I could have sworn that someone I know commented rather wistfully that they wanted to try Touched Twice (a BPAL scent) but couldn't justify the expense at the time (this was a few weeks ago, I think). Since I could at that point, I got a bottle, and it just arrived today. The person I thought it was says it wasn't her, so I'm a bit puzzled, and wondering if it was someone on one of the communities who I somehow interpreted to be a friend of mine...

Anyway, I have this bottle of Touched Twice. I hate floral scents almost universally, so I'd love to pass it on to someone who will love it the way it ought to be loved. Please speak up if it was you who posted about it!
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So...I made a new necklace recently using pearl knotting (because I wanted an example of my skill handy to show that I'd probably be teaching good technique, or something). I brought it to the store out in Dickson and decided to take out a pair of earrings that was on the higher end of the price spectrum (a $78 pair of earrings seems less likely to sell than a $78 necklace). Yesterday I realized that there was a weird gap in my visual memory of the display...where was my Cosmic Moon necklace? The one I made with the last big piece of that stone I got in a gift shop on the side of Mount Vesuvius? The one the store owner had specifically requested? I sent her a text message and she said she couldn't remember ever seeing it, but would check in the morning.

I asked her in the morning, and she eventually responded with a phone call - she had pulled out the inventory list and that one didn't happen to be on it (I was stupid, I know, I should have added it to the list when I brought it in). It definitely wasn't in the display. No record of a sale. She told me over the phone that they'd pay for it, treating it like a sale, but that I should probably get insurance because they're not responsible for stolen merchandise (that's in the contract I signed, so eh). I at first intended to go there right the hell now and take everything out, but her willingness to cover it despite not technically being obligated to...well, it (plus Scott talking me down) changed my plan to just going in and making sure that the inventory was completely current and on paper and in one place. Then I took a picture of the new inventory sheet.

Next week I'm supposed to be teaching a beading class there, assuming anyone shows this time. We didn't talk about the incident at all when I went there, and she didn't give me any money. I'm going to look at my contract again to see when I'm supposed to expect payment each month, but I wonder - I didn't get anything in writing; is she going to remember that she offered to pay for the necklace? After a lot of prodding her memory and showing her a picture of the necklace she had asked for initially (which was sold, but the one I brought in mirrors it), she said that she remembered me bringing it in to show her, but that she doesn't remember me leaving it, and there was no gap in the display. Which, and I couldn't exactly tell her that my memories were coming back in pieces, was true - because a necklace that had been either loose or on another display had been placed on the display that I'd used for the missing necklace.

I don't trust her at all right now. I'm still not sure I did the right thing in leaving the rest of my work there. I'm taking this far more personally than I probably should, especially considering the fact that she *is* (in theory) planning to pay me for it, so Scott is telling me I should probably just think of it as a straight-up sale. This is reasonable. But. I just. The things I make are part of me - it feels a bit like someone just came up to me with a pair of scissors and snipped off some of my hair, or something equally invasive and personal-space-violating. I'm happy to sell or give away, but it's pretty clear that this was theft of some kind, and there's such a difference in how I feel about it regardless of whether or not I'm paid.
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I really liked the phrasing of this when [profile] faerieboots posted it, so I'm going to copy from that one:

I know a lot of people who seem to be muscling their way through something tough right now, and sometimes I find a kind word very helpful when I am struggling. So here's the basic idea: Comment below, and I will tell you something positive I think/feel about you. It can be big or small, but it will be a genuine source of positive regard--if I say it to you, I really think it about you. :)

And a disclaimer of my own: I don't know how long it'll take for me to actually respond to such comments, due to general life stuff, but rest assured, I *do* think highly of y'all.
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It's hard to tell myself that it's okay if I make a bunch of things that won't be sold for a year. I lack time without distractions in a major way. Today Elizabeth didn't even nap, and is still up, trying to steal Scott's ice cream. The basketball game Scott was watching is finally over, but the post-game press conference still causes him to ask me to crane my whole body around to look at the TV from my computer/work chair (or get up and walk over, depending on which I decide is less distracting) approximately every thirty seconds. While I'm trying to do work. Goddamn it.

I have to decide between the following when I have any free time:

- housework
- payable future work
- sewing appropriate garb to enable payable future work
- napping (which I did today, and regret)
- office work (that I'm still in charge of, somehow)
- payable current work
- relaxing
- maintaining personal connections with people I care about
- eating.

I worry that I'm alienating people with my desperate attempts at hauling myself and my "business" up to the level of income-producing. I crave social contact but find it overwhelming more often than not. Usually I'll multitask: while watching E, I can eat, I can do certain kinds of housework, and I can sometimes do office work. While I'm sewing I can relax, kind of. But the production of jewelry, the napping and the personal connections bits are all-consuming; I cannot do more than whichever I have chosen to do. Which is part of why I have half a pair of elf ears sitting next to me and no plans to finish tonight; kid and partner are both taking my attention away and now the time I had over here has disappeared. Kind of going around in circles trying to work out what the hell I'm doing, and the only solution I can think of is daycare or a babysitter, because I was apparently wrong about Scott's understanding of what I need out of childcare.

I am just tired of everything. I could really use some time alone.
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So ah...those elf ears that I make are really, really popular. Spurred by a need, I also engineered hair-friendly (nearly hair-proof, in my experience so far) elf ears, but between the (formerly?) rising cost of silver and the fact that making such a pair may be my only payable work on the day I make them, I ended up pricing them really high. Also I kind of hate making them, but then I also hated making the second style, which has gotten so popular that I seem to be making a few pairs every week, and now it's kind of meditative. Assuming I get the time and space to do it, that is, which isn't always the way it goes, but still - usually positive experience now. I hope this will be true of the hair-friendly style, especially now that I've figured out a way to do it that doesn't drive me completely and utterly batshit like the first three sets.

Hey! Right! Have I actually linked to my Etsy listings here? These are my ears:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/Ayalanya?section_id=7979070 (should link to the particular section, since I currently have two ready-made listings and two "create your own" listings)

I am so proud of them.

Man, I am tired lately. I'm trying to counter it with exercise and cutting out dairy (again), but I still often end up lying on the couch doing nothing more often than I think I should. Elizabeth sometimes joins me for snuggling. She's a great kid, and I'm really enjoying her right now, but I'm worried about her activity levels dropping with mine - seems like she wants to keep me company, so she isn't as "runrunrun" as she used to be. No idea what's normal. Oh, hah, also Scott is getting baby fever again. Lots of luck with that one. I don't know if I even want to have (or start) another kid while we're still in this state, but I definitely want to get back to feeling like myself before we start trying.

When I have the brain for it, I'm spending a lot of energy on next year's ren faire. I've started making what I hope will be period Irish garb, which may or may not end up being period, but should certainly be ren faire-friendly. Things I need to do include - aside from production of stuff to sell - tent acquisition, sign acquisition, table and chair and display acquisition...a lot of acquisition, really. I think I need an EIN (suspect my social security number isn't going to be enough for taxes on this one), and I definitely need a company name. I'm kind of stuck though, so I've actually decided to do a contest - $75 gift certificate (for my Etsy shop if you want something there, or we can talk custom orders, or...well, you name it) if you can think up an awesome name. Details at my Facebook jewelry page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/alanya-divine-jewelry/contest-name-my-jewelry/230129583667882 ...I could really use help on this one, actually. Alanya Divine Jewelry just doesn't seem like enough, as much as I love my current personal name.

Things are going really well in our lives, I think. Scott has a good work/life balance going, and my jewelry is almost entirely self-sustained now (exception: just bought some silver because it's lower than it was last week, and I was out, and he paid for that). Elizabeth is awesome, Scott is awesome, and if I could just bootstrap myself out of this brain fog, I daresay I would think myself kind of awesome too. My world has narrowed to family and business, lately, and I keep fighting the urge to apologize to everyone because realistically that's all I can balance at the moment (unless y'all want to visit, because I can totally do in-person interaction, it seems).

Oh hey - I don't know what happened, but I do apologize for not replying to comments on the last few posts. I didn't get any notifications until a few days after comments were posted, and by then it felt weird. I really appreciated them, though. Thank you guys.
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I had a rather scary incident last week. Involves IUD side effects ) So my appointment was today, and they checked on everything and everything was fine. Then the NP suggested that I get my thyroid checked out if it happened again, then said "do you want to get that sent off today? It's only $20" - which felt better than waiting, so I did. What I didn't realize was that the constant exhaustion could be a symptom of thyroid issues, and maybe even the moodiness. God. I thought I just needed time alone, but maybe it's something else.

So now I'm wondering - what would I be like if I got the ADD under control and weren't constantly tired? Would I be a nicer person or just more productive, or would I still feel overwhelmed and crazy? Hmmm.
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Because honestly, life *is* good, and I *am* making progress in directions that make me happy:

- A store out in Dickson actually contacted me through Etsy, asking if I would like to place my work there. I'm renting a "booth" (part of a multi-tiered shelf) for $25/month, and I have to mark up my prices about 20-25% for their particular flavor of consignment. Made my first sale two days ago, half of which is paying for next month.

- That same store wants me to teach jewelry making classes, especially wire work. After dithering about it and going back and forth for a while, we've decided that I'll teach braiding techniques, cab setting (for which I'll need to find that booklet I bought last year, since my particular methods are not "traditional"), and beaded chains. Timeline TBD. In the meantime, this Thursday, I'm teaching a basic beading class.

- Also: pearl knotting! I'm still pleased that I came up with that one. People can bring in their broken pearl necklaces and learn how to repair them, bring in their own strand of pearls to be strung with their own clasp, or they can buy a kit from me containing a strand of pearls and a clasp. Considering how much I earned doing it vs how much jewelry stores charge, it would be vastly cheaper for people to learn to do it themselves. Also it would be very satisfying to do it again, especially since I made zero progress on my plans to start doing it professionally and independently while on maternity leave.

- Another store, this one up in Boston, responded to my email saying "we're full up right now, but please contact us again when you're going to be in the area!". This is heartening!

- I'm also looking at getting back into modeling, maybe. To be totally honest, in the traditional world of modeling, I'm getting old (26 on Wednesday). I may have missed that boat, and that's okay. But since leaving Florida, my appearance is apparently remarkable, and I liked the way I felt knowing that there were high-quality, flattering pictures of me out there (well, er, along with the high-quality, totally ludicrous pictures of me in fake bondage). This is totally not a bid for (more) compliments; I'm just really happy with the way I look right now, and with the largely non-threatening attention I'm getting around here. I'd like to capture that feeling.

- The weather is getting gorgeous. Really amazingly beautiful.

(I should start tagging entries again. "Good moods by force of will", indeed. Maybe I can clean up my workspace today, too.)
ayalanya: (Default)
It's not exactly that I'm never on Livejournal (or Dreamwidth), it's just that Facebook's format is so much easier for things that I can post in under five minutes. If you don't happen to be friends with me on Facebook - or you don't read much there - you might miss a lot of my life, and I might miss a lot of yours. I really hope this eventually changes, but I'm still flabbergasted by how busy I feel, how little I can concentrate for any real length of time, and how I can't seem to prioritize tasks when I have more than a few minutes to work with.

Not sure where we left off here. Let's see. We went down to Florida at the end of last month for Miss Babybutt's first birthday. It was interesting and weird. Got to spend time with some of the people we wanted to see, but didn't get to see any of my Floridian friends except for those made through work. I almost miss living there, except for the traffic. It was madness after living in TN for so long.

Elizabeth is growing like a weed. Scott is working ridiculous hours, and we're just trying to find balance between our jobs (if you can call my work a job at this point) and raising this kid. I find it kind of pathetic how overwhelmed I am by simply being in the same room as my child. I can't do any paid work with her in the house unless Scott is here to watch her (or she's napping), and even then it's massively difficult. Housework is challenging when she's awake. Basically I feel like I can't get anything done, and I almost never relax, even when doing things that used to relax me (such as making jewelry). This feeling often prevents me from even starting things, based on the idea that I will be interrupted fifty times before it's finally done, so I'm exhausted before I even start and then I'm even more stressed out because I didn't do what needed to be done when I had the chance. The house is a mess, my workspace is a mess, and I'm a mess. I feel like I must be some kind of weak-willed person, unable to function smoothly just because of this tiny person in my life. And come on, I've had a year to adjust, shouldn't I be able to do this? But the reality is, I never get a break. I am never alone. If she is in the house, I am not relaxing, and that gets exhausting. There is no one - no one - I can give her to in order to get even an hour without another human being in my presence. Scott does not take her out when he's watching her, ever. We don't yet have our income built back up to the point where we can hire a babysitter again. I'm going insane, and it's coming out in awful ways and not at all helping to keep our relationship good. I've been trying to simplify my life too, as much as possible, and have been pushing to smooth the little wrinkles in my psyche so at least I don't have to worry about my brain trying to eat me. Yeah, that's not going so well.

Things are on the upswing though, for now. I think I have managed to get through to Scott regarding what I need out of childcare. He's going to be assuming even more of the office duties soon, probably, because we don't agree on the notion of paying me for it, and frankly my self-esteem does not need an unpaid job I don't even like. What the fuck happened here? This was going to be a happy post. Okay. Happy things from here on out.

- Today we went to the local ren faire. It's way better than the one in Florida, and like King Richard's Faire, it appears to be a permanent fairground! There's even a castle in the vicinity, and you can take tours.

- E and I wore fabulousness of my own making. I sewed the most complicated dress I've ever constructed, and it was amazing. I made it out of a skirt I'd made years ago, which only looked good with midriff tops (not gonna happen now). For Halloween last year I made E a dress out of the leftover fabric, but never put her in it (except for a photo op). So we matched and looked really fantastic. I also wore a necklace, and plain silver elf ears. I don't yet have a (good) picture of the ones I wore, but they were way better than the style I'm linking to here. Anyway, so I handed out a lot of business cards, and am going to apply to vend next year, as soon as applications open up.

- Did I say that loudly enough? I'm going to try to vend at a faire! An entire booth of my own stuff! There's going to be a lot of work before I can even apply; they require a picture of the tent you plan to use and garb you plan to wear and other such things. Luckily I have until September. Holy crap this could be big. Everyone (staff-wise) was completely taken with the ears, and said I might run the risk of running out.

- Scott is pretty fabulous, I have to say. He's doing a lot, and is an excellent father.

- All things considered, Elizabeth is still the best baby I could want, even when she's driving me nuts. She's opinionated, passionate, affectionate and talkative. She's *smart*. Sometimes I can't believe how quickly she figures things out. I'm counting on her eventually being smarter than either of us. ;)

I...think that's it for now, which is kind of weird, considering that it's been a month since my last post. Hmm.
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I'm just getting this out of my system - I'm angry, and not sure I'm right to be angry, but I don't want this simmering in my head right now.

About eight or nine years ago, I had just started selling my jewelry. I was charging almost nothing for the work itself, focusing instead on recouping the cost of materials, and I decided to vend at an SCA May Day event. One woman came up to examine my stuff, and asked "what makes this necklace $20?". I explained, somewhat brusquely, how much it had cost to make it. She said "oh" and walked away.

A few years earlier, a church acquaintance commissioned a set of four drawings/paintings for her family for Christmas. When I told her how much she could expect to pay ($20/painting), she seemed very surprised. She bargained me down to $20 total plus a thing I didn't actually want, a cutesy useless product she had just started making herself. When I delivered the paintings to her, she paid me $5, gave me two of her products instead of one, and returned the one I had done that depicted an African man (it was a fae four seasons set, and he was summer, sitting by a river that I assume was in Africa due to the book illustration I had drawn inspiration from. This was the first really obvious example of the quiet racism that permeated my childhood, which is why it sticks out for me). I wrote her a rather angry email and she delivered the remaining $15 the next day, a little sheepish.

Probably around the same time, I had an account on Elfwood to show off my drawings and paintings. Someone found my work and emailed me, asking for study drawings of people in various poses. I quoted my prices, and they said "forget I even asked". I think I was on LJ by then, I dunno, but I remember getting feedback from various friends online who said that I had in fact done the right thing by not offering to do it for free.

So back to jewelry. I've been told for years that my prices are too low, except by those who told me they were too high because they wanted to chase me out of their store (Broom Closet, I'm worth it now). Or, uh, other vendors who wanted a discount (I gladly offer discounts when I can afford it and when I have good reason - please don't ever *ask* me for a discount, though, because I will be rather peeved). I've submitted to some who were louder than others, foisting lists off to them and telling them to price my work instead (thank you, [personal profile] australian_joe - you taught me some excellent basics for pricing). My prices have remained extremely low for the materials and work involved, compared with just about every decent-sized retail you'll ever see selling work like mine. And the fact that silver was relatively cheap helped enormously; I had a huge stockpile thanks to being financially solvent for a while.

But that has changed.

I started making the elf ears. They've caught on - hooray! I've started to enjoy making them, although now that they're my main work, it feels weird and extremely fast and easy when I make anything else. Not complaining, mind. So now I'm almost out of silver, and it's time to order more, so the guy who ordered 20 pairs gave me an advance to buy more wire. Here's the thing - I quoted him a bulk rate and down payment before checking the current price of silver. I checked the price and...oh my god. It's nearly doubled since my last major wire order. I didn't notice because I always had plenty, so all I ever had to pay attention to was the fiddly details, like earring hooks and clasps and sometimes chains. So I sent in some scrap silver to trade for some of it, I used up almost all my stockpile to make half the order, and used his down payment to pay for the other half, because that's all it covers. Because my bulk rate was too low, I'm going to be making about $5/hour for these ears. For reference, before we had to let her go, I was paying my babysitter $20/hour. Because Scott's job is basically halved, he's been home a lot more, which thankfully takes care of the childcare issue.

So I gritted my teeth and made announcements in three places, spacing it out because I was terrified of the response. Finally today I announced it on my facebook page, and the first response was encouraging and sympathetic. I was so relieved. I'm finally worth my price! The next comment, from someone who is understandably upset at the thought of these things being out of reach, took me down from relief to anger and uncertainty, reminding me of the experiences above. Art is not taken seriously; it is a luxury. I expected this. But I do take it seriously, and I finally have the freedom to wrestle my way to the top without shifting focus. I have the balls to haul myself up. I'm not as meek or timid as I used to be (you can stop laughing - you'd be surprised at the bullshit I put up with when I was younger). I am going to DO THIS, and I am going to make a living at it. I'm not okay with making just enough to cover supplies anymore. I cannot afford to treat it as anything other than a job that's expected to pay me a living wage. If this is going to be my career, I need to make enough to cover living expenses, taxes, and if applicable, the childcare required to allow me to do my job. So yes - my prices are going up. They have to go up, or I cannot afford to do it anymore.
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Hey look! I remembered to go to Dreamwidth to post this. Heh. Old habits really die hard; I almost always have a Livejournal tab open, so it's much easier to update there when I've forgotten to reopen a Dreamwidth tab.

Anyway. This is an important post - I could really use advice if there's any to be had.

Last night I was struck with the fact that, while everything else is too complex/random to recreate exactly, the elf ear tips/cuffs are relatively easy to reproduce. I can make infinite copies of almost exactly the same thing, with variations only when I'm bored (which is often, I'll admit, but we'll ignore that for now). Therefore, it seems reasonable to believe that I could make a whole hell of a lot of them and sell them through the Pyramid Collection. I called their customer service line (let's hear it for 24/7 phone lines!), and got the url for their buyer's group. I'm supposed to snail mail them pictures and a wholesale price list and then wait to see if they like it. I am reaching higher and higher, and apparently this is the year I've gotten truly tenacious about putting my name and my jewelry out there.

My worry: because I doubt I'd be able to realistically manage more than five-ish pairs per day (call it 150/month), I'm afraid that if their demand exceeds my output, they'll outsource my design to someone who can make it faster and cheaper. I mean, sure, I'll get faster with practice, and if I can set aside eight hours a day to just *work*, I might be able to reach an output I can't even imagine right now. But I don't want to promise anyone that, and right now it's a stretch to say that I could even do five per day, since currently I tend to only have time to make one or two.

Of course this is a worry anyway. This design is hardly unique, it's just better than what I've seen out there yet, and it's made of precious metal instead of stainless steel or craft wire. But if I submit this to Pyramid Collection or any other catalog, how realistic is the fear that they'll take the design and push me out of the production? Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? And actually, if you do, I might want to talk to you privately about pricing, because I have no idea what a reasonable wholesale price is for this kind of thing.
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I've come over to the dark side. Cookies have not been provided; feeling slightly misled.

Still using Livejournal, so there may be some time between this, my first Dreamwidth post, and actual full-time usage. I intend to use them both for the foreseeable future, but am too addicted to social network sites to be comfortable with losing my f'list for unknown periods of time at random! Uh, so, bear with me while I figure this all out. You may or may not see vast amounts of activity soon.
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