My Five Favourite Photo Apps for the iPhone

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I’m a point and shoot kinda gal.  I admire people with fancy cameras– I look at them like they are carrying tardises (tardi?) around their necks.  Yeah, the idea sounds great but how would you make sense of all the buttons and dials and stuff? I’m no photographic Time Lord.

plasticbulletI was slow to come to smart phones (see previous Luddite posts) but once I did I realized the camera is intuitive and made for monkey photographers like myself.  The first photo editing app I loved was Plastic Bullet. It hasn’t been updated since 2011, and I kind of wish they would update it; even if more sophisticated tools are available now.  I loved the fruit machine/jackpot aspect– the results seemingly randomized.

Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess

Edited using Afterlight and A Beautiful Mess

I still take most of my product photography with a point and shoot camera, but increasingly I’ve started to use my iphone for certain images, to execute specific ideas or edit and post on the go.

A Beautiful Mess– A self-titled photo editing app by lifestyle bloggers, this is useful for cute overlays and suprisingly lovely filters.  It offers  a quick and dirty way to add text and visual interest for sale graphics, though to be honest I use it mostly for personal stuff, as I find scaling to change the size of the font very fiddly.   Still, I have used it on the fly satisfyingly.

Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram

Ingredients for the Old School Goth glasses chains, edited with Instagram

Instagram, how I love thee. I almost forgive you for being owned by Facebook. Not only is it a wonderful source of community and daily inspiration for me, it’s a nifty photo editor.  Perhaps the filters a cliche but with the new, subtler ones, I still embrace them.

Afterlight is a filtering app with more subtle-to-dramatic variations available. It also has a useful framing feature with prints available that are all pretty adorable.

My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.

My tarot necklace, image edited with Snapseed.

Snapseed– Google’s photo editing app has been updated but I am using the old version.  If you are using the new one, how is it? I have not heard good things and I love it so, I’m unwilling to update it to the latest version.  The grunge filter makes me nostalgic for Plastic Bullet, and has a bit of that random, luck-of-the-draw feeling. I love especially the Drama filter to set and instant mood, especially when I’m photographing landscapes, architecture or certain jewellery.  The HDR scape when used sparingly, can really bring out the colour and texture of not-so-great phone photos.  I’m sure if I actually invested in a DSLR and learned to use it I would be much better off but until then, Snapseed is a life saver.

Self portrait, edited with Mextures.

Self portrait, edited with Mextures.

Mextures is my all time favourite editing app. It’s fair to say I’m obsessed with it.  Though I don’t use it for product photography often, it trumps all when it comes to creating a photograph that communicates the feeling of the place or thing you are trying to capture.  It is quite a painterly app, where you layer filters and textures infinitely or minimally to create images that are either subtly enhanced or completely altered and abstracted.

What are your favourite photo editing apps? How do you use them?

Bindis are Here!

The Yeti Bindi, soon to be available in my online shops.

The Yeti Bindi, soon to be available in my online shops.

Many people have asked me to make bindis over the years, and after a costuming get-together with my American Tribal Style Belly Dance Troupe, Brigantes Tribal, I caught the bindi bug. After testing them myself, I can happily say they are dance/party ready.

IMG_9751 What is a bindi?  Bindu is a sanskrit word meaning dot and is traditionally worn by Hindu women as a spiritual symbol, but the bindi has grown into a fashion statement in the countries where it was traditionally worn as a red dot of power, expertly applied.  It has also become an item of adornment across cultures.

The bindi’s traditional significance has many beautiful aspects– it heightens the inward gaze, and adorns the third eye chakra, which is the locus of inspiration and the place of focus in meditation.

The beautiful and inspiring Kristine Adams and myself at Eastern Beats last year, both wearing bindis!

The beautiful and inspiring Kristine Adams and myself at Eastern Beats last year, both wearing bindis!

Nothing enhances the eyes like a bindi– adding intensity and sparkle to the most expressive part of the face.  I love to wear bindis while I dance, as a beautiful adornment as well as a sign of respect and honour of the roots of my dance, many of which come from classical Indian dance.  Also, I couldn’t dance without my third eye– without spiritual connection and deep-mind instinct!  The bindi reminds me to dance from that place, the inspired soul-mind at work.

My bindis are inspired by dance and Pagan ritual as well as myths and legends.  They would enhance your ensemble at any Pagan celebration or handfasting!

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My bindis are made with care to last through multiple wearings.  I use spirit gum to apply mine, but others use eyelash glue and it works for them.  I need something a bit more heavy duty because I can get pretty, ahem, dewy when I dance. If you choose to use spirit gum, thinly coat the back of the bindi and leave it to get tacky.  Do your eyes or lips or something and come back after several minutes have passed.  Place it directly on the skin and hold for a few seconds.  When removing the bindi be sure to clean any makeup off the back either with olive oil or vodka will also work!

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On the Wings of the Morning, Edward Robert Hughes. Because we all have to start the day somehow.

 

I love checklists, to do lists, laundry lists, lists of all kinds.  If I brainstorm it will be a list.  If I feel overwhelmed or stressed, I make a list.  After all, a list is just a poem with a purpose.

Before I get to work on my shop, I have a list I follow every morning. It’s what has to happen before I get to work on the shop.

  • Medications, you take them
  • What day is it?
  • Have a wash
  • laundry happens.
  • vitamins
  • food dreams for the day
  • money wrangling
  • word up to the disir and the wights
  • Tend the sprouts and greet the plants
  • 10 minute yoga
  • floss your teeth
  • clean the cat box.

How do you start your day? Do you have any lists that keep you sane?

Only So Many Hands: My Thoughts on Etsy’s IPO.

Women knitting socks during WWI.  Handmade still matters.

Women knitting socks during WWI. Handmade still matters.

Etsy’s IPO happened this month- this is not news.  With damning headlines like “Etsy files for Handcrafted IPO,” I’d like to say I was prepared for this. For the last 3 years this transformation of Etsy has been looming. As a seller what does this mean for me? What will I do? I’ve written this blog post hundreds of times in my head, trying to make sense of it before committing it to cyberspace.  It was procrastination born of a sad heart.

Many sellers have already left Etsy– I have been slow to make that decision because I have so many wonderful, loyal customers who simply prefer to shop on Etsy, but I feel I can no longer go on selling happily there. Luckily, I have built an independent shop to replace my Etsy shop– first on Indiemade and now on Shopify, which I’m much happier with than the Etsy platform.  You can see my independent shop at http://feralstrumpet.co.uk.

Chad Dickerson, Etsy's CEO.  Thanks, Chad. I will.

Chad Dickerson, Etsy’s CEO. Thanks, Chad. I will.

Etsy’s initial public offering corresponds with my Etsy shop’s fourth birthday.  Four years is a long time to work at something– it’s BA degree, a wacky high school journey.  An elephant could have two really cute babies in that time.  Those four years were ones of empowerment, creativity, cashflow and community.  I grew from a hobbyist working on my kitchen table to one of Etsy’s “power sellers”.

When I look back at the  countless treasuries on Etsy I made featuring the products of other sellers, I realize what an inspiring place it once was for me and I happily gave back to the seller’s community that continually gave to me.  I’ve coached myriad newbie sellers during the Holiday Bootcamp sessions.  Other wonderful sellers have included me in their treasuries, and have been incredibly supportive team mates– especially the Folk Reveries Team. We traded notes and ideas, ways to make Etsy work for us.  The seller community was real and powerful and the vast majority of members were women.

The people who will be making decisions about Etsy will not be these women. The investors who buy into this are thinking about tech stocks being hot right now, not about who really made Etsy what it is today. A handful of wealthy people (men, I venture) will become even richer through this. Why does this bother me so much? Isn’t this the way the world of business always works?

I’ve written about it before– back in 2012 I discussed the seller protest questioning Etsy’s acceptance of factory made goods, Protesty. Again in 2013 when Etsy allowed manufacturers and drop shipping in the marketplace, I posted The Future of Etsy. Last year I wrote, A Year After the Changes at Etsy, It’s Worse Than We Thought, explaining how the changes have affected me as a seller and buyer.

Part of the problem is that many of the sellers on Etsy are like me, working hard at making things and balancing our books, managing to be profitable despite all odds. We think practically and literally about money.  All this seems old fashioned and two dimensional in the topsy-turvy world of investment, where being unprofitable can still make you money and lots of it and where making money and growing are prioritized above all else.  Etsy as a company still hasn’t turned a profit. Last year its net losses were $15.2 million, more than 15 times greater than its losses in 2o13.  In its filing it even admits, “Our new offerings also may bring us more directly into competition with companies that are better established or have greater resources than we do..” (Read more at Market Watch)  Already, the Etsy search function turns up countless listings for factory-made goods identical to those found on Amazon and Ebay, often from the same sellers that use those platforms in volume.  The individual, genuine artisan is drowned out and the shopper is overwhelmed with the exact products they were trying to avoid.  An unprofitable company whose changes have made it a redundant online marketplace can still go public with a 100 million dollar offering. Of course this wouldn’t make sense to someone like me who is actually trying to run a handmade business.

Tech crunch gets detailed about the IPO an explains,  “In this regard, Etsy is outright compelling. Historically it has spent 40-70 percent less [on marketing] on a percentage basis than their competitors, while realizing similar, if not greater, growth rates than other marketplaces.” Guess why? The sellers, the visionary single moms, creative living-room risk-takers, the blister-fingered craftspeople did the legwork, got the word out on behalf of their shops and their fellow sellers. Etsy didn’t have to spend a dime.  Etsy introduced an ad in the UK in 2014, perhaps as an experiment? It was too little, too late.

It’s ironic that my last blog post gave 5 reason to bail on the day job culture, the first on being the ability to be The CEO of your life. I talked about my past life processing expense reports for Goldman Sachs and realizing  how perverse it was that I was now chained to someone else’s priorities to make money no matter what, to grow like some malignancy that uses up everything in its path.  Now, Goldman Sachs has underwritten Etsy’s IPO. I simply can no longer pretend this isn’t going to affect me.  Sometimes you have to be bold, and make choices based on what is right, what you feel in your gut.  As the CEO of my own life, I get to decide what my business stands for, and who I answer to.

I read my horoscope on March 20th– it was the Spring Equinox, power charged with a full eclipse and a super moon.  I look to Rob Brezsny, in times like this as on the whole I don’t believe in horoscopes, but I believe in him.

 “You have recently been to the mountaintop, at least metaphorically. Right? You wandered out to the high frontier and ruminated on the state of your fate from the most expansive vista you could find…Here’s what I suggest: Start building a new framework or structure or system that will incorporate all that you’ve learned during your break. “

I’d just returned from the Arctic Circle where I was caught in a storm at sea, had a drink in an Ice Hotel and went to the place of my ancestors in Lofoten. During that time away from my shop I made peace with being small and making changes so I can still feel good about what I do. Rob, as usual, was spot on.

Huffington Post has an interesting article about how to make seller’s happy– I’m cynical enough to think Etsy won’t be instituting these changes any time soon. I think years ago they stopped seeing sellers for who they really were, and wanted to court a new kind of mega-sellers who weren’t makers at all.  Alex Moazed writes, “…the company’s culture and value proposition places a natural limit on its growth. There are only but so many hands to make and sell handmade goods.” Maybe that’s the issue. I am OK being small. I am good with my two hands, making things one at a time without interns or a factory.  And this way of working is good to me.  That’s enough.

5 Reasons to Bail on the Day Job Culture

wonderwomanEtsy has a “Quit Your Day Job” feature on their blog where they interview an Etsy seller about their life and process. I enjoy these features even if they didn’t resonate with me most of the time.  For starters, I didn’t even have a job, much less a day job.  What is a day job anyway? I’m assuming this comes from the quip artists often hear as a criticism of their ambition to live off their work–“Don’t quit your day job.”

I dislike this idea that in order to be a successful artist you have to be totally commercial and if you weren’t you would have to work in some soul-killing job for the right to make your art at night.  Meanwhile, the entire culture benefits from artists working for free.  But I digress!

After teaching Argumentation and Research and Creative Writing at University of California Irvine and various colleges for eight years, I found myself in England, chronically over-qualified and unemployed.  I had no real job for over 6 years, yet I hadn’t given up on the “day job” culture.  I still scoured want ads, sent out resumes or CVs and went to the rare, humiliating interviews, basically the whole soul-killing process of looking for work when you are a “creative type” that doesn’t fit in the cubicle.  One of my friends shook her head and said “Yeah, the tentacles always show” no matter how you try to duct tape them away.

I have so many creative friends who are in the same boat. The thing is, the internet is on our side.  There has never been a better time to be a creator.  I will blog about the pros and cons, and more small business advice in future posts but this one is for the dreamers among you, the ones who are selling their work, doing it online or thinking of doing it.

Instead of “quit your day job” I’d like to dub this “Bail on the Day Job Culture and Make Your Own Life”, and here are 10 Reason why you should:

biz_cat1. Be the CEO of your life. One of the myriad grunt jobs I’ve had in the UK was processing expense reports at Goldman Sachs. Through the perversity of this situation I learned some money smarts but also that being chained to someone else’s priorities to make a profit no matter what didn’t make sense. I didn’t set out to run a business– in fact that is a topic for another post. My handmade business grew, and when it it rivalled my earnings in corporate hell, I realised I was the one to decide what the business was about, and how big or small I wanted it to be– how I wanted it to fit in my life. That was incredibly freeing.

A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.

A coven of witch balls- a recent custom order based on my miniature witch balls.

2. Bring Play back into work. A lot of what I do is admin stuff, packaging and shipping, internet juggling and tweaking, not really spending 24-7 with my creative vision. When something sells well I have to make hundreds of that one thing, but I still have time for playing with my materials. The most wonderful part of my job is actually messing around– making new designs, exploring  processes. While the minority of my time is spent on this, it is the thing that drives my shop.  Everything else I do is to enable this playful space to happen.

3. Schedule your time the way it make sense to you. Running your own business means you know how long things take, when they need to be done and what needs to be done at any given moment. (Or if you don’t  you should! That is for another post). When you know this, it means suddenly time is flexible. The biggest challenge for me has been including my own life and needs in this schedule.  That is new this year.  All my work expanding and contracting time has meant I can make time for myself by changing my hours around.

Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse

Odalisque in Striped Trousers by Henri Matisse

4. Live in yoga trousers.  OK, so I do take yoga and stretching breaks during the day so the yoga trousers work, but insert the schelp-wear of your choice here.  I don’t have to wear a suit like I did at the investment bank, or “smart casual” or whatever other perverse non-uniform an office requires.  Right now I’m wearing fleecy slippers, yoga trousers, a tee shirt with a howling wolf on it, a hoodie a fleece body warmer and my Boudicca glasses chain. I feel well professional, let me tell you.

5. Work for and with people who get you. This is probably the biggest benefit for me. I have had a couple of wonderfully compassionate and fun bosses in my life but I confess most were absolutely insane, like working for the Queen of Hearts.  I’m so glad I no longer have to anticipate the whims of a mad person. I’m still looking for a dependable employee to help me with admin, but on the flip side, almost all my customers are amazingly supportive, likeable folk.  Every morning when I sit down to work, I think of the orders that have come in, or my regular customers and what they love, and that puts my day in perspective. If you start your handmade or creative business and remain sincere, the right customers will find you and everything will feel like a collaboration.

It’s All Mine- Ten of My Feral Favourites

Me wearing my Slayer Queen Bib Necklace at my booth at the British Science Fiction Convention.

Me wearing my Slayer Queen Bib Necklace at my booth at the British Science Fiction Convention.

I wear jewellery for sentimental reasons mostly– I have stones I’ve found or been given, talismans of runes, my Thor’s hammer, my Freya/Seidkona.  Many of the things I love to wear were made by someone else whose skill I admire and whose creative energy I would like to connect with– I think I’m a lot like my customers in that way.

I have a long list of dream pieces I would like to make for myself.  Pieces so expensive to make, or so labour intensive, that they would not be practical to offer for sale.  I think this summer I will make one or two during a slow period.  I make very little for myself and maybe I should make more!

I do wear pieces I’ve made.  Sometimes for whatever reason an absolutely gorgeous piece doesn’t sell and I feel justified then in keeping it for myself.  Luckily my litmus test for selling something is– would I love to wear this? Am I dying to keep it? If the answer is yes, I offer it in my shop.

What am I wearing right now?  Well, I’ll tell you.

Boudicca Glasses Chain–This is probably the most practical thing I have ever made, next to my pennanular brooches.  I use this every day. I have two– one for my reading glasses and one for my regular glasses, which I need to take off when doing detail work.  When it is sunny (that’s rare in Yorkshire) I also have one for my sunglasses.

Kitchen Witch’s Pentagram Ring–I made an initial prototype in the raku glaze which I ended up keeping for myself.  Often I will wear a prototype to test out it’s mettle first before making more or offering it as a made to order piece.  Many of these become fast friends and others go to the scrap heap, ready to become something else.  This was a keeper!

rings5Myriad Lozenge Rings— I love making rings with lozenge shaped beads, the prongs at the side framing and binding the stone.  It has become a signature design and I have made countless rings for lovely people all over the world.

In one of my favourite books, A Mirror for Witches by Esther Forbes, Goodie Goochie, the androgynous preparer of the dead, wearings an iron ring on every finger to protect them from malignant spirits.  My rings are mostly copper and silver but I can relate. I started making my own rings because I could never find rings small enough for my fingers, at least ones I really liked.  My favourites are my amethyst, labradorite and web jasper rings.

Harpy Rosary Necklace by Feral Strumpet

Harpy Rosary Necklace by Feral Strumpet

Harpy Rosary Necklace–Here was a little orphan.  This beautiful necklace never found a home.  It is perfection– from its mid century wooden rosary with a slightly reddish tint to the wood, to the little harpy girl that moves up and down on her post like a magical merry-go-round creature.  Maybe I loved it so much that I secretly wished to keep it, because now it’s mine and I wear it all the time!

Floating Castle Rosary.

Floating Castle Rosary.

Floating Castle Rosary Necklace–I have made many of these but again, there was one I paired with a gorgeous 1960s jet and AB finish glass bead rosary.  I think it was waiting for me.  Here you can see one of my early photographs– when I was just starting out and hadn’t learned how to light and edit tiny pieces!

Infinity Chains– These beautifully graceful chains are hella labour-intensive.  I have made them in sterling, brass and copper. They look beautiful worn together, mixing the metals. Because it takes so long to make these I no longer offer them just as plain chains.  Instead I will combine them with crystals, stones and beads to create one of a kind, luxurious pieces.  The plain chains I saved for myself.  I like to wear the clasp in front, sometimes attaching a talisman or charm to one lobe of the S clasp.

Infinity chains in copper, bronze and silver plate

Infinity chains in copper, bronze and silver plate

brooch_sheila-9Sheila-na-Gig Brooch– Another mysterious sleeper. I wear my larger Sheila brooch with my hand knits.  My other simple brooches are my most popular design.  While these brooches are more delicate, I love their graceful curves and the fact that the curl on the ends of the circle keeps the pin on the clasp. I haven’t given up on this design!  I am making more prototypes to offer them again in the future.

The Slayer Queen Bib Necklace

The Slayer Queen Bib Necklace

Mega Slayer Bib Necklace– I feel like this post has turned into the Feral Island of Lost Toys!  I hope it offers some insight into my process.  This slayer bib necklace was another orphan.  I loved it insanely– but no one but me seemed to want to wear it!  My single stake necklaces continued to be best sellers but this OTT version was clearly waiting for me.

The Black Hearted Love Rosary Necklace

Black Hearted Love– This is my signature necklace, the one that started it all.  I was making these before I even started my Etsy shop, almost 4 years ago. I had a red cinnabar one paired with a red bakelite chaplet and a black one paired with a 19th century bog-wood rosary.  I wore them all the time and one day I was sitting in my local medieval drinking hall whinging that I couldn’t find a job, and my friend Emma said why don’t you sell the necklaces you make? The rest is history.

Bat rosary necklace

Bat rosary necklace

Baby Bat Necklace– Another of my best sellers– possibly my first best seller, the one that really took off.  I love layering mine with other longer pieces.  The little fellow is so small, and such good company.

 

Happy Friday the 13th!

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Happy Friday the 13th– save 13% today and tomorrow at http://www.feralstrumpet.net with coupon code FRIDAY13!

Friday the 13th is a most auspicious day– Freya’s day, and when it falls on the 13th, it’s especially lucky.  Barbara Walker in her Women’s Myths and Secrets says that the number 13 was said to be unlucky because it corresponded to the 13 months in the lunar calendar, the 3-in-1 nature of the Goddess.  Considered the “devil’s dozen” by the church fathers, this sacred number was demonized.

I wish you many blessings on this lucky day!