Hail The Thunder Moon!

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Tonight is July’s full moon, sometimes called the Thunder moon.  We are definitely waiting for a thunderstorm here at Feral HQ, as summer has come on with a vengeance. I currently type to you in 33 degree centigrade heat, something we are just not used to in the North!

To celebrate we are having a sale in July on all my Tesla Hoops– the gauged threaders fit through tunnels worn in stretched ears.  Just visit the Tesla Hoop Collection at feralstrumpet.co.uk use coupon code THUNDER at checkout.  Offer expires 31/07/2016.

These threaders now come in a rainbow of coil colours for you to choose from!  The coil slips over the hoop to secure it in place– making it both decorative and practical.

These colourful coils come in metal tones as well as brights– perfect for summer or when you need an injection of your personal power colour in your life!
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Here is a short video showing how to put on and take off the hoops:

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?

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.

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!

Kitchen Witches Pentagram Ring. Wire Wrapped in Brass or Copper. Choose size and colour. Pentacle

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!

Instagram Round Up. My Ten Most Popular Photos

Me modeling the Volva Rosary Necklace.
Me modeling the Volva Rosary Necklace.

Instagram has been my new social media hive. I know it’s not new, but it’s new to me.  I’m excited by the friendly community I have found there.  I have become an avid phone photographer, and the same attention to detail I use in photographing my jewellery I use in documenting my life.

In a future post I hope to do a round up of Instagrammers, but for today I thought I’d share with you my most popular images.  If you’d like to see more, my instagram feed is here.

The photo at the left is me modeling the volva necklace– a crystal ball rosary inspired by Norse seeresses.

Cherry on the wall of the back garden.
Cherry on the wall of the back garden.

Cherry, my cat,  helping with the photography. This is her favourite plant. She likes to pick off the empty, skull-shaped seed pods with her teeth.

Brass Aromatherapy Locket by Feral Strumpet.
Brass Aromatherapy Locket by Feral Strumpet.

These aromatherapy lockets are a popular long-standing design– I offer them in different shapes and metals with custom coloured crystals of your choice– great to combine colour therapy with aromatherapy, or if you have multiple lockets, the different colours can help you differentiate if you use scents for different purposes.

Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire.
Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire.

Rievaulx Abbey is one of my favourite haunts. Here you see a heavily edited photo of the ruins taken on a grey day, which has been manipulated to look like night. I’ve become fascinated with a painterly approach to photo editing which is available through different editing apps on the iPhone.   I wanted it to feel like Ghormengast, or some other oppressive and fantastic place.  This particular rendering reminds me of the worlds I was transported to as a child reading fantasy literature.

Me modelling the Briar Rose necklace.
Me modelling the Briar Rose necklace.

I have begun to experiment with modelling my own designs as a last resort.  It is difficult to be the jack of all trades and this is perhaps the role I like least!  I’d much rather be behind the camera.  I’m modelling my Briar Rose necklace.

A collection of my Crystal Nimbus Earrings.
A collection of my Crystal Nimbus Earrings.

The Crystal Nimbus Earring Selection. These earrings have become a popular design in the shop– with sterling silver ear wires and rustic copper girdles, they are simple yet powerful and are an easy to wear luxury. They are quite photogenic as well!  Sometimes crystals, like people, can be very hard to capture truly on camera, but these seem to be friends with the lens.

My working altar, decked out for Yule
My working altar, decked out for Yule

One of my most popular Instagram photos is this one of my working altar. I had decorated it for Yule with branches scavenged from the ground of my local park– though the white roses were from the store.  Instagram has a lovely, supportive Pagan community sharing their altars, tools and visual ideas.  It is one of my favourite aspects of the medium.

The village of Haworth, Bronte country.
The village of Haworth, Bronte country.

My photos of Haworth are some of the most-loved on Instagram– I have chosen a couple as to post them all would take up too much space, but you are welcome to visit my feed to see more!  Haworth is a fascinating place, especially if you are a Bronte fan, like me.  It’s quite photogenic as well– with it’s hilly streets and the moody moors framing the horizon in all directions.

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And this last photo is my most visited– it is heavily edited, but I wanted to bring out the intensity of being there.  The moors can be a desolate place but also a place of bright freedom.  Every colour is represented in the tough ground and the big sky.

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