Friday, December 31, 2010

A Different Kind of Challenge

This is the time of year when some Etsians post challenges for others to get involved in. For those who sell handmade, these usually involve making items to sell: "One a day for January" or "One a week for 52 weeks" etc. Here's a challenge for people like me who are so obsessed with making whatever it is they make that a challenge like that is no challenge at all; in fact, it can add to the problem. Another advantage of this challenge is that anyone who sells on Etsy (or has a small home-run business) can get involved with this challenge - not just those who sell handmade.

What I need to do - and what I want to challenge others to do - is keep up with financial record-keeping once a month. You know, get those receipts entered, expenses recorded, income tracked. I'm writing this during a break in taking inventory. I'm now going to have to hunt all over the apartment for receipts from purchases of materials I bought during the year, so I can figure out my cost of goods sold. I never throw away necessary receipts, but I don't have any kind of a system for keeping track of them. It'd be a lot easier to take care of this as I go along, while the receipts are still at hand.

You can use any system you want and keep track however you want, as long as you get yourself caught up at least once a month. If you want to enter things every week or every day, that's great.

I'll put a post on this blog at the end of every month, so people in the challenge can leave comments, tips, frustrations, questions, or a link to their own blog and/or shop (only one shop link a month, please). This doesn't mean you have to do your record keeping at the end of the month; it's just a way to make commenting more convenient. Hope to see some of you join in.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's Hot and What's Not

You wouldn't think that rosary makers would be affected by swings in fashion. But if we buy our beads from many different sources - most of them secular - it does make a difference. I've run into it three times now.

Earlier this year, when I wanted to make a "real stuff" November birthstone rosary, I wasn't able to find topaz-colored topaz. I could find tons of blue topaz, lots of pink topaz, and a fair amount of "imperial" (golden yellow) topaz. But topaz of that dark golden-brown color we call "topaz"? Not a stone. I found some reconstructed topaz-colored topaz on a site selling rosary parts, so ended up using that; reconstructed = reformed from the scraps left over after stone cutting.

I asked about this in the Etsy "materials and techniques" forum, where some knowledgeable stone/gem people hang out, and was told that, these days, most of the topaz that's mined is heated to become one of the more popular colors, so there's not much sold in the original color and what is sold is very expensive. That's probably one reason citrine has become a widely-accepted alternative to topaz as the November birthstone; I already had a couple of citrine rosaries for sale, but really wanted some topaz.

As the flip side to that, I also have a blue topaz rosary for sale as a December birthstone rosary. Although, actually, the traditional December birthstone is blue zircon, both blue topaz and turquoise have become accepted alternatives. With all that blue topaz out there, some of it is relatively inexpensive. I wasn't surprised that it was difficult to find nice, not over-the-moon expensive blue zircon, as it is rare - especially in stones large enough to make a rosary from. I was able to make a miniature rosary from the "real stuff". What surprised me was how difficult it was to find blue zircon glass beads. One Etsy seller had some for sale, but not enough for an entire rosary. I even asked at a couple of the big online Czech glass sellers. They didn't have blue zircon listed but tried to sell me some teal instead (one actually told me they had blue zircon but sent me teal). What's up with that? It's a birthstone, after all, and really quite a pretty color. I finally found some on Ebay - and it was my first and still only Ebay purchase. The people I bought it from are now going out of business and I plan to buy a lot of blue zircon glass beads from them before they shut their virtual doors. My requests - and possibly requests from others - do seem to have made a difference, as I can now find blue zircon Czech glass at a few places I wasn't able to find it eight months ago.

So much for birthstones. My latest obstacle, and the one prompting this post, is black obsidian. Somewhat like the search for topaz-colored topaz, this one seems counterintuitive, I mean, what color is obsidian? Black, right? But what's mostly for sale is snowflake obsidian and mahogany obsidian. Now, I like snowflake obsidian well enough and I love mahogany obsidian, but I have a customer who's requested two rosaries made specifically of black obsidian. I've ordered the stones for one of the rosaries: 6mm rounds, which weren't too difficult to find on Etsy. But the second rosary needs to be larger, and finding 8-10mm beads (preferably in oval or rice shape) has turned out to be a problem. I haven't given up yet. I still need to look in a couple of local bead shops that carry stones. I also have some sitting in my "shopping cart" at an online site - but it's a site where I haven't found the stones to be of very good quality. If I can't find something locally, I'll probably order from that site and keep my fingers crossed. (There are also some things out there called rainbow obsidian and gold-sheen obsidian. I don't know anything about these, but suspect they're not naturally-occurring. They're not what I'm looking for, anyway.)

I don't know what the point of all this has been, except to vent - and maybe find out if other people have had similarly frustrating experiences or discovered sources I've missed. But that's the way it is.