Thursday, April 28, 2011

We're Cruising Now!

The car is finished and we are cruising along on the internet highway!

If you read my previous post, you know that I am referring to building a website.  I am a silversmith, not a computer wizard. I wanted something simple and elegant, something that would take me a few days, not weeks.  That search lead me to Weebly.

I am very happy with my results using to make our new site.  Its what-you-see-is-what-you-get sitebuilder made the process easy and fun!  The templates are many and varied;  you can make an elaborately decorative site or a spare and simple one.  We wanted something simple yet elegant for Rava Designs, as that reflects our mission and our jewelry.  The flexible editor gave me an amazing number of options and let me make this beautiful header. The Paypal integrated cart was unimaginably easy to use.  All external links open up in new pages.  It was so easy.  It was fun.  I'll be building more sites with

Check it out at

Copyright Serendip Designs

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I don't want to build the damned car!

I just want to drive it!  
That's what I told the people at the make-your-own website companies that I've spoken to.  And I know I'm not alone.   I want to make my own websites, to control what goes where and how often I change it.  I've worked with designers, and while they can be good, I want to be more hands on with my websites.  Also, I don't want to wait for months if their lives get too busy to make the updates I need. The technology is moving at an amazing pace, so I just know that somebody, somewhere is making it easier to make a gorgeous website without using code and knowing all the technical stuff. So I guess the correct analogy is "I want to put the car together, but I don't want to make all the parts from scratch!"

There are now a lot of companies out there that offer site builders.  Some are more intuitive, some are clunkier.  Some offer flexible templates, some are more fixed.  Last year I went on a search and ended up with InMotion Hosting to build the website for my cooperative gallery.  InMotion uses Plesk Site Builder for us non-code speaking types.  There are lots of templates available, but I only found a few that I could customize to my satisfaction.  Plesk Site Builder is a bit clunky and time consuming when adding images, but I found it pretty easy to get the hang of.  InMotion has incredible support staff.  Whenever I had a question the phone was answered immediately by one of their fabulous, knowledgeable, and very patient support team members who easily and cheerfully worked me through my problem.  Also, everything is included in their one low monthly price.  I ended up with a website I am proud of, and one that I can change easily.  My one real complaint was that the navigation type is so small, and is on all of their templates.  Not a major problem, but inconvenient.

Check out what I was able to do with InMotion Hosting and Plesk:

For my next website, I needed to add a shopping cart, and I wanted to go through Paypal.  There are many shopping carts out there, but they all seem to have a big learning curve.  Again, I don't want to make the parts from scratch.  I want to plug and play.  I have jewelry to make, after all!   InMotion didn't have a template that would work with the design ideas I had.  In looking around again, I found that most of the DIY website places use Weebly Site Builder.  It is a very easy, what-you-see-is-what-you-get technology.  But it is fairly limited on most of the sites I checked out.  And most of them were initially inexpensive, but charged extra for each little add-on and more than six pages.  That might be ok if you want a simple, information-only site, but I needed more.

I sat and stewed for awhile until several of my very helpful colleagues on the forums mentioned that they loved their free sites from  Hmmm.... going to the source.  Their sites looked nice and loaded quickly.  The online reviews were pretty good.  So I checked them out.  Free, all the pages I want, lots of flexibility, the most up to date Weebly builder, and an easy ecommerce option that integrates with Paypal. I started working on my site last week.  It has been easy, intuitive, and even FUN!  Amazing!  I didn't have to build any of the parts, yet you can easily incorporate HTML into any part of any template (as in adding a Facebook like button or any other widget).  It looks gorgeous (to me) and if it works as well published as it does in the working stages I will be singing Weebly's praises to the rooftops.  The site is almost complete. I hope to publish it this week.  Stay tuned!

Copyright Serendip Designs

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seven Tips for Good Jewelry Photos

A friend recently emailed me for advice on photographing her handmade jewelry.  She wants to start selling online at venues like ArtFire and Etsy.  When you sell online all you have are your photographs.  They must convey texture, size, and everything you want your buyers to know about your jewelry. 

I sat back and thought about what I have learned from twenty years of photographing my jewelry.  I came up with these seven tips:

    1)  Look at Artfire and Etsy and anywhere else they sell jewelry and find the photos that speak to you.  Nothing too cluttered - the jewelry must be the focus.  Note the angles they shoot from and the backgrounds they use.  I used to use fabric backgrounds, but they pixillate in digital photos.  Try colored and patterned papers (scrapbooking papers are great), rocks, or old barnwood.

    2)  Use a camera with a macro lens.  If you have a digital dsl, a macro lens can be very spendy.  I use Tiffen close up lenses, which are like reading glasses for your camera.  They are sized by the diameter of your lens and come in combos of magnification that you can use together or separately.  I have seen them for around $35 on Ebay.

    3)  A tripod is essential.  You just can't hold your camera still enough for close up jewelry photography.

    4)  A light tent is essential for getting good lighting and decreasing glare.  For many years my light tent was made from a Costco kitchen bag.  It transmits light in the perfect spectrum; ie: not too yellow and not too blue.  Certain white buckets with parts cut out can work, too.  Jewelry photos tend to come out yellow, and the right light tent can ameliorate this.

    5)  The right lighting is also essential.  Some people get great results outside on a bright but cloudy day.  Sunny days are too bright.  But I want to be able to take pictures comfortably, indoors.  I used to use goose neck desk lamps (cheapies from Target) with full specrum or cool spectrum lightbulbs from Lowes. Place one light on each side of the light tent and one as a spot light coming in from near the camera.  It was a great set-up for many years.  More recently I invested in a Jewelry Photography kit from Tabletop Studios.
It's a great set-up for a reasonable price.
Tabletop Studio's  Deluxe Jewelry Photography Kit

  6)  Take LOTS of pictures, changing the angles of the jewelry and the lights.  You never know what will work.  Take detailed notes.  After much experimentation, I use my camera on auto, so I no longer have to note the settings.  Play with your white balance settings.  Find what works with your camera, your lights, your tent.

    7)  Photo editing software is essential.  You can get everything you need from Photoshop Elements.  I got a new one on Ebay for $35.  I recommend The Missing Manual for whatever edition you get.  It's the best book out there on almost any software, especially Photoshop.  Crop the pictures close, use Levels to darken the darks and lighten the lights (as needed), correct any yellowing, brighten colors as needed, and sharpen.  You must do the latter if you want the photos to look good online.  Then they have to be saved in the size recommended by the site you are putting them on.  They all have different requirements at the moment, though some platforms are more flexible than others.  DPI for online used to be 72, but any computer since 1999 can easily use 96dpi, so I use that for clearer pictures.  I have been told that naming your photos (each one a different name) helps in Google searches. 

And one bonus tip:

   8)  Every photo session is an experiment.  The search for the perfect photo, the one that conveys everything about your work, that makes people stand up and take notice, is an ongoing process.  There is no perfect photo.  Keep playing, changing your props, your backgrounds, your lighting. You will get better.  You will keep learning.  You will get closer to that elusive goal. And along the way you will be attracting buyers and growing your business.

I am still learning.  I always love new tips.  Please add your experiences in the comments section.

Copyright Serendip Designs

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Metalsmiths of ArtFire

There are some incredible metalsmiths on Artfire.  They work in silver, gold, copper, bronze, and whatever metal suits their fancy to forge wonderful works of art.  Here is a Collection  featuring some fabulous handmade jewelry by members of the ArtFire Metalsmiths  Guild. Click on any of the images to see more photos or buy that fabulous piece you must have!

Copyright Serendip Designs

Monday, April 18, 2011

At long last Rings!

I have always been drawn to the siren call of rings.  Little ones, big ones, all silver, gold, no stones, lots of stones;  I love them all.  I love to wear them. And I am not alone.  Women love rings. We love to try them on, to show our friends, to ooh and ahh with delight at how they sparkle and shine.

But as a silversmith I have resisted making rings for many years.  Unlike earrings, they must be the right size to fit the customer.  I have to be prepared to make them to order or to know that my one-of-a-kind design will only fit a few of its potential admirers.   

Lightly Hammered Argentium Sterling Silver Stacking Ring
I can no longer resist.  They call to me as an artist as well as an admirer. I must make rings.  I want to see what I can create.   I have plans for all kinds of rings, and have scheduled time in my shop for playing with silver and stones.  I am looking forward to creating fun new things with the materials I have used for years to make my earrings and pendants.

Set of Three Lightly Hammered Argentium Sterling Silver Stacking Rings

Here is my first addition.  Simple, small Argentium Sterling Silver stacking rings, lightly hammered.  I'm offering them singly, in groupings of 3 and 5, or however anyone wants them.  I posted them the other day and have already had a few sales.  


Now I'm off to the studio to play.  Look for more new rings soon.
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