Archives for February 2015

Trade show – to do or not to do

My art – my passion

I make lampworked beads – beads that are sculpted from hot molten glass.  Glass – that enigmatic material that was born from sand.  Glass – that allows light to pass through it so it remains transparent.  Glass  – that revolutionized the world when it was discovered.  Glass is magical.  It’s not a liquid and it’s not a solid.  It can be fragile and it can be strong.  Did I mention I love glass!

Tube riveted and capped hollow beads

I also make jewelry with my beads.  Actually I considered myself to be a jewelry designer long before I started to make glass beads.  In fact making glass beads filled a void in my jewelry designs.  I like to tell a story with my beads in the jewelry.  It’s the story of the desert and its astronomical beauty.  Creating what I see and feel makes me very happy.  I am blessed to look around me and then go into my studio and translate it to glass and metal and wearable art. Prickly Pear Bracelet

I also like to sell my work.  It not only validates what I do, but it provides me with a little more cash to invest in my passion.   Plus it is so rewarding when someone chooses that special piece that it took hours to design and create – a little piece of me.

But retail shows are very hard to do.  They are demanding in time and energy and they take you away from the studio.  I gave up outdoor craft shows years ago.

I also sell my work online.  (Isn’t the internet wonderful!)   But there is no substitute for holding that glass in the light and seeing it sparkle.  I also sell in a few galleries.  I love the 15th of the month when those checks come in from the galleries.  And I like to open that email that a gallery has decided to reorder.  I can’t wait to rush out to the studio and get to work.

But the recession starting in 2007 forced some of my galleries to close so I lost some selling venues.

Recently I asked myself the question.

Is it time to do a wholesale show?

Such a simple question.

But what does it really mean to do a wholesale show?

Arts Business Institute

From their website….

Arts Business Institute was founded as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2002 to serve a crucial, common need in the art- and craft-making communities – practical business education for creative entrepreneurs.

The Arts Business Institute partners with art nonprofits, business development centers and art education organizations across the nation to provide specialized technical assistance and business education for studio artists, craft professionals and creative entrepreneurs seeking to grow their businesses to a national audience of collectors and galleries.”


And they offer Workshops


So I signed up to take the workshop in Washington DC offered in January 2015.  The workshop runs in conjunction with the newly branded Buyers Market Show now called the American Made Show.  Lectures and a critiquing opportunity packed into 2 days.  Plus the opportunity to walk the American Made Show.  Plus the opportunity to see some friends…

The curriculum was extensive.  The speakers were knowledgeable.  The show was impressive. 

We had the opportunity to bring in a collection, display it, and receive written critiques from ACTUAL buyers.  My critique went very well.  I had 11 written critiques and if you throw away the high one (I want to wear all your jewelry) and low one (I can’t imagine anyone paying the prices you want), I averaged an 8.5 score and got really good feedback.

Am I going to do a wholesale show?

The answer is NO.  And here are the reasons….

  • There are way too many jewelers. Wonderful jewelry.  Wonderful displays.  The  jewelry section went on and on and on and after 5 rows it all started to blur and look the same.
  • Wholesale is a very different mentality to retail
    • Buyers are looking for product they know will do well in their market
      my product might be great but just won’t work for some galleries.
      Plus how will they ever find me.  You are one gem in the middle of gems.
    • Buyers want to know they are dealing with reliable vendors. If they invest in your product will you be around in a year?    Are you able to “partner with them”?    Will you be able to provide the product they need when they need it?
      they may be hesitant to buy from a first time vendor.  It might take you showing  at a trade show for 3 – 5 years before you build up a reasonable client list.  People don’t buy the first time they see.  They might make a note, and look for you again next year.
    • The shows are not cheap to do. Aside from building an awesome display and the booth fee; there is travel, room and board, and time away from the studio.  Plus setting up, tearing down, and standing all day for many days.  There is shipping unless you are lucky enough to live close by.  There are line sheets to produce, marketing materials, and production schedules.  Showing for a minimum of 3 years means an outlay of $15,000 to $20,000.
      Would I get that back?
    • If I did get some orders just how much product can I realistically make. At 68 years old, I have no interest in hiring employees to complete some of the jewelry production.
      I really don’t want to grow into the kind of business that selling wholesale might demand.

Selling wholesale and participating in trade shows can be a exciting journey.  Just make sure the journey is right for you.  For about a $600 investment for the course at the Arts Business Institute I learned some useful information, but most of all I saved a lot of dollars by learning wholesale for me at this time in my life is not what I want to do.  And I did not have to do a show to figure it out.


creating the desert in glass and metal

the High Desert

I was surfing the internet and came across a photo of some art produced by students in a school in California.  The assignment was to create art using the colors of the high desert.  I think they did a wonderful job!

high desert colors


the High Desert

       So what is a high desert?
High deserts are inland high-elevation (commonly 2,000 feet (610 m) or more above sea level) deserts of the western United States.  The Mojave Desert is a high desert that occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona in the United States.
       The Mojave Desert is also a rain shadow……..
A rain shadow is a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area (away from the wind). The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems and cast a “shadow” of dryness behind them.
And the Mojave Desert is home to the Joshua Tree – a type of yucca.
Las Vegas is in the Mojave desert as well as Palm Desert; and I visited Joshua National Park many times when we lived in Las Vegas.
My lampworked beads are influenced by the high desert including the beads in this necklace.
the high desert necklace
the high desert necklace
creating the desert in glass and metal

Pearls and Lampwork

Pearls found at the gem shows

Pearls – Baroque

Every year in February Tucson is home to the famous gem and jewelry shows.  There are some 40 – 50 shows each with hundreds of vendors.  These shows are wonderful for the Tucson economy, plus many of my jewelry bead friends make the pilgrimage and its fun to socialize.  The picture above shows some pearls I purchased at the shows.  These are freshwater baroque pearls.  Baroque pearls are pearls with an irregular non-spherical shape. Shapes can range from minor aberrations to distinctly ovoid, curved, pinch, or lumpy shapes. Most cultured freshwater pearls are baroque.  The most valuable of baroque pearls are the South Sea and Tahitian pearls. These pearls are produced by Pinctada margaritifera (black-lipped oysters) and Pinctada maxima (gold-lipped and white-lipped oysters). Although these are a variety of cultured saltwater pearls, the amount of time that the pearls are cultured dramatically increases the depth of the nacre, and the likelihood of producing a baroque pearl.  Wish I could have afforded some of those wonderful Tahitian pearls!

Pearls and Lampwork

I love these freshwater baroque pearls and decided to incorporate them into some jewelry paired with my lampworked beads.  I recently have been working on a design called Boho Macrame.  The magazines have declared that BOHO is definitely in for spring.  I embrace the boho free spirit as I like my jewelry to be out of the ordinary, eclectic, and fun yet chic.  This macrame bracelet was the result.

pearls boho macrame bracelet

I like to wear them stacked.


pearls wearing

Design Challenge

When I first made this bracelet I uses silk pearl knotting cord and added several knots between the pearls.  Pearl knotting silk comes in a variety of sizes and it fit through the pearls.  But my lampworked beads had a larger hole so I decided to switch to Chinese knotting thread (which I also purchased at the gem show) and i also switched to a macrame technique.  But the unintended consequence was the new thread would not fit through the pearl holes.  So I decided to enlarge the pearl holes.  It’s really easy to open them up just a bit with another drill bit that is the correct size needed for your design. There are many battery-driven or manual hand reamers on the market; all work very well.  I used my flex shaft.  Simply hold the pearl between your fingers and drill.  Lots of dust is created so wear a dust mask.  And if the pearl gets hot, drill it under water or give it a rest.

The color of these pearls are also wonderful.  reminds me of a Tucson sunrise….


creating the desert in glass and metal

Viking Knit

Viking Knit – a lovely jewelry technique

As you all know my first love is making glass beads.  My second love is jewelry.  So I like learning jewelry techniques that I can incorporate into designs which will showcase my lampworked beads.  I also love attending the Bead and Button Show where there are hundreds of classes to choose from plus a wonderful opportunity to visit with like minded friends.  So several years ago I took a class on how to make a Viking Knit chain.  The chain is an elegant way to display that wonderful handmade bead.

vikibg knit bracelets


But what exactly is Viking Knit?  You don’t use knitting needles.  You don’t use yarn.  You “knit’ using a fine gauge wire that can be sterling, fine silver, copper or any of the wonderful copper coated wires found in the market today.  It’s fun to make the chain and a perfect task for me while I’m watching TV.

Viking Knit – a little history

I researched the internet to find out a little more about Viking Knit and discovered that there is not a whole lot of information out there.  I did learn that it is also called “trichinopoly chain” .  And archaeologists are discovering these woven chains in graves in Scandinavia and England.  You might find this research interesting.

Then 2 summers ago my husband and I took a Baltic cruise.  Our ship left from Oslo and we got there a day early to explore the city and recover from jet lag.  We went to the National Museum of Art and Architecture near the University of Oslo and discovered a Viking knit necklace – created probably in the 8th century.  It was still intact.

viking knit necklace


Viking knit back then was made from silver.  The resulting chains of knitted silver could be worn as adornment by itself or with another piece of handcrafted art hanging as a pendant – sometimes even a handcrafted key.  But a fact that our guide told us about this knitted chain that was interesting was that men would sport yards and yards of viking knit as belts or necklaces and it was believed that snippets of the knit could be used as currency.

I just finished weaving a “Viking Knit chain”.  I have been experimenting on using it this time as the base of a necklace to show off some beads…

viking knit chain by Louise Little


Plan to make more viking knit chain as I watch “The Vikings” as season 3 will start next week.




Love is in the Air

Valentine necklace

Valentine’s Day

Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day is a holiday observed on February 14 each year.  The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”.  Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid.


Here is a picture of Pont de Arts Bridge.  It’s located near the Louvre in Paris. What makes this bridge special, besides its gorgeous views of the River Seine, is that couples have been coming here from all over the world to show their undying love.

Pont de Arts Bridge


With so much love in the air, I decided to make a Valentine’s Day necklace.  I got the focal bead several years ago at the Bead and Button Show.  It was purchased from Gary Wilson who is master at lapidary.  This bead was cut from a coke bottle and then tumbled for a long time.  It has a lovely satiny finish reminiscent of beach glass.

Embossed Coke bottle


The small round beads are bronze colored pearls.  There are copper beads, and some new 2-holed Japanese beads that are so popular right now.  A swarovski crystal to add a little bling and some wonderful organic kyanite beads purchased from Bonita Creations right here at the Gem Shows – all hanging from a copper chain.  The necklace is long enough to slip over your head.

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creating the desert in glass and metal