Lost and Found

I’m not the easiest person to find on the web. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I’m not a marketing kind of gal  (I’m getting better). In some cases I have had one customer remove the packaging on my items, in an attempt to make it difficult (if not outright impossible) for other shops to find my and buy my work. I wonder if they think I have enough customers and am getting rich so that I don’t need to sell more work. By the way, they owe me about $700. She knows who she is.

Everyone want to have something unique for their shop and I get that.

But, folks, I have to eat. I have to pay bills. I have to sell my work, and I have to sell it to more than the few people who I sell it to now. I’m not going to go to work at McD’s.

NC5In any case, a customer who hadd one of my needlcases years ago found me and told me the story of how it went missing. She said she couldn’t find my work and then decided to look on Etsy. I have making these needle cases since about 1998. You can check out the reviews in my shop for references to the beauty and quality of these gift items!

Here is the beginning of my outreach: This my latest batch of needlecases. If you have a business and would like to carry them in your shop, just reach out to me and I will tell you how to get wholesale prices.

Would you be interested in a post about how they are made, including some of my *secrets*? Just comment on this post.







No Outlet?

What happens when you make a lot of stuff? You have to find a way to give it away, throw it away or sell it. The last is the best option because it means you have free license to buy more supplies and make more things. Isn’t that a maker’s perfect world?

Lately it has gotten more and more confusing, overwhelming and frustrating to figure out what online platform to use for selling one’s handmade goods. Personally, I’m at the point where I spend 80% of my time navigating social media, photographing things, writing blog posts, liking other people’s posts, and about 20% making things.

Some fellow artisans complain that galleries take 50% of their price. I’m happy to give it to them. Small independent galleries help promote my work, display it tastefully and explain it to customers.  This frees me up to concentrating on what I do best: creating.

It’s time to step away from the computer, embrace my inner artisan and get back to the basics: making great art. How about you?


Creative Cross Training

Off The Grid Designs Etsy Shop

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been happily making things. Like many makers, I enjoy working in different mediums. Wildly differing mediums. Marketing and Branding experts would probably choke at the diverse combination of items in my Etsy shop, but someone in the *new* generation advised me against opening two separate shops. Her theory is that if people like you, they want to buy your stuff in one place, even if that means an odd mix of merchandise. What do you think or what is your experience?


Lions and Tigers and…Elevator Pitches? Oh my.

Marketing folks advise that every business person construct an “elevator pitch.” The elevator pitch, in case you don’t know, is supposed to be a pithy, intriguing phrases that quickly gets to the heart of what you do, or want to do. Presumably, you will one day find yourself in an elevator with your idol or someone influential in your field. The elevator pitch should get them to ask you more questions about what you do so that you have a reason to connect and maybe even give them your business card.

In my spare time or when I’m trying to doze off to sleep (which this time of year are the same), I consider possible elevator pitches, or even catch phrases for my Etsy banner. Weird Jewelry for Weird People. Probably accurate, but many people (unlike me) resent being referred to as *weird.* Me? I embrace it wholeheartedly. Interesting Jewelry for Interesting People. Even better. I’ll keep it for a while.

If you feel like sharing, what’s your elevator pitch?

In the mean time, here’s some weird jewelry for interesting people, interesting jewelry for weird people and something for almost everyone:


More Jigs, Homemade from Dumpster Diving Treasures


Jigs you can make at home from handy stuff salvaged from the trash bin!


Don’t city folk know about FREECYCLE?!

Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with descriptions of all the valuable and useful things I used to find in the dumpster alleys in central Denver. That’s a post for another day, or perhaps the middle of winter when I’m snowed in.

These wooden earrings jigs were made using small lengths (cut with jewelry saw) of strips of cedar wood. Because they are quite thin (1/16 inch in some places), I used a pencil to mark where the nails (also found in a bucket in the alley) would be hammered. I used a #59 drill bit to make pilot holes at these marks, and then gently hammered the nails into the wood. The pilot holes prevented the wood from splitting.

These jigs were intended to be used only for one specific project, but I constructed them more than a year ago and they are still going strong. I use them for longer fancy earrings like this pair:


You can see where I have also penciled in the outlines/shapes of the earwires produced with each jig. I made two sizes  – one longer and one shorter – and wrote that information on the front. The two earwire styles are similar but not exactly the same and I can easily grab the one I want depending on how dangly the earrings are.



Experimental earring jigs made from scrap polymer clay and a bag of assorted tubing/rod from K & S. (Available at some model railroading shops)

As *they* say (who is this they?), Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I wanted to make some custom earwires to better fit the look of my handmade one of a kind jewelry pieces (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OffTheGridDesigns/search?search_query=earrings&order=date_desc&view_type=gallery&ref=shop_search).

When you make a pair of custom earrings, it is nice to be able to make a unique pair of earwires to match. There is so much freedom in design, size, shape, length, small accent bead, twist, bend and overall personality. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to make custom components yourself without having to order from a supplier. Or when you realize that you have to ship an order the next day and there’s nothing open at 3 a.m.

These jigs were an experiment that was kind of successful. I used scrap polymer clay that I rolled out into thick sheets. I stacked the sheets, pressed a piece of card stock on top and rolled the stack  to compress the layers.

Using some simple sketches of positions for the holes/tubes, I chose small bits of tubing in roughly equal depths and pressed them into the clay.

Placing the tubes and rods is a bit tricky because I tried a few designs that were impossibly complex and when I bent the wire around them, it did not cooperate. I used half-hard wire because I find that dead soft is just too bendy and I ended up with deformed earwires. This all is a matter of experimenting.

When the tubes are pressed into the raw clay, the edges tend to sqwunch out (there, there spellcheck!), so I used a straight tissue blade to trim the edges square.

Each little jig was then set on a ceramic tile and baked in a convection oven.

Some of these jigs worked well, and others not so much. In the front of this photo you can see samples of some of the earwires made, next to the corresponding jig.

I have lately been experimenting with small pieces of scrap wood and nails, and some as simple as dowels and white glue. I will post these very soon, as well as more ideas for earwire design, reverse engineering and problem solving!

Let me know what you think or if you have questions I forgot to answer in this post.

I have purchased bags of scrap tubes/rods here:


This listing is hard to search, and you might try calling them directly. If you are in or near Denver, this is a crazy fun place to visit. They have all kinds of tools for small-scale metalsmithing and jewelry making. Think out of the box and consider this alternative art/craft/jewelry supply heaven. If you go there in person, you will spend lots more than you budgeted. Trust me. I know.

The Future of Etsy


Intricate seed bead earrings made by artist Mersiha Strelci. These earrings, as well as other jewelry and handwork are available in her Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HandmadeByMMS?ref=l2-shopheader-name

* * * * * * * * *

If you live anywhere on this planet and you are a Maker of Stuff, you know that there are many postings about Etsy – its future, issues with copyright violations and so on. It really isn’t my intention to comment on that now, since my main profession is to making awesome stuff.

Large volume resellers, with *handmade* (NOT!) items proliferate, but rest assured there are MANY, MANY dedicated, illuminating, inspiring artists on Etsy whose work is worthy of becoming a family heirloom.

Look at these fantastic earrings: https://www.etsy.com/listing/217048296/champagne-crystal-handmade-beaded-kundan?ref=shop_home_active_16

If you don’t look very carefully at the photos in the listings, you may mistakenly think they are glittery ear adornments fashioned from easily available components. They couldn’t possibly be such a reasonable price for all that work, right? WRONG. These little lovelies have been constructed bead by tedious bead, along with lots of love and care. Trust me. I know.

I have done beadwork. It is not easy. It takes hours and hours and hours. It takes scooping up beads off the floor after the cat knocks over your work tray with her paw. It takes culling through beads so that you don’t, in a mindless moment, add a slightly irregular/defective bead to your piece and then have to rip out row after row of stitching or — horrors — scrap the whole piece.

If you need a gift for yourself or someone else, give Etsy a look, or maybe another look if you have become jaded. Be a discerning and discriminating consumer. If you are looking for the lowest price you may get it – with a corresponding lowering in quality.

Read descriptions. Appreciate the artistry, imagination and soul of the many dedicated artists still selling on Etsy. There are many of us out there and it’s not all about the money. We are passionate makers who don’t need to get rich but we do need to buy groceries. Give us a little love!