Monday, November 14, 2011

What Happened Since May

Oh. My. God. Has it been that long since I posted any update about Mu-Yin Jewelry? Well, I guess that is the case. I hope you, my lovely readers / customers, have not forgotten bout me! Everything has been going well, and I have been doing fine. It's just that there have been so many things on my mind that I simply couldn't pick myself up to do a blog update. I have always liked writing long, thorough blog posts, which means it always takes hours for me to do each update, and this becomes difficult when I have too much on my mind. However, I have been (and will continue to be) updating photos and news about my designs on facebook, so if I do disappear again from my blog for whatever reason, I promise you'll still find me on facebook!

Now, if you have not read the post about my decision to change my business structure, it may be helpful to read it first before you continue with this post.

With the incorporation came a lot of paperwork, and I was very confused for a long time. I had some issues with the accountant who originally filed the paperwork for me, and had to switch accountant a few months ago.

I went back to Taiwan for three weeks in September, and also got a lot of new pearls and gemstones from my suppliers in Hong Kong. I have had a few requests on large pearls in the past few years and here they are, my new gorgeos finds --

I have listed a few large freshwater pearl earrings in my Etsy shop. The most notable ones are the12-14mm bright cherry red freshwater pearl earrings as shown in the picture at the top of this post. These hard to find pearls are pricey so I only bought a very small quantity. If you are wondering whether I will make rings with these pearls, the answer is yes! The prototype ring is already made. I just need to list it -- so many things to do, and so little time! See how big the pearl is....

large cherry red freshwater pearl cocktail wire wrapped ring sterling silver

My trip to Taiwan went very well. I made several business contacts, and was approached by a publisher friend about the possibility to write a book about my online jewelry business. I won't go into many details about it, as nothing is final yet, and the the book probably won't be written and published until a few years later. But know that there's a book cooking and the direction of my business may be changing in the next few years. My long term goal is to eventually have it published in English as well, since my main customer base is in the US.

My music business is still at the preparation stage and that's another reason why I had a hard time finding the balance in the past few months. I didn't want my jewelry business to be disrupted by my music business, as the latter probably won't bring in any income for a while. Piano practice takes A LOT of time and requires much discipline. It was something that I was very accustomed to while still at music school, but now that I have a full time jewelry business, time management becomes extremely important. I studied my practice pattern and concentration/energy level throughout the day for a while, and finally figured out a new daily routine a month ago which I have been following through religiously. Originally I thought I would have less time to work on my jewelry business with the daily piano practice, but on the contrary I have been working more and getting more things done, so everything is looking good.

There are a few more exciting plans for Mu-Yin Jewelry, but let's save them for future posts. The holidays are coming up and I need to get ready for those first.

And if you like classical music, be sure to check out my music website. All recordings on this website can be download for free while I work on my recording skills.

So I guess that will be it for today! I'm hoping to do AT LEAST one more post before X'mas about new designs. If you don't see me again before then, you know where to find me! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ying's 2nd Birthday

Today is my niece Ying's second birthday. The last time (also the only time) I met her in person, she was only 6 months old and just learning to sit by herself, and now she's all grown up, walking, runnning, and speaking three languages!

Like last year, my mother did a portrait of Ying (see picture above) and my dad did the calligraphy on the portrait with the words --

Year by year

Grow up happily, Ying.

If you take a look at last year's portrait, you'll see how much she's grown.

My gifts for Ying this year are a sundress and a reversible hat, and yup, I made both of them from scratch! They were my second clothing sewing projects. The first one was a year and half ago, when I made Ying her first pair of baby booties.

The sundress has adjustable straps so hopefully it will grow with her for a few years.

Love these cute sunflower buttons...

I'm pretty happy with the finishing details. :)

And here is the hat. I didn't have enough fabric of the same color, so I decided to do a little patchwork. One side has brown and pink --

and the other side has pink and purple --

The finishing details. The side seam --

and the top -

I didn't expect the hat to take more time to make than the dress, but it actually took a while for me to match and cut the fabrics.(If you are interested, both patterns came from the book Making Childrens' Clothes.) The pattern of the hat is for 3-5 year olds, so, again, I hope Ying can wear it for a while!

My mom is taking the gifts to my brother's place in a bit. I hope Ying has a great birthday party and enjoys the gifts from her auntie!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rain

It has been a very dry and hot summer here in Summerville / Charleston. Our brand new grass that was just sodded last winter never really had a chance to grow before it dried up from the heat. Then, after over a month of drought, we finally had one day of good rain two weeks ago.

Then it became dry and hot again, until yesterday. I was at the grocery store when it happened. This time it rained harder -- the thunderstorm, the lightening, and the extremely loud sound of pouring rain  lasted over half an hour. I was ecstatic. The grass needs it, and I need it too. I feel as if my creativity has run dry for a long time (not related to weather) to the point that I am almost starting to wonder if I will ever be creative again.

The rain somehow assured me that it will. The rain seems to show me that's how nature runs its course -- it will rain after the drought, you just may have to be patient..

Tomorrow I'll be gone to Myrtle Beach for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday (technically I wouldn't call it "celebrate", since I hate birthdays because they remind me that I'm getting older, so  perhaps the correct term to use here would be to "escape" my birthday) with Mike and two other friends. Hopefully this will be the first step to getting my creativity back.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Quick and Fun (and no bake!) Dessert - Chocolate Coated Frozen Bananas

I recently discovered Magic Shell and quickly became addicted to it. Today I noticed some of the bananas I bought a while back were getting too ripe, but I wasn't in the mood to eat them, so I came up with this idea to make some frozen dessert for myself. It's so quick and easy and yummy I have to share the recipe!
The ingredients are very simple...
 
bananas - I used two, but you can always use more!
magic shell - if you prefer making your own, I also found a recipe for you here
nut toppings - walnuts, pecans, or almonds


And here are the steps...

1. lay a sheet of wax paper on a plate (this is to prevent bananas from sticking to the plate after they're frozen)
2. cut bananas into small chunks 
3. coat bananas with magic shell 
4. sprinkle nut toppings all over!
5. leave the bananas in the freezer for a few hours, until they're frozen, and then serve!


 This is a fun and easy recipe and will be great to make with kids. It's also a healthier alternative to ice cream. Hope you enjoy!


Monday, May 16, 2011

New Directions

Today is one of those rare days when I am overwhelmed with joy and new understanding for life. Everything has been going very well recently. I sold many custom birthstone necklaces and rings before Mother's Day; making them always make me happy, knowing my simple creations will be cherished for a long time. 

I also made my 6000th sale on Etsy a few days ago. This means in less than 4 years (I listed my first item on 7/4, 2007) I made over 6000 pieces of jewelry by hand from scratch, and shipped them to over 30 countries in the world. Wow. To this day each sale still feels like a tiny miracle -- how did these customers find me in the big ocean of internet, and what made them trust me enough to buy jewelry that they have never seen or touched in real life? Wow. I hope my jewelry doesn't disappoint in person!  

Another thing that makes me happy is the incorporation of my business.I have been thinking about doing this for the past two years or so, but after talking to my new accountant last month, I felt it was time. While the main reason to incorporate is to save on the heavy self-employment tax, another reason to incorporate is that I am ready to start another business in music, and this would make it easier for me to file my tax returns(instead of filing two returns for two separate businesses, I will only need to file one for the incorporation). The detailed directions of my music business is not decided yet, and I'm planning to go very slowly, so I think the main focus of my business will probably still be jewelry for the next year or two. After that, I will still continue to make jewelry, although with the focus of my business gradually transitioning to music.

In the past few weeks I met some local musicians. After spending every single day at home for the past three years (since I started making jewelry full time), it's actually quite refreshing to go out and meet strangers! I'll start to attend some more local events and also perform in the great Charleston area. I will keep you guys updated about my music business as well. :)

 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New Arrivals and Mother's Day Ordering Deadline

custom mother's birthstone genuine gemstone necklace

Sorry it took me such a long time! I finally got these two new custom mother's birthstone jewelry designs listed yesterday -- the Bridge family birthstone necklace (picture above) and a family birthstone charm bracelet (below).

custom mother's grandmother's birthstone charm bracelet real genuine gemstones sterling silver 14k gold filled

As with my other family birthstone jewelry designs, both of these are made with natural gemstones of your choice. You also get to choose from three different chains for the charm bracelet.

Some other news include the new stock of solid 18k white gold and rose gold, as well as the hard to find 14k rose gold filled wire! They're not updated on my website or Etsy shop yet, but you can leave me a note at checkout or contact me if you are interested in jewelry designs made with any of the above wire, especially my safety pin earrings and forged hoop earrings.

handcrafted handmade forged wire hoop earrings 14k 18k rose white yellow gold

Now, the ordering deadline for Mother's Day.

If you are not located in the US, the odering deadline has passed, unless you are willing to pay for international express mail shipping charge.

For domestic US customers, my current turnaround time is 3~5 business days. Shipping upgrade is available at checkout on my website. The last day to order mother's birthstone jewelry is 5/2 with express mail shipping to anywhere in the US.

IF you are located in Charleston or Summerville area and can pick up the jewelry at Four Green Fields Gallery,  the ordering deadline will be 5/4 (for pickup on 5/6 and 5/7).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flowertown Festival Special!

Spring is officially here in Summerville, SC! I would love to meet more local customers face to face, especially those of you who have been following me on my blog, facebook and twitter. Stop by and see me at Flowertown Festival (booth G49, inside the Azalea Park) and receive 10% off your entire purchases!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mother's Charm Bracelet

mother's birthstone charm bracelet gemstone
Coming soon - Mother's birthstone charm bracelets made with genuine gemstones!
This will be listed after I come back from Flowertown Festival, just in time for Mother's Day. If you can't wait, shoot me an email and I'll work on the details with you.
This is a delicate design that will be perfect for layering.
mothers birthstone charm bracelet
Personally, I think the more stones the prettier, but I will show you what the bracelets look like with different numbers of stones --
mother's 3 stone charm bracelet genuine gemstone birthstone
mother's 5 stone charm bracelet genuine gemstone birthstone
mother's 9 stone charm bracelet genuine gemstone birthstone
This will be a great piece of birthstone jewelry for expanding families. How awesome is that. :)


===================================================
UPDATE: now available on the website!



Monday, March 21, 2011

Palmetto Tree Necklace

April and I had another session to discuss Flowertown Festival again yesterday. She also gave me tons of new ideas for jewelry designs, among them is the palmetto tree on the South Carolina flag. At first I wasn't quite sure about how it would turn out becuase of some technical issues, but after I started making it, I actually had so much fun that I made two of them.

Now I'm seriously considering wearing this one at Flowertown Festival.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Countdown and Practice - Rookie Craftshow Preparation

Before I start, just a quick note that if you would like to help the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, you can make a donation to various charity organizations such as the Red Cross, or if you happen to need to purchase gifts(or for yourself!), many Etsy sellers will donate the proceeds for you. I have two of these fundraising listings in my Etsy shop.

Remember my last post about Flowertown Festival? It's now only two weeks away, and I am nervous! Last night I had a dream about making tons of sales at Flowertown, and when I woke up, I realized I hadn't even made that much jewelry for sale.Ha! Guess that's what I will be devoting my spare time to from now until the Show.

About two weeks ago I decided to ask April to help me with Flowertown Festival. Not only has she been giving me ideas for the booth setup, and she also built me two wooden shelves, which were absolutely my dream display. She brought the shelves last weekend so we could practice the setup with them.This was actually our second practice session.The first time was two weeks ago, when we decided the general layout of the booth and the need for the shelves. I don't want to spoil the fun, so there will be no closeup pictures until after the show. :) But as you can see in the following picture, this is how the tables will be laid out. I will be using a 4'x2' at the front to draw attention to the crowd. The other table of the L shape is a 5'x 2.5' that (hopefully) will lead the crowd into the booth. I will be sitting behind this "counter". In the back corner of the tent is another 5'x2.5' table. This layout is designed to ensure smooth traffic flow if two people want to come in or leave the tent at the same .

On the right sidewall of the tent is a pegboard(it was painted black after this photo was taken) that was attached to the the frame of the tent using bungee cords. Most of the earrings will be displayed on this pegboard.

I'll give you a photo that shows some of the displays and the wooden shelf April built. It measures about 4'x1', which will put the displays at eye level so that customers don't have to bent down to look at the jewelry.

Now, I'd like to mention something that I was so terrified about prior to this experience - setting up the canopy by myself. Don't ask me why, but no matter how many people told me that it would be ok, I simply wouldn't believe myself until I actually tried it. After much consideration and research, I eventually went with a Caravan canopy instead of an E-Z Up (these two are probably the most popular brands for professional crafters). Caravan is known to be durable and, therefore, bulky. It has a steel frame and is pretty darn heavy, but I am glad to know that I can (to my surprise) pick it up and walk a few feet without problem. It also comes with a wheeled carrying bag, which should make it easier for me to move it for a longer distance. When I set it up by myself, I have to keep walking in circles and work from one corner to the next for a few times until the whole Canopy is pushed up. It takes me about 20 minutes to set up the tent, and then another 20 minutes for the sidewalls. Although I haven't tried, I can imagine with two people it would probably be much faster than that. 

Now, you may wonder..how much does it cost to do a big craft show like this? Well, this is something I was not prepared for. Originally I thought the cost would only be slightly more than the booth fee, since I don't have to travel (it's only 2 miles away from my house), but I was totally wrong! Let me give you a quick breakdown on the costs...

booth fee - $350 (for a three-day show)

canopy - $200 and up (My Caravan cost close to $270 including the sidewalls)

folding tables - $150~200 (depending on how many tables and what size you need)

display - $100 and up depending on how fancy you want your booth to be.

banner(s) - $50 and up

business cards and misc. supplies - this would easily cost more than $100. I had to buy a dolly($30), bungee cords ($15), business cards($50) and a few other items, and there still seems to be more things to buy.

I believe that was over $1000 there already. Thankfully, other than the booth fees, the rest are re-usable for future shows, so I suppose I will be doing Flowertown Festival every year from now on.

It's time to get back to work, so I'll talk to you again after the show - please come by and say hi if you are around the area between 4/1 and 4/3. My booth is G49, inside the Azalea Park. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gearing up for Flowertown Festival

photo courtesy of Anniehowes 

Happy Presidents' Day! Hope everyone is enjoying a relaxing long weekend. Yesterday we invited our friends April and Josh over for a nice dinner. Knowing April was a fan of handmade goods, I started chatting with her about the big local show Flowertown Festival that was coming up in a month. She told me she had been going every year and asked if I was going this year (I had just learned about Flowertown Festival not long ago and haven't had a chance to go since). I told her that actually I would be having a booth there. She started talking about her experience with Flowertown, and now got me all nervous about it! 

To give you a little background about Flowertown Festival, it's a three day show hosted at the beginning of April each year, when all the flowers are blooming. It is the biggest annual event in Summerville, SC and attracts 200,000 people each year. An actual photo from Flowertown Festival depicts the crowd...
Flowertown Festival
photo courtesy of bobkinney45

When I applied for the festival, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.I thought I would worry about it after I got accepted. After I was accepted, I told myself that I would worry about it after I paid the booth fee. After I paid the booth fee, I finally spent some time checking out the details about the festival, and when I saw the stats and pictures of the event, I literally panicked.
My first formal show was 8 months ago. It was a one day indoor show with a small table, so there was not too much to worry about. And yes, even though I had told myself multiple times that I would not do any outdoor shows, I eventually gave in to Flowertown Festival because it was 2 miles away from my house! 
In the past few weeks I did some research on canopies and finally bought one today. Now it's time to do some research on booth displays. Again my Etsy buddies have been of immense help.
IMG_3948 
photo courtesy of glasscat

I spent the whole night doing research on booth displays. There are many things I need to worry about with an outdoor booth. I have never set up a canopy so that definitely makes me nervous. I have also never handled a full 10x10 booth, so I have to to purchase quite a bit of extra displays including tables, tablecloths, banners...etc. There are also quite a few major mistakes which I learned from my last show that need to corrected at this show.The more I think about it, the more it overwhelms me, and having an online business suddenly feels so much simpler!
I browsed a lot of photos on Flickr and asked myself how far I want to go with my displays. I can have a very basic basic set up, or a super professional high end looking booth, and, of course, the costs are completely different! As I was pondering this, it suddenly came to me that even until four years ago I still had no idea that one day I would become a jewelry artist with a booth at a big craft fair.Even though I have been selling jewelry full time online for almost three years, every once a while I still have a difficult time defining myself as a "business woman" or "professional jewelry artist". I remember years ago, when I was just a student, I used to love to go to craft fairs and admire those artists beautiful booths and works and their professional presentation in general. I never thought that one day I would be panicking for my first big show and spending hours and hours doing research on booth display! Oh well, I suppose not everything in life is as glamorous and easy as it seems.
When I get my canopy, I will practice the full booth set up once before the show, just to get a general idea how long it takes and if there are some details I want to improve.
If you are around the area from 4/1~4/3, come by and say hi!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

sneak peak of new designs - wire sculpture

Some simple wire sculpted pendants/center pieces for new necklace designs -- flowers, branches, four-leaf clovers, hydrangea, rose and ginko. Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

new stamped charm samples

Just received the first batch of my new symbol stamps and had to try them out..These will become pendant necklaces and dangle earrings, with the choice to be paired with gemstones(birthstones) or pearls.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Steinway Moving In

A few days ago I posted on facebook about my weekend plans, which included posting new designs. It ended up that I had too many other things on my mind and only listed some 14k solid rose gold hoop earrings on Etsy. I didn't expect myself to get all carried away by my new piano, which was moved in on Monday morning. I spent all Saturday and Sunday working on my new website for my music business, and on Monday morning I practiced on my old upright for the last time before it was officially traded in and taken away by the piano movers.

I took one last picture of my old Yamaha U1.

This was the first time I saw how grand pianos are moved into a home. The piano movers had to take the legs off because the piano was too wide to go through the front door.They put two legs and the pedals back while the piano was still lying sideways on the dolly, and then turned the whole piano 90 degree so it would stand upright on the floor.A thick moving blanket was folded and placed under the piano so it would serve as the temporary "third leg" until the piano movers put the real third leg back on the piano.

After going through the tough moving process, my beloved antique Steinway went seriously out of tune, but I still practiced on it with excitement for a few hours, and also took some pictures for the music website. I have never taken photos of myself using a tripod and timer before, so this is a new experience. I'm sure it can be done a better way , and I really probably should hire a professional photographer to do this, but for now let's just put some "home made" photos up so I get get the new site up and going.

I picked out a few photos and just cropped them and turning them into black and white to make them look more professional and also match the template of my site.Here were a few ones I was deciding on...

In reality I identify myself more with this look -

or this -

and when I  perform in concerts I usually tie my hair up like this(although I still always wear glasses when I am on stage) -

but I ended up using this one, so that basically you can't see what I really look like - 

Here is a screenshot of the website in progress. It's a very simple profile website using wordpress as the platform. I'd like to give special thanks to coding genius Laura at prix-prix for helping me fix a few details on the design -

This is again another new experience for me. I have never used wordpress before, so there was a bit of learning curve for me, but once I got a hang of it, and once everything was set up, it was very easy to manage.

I will upload some of my home recordings on the new site in a few months, when the piano is tuned and when I figure out how to set up my home recording studio. Oh, and of course I need to figure out how to upload the music and make it downloadable for everyone. :)

 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My First Grand Piano

It's been a while since my last long update. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. I haven't had time to sort out my New Year's resolution, but I have another news I want to share so we will leave that for a later date.

I have been looking for a grand piano since October, about a month before Mike and I moved into our new house. I was so excited about finally having a big enough piano room to fit a grand piano in it that I just couldn't wait until the moving day to check out some grand pianos at the local music store.

Now, you may be interested to learn a little background about my piano obsession..

I grew up in Taiwan, where most people in the cities live in small, one level condos, and only professional musicians would own grand pianos. Since I had been an amateur pianist until I was 21 years old, there was no point in purchasing one. Also, since there was simply no room in our condo, I never even thought about asking my parents to buy a grand piano for me.

The first time I realized how much I wanted a grand piano was when I had a chance to perform on a Bosendorfer concert grand. That was the first time I played a concert grand piano, and  it was love at first "sound". There was simply no other way to describe it. I was literally in shock that I almost forgot how to play!

A year later, against all odds, I was accepted to the BM program (Bacholor of Music in piano performance) at Birmingham Concervatoroire and started my music advanture.During the whole time I was working on my degree, I felt like Cinderella being invited to the King's palace, totally out of place. My piano professor John Humphreys not only shared with me many old recordings by great pianists, and as a piano collector himself, he also loved telling me stories about pianos (which I always loved to hear).That was when I started to develop a taste for Steinway pianos -- especially the old ones built during the "Golden Age"(early 20th century). 

I did my Master's degree in Music at Indiana University, where almost every practice room has a Steinway grand piano in it. There were also other brands, but other than Steinway, I only seemed to like Baldwin. All of these piano I loved had a distinct rich and warm sound. 

After being in a music school for seven years, I had this dream of having my own Steinway grand piano one day, but I never had enough money nor room for it, so I bought a Yamaha upright to practice on. I suppose psychologically that was never enough for me, so the first thing after I realized I would have a good size piano room at the new house was to search for a grand piano. 

In October, I first went to the local music store, saw a few old Steinway pianos, and only liked one --  and of course the one I liked just had to be slightly out of my price range, so I started searching for pianos from individual owners. I drove all around Charleston, and also checked out a few stores in Columbia. I saw a few pianos that were either newer, cheaper, or larger, but there was always something "missing" that made me feel uncertain about buying them.

I don't know why I always do this, but I do it anyway -- I would think a lot and try out many things, but eventually always come back to the first thing I liked. So, after three months, I went back to the same music store, negotiated with the sales person for a price I could afford, and then bought my first grand piano. It is a 1925 Steinway model L in walnut color. The original owner put a lot of money in it, so not only does it still sounds gorgeous, it is also in great cosmetic condition. It is a dream come true. It's funny, but for the first time I feel like a "real" musician - whatever that means. :)

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