Friday, June 12, 2015

Beadcramé. A funny name for something old and something new.

Some of this description is found in the PDF document linked below, as well as the complete pattern to recreating the necklace.

Beadcramé, what is it?

Starting the rectangle section
It's a combination of macramé and beadweaving, where a macramé-type arrangement of threads uses beads instead of knots at the intersection of each thread. The threads switch places with each row just like in some macramé.

Original neckband
This technique was new to me, and it came about when I was asked to repair a necklace for an acquaintance. It had worn and broken over many years. She said it came from her great-grandmother, who is long gone, and so it had great sentimental value to her.

Original pendant
I took it apart to salvage the beads, which make up about 95% of the reconstructed necklace. The construction method was confusing at first.I didn't know how this thing was put together, and asking online got me to something that looked similar, Ukrainian 3-bead netting as described by Maria Rypan. I found a pattern on the Bead & Button website and purchased it, but something was telling me that while close, this wasn't it. The rest of the story continues in the PDF....

FInished reconstruction
Long story short, this is a post so the Facebook group All About Beadweaving can find the PDF. Here's a picture of the finished necklace.

This is not a professional-quality pattern. It may contain errors. As for quantities of beads, which I forgot to include in the pattern, for size 9/0 beads as listed, about 6 grams of main-color beads and 2-3 grams of each of the other colors should suffice.

Bead in good health!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A gift for a treasured friend

I spent the early part of this year working on a wedding gift for a dear friend and his new wife. They've been married for several months and the wedding was lovely, but I couldn't come up with a gift that made sense to me right away. Jewelry would benefit only one of the couple. I toyed with a few ideas like beaded wine tags but that didn't seem personal enough.

Then I realized they took their honeymoon in Big Sur, and that is one of their favorite places to visit.

I had this photo I found online (sorry I've lost the attribution) to inspire me.  Bead embroidery called to me.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

I had this wonderful jasper cabochon, and some carnelian, and a little blue onyx and some apatite, some long tubes of tourmaline, so eventually, there was sea and sky, hills and trees. By paying attention to the lie of every line of beads, I was able to get a lot of texture and movement out of the seed beads.

Big Sur  approx 6" x 3" image © 2014 L Allen

The piece was built as a brooch, there are two pins in back, but honestly, it's pretty big to wear. So that both of the recipients could enjoy it, I found a lovely keepsake box at a frame store, and built my own mount out of stacked foamcore and some velcro, so the piece can be easily removed. The top of the box lifts up on a magnetic clasp so it's easily accessible.

My friends loved it, and I'm told it now resides on a table in their family room.

I hope that every time they see it, they will remember their honeymoon in Big Sur, and the good wishes I put into every bead and every stitch as I worked.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Really nifty paper beads to make yourself

I just ran across this paper bead post and thought the examples were so neat I had to drop in and post a link.

I'm still beading. I'll be posting some stuff soon. I promise.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Better Than TWO Sharp Sticks in the Eye, or Software Development for the Foolhardy

I've had several questions in the BeadEnCounter Forum, and on the Facebook page, about the future directions of my BeadEnCounter software. I decided to answer those questions here, and link back to each venue so everyone is informed.  Let me say upfront that I want to upgrade BeadEnCounter. I think it's the logical next step... well, read below. 

BeadEnCounter is designed to keep an inventory of craft components and to calculate costs for finished works. It first came on the market in August of 2011.

After 14 months of sales, I think I can pretty confidently say that without marketing, no product is sold. I think I can also say, that with marketing, your profit is small, if anything.

I've gone back over the sales figures and the costs involved and what I found out was very interesting.

When I started developing the software, I was first getting into beading, building my stash, and finding real difficulty keeping track of what I'd bought, what I'd paid for it, where it came from, and what it was made of.  Since I build databases for a living, it was quite easy for me to begin something for my own use. It grew and grew, and in talking to owners of bead stores and people I met there, it seemed like there was a real need for something basic in this market. There were a couple of competing products, but I thought I could build something with fewer features for less money.

At the time, we were very short of paying work (still are, to some extent). So I had time to work to create a commercial product, which is very different than producing a custom database for a business. I was the client as well as the programmer, and the knowledge expert as well! Turns out this all in one approach isn't the best.  A couple of hundred hours of design, refinement and more refinement went by....  I paid a designer for a logo and some look & feel design. 

Then I took the product into testing. I knew there were going to be plenty of things not working as designed, so I found a group of willing beaders who offered to test and to give me feedback. What I didn't realize was that the first round of feedback actually was going to lead to a major re-design of the interface and functioning of the product. Perhaps another hundred hours of my time managing the testing (four rounds) responding to bug reports and feature requests from the group by fixing or re-designing, and redistributing the fixed files. 

I couldn't have produced the product without those testers, who worked only for the reward of a free copy of the finished software. 

Then, there was the work of setting up the website (learning Rapidweaver to build it) and a new web host, and e-commerce (testing two failed products before settling on FastSpring), and getting marketing in order. I had built up some credit with a client who does marketing, so he invested the money he would have otherwise paid me in print ads in Bead & Button. Those ads cost around $1000 per month, and we could only afford four months. I did everything I could think of to publicize the software. Facebook, a dedicated forum, blogged about it, sought out online spots to place links or buy ads. I bought banner ads on Beading Daily, and newsletter ads from them. I got an article in Stringing Magazine, which was free, and actually helped quite a bit.

All this took more time, more research, more investment. 

Sales were never fabulous. Pricing software is always a question. After the print ads, and while the online ads were running, we experimented with the price point. Once the introductory sale was over, and we raised the price to the "regular" price, sales tanked. We dropped the price again, and sales resumed, but at a lower rate. Then the print ads aged out of the consciousness of the consumers, and slowly, the sales slowed.  I tried Google Adwords ads, for around $100 per month. I tried making and distributing about 150 sample CDs to my local S. California beading shops, with a discount coupon enclosed. Not ONE sale resulted from that, after the cost of the CDs, labels, and my time in burning them, labelling, and distributing them to a dozen stores. In the pre-Christmas flurry last year, I sold 10 units in one heady day... but mostly it was ones and twos, and this entire year of 2012 I've sold fewer than 80 units.

We discussed dropping the price further, but then realized that eventually, you can drop the price so far that it becomes a loss due to...  Support costs.... well support costs are only my time, and a few more gray hairs. But time is all we have, hey?  People who couldn't install, couldn't figure out the software, wanted to ask questions, etc. Some got refunds. Some got several hours of reading & responding to emails.  But those hours add up.

After marketing costs and all the incidental costs, my "profit" comes to about $2000. When I add up the time I spent on all the processes above, my per-hour rate is somewhere around $5 an hour.   Maybe $3. 

You know, I love BeadEnCounter software. I use it myself, all the time.  I know it seems to outsiders as if the makers of software products are rolling in dough, but the area of greatest profitability, it seems to me, is those marketing folks who took my dollars, and returned to me.... not as much in sales as the ads cost. Only one ad I took was directly profitable in numbers of sales attributable to it. 

I'm not whining about any of this. Like every other business owner, I have to do what I can to maximize profitability. No one can stay in business if they don't make money.  Could I sell more copies of BeadEnCounter if  I upgraded the feature set? Of course. But how many more, and how much would I clear on each one? I promised previous purchasers a steep discount for upgrade, so they wouldn't feel as if they were paying all over again. So I'd need a ton of new sales as well as re-sales to registered owners, which would probably be profit-neutral. For a ton of new sales, I'd need... you guessed it, marketing. And frankly, I don't have the capital right now to invest in a marketing campaign. I've used up my credit with clients, and our business, like so many others, is on the ragged edge of not making it. We haven't paid ourselves, as owners, a salary for more than the last year.   

Right now I certainly don't feel like working hard, for another few hundred hours, to make the marketing people happy and rich.  BeadEnCounter software will go on working indefinitely (or until your OS will no longer run it).  I'm going to keep using it myself.  I am going to plan the next upgrade from lists of requested features on the forum and from my testers. 

And things may turn around. If I come across a windfall of marketing money, or I have a long stretch of no paying work, I'll be back at. Because despite what it sounds like, it was a certain amount of fun to do. I learned a lot. And I feel good knowing that some people are using and enjoying a product I built. 

So, if you've made it this far, reading this novelette, thanks for asking the question. Thanks for purchasing BeadEnCounter. Thanks for your continued interest. Keep in touch. I'm always searching for a business case to do what I want to do, which is keep BeadEnCounter alive.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Funny, It Doesn't LOOK Like a Wildebeest...

Just because I haven't blogged in a while, I thought I'd get back into everyone's good graces with a picture of my cat, Meri. She's on what we call her "wildebeest," the back of a chair. She leaps upon it like a hungry lion on an unsuspecting wildebeest, digs in her claws and gives us her best ear-tilted, wild-eyed crazy look, right before she shoots down the hallway to the other end of the house. It's a long hallway so she can get up some considerable speed.

After a few minutes of ominous silence, she reappears from the hallway, running at top speed, leaps off the top step at the end of the hallway, and hits the ground with a solid thump. Sometimes she'll fetch up entirely across the living room (about 23 feet square) and bang her body into the door to the garage. Sometimes we'll hear her making a little "rrrrrr" noise under her breath as she runs, like a small boy making motor sounds as he pretends he's an airplane. 

Funniest cat I've ever had. She makes us laugh at least once a day, sometimes much more. 

That wildebeest never knew what hit it.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beading Time, eaten by the Black Hole of Facebook...

Okay, it's not so much the time on Facebook (no really, I can stop any time!) it's the following of tempting links posted by friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and some people I have NO idea how they got on my newsfeed...

Links ramped up a couple of months ago, in tune with the coming Electoral Tornado of Ads, Venal Ads, Despicable Ads, and Dreadful Rhetoric. Oh, and I truly cannot help clicking on the cat & dog links. I'm going to have to un"like" those pages, honestly. 

Even then, I could probably get by just reading the articles the interesting headlines lead me to. But then I click into a blog or something, find an article of vital interest, and Dog help me, eleven-hundred-plus comments!  Something very strange in my head often doesn't let me skip them, though I know I should.

And then, there's this.  Go ahead. Click it, I dare you. I'll wait here. 

By Marsha Wiest-Hines
of Haute Ice Beadwork
Done? Lost a couple of hours, have you?  The Battle of the Beadsmiths is an extremely active FB page, with probably a couple of hundred new comments per day, up to a dozen new subject posts, and practically infinite pictures of competition-level beaded works. 

I didn't know what I was getting into when I liked that page, honestly. I can't really say I wish I hadn't seen all those gorgeous works of art, and been inspired by them. But they're sucking the hours out of my days and I've got to bead more or I'm going to go nuts.

And I have been working, slowly. I have a backlog of pictures to get up. 

I'm going to try limiting or eliminating to the extent I can my time on FB. Really. Just don't go there. 

Maybe if I took it off my Bookmarks bar that would help. If it wasn't Right There all the time.....

Friday, July 6, 2012

Back after a short hiatus

If you stopped by the blog yesterday, you would have seen a "placeholder" site from my hosting provider instead of the actual blog. That's because I changed the URL of the blog from the blogger address to, and it took a few hours to let the change propagate through the nameservers of the Web.

So now we're back to an easy-to-remember URL. The old URL will still forward here, so you don't have to change your bookmarks if you have them. Just a little housekeeping, so we can market the blog more effectively. 

Thanks for your patience.