January 2018
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Branding Your Shop
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1. March 2017
2. January 2017
3. October 2016
4. September 2016
5.January 2016
6. April 2015
1 March 2017 - When High-Class Ladies Wore Masks That Made It Impossible to Speak

Here's a fashion that I wouldn't like to see coming back...

In the 16th century, avoiding a sunburn meant being mute and looking super creepy.

For refined, upper-class ladies in 16th-century Europe, getting a tan, especially on your face, was not a good look.

The implication of such coloring was that one must work outside, and thus, quite possibly be poor (cue gasps and swooning faints). So to make sure they didn’t get burned, some 16th-century ladies wore face masks called visards (or vizards) that covered their delicate visages. Unfortunately, the masks also made it so they couldn’t speak. And, look as if they belonged to an evil cult.

The visard was a very simple mask that nonetheless made quite an impression. Only a handful of surviving visards have ever been found. Luckily, the most intact specimen, the “Daventry Mask,” gives a clear picture of a visard’s construction. Found tucked away in the wall of a 16th-century stone building near the town of Daventry in Northamptonshire, the mask consists of an outer layer of black velvet, followed by layers of pressed paper, with a lining of silk on the inside. The oval face covering extends out to accommodate the nose, and there are small holes for eyeholes and an opening for the mouth.

Along with the mask, a small glass bead was discovered that would have been attached to a string behind the visard’s mouth hole. This bead (sometimes a button) was how the visard was kept on the face. As opposed to unseemly head straps, a lady sporting a visard would hold the bead between her teeth to keep the mask in place. If she wanted to talk, she’d have to remove the mask. This had the side effect of essentially silencing the wearer. In the Elizabethan era, when visards were at their pinnacle of popularity, this silence was generally viewed as adding mystery to a lady’s character.

One of the earliest references to such masks comes from a 1575 text called Description of England in Shakespeare’s Youth. The author describes the wearing of masks coming to England from a trend that started in France. For a time after the trend caught on, the visard was a high fashion item among the rich and socially active. In fact, one of the only other surviving examples of a visard is an accessory for a doll, rather than a full-size mask. The visard had apparently become so popular that even children’s toys were incorporating them. But the inherent creepiness of a blank, black face mask was apparently not lost on everyone.

In 1583, the Christian polemicist Phillip Stubbes released a pamphlet called The Anatomy of Abuses. Among various other screeds (one chapter is titled “On the evils and punishment of whoredom”), Stubbes describes what he sees as the horrors of the visard, writing:

When they use to ride abrod they have invisories, or visors made of velvet, wherwith they cover all their faces, having holes made in them against their eyes, whereout they look. So that if a man, that knew not their guise before, should chaunce to meet one of them, hee would think hee met a monster or a devil, for face hee can see none, but two brode holes against her eyes with glasses in them.

Despite their unsettling and silencing influence, visards are believed to have remained in vogue until at least the 17th century before fading into historical obscurity. Similar masks can be seen in paintings as late the 18th century. Today’s fashion trends will no doubt look strange or creepy in a few centuries, but even in that far future, visards will still be high on the list of history’s most terrifying fashion moments.

Monday 9 January - New Items

It was like Christmas here today. Lots of vintage items arrived in the post. Scarves, gloves and jewellery too. Here's a photo of some of the scarves and gloves as I was unpacking them.

5 Jan - Red

4 Jan - Long, Long Necklaces at Jean Paul Gaultier

4 Jan - Ravageurs lend a hand - by Louis Faurer


I'd like to thank you all for being my customers and friends during 2016, and wish you all a very happy and peaceful 2017.

18 October - Last Sunday

Sunday was such a horrible day here in Kilmeedy. Rain, wind and black skies. I just shut myself away in my studio and made hat pins and pendants.

I'll be listing the hat pins on Swanky Jewels and the Pendants on Amazing Beads. If you want me to make you a necklace with one of the pendants, or add one to a chain, just drop me a line.

18 October - A Bright Idea

Add a string of Fairy Lights to different color wine bottles, these can be made easily, with the small sets that are available now. (Some of the lights are battery operated.)

3 October 2016

30 September

30 September - How to Spring Clean Your Website/Etsy Shop

Another good post here today by Jess Van Den ~ Create & Thrive

Use this for your website if you have one, or your Etsy shop. Get it ready now for the holiday season.


Here's a brief resume, but you can join the free course or get the podcast (I like podcasts because I can listen to them while I work) via the link above.

There are free worksheets included too.

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Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

Check to see if anything is broken
Are you on the latest website version?
Are there any links that are no longer working?
Take a look at your contact page
Make sure all information is up to date.
Consider inserting a contact form – though always ensure your email address is visible.
Update your about page
Are your photos up to date?
Is there any new content you can add?
Is your story up to date?
‘Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. Does it appeal to you? Does it interest you? Does it draw you in?’ {Jess}
Make sure your avatar is up to date across all platforms.
Take a look at your blog
When did you last publish a blog post? Is it time for a new one?
If you can’t post regularly it might be a good idea to remove date stamps from your posts.
Spring clean your products
‘Remove the products that aren’t selling or that are not on brand’ {Jess}
Removing products can be scary but there comes a point you need to bite the bullet.
Make sure your items all work together and your branding is on par with professional brands.
Switch up your photos
Try switching main photos. Play around with them and see what happens.
Are your photos up to scratch? It might be time for some new ones.
Look at your product titles
Are they logical? Do they use keywords? Are they searchable?
Freshen them up and switch things around a bit especially for items that aren’t selling well.
Look at your descriptions for outdated information
Sometimes old info slips through the cracks so it is important to thoroughly check for this.
Make sure there are no old links.
Address your front page
Decide if your front page is still the right page for your business.
Look at your branding and banner top make sure they are relevant and up to date.

29 Sept - You need to stop doing these 5 things, right now.

Good post here today by Jess Van Den ~ Create & Thrive

(I couldn't get the link to work so I've copied here for you so that you can read it direct. Jess sends out good newsletters too if you want to sign up at : createandthrive.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=dcb59e0be79255d44...)

Over the last few years, I’ve taught, talked with, and watched many hundreds (perhaps even thousands!) of people who have the shared dream of turning their handmade hobby into a thriving business.
Unsurprisingly, they all share many positive things in common.

A passion for making something. A love of being creative. A drive to evolve. The desire to make real dollars from their craft.

All of those things are vital if you want to reach your goal.
That being said, I’ve also noticed commonalities in those who are struggling to move forward.

These are the people who dream the dream, but just can’t seem to turn it into a reality.

Sometimes, there are outside factors that hold us back, for sure.

But very often, these people are actually getting in their own way. They’re holding themselves back, or sabotaging their own success – and they might not even realise it.

Today, I want to share 5 ways I see these people sabotaging themselves – because becoming aware of the issue is the first step towards moving beyond it.

1. Giving up too soon

Let’s just get this out of the way straight up. If you’re starting a handmade business expecting to be making a 6 figure profit in the first year – or even 2-3 years – please don’t bother.

Even those people who seem to be an ‘overnight success’ usually have many years of experience behind them – whether that’s years of doing their craft professionally (like an illustrator) or as a hobby.

Unless you are in the infinitesimal minority who have an absolutely brilliant, unique idea, AND know how to run a brilliant marketing/advertising campaign to get your brand off the ground, it is very likely going to take YEARS before you’re making really decent money from your handmade business.


Obviously this will vary on umpteen factors, such as your cost of materials (for me, silver is pretty expensive and eats into my profits, but if you’re a graphic designer, you’ve probably got all the tools you already need, and you don’t buy ‘materials’ as such), the time you have to devote to your business, whether you have another job, and so on.

Too many times to count have I seen someone open an Etsy shop, chuck in 10 or so badly-lit, badly-photographed items, and then throw their hands in the air after a month because ‘they’re not making any sales’.

Of course you aren’t. You’re competing against other makers who have been not only honing their craft for years – they’ve been honing their branding, photography, marketing, etc.

You need to up your game.

Not only that – you need to go into this thing with patience and dedication.

If you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t start.

2. Focusing on the negative

The perfect place to see this in action is on the Etsy forums.

There is some great advice in there, but it’s more often than not buried amongst the masses who are moaning about some change Etsy has made that’s apparently caused their sales to suddenly cease. Well, honestly, I haven’t been in there for years apart from the very occasional and quick dip in, so maybe things have changed… but I’m guessing not. (Also, just a case in point – I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2008, and not once has a change they’ve made so far had any real noticeable impact on my sales. You know what has? Me – working on my photography, titles, tags, descriptions, marketing and customer service.)

This is just one example of how people are sabotaging themselves by focusing on the negative.

If you catch yourself doing this – stop.

No-one is responsible for the success or failure of your business but YOU.

Stop blaming, stop complaining, stop obsessing over your competitors, stop focusing on the negatives, and start focusing on the positives.

If you stumble across a product that looks suspiciously like yours… click away and forget about it – after all, how do you know you came up with the idea first? (Exact copies of art and photography obviously exempted here.)

If your venue makes a change you’re not happy with (for example, I disliked that Etsy moved from a 3-choice rating system to a 5-star system, but I never once thought of leaving) – either stick with it and see how it affects your business in the long term, or start building your own shop on your own dot com.

Don’t focus on the sales you don’t get – focus on making the customer experience for the sales you DO get absolutely fricking amazing so your customer raves to all their friends about how amazing you are and how gorgeous your product is.

Focus on how you can grow your business in the right direction. See every challenge as a way to grow and evolve.

3. Split focus

I’ve made this mistake myself – starting too many new things at once, and not being able to give any of them the attention they truly deserve because I’ve spread myself too thin.

It’s an oh-so-common pitfall amongst creative types, because we have so many ideas, and we get bored easily.

So, instead of starting that yoga clothing business… we start that, and a dog-walking business, and a web-design business, and maybe work as a barista on the side.

Which is, no doubt, fun and challenging… but there’s no way we’re going to give each and every one of those ventures the time and attention they need to grow truly successful if we’re trying to do them all at once.

Sales follow your focus.

That’s not to say you can’t do them all – just do them sequentially rather than simultaneously.

Give yourself a timeframe to focus on one only (say, 12-18 months) before you’re allowed to start a new venture.

Nick banned me from starting anything new back in 2014, because of my habit of doing this very thing. (I jest… sort of… I banned myself, too).

Make sure, however, you’re not falling into the ‘giving up too soon’ trap I discussed earlier.

Give it true, 200% effort in the time you devote to getting a new business up and running.

4. Too much ‘research’ not enough action

How long have you been 'just learning' about how to do what you want to do?

Are you that person who has all the theoretical knowledge… but are yet to do anything about it?

You know I am a HUGE proponent of consistent investment in your own education – both personal and professional. I teach courses, I write ebooks.

That said… there is definitely such a thing as too much research.

There comes a point where you just have to take the leap.
Stop planning and start doing.

Yes, you will fail and fall down.

Yes, you’ll make an embarrassing mistake (or 20).

Yes, you’ll undercharge on postage at least once. Badly.

But until you actually step into the arena and start failing and succeeding, you’ll never make real progress.

5. Waiting for perfection

This is closely linked to number 4. Too often, people hang back from taking action because of fear.

They’re afraid of not being perfect. Of not having a perfect product, or perfect packaging, or perfect photography.
Nothing is ever perfect.

Get it to the stage of ‘pretty darn awesome’ and get it out into the world.

You can evolve. You can work on it, you can make it better.
Don’t hide your light from the world – let it shine.

Now it’s over to you – do you recognise any of these traits in yourself?

If so - what are you going to do about it?

Jess x

11 September - Rain

10 September - Ireland’s Treasures: Blue Ceramics, Succulents and Killiney Beach Stones by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Still Life with Blue Ceramics, Succulent, and Irish Killiney Beach Stones, by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Blue ceramics are a thing in Ireland. Ireland’s garden centers sell small and large, deep blue glazed pottery. Together with cacti, succulent plants and Killiney’s beach stones, they make lovely miniature rock or Zen gardens.

Killiney beach, located near Ireland’s capital Dublin, has a cobble stone beach. This beach is a delight for stone collectors. Killiney beach has some of the oldest rocks in Ireland: large boulders of Leinster granite and limestone are strewn across the beach. Small pebbles of a distinctive micro-granite from Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde can also be found. No wonder I bring back home a good few of these stones and show these beautifully decorative pebbles in my still lifes.

There is something special about combining blue ceramics, that represent the bluish ethereal colours of Ireland’s coastal areas, with the dull but decorative grey stones, and the slow living succulents and cacti. The stones are very old, the cacti and succulents are slow living and the blue pottery looks age-less no matter. These miniature little Zen or rock gardens look fresh and they hold your gaze for a while.

It has been a pleasure making this series. It involved sauntering on Killiney Beach and bringing home awesome pebbles. Plus going to garden centers for buying blue pottery and succulent plants. I now have a few very pretty pots in my window sill and the succulents are doing very well. They are really my kind of plants because they allow me to forget them for a while without becoming cranky. And because I feel guilty for neglecting them, I buy deluxe cactus food which is probably nonsense because cacti and succulent flourish best in poor soil anyway. In fact, my cacti and succulents are doing so well, that they produce a lot of offspring. Which urges me to buy more deeply indigo glazed pots and collecting stones for building lovely miniature Zen or rock gardens.


* * * * *

The art prints are for sale in Paula's Etsy shop, individually and as a series.

You can copy and paste this link to go direct to the shop: www.etsy.com/shop/PaulaKuitenbrouwer

* * * * *

All Text & Images Copyright Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Work in progress 1.

Work in progress 2.

Work in progress 3.

Paula's desk with a drawing in progress and the still life in front of it.

8 September - Autumn is coming

9 September - Christian Dior Window Display - Paris

In the Christian Dior Window Display
Photo by Paris in Four Months on Flickr

5 September - The Romance of Moonstone

The Romance of Moonstone by Shelia Ortego

The name "moonstone" was coined by the ancient Greeks to describe gemstones that displayed the moon's beautiful milky shimmer. If you wore a moonstone, it was believed to arouse true love; it was a magical talisman for lovers. Both Romans and Hindus believed Moonstone was formed out of moonlight, or drops of moonlight. It came to be associated with all those properties traditionally associated with the moon: romance, intuition, dreams, emotions, and femininity. Romans, Greeks and Egyptians associated the stone with moon goddesses such as Selene, Isis, and Diana.

Many believe it to be a healing stone as well, and one that will enhance intuition and insight. In India, Moonstone is thought to be sacred; according to one Hindu legend, if you hold one in your mouth during a full moon, you can see your own future.

In Gemology, Moonstone is a form of feldspar, remarkable for its glow or inner light. Fine moonstone is quite rare; it can be found in the United States, but the most valuable are found in Burma, Sri Lanka and India. The colour may be white, grey, brown, yellow, orange, green or peach – and it may even be colourless. But the most stunning thing about it is its sheen, which can be white to deep flame blue.

It is so fascinating how it came to be; if you don’t adhere to the ‘drops of moonlight’ theory, you might be interested to know that the sheen effect is simply caused by the inter-growth of two different types of feldspar with different refractive indices. One ray of light enters another layer and is refracted back and forth by deeper layers before leaving the crystal. (But I think I’ll just keep believing it was formed from drops of moonlight...)

Sheila Ortego writes for The Bead Blog Newsletter.

5 September - Number Four

Little tiny Number Four. That's his name. When he arrived he had a number four sprayed on his back with blue spray, so that's what we called him.

He wasn't expected to live because when the farmer brought him to us he was paralysed. The vet said we should have him put to sleep. However with a lot of medication and physiotherapy, he is now able to walk, and lives in the shed with the other rescue lambs.

He is small though. His legs seem stunted. But he has a healthy appetite, so much so that I have been trying to take a picture of his cute face, but he won't stop eating for me to do that.

4 September 2016 - Autumn /Winter/Spring Designs at Swanky Jewels

I've been starting to make up some of the ideas I have for designs for the Autumn/Winter/Spring jewellery.

You'll have noticed that I'm using a lot of gemstones in this range. My designs ideas aren't exclusive to gemstones, but that it what I'm working on right now.

If there is anything you particularly want, do get in touch. There's no obligation.

As you know I only make one of a kind items, so if there is something that you like, or want perhaps as a gift for someone else, don't hold on to the idea for too long.

Here's a pair of Amethyst gemstone earrings I made today...

Raw Amethyst and Brass Long Drop Earrings - 20 euro

4 September 2016 - Fresh Eggs

3 September 2016 - DIY Pebble Hanger

Great idea ....

3 September 2016

I love this...

12 January 2016 - Quote

"The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits." - Albert Einstein

6 January 2016 - Fancy Buttons and How To Use them

New in for 2016 are fancy buttons. Elaborate and sparkling, these buttons are one-offs that can be used as focal embellishments in many projects.

Great for bridal/wedding wear, they can be incorporated into necklaces and bracelets for the bride or bridesmaids. They can also be used attached to hairpins, brooches, headbands etc.

My favourite is using them as a focal at the front of a textile cuff, or try using them with lace or pretty vintage material to make the centre of a flower.

I've added a few photographs below, to show you some, and how to use them.

Can you think of any different ways? Let me know if you can, by using the 'contact' button at the top of the page. I'd also love to see any of your work.

A Surefire Prediction List For 2016 by Seth Godin....

Surefire predictions

I'm betting on the following happening in 2016:

An event will happen that will surprise, confound and ultimately bore the pundits.

Out of the corner of your eye, you'll notice something new that will delight you.

You'll be criticized for work you shipped, even though it wasn't made for the person who didn't like it.

Something obvious will become obvious.

A pop culture emergency will become the thing that everyone is talking about, distracting us from the actually important work at hand.

You'll gain new leverage and the ability to make even more of a difference.

We'll waste more than a billion hours staring at screens. (That's in total, but for some people, it might feel like an individual number).

That thing that everyone was afraid of won't come to pass.

Some people will gain (temporary) power by ostracizing the other, amplifying our fears and racing to the bottom.

And the long-term trend toward connection, dignity and possibility will continue. Slowly.

Opportunities will be missed. Lessons will be learned.

You'll say or write something that will shine a light, open a door and make a connection.

Nothing will be as perfect as we imagined it. Many things will be better than that, though.

Leaps will be taken.

You will exceed expectations.

The project you've been working on will begin to pay off in unexpected ways, if you're open to seeing them.

You will start something. And quit something.

That expensive habit that you don't even enjoy that much will continue to be expensive.

We'll forget some hard lessons but we'll also learn some new ones.

A pretty safe list, because, of course, this always happens.

{Level up}

Cary Grant photographed on the top of the Hotel Raphael in Paris, 1956.

Here's one of my 1950's all time faves Cary Grant (NOT wearing sunnies - but still looking cool !)

9 April 2015 - 1950s Cat Eye Sunglasses

I've just been browsing 1950's photo's on Pinterest. I love the 1950's as you know, which is why I sell tons of 1950's jewellery and accessories.

It seems that everyone wore cat eye sunglasses, and ordinary cat eye spectacles too- whether exaggerated or not, they were de rigour.

I have lots for sale on Swanky Jewels, and here's a couple of original 1950's photo's I found which show you how to wear them and look cool...

black and white photo of hip young girl. good housekeeping june 1952.
flickr by File Photo

Found on icorso.com Grace Kelly

8 April 2015 - Amazing Beads Newsletter

I'm writing this letter to you with a lamb on my lap (that could be the title of a book couldn't it? "A Lamb on my Lap"). As you can imagine it's quite a task. The reason for the lamb on my lap is that Roisin (for that is her name) was brought to me two days ago by my neighbour farmer. Her mother had one big lamb and Roisin - who at just about 6 inches wasn't expected to survive, so he rushed her round to me.

When she turned up she couldn't see, couldn't bleat, couldn't walk, but boy was she hungry. Yesterday, after being fed regularly - just a tiny bit whenever she shouts - she stood up and started to stagger about on her tiny legs, and her eyes started to open up.

Today she is starting to bleat, although it's more like a little grrrl ! sound. So she's still here, being kept warm on my lap.

There's a long way to go, and of course no guarantees because she gets cold, trembles a lot and isn't breathing properly, but she's feisty and has a lot of willpower for a mini lamb.

* * * * *

At this time of the year we are all starting to feel more cheerful and inspired. Here in Kilmeedy no colour sighting is looked forward to as much as green, and the yellows of the daffodils and primroses, closely followed by the pastels of the blossoms on the trees, pink in particular. Yes it's Springtime at last.

Of course the flowers and spring blossoms fade away all too quickly, an although they are replaced by more, why not try to immortalise the joy you feel when you see them, with bright and cheerful lusciously coloured jewellery and beading projects.

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My web designer is currently working on a new integration for the two websites onto mobile. That will be up and running in a day or so and will make it much easier for you to view the sites on you mobile etc.

* * * * *
Remember that the jewellery both handmade and vintage, as well as other smashing vintage accessories, including some woop de doo sunglasses are all in the Swanky Jewels shop now. www.swankyjewels.net or click on the link on the top row, when you visit www.amazingbeads net.

* * * * *

Sad news. My oldest ewe Alice died the other week, and so did Pye goose. Both from old a

I must love you and leave you now, for I have a tiny Roisin wanting her next feed, she keeps pucking my hands as I'm trying to type, and six other buckerooneys outside roaring for theirs.

Now I'll leave you to nip over to www.amazingbeads.net and have a peek at all the goodies in peace and quiet, or click on any of the bead thumbnails to take you there. Have a great time designing and beading your spring jewellery.

Speak soon,


The fact that jellyfish have survived for 650 million years despite not having brains is great news for stupid people.

2 April 2015 - Aqua

Christian Dior Haute Couture. Found on fieldstonehilldesign.com

Free Printable

via gemgoode.deviantart.com