Journal Status

This is a personal blog.
The majority of my posts are "friends-only" (restricted).

I don't add people back as friends if I haven't "met" them online or IRL before. More info here.

Art-related news will be posted here publicly. For updates on my jewelry and other artisan crafts as well as my online boutique, visit artofadornment.

Art of Adornment Victorian Gothic Jewelry & Costume Accessories

Visit my shop for posters, t-shirts, mugs, calendars & more featuring my artwork.

Valerian's Zazzle Shop
  • Current Mood
    blah blah

Job Hunting

Skip if you'd rather read something amusing and upbeat.

As I sit here scouring the internet yet again for job listings and/or places I'd like to cold-call for work, I can't even begin to describe how obsolete, worthless, scared and full of despair I feel.

I have been either rejected, am not needed (no jobs available), or am expected to do work I can't do, at all of the places I have applied to so far. The exception is one place that only needs me about 10 hours per month and is pretty much teetering at the edge of bankruptcy, so I have no idea if I'll have any work the next week or not.

It seems I have two options:
1.) apply for work doing cleaning or cooking, since it's high turnover and rarely requires experience, or
2.) find full-time work doing something I'm skilled in and spend my off hours liquidating my store.

I can't express why considering either of those is so hard for me, because I don't really know myself. But it has something to do with feeling like all of my dreams are falling apart, and that I have utterly wasted 11 whole years of my life living some fantasy. Why is it so goddamn hard for me to just shut up and do the things I know I have to?

Silver lining: I know what I'll talk about at group therapy today, if I can get out of this chair.
Bite Me

What Is "Hand Made"?

When I think of factory-made, I picture an assembly line where a chain of different people and/or a series of human-replacing machines performs each step required to make a product. When I think of hand-made, I think of 1 person doing the majority of those steps by themselves. Makes sense, right?

So... is a pair of Levi's handmade?
Our natural response is to say "no", but technically there are hands that do some of the work. A series of machines makes the fabric, a series of machines does the dyeing, and a series of machines cuts out the pieces. Human hands do the sewing and some other tasks (with assistance from machines), but it takes serveral people and machines to finish a pair from start to finish. One person sews the leg pieces together, another person sews the zipper in, another person sews the pockets on, another person puts on the rivets, etc. Making one pair, from sketch to pattern draft to finished product, probably takes 10 people/machines or more. Across the board, people do not consider this type of production as hand-made. We call it "factory-made" or "mass-produced".

So what does it take for something to be hand-made?
In order for your grandma to call the sweater she knitted for you hand-made, should she have to shear the sheep, spin and dye the wool, make her own knitting needles, draft her own original pattern, and do all the knitting herself? Automatically we think "no", because she, as one lone person, took a handful of pre-made supplies (which serve no other immediate function on their own) and created something new by combining them into one new object by herself. In our books, that's good enough to be called hand-made.

In my own work, don't weave the ribbon, I don't cast the metal, and I don't cut the glass that makes the rhinestones. Yet because I take all those bits and pieces (often painting them or cutting them apart first) and combine them to make a single new object, what I do is considered hand-made. Even if someone helps me, like if a friend comes over and helps me dye feathers or cut ribbon or starch lace, it's still considered hand-made.

So where is the line drawn?
How many people/machines is too many to be considered hand-made? And why does it matter?

It matters because selling venues like have turned a spotlight on it (their mandate being "your place to buy and sell handmade [goods]"), and Etsy generates a lot of business for a lot of people. And they're serious about their policies. If they find you in violation, they'll ban you. Yet they aren't terribly specific about where that line is. To quote their policy: "all items listed in the handmade Categories must be made by the Etsy seller"; although it doesn't say if the Etsy seller is allowed to have had any help in making them.

I see a lot of items on Etsy that, quite frankly, took a factory (as defined near the beginning of this post) to make. There is no way the people listing those products made them all by themselves, or even with the help of a friend or two. The general cost of the materials, complexity of the item and the potential labour involved grossly outweigh the low asking price; they reek of mass-production. Even so, some get around site policy by calling these goods "craft supply items". But how is a fully functional pocket watch or laser pointer a craft supply item? Just because you can hang it from a chain, does that make it a "charm" or "pendant" and therefore a jewelry making component? I think it's high time that we as artist/designers and consumers, as well as Etsy, thought about this in more detail. I see a lot of people pushing the boundaries who aren't getting kicked off that site, while other people who are trying to play by the rules are vanishing (for example, clothing designers who have a couple of people handy who help them sew). There is no clearly defined line, so the policing of Etsy's rules seems to almost be random at times. In fact, sometimes it almost seems like a blind eye is being turned. Case in point: I actually saw a necklace watch listed for sale with the words "this is hand made by me" in the description. That watch, chain and all, was identical to one sold by one of my wholesale suppliers. The only thing that could have been hand-done by that person was to have changed the battery.

Why, what's the big deal?
Etsy has become a massive retail venue, and has provided a lot of work for a lot of independent artisans, folks who live near you, who use it to make a living. Yes, it's that big. Because of the site's sheer size (and scope of influence as a result), it's made "hand-made" a very big deal out there in the arts & crafts world, as well as the business world. It has become a money magnet. Merchants knows this. Etsy knows this. Etsy should know, because with such a large user base they must be raking in a decent annual profit from sellers' fees. Perhaps enough that a blind eye is sometimes worth turning?

Much like "vintage", the word "hand-made" has now become the new marketing buzzword, thanks to sites like Etsy; people are (ab)using it to sell all sort of things. And when people do this, it makes those of us who actually do make things by hand look bad, because we can't spend 16+ hours knitting a sweater and sell it for only $5.99. I mean seriously, would you? That would barely cover the cost of the yarn. So please think carefully the next time you want to buy something and it's labelled as hand-made: is it, really?

Blogger's note:
I used to sell some hand-made items on Etsy when they first started up, but haven't done so in years. I currently de-stash odd craft supplies like beads and scrap ribbon and such there, and re-sell some popular sewing supplies to supplement my fees, but that's it. Over the years I have watched the site grow, and occasionally considered re-stocking my jewelry shop. But frankly, I refuse to lower my prices to compete with some of the "hand-made" stuff there. Doing so would kill my business. Besides, without Etsy's policies on what precisely constitutes "hand-made", I could potentially find myself banned if even one person thought my work looked "too good to be true" and flagged me. Which is funny, because outside of Etsy, such a suspicion would be a compliment.
  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed


Some of you who live in close proximity to me have already either a.) noticed that I am especially crabby and impatient as of late, or b.) know that something is wrong with my lower jaw. For the rest of you, because your life isn't exciting enough without hearing me kvetch about another bizarre physical ailment, I'll elaborate. I will give you the short version though because it's hard for me to focus on anything for very long. I am taking a lot of drugs.

I began to feel pain in my lower jaw, left side, the Sunday before last. Since the pain was constant and affected by cold I thought it might be an abscessed molar, having had a crown put on one in January to rescue it from being almost completely cracked in half. However X-rays showed no abscess. Since am a clencher and a grinder, the dentist thought perhaps the crown was too high, putting my bite off-kilter, and during my sleep I might have clenched so bad one night that I overstressed the muscles & joint. He ground the crown down a bit to lighten my bite and warned me I'd still have several days of pain.

Understatement. I have been taking Advil, Naproxen, Tylenol 3, and Robax Platinum in shifts (plus a couple of other drugs to help me sleep, which aren't working very well) steadily for 9 days now, in controlled but regular doses because the pain is constant. I'm losing a lot of sleep, and my internal editor isn't working very well. Applying a warm cloth helps somewhat, but of course I can't have it any hotter because it's too near my face. The pain has decreased slightly over time, although I do have better days and worse days. Went to see my GP yesterday and she thinks the dentist is right. However there's nothing for it but to keep popping anti-inflammatories and painkillers, eat only soft warm foods, and be as vigilant as I can about keeping my jaw relaxed. In the meantime my attention span and temper are extremely short.

Amusing though, the look on the pharmacist's face. I picked up more pills today and stopped to ask him about applying heat - I had been wondering if one of those athletic heat ointments might be a solution, since I could better localize the warmth. He looked at me like I had suddenly grown antlers, then smiled and told me to go home and double up on my Advil. You know you're whacked when ideas like that start sounding good.
  • Current Mood
    bitchy bitchy

Why the World Needs Zombie Walks

I was thinking today, why is the Zombie Walk so successful? What is it, and why do people turn out in droves for it worldwide?

A Zombie Walk is not a protest, parade, demonstration, marketing stunt, or otherwise controlled event with some sort of agenda. It is not specific to religious, political, economic, age, language, gender or racial orientation, nor is it funded by any source. It is a crowd of random people deciding to gather, dress up to look like rotting corpses, and have fun - and that's it.

Perhaps it's popular because it also requires little expense, little skill, and little advance planning (unless you're paying to have your make-up done of course, but that's entirely voluntary). Anyone can be a zombie for a day, and I do mean anyone. If nothing else, grab a ketchup packet from a cheap burger joint, and you're on your way to fake gore.

But what does it all mean? Of all things, why is it a ZOMBIE walk, not a kitten walk, or super hero walk, or celebrity walk? Why is the shambling undead such a popular theme, given that people repeatedly show up to participate in such large numbers? I'm no psychoanalyst, but I do wonder why the concept of "zombie apocalypse" has such broad appeal. In an age of increasing disease, famine, overpopulation, climate-related disasters, political unrest and economic change, do we not feel some sense of helplessness, like the world is going to s*** at the speed of light, and that there is little we as individuals can do to influence a positive resolution? Is there some weird melancholy global unconscious, evidently slightly more apparent to some than others, detecting that we actually have something in common with the walking dead? Or that in a way, we are already the walking dead? An overly dramatic assessment perhaps, but ask yourself: why should so many people find identifying with zombies as something *fun* to do, even for just an afternoon? Does a mindless, flesh-seeking zombie seem to celebrate prosperity, peace, generosity and goodwill? Does a restless, diseased, reanimated corpse give you warm feelings of family, acceptance and community? Doubtful. If anything, a zombie apocalypse reeks of fear, helplessness, hopelessness, and relentlessness. Now, don't those feelings sound a little bit familiar?

However a zombie walk goes a step beyond (if you'll pardon the pun). Rather than consist of a mad rioting mob wailing about the futility of mankind, oddly enough, the walk features friendly participation, smiles and laughter (plus a little fascination and surprise provided by onlookers). The generally well-behaved crowd obeys traffic laws despite being relatively (or in some cases completely) unpoliced, and disperses after only a few hours, usually without injury or incident. If we assume that the need to focus specifically on zombies is borne from a sense of displacement from our world, we must also accept that the execution of the walk itself celebrates the ability to gather peacefully and respectfully, for no other cause than to relish each others' company, despite how grisly things may seem. A zombie walk may appear to be completely absurd at first glance, even utterly inane, but in the larger scheme of things, I don't think it is. When that many people repeatedly express themselves by participation, no matter what the catalyst, it has to make you wonder if there isn't more beneath the surface. Perhaps, we *need* things like the zombie walk in order to gain a sense of community in the face of uncertainty, whether we realize we need it or not.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

LJ vs FB

Wow, I'd forgotten how pleasant it is to post and read things on LiveJournal.

I only joined FaceCrack because 1.) it was a good venue for advertising my business due to its massive popularity, and 2.) so many people stopped using LJ and started posting events & such over there instead that I never knew what was going on. The FB user interface is so cluttered it has always driven me nuts, and there are lots of other things that pick my ass about it but I won't bore you. Yet despite having avoided it like the plague for months, recently I found myself looking at it almost daily.

Yet despite how much I have always liked posting here, when I go to read my friends' page it's like crickets are chirping. Updates are generally few and infrequent. Quite a contrast to FB, where there is a constant stream of one-line junk every hour like "X and Y are now friends" and "X is at Y location" and "X got 2887423656 points playing Farmville" or whatever. I just don't care about that stuff, and unfortunately there's an awful lot of it. Write what your day was about, and then I'll care (although that being said, people so seem to write content more often over there, although the bits are much shorter than tends to get written on LJ - myself included).

But whatever, we'll see how it goes. I gave up my paid account here not because I didn't want the extras anymore, but because I'm one of the 5 people left out of 100+ friends who still seem to use it. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but still. Anyway, that decision may not make much sense to you, but it's hard to explain. Well, it works for me.

Gotta go, monsoon thunderstorm commencing!
  • Current Mood
    bored bored

Urban Orchard

Tonight Michael and I picked 60 cherries from the tree growing on our balcony, which we planted just over 6 years ago (it was literally just a stick then).

This is the 4th year the tree has borne fruit. The first yielded only a few shrivelled cherries which weren't edible (we hadn't watered it enough right after the flowering stage), the next year about 20, last year saw about 40, and this year 60 so far. There are about 20 left on the tree still ripening. I pitted the ones we picked, and we celebrated our urban bounty over vanilla ice cream. We'll be able to do so for at least 2 more nights, and in a week's time we should be able to pick the last few.

By my calculations, if we get a minimum of 100 cherries next year, we can not only have a night's ice cream sundaes, but an entire pie as well. YEAH!!

Now we just have to wait for our 2-year old mandarin orange tree (grown from a rare pit found in a Christmas orange) to mature. :)
  • Current Mood
    cheerful cheerful

Fanboy Confessional - Steampunk Edition

Since I'm such a small fry, any media attention I receive whatsoever is like getting on the cover of the Rolling Stone. :P

On July 13th, 2011 the Canadian "Space Channel" network ran the second episode of their new series Fanboy Confessional, a documentary on fantasy and sci-fi fan culture. This episode focused solely on Steampunk, something my shop Art of Adornment is no stranger to. During clip 2, I and designers Lady V and 10andSIX can be seen (we were not interviewed but shown prominently, along with our wares), as well as my husband Atratus/Michael R. Barrick (who gets to say a few words about himself). Not only that, but you'll see a cameo by the glamorous and talented Madame Modiste in clip 3 as well. The second clip was filmed mostly at the VSteam One-Day Mini Con (see my shop's FaceBook photo album of the event.)

Watch full video on SpaceCast. Video plays as 3 connected clips (we are in clip 2).

Personal note:
One thing I have learned from this is: no matter how awful the weather or how uncomfortable you know you're going to feel, when doing business functions, ALWAYS DRESS YOUR BEST. The one opportunity I have had so far for decent media exposure, and I'm in a frumpy plain summer dress because it was such a brutally hot, humid, disgusting day and I am prone to heat stroke. I feel like such a dork. I figured "it's a one-day con, what could possibly happen? I'll minimize and wear this comfortable old thing" and sure enough, a film crew shows up. GAH. I can't help but see myself as a poor representation of the glamorous nature my business projects. But I suppose I shouldn't beat myself up too much, at least it was a somewhat classy dress, not a faded tank & grubby capris. :P
  • Current Mood
    amused amused