Friday, January 22, 2016

From Raw Cedar to Gorgeous Bird Feeder Wind Chime

Rough cut Pacific Cedar, 2 X 6 boards, soon to be a bird feeder, Coast Chimes
Rough Cut 2 X 6 Cedar Boards
Soon to be a Beautiful Bird Feeder Wind Chime

Beautiful Red Cedar and Copper Bird Feeder, Coast Chimes
Red Cedar and Copper Bird Feeder Wind Chime
Coast Chimes

My four sided deluxe cedar bird feeder wind chime is always popular. But despite being on the expensive side, they are not very profitable for me: they use a lot of expensive materials, and even more time.

I start with raw rough cedar, as pictured in the first image above. You can imagine how many saw it takes to make the finished feeder!

Every year I make 4 - 5 of feeders, all at the same time, as it is a little more efficient to build a few all at once. It is enjoyable to build something this complex and where great attention must be paid to exact measurements. I'm proud of them! But when I am done for the year, I am done. No matter if they sell out early in the year, or later, I don't build more for that year. The reason for this is that there is only one fairly slow part of the year (February and part of March), and after that, there simply is not enough free time to build these properly.

It always feels good when I have a few in stock. This year, with luck, they will probably be back on my website mid-February.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Crafter vs Artist

Red, purple, clear glass kaleidoscope wind chime with copper chime by Coast Chimes
Colorful Cedar Framed Glass
Five Copper Chimes
Available at Coast Chimes
Pictured above is one of my new wind chimes-- very bright and colorful! Eye-catching! When the sunlight shines through the glass, you are treated to a kaleidoscope of color.

I've often pondered about the difference between a crafter and an artist, and I think I have it figured it out. I know some potters who are excellent crafters; but in my book they are not artist. They make gorgeous well made plates, cups, tea pots etc., and they paint with their glaze artistic squiggles. But they are content for years and years to do the same thing: same color of glaze, same squiggles, same cups. I don't believe an artist could ever do this: they would go mad.

An artist has a deep need to do something different; to experiment,  to turn the world sideways, to play.

That is where something like the ruby red and soft purple glass comes in, as featured in the wind chime above. It's not turning my world upside down, and my customers can likely accept, perhaps even like it as something different from my usual. But changing colors does satisfy my need to not always do the same thing over, and over and...

I consider myself an artist rather than a crafter. Not for me the same pot, the same glaze, the same squiggle. It does not really matter, as I have nothing against crafters, and I know some excellent ones. But I do find the difference interesting, and I do wonder how someone can do the same plate with the same glaze over and over.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Natural Beauty of Sunshine Coast BC Inspires Wind Chime Artist Coast Chimes

Rounded beach stones along the shore of the Pacific, Gibsons BC Canada
Round Smooth Beach Stone Flow
Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada

One thing is certain: The Sunshine Coast, BC, is all about natural beauty.  I've lived here for 25 years, and still get wowed by the beauty almost everyday.

The longer I live here, the more grateful I am, as I realize how this natural beauty influences my work as an artist. Not only do I use the natural resources, such as rounded smooth beach stones and driftwood in my wind chime designs, but I know my love of rounded edges and sea glass comes directly from hikes along the shore and through the woods. Nature knows a thing or two about design, and all I have to do is look closely and try to get some of the elements I see in the natural world into my own designs.

You can see how the  naturally Pacific Coast beauty has influenced my work by checking out my website. Probably the Beach Stone section or Driftwood section would be a great place to start.

Snowy mountains across from Gibsons, BC, Sunshine Coast
Snowy Mountains
Seen From Gibsons BC Canada

Saturday, January 09, 2016

New Website: Coast Chimes

Screen shot of part of the homepage of Coast Chimes new website
Coast Chimes: New Website
WWW. Coast Chimes

I've made half a dozen different websites for Coast Chimes, starting back 20 years ago. They have ranged from okay to not very good. The further back in time you go, the more easily one could get away with a sloppy website, as at the start people did not expect much! These days, you better have a pretty decent website if you hope to sell.

Today you need to go beyond just okay. You have a fraction of a second to grab the attention of the new visitor, a visitor with a very critical eye, or their finger hits the back button and goodbye potential customer.

Even without any prior website building experience, I believe any artist-crafter could build a fairly decent looking website using Shopify without too many headaches. Taking that website beyond the basic shop to where I feel a website needs to be in today's competitive world will be more challenging.

After my basic shop was up, I felt like I hit a wall. I had ideas I wanted to implement, but the supporting documentation for Shopify was frankly scary complex, and I was scared of really messing up my website.

I approached several experts for hire. Prices were far steeper than I had hoped they would be (in the thousands was not unusual). Also, very few provided a clear vision of what they hoped to accomplish for my site. Why would I hire them if they had no vision? Do they do the same site for a seller of imported plastic toys as for an artist?

So I got thinking, and decided the first thing I should do is figure out exactly what I wanted for my site. That way, I could tell the experts what I needed, and they could tell me if they could do it, and how much it would cost. This seemed a much better approach than my initial: 'my site is a mess, how much to fix it?'.

However, after figuring out what I wanted for my site, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could tackle this thing myself. So defining what was needed helped enormously. A logo was number one, as everyone says this is extremely important. They also say it is a big deal, and a job for a professional. This can cost in the hundreds, easily. Wanting everything as simple and clean as possible for my own site, I did my own simple and clean logo. It took me 15 minutes. I doubt it is up to professional standards, but I think it looks fine.

The biggest challenge was to arrange all my stock into different collections, and make clickable buttons (rather than visitors having to scroll through 12 pages of mixed stock). I decided on 9 categories, and got busy reading how to make collections in the Shopify help section. It seemed overwhelmingly complex, but once I got going, following each step in the instructions as I went along, it turned out to be not too bad after all. Then I just made small buttons from pictures I already had handy (a picture of driftwood, for example, for my driftwood section), figured out how to place these on my homepage using a grid, and made links. Not bad at all.

Could someone with zero website building experience accomplish this? Probably, given enough patience, asking for help on forums, being bold and trying. I would say the written instructions make things sound a lot harder than the reality, which is often the case with technical things.

So instead of spending a thousand dollars or more, I got to learn some cool things, I got the satisfaction of doing it myself, and, most importantly, I got a much better looking website that I am proud of and happy with.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Sunshine Coast, BC, Gibsons

View of Coastal snow covered mountains, Gibsons, BC, Canada
View of Snow Covered Coastal Mountains
From Gibsons, BC, Sunshine Coast, Canada

Most of my yearly sales are online, and about half of those sales are for Christmas: pre-Christmas is a very busy time for Coast Chimes. So I didn't much mind that the skies were grey, the clouds dumping rain during November and early December. But what a treat to have those skies clear and the local mountains snow dusted for this quieter, post-Christmas period! Most of the packing and shipping is done, and I have time to head out, take long walks, and enjoy the scenery.

I walk along the beach, and dream up new ideas for the weeks ahead, when I plan to devote time to creating new works to replenish my stock.

I see these mountains, this ocean, the beach, the trees, and feel so grateful to live here. Of course, I am also pleased to be able to retrieve many fine natural resources from the shoreline-- the stones, the driftwood, the sea glass. From this nature I get my inspiration and lots of my materials. What a pleasure!