Friday, 22 May 2009

Florence Friday

Gelato! A short and sweet post about wonderful Italian ice cream!

Yes they are fuzzy photographs snatched whilst walking by, but I had to prove to my brother the gargantuan awesomeness of the ice cream and no, your eyes are not deceiving you, that is Kinder Egg ice cream.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thank Goodness it's Thursday

Thursday is my new Friday! I've had a somewhat emotional and exhausting week, but good things have come my way too. On Tuesday I had an interview with the WEA and it looks like I'll be a tutor for them in September. I have to speak to a man tomorrow about the possibility of running a poetry based course in September and I'm very excited about the new opportunities this opens up for me. At the end of my interview I spoke to the lady who arranges the courses and she is keen for me to run some 'Arty' (her word!) taster sessions at the end of June so hopefully I'll have my first chance to teach Art - eep! Looks like it will be an introduction to making jewellery using beads and wire and possibly some Art appreciation and painting too. All a bit different to teaching English to 11-18 year olds!
By Saturday we'll be here! Yay!

Tonight is purely for relaxation, aided by a nice bottle of wine kindly given to me by a student, and a bit of packing as tomorrow, we're going home to Northern Ireland for the week and I can't wait!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Wee Jilly

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to wee Jilly, the most beautiful little Welsh dog I have ever known. Fostered by my sister Lynne while she was studying in Bangor, North Wales, Jilly came home for a visit to see how she got on with our other dogs and stayed!

Thank you Lynne for bringing us Jilly, how we'll miss this wee face.

Friday, 15 May 2009

May Desktop Background

Everything is blooming and the skies are flitting between bright blue, rain clouds and mist and I've changed my desktop background to a photograph of the fields out the back. I've used a textured kindly shared by Clive Sax and thought I would share it with you.

To use 'May' as your desktop background simply open the image using the link below, right click on the image when it opens and select 'Set as Desktop Background'. The image is for your own personal use and I retain the copyright, thanks!

Florence Friday

How about this for a studio?

The first image of the doorway shows the full width of the space, when we saw this fabulous little studio we discussed at length whether we could live and work there, as being so tiny it might actually be affordable. There is a sink, so what more would you need?! Ha! That might have been the Limoncello talking.

I'll pst some photos of where we actually work soon, when school finishes we're hoping to paint the walls so maybe after that!

Monday, 11 May 2009

I love TTV

Lynne & Luckie

Since discovering the 'through the viewfinder' technique last year I can't get enough of it! We've bought a lovely duaflex off ebay and must get around to constructing a decent light blocking contraption to try it out properly. So far all my ttvs (apart from this attempt) have been digital and I can't wait to get going with the real thing!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Meet the Edial Crow

click image to view large

A gorgeous beast of a crow with a give away white patch so we know it's him. He lives in the tree in the field out the back and frequents our garden, leaving the bird feeders for the little'uns, he usually brings his own hunk of hard bread and soaks it for a few moments in the bird bath before swooping off to devour or share. Consequently the bird bath is a little, um, bread coloured, however this doesn't stop our lovely crow, for when he thinks nobody is looking he'll sidle over and up into the bird bath and have a right frolic about!

One day I WILL get an in focus photograph of him!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Florence Friday

I'm really enjoying putting together these Friday posts as I get to think about Florence all over again! When we arrived late on the Tuesday evening we had a marvellous time re-acquainting ourselves with the streets and taking photographs late into the night. Fortunately, we'd arranged to have breakfast at 9am and dedicated our first morning to mooching. The breakfasts themselves are worth a mention as every morning we had a tray packed full of food delivered to our room and I love that it is perfectly acceptable to eat biscuits for breakfast!Following our first breakfast we set out to find the Giardino dei Semplici and we did, but it is closed on a Wednesday! We were glad to have found it and even more enthusiastic about visiting after looking through the iron railings to see the garden. More of that later! The day was getting progressively warmer and so we did indeed mooch! Wandered around found some places we'd earmarked to see and spent a fabulous couple of hours in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, watching, eating lunch, photographing and sketching. The Piazza is bordered by the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, the Spedale degli Innocenti (hospital featuring a portico by Brunelleschi), the Confraternità dei Servi di Maria and Ammanati's Palazzo Riccardi-Manelli.

The photographs from this first day are the first I have processed and made available in my revamped Artfire studio! So far I have added a series of black and white images taken from within the Piazza featuring a contrasting range of people, only one of whom spotted me photographing them and as he was the only one who could be seen as a central focus of the image, a simple smile from me and a nod from him suggested he was happy enough. Reminds me of some handy tips I read a while back on the subject of photographing people: I tend to only ask if the person is going to be the main focus of the image, however, for these street images I did not ask any of the people but kept a distance and remained as unobtrusive as possible. No white handkerchief or black tape used but there are lots of people out and about with cameras in Florence so nobody seems to mind.

While we were sitting sketching, a couple sat down on the steps in front of us and I loved the fact that he sat on his Florence guide book! Since coming home I've been reading A Room with a View and on looking at this sketch again, can't help thinking about the iconic Baedeker:
Tears of indignation came to Lucy's eyes partly because Miss
Lavish had jilted her, partly because she had taken her Baedeker.
How could she find her way home? How could she find her way about
in Santa Croce? Her first morning was ruined, and she might never
be in Florence again. A few minutes ago she had been all high
spirits, talking as a woman of culture, and half persuading
herself that she was full of originality. Now she entered the
church depressed and humiliated, not even able to remember
whether it was built by the Franciscans or the Dominicans.
Of course, it must be a wonderful building. But how like a barn!
And how very cold! Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in
the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling
what was proper. But who was to tell her which they were? She
walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over
monuments of uncertain authorship or date. There was no one even
to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the
nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the
one that had been most praised by Mr. Ruskin.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Eight Fabulous Blogs

Eight fabulous blogs which I have found helpful, interesting, inspiring or all of the above in the first few months of my self employment:

Looking to turn your creative passion into a business? Already in business for yourself and need some guidance? Modish BIZtips offers bright ideas to help make your creative business a success.

Thanks for stopping by for daily inspirations in art, design, home, craft, and more. I would love to hear from you, so feel free to email me and introduce yourself.

Welcome to Empty Easel, the online art magazine with practical advice, tips, and tutorials for creating and selling art

Stay tuned for more creative ideas for your business and opportunities for connection and community with fellow right-brainers!

This is NOT business as usual!


Welcome to ProBlogger - a Blog that helps bloggers to add income streams to their blogs. (Am nearing the end of ProBlogger's free 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge and will be writing a post about it soon, worth the effort!)


Project blogs - the whole an site is really interesting and offers Artist's Insurance Policies as part of their membership.


Why do Artist's have a hard time making a business out or their passion? It's the limits they place on themselves in the first place. "Artist's Hub" ( explores business, Art techniques, and software tools for freelance illustrators and artists to make a great life out of their passion.


Art News Blog is a selection of visual art news, art reviews and art related stories online. We search the web for some of the more interesting art news stories published each day.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Etsy Support Still Ace

But I still can't sell there! Boo! I tried registering but got the error message 'please enter a valid credit card number', so emailed support and, whilst again super speedy to reply (about ten minutes this time!) they can't do anything for me at the moment:

Hello Laura,

I am so sorry for the trouble with your card. We really want you to
become an Etsy seller without any hassle. Unfortunately, we have found
in some cases, that international cards like ************* cannot be
accepted by our system. Etsy is working on ways to improve the system so
that everyone can join. We are so sorry for the inconvenience, and we
hope that you will continue to enjoy Etsy using a regular account. If
you get a different type of card, please do check back in with us to see
if it works for you.



Etsy Support

So Etsy is still out!

Never mind, I'm off to bed!

Etsy Support - Ace!

I emailed the Etsy support team about the whole credit card issue and less than two hours later I received this reply:

Hello Laura,

Thank you so much for contacting Etsy about becoming a seller. To use a ************** card, please select the Mastercard option. Please note that any card with more than 16 numerical digits will not work in Etsy's system. Please let us know if you are still having trouble registering your card, and will do everything we can to help get you started.

Etsy Support

Now that is support!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Artfire, Coriandr, Dawanda, Etsy, Folksy, Misi

Last week I spoke about my experiences of Etsy and Folksy and not wanting to bombard you all at once I thought I'd leave the others for another day. Out of Artfire, Coriandr, Dawanda and Misi I have only signed up to Artfire and Misi, however, I have spent some time perusing all of the sites.

I signed up to Artfire with the intention of setting up a 'studio' (I like that they call Artist's spots that!) solely for my paintings and photographic prints and, as yet, my 'studio' is very undeveloped with one lonely painting in it. I've signed up for a basic account and am impressed with the options offered:

"Our Basic account is absolutely free and allows an unlimited number of listings per month with a cap of 10 items in your Studio at a time and all members receive a complete stats package including both Google Analytics and real-time server side stats to maximize your promotion and spend your time where it makes sales. Verified members can list unlimited items with never a listing or final value fee, just like on your own website, but with less hassle, and at a lower price. Full access to a whole host of management features, promotional tools, and enhanced functionality. Plus increased site exposure use of all new features for just US $12.00 per month. "

Neither accounts charge commission on sales so the basic account really is free which might sway this site for people starting out with a small budget. Having noticed a few people selling their work on their own blog through Artfire, I think this is a great feature and would sway me to signing up for a Verified Account. I fully intend to make use of my account over the next few months and will let you know how I get on.

Artfire, like Folksy, is still in its beta phase, and has recently had a front page overhaul. I think the front page is very busy with a huge amount of information, however, information for sellers and buyers is presented directly to you right from the start. The search feature offers comprehensive options and whilst I did come across a few anomalies, this was probably due to sellers tagging their items incorrectly.

Next up is Misi. I have to admit I was put off signing up initially due to the overwhelming girliness of the design. However, the design and navigation is clear and, as R diplomatically pointed out, my jewellery is for women so of course I should sign up! I have spent some time looking around the site since signing up and actually really enjoyed the Style Guides so much so that I even went to read the site's blog: features sellers and has excellent advice for sellers even as far as the basics on being self employed. Very impressed! I like the ease of the shop management and the fact that Misi offers Google stats (as do Etsy and Artfire) and SEO tools.

My next venture is clearly signposted now! I will be listing original paintings on Artfire and my new range of jewellery on Misi whilst keeping my silver and beadwork on Folksy.

As for Coriandr and Dawanda, I have not signed up to them simply because I do not think I can manage any more online shops at the moment. They both appear user friendly, although I prefer Coriandr's clean, tidy appearance as Dawanda seems a bit cluttered at first glance. I do love the Coriandr Seedlings idea which allows you to 'plant' a wee shop in your blog, great! Dawanda is targeted at the European market and is available in various languages and could provide you and your work wider exposure in an established European market.

The chart above gives the basics for each site, but remember these are subject to change, especially with those sites still in beta so be sure to check them out fully before signing up to sell. There are clear pros and cons for each and I hope you find a site which works for you. Those of you who are set up and selling, I'd love to hear your opinions on where you sell.


Friday, 1 May 2009

Florence Friday

Returning to Florence this year we really wanted to spend more time taking night shots around the city and to spot a coypu, the 'big rot' which had so far evaded us. Last year we were blessed with the most fabulous view from our hotel (purrr, The Balestri, what a beautiful hotel!) and enjoyed hanging out the windows to take photographs of the river at various times of the day and night. However, this did mean that we didn't have very many night shots of anywhere else around the city.

This year we stayed at the Hotel Ginori al Duomo, which was more centrally located and, whilst not quite as fancy as the Balestri, the building, the welcome, the beams and the giant breakfast served to our room every morning were all excellent!

As for night shots, I've only edited one so far:

With several more to come!

Oh, and we finally did spot some coypu! Apologies for the terrible photograph: I was
somewhat dangling over the river and it was very dark!

Artfire, Coriandr, Dawanda, Etsy, Folksy, Misi

That was satisfyingly alphabetical for a moment there! Having signed up to Etsy, then Folksy, Artfire and now Misi with half an eye on Coriandr and Dawanda, this post is a simple overview of what I've found so far, the pros and cons, what has suited me and what hasn't.

Today Etsy and Folksy.

When I first started looking around for an online platform to sell my Art work and jewellery Etsy was the first site I found and very impressed I was too! The site is easy to navigate, well presented and has a wealth of varied and interesting articles available for your perusal. The 'starting up your own business' style articles were particularly helpful for me at the time. Listing costs $0.20 for four months and the site charges a 3.5% commission on sale fee. I immediately signed up full of enthusiasm and ideas only to be stopped dead in my tracks when I found I couldn't sell my work. Why? No great intrigue for you I'm afraid, it's simply that I do not have, nor do I want, a credit card which Etsy require you to have to prove your identity. I'm yet to find a way around this and whilst Etsy now do accept fee payment through paypal there is still the need for a credit card. So Etsy has been a no go for me which is dissappointing. I do keep an eye on the site as the treasuries are great and articles interesting, however, over the last few months it frequently refuses to load for me. Having googled the problem, this seems to happen to many people and there is a wealth of techie help, works, then doesn't work, works, then doesn't work. Would put me off as a buyer.

Next, I discovered Folksy and contacted them to check whether I needed a credit card before signing up and was relieved to hear that I could set up shop without one, hoorah! As I live in the UK, a UK based site was mighty appealing and the 20p listing fee and 5% commission (no commission during the beta test period) is reasonable. It was fairly straightforward, if a little time consuming, to set up shop on Folksy and I was impressed / excited enough to set up two, one for my jewellery and one for my Art work. The site is still in beta, however, I am generally pleased with it:

selling in sterling is much easier for me
international sales are now go
the fees are reasonable
good community vibe

There are several niggling issues which I hope will be changed:

the site navigation could be more intuitive with a few design tweaks and links that work
categories within shops are needed
the purple site category lists could do with being separated in some way as they appear to be the categories in a shop and yet navigate customers away from your shop
more promotion from Folksy themselves
more communication between Folksy and sellers

The first items I listed will expire soon and I am going to re-list them. Folksy has brought me several sales, however, only one customer has actually gone through the process of paying through Folksy. Folksy is the place I've directed my domain name to ( and this is what appears on my packaging and promotional materials. I know many sellers work hard at promoting their Folksy shops and the Folksy site as a whole and am hopeful traffic will increase and visitors will enjoy and become customers!

Next up I'll be looking at Artfire, Misi, Coriandr and Dawanda would be interested to hear your opinions on all five these sites, what suits you? What do you like? What makes you throw things across the room in frustration? If you had to choose just one site, which would it be?

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