Friday, November 28, 2008

Handmade History: Making Pigments

From a 1753 English patent granted to Edward Dighton for printing and hand-coloring wallpaper:

The colours and stains used are as follows : — For a blue, prussian blue ground in vinegar ; for a red, carmine mingled in vinegar; for a yellow, saffron steeped in boiling water; for a green, sap green steeped in vinegar ; for another green, verdi-grease ground in vinegar ; for a brown, tobacco stalks steeped in boiling water ; for a purple, carmine mingled with prussian blue. Colours used in printing off the aforesaid plates are, Frankfort black, brown umber, rose pink, rock indigo. Gold size in gilding the work is made of linseed oyl, amber, red lead, umber, and turpentine oyl boyled and mingled all together. Another gold size is gum arabick, sugar candy, and vermilion, boiled together.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Handmade History : Bead Tariffs

In 1888, a US Senate subcommittee convened to take testimony from various businesspeople on the subject of tariffs - the taxes placed on goods imported into the US meant to protect domestic goods from foreign competition.

A man named E. Laurent, who was a buttonmaker and manufacturer of trimming in New York City, addressed the committee:

In the tariff bill nothing is said about changing the rate of duty on beads nor on beaded dress trimmings, which, I believe, both pay 50 percent. duty. As a manufacturer of this latter class of goods, and having on several occasions written to the Secretary of the Treasury on the subject.
I would like to call your attention to the inequality of duty imposed on both of these articles. Beads are the raw material of beaded trimmings, and can not be used for any other purpose than a raw material even if sold in retail stores, as those who buy them can only use them up to ornamenting dresses, etc.
Should beads, which are usually imported in bunches, be entered free or with a light duty, if necessary to protect bead industries of this country, if there are any ; or should beads be allowed to be imported loose, in bulk, and for manufacturing purposes only, be considered as raw material and be free or pay a nominal duty, thousands of females would find employment at making bead trimmings, which can not be done as long as the tariff remains as it is; that is, 50 per cent, on beaded trimmings, when the raw material beads pay this same duty of 50 per cent. I feel confident that should you bring this matter before other manufacturers in my line they would fully indorse my suggestions.

The question Laurent is asking the committee to address is whether beads are a finished good, and so subject to a higher tariff, or if they are a raw material and subject to a lower one. He thinks they are the latter, and has a vision of cheaper imported beads allowing "thousands of females" being employed at "making bead trimmings."

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Blogs added!

These blogs were added to the blog search tonight:

Smadar's Treasure

Three Fates Design
DK Jewels
Jelveh Designs
Autonomous Artisans
Dancin Jules
Heather Knitz Designs
Indie Smiles
Handmade by Odette
Spinster Handmade

Add yours!

New Blog Search Gadget

Just added a link on the sidebar to customize a Blog Handmade search box google gadget to put on your blog. If your handmade blog isn't in our database yet, use the submit button and tell us about it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New blogs

Added the following blogs to the search database this evening:

Use the Submit button in the sidebar to e-mail your blog for consideration!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Search Function

I have created a new custom search function that searches selected blogs that focus on handmade items, selling handmade online, crafts, design and other related topics. The search box is at the top of the sidebar to this blog, and also located here.

I'll be adding more blogs to the database over time, and perhaps tracking the most popular ones. Give it a try!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blog Blog

My eventual plan for this blog is to be an ├╝ber-blog about other handmade blogs, complete with a custom search engine that will index posts from thousands of blogs.

Stay tuned. I should have something up by the weekend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

SIte Review : Shop Handmade

Folks, photographs are important if you hope to sell anything online. Please learn to use your camera and take in-focus, well-lit photos - you really don't need any special equipment. A sunny window and a careful reading of your camera manual will work wonders, I guarantee.

With that prologue, let's take a look at Shop Handmade, another entry in the online handmade marketplace race. Like many of the other similar sites, it has chosen to run new items on its front page, with no selection process. The site looks nice and clean, but nothing drags down a nice design faster than a crummy, dark, blurry photograph (or six - since people tend to list in batches, often several of their pix are on the front page at once.)

And sticking with my photo peeve temporarily, I need to remark on a feature that probably seemed like a cool idea, but doesn't really work. When you hover your mouse over an item photo at Shop Handmade, a magnifying lens appears, which enlarges a section of the picture. I suppose the idea is to give you a closer look, but as anyone who has ever tried to blow up a picture of a certain resolution into a larger size knows, it just makes it fuzzy. So what the magnifier actually does is give you a distorted look.

It's also distracting if you browse with your mouse in one hand like I do. There are other parts of the site that spring to life with a mouseover, like the menu bar on the front page, the browsing categories, and just about everything else. Running your mouse pointer across a Shop Handmade page sends boxes, pictures and menus popping up all over the page.

The search box has an interesting feature that previews results as you type. In a less jumpy atmosphere, this might be useful. The thumbnails are too small to really give much of a look, however.

Shop Handmade claims to be free if you allow sponsors to put an ad on your site. You also choose your own sales commission - even 0%. Interesting model, but it makes me wonder how serious these people are about business. There are already many people trying to break into the business of handmade who think of business as a charity operation where everyone trades oohs and ahs about your beautiful stuff and somehow money appears in your paypal account. It's not the venue's job to teach basic business, but Shop Handmade seems to be encouraging this sometimes unrealistic approach. Perhaps they are relaxed enoug about their income they can say "Hey, pay what you want..." Most of the rest of us do not have that luxury and probaby do not want our potential customers to think they can pay us whatever they feel like paying for our items.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Handmade History : Frog Spittle

This passage from an 1864 history of papermaking intrigues:
1800. Sometime during this or the previous year
P. De Labigarre, who resided at Upper Red Hook,
brought a bag of frog-spittle to the paper-mill at Cats-
kill, which was manufactured into a poor kind of
paper. Several persons became interested in the experiment, and it was supposed by them to be a great discovery.

A little more research reveals that the substance in question is not in fact the saliva of frogs, but the threadlike algae that grow on ponds (and which often hold frog eggs).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Austin Handmade

Indie handmade seems a perfect fit for Austin, Texas, and has captured the vibe, complete with an ugly monster mascot (or is it a bear?) with those widely-spaced tiny eyes that have become a trademark meaning "cute, but in an ugly way"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Handmade History : Craftsman Style Jewelry

Jewelry Making and Design By Augustus Foster Rose

Published in 1917, this manual of jewelry making and design is a fascinating and still useful text on design.

Published at the height of the craftsman period, the text offers several examples of borrowing design elements directly from nature, including seahorses, beetles and the very popular hollyhock, and translating them into jewelry design.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Site Review : is the latest international player in the online handmade market. Based in Toronto, it has quite a few features that larger sites still lack.

The front page greets you with a stunning photograph of a bejewelled babe and a blurb about the site - attractive and eye-catching enough, but requiring you to scroll down to see all the goods. The constantly changing array of items on the front page is slick and smooth (for an example of how not to rotate items attractively, see These front page items are drawn from new listings, and as of this writing are not changing very frequently (making this a pretty good value for front page exposure, at least until the number of sellers increases.)

Moving new items across the front page is a fine idea, but it has one drawback compared to the more controlled method where front page items are "juried." Owing to some sellers' inexcusable inattention to basic photography techniques (let's start with "focus"), a few klinkers scroll past every few seconds. There is a nice hover feature, which expands the front page item and links to the item page. is handmade only - no "vintage" or other excuses for selling items that are not made by the sellers themselves (resellers are expressly forbidden). To keep sellers honest, they state in their terms of use that all listings will be reviewed for "quality, uniqueness, and presentation."

A basic fee is charged to become a "creator" at - currently $25 CAD. This entitles a seller to list up to five items at once for no additional fees. There is no commission on sales. If you want to sell more than 5 items at once, a sliding subscription rate applies, beginning at $5 CAD monthly up to $35 CAD for up to 100 items. The subscribed accounts also have advertising removed from their listing pages. One nice touch - a listing can have a quantity of more than one but only counts as one listing toward your subscription. Also, listings created as part of your subscription do not expire.

Listing and editing functions are straightforward and simple to use, and there is an option to preview your listing before it goes live. Item photos are large, and you can load up to six of them - they are not thumbnailed on the listing page, however. A shopper must follow a link to see them, and they are then all loaded and at full size. Sellers will do well to take this into consideration when choosing image size before uploading. Other sites process photos while they upload to create thumbnails and resize them to a standard size for display. A "Clone this product" function allows you to sell similar items without starting the listing process from scratch. Sellers can attach private notes to products for their own reference, as well. has some nice features that sellers will not find elsewhere, like the ability to quickly change the status of individual items between being active and inactive (if you are taking an item to a show, for instance, you can put it "on hold"). Items can also be "reserved" for a buyer. The major currencies are supported (CAD, USD, AUD, GBP, and EUR). Products are submitted to google base on behalf of the seller. is perhaps the best of the newer sites attempting to challenge Etsy's dominance. It has some of the basic seller tools that Etsy still does not have. The appearance of the site is professional and largely free of gimmicks. Recommended.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Martin Guitar Neck Fitter

"If people think factory work is boring and repetitive, they’re probably thinking of automated assembly line jobs. My job is definitely not boring..."

The complete story from the New York Times

Saturday, November 1, 2008

That's why it comes in cakes

Handmade soap comes in an endless variety of intense scents, and as the senses of smell and taste are so closely related, it is understandable that the impulse to taste it is strong.


It doesn't help matters that so much handmade soap is made to look like food. Whether this is an extension of the desire to eat soap or the desire to rub certain sweets all over one's naked body is a matter of personal preference.