Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Make Video Classes?

I thought I'd blog today about video classes as I've just finished one and am working on another.

Why make video classes?

I first decided I needed to do video when I started designing motion pieces...there is no way to show the movement without video. It was great...I could show people how my design moved, they could see it from every angle...just what was needed.

The next step was after having a few hours of e-mailing back and forth with someone on how to do my Rolled Peyote became evident to me that I needed to SHOW how it was done. And I made my first video tutorial. That showed me the way....this is what people need (generally speaking, not everyone needs a video).  Now once I released the video the questions on the tutorial not only decreased....they stopped. The video answered the questions.

I sat and thought about that. I sell a LOT of tutorials, it's my business. I figured that 5% of the people who bought a tutorial had questions.....another 2% had a LOT of questions. Every question had to be researched and answered, I needed to see photos on some, make additional illustrations for others....and that could eat away at my time. I figured with 100 tutorials out there (at the time) and selling as many as I did, that 7% ended up as 8 hours a week of answering questions.....that's a lot of design time and it would just grow!

Videos were the answer.

I decided that from that point on my tutorials would have an accompanying bead-along video.  Even if I had to learn video editing and titling! 

I also discovered that THE best ever way to proof and edit a tutorial was by making up a sample on camera....not to mention all the extra information I could add! If I hit a problem I could show how to get out of it, which was the best way to hold the work, lots of small things that never make it into a written tutorial because it would add so many more pages.....and you just  don't think of them when you're writing.

The first video class I did I offered the option of with or without video and was surprised that I only sold one tutorial without the video.  Interesting. I then gave it some more thought and decided I wouldn't offer the option, after all it took time to make the video and it was there to answer questions.  And I wasn't charging much for just added $5 to the cost of the tutorial (now, as some videos are much longer than others I charge $5 for each hour of finished video). Some asked me why I charged so little.....but I took into account the time I saved answering questions when I priced them out.

The other thing about doing the videos....I don't teach. I'm not on the teaching circuit.  This isn't because I don't enjoy teaching or seeing new places it's because first and foremost I'm a designer, it's my joy, my love and teaching wold take time away from that....considerable time.  I once asked a fellow designer how many new designs she created in a year and was told in a busy year...six! SIX! I was doing anywhere between 20 and 40 at that time. Over achieve much?   But I have all these ideas in my head screaming to get out and if I didn't get them out I think I'd end up in a strait jacket.  

The videos do get me out teaching....into your homes, one on one....and you can turn me off when you're sick of hearing me. Lots of people have written and told me they would just love to sit and bead with me....and that's what the videos do. They are deliberately informal, they have goofs, I screw up, get my thread caught...the real stuff, the stuff you would see if you were sitting and beading with me...minus the expletives :)
My Pagoda video was actually used in a workshop, which was very cool and I heard it worked great. Everyone purchased their own DVD and tutorial so they could finish at home but they worked as a group for a couple of days.
Not everyone can afford to take classes and do workshops so video classes are a great option. 

The goal is to have my customers end up with a finished piece of beadwork and not a UFO...videos help achieve that.  My fellow designer Melissa Grakowsky Shippee has spoken about video classes being the way of the future and I totally agree with her.  With new technology things Mom and I recently changed from cable TV to Amazon FireTV and it's fabulous. It's made me see some possibilities too.....with second screen capability you could watch the videos on your TV while using your tablet to see the cool is that?

I'm an old dog learning new tricks and that's how to stay young. Who knows I might be doing podcasts next :)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Anatomy of a Mikki Tutorial

After reading a Facebook post by my friend Jill Wiseman about what goes into getting a design from concept to kit I started to think about what my new designs and format thereof entails.

So.....let's look at an upcoming design 'Circus Spike'.

This design stemmed from 'Tuscadero', I started thinking about straight spikes...bigger than anything I've seen in the beading world so far. These I would have to make.

I had bought some large yellow beads at B&B 2013 and wanted a spike that worked with those.  Of course the first thing I had to figure out....are they readily available? And the answer! But in my searching I came across a wire mesh bead in the size I needed with the hole size I needed which is easily available but as every where I found only sold them in packs of ten of one color it also means I have to invest money in carrying a stock so they can be sold individually.

Prototyping: The Spike
The first thing I had to prototype was the spike. I knew I wanted a black and white one so I played around with my clay to get a way of making them that I could consistently create because if I make a tutorial I'll have to have a good stock of them. They need to be mixed, caned, rolled, baked, sanded and buffed but for this design they don't need to be drilled (yay...a step less is always a plus).

As I also like to make a 'classical' version of my designs I still have to create this spike in a swirl of silver and gold. 

Prototyping: The Design
Next step in prototyping is too make one up and try to make notes while I'm doing it. I say try as it often gets difficult and confused if I need to rip out, go back and redo.  Notes at this point are pretty general and the way I bead the design may well change to an easier way when I write up the tutorial....the "oh, it would have been easier if...." deal. For example 'Circus Spike' is missing it's bail as it needed to be added at a point I passed, something I discovered too late.

Next is to illustrate the steps, for this I will make the second colorway and take notes pausing to illustrate as I go.  It's also where I make the amends to the adding the bail!  The illustrations will need to be done in a third colorway for the sample I will make on camera for the bead-along video.

Tutorial Layout:
Once I have the illustrations done I drop them into my tutorial format and add the words.

Mass Production:
While illustrating and writing I will also be making the spikes, sanding and buffing them. I have to figure on making about 100 for the first batch. 

Testing on Camera for the Video Class:
Once the tutorial is written and illustrated it needs testing and I've found the best way to test my tutorials is to make them on camera, it really helps you see what needs to be changed/adjusted.

Video Editing:
After each session on camera all the sections of video need to be edited and checked. If a re-shoot is needed for anything the beading has to be taken back. Each snippet of video is numbered for combining later. 

Video Combination, Titling& Conversion:
Once all the video snippets are edited they need to be combined into one and titles need to be added. Then comes the time consuming cross your fingers and hope for the best conversion to suitability for YouTube, probably the most frustrating part of the whole process as conversion frequently will get to 90% complete and time out. Depending on video length it can take anywhere from one to six hours to convert.

Video Upload:
After conversion the video is then ready to be uploaded to YouTube, stabilized and this gives me the link that will be included in the tutorial.

Cover Shots:
With all colorways complete I then take some photos that I can use for the tutorial cover and for marketing.  These then need graphics added and dropped into the tutorial format. The link is then added to the tutorial.

PDF Conversion, Uploading and Listing:
The tutorial is now ready to be converted to PDF format and uploaded to my store. I can then make the listing.

The Supplies:
Any supplies I carry, such as the spikes and mesh beads, need to be photographed and have listings made for them.

And there ya go!!
It's a lot of stages, a lot of different skills and and awful lot of time. One or two solid months of 70+ hour weeks (so look for 'Circus Spike' in a couple of months).
All that's left after all that work is for me to cross my fingers and hope it sells so I get paid for all the work I put in and of course I then become....

The Shipping Department :)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Familiar Clickety Clickety Clack

It's been quite the journey this last four months or so. From joy to the depths of despair and back again. That kind of ride changes you and I guess the challenge is to go with the changes but not to let the changes reach your core.

I am the same person inside but my shell is tougher, thicker and I now don't just listen to my gut I act on what it tells me. Anyone looking to use me or manipulate me better think twice is what I'm! 

They say it's not the falling down but the getting back up that tells your true character.  The ability to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse...hell, if I can make a purse from the idea to cross a lotus blossom and an problemo!

What I have learned is that when this crap happens you have to pull the weeds in your garden, pour acid on them if that's what it takes and sure it may mess up the soil for a while but nature will do it's cleanse and eventually things will go back to balance.  And as the acidity level of the soil was changed different things grow.  For me it means my designs have changed a bit....right now they are simpler, and many include my polymer work which leads me right into kitting my designs.  Kitting is a whole different ballgame and takes a lot more $$ to do but using my own components and starting small I can do this :)

One thing I love about making my own components....I can put the bloody holes anywhere I want them and as many as I want! *grin* I have 24 holes in one design....try that with glass! 

What also has seemed to happen is a clearer view of my design aesthetic, what I enjoy doing and want my work to be. Fun is what bubbles to the surface, fun, happy designs in powerful colors. And, of course, full of originality and inventiveness.  The hardest thing is going to be hopping back to the designs that got left in the lurch....Tilt-A-Whirl, Maypole and Skelter...but I believe if I just change the colors up and take my time I can do it.  I just need to work up to the BIG designs and designing around my polymer seems to be just the right direction to get me back on the path.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Muse on a Leash

Not to mention gagged, blindfolded and locked in the closet!
Why would I do this to my muse?  Because even though I haven't been able to work with the stress and depression one thing that never stops is design ideas.
That part of my brain never seems to be hindered....I actually have to zone out to stop it because there's nothing more frustrating than a head full of ideas and no way to make them come to life.

The last week or so has seen me thinking in tutorials and illustrations again, as I bead, sleep, relax I see visions of thread paths, mutter the words that go along with an illustration/step, ponder which sections to video. But last night saw something that's been missing for months....beading one project, then right on to the next without pause and staying up late to finish beading a section. Actually enjoying the beading process!
THAT is normality for me.

Of course I won't feel like I'm back in the game until I release a new tutorial and that is the goal this month and that will be "Tuscadero" as I need to start small. I have decided to sell a kit for this one as it has one of my tusks/fangs/spikes and matching/coordinating top pearl..may as well do the lot. Supplies are ordered and I'll be making some special tusks/fangs (curved) and spikes (straight) to match.  They are special in the fact that they have 'tri-holes' which takes some careful work with my Dremel.

And a snippet of the next project. This one is developing as I bead and I'm going to have to KISS it (Keep It Simple Stupid) as I can already see the path forming to take it way beyond it's first imaginings. Leash that muse!

I'm also excited that the German polymer clay I pre-ordered a couple of months back is now in stock and should be arriving in my mailbox very soon. It's supposed to be the most translucent of the polymers and that's exactly what I need for some of my designs....really hoping it will work. 

I do still have to keep my feet on the ground even though it's exciting to get my mojo back. I still have a couple of things left to do in my new store and that's not even counting all the polymer fangs I have to list but I'm back to making a 'To Do' list (and actually checking things off).  I know I can't overwhelm myself and have to just take my time....maybe not baby steps....toddler steps :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Signs of Life

I found it difficult getting to sleep last night and awoke this morning with the same thoughts swimming around in my head.....tutorial thoughts, video class thoughts, illustration thoughts.
THAT hasn't happened in months!

I was so stimulated by an alternate pattern/colorway for my Serenity Bowl that yesterday I actually illustrated the top set of wings...quite complex with the pattern I plan for them. And last night my mind was actively planning what illustrations I would need, how the words would be ordered, what steps I would video.

The normal me. 
Hello...been a while! Great to see you!

I know this looks like a complex project and the way I made this one was a lot more difficult than it had to be....often the case with a prototype...but it's deceptively easy.  It's just a LOT of beading.

The main problem I've been left with after the deep depression is focus, mine is shot. It's a case of having to force myself to continue working on something....just 30 minutes more, bead for an hour...and any kind of bribery I can think of.  So one part of me looks at starting a project this big as a bit daunting, biting off more than I can chew BUT another part of me tells me a big project that I'm excited about is exactly what I need to get me back into my groove.

Bringing the joy back into my beading is key. Getting rid of the bad associations that got stuck on my shoe like discarded chewing gum. I 'think' this would do it. I totally enjoyed beading the Serenity Bowl, it felt more like art, possibly because it isn't jewelry.

Methinks I'm talking myself into it :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Be Like A Weed

This is what I'm telling myself as I look at yet another mess of bead boards full of false starts.  I have definitely learned that too much stress kills my ability to bead. Oh...the design ideas are still there but putting thread to bead is like climbing Everest for me.

I'm stuck doing mundane responsibilities and tackling stress inducing issues, a lot of which come from being in depression stasis for so long. The ripples that come from an event can be as devastating as the event itself. BUT I'm holding my own. Haven't crumbled. Haven't hidden in the closet with a blankie.  Though I am going blank for a few hours each day....ZombieMikki!

I try to focus on good orchids, the fresh growth of my deck garden, getting back to cooking/baking and, of course, Ms. Bella. Today I celebrated the opening of a new flower on my only currently flowering oncidium....however last night I found new growth and even new flower spikes on my two 'dormant' ones.  Not so dormant after all!

I did order beads yesterday for a design I've had in mind for well over a year so I'm still hopeful. And I do have an idea for it that might make it kittable but that also means getting out the sewing machine.  Cryptic, aren't I? But you know how it goes, you have to keep new ideas under wraps or someone will steal them.  And I have an idea for a new polymer focal that would become a kit too. I guess that's how I do see my business growing, specialized kits, that is kits with a component you can't find anywhere else.  

While my designs are doable for beginner to intermediate beaders, especially if they have a video class, I think I lean toward the advanced beader.  That's not a bad thing in my book. It seems there is so much out there that is aimed at the beginner beader or the beader who wants something they can make in a day or two while watching TV. However, for the beader who wants a challenge, who craves to learn something new it seems their choices are limited.....taking a class with a top designer who has a new technique tops the choices but classes like that are not cheap given you may have to travel to them too.  I think the next best thing is a custom kit with a tutorial and video that's my goal for 2015. Providing I finally get the ability to put thread to bead back.

I guess one good thing with the beading stasis is as I find some unfinished piece of beading that wasn't going anywhere I'm ripping it up and sorting the beads...replenishing stock without having to buy.

The new store is being worked on and is looking photos or just re-editing old ones is giving everything a better look. I've definitely managed to breathe new life into some of the older, not-so-noticed designs. And at least it makes me feel like I'm achieving SOMEthing!  I've always been such a productive person so not producing makes me feel like a failure.

It will all come back. I have to trust in that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Loss of Value in Our Dystopian World

I woke up sporadically during the night with 'value' on my mind. Specifically the value of human beings but realizing that's the root of the issue that causes so much 'trickle down devaluation' resulting in the dystopian society we've created.

Yeah....this stuff keeps me awake at night.
So if you're looking for eye candy today....sorry.

We tend to think of 'dystopian worlds' to be just something of fiction.....and there are a lot of those worlds being written about and made into movies these days, think "Hunger Games" or "Divergent". (Interesting that so often it's a teen age girl who is the a time when women are having to fight for their rights again).

"A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, or anti-utopia) is a community or society that is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It is the opposite of a utopia. Such societies appear in many artistic works, particularly in stories set in a future."

I read a lot of dystopian novels simply because they feel more realistic to me than some Hollywood, happy ending, Prince Charming-saves-the-day, product placement drivel.   Also like the comedy of 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' they are based on what is actually happening in our society right now.

If you aren't frightened by what's going on in our society right now and don't find it undesirable then you aren't paying attention.

The value of human life and the quality of it has dropped immensely in the past few decades. Money has become 'God'. Love is now for things not people. People have become expendable, dignity and personal choice...collateral damage. If you don't believe me go work in a long term care facility...the people doing the caring are so underpaid it's ridiculous and that means the level of care suffers. The elderly and sick are cast aside like waste. 
People are stepping stones to be used up and tossed aside, it's survival of the cold hearted, the ruthless.....the people who will make you promises and throw you under the bus in the next second.

And we often don't even wait to be devalued by others...we do it to ourselves. Every time we allow someone to treat us without respect, watch them treat others without respect and say nothing, do nothing we are contributing to the dystopia. Watch for people who accuse you of hurting them or being a terrible human being because you shared the bad thing they did with someone any abuser they don't want their 'sin' shown and they will accuse you of anything and everything in an effort to make you seem unbelievable. I've always believed people with nothing to hide, hide nothing. what has this got to do with beading you ask? Because this is a beading blog...right? 

The beading world is part of the rest of the world so it's relevant.
I did an experiment with my new store to see how I could offer free tutorials, which in future will be offered to my customers and not the world in general. Once I found that my store did not allow downloads without payment I was really happy and changed the section heading to "Free with Purchase" and that was working fine....people who bought from me were able to add the free tutorial to their cart.  However, a couple of people have found a way around it....and are disregarding the "with Purchase".  It totally saddens me. They place no value on me or my work. And that's just means I'll do something differently...figure out how to lock that door to the free loaders.

Now don't get me wrong....I do believe in people seeing what they are buying...a style of writing that works for them. However, I want to reward my paying customers...because I value YOU!  

I could have called this post "It's a Two-Way Street" because that's how I feel these days.  Enough of the "I don't want to feel beholden for everything you've done for me" meaning "I just want to take not reciprocate" attitude. 
I am so guilty of mis-placed generosity it's frightening.

How else do we devalue ourselves?  I often get messages or emails from people because I complimented a piece of their work saying "coming from you it means a lot".  Is that because I'm so gosh darned brilliant?'s simply because I don't go around ooing and ahhing, "Awesome!!!!"-ing everything I see posted on Facebook. I really look at the design sound, colors well done, does it move me? Is it original? I don't say something is bad, I keep my mouth shut or fingers off the keyboard.
My point is: If everything is "awesome" then the value of "awesome" is gone. It  can be a great feeling to have someone compliment your work by saying "It's beautiful, brilliant design" and then you see them say the same thing to the most ugly, bad designed thing you've ever seen or the most simple, trite thing and their opinion diminishes.  It's lost it's value.

The generation that came after mine seemed to get so much of this....being told they were great when they were just average...or worse. I'd feel badly for them....set up for a life of not making the grade when they hit the real world. But it seems to have bred a sense of entitlement and a lowering of standards, it's rare to see good work ethic any more.  I remember 10 or 12 years ago hiring for a seasonal position and a sixteen year old showing up for an interview with an application form stating he expected to be paid $15 an hour plus full benefits...I laughed.   

A good thing I saw yesterday....cos let's finish this ramble on society with something hopeful. 

The local news was actually encouraging trade schools, saying not everyone needs to get a bachelor's and a master's degree. They compared salaries of someone coming out of university after 4 to 6 years with that of someone who learned a trade...and I'm sure a lot of people changed their mind about university.  They showed people working with their collar stuff...wonderful!
Because....if our world goes the way of the dystopian novels those are the people who will survive and flourish....the people with skills. The people who know how to spin wool, weave fabric, make clothes over those who know how to swipe a credit card and buy something. The people who know how to feed themselves, hunt, forage, grow. The people who can make and fix things. 

And there is a rebellion coming. History tells us that. 

I'd love to say that we could turn it all around by valuing each other but I think it's too late. I'll continue to value people, see their worth and reward it as I can but my time of valuing the people who only see worth in what they can get for free is over.  I relocated to "Two Way Street".