Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Missing Monarchs

While watching a Little League regional tournament game on a trip to Michigan last month I overheard someone asking another person if they had seen any Monarch butterflies lately. They had noticed their absence and had heard about the butterflies being in decline. I joined in the conversation and added that the decline is unfortunately real and the butterflies needed help. I urged the two ladies to plant locally native milkweed in their gardens as a host plant.

You might be wondering if any reasons have been identified for the decline in Monarch butterflies. They migrate from winter havens in Mexico to as far north as Canada. It takes more than one generation to complete this migration. There have always been dangers out there that the tiny flyers needed to avoid in order to accomplish their Herculean feat. They overwinter in Mexico in large groups in order to survive the winter. However some winters like last year have events like the late sleet storm that killed many butterflies. Migrating butterflies have to avoid predators (including unintentional ones like cars) and find nourishment and host plants to lay eggs on in unknown territory. Fluctuations in temperatures sometimes get the migrating butterflies out of sync with the native milkweeds they count on along their route. Also, since crops such as soybean and corn have been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant, monarchs have lost vast tracts of land where milkweed mingled with crops and provided for the butterflies.

That last point brings me back to the advice I gave to the ladies at the Little League tournament. Now that the majority of corn and soybean fields that line the Monarch's migration routes are devoid of milkweed, it is imperative that a concerted effort to plant more milkweed is undertaken. You can help by planting milkweed native to your area in your gardens, encouraging parks and greenspace managers to do so and (my favorite fantasy) get legislation through that would require farmers that plant pesticide resistant crops to plant compensating swaths of native milkweed on their land.

During my stay in Michigan I discovered a wonderful linear trail in Kalamazoo. Along the trail I spied local milkweed in various stages; in bud, in bloom and setting seed. During my trip I only spied one monarch. It was just outside Albion. (Images in this post are from my trip.) Hopefully since humans have drastically altered the Monarch's landscape to their detriment we will be able to find alternative areas to plant the milkweed that is essential to their continued existence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Design This - Custom Etsy Shop Cover Image

You may recall that I shared some changes that Etsy made to shop layouts during April in a previous blog post. Prior to the change I was approached by a fellow Texas Friends teammate asking if I would be interested in helping her design a shop cover for her shop, JackrabbitFlats, in advance of the changes going live. I was happy to oblige.


At the time there was a thread on the Etsy forums where shop owners shared their new shop covers that I had her look at. We discussed what we liked about some of them that caught our eyes, whether to incorporate her old shop banner as part of the new cover photo and more. JackrabbitFlats' shop owner sent several product photos over for me to work with. I made a rough mock up incorporating her old shop banner with representative items and sent it over as a starting point for discussion. (See above.)

Eventually she decided that she wanted a cover image that was only a collage of representative items from her shop. (Shop names are prominently displayed just below the cover images in the new layout.) I played around with various layouts and finally arrived at one that I really liked. While I had been given more items than were in that iteration, I felt adding more of them made the image too cluttered. I sent the second rough mock up to my customer and not only did she agree with my assessment but she also loved it. Now that I knew what the final layout would look like, I edited each photo for color and brightness before sending the proof for approval. (See below.) After getting approval and subsequently payment, my custom creation was uploaded and ready to grace the shop JackrabbitFlats when the new layout became live during April 2016.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Thanks for the Treasuries - July 2016

Two Etsy shop owners let me know they had featured one or more of my items in a treasury during July. Nine July Etsy treasuries, that treasury makers let me know about, included one of my creations. Another one included one item from each of my shops. You can see a collage below of my items from EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic that were featured during July. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)


I really appreciate being featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below a link to the Etsy sellers that let me know they had featured one or more of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like.

Enjoy window shopping and please click on the links to the shops whose item catches your eye.

HotDogCrafts
This shop owner turns graphics into button dangle earrings, hair clips, keychains and more.

IsabellasWhimsy
Handcrafted quilted items make cheerful gifts full of homemade goodness and care.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

EclecticSkeptic's Seventh Etsyversary

EclecticSkeptic has come a long way from an Etsy shop devoted to flying pigs that started out with photographic art images on bookmarks and note cards. I soon expanded into flying pig jewelry. Later I decided to incorporate my love of math and science into new items for the shop. When I created a custom order for a musician friend it made sense for me to add music geekery items as well. And then I thought the flying pigs might enjoy some other fanciful flying friends so I added mythology creations in the form of flying horses and dragons.

Monday, August 1, 2017 will mark my seventh anniversary of opening EclecticSkeptic on Etsy. To celebrate my Etsyversary I am offering a sale during the first week of August. If you are already subscribed to my newsletter you saw the details on how to participate in this the sale in the July newsletter. If you sign up for the newsletter before the sale is over, I will forward a copy to you of the July newsletter containing the pertinent information.

The image at the top of this post shows my original banner for my shop. The image below shows my new shop cover giving you a visual impression of how far my creations have come since those first few, fun flying pig goodies.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hot, Dry Season Garden Beauties

Do your flowers fade when the days get hot and the rains recede? I have two low water suggestions for you that take the heat and keep on blooming to help you bridge the floral gap between spring and fall during a hot, dry summer.

Frogfruit is native in the southern half of the United States. It is adaptable to a wide range of conditions. If you don't want it to overrun your garden however, I suggest that you don't add ANY supplemental watering once it is established. Lots of small butterflies and bees are attracted to its diminutive flowers. You can see flower clusters of varying ages in the photo. The longer a flower cluster blooms the taller its base becomes as new flowers are added to the top of the older faded ones. Frogfruit is evergreen to deciduous depending on your winters. Mine is usually deciduous because its leaves are frost sensitive. It makes a nice ground cover and will survive and give you some interest in narrow, hot beds adjacent to pavement where many things will not thrive.

Do you need something that makes more of a statement than a ground cover? Hummingbird bush might be just the thing for you. It does not begin to flower until the temps match the multitude of fiery reddish orange flowers that cover this shrub much of the summer. As the common name implies, hummingbirds love this plant as a nectar source, so you might want to plant one where you can enjoy the show from inside your air conditioned home. More info on this deciduous shrub can be found in my Texas Stars facebook photo album.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Design This - Matching Earrings for Aqua Necklace

Will someone want earrings with this necklace? I often ask myself this question when designing new pieces. Sometimes I make matching earrings and someone just wants the earrings or the necklace. I normally will split a set I have made but the customer will lose out on the discount I usually factor into the price of a set. Often I don't make matching earrings and occasionally someone will ask about their availability. I think custom orders for necklaces or jewelry sets will be the only time I will get the answer to that question right 100% of the time because I get to ask my customer beforehand.

I was at a show earlier this year where someone fell in love with one of my necklaces. She said she really loved the colors I had used. The next thing she said was to ask if I had matching earrings. I told her I was not positive whether I still had any of the beads left I had used in the necklace. Luckily she wanted the necklace either way but I could tell she really hoped to be able to get fairly short dangling matching earrings too.

I took her contact info and shortly after the show I was able to go through my stock and see what I could come up with. Luckily I still had a couple of the small dark aqua beads that I had used in the necklace as well as some of the dark AB coated spacer beads. I also had some smaller faceted gold beads that I thought would be better suited for the size earrings requested than the gold bicones I had used in the necklace. I had not asked if my customer preferred posts or French style ear wires so I sent a mock up photo with both choices for her to look at. After sending the photo, she asked that I phone her because she felt more comfortable nailing down the details that way. She wound up picking the French ear wires. After receiving her payment I popped the matching earrings in the mail and was pleased to find an email a few days later from her letting me know she had received her new earrings and that they were just as she had envisioned.

If you see some of my jewelry sets and only want one component or fall in love with a necklace that does not have matching earrings, feel free to ask if I can split a set or make a matching pair of earrings, depending on your needs.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Thanks for the Treasuries - June 2016

Two Etsy shop owners let me know they had featured one or more of my items in a treasury during June. Five June Etsy treasuries, that treasury makers let me know about, included one of my creations. You can see a collage below of my items from EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic that were featured during June. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)


I really appreciate being featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below a link to the Etsy sellers that let me know they had featured one or more of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like.

Enjoy window shopping and please click on the links to the shops whose item catches your eye.

HotDogCrafts
This shop owner turns graphics into button dangle earrings, hair clips, keychains and more.

IsabellasWhimsy
Handcrafted quilted items make cheerful gifts full of homemade goodness and care.