From the monthly archives: December 2010

Tips for writing and submitting a tutorial

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on anything (except eating cake. You want to know how to eat cake, come to me. I rock at it.) but I wanted to share a few tips on things to do/not do when you’re creating a tutorial, based on my own experience – of both writing tutorials, and being rejected!

Submitting the tutorial:

Usually you can take a low-res photograph of an example piece of jewelry and attach it to an e-mail, along with a brief description of the methods and materials used. Make sure you know what the focus of the magazine is, and that your piece ina good fit. It’s also helpful to browse some back issues to see if any similar projects have appeared recently. If you’re submitting a button bracelet it’s less likely it will be accepted if a button bracelet was in the month before, no matter how unique yours is.

    Don’t send the tutorial proposal to several magazines at once! What will you do if more than one actually accepts? Equally, it’s advisable not to send a tutorial proposal that has already been published prominently online; magazines tend not to like second-hand tutorials.

      It would seem to be prudent to photograph all your tutorial steps before you submit your proposal, or while you’re waiting for an answer. It’s not. Sometimes magazines will ask if modifications to colour or theme can be made, and if you want to be published, you’ll probably agree to it, rendering a lot of your previous work useless.

        If it’s accepted, make sure you get a contract, or at the very least an agreement on payment amount and date written out in an e-mail. Magazines work on a long schedule (or maybe it just seems like that when you’re waiting!) and it’s easy to get overlooked after you’ve submitted all the work.

          Photographing the tutorial:

          Don’t bother spending an afternoon making a homemade light box if you live with other animals. The moment you leave the room to get your camera, the light box will become a cat bed/doggy playground.

            A tripod is essential, but a good one is expensive. You can buy ones for a few dollars but they can really wobble; to solve that problem, stick a bit of raw polymer clay/blu-tack to the legs and press it to your work surface. Then set the self-timer, press the button, and run away until the picture has been taken. Voila, no unsteadiness.

              Keep wipes/a damp cloth by your side at all times to clean off the surface you’re shooting on; until you start taking macro shots, you don’t realise how much dust and random debris accumulates out of thin air.

                Details really matter; every single fault shows up in macro shots, and at the size at which they’re printed in publications, they’ll show up even more. So take a few test shots of your pieces, then study them on your compiter monitor, or print them out at the required image sizes and resolutions. Circle what stands out most to you, and make sure they’re fixed first.

                  It’s okay to fudge things a little bit; if a jump ring isn’t perfect, turn it around to an angle where it doesn’t show. If a wrapped loop looks lopsided, hide it out of focus. I’m not, repeat NOT, saying it’s okay to do this with items you’re selling or giving away, but as long as you can do these techniques properly in your work, covering up a small mistake in a tutorial photograph can save you re-doing photographs.

                    Use ‘action’ shots with pliers/your hands/tools. It makes the tutorial more dynamic, because let’s face it, only showing the same components in slightly different stages can get a bit tedious. Consider adding a few relevant background props too, but be careful the shot doesn’t get too cluttered.

                      Make sure your nails are clean, not painted a violent shade of yellow, and are free of chipped nail varnish. Sounds obvious, but sometimes the obvious things get missed.

                        This is a personal preference, but I find it a lot less stressful to make up’stage’ pieces for each step; by this, I mean I don’t create the components and assemble them into a full piece as I’m going along. Rather, I make a seperate piece for each step, and leave it in that incomplete stage, so that if I have to re-take any photos, I can just get out that ‘set-piece’ and re-photograph it without having to undo any further work.

                          If some of your ‘steps’ have more than one direction to the reader, consider showing the series of actions evolving from left to right in one of your photographs; for example, a bead on a headpin, a loop turned in the headpin, above the bead, and finally a loop in the final stages of wrapping.

                            Written Instructions:

                            For these, make up a test piece, writing down every single thing you do as you go, even if a step seems like it would be intuitive (this is more important if you’re doing a beginner piece, obviously).

                              Find a friend who is on the level of expertise that your tutorial will expect and ask them to read it through to make sure your directions are clear. If you don’t know anyone who will/can do this, try to make your tutorial piece yourself by doing only the things specififed in your instructions; if it’s not in the instructions , don’t do it. Now see if this resulting piece looks like it should. If not, you may have to add some extra steps.

                                No matter how much you love words, you’re going to have to cut down on them if ypu’re writing to a publication’s specifications. Edit, edit, edit the heck out of the steps, removing uneccessary adjectives, adverbs etc.

                                  Basically, use the absolute fewest words you can without sounding like Tarzan (“You, cutters, wire. Snip snip.”) You’ll probably still be over the word count by the way, but if by some miracle, you’re not, you can add in some details and verbal scenery afterwards.

                                    Add your own tutorial tips below, I’d love to hear them


                                    A post on another blog – Lampwork Diva – Mad for Monday….Hands about sculptures of hands suddenly sent me off on my own search for ‘artisan hands’ on Etsy, because I used to love those tiny ceramic ones that were so common in hippy/fantasy shops.

                                    Anyway, I had to spread a link to this shop: Moonlight Aura. She creates hands from polymer clay. Masses of hands, mostly in American Sign Language formations:

                                    as well as some symbolic hand pieces, like this insanely brilliant one:

                                    Look at the shape of the base! What lovely attention to geeky detail.

                                    Recently I’ve been on the lookout for ways to package items with less waste – I already recycle jiffy mailers when I can* and snatch up any card or bubble wrap that enters the house, to re-use in my parcels. But I wanted to find some sources for actual recycled papers, business supplies, and other items. I haven’t used any of these places yet, so I can’t vouch for their service/quality, but I thought sharing them here might help out anyone looking for similar products (UK based).

                                    To see previous resource posts, click here for ‘ethical’ supplies and here for vegan craft items

                                    Green Stationary:

                           - stationary that is bio-degradable or recycled in some way, as well as ‘green’ office supplies like recycled printer cartridges and catering packaging.

                                    Recycled Paper Supplies:

                           -  card-making, wrapping, paper, and packaging that is recyclable, and mostly recycled.


                           - yay, an eco-crafts site. Papers, cards and display bags. (Now all we need is an all vegan craft site)

                                    Tiny Box Company:

                           - already well-known, but they do a great range of jewellery, cupcake, and gift boxes in recycled cards (I *have* bought their boxes before, and they were great)


                           - as well as a wide array of paper and business supplies, they carry eco-friendly gifts like mouse mats made out of juice cartons, and various cool-looking gadgets.

                                    *i.e. when I haven’t ripped them open down the middle in haste. Ooops.








                                    Today is Holiday Decoration Sunday Browsing – a selection of handmade ornaments that I’d love to see around the house (even though I’ve already decorated…did that on the 1st *G*)

                                    Firstly, an upcycled ornament from twistedbeading, made from found metals. I’ve heard the phrase ‘rustic charm’ thrown around a lot by people who know *things* about home decor…well, this is my idea of rustic charm:


                                    I’m still not quite sure what a gourd is (apparently there are banana versions?) but gourdsadored makes brilliantly quirky snowpeople from them, so you have to admire their versatility:

                                    The colours of red and white always elicit a sugar-centered response for me, especially at the holidays; together they just scream ‘candy’ (and then afterwards they scream ‘unbearable sugar rush!!!!’), so this snowflake ornament by Mymothersgarden immediately drew my attention. Reminds me of a beautifully decorated sugar cookie *G*


                                    Vegancraftastic has a small range of hand-sewn Christmas stockings, from non-traditional (pirates!), to this one that epitomizes the classic image of Santa Claus, featuring a pretty, contrasting trim of Christmas lights:



                                    One of the best types of holiday decorations are those you get to eat when the tree comes down. Usually, that means candy canes, mini-chocolates that are made twice as expensive by the addition of a bit of sparkly string (ahem, sorry, some bitterness emerging there), or cookies, but PyromancerDesigns’ ornaments instead contain coffee, teas or spices, for a festive, rustic decoration that can be re-filled:


                                    Kissadesign’s shop is such a wonderland of sparkliness that I found it difficult to pick which item to post, so I just went for the one that seemed to have an extra layer of shine; made from stiff metallic paper, these ‘sea urchins’ would look gorgeous at the top of a tree:

                                    For a more unusual take on a Christmas tree, I like this mini wire-scupture, featuring a wire-wrapped star, crystals, and polymer clay roses, by WireArtInk. The texture of the wire just really lends itself to the springiness of fir trees:

                                    And finally, a cute eco-felt (from plastic, not animals) snowflake, in a subtle light blue and white colourway, that looks both delicate and cuddly. Whatnomints has several of this type of upcycled or ‘green’ decorations, including adorable Christmas trees, and some awesomely geeky amoeba:


                                    A while ago, I entered the the Beads and Beyond magazine Jewellery Maker of the Year Competition, and was short-listed in the Mixed-Media category; today I got the issue that announces the winners.

                                    Well, I didn’t win. I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit sad at first, but now I’m feeling glad that I got shortlisted at all; it was the first jewellery designing competition I entered with my polymer clay work, and only the second one I ever entered (and I might have entered that past the deadline, so I guess it doesn’t count!). It felt like a big step, and it was fun :D

                                    The others designs *were* really beautiful, so congratulations to all the winners! :)


                                    Anyway, here’s one design I entered that wasn’t shortlisted

                                    And here’s the shortlisted one:

                                    Practically everything on both ofthem is handmade by me: the feature beads/pendant, the round links and jumprings, the toggle ring and bar/clasp, and the accent beads. The only things I didn’t make were the tiny silver-plated beads that are dotted around :D



























                                    Today’s edition is on the theme of ‘cuppas’ – all things related to tea and coffee, and having a good sit down in the afternoon.

                                    Edit: Heh, I’ve just noticed my Sunday Browsing post is not listed on the Sunday, but a few days before, mainly because I have a set of template posts (and some ideas for Sunday Browsing topics – yes, it’s true, now sometimes I do a browse on a Friday/Saturday if my Sundays are going to be full. I found it better than missing weeks of the picks *G* Sell-out!), and accidentally published it, so it was technically not published on a Sunday. Rectified now :)

                                    First up, you need something to drink from, right? If you’re of a refined nature, (I’m not, but I like imagining I could be) you’d probably use a teacup; this curlew cup by Birdartist radiates delicacy. One lovely detail is the way the curlew’s beak slides down into the handle:


                                    If you tend to want as much tea or coffee as possible in one serving (yep, like me) you’d go for a mug. There are tons of fantastic handmade mugs on Etsy (which might be on a future Sunday Browsing) but for sheer fun, I chose this one by MudFairy, featuring a slightly crazed but happy pirate and his parrot. Let’s face it, with his face looking out, no-one will bother you in in your quiet tea time:


                                    For the sugar lumps in your drink, a perfect little crock jar with a lovely forest design complete with a beautiful owl. My favourite touch is the quirky curve of the handle:


                                    Or how about this matching pair of cream (vegan, of course) and sugar vessels by StudioElan, in a pretty and fun apple design. The bright glaze colours are immediately eye-catching, and the apple leaf handle on the jug is just adorable:


                                    Nothing better than a cupcake with your tea or coffee, unless it’s a cupcake served on its own stand. This one by alinahayes makes something special out of tiny treat, and there’s room for three cupcakes on the server (I’d say enough for you and two friends, but let’s face it, we can all eat three cupcakes easily by ourselves):


                                    This one is a bit of a flight of fancy for me, since there’s no way I could have a teapot as special as this, but I had to include it because it’s a simply beautiful piece of art by nancyadamsclayartist. Her shop also includes exquisite vessels and vases, as well as more teapots:


                                    Finally, BigSkyArtworks makes a variety of ceramics for everyday use, including this brilliant piece, featuring a tiny turtle crawling from the depths of a blue bowl onto a patch of sand:



                                    There’s a bit of furore going on in the on-line vegan community right now; a well-known vegan blogger has apparently suddenly developed a complete disdain for this way of life.

                                    I’d like to write out a lengthy rebuttal of everything she wrote, but a lot of people have already done it a lot better and more interestingly that I can, and besides, whenever I start to thing about what she said, I have the urge to laugh out loud (and then cry in frustration a little bit) because it all sounds so ridiculous. I have to cut her a bit of slack – she feels her health has been damaged, and I know that when you feel like that, you’re often prompted to do whatever you can to alleviate your pain. I also respect that people have different beliefs, and not everyone is vegan, and that’s fair enough; she certainly doesn’t deserve the threats she’s apparently been getting for this.

                                    But pronouncing veganism as an unhealthy option, as something that is often a facade (apparently, loads of famous vegan writers regularly eat fish or meat to keep them healthy…there’s that urge to laugh and cry rising again) from her position as a well-known ex-vegan just seems irresponsible; it has the potential to lend her words a false, misleading aura of legitimacy that will probably be used as fuel in anti-vegan arguments. It implies veganism cannot be sustained as a life-long diet, because who would know this better than some who *was* a vegan, and reverted. She is attempting to justify her own personal decision (her right, of course) by presenting her rationalizations as fact, and that is what ipsets me most.

                                    I don’t want to lay out all the reasons I believe veganism is a good way to go, and I don’t want to sound judgey. What I do want to say is that, contrary to her post:

                                    Most vegans are actually vegan behind the scenes as well as in public
                                    It’s not difficult, self-denying, anti feminist, or masochistic to be vegan
                                    Vegans are not continually hungry

                                    And my own personal mantra:
                                    Vegan chocolate and cakes are the most divine things in the world (plus you can lick the cake batter without worrying about raw eggs!)

                                    Here’s some further reading:

                                    Edited to add:
                                    I’ve just started reading the comments in the eponymous vegan’s post, as well as some other blogs (links following); the internet never changes, does it? These fights always managed to follow the same script, just with a different topic, whether it’s fandom, food, or feminism. It’s funny when it isn’t sad.


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