Friday, March 27, 2009

4 weeks to go, but still working away….

SO my husband laughs at me all the time and tells me i am a crazy pregnant lady. My nesting desire is not to get the house ready for the baby, but to prepare my business so it can keep running even when I am not. I have been doing so well selling in my Etsy shop “Luster” that I am afraid to go on hiatus and loose momentum!

I was a little offended by his statement at first until I stopped to look at what I was doing…and it is pretty true. I spent all day (6+ hours) on Saturday out in the shop making circles to turn into necklaces and earrings for inventory. This Saturday I plan on making ring! I have to say I am quite a lucky girl, I had no swelling in my legs at the end of the day, but boy was I slow moving on Sunday. I snapped this less than glamorous shot of myself leaving the barn after my day of working!


Here is a quick shot of over 200 circles in silver and copper as I pulled them out of the pickle pot. pile-of-circles

Now all I have to do is hammer then heck out of them to give them a great texture and oxidize some, and I will have a nice inventory for necklaces and earrings for a few weeks! When I get everything all finished I will have to take an “after” shot!


I just want to remind you all that next week is the last week to order custom items or rings in specific sizes from my Etsy shop or from my online website. Once I am done bulking up my inventory, I will change listings to reflect what I have available to ship.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Green Motive: Luster Metalworks

Here is a copy of the interview from Modernemotive:

February 23rd, 2009 › 12:48 pm

Store Luster Metalworks
Owner: Susan Harbourt
Selling since: Feb 2008

From top to bottom: Fade To Black Set of 3 Stacking Copper Rings, Silver Poinsettia Flower and Swirls Ring, Vertigo Charm Hammered Copper and Silver Circle Necklace, Silver Infinity Ring. Open Your Heart Hammered Copper Necklace

Tell us a little about yourself and your store.

There is something magical about making metal transform from something you would dismiss as a scrap to an amazing work of art. I am in heaven when I am at my bench with all tools in action; saw, torch, hammers, anvil, and the list goes on…

Primarily I work in sterling silver and copper making an array of rings, necklaces, bracelets, and bookmarks. Lately, I have begun to search out old metals with a story that I can reclaim, recycle and reuse to make beautiful items out of. This was inspired by the desire to work with the seemingly miles of copper wire that was removed from my turn of the century house, which was installed in the mid 1930’s during the time of Rural Electrification. Oh the stories I bet that that old copper could tell us!

What inspired you to open up your own business?

One day, a co-worker was bragging about a necklace she just bought for a HUGE sum of money. It was gorgeous, but I knew that I could never spend such an amount on a necklace. So I decided to try to create my own. I was so pleased with the results that I continued to make necklaces. Soon after, people were asking me to design unique necklaces for them. At that point is was just a fun hobby.

Once I gave up the career to become a stay at home mom, I found that I NEEDED something that allowed me to retain a part of my former independent adult life. I looked at jewelry making a bit more seriously, and thus my business was born. It allowed me to have some quite time to think my own thoughts. But more importantly, I could complete a project from start to finish and feel that sense of absolute accomplishment I was lacking as a mother. My jewelry making is my personal form of therapy.

What makes your business green?

…please don’t think I am anywhere on the same scale the guy in Life with Ed. I am human and I live in reality, but I try to make choices that are green that I can implement and not feel as if I am making a martyr of myself.

So what does that mean? Well business related I have done away with most chemicals considered unfriendly in my studio. For instance, my acid bath that is used to clean metals is now a heated mixture of vinegar + salt, before it was a very caustic chemical. I also do not use flux on my metal, which can produce harsh fumes. I just spot solder and let it sit in the vinegar longer. The metals I use come from wither Hoover & Strong’s “Harmony Metals” line of recycled / reclaimed metals. My copper supply is thanks to hours of labor working on my old house. We recently updated the electrical system from the original one that was installed at the time of Illinois’s Rural Electrification in the 1930’s. I saved all of the copper wire and now use it to make jewelry! I also like pretty packaging, but I have selected boxes, paper, and envelops that contain a high amount of recycled post consumer material. And as I mentioned, I now ship all of my items so that they can be picked up by our mail carrier so I am not making unnecessary trips to town to ship packages.

On the personal side, I believe in reviving the old rather than replacing automatically with new. The Edwardian period house I live in was months away from demolition when my husband and I found it. Immediately we bought it and have been bringing it back to life ever since. In most cases, we have tried to repair what was there versus replace with new items and we have also used a lot of items that have been from the local architectural salvage shop. This goes against the grain of our current society to buy a move in ready new construction house. Since we are “new” to the area we have actually made, and continue to make, so many new friends just from people stopping by to see what we have been doing on this old girl and to share stories of her past. Four years later and I am still amazed at all of the new friends we continue to make!

My daily driver is a 1983 diesel Mercedes Wagon purchased from a junk yard for the whopping sum of $100. With a little bit of work, the car was like new! I get great fuel mileage on the car and it has a lot of life left in it. No brand new mini-van in my immediate future! My husband’s car is pretty similar in story. I am lucky to have a husband who is so handy, not all of us can do what he does. I call him my alchemist!

Other things I do, are grow my own veggies and fruit then can or freeze them for use all year long. I also shop local and at the farmers markets when I can. I have significantly cut out pre-packaged and prepared food and drink from our life. Our big treat is to eat out once a month, but never at a chain, it’s always mom and pop restaurants. We also have a deep freeze full of beef that came from an organically grown cow from a farm down the road, which is also where I get my chicken, eggs, and milk. As for desserts and snacks, I now make them from scratch. You’d be surprised how easy it is. All of this means less packaging that is disposed of that is associated with food in a typical kitchen as well. This is really important when your trash / recycling pickup is only once a month! And yes, I did cloth diapers with my son and will again. BUT, as I said I am still very human, and hate to sacrifice too much. When we were going out and about, I did use disposable diapers for the convenience…but they were the eco friendly brand 7th Generation.

Why is it important to you to offer products that are earth friendly? Do you find it easy or have you encountered difficulties (i.e. sourcing materials)?

To be honest, first it was not me trying to be all part of the “green” movement. It was purely because I was pregnant and I wanted to know what options I had for chemicals…then it progressed from there once I began to educate myself. I have surprisingly encountered very few difficulties once I really started looking. There is a lot out there; you just need to sometimes go past the first page in a Google search to find what is right! It is also about looking at what is around you in a different light. You never know what will be the inspiration to open your eyes!

Do you have plans to further your green initiatives?

I am always looking at ways to be greener in not just my business, but my everyday life as well. Currently my husband and I are experimenting with solar and wind power on a small scale to better understand their pros and cons. It is our goal to implement a system that will generate a majority of our own power needs. It has been very interesting watching our power usage and really know what the drains are…# 1 and #2 are the dryer and the hot water heater respectively. So as a result, we have insulated our water heater as well as turned it down and during nice days we dry clothes outside.

Is your store a full-time job? What’s a typical day like for you?

“full-time”. I consider myself a full-time stay-at-home mom, so there is not a 9-5 office job that I go to any more. My son is almost 3 and ironically I am pregnant with another boy who is due to arrive on my son’s 3rd birthday; only weeks away! With the birth of son #2, my definition of “full time mom” will change again, I am sure. As I mentioned, I started my business as a way to reclaim some independent adult time I was lacking in my life. My business is fairly steady, but not enough that I would consider it full time. It is my goal that by the time I am 40 and both kids are finally in school, I will be able to step this up to the next level of being comparable to a full time gig.

I would say right now, I don’t operate on a typical day basis, more of a typical week, and mind you this is all about to change dramatically when there is a tiny baby back in the house…UGH…As I type this, reality is setting in of all the lack of seep that will be!!!!

Okay, daily, I wake up around 5am so I can spend a little time with my hubby. He works out and I sit on my computer and do some “work”. My work entails checking the local and national news and weather first thing. Then I look at my shops to see if I have any sales, emails, or convos to acknowledge or reply to. I also check Etsy treasuries to see if I am in any, look at how many new hearts I got overnight, and take a peek at my Goggle Analytics data, and either relist sold items or renew a few popular items. After all of that I go shower and wake up my son so we can all eat breakfast together. Thru out the day I don’t spend too much time on my shop, but I do repeat the general process again at night after kiddo goes to bed.

Weekly, I have a babysitter come over for a few hours 2 times a week. She plays with my son as I work in my studio. I also have enlisted her help in putting the decals on my boxes and a few other small chores to help make shipping go faster. If I can’t get all of my orders done during that time I will work on the weekend when my husband is home to help keep my “little assistant” from body slamming me as I work with my torch or other not so toddler friendly tools.

To minimize the impact of my business on family time, I generally ship only twice a week. So on Sunday and Wednesday nights I will go to my computer and print out all of the shipping labels and package all of the items. I am now using the shipping service Endicia so that I can ship international packages from home rather than trek to the PO which is like 15 miles away. This saves me a ton of time and money as I now can just put all of my packages in my mail box for the postal carrier to pick up.

I was really good about having at least one new item listed a week…or at the very least refreshing a current item by redoing its photography and description. That has fallen to the wayside lately. My spare creative time is now filled with building inventory for when I am out of commission. I also spend a little bit of time each day experimenting with design concepts that I will implement once I am back up and running again. I figure the more I can do now, the easier it will be to get back into the swing once I settle into my new full time mommy of 2 roll.

What inspires your work? Any favorite sites/resources you’d like to share?

A lot of my work is inspires by organic forms. I may be working in my garden and the way a tendril from a pea vine wraps around the fence may move me. I love texture and just seeing how a piece of metal responds to a hammer and anvil. I also love having a toddler around. He finds the most ordinary things exciting so looking at the world thru his eyes is also refreshing and inspiring.

We all have days when we feel uninspired. What do you do to snap yourself out of it?

This may sound lame, but I have 3 things that snap me out of a creative funk. First I totally remove everything off of my desk and work surface. I then reorganize it and put it all back in place. Once I have a clean organized zone, the cobwebs feel as if they are cleared away. I then will flip thru some of my favorite books or my sketch pads for inspiration or look at shops / sites I love and see what they are doing and how much they are selling. I then get a bit of a competitive streak in me and I get back to work. If this fails…well I will stand in my studio area and just allow myself a day to tinker and experiment with something new. This usually helps my mojo start to flow again.

What are the top 3 lessons you’ve learned since opening your store - both the good and the bad.

    The good
  1. It is okay to set boundaries on what time you are willing to spend on your business and what you can accomplish. Most people accept that my work is custom made per order and may take a week (or more right now) to complete and get shipped. If they don’t, it is not worth fretting over. I have canceled a few sales because I could not make 20 necklaces by the next day. I am only me, and that is okay, learn that mantra fast or you will be in trouble.
  2. You encounter a lot of interesting people from all over the world and get to touch their lives in some small way with your craft.
  3. A little organization goes a long way.
    The bad
  1. No matter how clear you are in a product description or how much info you provide, most people just don’t read what you write. Argh!
  2. You will get your hopes up on scoring a great custom order or boutique spot….just to find out they were out tire kicking!
  3. Don’t procrastinate; it bites you in the end.

What advice would you give others out there that have a store or are looking to open one. Both from an everyday perspective and how to run a greener business.

You don’t need to do it all at once, take baby steps or else you will get bogged down in the detail and attempts to implement a green life. Document what you are doing green, others like to hear it! And finally, don’t beat yourself up if one aspect is not going the way you thought it would…step back and try a new approach. Just remember that ANY effort you make is better than making no effort at all! Like me the more you learn, the more you will find ways to sneak painlessly it into your life!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mother Earth / 5 weeks to go!

With the sudden onslaught of warm weather, I am actually beginning to think that Spring may actually be on its way! I decided to take a walk around the yard enjoying the signs of spring that are popping out everywhere.lilac It was a great stroll! The sun was out, the jacket was off, and there was sounds of busy birds everywhere! When I approached one of my Lilac bushes, I noticed that there were actually buds beginning to form!

I also noticed that the grass was beginning to have more green in it than the winter wheat yellow that I had become accustomed to.

Then I saw her….out of the shadows…Mother Earth Emerged! And I remembered it is still 5 more weeks to go!


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

15 Days Left!


That’s right…in 15 days I will have to do some serious shop maintenance on both my Etsy Luster Shop and my personal Luster Metal Works site ! My 1000 Markets Luster Shop will go into vacation mode.

As you know, I am about 5 weeks out from having a baby, and it is getting increasing harder to work in my studio making the custom jewelry. Once the baby comes I am sure it will take me a few months to get back “into the swing” of things again. I haven’t asked the doc yet, but I am sure that slamming a hammer on metal will defiantly be out of the question for at least 6 – 8 weeks post c-sect!

So with that said, this is an early warning that if there is anything in my shop you are thinking of buying, now is the time. My plan is to get a bit of inventory set up and have some items to offer during my hiatus, but they will not be customizable.

To help me plan a little better I am setting up a poll to find out what people think I should stock up on. I appreciate your taking the time to take the poll and help me out! It should be up later today!

When I return from my “Baby Hiatus” I will be debuting a new line of jewelry! So keep posted here for updates and sneak peaks!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Accidentally on the Eco-Friendly Path

I have decided to start blogging once a week on a combo of my efforts at being green, reducing my carbon footprint, as well as my love affair with my old house. Some decisions my husband and I will be good others maybe could have been better, but we try. This was inspired by a feature story about my shops Luster and Luster Metal Works that was written by Adele of Modernemotive. This segment shows how I left my life of conspicuous consumption behind....

Many people these days are concerned with being more eco-friendly or green. I have to admit I have thought about it but really, it did not become something I referred to as a part of until this past year. For most of us, I think there is always some trigger that leads us down a new path. Some of us change by making a concerted effort to do so based on personal belief, others of us just sorta wander near the path and finally find that they are on it by the strange way life evolves. I was a wonderer. There are many things I was doing correct, but didn't even consider it as being "eco-friendly" until one of my conspicuous consumption type friends made a comment on how my life now is soo different than it used to be and that I was an "Eco-Geek". At first I was offended, I didn't want to be an eco-geek that was a title that should be reserved for Ed Begley Jr or Bill Nuy. But then I realized, compared to her I really was! And you know what, it is not so bad.

Some of the things I was already doing that she referred to as Eco were just things I did, not because I was trying to be green, I did them because they felt right, but I was not always this way. In my "previous life" my husband and I lived in the snarl referred to as NoVa (Northern Virginia). This is a large sprawling area of high cost living and crazy commutes. I should know. At the time, we lived in a tiny fixer-upper house of only 800 sq ft that cost over $500K. This not so dream house was also about a 60 mile, one way commute to work, which included a lot of sitting in standstill beltway traffic. Why so far out? Well, that was as close as we could get and almost afford to live. And unfortunately my husband and I worked in opposite directions, so no carpooling. Don't gasp, but he drove a pickup truck to work and I drove a SUV.... and the sad thing is that we were the norm.

When we would get home, we often were so worn out that we would go out to dinner just to avoid cooking and cleaning for ourselves. When I turned 30, I had a "third life crisis". I realized I was getting fat from eating out and no activity. I wanted kids but I realized that if I had them, they would have to be in day care from like 5 am until like 7 pm. That is not a life for kids! And I couldn’t quit my job, it was very good paying and we needed both salaries just to pay our mortgage...and then there was the house. It was not set up for a family, and to upgrade to a family size house at the peak of the housing boom meant taking on a million dollar or more mortgage. We just couldn't do that....but many people around us could and did. So now you see the beginning of my third life crisis. Then I lost my job….

Fully feeling the crisis set in, my husband put together a proposal to open a branch office of the company he worked for out in central Illinois, a much lower cost of living location. Fortunately it was well received by his bosses as a lot of the work he was in charge of was based in the mid west area. So I set out to find us a house that met all of our requirements. My requirements were: move in ready condition, central AC, something good for a family, something with a mortgage we could afford on 1 salary. My husband’s requirements were: enough acreage so that the drunk neighbors could not be so nosey and pop in as soon as he worked on a project and proceed to tell him how it should be done if they were doing it (oh yeah, we were a magnet for those types), he wanted a cool house that had not been “remuddled” by some hack, he needed enough space for his toys and hobbies, and if he had a commute, he wanted it to be so that we lived to the East of town so that he was not driving into the sun both directions. Well, let me just say, my husband got everything on his list….I was short a few. But when I found the house I fell in love and my list didn’t seem to matter anymore. I didn’t realize that not only was I moving to a different area of the country, but I was also moving to a different way of life and thinking.

This may not sound too green to you yet, but over the next few weeks I will post on how I slowly became more eco-friendly and ways we stumbled onto a more green path and now ways we actually make concerted decisions to reduce our carbon foot print. It was a process, it did not happen overnight. I hope you will enjoy the journey with me. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions on ways to do better! And for those of you who appreciate seeing an old house being brought back from the dead, I hope you particularly enjoy this!

Here is a photo of my house as I found it and fell in love with it... I will be sharing photos of the renovation in my posts. Some renovations were green, some greenish, some we just needed done and with the time and money we had available...


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Friday, March 6, 2009

The Mommy Quiz... 7 weeks to go for #2!

We have all seen these running rampant, so I thought I'd post some of my answers! Fridays are my countdown to #2 days. Current date for c-section is April 24. Beside us is a photo of James from March 2008. This is to remind me that it will get warm enough to play outside soon!

1. WAS YOUR PREGNANCY PLANNED? Yes, we tried for a few years to get prego.


3. WHAT WERE YOUR REACTIONS? So shocked since it was our 1st month back to trying after a m/c



6. HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU WERE PREGNANT? I had a dream a few nights after the "deed" where my grandmother came and sat on my bed and told me I was pregnant, it would be difficult, but in the end it would all work out fine and that it would be a boy....and boy was she correct. So I literally took a test every few days for about a week until I saw the faint hint of a blue line appear. The called the doc and had a blood test.

7. WHO DID YOU TELL FIRST? Chris, my husband of course!

8. DID YOU WANT TO FIND OUT THE SEX? YES...I don't like surprises.

9. DUE DATE? April 28, 2006

10. DID YOU DELIVER EARLY OR LATE? I went in on April 28 for a standard check up and the doc sent me over to be induced..."fetal distress"...but they never saw any distress at the hospital, we think the timing was just good for her, which is fine due to the fact that the hospital was experiencing sever overcrowding at the time and that day there was a lull. Well long story short...24 hrs later I had made no progress other than my water breaking and then they realized the baby was breached and off to an emergency c-section for me!

11. Where did your water break? At dinnertime in the was the TV style water balloon gush.

12. WHAT DID YOU CRAVE?Anything drowning in vinegar

13. WHO IRRITATED YOU THE MOST? The baby...I had pnemonia from 7-8.5 months of pregnancy and he gave me a broken rib AND a separated rib at the same time during that phase. I wanted him OUT!


15. DID YOU WISH YOU HAD THE OPPOSITE SEX OF WHAT YOU WERE GETTING? Nope, it took the "pressure" off for future kids....but looks like #2 is gonna be a boy too....

16. HOW MANY POUNDS DID YOU GAIN THROUGHOUT THE PREGNANCY? almost 60, but that was due to immobility during the rib break / sickness phase.

17. DID YOU HAVE A BABY SHOWER? Yes, My mom-in-law tried her best to put one together for me. It is hard when all teh family si far away. But it was a good time.


19. DID YOU HAVE ANY COMPLICATIONS DURING YOUR PREGNANCY? Yup...low placenta, bleeding, brain cyst on the baby (but went away), 0 dilation / 0 effacement by 40 weeks, induced for 24 hrs with NO pain killers due to NO progress but suffering from severe back labor, then the emergency c-section, and then within hours James developed the blood incompatibility type jaundice and had to stay under the billy lights for all but 15 mins per 3 hrs...UGH!


21. HOW MAY HOURS WERE YOU IN LABOR? 24 hours until they realized after shoving a finger in that he was butt down not head down.

22.WHO DROVE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL? I walked over from the doctors visit....very irritated as Chris and I had big plans for a yummy lunch after that doc appointment....not a trip to the hospital!

23.WHO WATCHED? Chris, and he actually watched James get extracted from my belly.


25.DID YOU TAKE MEDICINE TO EASE THE PAIN? Yes for the c-sect but not much post recovery.


27.DID YOUR CHILD HAVE ANY COMPLICATIONS? Yes the blood type incompatibility jaundice

28.WHAT DID YOU NAME HIM/HER? James Augustus Harbourt

29. HOW OLD IS YOUR CHILD TODAY? He will be 3 on April 29...ironically baby#2 is due that day!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Been a bit busy lately!

I know, I know....New Years commitment #1 was to try to blog more. Well I did have best intentions, but I have to admit, I have been a bit busy lately! This is a good thing is it not????

Well normally I would say bring it on, but right now I am 7 weeks away from having a baby and I am 7 weeks away from my son being 3....and we have a house that is constantly under renovation. So I don't have a lot of free time, and what time is free, I feel totally worn out. It has been hard to see that all of my business building efforts are coming to fruition and I am having to put the breaks on. So far I have had to pass on at least 3 great wholesale / retail opportunities because I know I will not be able to keep up with demand for a few months, countless custom orders, and other stuff. Fortunately most have been understanding and are willing to keep in touch for a Fall line opportunity.

I also had a string of orders thru my Etsy site and my Luster Website. This has been great, but now I am feeling a little nervous about taking a hiatus for a maternity leave. I have this compulsion to keep going even though it is not reality for much longer. I don't want to sound like I am whining, I am not, I am just feeling a little overwhelmed and over ambitious with what I am wanting to do. Maybe it is just the hormones talking!

So here is my plan:
  1. Make inventory for items I know are my best sellers and put the rest of my offerings on hold for now.
  2. Spend time comming up with concepts for a Luster Fall Line relaunch. If I have them nailed down a bit now, I will have an easier transition.
  3. Analyze markets to target and ways to advertise.
  4. Blog more!
  5. Network a bit so I don't fall out of the loop.
  6. RELAX!!!!!

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