Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Memories

Monday memories on the Sparrow Salvage blog

 Came across this little memory moment while cleaning up the shipping desk - a couple of old stamps including one for Little Brown Sparrow. The Sparrow Salvage one will be used again soon... Does anyone still have these cards I used to give out? Hold on to them, they'll be worth millions when I'm famous! The pages they're sitting on are part of my packaging materials; books bought long ago in auction lots that were too far gone to be of worth. Now they add a little romance to every purchase.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Item of the week - vintage studio pottery vase

Item of the week! It's a new feature I'll be adding to the blog every Saturday, showcasing my favourite item from either of the three shops. The honor of first featured goes to this super sweet vintage studio pottery vase.

vintage studio pottery vase - miss foley vintage on the sparrow salvage blog

 I'm a huge fan of vintage studio pottery - living in the country means it turns up a lot in the thrifts, secondhand shops and garage sales as a lot of bohemian artist types have lived in this area for some time. This one has a creamy glaze which reminds me of crashing waves; it's unsigned my the artist which is a shame because they're clearly good at what they do, a nice neat finish and thoughtful glaze pattern. I found it about 6 months ago and though I very much enjoy it's company, it's got to go as part of my larger plan of S.E.I.O.A.M.T.E. (selling everything I own and moving to England.)

Here is it enjoying the company of some other little studio pottery pieces I've collected; they will all sooner or later find their way to my shop. You can see the magnificent moonstone ring there too, that's already up.

Sparrow Salvage item of the week - interior inspirations

 I can see this little vase being right at home in an interior like this - light and bright to suit it's sandy hues, with simple modernist shapes and bohemian overtones. Nestled up to that fantastic lamp, it would blend right in!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Glamour Wrap

Have you ever seen bubble wrap look this glamourous! It's padding out these 1970s silver dancing shoes I found at the thrift last week. Cleaner than newspaper and more effective than shoe trees, it's great for restoring 'plump' to fallen vamps. There's a new word for you! A vamp is the part that goes over the toes.

I'll be adding these to the vintage shop once I've finished restoring them - they have buckle issues which need to be addressed. The background is a fake wall I'm trying out, using old wallpaper. It's not stuck down properly yet but I think I'm going to go with it. I've never been a fan of the stark white background and since all the other vintage dealers are turning on to the dove grey background, I want to go in another direction so I stand out.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Onward and Upward

vintage 1930s buckles on original card by Fagin's Daughter
1930s celluloid buckles on their original card

Oh you know the drill - it's been too long, I've been really busy, new projects, changes here, changes there...blah blah. It's all true though! I have been doing those things. It really feels like the last 4 months or so have been a big ol' buffet of changes and difficulties and ideas dying and reviving and being born...blah.

What is this blog update about..? I don't know- random things. I just haven't done one for so long I figured I ought to. I do want to have this blog more active and it's one of the things on my 2015 things to do. Along with running three online shops, teaching myself creative brand development, writing my eBook on how to be an Etsy superstar (complete with superior social media skills), writing about 5 other tutorials... Recently I was given the chance to take over someone's antique shop locally and I really put 95% of my energy into that...only to have them change their minds about 2 months into the whole thing. I was only just getting started on all the changes I had to do, and to be honest it was a set back for me, especially from a mental/emotional point of view.

Heart of the Lotus -  carved wooden lotus flower earrings

Anyway -water under the bridge and all that sort of thing. I'm plowing forward and 2015 is going to be a HUGE year for me. I'm putting even more energy into the online shops than I ever have (which will be a sight since these post-accident years find me with quite low energy reserves) because by this time next year I want to be wandering the snow drifts of England! I'm leaving mid-January 2016, going for as long as I can afford and only coming back when there's literally no other choice - or Christmas, whichever happens first. This is the first step for me in moving there permanently and making it happen is going to require much in the way of mojo, spunk, moxie, gunpowder and other self-incendiary metaphors.Not to mention money! 10k...yikes.

To plump the coffers, Sparrow Salvage has gone 'full artisan' and become a flagship for all my creative outlets as they currently manifest; some of my photography is back up along with my paper collage, there are a few pieces of jewelry I made lately and I'll soon be selling my handmade supplies there instead of over in Fagin. It was mostly the lack of enough shop sections in Fagin that motivated it, but I figured my handmade supplies are so uniquely of my style, it makes sense they should be in Sparrow Salvage.

All in rags - 8X10 artist photographic print by sparrow salvage
All in rags - 8X10 print back in the shop

One last thing -  my dear Kim has written a wonderful and authentic blog post on the nature of evolution in creative work, talking about the originality of our art and how it comes into being. It's highly recommended reading if you haven't already done so. I'm tempted to do a blog post on it myself but I'm still ruminating.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

OK wow... many things! Changes and ideas and dreams and whatnot. It may surprise none of you to know that my plans have changed yet again. I do this a lot, but in my defense it's because I am poor and creative and I must go where the opportunistic roses grow.I like to think if I had the money to do the things I want to do when I want to do them...ah who am I kidding I'd still change heading every 3 days.


Anyway. So.

It started with a conversation, which lead to a dead end, then another conversation about that conversation, then another one...and then suddenly I had an antique shop! Yeah, a real bricks and mortar. Technically it isn't mine, I'm the manager of a shop for a family friend. But I have a fair amount of creative freedom and it's a great little shop where I can sell my things alongside other people's. And I can have an antique shop! So there was that.

So then I took all my stuff down from Etsy and put Sparrow Salvage back to photography and paper collage, and it can just meditate there and I'll add new stuff to it now and again. I still have Fagin's of course, and judging by the 3-suitcases-and-a-trunk pile next to the desk I'll be doing that for a while longer. Which I don't mind really, because it's fun.


Then I figured since I'm pretty much just going to do the bricks and mortar thing for about 2 years and then start living in the UK part-time (details to be magically engineered at a later date) I might as well just keep this blog and abandon all my plans for a fancy website and such-forth, because I can't get it to look right the antique shop I work at has it's own website (coming soon!) and I have Instagram, and this blog is perfectly good for all the online things I wanna do, like Fagin and all my tutorials and business kits I'm writing.

And that's enough for one girl, for now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Weekend Wandering

 My brother joined us for the weekend down here in the country; the second weekend of every month is a double market weekend here, with the Coal Creek market and Loch market both occuring, one on each day. So we decided to make a trilogy of it and visit the weekly Kongwak flea market as well. (Except Dad was the only one that made it to the Coal Creek market, it was too early for me!)

 old house in Loch

I've been wanting to flex my photography muscles again and this time of year is perfect for it. Intense blue skies, big fluffy clouds and bonfire bright autumn trees all create an explosion of colours and depth. And of course the countryside with it's old houses and rolling velvet hills doesn't exactly hinder!

tissue pom poms, pressed tin, carved wood and an intensely pink blind in the beautiful old Loch church hall
 Loch's main street, alive with heritage and green - enticing glimpses of antique shops can be seen in the distance.

 The main interestion in town, complete with heritage Post Office and the rolling green hills that are seen from almost every angle in these local tiny towns, snuggled into the dales.

 Standing in the middle of the road is pretty safe in tiny country towns, plus you get great shots of the wide old streets and heritage shop fronts.

 picture perfect - usually I wait for people to move before I take my shots, but not this one...

 I wanted to explore this back lane - but I wanted to shop for antiques more! I meant to go back but shopping swept it from my mind. Next time perhaps.

A modest little house dressed in aqua blue and dusted with autumn leave.

I bought a few things  - plenty of locally grown veg and home made cakes, a 1970s tooled leather handbag (I've been searching for the perfect one for ages- finally scored!) and a splendid baby pink 1950s cake box. We were worn out by lunchtime and came home to a roast pork dinner with all the trimmings; every bit of it was local produce!

 Photography, country drives, home grown food and family company... I decree we should do Market Weekend every month. That's if I can master the art of getting up before midday...

Friday, May 9, 2014

Big Post of Feels and Projects

UGH- a month! It's been a month since I blogged! That is no way to run a railroad. I have been doing stuff though! Well mostly thinking, a little shop re-arranging, some dream making happening...

Okay let's run through what I've been doing. The catalyst was my 40th birthday at the start of April and surprisingly, that bought out a lot more stuff than I thought it would. Really, serious life questions. I didn't think turning 40 would be a big deal cause I usually don't go for all that society stuff. I don't think turning 40 was bad, just... a benchmark, I guess. Anyway most of it was down to the antique centre my dad and brother took me to, and how they had a ton of super awesome stuff I wanted to buy, but couldn't, because I don't have a real house to put it in and probably won't any time soon cause I was saving my life and money to go to England.

awesome things at local antique center - reminds me of my first 'proper' house back in the mid 90s

Some hard thinking later, I am no longer going to England. Shortest version of that story; I want a house, I want to get on with developing my career and I don't have the $14k required to go to England. That's fourteen thousand dollars. You can do a lot with that kind of money, and while happiness is important, I would rather go to England as an established person who has her life sorted out, not as someone who is hoping 3 months in England will sort the life out for her. So England is now about 4-5 years away.

Making this decision changed everything. Everything. My whole outlook has changed. I really had no idea how depressing day to day life had become, to not be able to buy household goods and furnishings, and to have to save every dollar I could spare (and that ain't a lot). I didn't actually realise being able to buy household goods was that important to me (though I know I'm a huge fan), but if I can go to an antique centre and be close to tears because 'I want that cupboard', that's got to mean something. And it does; the homes we live in must be comfortable and beautiful and reflect our own passions and aesthetics. The home is the spiritual center of a modern person, it is our comfort and our refuge. The home has always been important to me, and I haven't had a proper one for almost 3 years now.

 vintage bells - listed and sold

Also I'm 40 now.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


It really doesn't feel good to me how long I go between posts. I gotta fix that. I should just post about any old crap like I used to on Livejournal. There's many facets to the Sparrow, you don't see half of them here! Note to self. Anyway- that's for later; what have I been up to? Well...

 Couple months ago Dad decided he wanted a high quality printer (he makes magic lantern slides for a hobby) and I chipped in so I would finally be able to print my own photos at home instead of sending them to the lab. It's fantastic to be able to set up a shot, process the image and print it out all in under an hour! This means I can start offering my prints again in Sparrow Salvage, something I'd been meaning to get back to but put it on the back burner. Til now! I prefer printing at home, I have direct control over my prints; full control over the colour tones and paper quality. What's more I can print them when they're ordered rather than buying a bunch of pre-printed and worrying they won't sell.

I've been making stuff, sorta. I took photos for a tutorial I was writing on my bangle earrings, then I started wondering if I wanted to do a tutorial on it, then I figured I might as well since I have it all written out, then I wondered does anyone even need a tutorial for these? Its pretty easy to figure out on your own isn't it? I don't know- I have an ability to look at something and within a few minutes I can figure out how it's done, so I don't know what people do or don't need instructions for.

Of course I've been busy with Fagin's - where most of my time goes. The whole process of buying stock, photographing it, researching it, watching the evening sun wash over it when it sits on my desk... I love it.

I've built up a serious collection of vintage necklaces that either break while I'm cleaning them (and I'm gentle!) or have been re-strung in the past and were poorly done, or ones that come in a bulk lot but aren't worth listing on their own for whatever reason. I had meant to either make new things with them or restore them, but I've tried several times and just don't have the interest. I'd rather sell the supplies to all you chaps, because I know you will make things you care about.

Here's a pair of earrings from one of those 'tries'. I mean they're nice n all, with those gorgeous faceted crystals from the 1930s and the miniature art forms of Kim's headpin and Petra's pottery stick... I tried telling myself it's just a day job and it helps raise money for England, but there's just no passion or challenge in making jewelry any more. I need to make a big sign to go over the desk 'do it for England!'

so homesick... 
Ahhh...that's better.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Death to the Sun King


 Rejoice! For supplies are once again trickling into fagin's daughter. I pulled them all during the summer heat and only sold jewelry for a while, most because I didn't want to have to go to the PO in all that 39 degree heat just to post $5 worth of beads. I love every order don't get me wrong...but if you've ever known heat that hits you like an oven door the moment you leave the house, you'll understand. Ugh- I'm starting to sweat just thinking about it... 

Thankfully that time of the year has now passed, and we're in that odd realm between summer and autumn, where the weather is a rollercoaster of lovely grey skies and cool winds, peppered with one or two scorchers. I've only had to use the AC once in the last 2 weeks, something of a miracle for early March. Usually by this point in the year I've burst into tears halfway through making dinner just from the sheer exhaustion of the merciless heat! 

Possibly the whole thing will make a liar out of me and we'll get a whole week above 30, but for now- grey sky bliss. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Much to my darling Wildthorne's delight, I am now on Instagram! Go find me, my hipster minions.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Making the Most of your Etsy photos - Using your first image

So I've been writing a bunch of tutorials, and one of them is a photography tutorial, all about what kind of set up to use and various tricks for lighting and etc. But I'm starting to think that it's a bit unnecessary. There's a thousand tutorials out there on set ups and lighting and composition, why do you need me to tell you all about it?

Well I've decided you don't. But where I think I do have experience is in what kind of photo to take. How to represent your item, what to think about, how much trouble to go to etc.

So here's some free wisdom, gained from experience that (hopefully!) will help you create better images for your Etsy shop. Yes the first 3 are technical and I said I wasn't bothering with that, but I'm only including them because I consider them very important - if you never learn your way around photography any more than these, you'll be OK.In fact they're so important I've called them 'technissentials'. So important I made a new word! Let's just accept that and get on with it.

Technissential #1 - natural sunlight

Sure I know, everyone says it- because it's true! Though there are some truly amazing ways to set up an artificial lighting rig for any budget, fact of the matter is nothing beats Mr.Sunshine for the best results.Wait for overcast days and shoot as much as you can, when you can. Don't just shoot a few things and say 'that'll do' - it's good to have about a week's worth of listings ready to go on your hard drive for the times when weather and schedule are inflexible.

 Above, (unedited!) shots of the same necklace using natural and artificial light. Though there is only a subtle difference, you can see below after editing there is still something 'off' in the artificial shot; the blues and yellows aren't quite right and the whole thing looks a bit too harsh and flat. Even after editing (see below) the lamplight shot is still somehow 'not quite there'. It might not look that different to you, but I'm holding the necklace in my hand right now and I can tell you, it's not the same colour as the lamplight image shows. Natural light is jut a flattering to an inanimate objects as it is to humans, so use it whenever you can.

Technissential #2 - Any camera will do

Any camera is fine for shooting images for your shop- really! My first digital camera was purchased 10 years ago and still takes a great picture, even though it's only a 3.6 megapixel dinosaur. So get out your manual (or download it if you no longer know where it is) and learn your camera's settings. Especially critical to good photos is white balance -a simple setting on your camera which will turn your yellowed or blue-soaked shots into more natural tones.

Above, changing the white balance has changed the light and tones drastically in these (unedited) shots. The center image is correct- on the left it is too blue and on the right too yellow. All 3 photos were taken within seconds of each other; the only thing that's changed is the white balance setting.

Technissential #3 - post-process

Post-processing your images after you shoot them can mean the difference between a good photo and a great one. Not just perfectly good photos made better, but you can save low-exposed pics, or wrong white balance setting, or most frustrating of all, when purple doesn't want to come out purple. In the image below, the left half is unedited - straight out of the camera- while the right side has had basic post-processing in terms of light/contrast, colour adjustment and sharpening. You don't need Photoshop for this; Gimp is free and easy to use, and if you want more control you can get PS Element fairly cheaply on eBay. Consider it a good business investment!

That's the technical taken care of, let's move a bit deeper into some Research n Development. These tip will hopefully teach you to achieve pictures which both stand out from the search results and give you an improved social network presence. Practically every category on Etsy is flooded now and it's no longer enough just to have great photos - you gotta know how to flaunt it!

Know what you're shooting for

If you just head on into it randomly snapping images, you're going to have a bad time. Know what you need for the listing, and make sure all 5 images convey the whole piece without repeating themselves. Don't bother uploading similar or out-of-focus images, it's just a waste of time and gives the impression you don't know what you're doing.  Make sure you have an image that shows the object in it's entirety as well as images which show details like clasps on jewelry, lining in bags, labels in clothing etc. An Etsy specific tip- make all your images landscape orientation (wider than they are long) and you will avoid those ugly grey edges.

Take as many pics as you can - the more the better. Above is a cropped screenshot of my listings folder; I average about 20 shots for every item I list; from these I'll narrow it down to the best 5 and discard the rest. Being able to pick the good apples from the bunch is much better than just dealing with the few you've got.

Love your background

There's a lot of people that will tell you the best background to use is the one everyone else uses - the white background. I can't see the sense in this- your background is what makes your shop; it showcases your inventory, captures the heart of your target market and helps you accentuate your brand (what they now call 'tell your story'). Used to be that everyone was keen on the pure white background, though lately I'm seeing a rising trend in a dove grey backdrop. You don't have to live like that!

Above is a shot of various papers and old book covers I recently explored for backgrounds; I've settled on a staggered pile of old papers now and I use it in varying layouts across all three of my shops. If you set yourself apart and define your style by having a signature background, soon enough people will recognize it by sight outside of Etsy. This is especially helpful on social networking sites where credit of the original image can be lost. A distinctive visual style will work infinitely better than any watermark. If you want more help on what background is right for you, check out my older blog post on the subject.

Props are your friend

Backgrounds aren't the only thing that can set your style - a consistent prop or display is a great way to create unity in your shop, especially if your stock has a large variety. If you sell a lot of something particular like jewelry, but in many different styles, the same one or two jewelry cases or bracelet prop can bring a cohesion.

Boxes, tins, candlesticks and small china dishes all have their own personality. Props are fantastic not only for giving a sense of scale but also for conveying mood. If you have a tea set or some fine dishes to sell, fill them with delicate pastries; baskets look great filled with rustic bread rolls and handmade candles always look nice displayed in silver trays. Furniture is especially in need of props- that antique kitchen table will look even better laid with a tablecloth and garnished with a chair or two. If it all seems a bit too much like hard work, just keep the prop shots for listings where the selling price makes it worthwhile.

Follow the leader

Your first image (which I call the leader) is the one that gets you the attention, so make sure it's a sparkler. It doesn't necessarily have to be one that shows the whole object, some shops have a style that relies on showing just tantalizing glimpses of details. Your image isn't just there to illustrate what's for sale- it's also going to work it's butt off networking and advertising you all over the internet. It may seem as simple as standing out from search results, but from there it's noticed on activity feeds and in a user's favourites. Before you know it it's in treasuries and being shared on Pinterest or Tumblr and featured in blogs. When people are attracted to images online, it often isn't really about what's for sale, it's about the picture of the thing that's for sale. The more engaging your image is, the more likely it's going to get around.

This little blue dish was in my shop for about 5 months before someone bought it; in that time however it racked up an incredible 636 hearts and 89 treasuries! This padlock gained 253 hearts and 44 treasuries.They weren't particularly expensive objects, but the images were so admired that they paid for themselves time and time again in advertising for me and were seen by thousands of people. And I didn't have to lift a finger!

Change is good

Once you have something listed, it could run it's whole 4 month listing time without being purchased. When it comes time to renew expired listings, take a look over it and make sure there's nothing that might be a problem in it's being sold. Are the images showing the right scale? Is the texture on the material being showcased? Does the reflection of your camera make it look like there's a mark on the glass? Maybe the first image jut isn't appealing; many's the time I've had a listing that wasn't selling, so I changed the picture and boom- off we go.

On the left is the leader image I originally used on the listing for a tie. It was okay, but the board didn't give an idea of scale and the tie looked too long for it's 1940s origins. In the right image, I used the male torso; it gives a nicer idea of scale and looks more appealing (I can show the whole tie in another image in the listing). Sure enough, using the vintage mannequin rather than the board gained me much higher views. 

My final tip is - don't overdo it! These things take time and are filled with trial and error- I doubt there's a single 'online merchant' who's 100% confident they're doing everything right. What's most important is that you're happy with it, and it's working for you. Not all your listings have to be perfect treasury fodder, not all your images have to be prize-winners. Aim for about 80% gold and 20% glitter.