The pleasure of a simple screw

This morning, I’m in my podiatrist’s office. It’s one a series of visits I’ve made over the past couple of weeks to deal with the foot problem that kept me from going to Free Spirit.

As I’m taking off my sneakers, I hear my sock sticking a bit on the inside of the sole. I think, “My socks have been doing that lately. The foot is bandaged. I don’t think anything sticky was in there. Maybe I should check.”

Ten seconds later, the doctor walks into the office. I look at him and say, “You’re not going to friggin’ believe this.” I show him the head of the screw embedded in the sole of the sneaker. The point of the screw is what my socks have been sticking to… and clearly the cause of the foot problem.

Why is this a pleasure?

It means that my setting up the tent, and my testing my air mattress, and any number of other things were not the cause of my foot injury. It was an 1-1/4 inch wood screw that penetrated the sole of my sneaker, the custom insoles, and my thick socks that caused the problem.

It means that camping is no longer out of the question for me. It means that, potentially, I can go to Free Spirit next year. (Though my podiatrist is not enthusiastic about the idea.)

That leaves the mystery of how the screw got in there in the first place. It was seriously embedded in the sneaker. The doctor had to use a screwdriver and pliers to get it out. It’s as if it were screwed into my sneaker deliberately.

Outside of my home and my podiatrist’s office, there are only a couple of place at which I generally take off my footwear. At neither location is there anyone pranksterish enough to do such a thing for a laugh.

So I’ll just chalk it up that as something that just happened somehow.

As for the screw: my doctor is adding it to his collection of “weird stuff collected from patient’s feet.”

Originally published at Argothald. You can comment here or there.

Cleaning the storefront

Last Friday, I had a chance to consult with the talented artist Vann Godfrey about Kickin’ Wiccan, my jewelry shop on Shapeways. I’ve spent the past few days putting his advice into practice.

Vann’s advice was similar to that of Shapeways’ advice to its shop owners. Here’s what I’ve figured out, both from Vann and from my own investigations:

No more plastic (part one)

I don’t need to make test prints in plastic anymore. At this point, I know how to translate between one of my 3D designs and what will actually come out of Shapeways’ 3D printers.

No more plastic (part two)

Plastic models, no matter well I photograph them, will never look as good as pictures of metal jewelry. Plastic models look cheap. They detract from the look of the shop. A single plastic photo will drag down all the other pictures, no matter good those other photos are.

This has two corollaries:

– I’ve had to pull items from my shop because the only pictures I have of them are of my plastic test prints.

– I can also create rendered scenes from the same 3D graphics program I use to design the rings. I’ve reached the point where my scenes are slightly better than the photographs of plastic, but they still look artificial. They’re not good enough to put on my storefront. Even if I did, Shapeways frowns on rendered scenes; if I used them, Shapeways would not consider my store for promotional purposes.

So some of my designs will have to wait until I get metal prints and take pictures of them. That may be a while. Right now I’ve got $140 of sample prints (in raw bronze) sitting in my Shapeways shopping cart. Those prints will have to wait until my financial situation stabilizes.

This also means that I should stop designing new items. I can’t add a new design to the shop until I can print it, or arrange for someone else to print and photograph it for me.

This can happen: As a half-joke, I designed a heptagram ring for Sabrina Mari’s friends in Blue Star. It took me about 20 minutes. To my surprise, the response was so positive that I was encouraged to make it available for purchase even though all I had was a rendered image. I’ve asked the buyers to send me photos.

This is nice reinforcement. It tells me that maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m doing.

No more plastic (part three)

I’ve stopped selling plastic versions of my designs. For one thing, it helps the shoppers if they have fewer options to choose from. For another, I have to value my time in creating the jewelry.

Most of my designs are rings. When the shopper buys a ring, they have to specify the ring size. I customize the design for that particular size. This takes time. It’s barely worth doing for the stainless-steel versions of the rings; it’s not worth doing for cheap plastic versions.

In general, there many good reasons to work in plastic. Jewelry is not one of them.

Non-plastic ruminations

A couple of folks have encouraged me to investigate Etsy and eBay as additional storefronts. The logic is that those sites are far better known, receive more visitors, and are the target of more searches than Shapeways.

The more I think about it, the more reluctant I am to move in that direction. Here’s why:

– It takes weeks for Shapeways to fulfill an order. I’d have to add that time to the time it would take for me ship the Shapeways order to someone else. The Etsy/eBay buyer would have to pay sales tax twice, postage twice, and face a longer wait.

– I’d have to add a big markup to my items to make it worth my time. As good a designer as I may be, there are folks on eBay and Etsy with far better items, ready for faster shipping. It’s hard for me to believe that my items would be worth the additional time and money for the buyers. Any presence on Etsy or eBay would be a thinly-masked attempt to get the shoppers to go to my Shapeways page.

– If there’s a problem with a Shapeways order, Shapeways handles it. If there were a problem with an order relayed through Etsy or eBay, I’d have to handle it.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve completely written out eBay or Etsy as potential venues. Vann gave me an interesting idea: Use Shapeways to print designs with settings for cabachons. I might be able to offer enough “value added” to justify the higher price.

That’s for the future. For now, I have to rely on Shapeways’ efforts to promote their site (they want to become the Amazon of the 3D printing world), and my own efforts to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

And, of course, word of mouth. Know anyone who’s looking for Wiccan/pagan jewelry?

Spreading the word

Since I had to cancel my trip, I’ve decided to spend much of my vacation working on my on-line Wiccan jewelry shop.

The store, “The Kickin’ Wiccan,” is a storefront on Shapeways, a 3D printing service. A shopper can pick one of my designs, choose the size if it’s a ring, maybe choose the magical symbol on it, and choose exactly in which material they’d like it to be printed: from inexpensive plastic to sturdy steel to semi-precious metals like bronze and silver.

The main reason I’m doing this is that I’m enjoying coming up with new designs. It’s fun. I got a suggestion for a symbol to add to a ring (the triquetra), and I’ve run away with the idea to create two different ring styles and add it to the customization options of other rings. I enjoy the puzzle of working with my software tools (Cheetah3D, iDraw, Inkscape, GraphicConverter, iPhoto) to create the designs I want.

There’s another reason: I could use the extra cash. Mainly for medical expenses, but also for my server project, which has the potential to help many of my friends. [1]

The main obstacle I have to overcome is marketing.

I’ve already done the social media basics: I’ve set up a Kickin’ Wiccan Facebook page and a @KickinWiccan Twitter account. The next step, according the marketing “experts,” is for me to start saturating the internet with those accounts, starting with my friends.

This is where I hit the obstacle: I don’t want to become an annoying attention-seeking money grubber.

I have to admit that I don’t have a positive reaction when I get invitations to “like” pages or invited to events in which I have no interest, like Heavy Metal Steampunk Rabbit Petting to Benefit Surviors of Cards Against Humanity in Idaho. It’s pretty clear that, rather than considering me as an individual, that person simply sent it out to everyone they knew. I don’t like being a random advertising target. I don’t even like anonymous targeted advertising; that’s why I have both NoScript and AdBlock Plus on my web browser.

What I struggle to remember is there’s a difference between trying to sell to everyone I know and raising brand awareness. After all:

– Every time I hear someone mention massage, I mention Joyce Kent and Transformational Touch.

– Every time someone mentions bodypaiting, I mention Vann Godfrey and Transformational Bodypainting.

– Every time someone mentions death or funerals, I mention Michael Brown and Simplicity Memorial.

– Every time I hear someone discuss the hardships of poverty or HIV/AIDS, I mention Sabrina Chase and her book Surviving HIV/AIDS in the Inner City.

– Every time I hear someone talk about needing books on magic or about James Bond, I mention Deborah Lipp and her books.

– Even though he passed on years ago, I still mention Isaac Bonewits and the books he wrote.

… and so on.

None of these folks asked me to be a walking advertisement for them. But if I wasn’t aware of what they did, I couldn’t provide awareness of what they do to others.

So during this vacation, and in the weeks to come, I’m going to strive to overcome my reluctance and post some interesting information about Kickin’ Wiccan at least once a week. If you’re annoyed, let me know and I’ll stop.

… or if you have suggestions or requests for new designs you’d like to see, let me know and I’ll try to add it. The most recent suggestion: a Brigid’s Cross pendant. That will be a challenge!

[1] If you’re curious: I’ve got the server configured; I’m using it to write this blog post. It’s got blogging software, e-mail, mailing lists, all with the best security I can set up. What I need now is to set aside enough cash for a hosting company.

No-go

It’s definite: I will not be going to Free Spirit this year.

I saw my foot doctor this evening. I’d asked my friends on Facebook for some healing energy, and evidently it worked: The doctor initially thought that the situation was more dire than it turned out to be after he worked on my foot for a while.

I’ve known my podiastrist since 1995. He knew how important going to FSG was to me (though not the specific reasons). He hated to have to tell me this, but he said directly: “Don’t go.”

I’m not certain what caused this latest problem. One possibility is a test set-up of my tent I did last Thursday, to check that the tent was OK and that my physical stamina was up to the task. It might be that problem occurred when I worked with that tent, but I didn’t notice it at the time.

If so, it might be a blessing in disguise. If I’d set up my tent for the first time at FSG, and had the same injury, by the end of the festival my foot would have been much, much worse than it presently is. The folks at FSG’s Healers Hut, as good as they are, could not have handled it. There would have been an ambulance, a hospital, the inevitable mis-diagnosis (this happened to me in England in 1996), and much drama.

To be frank, when I look at the FSG programming for this year, I don’t see much that I’m interested in; those workshops that I’d be most likely to go to are for things I don’t have to go to a festival to do (star-gazing, gaming).

The reason why I wanted to go to FSG was the people.

I wanted to be at Trent’s adulthood ceremony. That was the reason I committed to go to FSG in the first place.

I wanted to interview Nybor and Elspeth for my biography of Isaac Bonewits.

Most of all, I wanted to hang out with my favorite people in the world: Sabrina, Michael, Vann, Joyce. Maybe we could have all sat around a fire and just let ourselves Be.

This cannot happen, at least this year. Next year… given the circumstances, I simply have to say that I don’t know. It may be that, like LARPing, outdoor festivals are something that I can longer do in my life. But that decision can wait until later.

Right now, my main goal is not to feel angry. And to let my foot heal. And to greet Trent as a man the next time I see him.

Originally published at Argothald. You can comment here or there.

An intense time

The next couple of weeks promise to be eventful.

My father is in the hospital. It’s serious, but it’s under control. I saw him yesterday, and I’ll probably see him tomorrow.

This afternoon, I’m going to give my talk on the history of Nevis to the Irvington Historical Society. There’ll be two sessions, at 4PM and 5PM. Both are “sold out” with a waiting list.

I’m not worried about my ability to give the talk, since I’ve done it before. I’m concerned that I’m going to be talking about history, a subject that’s not my area of expertise, to a group of people who know more about the subject than I do. It helps if I think of it like my Ph.D. defense.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I’m teaching a class on ROOT to the summer students in the Nevis REU program. Again, this is something I’ve done before; I’ve taught this class annually since 2001.

My issue with this class, as with the history lecture, is that I’m the only one who can do it. If something were to happen with my father, I couldn’t set aside the responsibility. I’ve known Melissa Arleth for too long: “The show must go on.” (She never says that, but I got the message.)

The following week, I’m going to the Free Spirit Gathering in Maryland. This will be the first time I’ve gone to FSG in three years. I used to go every year (since 1995, excepting 1998 when my cat passed away), but I had to stop due to health issues.

Now I’m going to find out whether I’m healthy enough to return to FSG. I usually am a bit apprehensive before I go to an outdoor festival, and this is no exception. Already I’ve started to overpack! But I made a commitment to go, and “the show must go on.”

Originally published at Argothald. You can comment here or there.