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bearlyart

Well, for one thing, you definitely can't get the flu from a flu shot, as there is nothing "live" in it.  However, it is possible that you are sensitive to something else in the shot, such as thimerosol or eggs.  It's also possible you were already coming down with something when you got your shot, which would be pure coincidence.  But yes, call your doctor if you're worried.

bearlyart

I checked four eBay accounts (between mine, my mother's, buying, selling, personal or business), anyway, I was able to turn off the photos option on two of those accounts.  For the other two, that option was nowhere to be seen.  I have no idea what they think they're doing!

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

Actually, I haven't really been active on eBay in a while for bears or much of anything.  However, I was reconsidering it for down the road, so I try to keep updated on their changes.  I caught wind of these new changes today and seems like this one could be a big problem!  Look at #4 on this list summarizing the newest changes coming to eBay soon:

http://collectdolls.about.com/od/dollco … hanges.htm

There's not a ton of information out there on this.  Has anyone else heard about it?  Not looking good at all.  Basically, people are interpreting this as saying that if you don't make a point of opting out of this new program by August 31st, eBay claims the right to use your own photographs AND LET OTHER EBAY SELLERS USE THEM.

Here's a link explaining how to opt out in your eBay account:
http://naamah-darling.livejournal.com/411410.html

And the best part?  I just tried to opt out and the change didn't stick.  It still says I'm opted in.  It says to check the box to opt out, but that doesn't work!!!  I tried a second time, and it told me "Your preferences are not available at this time.  Please try again later."  I repeated this process again, and again it didn't work and then told me my preferences were not available.  AUGH!  So I'm still opted in!  Guess I'll try again later on a different browser!

Thoughts on this, anybody?
Kelly

P.S.  There are some other rotten changes on that first link above, too.  For example, the one about insurance no longer being allowed separately.

P.P.S  The link to review all upcoming eBay changes is here on eBay's site (click on FAQ for the most info):
http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Upda … index.html

I'm seeing a whole slew of garbage on that list.  Buy It Now price must be at least 10% higher than your auction price.  Border, Highlight and Features Plus are all being discontinued.  I'm trying to validate #6 on the first link above and I'm not seeing it in eBay's FAQ (the one about unique items not able to be listed anywhere but on eBay while your auction is running), and can't find more info on that one.  Can anyone see if that one's true or not?

bearlyart

I agree with Bright Bears that Sony makes a very good easy-to-use digital camera.  In fact, email me if you'd like to talk about the DSC-F828 that I need to sell, LOL (listed it on eBay and the winner was fraudulent).  We "upgraded" to a Nikon D80 SLR a while back and found it to be an absolute stinker to get used to, I found myself many times wondering WHY we'd upgraded from something that took such nice pictures and was so easy to use (the Sony).   Turned out that the Nikon's pre-set factory settings were the problem, I more or less get along with it now that I've spent a few hundred hours twiddling with it but <sheesh>.  For the record, were I to get a new SLR in the distant future, it would be a Canon.  So my recommendations are simple non-SLR = Sony, SLR = Canon.

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

Yes, definitely a scam.  There have been all sorts of those phone scams around my area recently, the local news does try to keep people aware.  One that is good at suckering the elderly is for them to call and say "Grandma?" or "Grandpa?", and will not identify themselves beyond "Guess who this is?" or "Don't you know my voice?".  They wait for the person they're calling to identify them.  Grandpa might say "Bobby, is that you?"  Then they have a name to work with.  "Sure, it's Bobby, and I'm in trouble!  I need money at so-and-so..."

Grrrr.  Unfortunately, far too many people fall for these!
Kelly

bearlyart

In my old CS training days, I switched constantly between UNIX, Linux, Macs and Windows machines, depending on what class I was in.  None of them are a big deal in the long run, it's just a matter of getting used to the differences.  As far as Macs being better for art and graphics, well, that depends.  If you're planning on noodling along in a graphics program, ANY relatively current computer today should be able to handle that job admirably.  Now if you were planning on doing something really taxing to your system like 3D animation, I'd have a different answer.   And if you were planning on doing hardcore interactive online gaming, I might have a different answer again.  For routine graphics work, stick with whatever makes you happiest, I sincerely doubt you'll notice a performance difference from one machine or operating system to the next.  I think we all have enough stress in our lives as it is!  If you want to learn to work with the Mac, I have no doubt that you can, and might even learn to like it.  But if it's really causing you grief for whatever reason, I'd recommend a return instead.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart
Daphne wrote:

On the food pantry topic..... we donated to our State's Food Food Bank this year in addition to Toys for Tots. On their website it said that $1 would feed 4 people a balanced meal! If they can stretch a dollar that far I'd rather give them the money and get more out of it than I could buying full priced food at the grocery store. I'm guessing they can probably get food in bulk from suppliers at a discount, is that true, Kelly?

Yes and no.  Grocery stores are lowering their prices right now to be competitive with places with Super-Walmarts, which are taking a big bite out of their clientele in today's economy.  When they lower their regular prices for the average consumer, they become less willing to cut a deal with charities.  In fact, one of the grocery chains that worked very willingly with us before has become a bit hostile on the subject.  *sigh*  We have a local bakery that keeps us in free bread, and sometimes a manufacturer will send us "overstock" of unpopular items for free, but they are certainly the exception to the rule.

Donations of food by people purchased at their everyday grocery stores is extremely valuable to us.  No, we could not necessarily get it at a better price ourselves, especially not these days.  And those donations also give us more variety than we would have if we just bought bulk items ourselves... we'd wind up with 300 jars of grape jelly and nothing else.  Some people will buy "flats" of items to donate to us from discount chains like Sam's Club, BJ's or Aldi's, and those are great.

For the record, I save my own change in a jar and occasionally cash it in at the grocery store for things I know the cupboard is short on.  I wait for good sales, and it is very worth it.

Best wishes,
Kelly

Should probably add this: I'm sure there are food pantries that run better on cash OR food donations, whereas the one I work at is equally grateful for both.  If anyone is concerned with doing the MOST good for their local pantry, give them a call and ask what they prefer.

bearlyart

I am a regular volunteer at a local food pantry, so my special thanks to everybody who supports food pantries!  Yes, they are desperate right now, as the need is so great (and increasing constantly) while donations are down.  Yes, we are constantly getting new people in from all walks of life, and MANY tell me that they "used to donate to places like this, and never thought I'd need their help".

So, here are some thoughts from a food pantry "insider"...

Please remember to donate AFTER the holidays, too.  People are very generous in remembering others before the holidays, but we expect shortages in the months after.

Food donations are wonderful, but so are financial donations.  Yes, we can "fill in the gaps" on the shelves ourselves when we get cash donated.  This also helps keep us from running out of anything important during leaner times.  Grocery stores usually offer pre-paid gift cards to be used at their stores, those are a perfect gift for a food pantry.  Some individuals are able to donate gift cards themselves, but we usually get them from churches and local businesses who have taken up collections among their parishioners / employees / customers.  You should have seen the celebration among our bare shelves in September when we received several substantial gift cards from a local business!  The shelves were a lot less bare the following week.

Food pantries can always use volunteers!  If you can't afford to donate money, perhaps you could spare an hour or two even once a month.  Some people have mental image of food pantries existing in rough areas, but that isn't always the case!  The one I volunteer with is in a very safe area in, actually, a very wealthy suburb, though it services five zip codes around the area and is off a major bus line.  A wide variety of volunteers are welcomed.

If you want to donate food, here are some recommendations on really useful donations, with some of my thoughts thrown in.  Though keep in mind that most food pantries will accept ANYTHING! 

- Peanut Butter (we always get more creamy than chunky!)
- Jams and Jellies (everybody remembers peanut butter, nobody remembers jam!  Squeeze bottles are welcome for those with children and or adults with dexterity problems.  Sugar-free options are also appreciated.)
- Cereal, hot and cold
- Canned fruit and vegetables ("lite" fruit or those in fruit juice instead of syrup are a great choice)
- Juice (100% fruit juice is greatly appreciated)
- Canned tomato products and sauces (spaghetti sauce is always a good one)
- Soups (ANY, though we usually have a LOT of Campbell's tomato and chicken noodle, so others are great including the Campbell's 'cream' soups and hearty soups like Progresso)
- Pasta, rice, side dishes, macaroni & cheese
- "Pre-made" meals in cans, like Spaghetti-O's and Ravioli
- Tuna, also other canned fish, meat, chicken, Spam, etc.
- Snacks, healthy and otherwise (cookies, crackers, snack bars, Jell-o and puddings)
- Baking products (cake / brownie mixes are commonly donated, but "real" baking ingredients are extremely popular and not often donated, like flour, salt, cooking oil, sugar)
- Condiments (traditional items like mustard, ketchup, relish, olives, pickles, salad dressing always appreciated, though we certainly get in a variety of unusual things!)

I will mention that the food pantry I work at is an unusual one, in that people get to "shop" with the volunteers and choose what they want.  Many food pantries give out a pre-sorted sealed bag of food, so you don't get any choices.  However, regardless of how pantries work, food is food and EVERYTHING is appreciated!  We try not to waste anything.  We only throw away things that have already been opened or have obviously gone bad.  Even expired food has a place to go, we sort it out and one of the volunteers takes it down south to some outlying rural areas that get NO help and have extremely high poverty and unemployment.  Entire neighborhoods have no work, food, and nowhere to turn.  So they get our expired food, most of which is, luckily, still good for an extended time past it's expiration date. 

And in case anyone is worried... here in the US, you are completely legally protected when donating food, courtesy of the Clinton administration since the mid '90s.  If you have a can you're not sure of (I hate cans with codes and not dates!), go ahead and donate it and let us worry about it.  We have some guidelines we work off to try to figure out what is still good versus what is expired or has gone bad. 

2009 is looking like it will be a very trying year for food pantries, so please do whatever you can to help.

Best wishes and bear hugs,
Kelly

bearlyart

Good for you and Bill!  My mother's church fills stockings for orphans every Christmas, so I've gotten good at figuring out a variety of SMALL gifts, anyway.

Hotwheels, little books (stories are good, Mad Libs are fun too!), board games and card games, puzzles, play-doh.  If you're looking for creativity, sometimes arts/crafts stores have neat little kits for kits to paint / sew / sculpt / make jewelry / etc.

Have fun shopping for a good cause!
Kelly

bearlyart

Totally not recommended.  I've heard plenty of electric fence stories, but like Daphne, no good ones!  Most commonly I hear about dogs learning they can run through the fence line, give a little yelp as they cross the barrier, and then run free.  I would also agree that a real fence helps protect your dog from other dogs / children / etc.  Might want to look into other means to discourage the hole digging, instead.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

I'm not familiar enough with the range of your regular prices to know what the difference is.  Was it a LITTLE change or a BIG change?  Something along the lines of a $15 shift is a non-event, whereas more of a $150 shift could upset people who paid the higher price recently.

The final decision on prices in a non-auction format are, of course, yours.  Do what you're comfortable with.  I don't know if recognized phrases like 'customer appreciation sale' would help, or perhaps clearly offering those prices for a LIMITED TIME (like the first 6, 12 or 24 hours of the show?).  I think people understand those type of incentives.

I would NOT, however, change your prices in the middle of your show.  Leave them where they are until the show ends.  If you want to do things differently in the future, then that's the time to change.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Hmmmm.  You're quite sure the letter was from San Quentin, and not from the alienated spouse or one of his friends?  Just food for thought.  But yes, go ahead and delete your post, it's not wise to post that much personal contact info on the web one way or the other.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

We work in mohair, alpaca, quality synthetics and recycled real fur.  The greatest problem that we've had with the synthetics is when people think it's real fur.  We've got one bear now that people adore, but they're convinced she's chinchilla and don't want a 'fur bear'.  If we see someone go near her, we make a point of going over and talking about what a wonderful imported FAUX FUR she is.  We've not personally experienced synthetics snobbery, but have certainly heard of it.

Interestingly enough, a while back I purchased a lot of several hundred back issues of TB&F and TBR on eBay, back to the earliest days of both magazines.  It was interesting to note the... uh... less than exemplary quality of some earlier artist bears.  It was also interesting to note that the synthetics used at the time were obviously craft (read: cheap, bad) quality in many cases.  From that knowledge, we formed a bit of a theory on the subject of synthetics.  We think that, perhaps, some of the older collectors purchased those early synthetic artist bears.  As those were NOT nice synthetics, the bear would not have lasted long or well, and would have left the buyers jaded from the experience.  Purely a theory, of course.  It is a shame though that some people feel that way regardless of the reason, the good synthetics are every bit as nice as other materials, and just as expensive.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

As has been mentioned, Expo isn't gone, it's just regrouping for a year and will be back in 2010.  I will back up also that there are still good shows left out there.  The best US ones for loads of great artists and great collectors right now (in my humble opinion) would probably be TBAI, Hunt Valley and the spring Timonium show, in that order.  Karen, I realize you're in a very niche market with your high end cats.  Seriously, may I make a suggestion?  If I were in your shoes, I would be trying something very different, like signing up to be a vendor at a high end cat show.  Here's one I just found in a quick internet search, the National Capital show in Chantilly, VA.  http://www.nationalcapitalcatshow.com/  It's the same time of year that Expo used to be, and I'd hazard a guess that your Expo cat collectors might be willing to travel 30 miles over to Chantilly if you were there, in addition to hopefully finding some NEW collectors who could afford expensive cat collectibles!  Just a thought of course, I don't know a thing about that show, or about cat shows in general.

Everything will get better in time, but it may take a while.  I do think it's a good time to get creative and experiment with other venues if your old ones aren't working.  Of course, that's good business sense in any economy!

I had a funny kind of thought last week at a show.  I think it may be harder, perhaps, for online-only artists to grasp changes in sales.  When you attend a show, you can still see people admire your work.  They see your bears, hold them, love them, and talk to you about them.  Maybe they can buy the bear, maybe they can't.  But you know they still love your bears.  When you're only online, you don't get to see that.  You only know that the bear did or did not sell, and the price it sold for.  And when a bear doesn't sell, or sells for less, the confusion and rejection must seem overwhelming for some people.  I'd just like to assure anyone who is struggling right now that it's not you, and it's not your bears.  If people loved your work before, they still do now, and will in the future as well.  Hang in there, everybody.

Edited to add: If anybody wants a chance to get into TBAI for 2009, submit your application NOW!  Cindy assured me that a record number of people have submitted their apps, and the initial jurying deadline ends I think at the end of the month.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Oh wow Kelly, that's a new twist on it, isn't it????  Randomly selected... what a joke.  And "raised or standard search standing"?  Guess I'll have to look that up, because I don't even know what it means!

I never thought I'd see the day that I missed Meg Whitman as CEO!  But as soon as she left, things certainly went (farther) south for sellers.

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

Yeah, I noticed that earlier this week.  eBay is apparently testing something out in the bears category.  For the last few years, eBay has "front loaded" the featured auctions.  That is how people are now used to it... all the week's featured auctions are displayed FIRST, before any of the regular auctions.  That works fine in a smaller category like artist bears, where there are so few auctions that the featureds usually only last for one page.  It's horrible in large categories like art, where featured auctions can run for 60 or more pages before you ever run across the regular auctions (and who clicks through for 60 or more pages????).  This effectively buried everything that wasn't featured, many artist's sales tanked when they started front loading (so much art was purchased with the old "going, going, gone" option on eBay, which showed everything ending within 3 hours and did NOT front load 60 pages of a week's worth of featured listings in front of them... people really could see all the auctions ending in three hours, and would snap up paintings at the last minute.  Going, going, gone was absolutely the best way to be found in an extremely large category.

Anyway... point is... front loading has worked well for small categories, but has been horrible for large categories.  So obviously they're testing out whether they want to change it again.  Your bear is still appearing as a featured bear, Roxanne, but it is not being front loaded.  Click through the pages and you'll find him.... he's still at the top of his page and still featured... but not on the very first page right now.  He *will* appear on the first page when he is closer to his ending time.

Anyway, hope that all makes sense.  This is the way eBay had always treated featured auctions up until a few years ago, it will be interesting to see if they decide to revert back to it.

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

I like what you're saying too, Jenny.  But let me ask you something... isn't it possible to acknowledge that people are in a bad place right now WHILE moving ahead and finding a way through it?  You seem to be indicating that people must do one or the other.  I feel that I am working hard to do both.

I can only judge things from my own experience.  But as I mentioned before, we've introduced some well-received customer appreciation incentives this year.  In a time when we are noticing price-driven decisions on the part of some collectors, we are careful to keep our pricing in the middle of our competitors.  We have certainly NOT dropped the bottom out of our pricing; what we're charging now is not much different from where we were in the first place, but small shifts to keep us centered in the pack.  We too allow payments to be made over time... but the difference is that this year when we mention layaway, people say "Oh no, I don't even want to think about it!  I can't take on any more debt!".  I've spent the entire year investing time and money into an artistic field that overlaps the bears, and have had some tremendous success in my early offerings of this bear-themed work.  We're doing more shows this year than we did last year.  We're signing up for 2009 shows and looking forward to them.

If people are looking at everything I've written here, and reading into it only negativity, or think that I'm advising everyone to abandon your business and go hide in a closet, that couldn't be further from the truth.  But if you are thinking those things after everything I've said, I really don't know what else I can say?  If everybody thinks that though, it may be a sign that I need to work on my delivery skills.
bear_original

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Not to beat on the obvious here, but while we're all online neighbors, we live in many different countries.  I'm very happy to hear that there are folks in Canada and the UK not experiencing as much (or any) financial problems at this time.  I have many relatives in Canada, and know that this is indeed the case.  However, I'm noting that none of the Americans have posted similar "problem? What problem?" posts.  Regardless of where you live and how you personally are doing right now, if you have a sales base in the US, you need to realize that people here are... to put it lightly... having financial problems right now.

For those of you running a small international company, it may be a good idea to cast an eye towards how big international companies are reacting to the US economy right now.  Not half an hour ago I was watching a report from the BBC, and they had a list of companies who are "cutting back exports to the US for 2009" as they do not expect strong sales here for a long while yet.  I don't remember all the names, but BMW and Nokia were two of them. 

I don't consider myself to be a pessimist, but rather a realist.  I expect things to get worse before they get better, but they will certainly get better.  However, international artists who counted on strong sales from the US in the past, might be better advised to look within their own countries for sales, if your country is doing better than we are (and it probably is... unless you're in Iceland).  Oh sure, there are people here still buying items, even luxury non-necessity items like artist bears.  And there will always be people who don't have to worry about their money in any economy.  But people in my country have either already been affected by this personally, know someone who has, or are scared to death they'll be next.  People don't spend much money when they're scared to death.  It's not just a rumor, people really are busy hiding their cash under their mattress right now.

On another note... we have implemented two "customer appreciation" promotions this year.  One is a modest multiple bear discount for bears purchased at the same time.  (I think it's Sarah that does this?  I seem to remember her mentioning it before, and thought it was a lovely idea.)  Our other introduction was a 5% gift certificate given with each bear purchased, good towards your next purchase of a bear with us.  I have a 2-year expiration date on those, as so many of our collectors we only see once a year at shows.  Those were really our way of passing along our multiple bear discount to our repeat customers who only buy one bear at a time, but will come back and buy another bear at a later date.  The reaction to both of these promotions has been very positive.  We have had quite a few people use the multiple bear discount already.  We've yet to see a gift certificate come back, though as I said... most of our collectors, we only see occasionally.  I expect to see those redeemed in force in 2009.  (And for anyone who is curious, we don't combine our discounts... you get one or the other.)

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Interesting conversation.  Couple of thoughts to add...

I volunteer at a local food pantry.  They are breaking every record they had right now for the number of people who need their services.  And by the way, these are MIDDLE CLASS people in many cases, but they can't afford to feed their families on top of everything else in their lives right now.  They don't have to tell me their stories; I don't interview them, I just help them get their food.  But some of them want to talk, so I listen.  I've heard some very sad stories.  It's a cruel world out there for a lot of people right now.

Regarding bear prices...  It was two years ago that I saw, for the first time, collectors start to shift towards making their final decisions based on price tags at shows.  (How do I know that?  In some cases, they told me!  Other times, it was very obvious what was going on.)  Over those two years it has become much more common.  We've learned a very important business lesson in that time.  Be aware of other artists' prices!  You don't want to be the cheapest or the most expensive artist in the room.  I can guarantee that artist's prices ARE fluctuating as sales fluctuate.  Artists whose prices have stayed consistent for YEARS have been shifting lately.  We try to keep in the middle for the most part, though have learned to bring some higher priced (larger / more elaborate / showcase / whatever) pieces as well.  Being aware of your competitor's prices is wise in every business environment, artist bears are no exception.

That having been said, my experience is with shows... I think it must be a nightmare to gauge prices based on eBay successes and failures!  Prices at shows are far more consistent.  On eBay, the highs are too high, the lows are too low, and you can be picked up and dropped in an instant.  I guess the rule there may be closer to "do the best you can when you can, and don't count on it lasting".

Doom and gloom?  No.  Reality, unfortunately.
Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Actually, Michaels has a rather spiffy clear plastic ribbon spool holder / dispenser.  I bought a few to stick my spools in a while back, and haven't actually gotten around to putting the ribbons IN them yet (hey, one thing at a time...)

Most of my ribbons are cuts though, not on the spool.  I keep them tagged and bagged in ziplocs, and throw those all in a big bin just for ribbons.  It's not perfect, but at least I know where they are!  I can't say that about much of anything else, now that I think of it.

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

I've been on eBay since practically the dawn of eBay... but haven't been using it much lately, and with changes they've made recently, I too feel like a stranger!  My mother made me promise to list some bears on eBay this year, and I've been dragging my heels (my current excuse it that our bears need to stay with us for 5 shows in 6 weeks in October/November).  However, I realize that I will inevitably be putting some bears up this winter, so needed to get a feel for the new (and improved? *snort*) eBay.  So I cheated and listed some bear FABRIC instead of bears for now.  Hey, I'm getting closer.
bear_original

Kelly, you are so "known" in the bear artist world, I think people would find your listings and bid well even if you were TRYING to hide them!

Cheers,
Kelly

bearlyart

So sorry about the kitty!  Is there enough space where the kitty is to put a humane trap?  I would think that might be the best bet.  If this is possible, bait it with something VERY stinky like canned tuna or stinky wet cat food.

Hope the kitty is caught soon!
Kelly

bearlyart

The eye rolling is called nystagmus.  The staggering, confusion, eye rolling, are all related to each other... believe me, it's impossible to see anything or walk a straight line when your eyes are rolling around in your head uncontrollably.  I speak from experience, as I get nystagmus with a vertigo attack.

Anyway... could be something fairly simple like an ear infection throwing off his inner ear / equilibrium.  Also could be beginning stages of something more serious, like epilepsy or a vestibular disorder.  But as the pup suffers from bad allergies to begin with, I'd have the vet check for an ear infection first.

Good luck!
Kelly

bearlyart

Stuffing around armatures is one of those tasks I hate doing  bear_original 

That having been said, here are two suggestions.  First, add stuffing into difficult places with hemostats.  You can get LONG hemostats, 10-12" long (medium length works for most projects though).  Pinch a wad of stuffing in your hemostats, shove the tip where you need it to go, open the hemostats when you're in the right location and the stuffing winds up where you want it.

If that doesn't work (and I have some tricky armature combinations that I've tried), leave an additional stuffing hole open closer to where you're having a stuffing problem.  So if you had a leg/foot armature and had problems stuffing under and around the foot portion, I'd leave an extra stuffing hole in the heel (in addition to my normal hole along the back of the thigh).  Sometimes it's not a matter of not reaching an area, it's getting the right angle.

Best wishes,
Kelly

bearlyart

Paula, I just realized that each time you click to the next category for voting, it pops up a new window anyway, so the frames thing shouldn't be an issue in the long run.  For the record, I was able to vote with no problems.  I need to go back later and do the other categories though!

Kelly

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