This blog has moved!

New handmade jewellery blog.After a major website redesign and overhaul the Simone Walsh Handmade Jewellery blog has now moved right here.

Some older blog posts have also been moved to that location, but the entire blog dating way back to 2006 will remain here as an archive with the previous design still in place.

All new content will be posted on the new blog. And you can visit the entirely new handmade jewellery shop while you’re at it!

So it’s goodbye from here for now!

Shiny new website!

I’ve been working ridiculously long and hard hours over the last couple of weeks to completely redesign and rebuild all of my site, including this very blog, the handmade jewellery shop and the main website.

And finally I’m very pleased to announce that it is all launched and up and running! Hooray!

Screenshot of the new handmade jewellery shop.

The rebuilt shop does feature some updated functionality, but at this stage I haven’t included a currency exchange method. I hope to look into this further shortly.

The new design has been tested across all modern browsers and back to Internet Explorer 7, but if you see anything odd or find anything that isn’t working properly, please get in touch and let me know the details.

However, if you’re still using Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) … well, you’re out of luck! The site no longer supports this very old and out of date browser and I strongly recommend you upgrade to a modern browser, even if to the latest version of Internet Explorer. You can learn more here.

I hope you enjoy the new design – I’m feeling very chuffed with it, myself!

A little facelift

I’ve given my handmade jewellery shops a facelift in the past couple of days. I decided the layout of the home page wasn’t as good as it could be with some of the content seeming a bit squished up and not really making as much sense as it could.

So I got to work redesigning it. I’ve based the new layout on that used for the primary home page for my site.

Handmade jewelry shop screenshot.

I’m really happy with how it has turned out. I’ve now rolled out the facelift to both my international handmade jewelry shop and my Australian handmade jewellery shop.

Let me know if you encounter anything odd with the layout.

My other life

Yes, I do have another life!

Or at least another aspect of my business life. That is the web design and graphic design part of my working life.

Recently I’ve been working hard on building myself a website for that aspect of my business – something I’ve neglected while I’ve been busy working on other people’s sites!

And finally it’s done (well, as done as a website ever gets!). If you’re interested in having a look you can visit the Web design & more website.

If you’re interested in the ins and outs of running or promoting a website, you can also check out my web design blog.

Well, that was a lot of work!

I have *finally* (pretty much!) finished a very large and complex web project this week. It’s something I’ve been working on directly since August, but it’s actually been in the pipeline and being talked about and nutted out for over three years now!

In recent weeks I’ve been spending almost every waking moment on the task – with one working day going for over 30 hours straight! As you might imagine, I’m exhausted. Plus I’m extremely behind with almost everything else in my life, having kept up with little else but some sleeping, some eating and getting jewellery orders out for several weeks.

So if I’m overdue sending you an email or a convo right now, this is why!

There are a few loose ends to tidy up on the project, but I’m already starting to catch up on the rest of my life.

And shortly I will finally be able to dive into preparations for the holiday season, which I hope to be a successful one for my handmade jewellery business, given that this will be my first Christmas of being fully self-employed.

If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been working so hard on, you can find it here: www.ethics.org.au. If you’re familiar with the site, it will probably not look much different to how it did before the new site was sent live. But under the hood it’s been completely overhauled and turned into a dynamic site with much more and much better functionality.

New website design (and a launch discount!)

After proving to myself that I am my own worst design client, I have finally completed a much-needed redesign of my main website at www.simonewalsh.com.

Handmade jewellery website screenshot.

This has also been rolled out to both of my shops – the international jewelry shop and Australian jewellery shop.

The previous design of my site and shops was done in a great hurry after I lost confidence in the primary online selling venue I had been using to that point and decided I needed my own independent shop to best look after my business.

In the space of about three days I had the site design mocked up, built, tested and rolled out. This was an impressive turnaround time, but I had always meant to go back and rebuild it with a design I was happier with. And finally it’s done!

If you encounter any problems in using the new design please let me know.

Next to do is a redesign of this very blog – another project that’s been on the cards for a long time! I hope to get to that in the next few months with any luck.

A launch discount

To celebrate the launch of the redesign you can take advantage of a 15% discount using the code redesign when you checkout (valid to 19 August 2009).

This discount code is valid in both my handmade jewelry shop (prices in US$, shipping everywhere) and my handmade jewellery shop (prices in AU$, shipping to Australia and NZ).

Everyone needs Moo cards

A while back someone on Etsy made a post about Moo cards which sounded intriguing. So recently I went off to www.moo.com to investigate … which resulted in me picking up 200 of them from my post office box today! And I’m pleased to report that they’re fantastic.

A box full of Moo cards

Moo hooks into your Flickr account and you can choose up to 100 different photographs from your Flickr stream to have printed in a single set of little cards and with up to five lines of text and an avatar on the back.

A small selection of Moo cards.

They’re about half the height of a regular business card and are excellent quality with my very favourite matte finish. The best news is that they’re US$19.99 plus shipping. My mind boggles to imagine just how much it would cost to have up to 100 different cards printed like that in Australia!

100 Moo cards.

So if you’ve got a Flickr account and especially if you have a business to promote, I highly recommend that you go off and and become Moo’s new best friend! You know you want to.

PS. Speaking of moo … hi PWIL!!

Free at last (sort of)

At around 5am this morning I finished uploading and fidding about with the new St James Ethics Centre website – well, the interim version of it. I’m sure there will still be a few teething problems to sort out as things get settled, but so far I’m very happy with it and very relieved to finally have made it this far.

It’s been a very big job indeed for just one person to get it to this point. The planning/scoping, site organisation/navigation, visual design, CSS and XHTML coding, content editing, content writing, search engine optimisation, etc. has all entirely been done by your’s truly. Although there has been lots of input along the way from the programmer who now needs to complete the rest of the project – which includes lots of rather spiffy functionality that the two of us have been working out for much of this year – forums, blogs, a wiki, RSS feeds, a full user accounts system and much more.

In a fit of complete exhaustion and ‘over-it-ness’ I have decided to take a few days away from work and this project. Instead I plan to finally catch up with jewellery-related things. I have a lot of making to be doing – and more besides. So I should have some pretty things to share soon enough!

There are other interesting things going on too.

Tomorrow night I plan to go to the opening of the Expeditions exhibition in which my Istanbul box is showing. So I will actually be out and being social, which will be odd!

Although I also did a little bit of socialising in Adelaide over the weekend – yes, I was in Adelaide *again*. This time for a meeting of a small group of people representing contemporary jewellers and metalsmiths from around Australia to discuss the way forward for creating a national body. It was an amazingly productive meeting and instead of getting bogged down in complications we actually resolved a lot of stuff and finished early! It seems the focus for the national group will be a website, which I think is a fantastic idea and which I hope to be involved with if I have the capacity. But more about that later.

I’ve also just got around to reading a flier that someone at the meeting in Adelaide gave me. It’s for some gold and silversmithing masterclasses being held at the Australian National University in Canberra in early January. One is purely silversmithing – forging, alloying, ingot preparation, finishing processes and more. I’ve never done much in the way of real smithing before and I’m very keen. Even despite the fact that I’d need to spend five days in Canberra!

Plus there’s another exhibition looming that I must make three pieces for (seeing as that’s what I’ve said I’ll put in!). This one is run by JMGA-NSW. The exhibition, Takeaway, will be showing at Gaffa Gallery in Surry Hills, Sydney later in the month. It’s a pre-Christmas selling exhibition, the idea being that when you buy the work you take it with you in a little cardboard takeaway container – and your purchase is replaced by a polaroid image of it. More about that when I’ve got something to show you!

And in personal news, a legal matter I’ve had floating around for a little while to do with a car accident I was injured in (as a passenger) several years ago has suddenly been resolved much more quickly and positively than I’d ever expected. This means that some money is heading my way and that’s going to make life easier and may even allow me to invest in some tools I need, amongst other things. Although of course it doesn’t make my rather persistent neck/headaches go away! But it will help me feel less grouchy about that.

So … consider yourselves updated! And I promise I will write more interesting things soon.

Busy as a bee …

And neglecting almost everything jewellery-related, unfortunately – although I have managed to catch up with things a little bit today.

What has been devouring my life over the last little while (and for much of this year, to be honest!) has been a very major web upgrade project I’ve been undertaking for St James Ethics Centre (which, despite its name, is not a religious organisation – although it is a non-profit).

Currently I’m working around the clock to get an interim version of the new site ready to go live – hopefully by the end of this week.

The interim website will feature none of the (rather amazingly good!) functionality that is to come – new forums, blogs, a wiki, a proper user accounts system and much more – but it will feature the new visual design and site organisation. And it will allow me to get back to doing my regular work (and hours!) while my friend the programmer (Hi Colin!) gets on with his part of the slaving away.

Sneak preview of St James Ethics Centre's new website design.
The interim version of the site upgrade was supposed to be a quick thing to do as the rest of the project has taken much longer than we’d hoped (as is always the way with these things!), however, even this has proven to be a very time-consuming task.

So I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks wading through hundreds of pages to ensure the new formatting is correct, fixing any errors, doing some editing of content and writing new content.

I’m exhausted! And I’m very much missing my workbench and tools. However I do hope to get back to them soon.

But until then the only handmade thing I have to share with you is a very sneak preview of the new site design. Note that very few – if any – of the links will work at this point – and that in a week or so this interim link will most likely no longer function!

You can visit the creakingly old version of the website for a comparison (which I also designed and built, but several years ago when the organisation had a vastly smaller site and when web standards were only talked about by people who insisted that all links should be in blue and underlined … and we hate those people).

Edit: I’ve changed the links in this post as the new site is now live!

CSS geekery: new fix for IE6 bullet bug?

Given that I’ve probably ostracised half of my regular readers with my previous geeky rant about MySpace, I thought I’d get all of the geekiness out of the way in one day before we return to our regular scheduling of handmade jewelry, indie design and other arty stuff.

You see, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new and very simple fix for a nasty list styling problem in IE6 and I’m hoping to become a godlike figure in CSS circles … or something.

Get Firefox
Before the non-geeky readers turn off completely – please, please … get Firefox and ditch Internet Explorer as your browser if you’re still using it. It will make good web designers all over the world love you long time! It will also make you a happy browser in many ways. Trust me.

So, back to the CSS. Those of you who try to build standards compliant sites with CSS layouts may well have seen this bug, where IE6 starts using the most general styling you’ve set for lists even in places where that styling is very clearly overwritten with a class/ID which has different styling in the CSS.

I’ve recently had this problem right across a new site design, simply because I wanted most general lists to be bulletted with a little brown square by way of an image. Suddenly in IE6 my little brown square was randomly popping up in all sorts of other lists, despite those lists very, very clearly having ‘list-style: none;’ written in the CSS. Of course every other browser on the planet got it, but not IE6.

I found this fix from Focal Curve, which I started putting into place. The fix basically tells you to be very specific with your selectors in order to override IE6’s complete stupidity – and ideally have all lists with a specified bullet style residing in a specific div which you give this specific style to.

In my case, I couldn’t do this without creating a special div just for these particular lists, which I didn’t want to do. The lists are being used in all sorts of different divs and it was those without the styling that were more consistent. So instead I gave all of those very, very specific selectors, listing the div they reside in along with all of the nested divs above.

However, while it worked a lot of the time, in some instances it just didn’t. Plus I started having CSS selectors that looked like War & Peace, given that my fluid-width design needs to have a lot of nested divs due to various other IE6 bugs to do with fluid box measurements that I won’t bore you with here (have I mentioned that IE sucks?).

So I kept battling away at this issue until I finally hit upon a fix that works – at least for me – apparently all of the time. I’ve not seen it mentioned anywhere else, so I’m hoping that if I share it then other people might find it useful.

Basically, if you’ve set a style in your CSS for all general lists as follows:

ul li {
list-style: square url(/img/bullet.gif);
}

And then you want to have, for instance, a navigation menu with a class of ‘nav’ with no list style image set you need to put in declarations for both list-style and list-style-image as follows:

ul.nav li {
list-style: none;
list-style-image: none;
}

Yes, it’s effectively the exact same piece information written out in two different ways – the second line should really be regarded as redundant. But IE6 eats it and all is well in my world – at least when it comes to this bug! I’ve since tried out the same technique in other designs and so far so good.

I’m not sure how it would go if you’re problem isn’t specific to using an image as a bullet, but I’d love to hear how it pans out in other scenarios. My guess is that if you write out both the shorthand and longhand versions of what you want, IE will finally get it.

May IE of all flavours soon die even more painful deaths than the one I recently wished upon MySpace!

I am now on MySpace – and I need to vent!

You can now find me on MySpace. And I must confess I feel a bit sick about it – embarrassed even – but I’ve been told over and over that it’s great for networking … so I shall do my best to resist the very strong urge I’ve got to delete my account, thereby committing myspaceide.

Gosh, I really do want to though … But instead for now I’m going to rant about it in a mildly geeky way, I’m afraid (don’t say I didn’t warn you!).

Firstly, this is one of the least user-friendly sites that I’ve encountered since, oh, around about 1998. It’s utterly appalling to interact with. The simplest things take so many steps, the information is both dense and almost entirely unhelpful, it’s impossible to find your way around without really stopping and thinking about it and even after setting up a page I don’t really understand how it works or what it’s for.

And I’m not some technologically challenged newbie – I’m someone who spends a really considerable amount of time using the web and net more generally – and who also designs and maintains websites for a living. I’m truly stunned that MySpace could be as popular as it is given how non-intuitive it is to use.

Secondly, MySpace are completely obsessed with telling you all about how important your privacy is to them. Yet even if you go there entirely to network, you have absolutely no option but to give a date of birth and set a relationship status. Appallingly, this information (your age in years, star sign and relationship status) is on your profile for all the world to see – and as far as I can see there is nothing you can do about it if you want to maintain a public profile.

On what planet are these not private and potentially sensitive pieces of information!? Why on earth would people I want to network with in a business sense have any legitimate need to know whether or not I’m single, how old I am and what my star sign is? I don’t even believe in star signs and now I’m going to have people all over the world making judgements about my personality based on what I consider to be a piece of random non-information!

I’ve now written to them asking why there is no option to keep this information private – so far there’s not even been an acknowledgement of me lodging a query and my confidence about getting a response is rather low. I’ve also now just randomly selected my ‘private’ information rather than putting in anything accurate – and I’ve put a note to that effect in the ‘about me’ section.

Then there are the layout and technical issues. So many pages won’t load or lay out properly in my browser (Safari for Mac OS X). There’s no point in telling them this because you can just tell the whole site has been built by a bunch of PC-only users who probably tested in a few versions of IE for PC and thought their work was done. Or maybe the real issue is that they allow all of their users to contribute their own HTML and CSS, which of course is going to be dodgy more often than not.

My psychic abilities (or is it my stars?) tell me that if I raise any such issues – even about MySpace’s own ads not working – they’ll be very likely to tell me that it’s because I’m an unfortunate Mac user and Macs are an alien species that they don’t support and why don’t I try using IE5 for Mac instead?

IE5 for Mac is dead!

Now, to go off on a tangent, this is a suggestion I often get (and dodgy web designers / support desk people of the world, please take note) which just indicates how utterly ignorant that person or organisation is and illustrates that they are clearly in the wrong business.

Just because you’ve tested your site in various versions of IE on PC does *not* mean it will work in IE5 for Mac – it is *not* the same browser even a teensy weensy bit just because the name and logo are the same! On top of that, Microsoft hasn’t supported IE5 for Mac for over three years now – and very few sites work perfectly with it. It’s dead and buried and best forgotten.

The reality is that if a Mac user with either Firefox or Safari tells you that you’ve got a problem with layout or javascript on your site, it invariably means there really is a problem with your site, not that Macs are weird and create weird problems of their own.

Safari in particular is one of the most standards compliant modern browsers currently available. Like any browser it has its own idiosyncracies, but if a site shows a problem in Safari then it’s 99.99999999% likely the problem is with the site’s own markup, CSS, javascript, etc. and the people running it should pin it down and fix it or it will only come back to bite them later as browsers evolve and improve. Just because it works like a dream in IE6 on PC doesn’t mean it’s not broken – quite the reverse, more often than not!

Anyway, there’s my rant. I’ll probably be banned from MySpace at some point for daring to make the outrageous suggestion that it pretty much entirely sucks, but so be it. My hope is that it will soon die a painful death and replaced by something elegantly easy to use which has perhaps been made by the lovely people who built Flickr.

Welcome to Make Me, my blog

I’ve had a very busy week or two setting up my new Etsy shop to directly sell some of my handmade jewellery, as well as finishing off a re-build of www.simonewalsh.com, a website that had been in ‘one day’ mode for longer than I care to remember!

The website probably looks not much different to most of you who visited before, but it has actually been entirely rebuilt to be standards compliant with a CSS layout and the content has been substantially updated. There’s also a new section to showcase some of my web and graphic design work as well.

Because I clearly have a lot of spare time (ha!), I’ve also decided to complement this work by building this blog for myself as well. The blog, Make Me, will be where I keep people informed of what I’m working on, thinking about and creating. It will be a place where I can generally ramble on about things should I feel the urge!

So, to give a quick rundown of what I’m working on:

art stuff:

On my bench are a few pieces of silver which are the beginnings of an art object I’m making for an exhibition entitled Expeditions which opens later this year. The piece will be a small non-functional box which relates to a visit I made to Istanbul earlier this year. I’ll write more about it as work progresses.

I also need to start thinking seriously about another exhibition which will be held in November called Takeaway. This show is for members of JMGA-NSW with the idea being that buyers will take their purchases away from the gallery in a takeaway box – in the empty space will sit a photograph of the piece. I have some ideas for what I’m going to do and will also write more about this later.

jewellery:

It might still be August, but I’m already gearing up for Christmas in terms of saleable jewellery. I’m slowly adding to my Etsy shop as well as catching up with demands from retail outlets. I also have a number of ideas for new pieces which I just need to find some time to actually get started on! I’ve recently made a large batch of findings and have also purchased a rather chunky amount of silver, so time is all I need.

web design:

This is what seems to eat up most of my life just now. I’m working closely with a programmer to build a whole new website for St James Ethics Centre. It really is being built from the ground up (fortunately with the exception of most of the content) and is an enormous amount of work, having taken up a large chunk of this year already and seeing me work up to 80 hours a week on it. Again, I’ll write more about how that pans out.

other stuff:

There’s always a lot of other stuff happening!

For example, I’ve just completed yet another issue of Filings, the newsletter for JMGA-NSW (Jewellers & Metalsmiths Group of Australia – NSW) of which I am the Editor (a voluntary Committee position) and there’s the AGM coming up in just over a week. I’m also just about to start work on building an interim website for the same organisation to replace it’s currently very out of date one, both in terms of content and code.

I’m also fairly seriously considering another year of University next year – in the Visual Arts arena, of course. I will need to research and write out a proposal by the end of October. Eeek!

And that’s about it for my first blog posting. Keep your eyes peeled for more!